Bond fans are mourning the loss at the fine old age of 97, of director Lewis Gilbert. Gilbert was responsible for three of the biggest James Bond films of the 60s and 70s, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
His Bond movies took everything up to eleven. They all featured immense lairs for larger than life villains. In You Only Live Twice, Donald Pleasance’s HQ was housed inside a Japanese volcano. Moonraker’s climax was set on board a gargantuan space station, and The Spy Who Loved Me’s goliath supertanker set was so huge that thee producers had to build an entire sound stage at Pinewood to accommodate it.
The Spy Who Loved Me was an enormous gamble, an expensive doubling-down after the disappointing returns of The Man With The Golden Gun. The producers were rewarded with one of the biggest hits of the year and the franchise was refreshed for a new generation.
Gilbert’s great skill was to temper the epic-scale of his Bond pictures with sly humour. Despite his forte with vast, 70mm blockbusters, he was equally adept with small scale character pieces like Alfie, which was one of the biggest British films of the 1960s and helped turn Michael Caine into an international movie star.
His reunion with Caine in 1983, Educating Rita was an awards magnet, and he finished the decade with another successful Willy Russell adaptation, Shirley Valentine.
Lewis Gilbert (1920 – 2018)