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Stuntman Bob Simmons in Dr. No's gun barrel sequence

"I had to design a title for Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli to show them just what I wanted to do. I figured the gunshot thing across the screen would be effective. I had these little white price stickers, and I put them on a black storyboard. I thought it would be a good idea to look down the gun barrel and see James Bond as he walked out, firing at you. And then the blood comes down the screen, you see? They liked the idea, but it didn't come to life until I filmed it."
― Maurice Binder reflects on the creation of Dr. No's title sequence.[src]

The gun barrel sequence is an iconic opening to every official James Bond film beginning with the first, Dr. No in 1962. The sequence is credited to Maurice Binder, a famous title designer who created the opening titles for 14 Bond films. The look of the sequence was achieved with a pin hole camera shooting through a real gun barrel.

In the sequence, a series of white dots scroll across the screen from (the viewer's perspective) left to right. Upon reaching the extreme right of the screen, the dot changes to the view through the barrel of a gun. The gun barrel is seen from the assassin's perspective — looking down at a walking James Bond, who quickly turns and shoots; the scene reddens (signifying the spilling of the gunman's blood), the gun barrel dissolves to a circle, and the film begins.

Evolution of the sequence

Bob Simmons: 1962–1964

Because Binder had designed the gun barrel sequence to feature Bond only in silhouette, with a non-widescreen aspect ratio, he used stunt man Bob Simmons, rather than Sean Connery, to film the scene.[1]

Simmons hops slightly as he pivots to assume the firing position and, following the blood wash, the dot becomes smaller and jumps to the lower right-hand corner of the frame before simply vanishing.

In Dr. No (1962), the white dot stops mid-screen and the credit line "Harry Saltzman & Albert R. Broccoli present" appears across the dot. The text is wiped and the dot continues the sequence. The sequence is accompanied by a soundtrack of electronic noises and then numerous notes that sound like they are being plinked from a wind-up jack in the box; the latter is cut short by the gunshot. The "James Bond Theme" then plays very loudly, albeit with the first portion, featuring the theme's faced plucked electric guitar riff, is truncated. The gun barrel sequence in Dr. No segues directly into the credits, a grid matrix of large-scale, bright and rapidly changing colored circular dots against a black background. This version, without the electronic noises or the Saltzman-Broccoli credit line, was also used in From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964).


Sean Connery: 1965–1967

Sean Connery in Thunderball

For Thunderball, the aspect ratio of the films was changed to a Panavision (real) anamorphic format and so the gun barrel sequence had to be reshot, this time with Sean Connery in the role.[2] It is also the first gun barrel sequence in which the white dot segues to the film's pre-credit sequence, opening up to reveal the entirety of the scene.

Bond wobbles slightly while firing his gun as he adjusts his balance from an unstable position and he bends over to fire. Although the sequence was shot in color for Thunderball, it is rendered in black and white for You Only Live Twice (1967).


George Lazenby: 1969

George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service

With a new actor, George Lazenby, in the role of James Bond for On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), a third sequence had to be filmed. As with Thunderball, the sequence was once again shot in color.

In this rendering, the white dot stops mid-screen and the credit line "Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli Present" appears, much as it did in Dr. No. The James Bond theme keeps playing though. As the barrel begins to move and when it stops centre-screen, Bond is walking to position for around a second before turning and shooting as the camera tracks with him, resulting in a "treadmill" effect. Lazenby is the only Bond who kneels down to fire; this is also the only version where the descending blood completely erases Bond's image, leaving only the red circle. In this version, the gun barrel is awash with prismatic splashes of light.


Sean Connery: 1971

When Sean Connery returned to the role of Bond for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), the gun barrel sequence filmed for Thunderball was used. As with You Only Live Twice, the sequence was rendered in black and white, but was given a bluish tint. As in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the barrel is awash with prismatic splashes of light, which this time ripple through it. Unlike On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the splashes of light are erased by the descending blood. This was the last time the sequence was rendered in black and white until Casino Royale. This is also the last gun barrel sequence in which Bond wears a hat.



Roger Moore: 1973–1974

Roger Moore in Live and Let Die

With the introduction of Roger Moore, and the use of a 1.85:1 matted aspect ratio, a fourth sequence was shot. It was used for just two films: Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). Moore wears a business suit and uses both hands to fire his gun, his left hand bracing his gun arm. This is the first gun barrel sequence in which Bond is not wearing a hat. The dots that start the gun barrel in The Man with the Golden Gun are blue but in subsequent releases the dots are white.


