A disgruntled consumer has filed a lawsuit seeking damages against MGM and 20th Century Fox over their release of a boxed video set that purports to contain all of the 007 films. According to Bond fan Mary Johnson, who filed the class action suit in the state of Washington, that claim is misleading because, upon opening the set found that it did not contain the 1967 spoof version of "Casino Royale" or the 1983 remake of "Thunderball" titled "Never Say Never Again". The two films have always presented a thorn in the side of Eon Productions, the producers of the Bond movie franchise. The roots of the problem extend back to the mid-1950s when Bond creator Ian Fleming sold the film rights to his first 007 novel "Casino Royale" for a pittance in the hopes of having Bond appear on the big screen. Instead the only film version turned out to be a one-hour live American TV broadcast on the program "Climax Theater" in 1954. Response was underwhelming and the Bond character seemed to be headed toward oblivion. However, Fleming's books picked up in sales and became vastly popular around the globe- especially when new president John F. Kennedy made it known he wa a fan. In the early 1960s Fleming signed away the film rights to his other Bond novels to producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who began making the movies under their Eon Productions banner. When the movies proved to be blockbusters, studios began to emulate the Bond franchise by launching a cinematic spy boom that lasted for years. By this time producer Charles K. Feldman had acquired the film rights to "Casino Royale". He wanted to jointly produce a film version with Broccoli and Saltzman but they rebuffed him. Feldman, who recently had a major hit with the mod spoof "What's New Pussycat?", decided that without Sean Connery to play Bond, there was no point in making a serious film version of "Casino Royale". Feldman opted to repeat the formula he had with "Pussycat": round up an eclectic big name cast and add elements of zany slapstick comedy. The film was released in 1967 overlapping to some degree Eon's release of "You Only Live Twice" with Connery.
The origins of "Never Say Never Again" are too long to go into here so here's a capsule version: in the 1950s Fleming teamed with producer Kevin McClory and writer Jack Whittingham to develop potential scripts for Bond-related movies that failed to attract any interest from studios. Fleming used elements of some of their work as the basis for his novel "Thunderball"- and was promptly sued by his partners for not crediting them for their contributions or allowing them to share in revenue. Fleming, who was in ill health, settled the suit and McClory ended up getting producer credit on the 1965 screen version of "Thunderball" as well as remake rights. When he tried to exercise those rights a decade later, Cubby Broccoli, who had by that point split with Harry Saltzman and was running the Bond franchise on his own, filed various lawsuits that stymied McClory's project until 1983 when it finally made it to the screen as "Never Say Never Again" starring Connery in his final appearance as 007. The Bond feature film franchise went on hiatus between 1989 and 1995 due to legal disputes between Cubby Broccoli and MGM. When the series was revived in 1995 with Pierce Brosnan as Bond, MGM was still battling McClory, who had for years attempted to capitalize on more "Thunderball" -inspired ways to exploit the Bond franchise. When he finally lost the battles in court, MGM moved to take control of even the "renegade" Bond productions and ended up buying the rights to "Casino Royale" and "Never Say Never Again". While the company never buried the the titles, as some Bond fans feared, they were never incorporated into any releases of the Eon Bond movies on home video. Their absence in boxed sets has long perplexed casual fans of the series who were not conversant in all the legal intrigues surrounding them. It has been suggested over the years that MGM promote the Eon films as the "official" Bond movies, but of course, that wouldn't be accurate since both "Casino Royale" and "Never Say Never Again" were legal adaptations of Fleming's works and thus no less "official" than the Eon films despite the fact that they are not held in as high esteem by fans. Perhaps the best solution from a legal standpoint is to state that such sets contain "All of the James Bond Films Produced by Eon Productions". In the meantime, the notion that this case should clog up a courtroom is almost certain to evoke the kind of public response reserved for people who sue McDonalds because their coffee is too hot. Seems to us that the simplest solution to anyone who is so traumatized by the absence of two films in a Bond boxed set is that they simply return it and get their money back.