A View to a Kill

Finally done with the Moore era. I love the guy, but I must admit these last few have been a ballache to sit though.

A View to a Kill (1985)

Having a 57 year old Bond is just not a good idea. I’m not ageist, but the fact that the character is meant to be able to do all these incredible physical things is part of the fantasy. There’s a bit in A View to a Kill where “Bond” does a simple combat roll whilst fighting off house intruders. I just thought “Nope, sorry.” and it took me out of the film for those couple of moments. Plus, they didn’t age up any of the Bond women, so it adds a real creepy vibe when Moore is snogging their faces off. I love ol’ Rog, but he should have stepped aside three films ago. Curse those Bond producers for their casting cowardice. Damn their oily hides!

“The bubbles tickle my… Tchaikovsky!” 

Upon learning that the Russians (yeah, those guys again) have exact duplicates of British microchip designs, James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to investigate the source of these chips, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Bond soon discovers there’s more going on as Zorin and his scary henchwoman Mayday (Grace Jones) plan to flood Silicon Valley in order to gain a monopoly in the microchip business. Along the way, Bond meets geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) and the pair must fight to stop Zorin. The plot is a pale facsimile of Goldfinger‘s with added bullshit and nonsense. For some loopy reason it’s not bad enough that Zorin is clearly a deranged evil man, but he’s the product of steroid testing during pregnancy in World War II. He’s a super-intelligent Nazi psychopath. How Saturday morning kids’ show. Connery’s Bond would have never have stood for that sort of shit.

Moore has admitted that he himself was “too long in the tooth” to be playing Britain’s finest agent. To me, he seems to be playing the whole thing like a parody. There’s a lot more eye-rolling and knowing nudges than there have been before. Walken doesn’t really do much as Zorin. I really wanted him to get stuck in and chew the fuck out of the scenery but he didn’t. Damn shame too. Tanya Roberts is often referred to as the worst Bond girl, but she’s OK. She’s wooden as hell, but passable. The only person with anything about them is Grace Jones’ May Day. She has a real energy about her and is the only bright spot in a fucking snoozefest of a film.

Jesus this film is tortuous. It’s dull, plodding and Roger Moore only makes cameo appearances in between all the stuntmen doing cool shit. The pre-credits bit starts promisingly with Bond in Siberia, recovering a microchip from 003’s body. There’s some skiing and stuff and convenient things happen so that a snowmobile blows up near Bond. He then uses the front ski off that to snowboard away whilst “California Girls” by The Beach Boys plays. I’d somehow forgotten about this and so it was a fresh cockslap to the face when it came up. It is the lowest moment in Bond history. Yes, worse than the CGI parasailing bollocks in Die Another Day. It’s a fucking warcrime of a move. The titles aren’t much better with girls in rubbish neon paint lazily flouncing about. At least it has that kick-ass Duran Duran track which is one of the only good things about the film. The writing is awful too. Almost every interaction Bond has is some kind of clunking single-entendre.

The stunts are good, but without anything to prop them up they’re just hollow. You can’t find anything thrilling if you’re bored off your arse by everything else. There’s a ridiculous chase through Paris where Bond endangers way more lives than Zorin’s plan does, tear-arsing around in half a Citroen. The firetruck set-piece is extremely well done, but is ultimately pointless. This is Lois Maxwell’s last appearance as Moneypenny and it’s a shame this toss is her swansong. She was always incredibly endearing in the role. That bit in OHMSS with her at the wedding still chokes me slightly. Oh- and Alison Doody shows up as Jenny Flex (was there ever a more ’80s name?). I love her.

“Get Zorin for me! “

Fuck this film. It’s dull, lazy and derivative. Worst Bond ever? It’s a toss-up between this and Thunderball. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Octopussy

The 13th Bond. Unlucky for me. Hurry the fuck up, Timothy. I’m losing the will to live over here.

Octopussy (1983)

After For Your Eyes Only bored the ever-loving shit out of me, I was looking forward to watching Octopussy, a film which I rewatched a bunch of times back in the good old VHS days. As I sat down to watch it, a familiar sense of dread started growing. The sort of dread where you realise that maybe that childhood classic of yours may actually be a sticky wanksock. Growing up is a pain.