Roger Moore: 1977–1985

Roger Moore in Octopussy

The anamorphic format was reinstated for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), necessitating a fifth version of the sequence. Moore's Bond wears a dinner suit rather than a business suit and again uses both hands to fire his gun.[3] This rendering would feature in all Moore's subsequent films in the series, for a total of five appearances, the most uses of the same footage to date. Uniquely, in the sequence that opens For Your Eyes Only (1981), the white dot does not slowly expand to reveal the opening scene, but simply vanishes from the centre of the screen. It is also noticeable that the background of this version of the sequence is tinted, rather than the usual white. The tint changes with every Moore film. The Spy Who Loved Me, for example, features an eggshell tinted background whereas the background in Moonraker (1979) has a strong shade of buff. This sequence was also used in Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985). In the sequences for Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, the blood effect noticeably begins before we hear the gunshot. In the remaining three sequences, the blood begins to flow at the exact moment of the gunshot sound.



Timothy Dalton: 1987–1989

Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights

In The Living Daylights (1987), Timothy Dalton fires with only one hand unlike Moore, and leans towards the right of the screen, crouching slightly. As with the openings for Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker (the latter of which used a near-identical arrangement of the theme), the blood-flow effect begins before Bond's gun fires. This sequence was reused in Licence to Kill (1989) but with a different theme composed by the late Michael Kamen. The blood in the second sequence begins flowing at the moment of Bond's gunshot, rather than before. These were the last to be presented in non-computer-generated format and the last to be designed by Maurice Binder before his death in 1991.



Pierce Brosnan: 1995–2002

Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye

Following Maurice Binder's death in 1991, Daniel Kleinman became the designer of the Bond opening graphics. Beginning with GoldenEye (1995), the barrel was computer-generated (but still resembles the original images of the barrel itself) emphasising light and shade variations in the rifling spiral as the reflected light shifts with the gun's movement. Like Dalton, Brosnan shoots one-handed. Unlike the previous Bonds, he remains bolt upright as he fires, with his gun arm extended straight at the camera. The blood in this sequence is noticeably darker and falls faster than in previous incarnations; in keeping with this new pace, the main melody line of the James Bond Theme is omitted in all of Brosnan's gunbarrel sequences, save for Die Another Day (additionally, in GoldenEye, a one-off radical rearrangement of the theme is used which is not immediately recognizable). This sequence was also reused in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and The World Is Not Enough (1999).

Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

For Die Another Day (2002), Lee Tamahori, the film's director, requested that a CG bullet be added into the sequence, which is seen zooming from Bond's gun towards the viewer and disappearing, suggesting that Bond has fired straight into his opponent's weapon.


Daniel Craig: 2006

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig shooting the gun-barrel sequence

The gun barrel sequence was revised again for Daniel Craig's first portrayal of Agent 007 in Casino Royale (2006) (not rip off). Unlike previous installments, the gun barrel sequence does not open the film as a standalone segment: it is part of the plot. Having committed the first kill on his way to becoming a Double-O agent, Bond stops to pick up his gun from the floor but his victim, Fisher, who is a henchman of rogue MI6 section chief Dryden, recovers and seizes his own weapon. As Fisher brings his pistol up to shoot Bond in the back, the frame shifts instantly to the gun barrel perspective; Bond spins around to outshoot his opponent. Like Dalton and Brosnan, Craig shoots one-handed.

This sequence differs considerably from previous versions: it is incorporated into the film's narrative; it begins with Bond standing stationary (although he was walking toward the door before turning); it is not filmed against a blank white void and it includes the person whom Bond shoots. In keeping with the black-and-white theme of the pre-title sequence of the film, it is also the first to be presented in monochrome since Diamonds are Forever (1971) and the first in which Bond is wearing neither a business suit nor a dinner suit.

Furthermore, the computer-generated rifling is microgroove rather than the traditional eight rifling grooves, and the blood comes down the screen quickly, not in a wave, but in rivulets. This is also the first gun barrel sequence without some variation of the "James Bond Theme" as, instead, it is accompanied by the opening bars of the film's theme song, "You Know My Name".


Daniel Craig: 2008

Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace

A redesigned and more traditional-looking gun barrel sequence is reinstated for Quantum of Solace (2008). As the result of a late decision – after a final cliffhanger scene was cut by director Marc Forster – it is placed at the end of the film, immediately preceding the closing titles, resulting in some cinema-goers rising to leave as soon as it began.

