The Bootleg Files: The Second Shot Kills

BOOTLEG FILES 781: “The Second Shot Kills” (1972 fan film of the 007 franchise made by Welsh teenagers).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.


REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Getting this released commercially is a bit tricky.


This week, everyone with even the faintest connection to film scholarship has been writing articles in advance of the U.S. premiere of the new James Bond film “No Time To Die.” However, there is a more intriguing 007 film that deserves attention – one that you probably never knew existed.

In 1972, Welsh teenagers Keith Stephens-Borg and David Harnett went to a public telephone and placed a call to London to the office of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, the producer of the James Bond films, asking his permission for them to make their own 007 film.

“Eventually we got through to Cubby Broccoli’s secretary,” Stephens-Borg would later recall in an interview with South Wales Argus. “We were all crammed in to the telephone box, jostling to try and hear what he was saying. We could hear him in the background saying we couldn’t make the film. He then asked if it was a home video, and we said yes, then he said good luck with it. We took that to mean he had given his permission.”

With that shaky greenlight, Stephens-Borg and Harnett went on to create the first known James Bond fan film with “The Second Shot Kills.”

Working with an 8mm film camera and a £200 budget, the young filmmakers recruited local teens to fill out their cast – Stephens-Borg took on the 007 part for himself. The result is, not surprisingly, primitive but charming – sort of a cinematic folk art homage to the James Bond franchise.

“The Second Shot Kills” has its version of the gun barrel opening shot (albeit not as sophisticated as the real thing) and a pre-credit scene with Bond and an accomplice landing in an unidentified Southeast Asian country and managing to blow up some tanks (rather obvious toys) while fending off a one-man battalion protecting the machinery. The credit sequence lacks a theme song but has some interesting shots of crimson lava lamp-style orbs rising and sinking that vaguely recall the seductive animation used in the Bond opening credit sequences.

To its credit, the film’s plot kicks off nicely with a riff on the Bond-Moneypenny banter, following by Bond taking his assignment from a mostly off-screen M – in this case, trying to bust a gun-smuggling racket bringing illegal weapons into the United Kingdom.

Much of “The Second Shot Kills” works in a lo-fi manner that one would expect from a work of this genre. This Bond lives in an alternative universe of teenagers pretending to be adults – when a genuine adult turns up, the effect is quite jarring. The exotic locales one expects from the Bond flicks is replaced with less flashy settings – a cemetery doubles as a site of an information rendezvous-turned-betrayal while a parking garage has Bond being pursued by a Volkswagen Beetle doing roughly 5 miles per hour.

The 8mm format did not always work to the young filmmakers’ advantage – some shots are out of focus or overexposed, and the too-tight budget obviously prevented retakes. But the film shines when using the Newport Transporter Bridge as the setting for the finale chase and fight – the strange-looking structure provided an appropriately eccentric environment for this delightfully warped action sequence.

After making “The Second Shot Kills,” Stephens-Borg and Harnett abandoned cinema and moved on to other pursuits. Over time, the film was nearly lost to decay until 2010 when a digital restoration began. This effort may have polished the raw original work a bit too much – new posh instrumental music was added that seemed out of touch with the scrappy 1972 shenanigans and BAFTA-nominated actor Josh Ackland recorded the voice performance for M. This restored version had its first screening at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, Wales, in September 2019.

Since “The Second Shot Kills” does not have the formal clearance for a full commercial release, the film exists as a jolly curio that can never be properly presented on DVD or Blu-ray. However, the film can be seen on YouTube – and if it isn’t as sophisticated as “No Time to Die,” it nonetheless keeps the spirit of Ian Fleming’s secret agent alive amid the most unusual of circumstances.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

Listen to Phil Hall’s award-winning podcast “The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall” on SoundCloud, with new episodes starting on October 11, and his new podcast “Benzinga Show Business” on Phil Hall’s new book “Jesus Christ Movie Star” is now available from BearManor Media.