“Mr. Bond is indeed of a very rare breed… soon to be made extinct!” 

After 009 is found with a knife in his back and a Faberge egg in his hand, James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to find his killer and the connection to the valuable egg. He uncovers a smuggling operation masterminded by Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) and involving the mysterious Octopussy (Maud Adams). Somehow, the war mongering Russian General Orlov (Steven Berkoff) is also involved and Bond has to stop all three. The plot is a step up from the super simple world domination plots of previous films, with a few twists and turns. Efforts are made to keep Bond grounded, but it’s not as dry as FYEO. In fact, it seems to think those ridiculous campy sequences that were the absolute worst thing about the film were awesome and includes plenty of opportunities for absurd sight gags and Moore mugging.

I think Moore gives his best “serious” turn as 007 here. Yes, there’s plenty of smugging, but there are some great moments where he genuinely seems invested in what’s going on, rather than playing it all ironically and winking at the audience every second breath. Louis Jourdan gives a slick performance as Kamal Khan, playing his role with just the right amount of tongue in cheek needed for a Bond villain of this era. Maud Adams was one of the only good things about Man with the Golden Gun and she’s good here. She did a lot more with less last time around, but she’s still perfectly fine. I really like Berkoff’s Orlov. To me, he steals the show. When we’re first introduced to him, he’s slouched in his chair, waiting for the Russian higher-ups to finish talking before he interjects and reveals his plan to steamroll Europe with his many tank battalions. When he’s denied he acts like a petulant child. All he wanted to do was oppress and murder huge numbers of people, you big meanies. Let him at least have a go at Switzerland.

Octopussy is an overlong, bloated affair that a quick trip to the edit suite would have worked wonders on. The film spends a lot of time in India, which unfortunately means we have many moments of Bond Prince Philipping his way around (choice line: (after handing a casino employee a stack of his winnings) “That should keep you in curry for a few weeks!”) I know the film was made in the bad old days of the early ’80s, but dear Lord. There’s a bit where Bond hitches a lift with some Germans in a cramped Beetle. Naturally, the man is wearing a porkpie hat and munching the fuck out of a sausage, with the woman offering Bond various wursts and beer. They were probably wearing Lederhosen too, but we don’t get to see that. There’s just too much silliness for me here. It’s like we’ve got back to Man with the Golden Gun. During a jungle hunt scene, Bond swings on some vines and lets out a Tarzan yell. He also tells a snake to “hiss off”. This stuff makes me want to crawl inside my own skin. I hate this type of Bond.

There are some really decent serious moments, one of which,  funnily enough,  involves Bond in a clown suit, deactivating a bomb in a circus. People seem to have a problem with this, but it’s no more ridiculous than the crocodile sub thing he uses earlier in the film. I like the fact that there’s some proper tension when people understandably don’t believe him about there being a bomb. The best scene for me though is when Bond confronts Orlov. Bond actually seems pissed and Orlov delights in telling him his plan. There are some pretty harrowing bits, including the killing of likeable Bond ally Vijay (tennis player Vijay Amritaj) using a sawblade yo-yo device. The opening bit with 009 being chased through the woods by knife throwing twins Mischka and Grischka is pretty dark too.

Quick note about the title song and sequence. The titles are pretty boring, showing someone mucking about with a laser pen on nudie ladies, but I find the song particularly grating. It’s not as bad as Lulu’s effort or craggy old Madge’s techno nightmare, but it’s just blah. What the hell does “We’re an all time high” mean anyway? I can understand being AT at an all time high, but being one? You’ve lost me. Mind you, I suppose striking “like Thunderball” didn’t make much sense either. The action is a mixed bag. There’s a big final sequence where a building is stormed by circus performers that is exactly as lame as it sounds. However, points must be awarded for having a train fight ON TOP of the train rather than in a cramped compartment. The final set-piece of Bond clinging on for dear life onto Khan’s plane and his subsequent scrap with the hulking Gobinda is well handled and is a decent third act climax.

“Do you think you can help me? Someone seems to have stuck a knife in my wallet. 
Oh, and missed you, did they? What a pity!”

