‘The Second Shot Kills’ – Written by Keith Stephens-Borg
“Sun, sand and palm trees make North Devon the perfect setting for a South American film scene. That is why I chose Woolacombe to reshoot a lost segment of 8mm spy movie footage shot more than 45 years ago.”
I attended school in Wales and at the age of 15, not unlike many youths during the 1970’s, found myself surrounded by the media of great Hollywood cinema productions. Undaunted by the decline of the cinema in favour of television, we still believed it may be a good idea to make a movie. Together with my classmates we made a 35 minute 8mm version of ‘The Lost World’ complete with animated dinosaurs. The real challenge, a James Bond fan film was to defy school critics. However, we first required permission. A group of us crammed into a phone box as we called United Artist in London who answered “A Bond home movie? Well, good luck boys.” That was enough for us. This was to be a full length epic in colour and sound, costing a whopping £1.80p per three minutes of film. In today’s money that would be £35 and adding processing, would now cost thousands for a complete 45 minute movie. Selling all our worthy goods we set about planning our project which we estimated to cost £200. Tredegar House School in South Wales became our audition centre for casting and a Bond was selected. Well, me, of course! Our film unit was complete with a full production team including make-up artists, props and costumes. The leading ladies were played by then 16 year old Gail Healey along with Margaret Hogan who was already in amateur school plays at the time. Gail played the part of agent Angel May and Margaret ‘Miss Moneypenny’.
The plot for ‘The Second Shot Kills’ is in true style of a renowned Bond epic. While searching for a missing South American agent, James Bond uncovers a plot to weaken MI5 through elimination. These ruthless killers begin a campaign importing illegal weapons into the UK and Bond becomes the bait to lure them into the open; however both hunter and prey risk falling for an angels beauty. At the time we were aware that we needed a perfect villain, fellow pupil Robert Keane was signed up and was a terrific character.
Written by us, the scenes were filmed around city centres including London. The South American scenes proved obviously difficult and were abandoned, until now some 45 years later. Living in North Devon I occasionally walk along Woolacombe beach and gazed at the possible backdrop of Rio de Janeiro; it was perfect! Thankfully the original film was still in metal cans covered in dust and reasonably well preserved; I then contacted all the surviving cast to ask their opinion. An old friend Dave Harnett arranged a costly digital restoration of the old standard 8mm film and we were off. We set about buying vintage cameras from the internet including Kodak film from old 70’s stock.
These films were stored in refrigerators and could be used to continue the same texture as the original film. It was vital that any new extra scenes using 1970’s designer costumes would blend into the storyline. We also had to find a new cast for a three minute Rio part and my daughter Dawn doubled for the leading lady, the match was perfect and the weather was magnificent! I constructed a camera dolly using pvc pipes and skateboard wheels, this was set up on a wide section of Woolacombe beach. Suitably dressed in Oxford bags Akram Mohammadu an anaesthetist from North Devon District Hospital played a Honduran spy; together with Dawn Stephens-Borg. The project attracted the attention of the distinguished North Devon actor Joss Ackland who offered to help in the sound restoration. He voiced the character ‘M’ head of intelligence instructing James Bond on his adventures, this added huge credibility to the film and a great experience for me to act alongside an outstanding artist. Dave Harnett and I have remained friends since school and realised that a full 8mm film is rare these days, especially one originally filmed by 15 year olds.