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Topic: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Ok, so I have two weeks off work and the credit crunch biting as it is, I have elected to stay home and spend my time watching each Bond film and writing a review, which I thought I would post here. Hopefully I should get through them all in a fortnight, the idea is to finish with my review of QOS. Hope you enjoy the reads and I will post all the reviews under this thread. Feedback is welcome.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

DR NO   
REVIEW 13/10/08

Sean Connery, in the guise of our hero James Bond, leans forward slightly. He takes a cigarette, lights it and says the now immortal words: “Bond. James Bond.”  As introductions go, it is still one of the most impressive in film-dom. The movie that surrounds it is fascinating, not so much for its own worth, which has dated some what over time, but for the worth of everything that follows. If there are better Bond films, then Dr No is still the standard bearer of the series, the father of them all, to which every subsequent episode owes its charm, its sophistication, its menace, its attitude.

The film is born and bred in the 1960’s, unlike it’s writer, a product of the post war class system. Dr No itself is an action packed novel; a tribute to McNeile’s Bulldog Drummond and Rhomer’s Fu-Manchu. Full of energy, the book has sex, violence, torture, murder, death and destruction. The characters are caricatures and the plot, for what it is, pales into insignificance as Fleming describes in detail a centipede crawling across a man’s torso, the naked form of beautiful orphan woman, the burning of a loyal Cayman Islander and a fight to death with a squid. The novel is nasty. And so is James Bond.

Thankfully the film and the character are not nearly so nasty. There are touches of ruthlessness: Bond kills the hapless Professor Dent in cold blood - treating death with the same distain he has for the turn of a card at chemin de fer. He is tough and it shows.
At times Connery’s delivery is a little over the top and his performance displays no subtlety. He barks sentences, like orders and treats other’s property with scant respect. Even when flirting with Eunice Gayson’s Sylvia, you always sense his ultimate prize is to take the lady to bed. In contrast Jack Lord and John Kitzmiller, as his aides Liether and Quarrel, are calm and composed.

It is thanks however to the excellent dialouge by Richard Maibaum that Connery’s inexperience can be glossed over. This is no more evident than in the scenes at Dr No’s cavernous living quarters where the two adversaries joust sentences backwards and forwards. Joseph Wiseman is a wonderfully creepy villain, his eyes as black as his metal hands, and his delivery of his lines at the dinner table is both authorative and menacing. Coupled with the scenes in London, where Bond drily asserts to his equally authoritarian boss that he never sleeps on the firm’s time, these provide Connery’s best scenes.

It may seem unfair to saddle Connery with the bulk of criticism, but he does feature in almost every scene. He isn’t alone with his troubles. Anthony Dawson’s Dent is a nervous failure of a villain and much of the background characters are as black and white and insignificant as in the book. Curiously, for such a macho film, it is the two female leads that succeed the best. Zena Marshall’s complicit Miss Taro is both sexy and sly, setting an early benchmark for the Bond villainess. Ursula Andress looks gorgeous in a white bikini emerging from the Caribbean surf and she has a fine range of expressions and mannerisms, giving her a girl-lost-in-a-man’s-world appeal. Fleming’s description of his heroine as looking like Botecelli’s Venus could hardly have been better interpreted.

Amongst the corpses and the girls we have a well constructed spy yarn. Director Terence Young is careful to incorporate the things we expect to see: point of view shots through telephone booths, people in sunglasses, hidden fortresses, suspicious disappearances. He is even careful to have Bond security proof his room and later on he walks the last yards to Miss Taro’s house so she doesn’t hear his car arrive. His direction is loose and not too serious, slightly at odds with the earnestness of the acting. He moves through the action seamlessly, although some script editing could have shaved a few more minutes off the running time. Bond spends a long time in Kingston doing very little.

Over the passage of time it is hard to realise how much of an impact Dr No had in 1962. It is a success on many levels, but a failure in others. You can almost feel the cast and crew striving to make this a landmark film; while some have their finger on the pulse of James Bond from the outset, others are playing catch up. This is never more evident than with  Monty Norman’s music score. The film opens with a blaze of colour and The James Bond Theme thumping over the credits, but this signature piece of music is soon swallowed up by first one then a second Jamacian samba. Yet during the movie Norman has an over-reliance on the main theme which borders on the obsessive and becomes at best repetitive, at worst down right silly - Bond approaches Miss Taro’s house to the theme, he enters the hotel to the theme; I can go on, but I won’t.  Towards the climax, Norman is relinquished of his musical duties and a series of atmospheric sound effects brilliantly accompany Bond on his scramble through the Tunnel of Death.

Perhaps Dr No’s ultimate success and legacy is in the design. The novel is squalid for the most part and the producer’s wisely take Bond into the realm of high class casinos and high tech hide-aways. For that we have to thank Ken Adam and Syd Cain who create a glitzy prison house (“Mink lined with first class service” quips Bond), an underground living quarters complete with a floor to ceiling aquarium and a huge glittering atomic control room for the finale. These sets are fabulous and it wasn’t long before the producers realised where their bread was buttered.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
13/10/08   

When James Bond returned to the screen in 1963, it was with a smarter, slicker product. The fumbling of Dr No was replaced with the confidence born out of success. Where as one of the problems with Dr No was the performance of Sean Connery, in From Russia With Love it is Connery who carries the film, responding to his co-stars and feeding off their evident enthusiasm.

