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Dr. No was revived again at many cinemas just before and during the general release of From Russia With Love (1963), paired with a variety of second features, from Westerns, to crime dramas and even comedies. However, it was a 1964 pairing with the 1959 Hammer Films adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles that re-introduced Dr. No to many fans. This was the first time in the UK that Dr. No had been paired with another high-profile film, rather than a B-film second feature.

Originally released at the height of Hammer Films’ success in 1959 following the spectacular box-office hits The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958), both starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, The Hound Of The Baskervilles was another property suitable for bringing to the big screen as part of the horror revival initiated by the studio in 1957. As an independent producer, Hammer Films looked to American studios to fund and distribute their product, and formed successful relationships with most of the US majors during this period, enjoying profitable partnerships with Warner Bros, Universal, Columbia and Paramount. Hammer's first significant commercial horror hit had been their 1955 adaptation of Nigel Kneale's 1953 BBC Television science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment, directed by Val Guest. The title was changed to The Quatermass Xperiment in the UK to exploit the ‘X’ certificate introduced by the British Board of Film Censors in 1951. Films classified as extremely graphic were passed for public exhibition where no children under 16 were present. The film was unexpectedly popular and led to a 1957 sequel Quatermass 2. Both films were distributed by United Artists in the USA, and had their titles changed to The Creeping Unknown and Enemy From Space, as the name ‘Quatermass’ had no recognition in America as the TV series was not broadcast overseas. Following their back-to-back hits returning Frankenstein and Dracula to their Gothic roots, Hammer chose to film The Hound Of The Baskervilles (the first Sherlock Holmes film in colour), but despite its lurid advertising and horrific story elements, was only awarded an ‘A’ certificate by the BBFC, meaning the film was passed for public exhibition, but patrons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959) London Pavilion

Despite Hammer being dismayed by the lenient certification, it opened up a larger audience for the film which went on to break the box-office record (then held by the 1954 Burt Lancaster/Gary Cooper Western Vera Cruz) at the London Pavilion in its first week in March 1959. The Hound Of The Baskervilles played for a month at United Artists’ flagship London Pavilion (as had the two Hammer Quatermass films), and then went on general release across the UK. Although a record-breaking hit in London, The Hound Of The Baskervilles did not replicate its box-office success upon general release in June/July 1959.

The lack of an ‘X’ certificate, and the fact it was released during the hottest summer for many years, were two of the factors accounting for the lukewarm reception outside London. As a result no further Sherlock Holmes films followed from Hammer Studios. The Hound Of The Baskervilles was planned as the first in a series to star Sherlock Holmes aficionado Peter Cushing, who would continue to appear in many more memorable films for the studio before eventually reprising the role in a 1968 BBC Television series (which included a two-part adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles), and later in a made-for-television film The Masks Of Death (1984), with John Mills as Watson. However, the most significant reason for the less than spectacular box-office receipts outside London was due to The Hound Of The Baskervilles being denied a general release on the Rank distribution circuit, which would have meant more engagements at larger ODEON and Gaumont cinemas in the UK. In early 1959 as a response to the continuing decline in cinema attendance, the Rank Organisation had restructured its exhibition operation and combined the best Gaumont and ODEON theatres into a new Rank release distribution circuit, and closed down many non-profitable cinemas. The remaining 234 cinemas then became part of a newly created Rank ‘National’ circuit. At the time there were two major release circuits in the UK - the Rank Circuit exhibited films in ODEON and Gaumont cinemas from 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Walt Disney, Columbia, Universal, United Artists and its own productions; whilst the rival ABC Circuit (which included Savoy and Regal cinemas) had access to to Warner Brothers, MGM and its own Associated British (ABPC) productions.

