'A thoroughly English movie franchise': Spectre, the James Bond films, and Genre

James Chapman
2017 The International Journal of James Bond Studies  
The James Bond films are genre films par excellence: they demonstrate both the industrial processes of popular film-making and the narrative patterns of repetition and variation that underpin the idea of genre in popular cinema. Indeed the Bond films are such a unique and distinctive brand in their own right that the term "Bondian" has been coined to describe both the professional discourses of the film-makers on the one hand and the style and content of the films on the other. As Janet
more » ... t noted after observing the making of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) for an Open University case study of media production: "'Bondian' was the phrase used by [Cubby] Broccoli and other members of the production team to mean 'in the spirit of James Bond'...To a certain extent the term 'Bondian' was used to describe the Bond films, which were seen as a distinctive formula, a specific genre of film" (1983, 210). The emergence of new approaches to genre studies which extend beyond the reductive structuralism of the 1970s and which understand film genres and cycles in relation to their wider industrial and cultural contexts has seen the Bond films find their place on the agenda of academic film studies. This is amply demonstrated over the last decade or so by the growth of Bond scholarship that has seen the films analysed from a range of critical and theoretical perspectives, including film history (Chapman), geopolitics (Black, Dodds), cultural studies (Comentale et al) and gender studies (Funnell) among various others. It is no coincidence that much of this new wave of Bond scholarship has focused on the films of the Daniel Craig "era", which seem to have brought a degree of critical respectability to the once-derided franchise. This article considers how the most recent Bond film, Spectre (2015), fits the "Bondian" formula. I will examine the production contexts and the genre conventions of the Bond films in order to assess the extent to which the Daniel Craig films represent either a new departure for the series or a continuation of the formula as before. In order to do this, it is necessary in the first instance to consider the history of the Bond series and its place in popular film culture. THE CONTEXTS OF THE BOND FILMS The origins of the James Bond film series are to be found in the institutional and economic contexts of the British and American film industries in the 1960s. The Anglo-American political economy of the Bond films with their combination of US dollars (United Artists) and British cultural capital (the novels of Ian Fleming) exemplified a process in the film industry after the Second World War in the emergence of so-called "runaway" productions: Hollywood films shot overseas, especially in Europe, which by the 1960s were estimated to account for nearly half of all American features (Maltby 1995, 70). Britain became a particularly attractive base for such "runaways" in the 1950s and 1960s: production and labour costs were cheaper, there were tax breaks for American artistes who made their permanent home in Britain, and the legal and regulatory frameworks were easier to navigate than the notoriously bureaucratic film industries of France or Italy. American producers could also benefit from the British Film Production Fund (popularly known as the Eady Levy after the Treasury official Sir Wilfred Eady who devised it), which had been established in 1950. The Eady Levy was an incentive for film production which returned a percentage of box-office receipts to producers and distributors: the more successful the film the greater the amount of the subsidy. To qualify for the levy, a film had to be produced by a British-registered company and shot in a studio in Britain or the British Commonwealth with seventy-five per cent of the labour costs paid to British personnel (Harper and Porter
doi:10.24877/jbs.5 fatcat:zdjzi5ih75gw5hi335co4k7c6i