I’ve been a huge James Bond fan ever since I was a kid. In the ’70s, I saw bits and pieces of Sean Connery, Roger Moore and George Lazenby as Bond on THE ABC SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE — as much as my parents would let me watch. Then, in the summer of ’77, my dad took me THE SPY WHO LOVED ME on the big screen, and I was hooked.
I immediately fantasized about eluding bad guys on skis in the Swiss Alps and driving my own Lotus Esprit that could transform into a submarine. Super excited, I asked my dad if he loved the movie as much as I did, and he replied with a smile, “Sure, I liked it. I thought the girl was very cute. But my James Bond will always be Sean Connery.” At first I couldn’t understand why he didn’t think Roger Moore was the suavest spy on the planet, and then I later realized that I had gained some context that day: There’s a James Bond for every generation, and the one you see first is usually the one that means the most to you. I’ve since reordered my priorities in terms of my favorite Bond actor (Connery first, naturally), but I still appreciate all of them.
I’ve always been a fan of James Bond poster art, especially the painted product of the ’60s and the ’70s by Robert E. McGinnis. But somewhere during that transition from Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan films in the late ’80s/early ’90s, the overall Hollywood one-sheet marketing trend veered away from original paintings and action-scene arrangements for this type of genre film and embraced photography, highlighted by the favoritism of the marquee star’s face as a sole box-office draw. More often than not, some sort of explosion. And usually a sub-par Photoshop job. With this, for me, a certain magic was lost forever.
Now in all fairness, Bond promotional art has always integrated photos and solo shots of its marquee star as central elements of its worldwide campaigns. But there has always been a steady balance of painted art as well. When that started to fade in the late ’80s, it was a transition that I didn’t really realize was happening until I noticed a comparative poster across the pond. Living abroad in London for a semester in college, I discovered that European and international poster art often differed from the American promotional campaigns, thanks to the poster art of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. While the American version featured a minimalist photo of Dalton and the alluring silhouette of a Bond girl with a gun, the international version was a colorful explosion of spiral action and inspiration. All I could think of was, “We were gypped!” Add some foreign language copy to the layout, and I was instantly intrigued by the idea of the international James Bond art poster.
Of course, the Bond films are known for their exotic locations and globetrotting narratives. Bond has battled villains on practically every continent in locales ranging from Morocco and Madagascar to India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Jamaica, and Japan. Bond is a worldwide phenomenon, it has been for over five decades since the debut of DR. NO in 1962, and the number “007” needs no translation. Sometimes international posters can get creatively colorful, obscure, and steer from the established formula, but the poster formula has always remained consistent with Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang front-and-center, gun at the ready, a Bond beauty (or several) by his side.
For the record, the hand-drawn French poster for DR. NO rests on the wall of my office alongside the Belgian poster for YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, which I bought in the U.K. The highly coveted Japanese poster for MOONRAKER remains at the top of my list for my next foreign Bond poster acquisition before I run out of wall space. It will be mine.
Every time a new Bond film is released, I enjoy seeking out the related international Bond poster art in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, some original painted art — inspired by classic Bond poster motifs — have been employed to good effect. It’s becoming increasingly rare these days, but certain countries still demand it. At the very least, I can sometimes get a kick out of the translations to turn the title into something culturally relevant. JAMAIS PLUS JAMAIS, anyone?
Below, I’ve assembled an oversized collection of Bond posters ranging from DR. NO to SPECTRE and almost every film in between from a myriad of countries, including Thailand, Japan, Germany, France, and China. Can you identify which region they hail from?
To see more amazing James Bond promotional art, domestic and international, check out one of my favorite sites, Illustrated 007.