For the most part the film is faithful to Fleming’s novel, even to the point of introducing all the villains and the plot device in the first fifteen minutes, and it is much better for it as From Russia With Love is one of Fleming’s and the film franchise’s crowning achievements. The novel spent time dissecting it’s characters and the film utilises the physical and psychological descriptions excellently. Hence we have Pedro Armendariz’s boisterous, chauvinist family man Kerim Bey, running his Turkish headquarters from the back of a carpet sellers at the bazaar. We have the beautiful, impressionable ex-ballerina Tatiana, played effortlessly by debutant Daniela Bianchi, who falls in love with Bond and the freedom of the Western world. We have the gruesome Rosa Klebb, the blonde killer Grant and the wily planner Kronsteen. As inhabited by Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw and Vladek Sheybal these are a formidable trio of villains who bring menace and intrigue in equal measure.

Robert Shaw in particular excels as the almost mute hit man, whose sole purpose in life is the destruction of others lives. He is brilliant impersonating Captain Nash and swapping lines with Connery in the claustrophobia of a sleeping carriage, where his bulk and presence seems to fill the screen. Also there is a tiny scene when, having killed a man, Shaw is being congratulated by Lenya; his eyes are fully closed as she patters on, seemingly oblivious to everything but the havoc he can cause. More than anyone, Shaw is the template for many Bond villains to come.

In addition a whole plethora of background characters lend colour and vibrancy to the film. There are Kerim’s sons, a pack of gypsies, several lesser villains (particularly Krilencu, a Bulgarian killer who is shot escaping from his apartment through the mouth of Anita Ekberg) and even the re-appearance of Sylvia Trench, who Bond still can’t spend any length of time with. Disappointingly is the introduction of the head of SPECTRE. He has an interesting speech about the merits of Siamese fighting fish, but other than that the appearance of SPECTRE is wasted and serves, as in the previous Dr No, only to deflect the mark of villainy from the Eastern Bloc.

While the characters keep the story alive, the action keeps it moving. Terence Young takes Maibaum’s script and delivers a true British spy thriller, in the tradition of The Third Man and The Lady Vanishes. We have colourful locations, beautifully photographed by Ted Moore; excellent sets, designed in a minimal style by Syd Cain; a chase with an overbearing helicopter; a flight to freedom on a train; and delightful rendezvous on the Bosporus, at the St Sophia mosque, a gypsy camp and in moonlit hotel bedrooms. The final of these reveals both the lengths the producers were prepared to go to retain Fleming’s vision and how far they couldn’t. The filming of Bond and Tatiana’s love making is included, while the best line in the novel (“This” - Tatiana tells Bond she is naked except for her lace choker) is excluded. 

There is a lot of action in From Russia With Love and it reaches its climax on board the Orient Express, where Bianchi brings to life her character’s qualities, at first gay and carefree, besotted with Bond and relishing her new opportunities, then later sullen and awkward as she realises the tide has turned against her. Connery is good here too, bringing the ruthlessness and violence of Bond back to the forefront. Bond’s battle with Grant is a movie highlight, no Wild West pastiche this, a full blooded encounter in which both protagonists end up sullied and scarred, though only one is dead. Mercifully John Barry’s intrusive music score is silent during this struggle to the death and it is played out to the roar of the locomotive, which seems to mimic the chaos on screen.

Finally, or formerly, the title sequence, one of the great Bond innovations. A five minute teaser in which we see “Bond” killed by his potential assassin, followed by the credits projected onto the curves of a belly dancer. If there is any indication of how confident Broccoli and Saltzman had become, this was it. In an era where big music themes and credit picture boards were still in evidence – witness My Fair Lady and Dr Zhivago the very next year – this truly was something to remember. So confident were the producers, they even tell us James Bond will be back in “Goldfinger”.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Brilliant reviews well done love reading them thanks for sharing. ajb007/cheers ajb007/martini

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Great stuff, chrisno1. I't's wonderful to read a comparison of novel/film, as opposed to just one of the two.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Thanks so much, chrisno1.  Been a while since we've had thoughtful reviews on the site, and reading great stuff like this never gets old.  I am certainly hoping you get through all the films and am looking forward to reading your subsequent reviews.  Well done! ajb007/cheers

Hilly...you old devil!

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

GOLDFINGER
14/10/08

To see the difference between the Bond of 1962 and that of 1964, you only need to watch the first fifteen minutes of Goldfinger. There is the exciting pre-title sequence, the Shirley Bassey powerhouse theme song, sweeping helicopter shots of Miami accompanied by a jazzy musical interlude, the introduction of Goldfinger and the the seduction and death of a good-time girl. In those minutes the James Bond franchise stood up, threw off its shackles and said “Look at me! I’m brilliant!” And Goldfinger is brilliant.

