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In Memoriam of Editor and Director Peter Hunt (1925-2002)

By: Anders Frejdh
Peter Hunt On Her Majestys Secret Service
Peter R. Hunt, British film editor/director who edited the first five James Bond movies (Dr No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) (1964), Thunderball (1965) (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967)) before he was offered the job as director for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), passed away on 14th August 2002, aged 77.

The film editor and director Peter Hunt was associated with the huge success of the James Bond movies, the longest-running series in the history of the cinema. He edited the first five Bond films - generally considered the best - creating a style of sharp cutting that has been emulated by many editors and directors of action movies.

He also directed one, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) starring George Lazenby, by many considered to be the best film in the 007 series. The inexperienced Australian model carried the can for the film's comparative box-office failure, but Hunt was praised for his pacy, and seemingly effortless, direction.

"I first met Peter in 1947 whilst a junior editor at London Films Shepperton. Peter was then an assistant editor. Unknown to me, Peter had watched my career unfold as an editor and second unit director on TV series such as Danger Man. When he needed a director to film the bob run sequence in Switzerland he contacted me and managed to convince Harry and Cubby that I was the man for the job." - John Glen (2nd Unit Director on OHMSS)

"Peter and I worked together on 11 productions. I first met him on Sink The Bismark in 1960 as I was assisting the sound editor on the film, (the legendary) Win Ryder. I so wanted to return to working with picture rather than sound and it was quite by chance that Peter's assistant was moving onto other things so we teamed up. He was never too proud to accept any ideas I offered up and after a while he allowed me to assemble scenes which he would later fine-cut. When the budget on Dr No could not afford two sound-track editors he didn't hesitate to promote me to take on the sound-effects job. It was a massive promotion, unheard-of at that time. He made a very early decision on Dr No that the film was to 'keep moving' and his contribution to those early Bonds was enormous. He could be ruthless at times and I was sad to see Editor Thelma Connell shunted off You Only Live Twice when Peter returned from directing the 2nd Unit. We parted company when he went on to direct OHMSS and I fulfilled my dream of becoming a film editor. I was shocked years later when I saw him interviewed on TV and it was obvious he had a very serious health problem. He was without doubt a very talented film-maker." - Norman Wanstall (Oscar® winning Dubbing Editor)

"A gentleman and an actor’s director who always said - Let me see you act and I’ll cut it great.”
- Terence Mountain (Raphael in OHMSS)

Peter Hunt obituary:
Born in London on March 11, 1925, Hunt learned his craft from an uncle who made government training and educational films. His first claim to fame was, in fact, appearing on a recruiting poster for the Boy Scouts Association when he was 16, and he read the lesson at Lord Baden-Powell's funeral. At 17, he joined the army, and was almost immediately shipped off to Italy, where he took part in the battle of Cassino.

After the war, he returned to work with his uncle, before becoming assistant cutter for Alexander Korda, and a fully fledged editor with Hill In Korea (1956). He worked with both Terence Young and Lewis Gilbert on a number of films prior to editing their Bond efforts.

Already with a decade of editing behind him, Hunt only reluctantly agreed to edit the first Bond film, Dr No, in 1962. "I was really not interested in doing it at all," he recalled. "But, then I thought, well, if the director is Terence [Young], and I know him well enough, and I find him rather nice, maybe it will be alright." Previously, Hunt had suggested to Harry Saltzman that, in his search for an actor to portray James Bond, the producer look at the film he had just edited, the feeble army comedy On The Fiddle (1961), in which Sean Connery played a Gypsy pedlar.

The editing style of the Bond movies was established because, "if we kept the thing moving fast enough, people won't see the plot holes," what editors call "chets", or cheated editing tricks. "On Dr No, for example, there was a great deal missing from the film when we got back from shooting in Jamaica, and I had to cut it and revoice it in such a way as to make sense."

It was from then that Hunt decided to use jump cuts and quick cutting, and very few fade-ins, fade-outs and dissolves, which "destroy the tension of the film". The fight between Connery and Robert Shaw on board the Orient Express, in From Russia with Love, took a total of 59 cuts in 115 seconds of film.

Besides editing, Hunt directed some second-unit work on the Bond films, as well as the title sequence for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). "I had a terrible time in the cutting room on You Only Live Twice, with Donald Pleasance as Blofeld. Lewis [Gilbert] had made him into a camp, mini sort of villain. If you look at the film very carefully, Pleasance doesn't walk anywhere, because he had this mincing stride. He was so short that he looked like a little elf beside Connery. I used every bit of editing imagination I could so that he could be taken seriously as a villain."

Many purist Bond fans regret that Hunt never directed another 007 movie. His determination to be more faithful to the Ian Fleming original, even down to the death of the heroine (Diana Rigg) and the scaling down of gadgetry, puts On Her Majesty's Secret Service above many subsequent films in the series. It also happened to be the best picture he directed.

There followed two overlong adventure yarns set in Africa with Roger Moore, Gold (1974) and Shout at the Devil (1976). A couple of macho movies with Charles Bronson, Death Hunt (1981) and Assassination (1986); and the dispensable Wild Geese II (1985). But the work began to dry up, a situation that depressed the normally ebullient and energetic Hunt. In 1975, he settled in southern California with his partner Nicos Kourtis, who survived him.

Editor's note:
For other James Bond directors presented on From Sweden with Love, click here.

Photo ovan:
Inscribed autograph from Peter Hunt to Anders Frejdh from FSWL's private collection.

Read more about Peter Hunt's career in films, check out his profile on IMDB:



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Founder & Managing Editor: Anders Frejdh