Gun barrel sequence

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Daniel Craig in the gun barrel sequence of Skyfall

The James Bond film series is a British series of spy films based on the fictional MI6 agent, James Bond (code designation "007"), who originally appeared in a series of books by Ian Fleming. The gun barrel sequence is the signature device featured in nearly every film of the series.[1] Shot from the point of view of a presumed assassin, it features 007 walking, turning, and then shooting directly at camera, causing blood to run down the screen. The visuals are accompanied by the James Bond Theme, written by Monty Norman.

Originally designed by Maurice Binder, the sequence has featured in every James Bond film produced by Eon Productions and, although retaining the same basic elements, it has evolved noticeably throughout the series.[2] It is one of the most immediately recognizable elements of the franchise and has featured heavily in marketing material for the films and their spin-offs.

British media historian James Chapman suggests that the sequence is a significant part of the James Bond mythos because it "foregrounds the motif of looking, which is central to the spy genre."[3]

Description[edit]

The sequence begins with a white dot blinking across the screen, from left to right. Upon reaching the right edge of the frame, the dot opens up to reveal a gun barrel's interior. From the point of view of an off-screen assassin, the camera follows James Bond as he walks from right to left against a white background.[4] Suddenly aware of being observed, he stops at the centre of the screen, quickly turns to the camera and shoots his gun towards it. A blood-red wash, representing the gunman bleeding, runs down the screen. The gun barrel dissolves to a white dot which moves from side-to-side across the screen and settles in the corner. With a few exceptions, the circle then either shrinks and disappears, or fades from white to a circular cutout of the first scene, expanding to reveal the full view of the scene shortly thereafter.

Origins[edit]

A .38 calibre gun barrel with its six sided rifling.
The 1903 film The Great Train Robbery, acted out by Justus D. Barnes, may have influenced the James Bond gun barrel sequence.[3]

The sequence was created by Maurice Binder for the opening titles of the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. Binder originally planned to employ a camera sighted down the barrel of a .38 calibre gun, but this caused some problems. Unable to stop down the lens of a standard camera enough to bring the entire gun barrel into focus, Binder created a pinhole camera to solve the problem and the barrel became crystal clear.[1]

Binder described the genesis of the gun barrel sequence in the last interview he recorded before his death in 1991:

That was something I did in a hurry, because I had to get to a meeting with the producers in twenty minutes. I just happened to have little white, price tag stickers and I thought I'd use them as gun shots across the screen. We'd have James Bond walk through and fire, at which point blood comes down onscreen. That was about a twenty-minute storyboard I did, and they said, "This looks great!"[4]

Media historian James Chapman observed that the sequence recalls the gun fired at the audience at the end of The Great Train Robbery (1903).[3]

Evolution of the sequence[edit]

The six James Bond actors of Eon Productions films, as they appear in their individual gun barrel sequences, from left to right - Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
Bob Simmons in Dr. No

Sean Connery[edit]

1962–1964[edit]

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.[4]

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, 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 coloured 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 and Goldfinger.

1965–1967[edit]

For Thunderball, the aspect ratio of the films was changed to a Panavision anamorphic format and so the gun barrel sequence had to be reshot, this time with Sean Connery in the role.[5] 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 colour for Thunderball, it is rendered in black and white for You Only Live Twice.

1969 (George Lazenby)[edit]

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 colour.

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.

1971 (Sean Connery)[edit]

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 (2006).

Roger Moore[edit]

1973–1974[edit]

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 and The Man with the Golden Gun. 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.

1977–1985[edit]

The anamorphic format was reinstated for The Spy Who Loved Me, necessitating a fifth version of the sequence. Moore's Bond wears a dinner suit and again uses both hands to fire his gun.[6] 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. In this version of the sequence, unlike previous and later incarnations, the prop gun held by the actor is never actually fired, as can be determined by the lack of gunsmoke following the shot. Uniquely, in the sequence that opens For Your Eyes Only, 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 has a strong shade of buff.

1987–1989 (Timothy Dalton)[edit]

In The Living Daylights (1987), Timothy Dalton fires with only one hand, and leans towards the right of the screen, crouching slightly. This sequence was reused in Licence to Kill (1989). These were the last to be presented in non-computer-generated format.

1995–2002 (Pierce Brosnan)[edit]

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(making it more realistic) 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 two of Brosnan's gunbarrel sequences, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.[citation needed]

In Die Another Day (2002), Lee Tamahori, the film's director requested a CG bullet be added into the sequence,[7][8][9] 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[edit]

2006[edit]

The gun barrel sequence was revised again for Daniel Craig's first portrayal of Agent 007 in Casino Royale (2006). Unlike previous installments, the gun barrel sequence does not open the film as a standalone segment: it is part of the plot. Having seemingly committed the first kill on his way to becoming a Double-O agent, Bond stoops 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.

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 stooping and 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".

2008[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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."[10] 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.

2012[edit]

Yet another redesigned gunbarrel is used for the film Skyfall (2012). 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!" [11]

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). 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.[12]

Costume[edit]

From Dr. No to Diamonds Are Forever, the gun barrel sequences by Bob Simmons, Sean Connery, and George Lazenby feature James Bond in a business suit and trilby. For his first two films, Roger Moore's Bond continues this tradition but without the hat. The following films, beginning with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), feature Bond in black tie, wearing a dinner suit. In Casino Royale, Daniel Craig's James Bond is the first shown wearing a more casual ensemble and an open-necked shirt; his attire reverts to a business suit in Quantum of Solace, which is retained for Skyfall.

