Clever, engaging documentary a cinematic Bond market

“The Other Fellow” - ★ ★ ★

This title, as most ardent James Bond fans know, comes from a historical moment in 1969's “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” when one-time 007 actor George Lazenby brazenly broke the fourth wall by looking at us and saying, “This never happened to the other fellow!” - a sly reference to Sean Connery's five earlier silver-screen adventures as Ian Fleming's famous secret agent.

To create the British documentary “The Other Fellow,” director Matthew Bauer and his crew went on a mission to find interesting people with one distinguishing common characteristic: Each one bears the name James Bond.

This inspired premise yields a cinematic Bond market with diverse dossiers, some of them comical, some tragic, some just plain weird.

“James Bond has a six-pack. I have a keg,” quips James Bond, an avuncular New York theater director who tells of a lifetime of suffering through the same lame nod-nod-wink-wink 007 jokes every time he introduces himself. He's also gay, so all those questions about his legendary womanizing fail to amuse him.

James Bond Jr. of South Bend, Ind., was accused of murder. His story is documented in Matthew Bauer's "The Other Fellow." Courtesy of The Other Fellow Limited

Meanwhile, over in South Bend, Indiana, police arrested James Bond Jr. during a traffic stop because he kept telling officers his name was James Bond. A white judge (Bond Jr. is black) sentences him to 60 days in jail for “obstruction” because of the vocal tone he used to say his real name.

Later, when Bond Jr. is suspected of a murder, it spells a mistaken identity headache for another South Bend James Bond - this one a hard-core fan of fire arms.

The most interesting James Bond turns out to be an older Swedish man who loves the character so much, he changed his name to Gunnar James Bond Schäfer. Abandoned by his father at the age of 2, Schafer adopted the late 007 author Ian Fleming as his stand-in father figure. (Shafer's emotive speech to Fleming at his gravesite is both touching and chillingly gothic.) Shafer wears 007 suits, sports a Pierce Brosnan GQ haircut, stocks an incredible wine cabinet, and has created a 007 museum in Nybro, Sweden.

This James Bond in South Bend, Ind., was not accused of murder. His story is featured in Matthew Bauer's documentary "The Other Fellow." Courtesy of The Other Fellow Limited

“The Other Fellow” features others with the universally recognized name of James Bond, a sheer irony as Fleming wanted a plain, unpretentious name for his fictional literary spy, so he took it from Philadelphia ornithologist James Bond, author of the book “Birds of the West Indies.” (He's in the movie, too!)

For the record, I have known of only two actual James Bonds in Illinois. One wrote a sports column appropriately titled “Spying on Sports” for a downstate Decatur newspaper during the 1960s.

The other one (and one woefully missing from this movie) is legendary Chicago movie projectionist James Bond, who has designed and set up projection rooms and theaters all around the country, including local venues the Music Box Theatre, Doc Films at the University of Chicago and Facets Multimedia.

Bauer and his crew have assembled an engaging, insightful documentary built around a single whimsical question: How would being named “Bond, James Bond” impact the lives of people without licenses to kill?

It leaves them sometimes shaken, sometimes stirred. Of course.

With: James Bond, James Bond Jr., James Alexander Bond, Gunnar James Bond Schäfer

Directed by: Matthew Bauer

Other: A Gravitas Ventures release on VOD streaming. Not rated. In English and Swedish. 80 minutes

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