Dr. No/The Hound Of The Baskervilles Colony Torquay 1964

John Xavier “Jack” Prendergast

John Xavier “Jack” Prendergast
(1898-1978) - father of John Barry

A third smaller independent circuit made up of around 250 Essoldo and Granada cinemas exhibited films by agreement with Rank and ABC, but had first choice of new titles released by 20th Century Fox in the UK. The new Rank ‘National’ circuit had been proposed by John Xavier “Jack” Prendergast (1898-1978), chairman of the Leeds and District branch of the Cinema Exhibitors Association (the national trade association for cinema operators in the United Kingdom). Jack Prendergast, born in Cork, Ireland, was a projectionist during the silent film era, and later owned a chain of cinemas across northern England. He was also the father of future James Bond composer John Barry (1933-2011). The ‘National’ circuit was very short-lived and abolished in 1961, after Paramount objected to Rank consigning their Dean Martin comedy All In A Night's Work to the new circuit, and consequently switched allegiance to ABC for UK distribution of their films.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles
was reissued as the supporting feature to several other United Artists distributed films following its original release. However, this marked the last time that UA would collaborate with Hammer Films, so there would be no pairings with other Gothic horror subjects as had been the case with much of Hammer's output for other studios during this period.

Dr. No/The hound Of The Baskervilles front-of-house stills

It is perhaps then less of a surprise that The Hound Of The Baskervilles found itself as the supporting feature to Dr. No in many provincial cinemas throughout 1964. The fact it was distributed by United Artists and had an ‘A’ certificate meant it could play without restrictions on the audience, as would be the case in the 1970s when James Bond films were paired with ‘X’ certificate Clint Eastwood Westerns. One must also remember that although The Hound Of The Baskervilles is now a well-respected classic of the genre, when first released, and as a supporting feature, it was essentially just another studio product available for distribution.

From Russia With Love/Thunderball/The Hound Of The Baskervilles

ABOVE: (left) The ABC Hammersmith Broadway screened From Russia With Love/The Hound Of The Baskervilles for six days from Monday March 22, 1965 (right) The 1959 Hammer film was also paired with Thunderball at the Essoldo Kings Road, Chelsea for seven days from Sunday May 21, 1967. The Hound Of The Baskervilles played primarily as the second feature to the 1964 re-release of Dr. No, but also supported Goldfinger in many second-run cinemas in 1965.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles continued to support other United Artists releases throughout the 1960s, and also played with From Russia With Love and Goldfinger in 1965; and Thunderball in 1966/67. None of these programmes were considered as a double-bill as we now know the term, so no new posters or advertising material were created for the pairings. The Hound Of The Baskervilles was always the supporting feature to the James Bond film on these reissues, so the programme would generally be promoted with earlier versions of newspaper advert blocks, and original or reissue versions of the quad-crown posters. The Hound Of The Baskervilles later debuted on UK television in November 1969, and although never fully networked it played on most ITV channels well into the 1970s.

Although Thunderball would not go on general release until January of 1966, 1965 would prove to be the most successful year to date for James Bond across several different platforms. The sales of Ian Fleming's novels in paperback had steadily increased since the release of Dr. No in 1962. Overall sales had leapt from 1.3-million copies sold in the UK in 1962, to a staggering 6.8-million by the end of 1965. The PAN paperbacks were reprinted many times throughout this period (including film tie-in editions of those three novels adapted for the screen), with sales no doubt boosted by Raymond Hawkey's innovative cover designs and the use of the word ‘James Bond’ above the title.

James Bond Season Essoldo Newcastle

The James Bond comic strip had returned to the Daily Express in June 1964 after a two-year absence, with John McLusky's masterful interpretations of the yet un-filmed ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE [29 June 1964 - 17 May 1965] and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE [18 May 1965 - 8 January 1966]. The late Ian Fleming's final novel THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN was published in hardback by Jonathan Cape on April 1st, and had been serialized in the Daily Express in eleven instalments starting on March 22, 1965 accompanied by stylish illustrations by Andrew Robb.

The first three James Bond films were more or less in constant release throughout 1965 ahead of the hugely anticipated premiere of the fourth 007 adventure Thunderball at the end of the year. ‘Bondmania’ reached its zenith in 1965, and although his creator never lived to see the success, James Bond was literally everywhere!