Music[edit]

The gun barrel sequence is traditionally accompanied by an arrangement of the "James Bond Theme", a trademark established in Dr. No.

A slightly different version of the theme has been used in each film, often reflecting the styles and locations featured. Some composers have not used the familiar opening bars that punctuate the appearance of the white dots. Others, while retaining them, have felt free to noticeably alter the usual rendition, e.g. Michael Kamen and Éric Serra, who scored Licence to Kill and GoldenEye respectively. Kamen's orchestration was a symphonic fanfare, while Serra's arrangement is played by synthesizer.

Casino Royale has the only gun barrel sequence which forsakes the "James Bond Theme" completely, instead featuring the opening bars of "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell. The "James Bond Theme" returns to accompany the gun barrel sequence in Quantum of Solace, where it continues into the credits. The same goes with Skyfall's gun barrel. Although the music starts before the sequence in the last scene of the film when the new M gives 007 his next mission's dossier.

Other uses[edit]

The 007 sequence in Never Say Never Again.

The gun barrel sequence is copyrighted to Eon Productions and is widely used in advertisements and merchandise. References to its circular motif regularly appear in the films' trailers, where the view moves down into the gun barrel and 007 turns and shoots. GoldenEye's trailer replicates the sequence, wherein James Bond walks out and fires at the words "But you can still depend on one man" until it reads as the number "007" (leaving two Os and a 7 from the M). Pierce Brosnan, as Bond, then walks towards-camera and addresses the audience ("You were expecting someone else?"). It was used in the release of the video game Agent Under Fire in a commercial asking, "Do you have what it takes to be Bond?", and showing people trying to repeat the shot, but spoiling the try. This is similar to the Japanese commercial for the release of GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 — the game uses the gun barrel sequence in the opening titles. Casino Royale's trailer also depicts the gun barrel sequence. Also, a Wal-Mart exclusive commercial for The World Is Not Enough parodied the gun-barrel by replacing Bond with a man who resembled Valentin Zukovsky; he was shot at with a machine-gun before diving off-screen.

In the James Bond video games Nightfire, Everything or Nothing, From Russia with Love and 007 Legends, the same sequence as the movies was used at the very start of the game. After the first mission of Everything or Nothing, it is used again in the title sequence, except it does not feature the white circular dots, but Bond just walking up to the gun and firing it directly at the camera. From Russia with Love uses the Bob Simmons gun barrel from the film of the same name. In the video game adaptation of Quantum Of Solace, the gunbarrel resembles the one used for Casino Royale, it is part of the plot. A previously thought-dead thug grabs his gun and prepares to shoot, only for Bond to spin and shoot the thug (the sequence is slightly different between systems, taking place in different spots and shooting different people). The barrel has 28 grooves rather than the usual eight, and the blood comes down the screen quickly, not in a wave, but in rivulets.

The music videos to the James Bond title themes "A View to a Kill", "The Living Daylights", "Tomorrow Never Dies", "Die Another Day" and "Another Way to Die" each feature their own variation of the gun barrel sequence.

Because the gun barrel sequence is copyrighted by Eon, the non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again, released by rival Warner Bros., instead employed a frame filled with 007's, with the camera zooming into the one in the middle of the screen. The first film version of Casino Royale has a cold opening and employs no 007 or gun barrel motifs at all.

In 2012 the gun barrel sequence was featured at the start of the Passion Pictures/Red Box Films feature documentary Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007. Designed by motion designer Allison Moore, it showed each Bond composited together, turning and shooting prior to the signature red blood dripping.[13]

Parodies[edit]

Main article: James Bond parodies

As with any cultural icon, the gun barrel sequence has inspired numerous parodies and takeoffs since its first appearance in 1962. The sequence has been spoofed in films, sitcoms, cartoons and in advertisements, including: Dave Allen at Large, The Nude Bomb, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, The Simpsons, Secret Squirrel, Futurama, Sheep in the Big City, SpongeBob SquarePants, American Dad!, Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Money or the Gun, Saturday Live, Flushed Away, Taxi 3, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Logorama, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Garfield and Friends.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cork, John & Scivally, Bruce (2002). James Bond: The Legacy. Boxtree, 46.
  2. ^ Barnes, Alan & Hearn, Marcus (2000). Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: The Unofficial James Bond Companion. Batsford, 18.
  3. ^ a b c Chapman, James (2000). Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films. Columbia, 61.
  4. ^ a b c Pfeiffer, Lee & Lisa, Philip (1995). The Incredible World of 007: An Authorized Celebration of James Bond. Boxtree, 200.
  5. ^ Lane, Andy & Simpson, Paul (1998). The Bond Files: The Unofficial Guide to the World's Greatest Secret Agent. Virgin, 145.
  6. ^ "The Spy Who Loved Me". Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  7. ^ "An Analysis of Bond Title Sequences: Die Another Day". Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  8. ^ "Blast From the Past: Tamahori on DIE ANOTHER DAY". Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  9. ^ "IMDB Trivia: Die Another Day". Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  10. ^ "ReelzChannel: Interview With Quantum of Solace Star Daniel Craig". Archived from the original on 2011-05-21. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  11. ^ "Sam Mendes Talks About Wanting To Open 'Skyfall' With The Traditional James Bond Gun Barrel Sequence". 
  12. ^ Watt, Andrew (30 October 2012). "Skyfall (2012)". Burton Mail. 
  13. ^ Luke Williams interview with director Stevan Riley: http://www.007magazine.co.uk/news_james_bond_50_eon.htm

External links[edit]