Daniel Craig to Host

‘Saturday Night Live’

As part of this fall’s James Bond 50th anniversary hoopla, Daniel Craig will host the Oct. 6 edition of “Saturday Night Live” to promote his third outing as 007 in “Skyfall.” Viewers undoubtedly will be treated, if that’s the right word, to at least one Bond skit during the show.

Oct. 5 is — just in case any FYEO reader could possibly have failed to notice — the 50th anniversary of the London premiere of “Dr. No.” The Bond producers have declared the date “Global James Bond Day,” during which numerous events that have no connection with the average Bond fan will take place around the world (i.e., a Christie’s auction of Bond film props in London, the kickoff of a month-long screening of all the films at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a “Music of James Bond” evening in Hollywood hosted by the Motion Picture Academy*).

“Skyfall,” the 23rd official Eon Productions James Bond movie, will be released Oct. 26 in the U.K. and Nov. 9 in the United States.

At the Academy’s “Music of James Bond” evening Oct. 5, left to right: famed “James Bond Theme” guitarist Vic Flick, lyricist Don Black, event host Jon Burlingame and composer Bill Conti.

[*Something connected with this event is available to all Bond fans, and every real Bond fan will want to get it: the new Oxford University Press book “The Music of James Bond,” written by veteran film music reporter (and FYEO’s former music columnist) Jon Burlingame. Click here to read more and to order a copy.]

‘Bond 22.5’ Gets Surprise Release at London Olympics

For the first time since 1964, James Bond fans will be treated to the release of two new Bond films in the same year, but 2012’s first — making its surprise debut during the July 27 opening ceremonies of London’s Summer Olympics — comes up short in almost every way, and quite literally short in length at less than six minutes.

The shortest Bond film on record had been the previous release, 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” with a running time of only 106 minutes. That picture also was sadly lacking the accoutrements we’ve come to expect in Bond films, but at least it had the advantages of a feature length, a fairly normal number of actors in its cast, and a plot (such as it was).

The newest film lacks all of that, and more. There’s no title song — but there’s also no title, so this one will have to be referred to in 007 film annals as “Bond 22.5.” The musical score, uninspired and completely forgettable until the late appearance of the classic and ever welcome “James Bond Theme,” is uncredited — but so is everything else in the film. As in the last few Bond pictures, there’s no sign of old favorites such as Moneypenny and Q, and even M is missing this time.

Daniel Craig returns as Bond, looking ever more at home in the role that many viewers once thought him particularly ill-suited for. But in a spectacularly odd decision by the filmmakers, there is only one other major character in the picture, and she is neither the customary super-villain nor in any way a “Bond girl.”

Plotting in this one also seems to have returned to the simpler Roger Moore Bond era of spectacular stunts and little else, or in this case one stunt and nothing else. But what a stunt, and what a case of stunt-casting: In a major coup that was kept totally hush-hush before release, the producers signed the United Kingdom’s reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, to play opposite Craig.

The crisply directed but clearly undernourished screenplay has Bond delivered to Buckingham Palace and swiftly ushered to an inner chamber where he comes face to face with the queen. Elizabeth, it must be noted, does an excellent job of playing herself, but in casting her as the queen, the producers passed up the opportunity to brand her with a memorably Bondian name such as Corgis Galore.

With minimal dialogue and no expository briefing scene, Bond and the queen quickly depart the palace grounds in a helicopter and fly across London to the Olympics site where, in a surprise twist, they both leap from the copter and parachute into the newly constructed Olympics stadium, floating to earth on canopies that unfurl into Union Jacks. (An insider who requested anonymity said the parachutes had been in storage since 1977, when the second unit on “The Spy Who Loved Me” captured the opening stunt for that film in one take.)

Exactly how the latest mortal threat to the Commonwealth was thwarted by the queen jumping from a helicopter with agent 007 is left unexplained, but it made for a crowd-pleasing finale. We can only hope that the filmmakers were more on top of their game for this year’s second Bond film, coming out in November under the title “Skyfall.”

Long Awaited ‘Dark Shadows’ Movie Just Another Burton-Depp Joke

HOLLYWOOD, March 15 — Today’s release of the trailer for “Dark Shadows,” a Tim Burton film adaptation of the beloved old spooky TV serial, revealed what fans of the show should have suspected all along: Burton and his frequent collaborator Johnny Depp have not created a stylish film update of the show but have instead made a bizarre comedy that ridicules it.

Depp’s appearance in the key role of 18th-century vampire Barnabas Collins, already revealed in a number of stills from the film, is thus explained. The pasty white skin, the Nosferatu fingernails, the Barnabas bangs seen on original star Jonathan Frid but drawn out to absurd length on Depp — it’s all a joke. And Depp’s Barnabas doesn’t pose as a long-lost cousin from England. Released from his coffin into the 20th century, he marches right up to the house and informs members of the Collins family that he’s their 200-year-old vampire ancestor and he’s moving back in.