This version of the sequence was created by design house MK12, which had replaced Daniel Kleinman as main title designer for the film. The white dot moves through the frame noticeably faster than the previous versions and opens much faster as well. The rifling of the barrel is entirely new with grooves set farther apart than the traditional image used until Die Another Day. Notably, the single dot and its trailing images that traditionally precede the gun barrel sequence also appear in flashes during the opening titles, transforming into letters in the credits, such as the 'C' in the name of actress Judi Dench.

Daniel Craig described filming the sequence as "probably the scariest bit [of working on Quantum of Solace]. We did it twice. We did it once and it didn't work, so we did it again. I just thought, it has to be right and it has to be aggressive and it has to work."[4] When the blood runs down the frame after Bond's gunshot, the red circle shrinks and moves to the left of the screen, reminiscent of the first three films' versions and then forms part of the letter 'Q' in the film's title, as it appears on screen. Bond, in silhouette, then turns to his right and walks out of the shot, inside the red Q. In reference to the "aggressive" aspect of the sequence, Craig moves swiftly through the sequence, noticeably faster than his predecessors. Like Dalton and Brosnan, Craig shoots one-handed.

The initial shot of the opening title sequence to "Another Way to Die" is meant to resemble the gunbarrel sequence.


Daniel Craig: 2012

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Yet another redesigned gunbarrel was used for the 2012 film Skyfall. Although director Sam Mendes had originally intended to place the gunbarrel at the start of the film, he felt that it would be better placed at the end, as in Quantum of Solace. The film's opening shot instead harks back to the gunbarrel, with Bond emerging into a corridor, pointing his gun directly at the camera, accompanied by the first two notes of the James Bond Theme. Mendes recalled, "I tried very hard to put the gun barrel at the beginning and my intention was always to do that. If you see the film, the film starts with Bond walking down a corridor towards camera and lifting a gun. And of course the gun barrel is him walking, stopping and lifting a gun. When I put the two together, it looked ridiculous!" [5]

Like with Quantum of Solace, the blood is dark red and runs down the frame in rivulets. However, Bond moves across the screen substantially slower (at a similar speed to the pre-Casino Royale sequences.). Like Dalton and Brosnan, Craig shoots one-handed. After the blood runs down the frame, the screen fades to black, before being replaced by a title card with a small gunbarrel logo celebrating fifty years of Bond films, and the text "James Bond Will Return" underneath.[6]


Daniel Craig: 2015

Daniel Craig in Spectre

The sequence appears at the start of 2015 film Spectre utilising a refined version of the the original Maurice Binder design after a 13 year absence, but uses similar blood effects to Craig's two earlier Bond movies. The lighting then adjusts, soon after Bond fired his gun, silhouetting Bond's figure as the blood falls down. Like Dalton and Brosnan, Craig shoots one-handed.



Daniel Craig: 2021

Daniel Craig in No Time To Die

The sequence appears at the beginning of the 2021 film No Time To Die with its gun barrel utilising the glimmer effect (Craig's silhouette is reflected through the gun barrel's shiny interior) for the first time since 1971 similar to Quantum of Solace's gun barrel but with a much simpler design. In the international releases, the sequence begins just as the monochrome-filtered shortened version of the Universal Pictures logo fades to become the traditional white dot seen in almost all the gun barrel sequences. The white dot moves left to the offscreen before it reverts to the traditional dot blinking sequence from left to right. In the US releases however, the Universal logo is omitted. From the MGM logo it just cuts to the traditional dot blinking sequence. Craig wears a dinner suit for the first time since Die Another Day, where Brosnan had a dinner suit. This time, Craig swings his left arm towards the camera and also walks at the same pace as the Quantum of Solace sequence. After turning towards the camera, he shoots the gun from the right of his chest, arching slightly to the right. For the very first time, the blood effects are omitted and is replaced with a fade to white. The camera transitions into the opening scene by zooming through the barrel, midway through the barrel, the scene fades inward and reflects through the gun barrel's interior before the gun barrel's interior disappears offscreen. After the film's lengthy prologue, the film's title sequence begins with "coloured dot" elements similar to those at the beginning of Dr. No which were, in turn, originally indicative of the gun barrel.

