Website last updated: 7-5-2024

Review of Shooting Stars written by British cinematographer Michael Reed

By: Brian Smith
Shooting Stars, Michael Reed, book, review
Shooting Stars is the autobiography of the late Mike Reed, credited in his movies as Michael Reed. Although there are the usual disadvantages of being self-published, this book more than makes up for it in size (A4, 155 pages), readability and insider movie-making knowledge. Mike chronicles an engrossing personal and professional story.

Mike Reed was born in Wandsworth in 1929. His older brother Lionel became famous as Maxwell Reed, a film idol who was married to Joan Collins for a time. When Maxwell invited Mike to the set of Daybreak, he decided he wanted to work in the movies. In those days there was a catch-22 – to work in movies you needed to be in the union. To be in the union you needed to have worked in the movies. Mike circumvented the problem by successfully applying to be a film laboratory technician for a firm on Wardour Street in London. After a few months he was eligible to join the ACT (Association for Cine Technicians).

Thanks to a tip-off from his brother, Mike secured a job as a clapper boy on Dancing With Crime, an early film for Richard Attenborough. Mike was promoted to focus-puller when Johnny Lyons went off with flu. His next big break came in 1955 when he became camera operator on the television series Fabian Of The Yard. Within 10 years in the business, Mike had become a director of photography.

In the sixties, he worked on 23 episodes of The Saint. One of those, Escape Route, was directed by Roger Moore. It’s interesting to hear Mike’s assessment of Roger the ‘actor’ versus Roger the director. Working with the actor a few years later, on Shout At The Devil, Roger stepped in as director for a couple of days when Peter Hunt had an accident, which kept the film on schedule.

By strange coincidence, I was just admiring Michael Reed’s sumptuous cinematography on Shout At The Devil when I was asked to review this book. At time of writing, it is available to view on Amazon Prime, in pristine high-definition widescreen. When the picture was remastered a few years ago, the Odeon Entertainment Group’s Blu-ray release unfortunately presented the film in a cropped 16:9 ratio.

Peter Hunt also directed what I consider to be the best of the Bonds, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) starring George Lazenby as Ian Fleming's 007. Having previously worked with Reed on the second unit for Goldfinger (1964) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hunt asked Reed to be his director of photography for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Michael Reed, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, cinematographer
Michael Reed (far left) and his camera crew on top of Schilthorn for the filming of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Copyright © 1969 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.

Following in the footsteps of Ted Moore, who shot the first four Bonds and Freddie Young on the previous film, You Only Live Twice (1967), Mike brought a fresh look to Bond and achieved stunning results. Take, for instance, M and Moneypenny’s offices. Unlike the previous films, here the sets are lit through the windows, casting shadows on the ceiling and walls, enhancing the reality of these scenes. Each shot of the film is considered and beautifully framed. It is probably the one Bond film where the joins between real locations and the studio is seamless. On a technical level there was a lot going on. Mike goes into a lot of detail, such as the unique challenge of shooting inside the Alpine Room on location in Piz Gloria. There are interesting behind-the-scenes stories detailing how many shots were achieved, such as Bond standing at M’s window while we see Tracy being pulled from the avalanche. Mike’s description of the technicalities of his craft are comprehensive, yet presented in a straightforward manner that allows the reader to follow. There are also some lovely photographs taken on the Bond set, unique to this book.

Mike produced amazing work on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that undoubtedly contributed to the film’s appreciation among fans and filmmakers alike, such as Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderbergh. If you are a fan of James Bond moviemaking, this book is highly recommended.

Review by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2023 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note:
Michael Reed's book with pictures from his private archive was published at the end of 2017, but since it was not marketed, it has only reached a limited reader circle. From Sweden with Love hope that the book will reach more readers and is happy to offer the remaining copies for sale in our web shop in the Literature category.

(The full amount from the book sales will benefit the Alzheimer’s Research UK according to Mike's wishes.)



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