The new director, Guy Hamilton, brings a lighter tone to this film, while still retaining some of the traditional spy elements. If he has let the screenwriters drift away from the lines of the novel, this only serves to highlight the deficencies in Fleming’s story. Goldfinger is a long novel, bogged down in lengthy detail and even longer speeches. The film is short and sharp. The action is swift. The editing crisp. Even the incidental music crackles, asking us to take notice. And if at times the production design of Ken Adam overshadows the stars, well at least we can see the money invested is being well spent.

The story, for such it is, follows Fleming’s original Fort Knox robbery, but brings in fantastical elements, such as an atomic bomb, a laser beam and a car equipped with an ejector seat. These seem fresh and exciting. They are as in place in Goldfinger as they would be out of place in the previous From Russia With Love. Much of the thanks must rest with Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, who constuct excellent dialouge allowing Bond and his adversaries to use their wits (and witisicms!) to create and escape the chaos. Bond electrocutes an assassin and trills “Posetively shocking”; trapped Bond asks if he is expected to talk, “No” is Goldfinger’s reply “I expect you to die!”; upon being introduced to the wonderfully named heroine Pussy Galore, only Bond could reply “I must be dreaming”.

James Bond is once more portrayed by Sean Connery and here at last he has settled into the role, comfortable both in his suits and his mannerisms. When M cuts him short, insisting he refrain from extending a personal vendetta, Connery responds, curtly, politely, but we sense his inner motivation. This is a performance Connery could not have given two years ago.
He is helped of course with some exemplary support from the male cast. Gert Frobe is the rotund, greedy, calculating and sophisticated Auric Goldfinger, who conveys unruffled menace beneath an elaborate exterior. More than anyone, Frobe inhabits his role, so much so that everytime I re-read the novel, I picture him as Goldfinger. It is a wonderful piece of casting. His side-kick Oddjob, Harold Sakata, is a Korean mute, as adept at martial arts as he is at wielding deadly bowler hats and cheating at golf. Both his and Goldfinger’s death scenes started a trend in Bond movies to see which villain could have the goriest end. On the lighter side, M and Q are given screen time that nicely develops their relationship with Bond.

Unfortunately the female characters are under whelming. Honor Blackman’s Pussy (I had to write that!) is a confident heroine, who isn’t really given enough to do. As in the novel she is sidelined and used as a plot device, her ultimate change of heart doesn’t seem likely. Shirley Eaton’s Jill makes a spectacular impression, given her short role. We see her first reclining on a sun bed wearing only a tiny black bikini; she is sexy, beautiful and lacking morals, a perfect match for Bond. But four minutes later she is naked and dead in Bond’s bed, covered in gleaming gold paint. The third girl, Tilly, played by Tania Mallet, is a hopeless would be assassin, who is vacant and shallow; her scenes with Connery are clumsy. She only brightens up when Bond wreaks havoc during the car chase.

It is a credit to the assurance of the film makers that these details hardly matter. As the film rolls towards its climax in a splendidly realised Fort Knox, we are provided with gorgeous photography of the Swiss mountains, courtosy of Ted Moore, excellent special effects from John Stears, taut editing from Peter Hunt and a series of great action sequences arranged by Bob Simmons. All these are accompanied in full by a John Barry score that is miles away from his previous effort. By studiously avoiding Monty Norman’s Bond Theme, the music almost becomes a charcter by itself, lending as it does themes for each person which can be jokey, sexy or chilling. It conveys the danger and the fun of the action, without distracting us from what we see on the screen.

Every time I watch Goldfinger, I always have to ask myself, is it really the best Bond film? Truth be told, it is always going to be a close call. What I can say is that if it isn’t the best, then it must be one hell of a good movie that beats it.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

THUNDERBALL
14/10/08

Thunderball was a massive success in 1965/66. It was an event film, a world wide smash everywhere it opened. For a time it even out grossed The Sound of Music. It has left a lasting legacy on the Bond franchise and while not the best film in the series it certainly has the biggest influence. While Bond could never be the same again once the Korean had been spewed from the ejector seat in Goldfinger, by Thunderball he could never be small-time again. Thunderball was conceived as a big film from the off:  a big budget, big stars, big sets, big fights and big battles. It is a rollercoaster ride of thrills and excitement.

Yet, despite Thunderball being the most successful and, possibly, the most quintessential entry into the series, it doesn’t quite work. Much of the blame for this must lie fairly and squarely with Richard Maibaum and John Hopkin’s script, which while retaining much of the novel, doesn’t add anything new to the Bond character or to his world. The driving force in the previous films had always been the characters, but here they are drawn in crayon not water colour.

The potentially colourful Emilio Largo, as played by Adolfo Celi, comes across as nothing more than a gangster and a bully, albeit a rich one. The beautiful Claudine Auger is Domino, the heroine of the piece, but after a bright start in two classic scenes with Sean Connery, the writers lose faith in her relevance to the plot, she has little to say of do until the denouement of the film. The henchman Vargas is a low-grade Grant while Count Lippe is a disappointing early foil for Bond, their encounters played mostly for humour. There are insignificant supporting roles for Rik Van Nutter, Martine Beswick, Molly Peters and Earl Cameron. 