Videos

Trivia

  • The first time that the James Bond Theme was used with the sequence was in From Russia with Love. Dr. No used the James Bond Theme as the film's main opening theme, after the gun barrel sequence. Dr. No is also the only film to feature the scene at both the beginning and end (as a still shot).
  • Quantum of Solace and Skyfall are the only movies to only feature the sequence in the film's conclusion. Quantum is also the only film to have Bond visibly walking after shooting.
  • Casino Royale is the only movie to incorporate the sequence into the film's narrative, to have the sequence begin with Bond standing stationary (although he was walking toward the door before turning), not shot against a blank white void (instead the bathroom wall behind Bond is seen) and it includes the person whom Bond shoots.
  • From Dr. No to Diamonds are Forever, the sequence featured Bond wearing a business suit and a fedora, as was the style of that time period. This was dropped after the films adopted a new aspect ratio for Live and Let Die while the business suit is kept.
  • From The Spy Who Loved Me to Die Another Day, and more recently, No Time To Die, the sequence featured Bond wearing a dinner suit (tuxedo).
  • In Casino Royale, the sequence featured Bond wearing casual attire.
  • Starting with Quantum of Solace, the sequence featured Bond wearing a business suit once again.
  • Roger Moore and Daniel Craig are the only Bonds to film the sequence more than once. Moore did his twice - originally for Live and Let Die, and again when the aspect ratio changed for The Spy Who Loved Me. Daniel Craig filmed a different version for each film appearance.
    • Timothy Dalton also filmed another sequence, which went unused. The unused sequence can be found on YouTube, albeit in poor quality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dm8z7Dxi3Q4
    • Both Pierce Brosnan and Moore also filmed special versions of the gun barrel sequence for use in trailers. Moore filmed a special version for the trailer for Live and Let Die which featured him walking towards the camera after shooting; this footage was reused for the trailer for The Man with the Golden Gun. Brosnan filmed a special version sans gunbarrel for the trailer for GoldenEye in which he walks across the screen and fires at some displayed words, rendering them as 007 before walking towards the camera and saying to the audience, "You were expecting someone else?"
  • George Lazenby is the only Bond who completely kneels down to shoot the gun barrel. He also walks when the gun barrel stops, giving a treadmill-like effect and when the blood trickles down, he disappears.
  • Roger Moore is the only Bond who fires the gun with both hands.
  • During the opening of both Dr. No and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the white dot stops roughly in the middle of the screen and the line "Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli Present," appears surrounding the dot. The text then wipes away and the dot continues on with the rest of the sequence.
  • Only Dr. No and Casino Royale don't feature the James Bond Theme during the sequence - the former has the theme start after Bond fires, and the latter goes into "You Know My Name" instead.
  • No Time To Die omits the blood effects for the very first time, foreshadowing Bond's fate.
  • In pop culture, especially 007 parodies, the gun barrel sequence is used countlessly. Such examples are Garfield and Friends, The Simpsons, American Dad!, Robot Chicken, Sonic X, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, MAD, Taxi 3, The Muppets, SpongeBob SquarePants amongst many others. This comes to show the notoriety of the gun barrel. A spoof of the gun barrel was also produced for television advertisements for the GoldenEye 007 video game.
  • Although not visually shown, this sequence is repeated in the Alex Rider novel, Scorpia Rising. In the book, Julius Grief taunts Alex Rider, claiming that the latter can't kill him. Alex gives him a chance to live, but Julius's final attempt to kill Alex forces Alex to turn and shoot him in self-defense.
  • It is such a pop culture icon that it is subject to many parodies and fan creations. Even most of the videogames and fanfilms on YouTube utilise it as per tradition.

See also

References

  1. Pfeiffer, Lee & Lisa, Philip (1995). The Incredible World of 007: An Authorized Celebration of James Bond. Boxtree, 200.
  2. Lane, Andy & Simpson, Paul (1998). The Bond Files: The Unofficial Guide to the World's Greatest Secret Agent. Virgin, 145.
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me (English). Retrieved on 2008-11-02.
  4. ReelzChannel: Interview With Quantum of Solace Star Daniel Craig (English). Archived from the original on 2011-05-21. Retrieved on 2008-11-06.
  5. Sam Mendes Talks About Wanting To Open 'Skyfall' With The Traditional James Bond Gun Barrel Sequence.
  6. Watt, Andrew. "Skyfall (2012)", 30 October 2012. 
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