Octopussy isn’t as good as I remember. There are some nice subtleties to it, but most of the time it’s being all slapstick. It’s easy to see why this along with For Your Eyes Only and the upcoming A View to a Kill are the most forgotten Bond adventures. It’s better than For Your Eyes Only and certainly a lot more entertaining, but just isn’t anywhere near the high mark set by The Spy Who Loved Me.

 

For Your Eyes Only

I must admit, I’m kind of getting sick of Roger Moore now. Maybe it’s the concentrated dose of 6 Moore films in as many days, but I’m getting anxious for Dalton to step up.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

 

This is just a theory, but I think the Bond people knew they sold out with Moonraker. Depressingly, it’s one of the highest-grossing Bond films, but I think the dramatic tonal shift from that film to this one alludes to an unhappiness with the wacky cartoon version of 007. FYEO couldn’t be more different from Moonraker. It was actually meant to be a reboot in the vein of OHMSS, complete with a new Bond, but they struggled to get up the guts to cast anyone new and so Roger Moore picked up the slack.

“Think twice 007. It’s a long way down!”

A British spy ship is sunk with an ATAC machine, a device used to control the country’s Polaris missiles, going down with it. James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to retrieve the ATAC before it falls into the wrong hands. The film goes for a much more stripped-down, gadget-free feel for Bond than previously seen. It aims to be gritty and realistic and succeeds for the most part. It’s just a shame that it’s boring. Yeah there are action bits and the like, but the pace is just too slow. I can appreciate this approach to Bonding, but the execution is piss poor.

Moore is really starting to look his age at this point which makes all the awesome physical feats like skiing like a boss or climbing a mountain that much more unbelievable. He’s still OK and he doesn’t give a bad performance, it’s just that the filmmakers have forgotten how to utilise him properly. Carol Bouquet makes an interesting Bond girl. She’s a bit wooden, but what the hell. Melina has a decent revenge angle to her that they don’t make the most of. She’s not a highly-trained agent unlike Dr. Gertie Gobbler was meant to be in Moonraker, but she’s capable and extremely deadly with a crossbow. I wanted her to at least have a revenge arc, but was denied.  Julian Glover is fine as the boring Kristatos and Michael Gothard (teehee, mine is an immature laugh) is effective as the man of few words, Locque.

FYEO‘s main problem is tone. The film starts with an insanely campy and embarrassing sequence where Blofeld (unnamed as such due to wanky legal reasons) remote-controls a helicopter, leaving Bond at his mercy. It starts off nicely enough with Bond visiting Tracy’s grave, but then it just goes loony. Bond kills Blofeld by regaining control of the chopper, spearing Blofeld’s chair on the struts. Blofeld starts pleading with Bond, even offering to buy him a stainless steel delicatessen (what the actual fuck?) before Bond drops him down a chimney stack. It’s all so badly done and completely at odds with the rest of the film. The ending sequence is very odd too. It’s a “comedy” bit where Bond and Melina nip off for a midnight swim and a shag and Margaret Thatcher personally phones him to congratulate him, but ends up unwittingly speaking to a parrot. Jesus. It’s like two films have been spliced together. The film really doesn’t know what to do with Moore. This time round there’s some brutal action and a bit where Bond kills Locque in cold blood. It just doesn’t fit. In my amazing Live and Let Die review, I said that OHMSS showed us the pitfalls of not playing to the lead actor’s talents and it’s evident here. My guess is that the script was already written with a view to introduce a new Bond. When they couldn’t find anyone suitable they hurriedly added “hi-larious” bits in to appeal to Moore fans.

As usual, the stunts are the best bit. There’s a very well done and tense climbing sequence in the third act that the film fails to build on. The winter sports are fun an’ stuff too. There’s an underwater sequence which doesn’t suck where Bond and Melina face off against a guy in a huge diving suit with nasty pincers. The stand-out bit is the keel-hauling set piece which is pretty damn brutal. The bits without action are just dull. The terrible theme song and title sequence don’t help at all. Sheena Easton actually appears in the titles, warbling her shit song at the audience. The in-film music isn’t much better with Bill Conti giving the soundtrack all kinds of terrible ’80s things like wailing electric guitar versions of the Bond theme and pulling crap like this. The absence of John Barry is felt heavily.

