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Best Shot Bond

Mike Panczenko

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The Bond movies are one of the most prolific series ever. With so many to choose from, which do you think is the best? My picks would have to be From Russia with Love (Ted Moore, BSC) and Goldeneye. I think that Goldeneye (Phil Meheux, BSC) had a great look that the Bond movies hadn't had since the '60s. Also, The Living Daylights (Alec Mills, BSC) looks great, I think. Opinions?

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I will write more later (bit busy a the mo') but I will say briefly that my Fave lit Bond films are:


From Russia With Love

Ted Moore

Goldfinger was good too, but this movie doesn't look like it was shot by Moore at all. It doesn't have that flat, dry 25ASA look of his other Bond efforts or Man For All Seasons, and he seems to be citing the b/w thriller work of Stanley Cortez, Robert Krasker and Greg Toland in his lighting for colour. Every other Ted Moore Bond film looks flat and sub Columbo episode, like it was all shot on 16mm (see Man Wth Golden Gun, Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever which look cheap and nasty). I think Robert Burks with Hitch was an obvious influence on this movie, but like I say, the lighting definitely comes from b/w Hollywood/British adaptions of expressionism.


You Only Live Twice

Freddie Young

Young brought his David Lean epic thing to Bond and introduced us to that postcard travelogue look and evident REAL location work- Ken Adam's sets could hardly be better rendered. This just pulled Bond right out from the murk of Ted Moore's small and variable work.



On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Michael Reed

Reed brought poetry to Bond- those magic hour shots of the beach opening and the attack on the ski base finale or the shallow focus telephoto shots of Tracy and Bond walking through the park- there's also sweep and romance elsewhere with the gorgeous Swiss locations (Willy Bogner deserves credit here)- we get more into handheld, newwave verite camera operation (from Alec Mills) and far more available light on exteriors (was this 100asa David Mullen?)


The Spy Who Loved Me

Claude Renoir

After more absolutely cheap and chinsy work from Ted Moore during the 70s, Renoirs sparkling, refreshing panavision photography and David Watkin single soft source lighting just made Bond credible and modern. It was a marriage of Young's epic and Reed's romance- pretty much all of the location work was done with natural and bounced light and all of that studio bound artifice we got with Moore's work has just diasappeared off the face of the earth. That said, look at the train fight sequence with Jaws and realise it's every bit as well lit as Ted Moore's finest hour on From Russia With Love, but it has progressed to appear lowlit entirely with practicals. This is the look I personally can relate to most, and it's absolutely gutting that between this film and Moonraker Renoir lost his sight, meaning Jaques Tourner was brought in to replace Renoir- as a result Moonraker looks more like Ted Moore's work, all inappropriately impressionistic and muted given the slick space and technology based design and story, save for Alec Mills brilliant camera operation (and Paul Wilson's gorgeous VFX space photography).



For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View To A Kill

Alan Hume

I just love Alan Hume. Colourful perfect 80s Bond in his prime. The diffused portraits are so glamorous and every daytime shot seems to happen during the magic hour! :)


Living Daylights and Licence to Kill

Alec Mills

Muted poetry is the best way to describe this stuff- fully romantic contrast to the bouncy colours of Hume's work. Check out the Gibraltar opening section of TLD, all broody, moody and overcast in a way that heightens the drama and adds to the scene- everythig is slightly overexposed too and printed down to have that raw, harsh gritty feeling.



Phil Meheux

The defining reimaging of Bond for the 90s. Full of contrast but polished and well exposed- no grain in sight. I love the smoked sets and lowkey low fill lighting.



The World is Not Enough

Adrian Biddle

Just more of the low-key tone Meheux set, and great to see after Robert Elswit's off the rails TV movie of the week schlock on Tomorrow Never Dies. Ah, Adrian Biddle, jack of all trades!! :)


I'd REALLY now like to see Eduardo Serra light a Bond film, not just because he's a fave of mine, but his style is much more in the naturalistic Claude Renoir vein- we need that European freshness back!!


Ah, the films are screwed now anyway...

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Yeah it looks a lot faster. 5254 is what Hall shot Butch and Sundance on, wasn't it? It certainly looks a lot freer, and the London footage has that whole available light/fast film look of John Cowan's swinging sixties stills work, but I'm sure the interiors (at least the bulk of them) still used 5251, such as the Casino and the ski base/MI6/office interiors, which are super saturated like Freddie Young's YOLT work.


Never Say Never Again??!! That's not a REAL Bond movie! ;)


NSNA to me is just shot like an Indiana Jones, which is essentially what the producers were after as a compromise so late in the day with all of those budget cuts. Did you know that Alex Thomson was originally offered NSNA but turned it down in favour of Mann's The Keep because having come hot off Excalibur he felt Bond would never win an Oscar? All that fame went straight to his head! ;)


I think the underwater sequences in NSNA (as with Thunderball) are boring as hell, and Robert Steadman's photography in these segments just look really lit and generic- the editing doesn't help either. Slocombe's finest moment is the ballroom sequence in which he goes into period lighting mode, but everything else is pretty unremarkable- not bad, very good, but it's all just Indiana Jones mode. A fair amount of nets if I remember correctly.