On the plus side the marvellous Luciana Paluzzi marvellously fleshes out the sexual predator and deadly assassin Fiona Volpe. She is almost the best actor in the film and her scenes with Connery have an extra bite and attitude missing from much of the movie. I say almost because undeniably this is Sean Connery’s finest hour as James Bond. Yes, he coasts a little, but that adds to the charm and the subtlety of his performance. He has learnt so much since Dr No, even down to the way he walks, like a cat, on the balls of his feet: in the pre-title fight Connery prowls the floor, stalking his prey before the ultimate kill. If there is too much humour, it isn’t his fault and he handles the now customary one-liners with the appropriate grace or disdain they deserve. His reward is to be billed above the title. It isn’t just Ian Fleming’s James Bond anymore, it’s Sean Connery’s.

Is everything bad with Thunderball? No, it isn’t. The fight scenes are well done, the chases are brilliant, the special effects are of Oscar winning standard, John Barry’s music is one of his best scores, Maurice Binder supplies his definitive title design and Lamar Boren’s underwater photography is of high quality. So why does it feel unsatisfactory?

Possibly for one reason only: it has a long winded and dull climax. Thunderball happens at breakneck speed and the audience is along for the ride for first hour and a half. Then, at precisely the moment the film needs to build on its excitement, we are subjected to two lengthy underwater sequences, the latter an interminable battle which never seems to end. Peter Hunt’s editing can’t save it and neither can Barry’s music. If the final fist fight on board the Disco Volante is well executed, the back projection error is simply unforgivable, making the scene laughable when it should be tense.

Yet, despite these problems, Thunderball is still an outstanding example of Bond-age, displaying everything the Bond fan has come to know and love about the films. I have a hard time criticising it, because, being the first Bond film I watched, it has special memories for me and in many ways I want it to be so much better than it is.

Perhaps, ultimately, one shouldn’t argue with the balance books and Eon took a risk allowing Kevin McClory to produce Thunderball under their banner. It was a risk well worth taking as Thunderball ensured the 007 phenomenon escalated into absolute international mania. James Bond was never going to be so big again.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
14/10/08   

It’s hard to dislike You Only Live Twice. By the mid-sixties Bond had many imitators and the producers had to throw everything, including outer space, into their next project. That the film, which at times is preposterous, succeeds is in no small part due to the energy of the technical teams who created the most expansive sets and some of the most thrilling set pieces yet seen. A budget of $9.5m goes a long long way and it saves what is the most comic book film in the series so far. You Only Live Twice has hardly any plot and one dimensional characters, but it does have colour, energy and pace in abundance.

Bond is in Japan to investigate the loss of an American space capsule. SPECTRE, of course, is behind the plot, planning to start a Third World War and take over the spoils. It is worth noting this bears no relation to the novel, which writer Roald Dahl has consigned to the dustbin. That’s a pity as the novel is one of Fleming’s best. The few glimpses of Ian Fleming that do remain are buried underneath the modern paraphenalia; Bond hardly immerses himself in Japanese culture and Dahl chooses instead to poke fun at it – there is a fake wedding, a chauvanistic washing scene, a plot device makes Bond “look Japanese” and unforgivably, during a seduction scene, one of Bond’s female conquests mutters “I will enjoy serving under you.”

Dahl’s story is paper thin and his dialouge even worse, but direcor Lewis Gilbert doesn’t care and gets on with the job efficently and, at times, impressively. Assistant director Peter Hunt, promoted from editor, handles most of the action scenes and they fairly bound along. His long apprentiship serves him well, for whenever the film slows down we are given a sudden burst of frantic energy.

The film starts briskly with a mock funeral and soon Bond’s English contact is killed, he fights an assassin to the death and is kidnapped by a beautiful female aide. It is almost with relief he meets Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service. Tetsuro Tamba has all the best lines in the film and he relishes the interplay with Connery. The star of the show unfortunately seems weary and disinterested.

Luckily there are other aspects of this show to keep us interested. Oscar winning photographer Freddie Young provides bright, vivid colours, mixing sunsets and sunrises, mountain views, ariel shots, crane shots, vivid night lights, landscapes and spacescapes. It is a beautiful film to look at and even the action benefits from being photographed well, witness Bond being chased across a dockyard warehouse roof by assorted thugs or the arial dogfight to end all arial dogfights played out over a panorama of extinct volcanoes.

There is more action of course; the fights are tense, the chases fast and well editied and the final battle between the ninja assault force and the SPECTRE army is a piece of grand theatre,  as dozens of demented Japanese Tarzans descend on ropes to launch their attack .

Composer John Barry provides his best work yet, blending the title theme with oriental chords that set the tone of the scenes perfectly. He also uses the James Bond Theme and his own 007 theme to good use. His restraint is note-worthy. 

The magnificent production design sits head and shoulders above every thing else in this film. It is highly polished, glimmering and modern. Ken Adam’s master class however is reserved for the headquarters of SPECTRE itself, hidden in a volcano. This set cost over $1m itself and had to be specially constructed. It actually did have a working monorail, a helicopter platform and a full scale space rocket. It must have seemed a shame to blow it all up at the climax. This is Adam’s tour de force and nothing in a Bond film has ever come close.

