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John Glen

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 10:19

Director extraordinaire, from 007 to Space Precinct ...


John Glen is famous from his work on James Bond films, but he was also involved in TV series such as The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase, Danger Man and Space Precinct.

Back in the days before film schools became so prevalent, film directors started their careers as either an editor or a cinematographer. John Glen began work in the industry as a messenger boy in the editing studios at Shepperton, emptying the waste bins at first before graduating to rewinding and splicing the film. After working in the sound department as a dubbing editor and sound editor, he rose to the position of assistant editor putting inserts, such as car chases, into the films.

After editing episodes of ABC's The Avengers, and many of the ITC shows like Danger Man and Man in a Suitcase, as well as directing the episode 'Somebody Loses, Somebody... Wins?' for the latter show, John Glen was given the job of editing the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This outing was directed by Peter Hunt, who had created the editing style of the Bond films as editor of the first three, and supervising editor on 'Thunderball' and 'You Only Live Twice'. Once filming began, John found himself being flown out to Switzerland to shoot the famous "bobsled run" sequence. Completing the filming in three weeks from start to finish, he was given the task of directing the rest of the second-unit sequences, with the exception of the stock car race that had been shot by the previous unit.

After editing Gold, staring Roger Moore, and acting as second unit director on Shout at the Devil starring Lee Marvin and Roger Moore, John Glen returned to the 007 series as editor/second-unit director on The Spy Who Loved Me (filming the celebrated pre-credit sequence, when stuntman Rick Sylvester launched himself off Asgard Peak), and Moonraker. He worked as editor/second unit director on The Wild Geese, again staring Roger Moore, and second unit director on Superman: The Movie (without Roger Moore) in the year between these two Bond movies.

'Moonraker' had really reached the zenith of the gags and gimmickery that had crept into the James Bond films. Like 'The Spy Who Loved Me' before it the film's narrative was little more a virtual remake of 'You Only Live Twice'. After being in outer space it was decided to bring the long-running series back down to earth and return to a more minimalistic and realistic approach with the follow-up. After working as the editor on The Sea Wolves (yes, it starred Roger Moore!), John Glen was promoted to full director and was handed the reins of James Bond's return in For Your Eyes Only.

Returning back to basics, this entry in the series cut the fantasy elements short and returned to the more serious "00" action of the past. Plot twists were back in and invincible super-villains were out, making the bad guy much more on a level with Red Grant in 'From Russia With Love' and Largo in 'Thunderball'. While this experiment was not as warmly received by the cinema audience, the film was notable for bringing a sense of closure to the previous films in the series by showing the death of an aging character, who was supposed to represent the aging Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in the pre-credit action sequence.

Whilst the James Bond movies had used a rota of directors, most notably Terrance Young and Lewis Gilbert, John Glen is notable for directing all five James Bond movies that ran through the course of the 1980s. Octopussy followed two years later, returning to the more popular larger-than-life elements the fanbase demanded, and after that came A View to a Kill. By now the "Roger Moore as James Bond" era was coming to a close and the production team had to set their sights on a new actor to play the role. Although John screen tested James Brolin and Pierce Brosnan (who was unable to take the role then because of a contractual clause which dragged him back to further mid-season episodes of 'Remington Steele'), the part eventually went to the Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton.

More in the style of Sean Connery, Dalton brought a darker intensity to the role, creating a ruthless character in line with the James Bond of Ian Fleming's novels. The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, reflected that by replacing the humour with more dramatic situations. By now, though, James Bond wasn't the only action hero on the block. Although 'Licence ...' was a good movie with an engaging story and a killer performance from Timothy Dalton, who really nailed the part, the box-office returns were disappointing.

With the series put on hiatus, John Glen turned to directing the racing drama, Checkered Flag, and Aces: Iron Eagle III. In 1992, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas, his movie Christopher Columbus: The Discovery set sail ahead of Ridley Scott's '1492: Conquest of Paradise'.

John Glen briefly returned to television in the 1990s, directing eight episodes of Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct, namely 'Protect and Survive', 'The Snake', 'Deadline', 'Illegal', 'Divided We Stand' (uncredited), 'Take Over', and the two-part 'The Fire Within'.

John was a special guest at Cult TV 2002.


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37