“Now put your clothes back on and I’ll buy you an ice cream.”

For Your Eyes Only is a completely forgettable entry to the Bond series. I know something’s off about any film when I’m not looking forward to writing about it. Bad or good, I can’t wait to put fingers to keyboard. Here, I just couldn’t be bothered. I can see what they were trying to do and it may have suited a new Bond. Having said that, I’m not sure even the greatest actor in the world could have breathed some life into this borefest.

Moonraker

By a stroke of coincidence, it’s Global James Bond Day today. Happy Bond Day everyone! What better way to celebrate than taking a look at one of the worst ever Bond films?

Moonraker (1979)

Eagle-eyed viewers of The Spy Who Loved Me will have noticed that the end credits promised that James Bond would return in For Your Eyes Only. They’ll also have noticed that the next film wasn’t called For Your Eyes Only, the geniuses that they are. Y’see something happened in 1977 that hit bigger than anyone was expecting and made sci-fi the cool new thing. That’s right- Czechoslovakian comedy science-fiction classic Což takhle dát si špenát (A Nice Plate of Spinach) changed the cinematic landscape as we know it. Unfortunately, that was too awesome to have happened and what actually happened was motherflippin’ Star Wars. Based on this newfound spacemania, the producers decided to take the title of the only space-sounding Fleming book and knock together an intergalactic 007 adventure.

“James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.”

When the space shuttle Moonraker is hijacked ,the British government send James Bond (Roger Moore) to investigate, starting with the ludicrously wealthy man in charge of the shuttle’s construction, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). Bond eventually recruits the help of undercover CIA agent Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) to take the madman down, leading them to blast off into space to stop Drax’s plan to destroy all human life on the planet and replace it with his own master race. Also fan-favourite henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) makes a reappearance. Moonraker is one of the sillier Bond films, tonally linked with the shitbox that was Diamonds Are Forever. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Bond ending up in space (although the notion does heavily tax my willing suspension of disbelief) but they way they go about it here is insane. Ignoring Jaws surviving a freefall without a parachute in the pre-credits sequence, the film is perfectly fine until about 40 minutes in when the wheels fall off and the film starts bibbling its lips and slapping its bum. It’s just all too slapstick for my taste.

Moore is back in Man with the Golden Gun mode, smarming his way around from scene to scene. I like Lois Chiles’s Dr. Goodhead (and you thought the name “Pussy Galore” was bad.) but she’s not particularly interesting. For someone who is a CIA agent, Sally Suckjob seems pretty useless- a phenomenon not just particular to this Bond film. Women, no matter how well trained, turn into typical gal pals when 007’s around. Character of the film by far is Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax. Drax is a lot better written than most villains and consistently delivers better one-liners than 007, my favourite being “Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.” This ended up being Bernard Lee’s last appearance as M and I haven’t talked about him much so far in these reviews. I always liked Lee’s gruff schoolmaster take on MI6’s chief. He’s tough but fair. Plus, the man had great comic timing and played a great foil to 007’s antics.

That 40 minute mark I mentioned earlier may seem oddly specific to you. Well, up until that point it’s all pretty good. Bond encounters Drax, seduces his pilot, Corinne Dufour (Corinne Cléry) and talks her into giving up the location of Drax’s safe. There’s a surprisingly harrowing bit where Drax learns of Corinne’s treachery and sets his highly trained dogs on her, leading to a stylish but unnerving sequence where she runs for her life through the woods before getting merked by Drax’s pooches. Bond ends up in Venice and here’s where the problems start. There’s the infamous “Bondola” bit where Bond’s gondola turns into a hovercraft and he drives across St. Mark’s Square, complete with baffled onlookers, waiters distractedly pouring drinks on customers and FUCKING DOUBLE-TAKING FUCKING PIGEONS. It’s unbelievably cringeworthy. The power of the English language can only get me so far in describing this bit. Just fucking watch it and feel my pain.