The film loses it’s way when trying to instill any form of menace into the story. The main villain, as played by Donald Pleasance, is a disappointment, lacking authority in his voice and his demeanour. Admittedly, Pleasance wasn’t the first choice for the role of Blofeld, but even a wince-worthy facial scar cannot save his performance. Likewise, Teru Shimada is functional as Osato, and Karin Dor is given a hopeless role that is clearly based on Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe. Dor has none of the range or venom of Luciana Paluzzi, but also she isn’t given the lines. It is telling that the pirana in Blofeld’s fish pond seem more threatening than this trio of ill-cast baddies who between them spurn nine gilt edged opportunities to kill Bond. 

Most distressing is the treatment of the two female leads, both fairly accomplished actresses in Japan, but out of their depth here. Akiko Wakabayashi’s Aki comes off the better of the two, driving her sports car around Tokyo to save Bond not once, but twice. Mie Hama meanwhile suffers a similar fate to Dor. She is given nothing to work with and is merely window dressing, spending almost all her screen time in a white bikini and, worse, not even having her character’s name mentioned.

Unsurprisingly, You Only Live Twice was a huge success. Not because it is a great Bond film, but because it was the next Bond film and everyone wanted to see it. The producers took a bold step in changing many of the established personel and were rewarded with a vivid and outrageous end product which, while not being any where near the best film in the series, can comfortably sit as one of the most enjoyable.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Good stuff ChrisNo1, these get better as they go on and there's not a wasted word. I find it hard to be dogmatic about the movies now; I slagged off TB after seeing it again at the cinema but very much enjoyed watching the U Edition recently. Context counts for a lot.

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Well done they are getting better much better thanks for sharing with us. ajb007/cheers

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
15/10/O8

While You Only Live Twice completely ignored its source novel, the producers bravely took a different approach to the next Bond project. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had been considered for adaptation as early as the second movie, but the logistics of the story, its Alpine setting and its set pieces, always prevented the producers from tackling what many consider Fleming’s best work. But having introduced Blofeld to the public, it was felt the time at last was right.

OHMSS is, in adaptation terms, the very best of the Bond films. Richard Maibaum’s script follows the novel so closely they almost seem a mirror image. Certainly he embellishes it with more sex and violence, but the plot and the characters are intact and the dialouge is lifted as if from the page - witness Bond’s introduction to the Capu of the Union Corse, his seduction of Tracy, his meeting with Hilary Bray and the Red Cross helicopter ruse.

There is much to enjoy in OHMSS. It starts off with three furious fight scenes that surround a game of chemin de fer and a bout of love making. Maibaum then spends a long time developing his plot. We head to Switzerland and meet the major protagonists in the story: Blofeld, Irma Bunt and a bevy of beautiful girls, the latter of which are unknowing pawns in a game of biological warfare and psychological hypnosis.
It is a credit to director Peter Hunt and editor John Glen that this period of the film doesn’t drag, indeed without the slow build up of tension the following hour of mayhem would not seem half as exciting.

Once Bond’s cover is blown, his capture and escape are well constructed and brilliantly executed. We have two furious ski chases, an avalanche, a delirious car chase, a fight in a bell tower and a pursuit of hide-and-seek through a Swiss town on Christmas Eve, all with John Barry’s music pounding in the background. And we still have the climatic mountain top battle and a bob-sleigh fight to come. It’s hard to know who to congratulate first: the skiers, the aerial cameramen, the ski cameramen, the stock car director, the fight arranger, stunt arranger, even the photographer or editor. Despite the passage of time, it is still one of the best sustained continuous sequences of action in a Bond film, only slowing for a tender moment when our hero proposes to his beloved heroine Tracy.

And that moment gets to the heart of OHMSS. Bond is different in this film. Yes, there is a new actor, but it isn’t only George Lazenby who is different. The sentences he speaks are less rasping, less contrite; he displays affection;  he falls in love; an amiable persona begins materialise. To quote Lazenby: “This never happened to the other fella.” And rightly so. Lazenby brings a lot of charm to the role. He isn’t as rough around the edges as Connery was in his debut and he does a competent job. His action scenes are outstanding - physically he’s in better shape than Connery ever was - while during the scenes at the Piz Gloria research clinic, he is very effective at impersonating a knighted baronet. He even manages the romantic interludes well, something Connery never had to do.

It’s disappointing then that the director, and perhaps the producers, never show enough faith in him. In the pre-title sequence John Barry uses two recognisable Bond tunes before we have even set eyes on Lazenby, spoiling what should be a memorable introduction. This continues for the first fifteen or twenty minutes as Maibaum, the writer, reminds us through a series contrived scenes that this is James Bond of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Lazenby just about settles into the role when his own vocal chords are taken away from him and George Baker’s voice is dubbed over the top every time Lazenby is impersonating Baker’s character, Sir Hilary Bray. It is an unnecessary and mystifying intrusion that distracts us from an otherwise sound debut performance.