Dr. No and From Russia With Love had both been re-released in cinemas whilst Goldfinger was still on general release across the UK, with many venues showing all three films on different days of the week in order to maximise profits. Many cinemas opted for a ‘James Bond week’ whereas the Essoldo Newcastle programmed a ‘James Bond Season’ starting with Dr. No [supported by Foreign Intrigue (1956)] on Sunday May 16th; followed by From Russia With Love [supported by Indian Fighter (1955)] from Sunday 23rd, and finishing with Goldfinger [supported by War Hunt (1962)] for one week commencing Sunday May 30, 1965. Clearly these films were still capable of attracting enough customers to fill the 2,200 seats, that the cinema could justify turning over three weeks of programming just to James Bond. At this point no two James Bond films had ever played on the same programme at any cinema in the UK. It was not until November 7, 1965 when Dr. No and From Russia With Love were issued as a double-bill that the tradition of re-releasing earlier films in the series ahead of the latest blockbuster was established.

Dr. No/From Russia With Love Trade advertisement 1965
Dr. No/From Russia With Love South London release 1965

The double-bill of Dr. No/From Russia With Love had already been successfully released in the USA in May 1965, and explains why the film logos used on the posters are the US versions, and not those seen on advertising materials created for their original UK release. The double-bill was promoted heavily by United Artists with a new publicity campaign backed up with trailers, posters and newspaper advertisements. Instead of creating a new campaign for the UK release, the National Screen Service (the company that controlled the distribution of cinema publicity materials) adapted the US pressbook materials, with the only difference being the addition of the BBFC ‘A’ certificate. Released in the USA over the Easter holiday period in 1965, the double-bill of Dr. No/From Russia With Love grossed $8-million. Originally playing at 26 cinemas in New York, the double-bill generated more revenue for the two films than that of their original separate US releases. The opening day gross in New York alone beat that of Goldfinger, and distributor United Artists later regretted not asking for more than 50 percent of the overall box-office takings. A second double-bill of Dr. No/Goldfinger was released in the USA in 1966, but this time United Artists asked for 60 percent of the box-office receipts.

The Dr. No/From Russia With Love double-bill did cause problems for some cinemas in the UK. With restrictions still in place governing Sunday opening times, the double-bill only had one performance on its opening day due to the length of the programme. The 1,870-seat ODEON Westbourne Grove in London undertook market research into audience preferences for those attending weekday performances. The majority of patrons found themselves unable to arrive at the cinema in time to see both films, and as a result the ODEON elected to show Dr. No as the main feature from Sunday to Wednesday, and From Russia With Love as the main feature for the rest of the week. With only two complete performances of both films each weekday (in addition to trailers and advertisements) this gave cinemagoers more opportunity to see the film of their choice during the one-week engagement.

Sean Connery's announcement in July 1966 that You Only Live Twice would be his last James Bond film signalled the demise of the Sixties spy craze. Although the search was on to find a new actor to play James Bond, there was no certainty this would come to fruition, and that audiences would accept anyone else in the role. Although On Her Majesty's Secret Service had been announced as the next film in the end credits of You Only Live Twice, it would appear at the time that United Artists were resigned to the fact that the James Bond series may have fulfilled its potential, and in June 1967 they offered the first five films in the series (and the then unmade On Her Majesty's Secret Service) to US TV stations for $30-million. The proposed deal would allow two films to be released each year over a three-year period; each film could be shown twice and after the deal expired the rights would revert to the owners. Although there was interest at this stage, the record-setting price of $5-million per film proved too expensive at that time.

Goldfinger had not been seen in UK cinemas since late 1965, but the three 007 films directed by Terence Young were still in circulation before being withdrawn ahead of the release of You Only Live Twice. The Dr. No/From Russia With Love double-bill proved extremely popular across the UK and was still playing until early June 1967, with newspapers reminding cinemagoers that this was their last chance to see these films prior to withdrawal. Distributor United Artists clearly wanted to exploit the cinematic value of the Sean Connery James Bond films for as long as possible, and did everything they could to remind cinemagoers that a new film was due for release that year. The gap between Thunderball and You Only Live Twice had been the longest yet, with 18 months between the premieres of the two films. You Only Live Twice was the first James Bond film to have a summer release, and this affected the way the film was distributed in the UK. Following its Royal World Charity premiere at London's ODEON Leicester Square on June 12, 1967, the film did not immediately go into simultaneous general release across the UK, as had been the case with the first four films in the series. Instead, You Only Live Twice played at the ODEON before transferring to the London Pavilion, also playing concurrently at the Studio One cinema, Oxford Circus.

