Four Non Bonds: The Most Notable James Bond Knockoffs

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.

Protip: Look for the Connery who can actually grow facial hair.
Protip: Look for the Connery who can actually grow facial hair.

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!

7 thoughts on “Four Non Bonds: The Most Notable James Bond Knockoffs

  1. The Thunderball rights controversy has always been fascinating to me, since it’s been a problem the movie producers have had to deal with since working on Dr. No (Thunderball had been intended by them to be the first film). It even sprinkled down into the games for god sake, with the From Russia With Love game needing to have Red Grant and Rosa Klebb work for “Octopus” because they couldn’t use the name SPECTRE. Gotta love the producers flipping a bird at McClory by having Roger Moore kill “not Blofeld” in the pre-credits of For Your Eyes Only. I’m glad to see that it will no longer be an issue these days, and was overjoyed when the SPECTRE movie was announced.

    I will say this however – Never Say Never Again is definitely better than the Roger Moore film of the same year, and arguably better than Conner’s last official work (Diamonds Are Forever). It still devolves into dated nonsense in the second half, and is on the boring said (I wouldn’t say the movie was good), but it’s not the stinkers that Octopussy and Moonraker are.

    1. I agree that the muddy legal history of the franchise is fascinating. Trying to explain to people why seeing SPECTRE again is so important is a Resident Evil-calibre confusing story to explain, and becomes infinitely fun to research. That said, you have no taste. Octopussy is good and Moonraker is pretty great until the last 45 minutes overflow the bed with shit. The only turd in the series is Goldeneye, which I dare you to sit through in a single sitting.

      P.S. Someone fix the mobile login. This shit is nothing short of broken.

      1. Well, I’ll agree that GoldenEye is boring as hell and overrated. But Moonraker and Octopussy are still bad and average IMO.

  2. wait… correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t James Bond 007 because 001 through 006 are dead or MIA? wouldn’t that make JBJ already dead by the time we’re seeing his asinine adventures? he’s pulling a Danny Phantom on us! I do love the LT episode where you guys realise that JBJ is most likely Bonds illegitimate son and his mom has always introduced him as uncle James. haha oh, what a world.
    my favorite Bond was the one in You only move twice, because thanks to Homer’s quick thinking he finally got what was coming to him.

  3. Ugh. I tried watching the original Casino Royale but couldn’t even make it half way. It was pretty tough. Never Say Never Again isn’t very good, but interesting enough to see how they reimagined Thunderball. In the end, surprisingly enough, it ends up feeling a lot like the plot to Broken Arrow.

    I highly recommend the movie Our Man Flint, if you like the early 60s/70s Bond movies. That is the movie, more than any actual Bond movie, that Austin Powers is most directly parodying. The sequel, In Like Flint, is a bit of a let down, but it does have a hilarious gag involving a dolphin.

  4. Man you’re gonna be so burned out on Bond! Good luck mnakig it through the month. I watched them all in quick succession over a summer year before last, and it was hard just watching one a week.

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