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Bond knock-offs a genre themselves In Focus by Richard Crouse November 14, 2008

600full-operation-kid-brother-posterThis week, you can’t throw a steel-brimmed hat without hitting a billboard or poster for Quantum of Solace. Daniel Craig’s mug is so omnipresent, it’s impossible to get a quantum of relief from his stern but handsome mug.

It seems the whole world has gone Bond crazy, but this is nothing new. James Bond — and whoever is playing the super spy — has always been big news, but there is only so much of him to go around.

That’s why enterprising filmmakers have frequently retooled the Bondian formula of guns, girls and gadgets to attract new audiences.

During the late 1960s wave of Bondmania, Dean Martin staggered through a quartet of spy spoofs based on the literary character Matt Helm, giving new meaning to the advertising tagline “America’s Loaded Weapon.”

Since then, the Bond knock-off business has boomed and 007 wannabes in all shapes and sizes have blossomed. There’s adolescent Bond in Agent Cody Banks, a version for teens called xXx (“Now I know what xXx stands for: Xtremely Xcruciating Xperience” raved one critic) and parodies like Get Smart and Austin Powers.

Wilder still is Operation Kid Brother. In a blatant attempt to satisfy audience’s need for all things Bond in 1967, producers cast Sean Connery’s younger brother Neil as a plastic surgeon and hypnotist recruited by Her Majesty’s Secret Service to thwart the evil crime syndicate Thanatos. He’s called into action, the movie explains, because “his brother is out on a routine mission.”

Wow, perfect casting! Except Neil can’t act. The film flopped so badly it could have been the reason bargain bins were invented, and Neil soon returned to his former job as a plasterer. But Operation Kid Brother does have its pleasures.

Bond alumnus Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell ham it up alongside From Russia with Love’s Bond girl Daniela Bianchi, and Thunderball villain Adolfo Celi. Better than that is the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, which unlike the rest of the film, is on par with a real Bond film.

The Connery name will always be associated with Bond, and while Neil (thankfully) retired soon after Operation Kid Brother, other Connerys had a harder time letting the character go.

Sean revived his Bond after a 12-year layoff in 1983’s Never Say Never Again and as a voice in video games — and his son, Jason Connery, played 007’s creator in The Secret Life of Ian Fleming.

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