This week’s entry: O.K. Connery
What it’s about: Bond. Neil Bond. The exploits of 007 have been ripe for parody since the beginning, from Get Smart to Austin Powers to Archer. But surely the oddest entry in the Bond spoof canon is this 1967 Italian film, in which Sean Connery’s brother Neil plays the superspy’s brother, enlisted to stop a sinister plot.
Strangest fact: A load of legitimate Bond actors participated. Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell effectively reprise their roles as M and Moneypenny, although the characters have different names. Daniela Bianchi (From Russia With Love), Adolfo Celi (Thunderball), Anthony Dawson (Dr. No), and Yasuko Yama (a bit part in You Only Live Twice) round out the cast. Stranger still, most of the characters are called by the actors’ names. Maxwell plays “Max,” Yama plays “Yachuko” (Wikipedia spells her name several different ways throughout the article), and Connery plays “Dr. Neil Connery,” although he’s supposed to be the brother of James Bond, not the actor who portrays him. Maxwell claimed she was paid more for O.K. Connery than for all the legitimate Bond films she appeared in combined.
Thing we were happiest to learn: The film was a smashing success… as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. (The show used one of the film’s alternate titles, Operation Double 007. Another alternate is Operation Kid Brother.) In its original release? Not so much. Variety called it “unbelievably inept.” The Cleveland Press described it as a “dreary and dismal espionage movie… the script is labored, the direction slow, and the acting is barely adequate.” Monthly Film Bulletin at least found it “bad enough to be hysterically funny.”
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: There wasn’t much of an acting career in store for the younger Connery. Wikipedia only lists three other roles: the 1969 sci-fi flick The Body Stealers, a guest spot on Britcom Only When I Laugh in 1980, and then another Bond spoof in 1984’s Chinese action comedy Aces Go Places 3. He spent the rest of his time as a plasterer, until his career was cut short by injury at age 45. Wikipedia doesn’t record what became of him after that.
Also noteworthy: Connery was cast not only because of family ties, but because his voice was nearly identical to his brother’s instantly recognizable brogue. Bona fide Bond director Terence Young heard Neil interviewed on the radio about his trade union and recommended him based on that. However, during filming, Neil lost his voice to not-specified-by-Wikipedia “medical treatment,” so his voice had to be dubbed by an American-accented actor.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: O.K. Connery was only one of many Italian-produced “spaghetti spy films” made in the wake of Bond’s early success. Many of them were blatant Bond rip-offs, with so many films using “007” in the title that United Artists threatened to sue the entire country’s film industry. The craze only lasted a few years, and bridges the gap between Italian “swords and sandals” films and the spaghetti Western era.
Further down the Wormhole: O.K. Connery director Alberto De Martino had a long career in Italian cinema. The year before O.K., he directed Django Shoots First, the first of countless official and unofficial follow-ups to that same year’s Django, the hyper-violent spaghetti Western that influenced Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. But De Martino’s biggest hit was The Antichrist, an Exorcist-influenced thriller that outgrossed Jaws in the U.S. in its opening week.
While Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster is widely considered one of the best movies ever made, its notorious sequel, Jaws: The Revenge appears on the previous Wormhole subject of Wikipedia’s list of films with a 0 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. A relatedly dismal place for movies to end up is the list of films considered the worst. That list stands alongside the similarly awful list of music considered the worst. We’ll prove conclusively that your favorite band sucks next week.