To compensate for Lazenby’s debut, the producers found a heavyweight cast list that amply makes up for any percived short comings. Telly Savalas, always a great baddie, is an athletic and cultured Blofeld,  the most convincing of the actors to play the super-villain. Ilse Steppat’s role as Irma Bunt reminds me of Rosa Klebb, an ugly squat woman, rarely off her guard, she plays matron to the girls and watchman over Bond. Gabrile Ferzetti is fine as Draco, Bond’s future father in law, an urbane, sophisticated criminal who appreciates the finer things in life, such as good wine, good food, beautiful women and family loyalty. He is as macho as Bond, but older and wiser. It’s one of the best supporting roles in a Bond film and Ferzetti’s scenes with Lazenby are similar to those between Armendariz and Connery in From Russia With Love, the old pro and the young buck, both in the story and in the acting.

The women in OHMSS are many. There are a dozen at Piz Gloria and this induces a short-lived, off-beat, if accidental, tribute to the Carry On films, both in Barry’s sexy, jaunty clarinet theme and the witty dialouge. It’s an amusing few minutes, with Bond initially playing it straight (“I know what he’s allergic too” says English rose Joanna Lumley). Later, having bedded one girl, Bond is suprised to find a second waiting at his bedside. “Coming to my room was an inspiration,” he says, “And you’ll need to be.” Here Angela Scoular strikes a slightly dull note as Ruby, the commoner from Morcambe Bay, her interpretation a million miles from Fleming’s dainty girl who wouldn’t sneeze.

But above all these gorgeous Bond Girls stands Diana Rigg as Tracy, Bond’s lover, his true love and his soon-to-be wife. Rigg is perfect as Lazenby’s foil. When Fleming describes her, in Bond’s thoughts, Tracy is “beautiful, in bed and out, she’s adventurous, brave, resourceful, she’s exciting always...she’s a lone girl, not cluttered with friends” and Maibaum takes time to interpret this in the script (Tracy doesn’t actually say much in the novel) and Rigg conveys it wonderfully in her manner, her expressions and her body language. In 1969 she was also one of the most beautiful women on the planet; that sort of thing helps.

OHMSS ends on a tragic note. But there is no need to be sorrowful about the film. It may not have made as many millions as its immediate predesessors, but it did allow the 1960s to end the Bond franchise where it began, safely in the lap of Ian Fleming. The film delivers on  many levels: action, direction, acting, editing, photography and music are all of the highest quality. Costumes, stunts and set design are not far behind. Yet it is Maibaum’s clever and insightful adaptation that creates the tone and allows a delicate heart to flutter at the centre of an extraordainary adventure.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
15/10/08

Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman took as the template for Diamonds Are Forever their most satisfying film, Goldfinger, which had first launched Bond as an international success. To that end they recruited Richard Maibaum to write and Guy Hamilton to direct, but half way through pre-production, Maibaum’s ideas were thrown out and Hollywood writer Tom Mankiewicz was drafted in to supply a new script. This Americanisation of Bond continued with an almost exclusivly American cast and and crew and, at one point, the actor John Gavin signed to play James Bond. It is with some relief that we have Sean Connery back, though he looks a little overweight and a trifle bored.

Further more, precious little of Ian Fleming’s James Bond has remained. The novel isn’t one of his best, being more of a tribute to Mickey Spillane with its Mafia-style gangsters and gambling rackets. While his hero follows a long winded smuggling trail from Africa via London to New York, Saratoga and ultimately Las Vegas, Fleming gives us some well etched characters and a few eventful highlights. Some of these do make it into the film – the destruction of a helicopter in Sierra Leone, the meeting with Tiffany,  a jockey is drowned in boiling mud, there is a car chase in Las Vegas and a fight on the Queen Mary. 

The movie follows a similar meandering path through a series of not very exciting set peices until it reaches an unsatisfactory climax. The film starts with a strange pre-title sequence involving mud baths and plastic surgery. Bond kills his nemesis Blofeld, but there is precious little mention as to why he is so viciously pursuing this megalomaniac, its as if he’s seen it all before. And so have we it appears, as Shirley Bassey sings over another attractive Maurice Binder credit sequence; a return to form for both.

There after Bond gets involved in a glitzy diamond caper featuring two gay assassins, a beautiful heroine who veers from cocky and smart to dumb and helpless, a reclusive millionaire, a funeral parlour of the most sinister kind,  a confrontation with not one but two Blofelds , a particle beam laser satellite, fights in elevators, some high jinx in a moon buggy, battles on oil rigs and a series of dead pan one-liners that keep us equally amused and bemused.

Hamilton and Mankiewicz appear to forsake all sense of danger here in favour of a stream of jokes, both verbal and visual, which while often funny, dilute the tension or distract from the action. Bond is never threatened in this film; he is never in the slightest peril and after every turn there is a quip and a wink. Charles Grey suffers from this dependancy too. While sleek and urbane, his Blofeld is certainly no monster. He reminds me of Cesar Romero’s Joker: all grand ambition, but without any substance behind the sweet talking exterior. Grey doesn’t laugh as much, but he has the best jokes.

