SequelWhere the Bullets Fly Duration CountryUnited Kingdom
WriterLindsay Shonteff, Howard Griffiths Release dateJuly 1965 Written byLindsay Shonteff, Howard Griffiths CastTom Adams (Charles Vine), Karel Stepanek (Henrik Jacobsen), Peter Bull (Masterman), Francis de Wolff (Walter Pickering), John Arnatt (Rockwell) Similar moviesThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, The Ipcress File, Billion Dollar Brain, Funeral in Berlin, 21 Jump Street
TaglineHe has the same fine taste as the higher priced secret agent!
Licensed to Kill is an Eastmancolor 1965 superspy imitation James Bond film starring Tom Adams as British secret agent Charles Vine. It was directed and co-written by Lindsay Shonteff. Producer Joseph E. Levine picked it up for American and worldwide distribution and reedited it under the title The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World.
The theme song for the American version, composed by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and performed by Sammy Davis, Jr., is used in the 2011 film drama Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Facing numerous assassination attempts, a Swedish scientist who has invented an anti-gravity device and his daughter seek to provide the invention to the United Kingdom. With James Bond unavailable, H.M. Government provides Agent Charles Vine (Tom Adams), a former mathematician, as a bodyguard and exterminator.
Tom Adams as Charles Vine
Karel Stepanek as Henrik Jacobsen
Peter Bull as Masterman
John Arnatt as Rockwell
Francis de Wolff as Walter Pickering
Felix Felton as Tetchnikov
Veronica Hurst as Julia Lindberg
Judy Huxtable as Computer Center Girl
Carol Blake as Crossword Puzzle Girl
Claire Gordon as Hospital Doctor
Tony Wall as Sadistikov
Paul Tann as Vladimir Sheehee
Mona Chong as Vladimir Sheehee
Shelagh Booth as Girl with pram
Gary Hope as "Army Officer"
Oliver MacGreevy as First Russian Commissar
George Pastell as Second Russian Commissar
Aspects of production
Based on the success of the film, Columbia Pictures offered director Shonteff a five-picture contract, but they disagreed over conditions.
Welsh Trinity College Oxford graduate and former RAF Intelligence Howard Griffiths emigrated to Australia where he wrote extensively for Australian television series such as the spy series Hunter (1967), and police shows Division 4, Homicide, and Blue Heelers.
The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World
Joseph E. Levine had great financial success after cheaply purchasing an Italian film called Hercules and releasing it in America with a massive publicity campaign, and decided to do the same with Licensed to Kill. However, the American release reedited the film by having the opening assassination performed by a Mum pulling a Sten gun out of her pram of twins changing to a pre-credit scene. Levine engaged songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen to write a title song performed by Sammy Davis Jr and arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman over the credits with the new title. The American release then eliminated scenes of Francis de Wolff talking to John Arnatt about seeking Bond for the assignment, and Vine in bed with a girl and a crossword puzzle giving double entendre clues. The American release also eliminates much of the dialogue about the anti gravity device, called "Regrav" that makes the denouement of the film less comprehensible.
The American publicity for the film echoed the "Number 2, but tries harder" advertising of the Avis Rent a Car System prevalent at the time. Levine launched a November 1965 nationwide 100 word essay contest to be titled "the most unforgettable second best secret agent I have known".
What Eon Productions's reaction was to the blatant imitation is not known, but Shonteff was missing from the two Vine sequels starring Tom Adams:
Where the Bullets Fly (1966) (directed by Warwick Films and Hammer Films director John Gilling) that was also released by Embassy Films
Somebody's Stolen Our Russian Spy/O.K. Yevtushenko (1969) a film shot in Spain instead of the usual UK location, that languished in a film laboratory until 1976.
Shonteff later made three spy films with the hero named "Charles Bind". In the first, his boss is also named Rockwell:
Number One of the Secret Service (1970) starring Nicky Henson
Licensed to Love and Kill aka The Man from S.E.X. (1979) starring Gareth Hunt