Licensed to Kill (1965 film)

Last updated

Licensed to Kill
original British film poster
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff
Written by Lindsay Shonteff
Howard Griffiths
Produced byJames Ward
Alistair Films
Starring Tom Adams
Karel Stepanek
Veronica Hurst
Peter Bull
John Arnatt
CinematographyTerry Maher
Edited byRon Pope
Music by Herbert Chappell
Distributed by Embassy Pictures
Release date
July 1965
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1.2 million (est. US/ Canada rentals) [1]

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. [2]


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 assassin.



Based on the success of the film, Columbia Pictures offered director Shonteff a five-picture contract, but they disagreed over conditions. [3]

Welsh Trinity College, Oxford graduate and former RAF Intelligence Howard Griffiths [4] 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 .

U.S. release

1966 US release poster Secbessecag.jpg
1966 US release poster

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 mother pulling a Sten gun out of her pram of twins being changed 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 of 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", which 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".


Alan Burton in Historical Dictionary of British Spy Fiction wrote positively of the film, describing it as "a cut-price James Bond picture with plenty of thrills and some wit", and wrote of Tom Adams as Charles Vine as doing "a passable imitation of Sean Connery." [5]


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:

Shonteff later made three spy films with the hero named "Charles Bind". In the first, his boss is also named Rockwell:

Related Research Articles

Sammy Cahn American lyricist, songwriter, musician

Samuel Cohen, known professionally as Sammy Cahn, was an American lyricist, songwriter, and musician. He is best known for his romantic lyrics to films and Broadway songs, as well as stand-alone songs premiered by recording companies in the Greater Los Angeles Area. He and his collaborators had a series of hit recordings with Frank Sinatra during the singer's tenure at Capitol Records, but also enjoyed hits with Dean Martin, Doris Day and many others. He played the piano and violin, and won an Oscar four times for his songs, including the popular hit "Three Coins in the Fountain".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jimmy Van Heusen</span> American songwriter

James Van Heusen was an American composer. He wrote songs for films, television and theater, and won an Emmy and four Academy Awards for Best Original Song.

<i>Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die</i> 1966 film by Arduino Maiuri, Henry Levin

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die is a James Bond spoof film released in 1966 as an Italian-American co-production between Dino De Laurentiis' Cinematografica and Columbia Pictures. Directed by Henry Levin, with stars Mike Connors, Dorothy Provine, and as the villain, Raf Vallone, it was originally filmed from January to March 1966 under the title Operation Paradise and distributed in some parts of the English-speaking world as If All the Women in the World.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Adams (actor)</span> English actor

Anthony Frederick Charles "Tom" Adams was an English actor with roles in adventure, horror and mystery films and several TV shows. He was best known for his role as Daniel Fogarty in several series of The Onedin Line.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Arnatt</span> British actor

John Edwin Arnatt was a British actor.

<i>The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings</i> 1995 box set by Frank Sinatra

The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings is a 1995 box set album by the American singer Frank Sinatra. The release coincided with Sinatra's 80th birthday celebration.

Lindsay Craig Shonteff was a Canadian born film director, film producer and screenwriter who achieved fame for low-budget films produced in the United Kingdom.

<i>Papas Delicate Condition</i> 1963 film by George Marshall

Papa's Delicate Condition is a 1963 American comedy film starring Jackie Gleason and Glynis Johns. It was an adaptation of the Corinne Griffith memoir of the same name, about her father and growing up in Texarkana, Texas. Jimmy Van Heusen (music) and Sammy Cahn (lyrics) won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Call Me Irresponsible".

Eurospy film Genre of spy films

Eurospy film, or Spaghetti spy film, is a genre of spy films produced in Europe, especially in Italy, France, and Spain, that either sincerely imitated or else parodied the British James Bond spy series feature films. The first wave of Eurospy films were released in 1964, two years after the first James Bond film, Dr. No, and in the same year as the premiere of what many consider to be the apotheosis of the Bond series, Goldfinger. For the most part, the Eurospy craze lasted until around 1967 or 1968. In Italy, where most of these films were produced, this trend replaced the declining sword and sandal genre.

Licensed to Kill may refer to:

<i>Where the Bullets Fly</i> 1966 British film

Where the Bullets Fly is a 1966 British comedy spy film directed by John Gilling and starring Tom Adams as Charles Vine and John Arnatt repeating their roles from Licensed to Kill. It also stars Dawn Addams, Tim Barrett and Michael Ripper.

<i>Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy</i> (film) 2011 film by Tomas Alfredson based on John le Carrés novel

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 Cold War spy thriller film directed by Tomas Alfredson. The screenplay was written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, based on John le Carré's 1974 novel of the same name. The film stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik and Kathy Burke supporting. It is set in London in the early 1970s and follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.

<i>No. 1 of the Secret Service</i> 1977 British film

No. 1 of the Secret Service is a 1977 imitation James Bond film starring Nicky Henson as British secret agent Charles Bind. It was directed and written by Lindsay Shonteff and produced by his wife Elizabeth Gray. The film had the working title of 008 of the Secret Service. It was released on VHS under the title Her Majesty’s Top Gun.

<i>Licensed to Love and Kill</i> 1979 British film

Licensed to Love and Kill is a 1979 imitation James Bond film starring Gareth Hunt as British secret agent Charles Bind. It was directed and written by Lindsay Shonteff and produced by his wife Elizabeth Gray. The film had the working title An Orchid for No. 1; it was released on VHS under the title The Man from S.E.X..

<i>In a Broadway Bag (Mame)</i> 1966 studio album by Bobby Darin

In a Broadway Bag (Mame) is an album by American singer Bobby Darin, released in 1966.

<i>Somebodys Stolen Our Russian Spy</i> 1976 Spanish film

Somebody's Stolen Our Russian Spy or O.K. Yevtushenko is a 1967 Spanish/British international co-production Eurospy film shot in Spain and Portugal. The film was co-produced by James Ward and directed, co-written and co-produced by José Luis Madrid. The film stars Tom Adams in his third and final appearance as British secret agent Charles Vine. The film was shot in Spain instead of the usual UK location. When Embassy Pictures chose not to release it, the film languished in a film laboratory until 1976.


  1. "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
  2. Blake, Matt & Deal, David The Eurospy Guide Luminary Press 2004
  3. Bryce, Allan Nickels and Dimes and No Time. The Ups and Downs of Lindsay Shonteff featured in Jaworzyn, S Shock Xpress" The Essential Guide to Exploitation Cinema Titan 1994
  4. The Australian Obituary 16 Nov 1999
  5. Burton, Alan (2016). Historical Dictionary of British Spy Fiction. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 348. ISBN   9781442255876.
  6. Giffard, Denis, editor The British Film Catalogue 1895–1994, British Film Institute