Dr. Neil Connery in… “O.K. Connery”
Never before has the use of the term “O.K.” been so egregious. Better known to American audiences as Operation Kid Brother, O.K. Connery also went by some less copyright-friendly titles like Operation Double 007 and Secret Agent 00, but the film itself did more than enough to firmly entrench itself in Bond-knockoff territory. The hero is once again a suave British gentleman, but Sean Connery’s brother Neil Connery took the role and used his own name in the movie to get maximum exposure. Keep in mind that when this film released in 1967 the world only knew of Sean Connery as Bond, so this probably confused crowds a great deal.
Even more sneaky was the movie’s copious use of actors from the James Bond film franchise in key roles. The original M (Bernard Lee) became a similar spy head named Commander Cunningham, Ms. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) went into the field as Miss Maxwell, and Emilio Largo (the main villain from Thunderball, played by Adolfo Celi) became the second-in-command of the terrorist organization THANATOS.
For all of the ties between O.K. Connery and the James Bond film franchises, this knockoff was attacked from all angles by critics, who slammed the slow pace and poor acting. It eventually became the target of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode in 1993, which was likely more attention than it had in the 26 years prior.
James Bond in… “Never Say Never Again”
It’s weird to call the original on-screen Bond (and the man still most-associated with the famous spy) a knockoff, but a dozen years after he last played the role of James Bond (and during the same year audiences were treated to the sixth Roger Moore-led Bond film) Sean Connery returned to his most famous role in another adaption of Ian Fleming’s Thunderball entitled Never Say Never Again. The time that passed between films was reflected in the film, where Bond is out of shape and gadget-master Q has to deal with budget cuts.
Again, early confusion about film rights led to this strange spinoff two decades into the Bond film franchise. Thunderball was originally conceived as a script being helmed by Ian Fleming and collaborators Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. Before it hit the silver screen, however, Fleming published Thunderball as a novel without crediting McClory and Whittingham. After a legal tussle, McClory and Whittingham were given credit on the Thunderball film adaptation, and McClory retained rights to Thunderball a decade after the movie released (Whittingham died in 1972). Much like how Casino Royale made its way into the same corporate fold as the franchise is was spoofing, Never Say Never Again was picked up by MGM, but not before McClory planned a third Thunderball adaptation starring another ex-Bond (Timothy Dalton) and Sony briefly attempted to acquire the franchise.
What’s your favorite unofficial James Bond? Is it an earnest ripoff, a half-assed spinoff, or a geniune spoof? Let us know in the comments!