There is however plenty to admire in Diamonds Are Forever. I like Jill St. John as Tiffany, especially early on when she trades one liners with Bond; it is a pity Mankiewicz can think of nothing original for her to do in the second half of the film and she pales into an insignificant, though sexy, bikini clad bimbo. I like Wint and Kidd, who are the strangest heavies in a Bond film, dedicated to death and to each other, all with a nice turn of ironic phrase. I like the four minute wonder of Lana Wood’s Plenty, a good time girl whose impact is similar to that of Shirley Eaton. I like Ken Adam’s sets, the interiors of which are decorated opulently and so well photographed by Ted Moore they seem to sparkle like the Las Vegas skyline Bond mountaineers around. I like John Barry’s music, with its catchy tunes for each character, its tinkling piano replicating the sound of a Las Vegas lounge bar, its haunting theme song and the flush of strings when SPECTRE’s ultimate weapon is revealed. There is also a tremendous fight in a lift shaft that recalls Bond’s struggle to the death with Grant in From Russia With Love; at its end Connery looks suitably exhausted.

Diamonds Are Forever isn’t a bad James Bond film, but it is a Bond film by numbers and unfortunately this time the numbers do not add up, which is particularly disappointing after the return to reality of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That film over-came a faltering star to emerge a relative success thanks to a strong narrative and an enthusiastic cast. Here Connery’s star is also faltering, but no one is giving him much support.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Fine stuff again - are you a writer by trade, Chrisno1? Though I detect fence sitting of a kind employed in the new book, The Man With The Golden Touch, currently in bookshops.

I never got that Connery looks bored in DAF. He looks fine to me, really cheering up with the one-liners he's offered.

Possibly TB is the first film to have the villain's plot outlined from the get-go, duplicated with YOLT, lending a grinding inevitablity about it all. With No it's just a couple who are shot, with FRWL a Lector being stolen, both turn out to be bigger adventures, which allows Bond to be happy, cool and casual early on. Only later are the high stakes revealed. However, in TB it's maybe a good half hour into the film before the plot begins to be outlined, so that cuts us some slack.

I guess we can click on your Favourites button to get a summary!

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Napoleon, fence sitting is the lost art of the reviewer! No I am not a writer by trade, but I do a lot of it in my spare time. In honesty I enjoy the earlier Bond's much more than the 80's, 90's and 00's. But I generally find something to enjoy in a Bond film and I always feel bad about criticising them.
Hindsight is also a great leveller. When I've read reviews from the period, it is amazing to see how well regarded YOLT and DAF are, while OHMSS is almost unanimously passed over with a nod of congrats to the director and stuntmen.

As regards my favourites: I probably need to update it after I've finished this marathon viewing. Glad you're enjoying it.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

LIVE AND LET DIE   
16/10/08

For the third film running we are presented with a different James Bond. And also a different tone. While Lazenby’s episode was earnest, and Connery’s return camp, here we have a breezy Bond as Roger Moore drives his merrily destructive way through the Big Easy, the Big Apple and the Blue Caribbean. Moore seems a remarkably bankable choice now, but in 1973 his star was on the wane after a decade of television popularity and there was some reluctance to employ him.

Interestingly, Moore’s debut, while not one of his very best films, is one of his better performances, lacking the overt humour of his later output and showing ample restraint when confronted with the some of the more foolish goings on. Moore was lucky as the screenplay was written before he took over the role, hence it has a certain “generic James Bond” feel to it. That does not excuse the material wasted on the remaining characters and this is the central failure of the film.

One of the major criticisms of Fleming’s writing has always been his “Yessah – Nossah” attitude towards his black characters. The novel Live And Let Die is no exception, although it does feature a strong central negro villain in Mr Big. The producers took something of a gamble with this project, especially during the era of  “blaxploitation” films, as a poor adaptation would  have appeared patronising. As it is Bond is the one made to be the fool, twice being captured when visiting blacks-only Fillet of Soul bars and being scoffed at by a CIA agent for his clever disguise –  “a white man in Harlem.”

The trouble with Tom Mankiewicz’s screenplay isn’t that he avoids Fleming’s racial stereotypes, it’s everything else he leaves out. Live And Let Die is a violent novel and Fleming’s grisly descriptions have great cinematic appeal. It is suprising then that Leither’s mutilation by sharks, Bond’s midnight raid on a seafront warehouse, his swim across a barracuda infested coral reef and the keel hauling finale have all been dispensed with. Some of these genuinly thrilling passages are re-used later in the series, but it is disappointing they aren’t used in context.

Mankiewicz does retain a few incidents: Bond meets Mr Big and has his finger broken;  Bond’s taxi is tracked through Harlem by a number of eagle-eyed informants; Bond is abducted from a rotating booth; Mr Big has an underground hideout;  he controls his island population with voodoo; and he utilises a white voodoo priestess to tell his future. Mankiewicz is very careful when building the story of Solitaire, the chaste high priestess, so that when Bond takes her virginity, despite his deceitful interference, it appears as foretold in her tarot cards.

The success of this portion of the film rests with Moore and Jane Seymour, who act the roles of  lothario and innocent very well. It is a difficult few scenes and the dialouge isn’t completely convincing, but the playing certainly is, and Seymour, a very young and beautiful actress, excellently displays the flowering sensual side of  Solitaire, something that Fleming stresses in his novel.