The film also turns Jaws into a walking punchline, even getting himself a tiny girlfriend (when they first meet the film plays this music, which gives you an idea how cartoonish it all is.) In fact, the film has a strange preoccupation with using famous pieces of music. Granted, The Spy Who Loved Me used the Lawrence of Arabia theme, but Moonraker uses the above Tchaikovsky piece (ugh), the 5 note motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (actually I kinda like that one) and the theme from The Magnificent Seven. I always find it strange when Bond films use “outside” music. I like to think of them as a world unto themselves and find that famous songs never quite fit into the Bond universe. A good example of this is the appearance of The Clash’s “London Calling” in Die Another Day. Talking of music, Shirley Bassey’s “Moonraker” is so fucking dreary and forgettable it matches the equally rubbish title sequence perfectly.

Frustratingly, there are good elements here, they’re just overpowered by campy slapstick and nonsense. Ken Adam’s sets are still amazing (I will never stop praising Ken Adam), some of the stunts are top-notch, such as a bit where Bond is hanging off a cable car suspended 1000 foot in the air (the stuntman did this truly death-defying stunt without a safety harness) and as I said, damn near half the film works. This next bit may sound great to you, but in practice it is really awful, but the space laser battle between two astronaut armies is like the underwater battle in Thunderball but with 1000% more lasers and cheesy “pew-pew” sound effects.

“At least I shall have the pleasure of putting you out of my misery.”

Apart from just being shit, I think the reason for Moonraker being so rubbish is the fact it was the first pandering Bond film. Space was popular, so they did it. Kid fans wanted Jaws to be a “goodie” so they did it. They ramped up the comedy because it’s the biggest crowd pleaser and audiences wouldn’t know what makes a good Bond film if it came up to them in a hovercraft gondola. In its favour, it’s not tedious like Thunderball or consistently shite like Diamonds Are Forever. It’s patchy, going from promising scenes one minute to ludicrous flights of fancy the next. Still, what do you expect from a film that credits “outer space” as a filming location?

The Spy Who Loved Me

Hooray! I get to review a good one!

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

With the rushed-as-fuck Man with the Golden Gun not setting the world on fire like it was intended, not to mention the final product being about as fun as a dose of of food poisoning at a loved one’s funeral, the Bond producers decided to go back to the last legitimately decent Bond film, You Only Live Twice, for inspiration. They brought back both director Lewis Gilbert and production designer Ken Adam to ensure a YOLT vibe.

“Observe, Mr. Bond, the instruments of Armageddon.”

James Bond (Roger Moore) is assigned to find a missing submarine which mysteriously vanished along with its spicy cargo of sixteen nuclear warheads. Whilst on the mission, Bond keeps running into his Russian opposite number, Agent Triple X, Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach). The pair find out all this missing sub business may have to do with the obscenely wealthy Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). The race is on to stop the mad bastard, but their progress is impeded by Stromberg’s henchman, the 7’2 metal-mouthed Jaws (Richard Kiel). When I said “inspiration” in the above paragraph, I meant “the main story and action beats” The plot is 90% You Only Live Twice and about 10% Bioshock (obviously they didn’t rip the ‘Shock off, but when I hear “underwater city” I immediately think of Rapture.) Stromberg’s master plan almost a carbon copy of Blofeld’s scheme. There’s a big vessel that opens to snatch up foreign craft, the bastard behind it all wants to kickstart the Cold War and there’s a big ending where hundreds of extras storm an incredible Ken Adam creation. However, unless you’re a hopeless dork on some sort of retarded quest to watch and critique a Bond a day, you’re probably not going to notice the similarities between the two films or even give two shits either way.

I feel this is the film where Roger Moore really got comfortable in the Bond role. The incessant one-liners are still there, but he actually drops the smarm occasionally and plays it straight. He manages to find a good balance. If you’ve been a Bond fan as long as I have, you’ll have notice that in every promo interview for a new Bond flick they will describe the female lead as “a Bond equal”, which normally turns out to be a huge cart of horseshit. However, Barbara Bach’s Triple X could justifiably be called just that. I really like the character of Anya. Bach plays her very well. She’s more complex Bond squeeze, reminding me a bit of Tracy from OHMSS. Curt Jurgens is pretty good as Stromberg, but there’s not much required from the role than to have a foreign accent and just “be bad”, which he does admirably. I’d have liked to have known more about his plan for an underwater city though as he just mentions it in passing. Whilst he is ridiculous, I like Richard Kiel as Jaws. He’s a cartoony, seemingly immortal bad guy but he’s instantly iconic. I don’t even mind the little humourous bits they do with him. It’s all part of the ride.

