Thursday, February 19, 2015

Three Men: Veevers, Celi & Watkins....Day 50 of Bond 365

Fifty days into Bond 365! I feel as though every day is an opportunity to “meet” someone new that I had not known about before. Today is no different. I continue to be amazed and in awe of the experience that each person associated with the Bond franchise brought to the table or alternatively, learned from the film that they carried with them throughout the rest of their career. Let’s have a look at three truly talented men that passed away this day.

Wally Veevers at work
Wally Veevers
Passed away on this day in 1983
Visual Effects for Diamonds Are Forever

Wally Veevers worked in visual and special effects from 1939 up to his death in 1983. He worked on several well-known films over his lengthy career. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Superman (1978), Excalibur (1981), and The Keep (1983) were a few examples of his visual effects projects. In fact, he was part of the visual effects team that won a BAFTA in 1979 for Superman

Richard III (1955), The Guns of Navarone (1961), Sodom and Gormorrah (1962), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Battle of Britain (1969), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) were some of the special effects movies he completed.

Adolfo Celi, scene from Thunderball
Adolfo Celi
Passed away on this day in 1986
Largo in Thunderball

Adolfo Celi (pronounced Chell-lee) was born in Sicily in 1922 and had over 100 acting credits to his name. He began acting at the age of 24 and had a larger supporting role in Un Americano in vacanza (1946) as Tom. He often played villains but occasionally he did play a protagonist. Celi was fluent in several languages in addition to his native tongue (Italian): English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese, however he was usually dubbed because of his thick Sicilian accent. In his best known role as Emilio Largo in Thunderball, Robert Rietty (see February 8). Two years later, he joined Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell in the Bond knock-off, Operation Kid Brother, that starred Sean Connery’s brother, Neil (I really want to see this film!).

I want to mention that Celi also starred in Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik in 1968 and is definitely worth a watch. It starred the handsome John Phillip Law and gorgeous Marisa Mell and the story was based on the Italian comic character Diabolik, an anti-hero who steals from criminals.

David Watkins (r)
David Watkins
Passed away on this day in 2008
Cinematographer: Title Sequence for Goldfinger

David Watkins was a pioneer when it came to experimenting with light in his cinematography. For instance, he would hide light sources from a distance so there was a consistency in the level of light on the subject that was being filmed instead of an intense light source that would wash out the subject. The technique was called “Wendy-Light” after Watkins who used the name Wendy. His abilities to work with light have been compared with the Dutch artist Vermeer and I think his work compares with Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, another film that has “painting” like qualities.

In his 30+ year career, he created many memorable scenes in cinematic history. For example, the running sequence from Chariots of Fire to the music of Vangelis (1981) and the opening title sequence for Goldfinger, which was one of his credits, and I think still one of the most beautiful and competently done sequences of the Bond films.

His peers have acknowledged Watkins for his mastery on multiple occasions. He won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, British Society of Cinematographers’ Best Cinematography Award and several others for Out of Africa (1985) that included challenging night and interior shots. He also won Best Technical/Artistic Achievement for Memphis Belle (1990) from Evening Standard British Film Awards, and Watkins received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Camerimage in 2004. And, he has had just as many nominations for some of his other work including Chariots of Fire, The Three Musketeers (1973), and Help! (1965).

In case it has been awhile, here’s another chance to have a look at Watkins’ open title sequence for Goldfinger:

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