I think the VFX work by Apogee in NSNA is particuarly dire, the missile shots etc. especially coming out the same year as Superman 3. The grubby optical work of that missile flying over a British beach is so cartoonish and inexcusable with some very Foxfire quality plate and comp work.


Well, now we're on the subject of FAUX Bond films, how about Jack Hildyard, John Wilcox and Nic Roeg's Howie Schwartz Batman influenced photography of Casino Royale? ;) Funny, but even on that film with 3 DPs and multiple directors it still looks more consistent than Die Another Day shot with one DP, one director and a DI!

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

A View to a Kill, Goldeneye and The World is not enough.


Die Another day was ok but.. cumon, that intro sequence just sucked, what happened to the music?

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I was really disappointed that Freddie Young didn't go into the lighting of that gigantic set in "You Only Live Twice" in his autobiography.


The movie had some nice stuff in it, as you would expect, but some real stinker shots as well- I'm thinking specifically of a shot of Bond walking down a hallway and it looks terrible, like a big arc or 10k just blasting from off-side the camera during a backwards dolly.

I'd like to think it was a second unit botch, and not Freddie's work!

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Nah, I strongly disagree about Elswit's work- it ignored the distinctive high contrast, smoked sets and solid colours of Meheux's GoldenEye in favour of too much fill throughout and low light sequences shot unimaginatively with colour gelled UV, kinos and yawnsome strobes. Carver's Berlin party for example looked such a generic bore- I've seen more exciting looking car sales office parties! I REALLY dislike the lighting design on the stealth ship for aswell: far too GI Joe and Top Gun/Crimson Tide aping, albeit without the slickness of those films. Today it just all looks like something out of an episode of CSI.


Any moments with natural light looked too flat and overcast too. Only the stuff in Bond's hotel room gets a bit Meheux-esque, but it's still not the real thing. I was really disappointed with look of the film back in 97, especially as they had (for the first time since Man With The Golden Gun) a new production designer other than Peter Lamont or Ken Adam.


I think Robert Elswit is a VERY talented cameraman, but Bond was definitely not suited to the guy (although in fairness he was working with a rubbish director). It was FAR more refreshing to see Adrian Biddle return to the high contrast photographic universe Meheux had crafted for the Brosnan era on GoldenEye for The World Is Not Enough- it just makes the films more consistent. Michael Apted however (like Martin Campbell) can handle and are more interested in the actors, unlike Tamahori and Spottiswoode, both of whom have tried too hard to be hip and jump on contemporary US bandwagons with the look. Bond should be creating fads, not following them!

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I think Goldeneye is very well photographed. I haven't seen many bonds but the older ones, apart from Goldeneye.


Did people notice the use of 3-axis head shots ? Some were even took from an helicopter (the opening scene, the incredible pan shot over the bridge). It was done with the Magamount head. Some driving sequences (the poursuite with tanks) were also made with a gyro-stabilized head made by the same company.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I liked Living Daylights alot, But I think Goldeneye was the best,

Martin Cambell's films have great photography...

(Even his earlier film, No Escape had a Bond quality to it)


I think every Bond film after that one has been garbage,

They had no character and were just bland.


Not a single set or location on the last movies were remotely interesting. It's like as long as they've shot the most extreme stunts and action, the rest doesn't matter. No kind of composition, color, design, nuthin'.


Heck I'll even watch License to Kill over the new ones because it's more fun to look at.



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  • 16 years later...

Sorry to resurrect such an old thread, but I got to see "The Spy Who Loved Me" in 4K (iTunes) and don't want to start a new one. In my opinion it holds up quite well and it's the best Bond film on which Roger Moore starred. 

The movie was mostly shot apparently with a Panavision front anamorphic zoom, not primes, and it must be the very rare "Panafocal" lens that I have seen in old catalogues (there were two versions, both T4.0, I think they were a 45-90mm and a 50-95mm or something like that), as I don't think Panavision had other anamorphic zooms at the time that were not rear converted (that's why the don't behave at all as true anamorphics). This lens was also used later in "Moonraker" (1979) and had been used prior to that on "Chinatown" by John A. Alonzo, who might have used it as well on "Black Sunday" (1977) and "The Cheap Detective" (1978) among others.

Does anyone know something about this particular lens or has seen it? It performs (or performed) quite well and seems to match the C-Series primes and thus, is intriguing.

Speaking about the cinematography, there's one thing that surprised me a lot. I have never seen the movie in 35mm and I think that I saw the Blu-ray, but this time I realized that most if not all of the night scene set at the pyramids and the sphinx is all miniatures, double exposures and optically composited shots. Pretty amazing stuff that blends really well with the first unit on set coloured lighting effects. Obviously the tanker at the end of the movie is a model, and a very good one indeed, but that was easy to spot. 