From the opening scene this is quality Bond. The super famous ski-jump resulting in a Union Jack parachute still brings a goofy smile to my face. Every time I see it. the wait between the freefall and him pulling the ripcord seems to get a little longer. Perhaps I’ll sit down in 20 years to watch it and Bond will unceremoniously imprint himself at 60mph onto the unforgiving snowy rocks below. The title sequence is one of the best.  Naked silhouettes, trampolining secret agents and Luger gymnastics all scored by Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” add up to possibly my favourite Maurice Binder intro. I think the characters are a lot more fleshed out in this film than in previous films. There are nice little dramatic interplays that just make the characters that much more interesting. For example, in the opening skiing sequence, Bond kills one of his pursuers. Instead of being a faceless, nameless goon, it turns out that he was Anya’s boyfriend. She swears to get revenge on his killer only to find out later it’s Bond, causing a massive rift between the two. There’s also the first post OHMSS mention of Tracy’s death, mentioned by Anya where she rather insensitively lists 007’s career including his personal life. Bond interrupts her and she says “You’re sensitive, Mr. Bond?” to which he abruptly replies “About some things.” It’s a great little character moment.

So, what else is there? There’s the awesome submersible Lotus Esprit. There’s a sequence between the car and a helicopter that is way better than I remember it being. There’s the huge final act where Bond and an American naval crew get tooled up and wreck the shit out of Stromberg’s submarine swallowing tanker. Once again, Ken Adam proves he’s the master when it comes to seriously impressive sets. There’s a nice tongue-in-cheek Q Labs sequence full of wacky gadgets and plenty of opportunities for Desmond Llewelyn to get all exasperated and grouchy. The stuff in Egypt is pretty fun and we get a glimpse of a darker side to Moore’s Bond in a rooftop fight he has with henchmen Sandor. The fight itself is pretty weak, but it culminates in Sandor teetering over the rooftop edge holding on to Bond’s tie for support. Bond interrogates him and once he has his answer knocks Sandor’s hand away leaving him to fall to his death. I like Bond being a cold bastard sometimes.

I suppose if you had to criticise The Spy Who Loved Me, it would be on its unoriginality. Stromberg’s aquatic base with marine life viewable from the windows is straight from Dr. No as is his reluctance to shake hands. The shark killings are from Thunderball, but are also reminiscent of the piranha deaths from You Only Live Twice. There’s also yet another fucking train fight. Still, in a series that breeds deja vu, it can hardly be pulled up on just that. If you haven’t twigged by now, each Bond film has been a search for a formula that works. Previous Bonds had been trying to ape Goldfinger ever since it came out. To me at least, it really doesn’t matter.

“Hmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.”

So yeah. I effin’ love The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s undoubtably Moore’s best Bond and easily in my list of favourite Bond movies ever. When people talk about classic Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me comes to my mind straight away. It’s a cracking Bond picture. Simple as that.

 
P.S. It also inspired this amazing bit from I’m Alan Partridge. What’s not to love?

The Man with the Golden Gun

It’s funny, but I’ve noticed that apart from the first 3 Connery films, the Bond films never seem to have a decent “run” of quality pictures. Anything that manages to be half decent and entertaining gets slapped down by an absolute clunker of a follow-up. Case in point, The Man with the Golden Gun.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

 

I’m not even sure how to start talking about this one. I’m going to lay on my nudie lady cards on the table and say straight off that I don’t like this one. Whilst Live and Let Die had its tongue in its cheek, MWTGG‘s tongue is fighting for mouthspace with about 50 cocks. The film pretty much goes full-on comedy with cartoony action, silly one-liners and a general sense of fucking around at the expense of the audience that undermines what could have been a great story.

“You’re that secret agent! That English secret agent! From England!”