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins

Oh, yes, you read that right, the 20th century. Setting the film in 1972 is just a small homage, or so Burton has claimed, to the fact that the show ended its run in 1971 (also, by the way, the year that the second of two “Dark Shadows” movies starring the original cast was released). The trailer makes it clear that the likelier reason was using ’70s fashions and music as the butt of numerous jokes. In fact, cadaverous ’70s rocker Alice Cooper appears in the film.

As a sop to fans, four of the show’s original stars make cameo appearances. Lara Parker (Angelique), David Selby (Quentin Collins), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans in the 1960s, Josette du Pres in the 1790s), and Frid — now 87 and reportedly in poor health, but still hailed decades later for his masterful portrayal of Barnabas — all flew to England last summer to shoot their brief scenes at Pinewood Studios.

Strangely enough, Burton and Depp both say they were among the millions of kids who ran home after school to watch “Dark Shadows” every day (weekday afternoons at 4 p.m. — 3 Central Time, where the kids had to run faster). But apparently they didn’t love the show enough to keep it off the distressingly long list of classic properties that modern filmmakers feel compelled to spit on.

The picture opens nationwide May 11.

The original cast in London (left to right): Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Jim Pierson of Dan Curtis Productions, and Jonathan Frid.

Depp also Preparing to Trash ‘The Lone Ranger’ and Maybe ‘The Thin Man’

And then there’s this: With “Dark Shadows” wrapped up and ready for release, Johnny Depp is currently shooting “The Lone Ranger” for Disney, and those who thought nothing could be worse than the pitiful 1981 pic “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” should think again. The studio released this “first look” at the lead characters last week.

Yes, that’s Depp playing Tonto with black and gray stripes on his face and a dead bird on his head. The studio wants us to know that “From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski comes Disney/Bruckheimer Films’ ‘The Lone Ranger.’ Tonto (Johnny Depp), a spirit warrior on a personal quest, joins forces in a fight for justice with John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawman who has become a masked avenger. ‘The Lone Ranger’ will be released in May 2013.”

Hammer is 25 but he looks more like a kid dressed up for Halloween in this photo. He played the Winklevoss twins in 2010’s “The Social Network” and Clyde Tolson in last year’s “J. Edgar.”

Depp, who never met an outré costume-and-makeup design he didn’t love, is said to object to the subservient manner in which Tonto was portrayed in the past (which is pretty much what the producers of “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” said back in 1981), and wants to play Tonto as the brains of the outfit.

It’s impossible now, of course, to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when everyone could enjoy a simple, straightforward adventure with two simple, straightforward heroes. And no actors will ever match the incomparable Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, who played the Lone Ranger and Tonto in the long-running TV series, two feature films and one of the funniest commercials Stan Freberg ever made.

Depp and others could be reminded, however, that Tonto was never, ever played as ignorant or incompetent or for comic relief, as so many ethnic characters were in the old days, and that the Lone Ranger never treated him as anything but a trusted friend and equal. And Silverheels, by the way, was a full-blooded Mohawk, something Depp certainly is not. And it was just a kids adventure show.

Nonetheless, Depp is scheduled to move on from his revisionist Tonto to playing dipsomaniacal, bon vivant detective Nick Charles in an updated version of “The Thin Man.” William Powell indelibly brought Nick to life in MGM’s long-running series of films co-starring Myrna Loy as wife Nora (Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk were less memorable in the 1957-1959 TV series). Depp’s Nick will probably be a teetotaler who cheats on Nora and commits crimes instead of solving them.

RKO Plans Trio of New Screen Adventures for The Saint

HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 25 — Here we go again. Hollywood is planning the umpteenth revival of the famous Simon Templar, better known as The Saint. Twist this time is that RKO Pictures is basing the films on remake rights to three of the nine Saint movies it released decades ago.

Leslie Charteris brought The Saint to the world in his first novel, 1928’s “Meet the Tiger,” and followed with scores of short stories and novels into the 1970s. RKO put Templar on the silver screen beginning with “The Saint in New York” (1938) starring Louis Hayward. That led to a brief series of pictures, most with George Sanders as Templar, that ended in 1943.

The Saint’s most famous incarnation remains the long-running TV series starring Roger Moore. That was followed by Ian Ogilvy’s short-lived “Return of The Saint” series in the 1970s, a batch of so-so TV-movies in the 1980s, and Paramount’s utterly forgettable 1997 picture starring Val Kilmer.

New pictures apparently will bypass the purchase of any additional screen rights from the Charteris estate (unlike the Kilmer film, also planned as the first of a series, which sewed up every right available at the time; typically, it was years in the making and then bombed as soon as audiences got a look at it). RKO was one of the five Hollywood majors in the golden days but it ceased operations in the late 1950s after years of mismanagement by eccentric mogul Howard Hughes. The corporate heirs revived the name in the 1980s and the new RKO still owns the original studio’s films — including, it seems, the right to remake them.