Claude Renoir did a very good job with the movie. It's too bad he couldn't do "Moonraker" as expected. "The Spy Who Loved Me" is a great mixture of classic lighting techniques (have a look at Barbara Bach's portraits, mostly hard lit with some on lens diffusion) but also very nice location shooting taking advantage of available light (in Egypt for instance) and the right amount of fill. It seems to be true that Stanley Kubrick suggested how to light the inside the tanker scenes at the end due to Renoir's failing eyesight, but also, to be honest, these gigantic sets by Ken Adam weren't the easiest, specially you have to light them for something like a T5.6 at 100 ASA. 

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By total coincidence, I watched "Moonraker" last night on HD streaming (which made me wish I was watching a blu-ray instead - everyone in the streaming image had a blurry zone around their bodies from the compression!) I always thought it was a nice-looking movie, I particularly noticed how well the actresses were lit. But there were a few too many flat-lit scenes too. I don't know why so many of the line readings were so wooden in this film. Classic Panavision look, the chase in the woods looked like it was shot wide-open on primes.

Having grown up near the Lancaster/Palmdale area where supposedly Drax's California industry was built, it's hard to believe shooting it in France around a chateau and claiming that Drax moved all of that to the California desert...

And of course the physics of the space station rotating to create gravity made zero sense visually, people weren't standing at the end of the rotation but somehow sideways to it. And at one point, Bond and Goodhead float/walk down a corridor that says Zero Gravity to arrive at a lab with gravity once they step through the door.

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

By total coincidence, I watched "Moonraker" last night on HD streaming (which made me wish I was watching a blu-ray instead - everyone in the streaming image had a blurry zone around their bodies from the compression!) I always thought it was a nice-looking movie, I particularly noticed how well the actresses were lit. But there were a few too many flat-lit scenes too. I don't know why so many of the line readings were so wooden in this film. Classic Panavision look, the chase in the woods looked like it was shot wide-open on primes.


“Moonraker” is for sure the best looking movie shot by Jean Tournier that I’ve seen, even though I think John Frankenheimer’s “The Train” (shared credit with Walter Wottitz, who had just won an Oscar for “The Longest Day”) is a very stimulating and nice looking black and white picture, and a personal favourite of mine.

I also like a lot Fred Zinnemann’s “The Day of the Jackal” (I mean, the movie) but Tournier’s color lighting is very flat in many scenes, with unwanted shadows on the walls, etc. Unremarkable, lit for exposure, so-so focus (mostly on zooms) even though from time to time there’s a moody low-key scene that seemed to come from another movie. I have a hard time believing how poor is the photography of that great film and how nobody complained about it on rushes or something, as it’s so much below the quality of the directing,  script and even the acting. Easily one of the less inspired “great films” that I’ve ever seen in terms of lighting, at least in my opinion.

I seem to recall that Lois Chiles in “Moonraker” was lit in a very similar way to what Clade Renoir did on “The Spy Who Loved Me”, but I’d have to check (“The Spy Who Loved Me” doesn’t have a gaffer credit on IMDB, but “Moonraker” had a french gaffer who had worked previously with Claude Renoir on “The French Connection II” so, maybe, there was indeed a “connection”). Of course, having some nice locations, lots of money, a great crew and Ken Adam’s sets always help to have a better look… I remember “Moonraker” as an overall extremely silly picture (so silly in fact that it makes “The Spy Who Loved Me” as serious as a John Le Carré novel), but with incredible miniatures and effects and, of course, the famous sky diving opening scene shot in 35mm anamorphic. Maybe I’d give it another try in 4K too!


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  • 1 month later...

Given that MR's space shots were done almost entirely through double exposure rather than traveling matte, does the higher-rez image betray this to any degree? They usually avoid bleedthrough of stars into ships by designing the shots to avoid crossovers (and supposedly by Meddings fading the stars down by hand at approximately the right moment, which sound industriously like magic to my mind), but I'm thinking indiscriminate HDR would make the stars pop in a way that should blow this illusion here and possibly on ALIEN as well. The latter supposedly used elaborate rotoscope techniques, but on the blu and I think on the LD too, you could see the quality and blackness of space was different in the area of the ship's path in many shots, which to me was as distracting as the garbage mattes in 2010 and SW.

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  • 3 months later...

I have already re-watched "Moonraker" on iTunes 4K (non HDR) and it looks great. Very crisp and sharp throughout, with zero diffusion. The model effects have exceptional quality & clarity, it's rather obvious that the stuff mostly comes from original negative rather than optical printing (maybe the laser effects are the exception to the rule, but there are so many onscreen elements during those that it's hard to tell just looking at the film). The brazilian scenes look the best, with some great exterior photography (although the cable raiway scenes could have had better front projection effects, as the plates look very washed out). Lois Chiles and the other Bond girls are very well lit as David said. And I liked too the way the bunker in the jungle was handled, that Ken Adam set must have been very difficult to light as there are no places to hide the fixtures. But there are several flatly lit scenes (those with "M" stand out) and a very old fashioned approach with hard lights here and there, completely unmotivated. I also think that the accelerated shots during the editing don't help much either. 

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