James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent a golden bullet with his number on it, leading him to believe he is the next target of the world-infamous assassin, Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) aka “the man with the golden gun”. Bond starts following a trail that will lead him from Macau to Hong Kong as he tries to track down the world’s most expensive killer. I really like the concept behind the story. It’s a refreshing change of pace from “mad bastard tries to take over the world” card that is so often played in the Bond films. Roger Moore is fully in “uncle telling inappropriate jokes at a wedding” mode with about the same amount of success. I really like Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, it’s just a shame they don’t really give him enough to sink his teeth into. Scaramanga is probably the most obvious dark version of Bond the series has had. It’s a nice touch that Scaramanga is a fan of Bond’s- even going as far as having a life-sized waxwork of 007 in his funhouse. Bond lass du jour is Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), who is so similar to the equally useless Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever it’s slightly unnerving. Goodnight starts out all interesting an’ shit, even turning down Bond by refusing to be one of his “passing fancies”, but the very next scene she’s in a shorty-short nightie trying to suck face with him. All she does is get captured and fuck things up. Just like Ms.Case she gets taken to the baddie’s lair for the final act and spends the explosion-filled climax in a bikini. Thankfully, there is one character who I didn’t hate- Scaramanga’s hard-done-by girlfriend Andrea (Maud Adams). Adams gives a nicely understated performance and her death is one of the only things in the film that has any resonance whatsoever.

Before I work the cinematic ribs some more with my flurry of earth-shattering wordpunches, I will note a couple of things I like about the film. I love the design of MI6’s topsy-turvy secret headquarters inside the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth. I like this awesome corkscrew stunt. I also quite like Scaramanga’s fucked-up funhouse. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’s pretty creepy too. I like the sense that Scaramanga sharpens his mad killing skillz using it. The way the golden gun is assembled out of everyday things like a pen and a cigarette lighter is pretty clever. Christ, that’s really about it. I will say this for the film though, it’s impossible to be bored by it. It chops and changes location, sequence and characters so much it’s quite a pacy flick. That doesn’t make it any good, however. It just makes it energetically shit.

If you watched that stunt vid up in that them thar previous paragraph, you’ll have noticed quite a few of the things that are wrong with the film. God knows why, but J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) makes another hefty appearance in this film, to the delight of absolutely fucking nobody. All he does this time is call all the locals “pointy-headed” and “brown”. Also, there’s that ludicrous slide whistle accompanying that seriously impressive stunt, which sabotages its awesomeness almost entirely. Actually, let’s talk about the women a bit more. Something I wish they’d expanded a bit more on is Scaramanga’s relationship with the unfulfilled Andrea. She’s sick of being in a loveless relationship and only getting laid before Scaramanga’s next hit. She’s the one who sent the bullet to MI6 to get Bond to waste ol’ Mangie. There’s a damn creepy scene where she’s in bed all alluring like and Scaramanga floats in and starts caressing her with the golden gun. Brr. Actually, there’s quite a bit of gun sexualisation on display. If you can tear your senses away from Lulu’s terrible title track with abysmal lyrics during the opening titles, you’ll notice there’s a lot of gunbarrel handjobs going on. Goodnight is also terribly written, constantly wanting to bed Bond despite being treated like second-hand shit.

“Ours is the loneliest profession, Mr. Bond.”

The Man with the Golden Gun is just plain bad. It’s not the worst thing evarr and doesn’t begin to plumb the depths that Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever do, but it’s pretty fucking rotten. The thing that I can’t get over is the wasted potential. Lee is fantastic at playing villains and I really get the sense he’s trying to bust through the rest of the sodden mass that is the film. There’s so much odd crap in this film I haven’t even had time to mention the flying car or the fake third nipple, each of which would have usually had their own paragraph if there wasn’t such a deluge of shite to deal with. One to forget.

Live and Let Die

New day, new Bond.

Live and Let Die (1973)

With Connery’s tuxedo and toupée firmly hung up, it was time for Roger Moore to step up to the plate, fresh from TV spy stardom as Simon Templar in The Saint. Some people can’t stand Roger Moore as Bond, citing him as too jokey, but I think Moore’s great. Whilst I think that him treating the whole thing as one big joke can be a little irritating, I find that when he takes the role seriously, he’s fantastic. He’s pretty good here too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

“I know who you are, what you are, and why you’ve come. You have made a mistake. You will not succeed.”