Dr. No/From Russia With Love Regent Cinema Hull May 1967

Although You Only Live Twice did not have its general release across the UK until September, it did play in many cinemas at South Coast resorts from Thursday June 29, 1967 in order to capitalize on the captive summer holidaymakers, who would have invariably have schoolchildren with them. This included a ten-week season at the Dreamland Amusement Park Complex in Margate. You Only Live Twice was booked for the whole summer season, with two one-week breaks where audiences could see pre-release screenings of two new Westerns currently playing in London's West End; El Dorado (1966) starring John Wayne, and The Professionals (1966) starring Burt Lancaster. United Artists later adopted this coastal distribution pattern for the summer release of Live And Let Die (1973), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and A View To A Kill (1985), all of which had a similar schedule before been widely shown across the country.

This Man IS James Bond

Despite the advertising campaign centred around the tagline “Sean Connery IS James Bond”, it was clear by the time You Only Live Twice went on general release in September 1967, public interest in 007 had begun to wane. By no means a box-office failure, You Only Live Twice came nowhere near to matching the record-breaking receipts of Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965). The presence of another James Bond film also no doubt affected the box-office takings for You Only Live Twice, which by later 1967 was just another outrageous spy film competing in the marketplace. Distributor United Artists erected a huge 48-sheet (120 X 240 inches) poster on the roundabout at the Elephant & Castle in Southwark, reminding cinemagoers that “Sean Connery IS James Bond” and You Only Live Twice was coming soon!

Casino Royale/You Only Live Twice 48-sheet posters

Released two months before the premiere of Sean Connery's then final appearance as 007, Casino Royale grossed £8,000 in its first three days at the ODEON Leicester Square, becoming the most successful Columbia film to play at the cinema up to that point. Casino Royale then went on simultaneous general release across the country. Boosted by its success in London's West End, many cinemas pre-booked the film for two weeks expecting the kind of box-office returns garnered by other James Bond films. This was not the case in the provinces and most cinemas later cancelled the second week. Perhaps many cinemagoers also took notice of the reviews and general bad press the film got at the time. Film critic John Russell Taylor summed things up in his review for The Times on April 14, 1967:

The tricks film-makers-get up to! Whenever they arrange things so that the press cannot see a film in time to write about it before the premiere, you can be pretty sure that they expect whatever the press may say about it to be depressing. And they are usually right. So it was with Casino Royale, and no doubt most critics trooped along to it expecting the worst.

This, of course, is the best possible state in which to see a film, because if it has any compensations they come as a cheering surprise. And for the first half hour that is what Casino Royale affords.”

After a brief overview of some of the various sequences in film the review concludes: “... If it sounds a bit of a mess that is just about right. The five directors (plus two action directors) seem to be pulling in as many different directions: presumably John Huston directed the opening episode, in which he himself appears. Robert Parrish directed the relatively straight gambling sequence, and Joe McGrath (ex the Michael Bentine television shows) some of the more tricksy comedy bits. But beyond that guesswork cannot take the most eager student, and it is unlikely even he will care very much who directed what. In any case the film comes to an end at least half an hour before the end titles, and the final section shows signs of hasty shortening to the point of total incoherence.

The film is not for the most part really funny (though it tries), really sexy (though it tries even harder) or, considering the fortune which was spent on it, really lavish. But who knows, maybe there will be someone to love it, somewhere. Unless everyone believes the posters and waits to see "the real James Bond" in You Only Live Twice.

Casino Royale (1967) Box-office

Whatever audiences and critics thought of Casino Royale at the time, there was another James Bond parody released the following year that even spoofed its tag-line, by announcing that if Casino Royale was Too Much for one James Bond, Operation Kid Brother was Too Much for one Mother!


James Bond UK posters