William Flew and James Bond Films

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Syd Cain, film production designer, was born on April 16, 1918. He died on November 21, 2011, aged 93

It was Q who got the credit for supplying James Bond with an ingenious attaché case that saved his life in one of his earliest screen adventures. It looked like the sort of case any international businessman might carry but it contained a fold-up rifle, a hidden knife and a teargas canister disguised as a tin of talcum powder, and it saved 007’s life in From Russia With Love (1963).

It was the first of the gadgets that Q came up with for Bond. However, the real mastermind behind the case was Syd Cain, who also designed the shoes with the built-in flick knife for the villain Rosa Klebb in the same film.

Such gadgets may seem tame in today’s world of laser beams, miniature spycams and lethal remote-controlled drones, but they caught the imagination of the cinema-going public in the 1960s and became a vital ingredient in the success of the films.

Cain’s association with the Bond series stretched over more than 30 years from the first film Dr No in 1962 to GoldenEye, when Pierce Brosnan took over as 007, in 1995. He also worked with Alfred Hitchcock on Frenzy (1972) and on dozens of other films includingLolita (1962), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Supergirl (1984) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

Born Sydney Basil Cain in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1918, he had had his own taste of danger in exotic places during the Second World War. He served in the Royal Engineers and subsequently as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. He was almost killed when his plane crash-landed. He broke his neck and suffered serious multiple injuries to back, ribs and legs.

Subsequently he worked as an instructor in Rhodesia, where his living quarters were struck by lightning and he was rescued from the burning building.

After being invalided out of the RAF, Cain entered the film business as a draughtsman, working his way up to assistant art director on the war film The Cockleshell Heroes (1955). It was made by Warwick Films, a company formed in the early 1950s by Irving Allen and Cubby Broccoli.

Cain had made several films for Warwick by the time Broccoli linked up with Harry Saltzman to found a new company, Eon Productions, to turn Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels into movies. On Dr NoCain served as No 2 in the art department to the production designer Ken Adam and designed the fire-breathing dragon.

Adam was unavailable for From Russia With Love, so Cain took charge. He was production designer on the George Lazenby outingOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and supervising art director on Roger Moore’s first outing Live and Let Die (1973).

One of his designs for Live and Let Die was a specially adapted Rolex watch that contained a buzz-saw. It sold for $37,000 at auction in 2001, and was recently put back on the market, selling for almost $250,000 at auction last month.

Cain was responsible for much more than the gadgets. “I would receive the script and I would turn the printed word into pictures,” he said. “I would then find any locations that I thought were suitable for the story and present them to the director, most times we would search areas together. I would design the sets and any special effects needed.”

He recalled that the rats in From Russia with Love and the crocodiles in Live and Let Die were real. The rats were white rats from a pet shop, darkened with cocoa powder, although the animals discovered a liking for cocoa, licked it off and turned back into white rats. The crocodiles were on a crocodile farm and had weights tied to their feet to keep them in place.

Cain reckoned Connery was the best Bond, and Moore the nicest actor, and he also worked with him on Gold (1974), Shout at the Devil (1976), The Wild Geese (1978) and The Sea Wolves (1980). Other projects around that time included The New Avengers (1976).

His final Bond film was GoldenEye, the first Bond for six years. He was in his mid-seventies by then and effectively came out of retirement to work as a storyboard artist on the film. His memoirsNot Forgetting James Bond were published in 2002.

He was married three times and is survived by eight children, several of whom work in the film industry.


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