James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to New York to investigate the murders of several British agents.He soon twigs there may be a link between druglord Mr. Big and diplomat Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). Whilst snooping, Bond encounters Solitaire (Jane Seymour), a high priestess with the power to predict the future using tarot cards. To make matters weirder, Mr. Big also seems to have links with a voodoo priest by the name of Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder). Live and Let Die‘s a strange one. It’s pretty much a blaxploitation film starring the whitest hero imaginable. Plus, it doesn’t hold back when it comes to voodoo and the occult. This is probably the most experimental Bond has got and I can appreciate it for that. The story’s pretty decent, although it does come across as a “greatest hits” compilation at times, especially when the sharks come out of nowhere for the final showdown between Bond and Kananga.

Roger Moore leaves his own mark on Bond. He’s more of an English gentleman and significantly less vicious than Connery’s 007 was capable of being, but he’s lightyears ahead of Lazenby. I love Yaphet Kotto in this film. He’s erudite and measured but also incredibly cruel. He’s completely fearless when it comes to the Mr.Big persona too, cutting Bond’s famous introduction short by saying the immortal line: “Names is for tombstones, baby! Y’all take this honkey out and waste him! Now!” Jane Seymour gives a memorable turn as Solitaire, managing to come across as naive and sheltered without being weak and useless. She is also so ridiculously beautiful in this film I can’t even say her name out loud without sighing like a lovelorn 12 year old girl. David Hedison also finally gives us an interesting Felix Leiter. Scene stealer for me though was Geoffrey Holder’s Baron Samedi. I fucking love this guy. He’s like a cross between David Walliams and Ainsley Harriott.

There’s a fun energy here that was lacking in Diamonds Are Forever. Live and Let Die is certainly pretty camp at times (the aforementioned Baron Samedi embodying most of that camp) but it’s not painful to sit through. It’s actually really enjoyable. Bond has been rewritten to play to Moore’s strengths and at least to me, it works. OHMSS showed us the pitfalls of not playing to your actor’s forte and it shows here.The story’s pretty decent, although it does come dangerously close to retreading old ground at times. There are some brilliant scenes like the fantastic opening where we see an agent staking out a restaurant before a Dixieland funeral procession comes past. The agent asks who the funeral is for and is told it’s for him, before being stabbed in the side. It’s morbid and incredible memorable. The stunts are in a league of their own. This is were Bond films really started pushing the action barrier. There’s a well-executed bus chase and a still awesome boat chase around the bayou which features some incredible jumps. There’s also the super-famous bit where Bond uses several angry crocodiles as stepping stones to get to safety.

As for the bad, there are a couple of things. I’m really not a fan of Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James). He’s meant to be this dumb hick comic relief cop character, but he grated on every single one of my last nerves. He really isn’t as funny as the film thinks he is and we spend waay too long in his company during the boat sequence. Had he been used sparingly he might have been alright. One of his last lines to Bond is pretty entertaining. After finally catching up to Bond after the destructive chase, Pepper screams “What are you? Some kinda doomsday machine, boy?!”. Also, I fucking hate Kananga’s demise. It’s ridiculously cartoony and  spoils the ending for me. It’s a bad send-off to a great character. Talking of characters, we have the proto-Jaws in Tee-Hee (Julius Harris) who “unexpectedly” turns up when Bond and Solitaire are on the train home. The guy’s not bad, but I didn’t need another Red Grant style claustrophobic scrap to add to the sense of déjà vu I already had from previous scenes.  Also a quick mention of the first proper swear word in a Bond film. There had been a few mentions of “bitch” before, but I’m certain this is the first time “shit” has been uttered.

“Oh, a snake. I forgot, I should have told you. You should never go in there without a mongoose.”

It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I think Live and Let Die is great. It’s fucking strange, granted, but good all the same. To top it off, you have one of the best Bond title songs ever in the form of Paul McCartney and Wings’ song of the same name. It’s a shame the opening titles aren’t all that. Still, it’s a much-needed chaser to the offal and turd cocktail that was Diamonds are Forever.