Dear Messrs. Saltzman and Broccoli:
Although my letter is to both of you, I only really intend to address one party. According to press releases from Voyager, one of you decided to pull their rights to your first three James Bond films, Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger, because of Voyager's refusal to censor or otherwise modify the second audio program contained in their CAV disc editions. Unfortunately, as the memo does not specify whom was the culprit, I am writing this to both of you.
Not once in my listening to the second audio programs of any of the three discs did I feel the integrity of the James Bond film series was undermined. In fact, none of the crew members featured in the running interview said anything derisive about you. Indeed, given the opportunity, they complimented you on executive decisions you made that molded the James Bond series into the one loved the world over. Granted, the behavior of some of these gentlemen, who gave of their precious time for those who love the series, would be considered rowdy, but it reflects on them personally, not on you, and most certainly not on the James Bond mystique.
Even so, you somehow found enough wrong with the second audio programs to send a sixteen-page memo to Voyager listing individual complaints about the commentaries, and thereafter "forced" MGM/UA to pull Voyager's right to press these discs. The most ridiculous of these grievances was that one of the men interviewed dares to say that none of the actors who played James Bond after Sean Connery quit the role had physiques comparable to Connery's.
Now I ask the burning question. Just who do you think you are? Did this man commit a mortal sin? I realize that as the producer, you have absolute and total creative control over this matter (as Hitler once had over Germany), but isn't it a bit selfish to complain about a statement like that without consulting Roger Moore, George Lazenby, or Timothy Dalton to see if they believed it, or, more importantly, if they cared? Anybody with common sense would see that statement as a matter of opinion, and regard it as such. To be sure, there are those who would say that Roger Moore had the best physique of all the actors who played James Bond, but I'm sure they don't feel particularly vindicated that you pulled Voyager's rights in retribution for allowing these filmmakers to state an opinion that differed from theirs. Such behavior is not only grossly immature, but decidedly "un-British."
I also presume that it does not matter to you that Richard Maibaum, your chief James Bond scenarist from the very beginning of the series, passed away mere weeks after doing his interview with Voyager. Have you no respect for the dead? Can't the man speak his mind just one last time, even though you may not share in his views? After all, if it wasn't for him, you would have had no screenplays to shoot with. Even if you had found other screenwriters, can you be absolutely sure the James Bond series would have been as successful without him?
The Voyager Company, through their Criterion Collection, has done an outstanding job in fulfilling its purpose - the preservation of important films, and any supplementary materials they can find - through painstakingly perfect transfers to laserdisc. While all other video companies market laserdiscs for sales to the largest demographics strata possible (witness the trend of simultaneous letterbox and pan-and-scan releases), the Criterion Collection is geared solely for those of us who love the medium of film dearly, for whom films are to be collected and studied again and again, like books. If anything, you should have been honored that Voyager wanted to add any James Bond films at all to their collection, especially considering all the complaints they receive from feminist groups regarding the series' traditional misogyny.
Instead, because they dared to give everything they could to the customers who love the art form that made you rich, you decided to censor them as if to say, "so there!"
You have created a no-win situation. Customers don't win, because although Voyager will make available these Bond films in the CLV format, all the supplementary materials, historically priceless, will be lost to those unfortunate enough not to have bought a copy of the CAV version before your decree. Neither will purchasers of these discs have the ability to analyze the film frame by frame, revealing the high-quality work of the crew members you selected so wisely.
Criterion doesn't win. They spent a great deal of blood, sweat, tears and money organizing a formidable panel of the best crew members from the early James Bond films, and had the discussion hosted by Steven Jay Rubin, indisputably the world's foremost expert on James Bond. This, of course, does not even include their hard work in transferring all the other supplementary materials, including photographs, old television commercials, and trailers, to laserdisc. Now, the remaining laserdisc owners have been left out of seeing the fruits of the labor, because of your decision. How would you feel if, after completing a film you toiled so very intensively to get finished, it could not be shown to anyone, because your rights were pulled?
Most importantly, you don't win. You have not prevented anyone from hearing these second audio programs. A coupon will be included with Voyager's forthcoming CLV editions of these discs. Anyone who send in the coupon will receive an audio cassette copy of that "blasphemous" interview for ten dollars to exactly cover the cost of manufacturing and shipping.
However, since you're a producer, there is a better illustration of how you don't benefit from your decision. During the last week, I was in a frantic search to find a copy of Voyager's Goldfinger. I have discovered that a market of sorts has emerged for these discs, wherein people who have extra copies sell them, used at astronomical prices. Apparently, the going market value of a used copy of Goldfinger is $200.00! Even though the price is exorbitant, and I did eventually find what I believe to be the last new copy for sale in Southern California, it was tempting, not only because it would have ended my search, but because you would not get a cent of profit from the transaction! Even George Lucas bowed to pressure to release his Star Wars films on video when he realized how much money he was losing.
No one gains from this, only your ego. Knowing that you were able to censor a group of people who dared to make passing, harmless jests of your work, I'm sure you must be feeling very proud of yourself. But no one lives forever. After you've passed away, the rights will invariably revert to someone who has the graciousness to let Voyager have their rights back, and these discs will surface again. So who really wins, in the long run? What do you think people will remember you for after you've shuffled off this mortal coil? True, the general public will always remember you as the producer who brought the most successful film series in history to the screen. But to the laserdisc collectors that you've mercilessly shut out with your decision, your name will always leave a bitter taste in their mouths.
Next Month: Brad & The 8th Dimension tackle the European cut of "Brazil"... (which never happened since we stopped publishing...)
Editorial by Brad DeMoss