Having left out the best parts of the source novel, the producers try to create their own sensational narrative. There are numerous short-lived bouts of fisticuffs and several well constructed pursuits,  including a fifteen minute speed boat chase and a lot of quite outrageous stunts that usually involve crashing and smashing motorised vehicles. It’s all good fun but not very threatening.

Any real threat in a Bond film usually comes from the enemy and here the team fail us too. A succession of wily black heavies are generally used for light relief or fashion models as they lounge around New York and New Orleans. They do include Fleming’s permanently smiling Tee Hee, who here is given, for no apparent reason, a metal claw for a hand. Julius Harris can do little with this role, as can Yaphet Kotto with his. Fine actors both, but Kotto in particular disappoints. The confusion of his dual role as Kanaga the politician and Mr Big the gangster does not help his interpretation, and by the climax he seems to morph into the recently deceased Baron Samedi and becomes manic and wild eyed.

Choreographer Geoffrey Holder’s Samedi leaves a lasting impression, both as a wild on stage dancer and as the spirit king; he has a small scene in a churchyard that tingles the spine. His ultimate demise in a coffin of snakes is way too sudden for such an outstanding creation. Indeed all the  voodoo elements of the story could have been exploited more, it would certainly have given the imbecilic Rosie more cause to be scared of betraying Kanaga.

While Mankiewicz’s script takes most of the blame for these deficencies, it isn’t entirely his own fault. Guy Hamilton’s direction is lame, Ted Moore’s photography flat, the editing functional at best and George Martin’s music score intrusive, erratic and repetitive. While Julie Harris’ suits are naffly colourful and Jane Seymore has some great gowns to wear, everything else looks and feels bit counterfeit, including Kananga’s underground cavern, a tiny bushel for Mr Big.

Thankfully, Paul McCartney and Wings provide an excellent theme song. With its jump starting and fast pace it seems to match the film, which doesn’t ebb and flow but stops and starts. Live And Let Die features two worthy central performances and some good set pieces, but could have benefitted from the harder edge of the novel.

Most significantly, Roger Moore deserves credit for not impersonating Sean Connery. He establishes a different Bond,  less vicious, less contemptuous, less mean spirited, even, dare I say it, less resourceful. This Bond is stylish, humourous, fanciful. When he talks of Rosie Carver he could be speaking of himself: “A terrible agent, but the compensations speak for themselves.”

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
16/10/08

Ian Fleming’s The Man With The Golden Gun is not a good novel. It starts well, but descends into a lazy homage to the Wild West. Its climax takes place on a scenic railway and even the chief baddie calls himself “Pistols” Scaramanga.

When the producers opted to make a film of this admittedly unpolished work, they gave the writer Richard Maibaum carte blanche to create what ever he wanted. Maibaum did just that and more was to follow, as the producers threw out all Maibaum’s ideas and asked Tom Mankiewicz to pen a re-write. The Man With The Golden Gun, even more so than You Only Live Twice, is the first completely created Bond film; only the characters of Scaramanga and Mary Goodnight survived the cull. It is with some relief then that Mankiewicz has developed three outstanding supporting roles.

Firstly we have Scaramanga, a psychopathic assassin, deadly with one golden bullet, who charges $1m a kill. The fearsome shape of Christopher Lee encapsulates this cold, calculating hit man who admires Bond’s skill, but scoffs at his choosing to work for a pittance and a pension. Lee has plenty of experience playing villains and he doesn’t disappoint here. His clipped delivery matches the tidiness of his expertise. It is unfortunate that his death is somewhat tame.

Scaramanga is aided and betrayed by the beautiful Andrea, a prostitute by any other name, whose ruse is to try enable Bond to kill her keeper. Maud Adams is very good in her scenes with Lee and Moore, able to display both cornered defiance and vulnerability. There is a moment when she cringes away from Lee’s erotically positioned pistol with a mixture of revolt and fascination that tells us more about Andrea than any of her words.

Finally there is the midget Nick-Nack, played by Herve Villechaize, an annoying little runt who pops up time and again to redirect the audience to a potential twist in the story. Villechaize too is good, being both disarmingly cute and potentially deadly. His motives too are unclear as he reflects on an inheritance of wealth should his master be killed.

The three conspirators all provide differing moods to the film. The tone changes again each time Bond’s ditsy assistant Mary Goodnight appears. Britt Ekland sadly has possibly the dumbest role yet given to a Bond girl; more than a hindrance than a help, she is used for light relief, but the comedy is laboured and in one excruciating scene she has to hide in a wardrobe while Bond makes love to another woman.

After his reliable debut, one would hope Roger Moore’s Bond is consistent. Not so. Early on, when pursuing Lazar the bullet-maker and then Andrea, Moore is ruthless and malicious, blackmailing them both to achieve his ends. Later on when he confronts Scaramanga he confesses earnestly that killing him would be a pleasure. “But not in cold blood?” queries his protagonist. “Don’t count on it,” is the sharp reply. Moore’s very good here; it’s disappointing most of his other lines are given over to heavy handed comedy by-play with M, Hip, Goodnight or the returning and still racist J.W. Pepper.

Director Guy Hamilton and his crew struggle to create tension amid all the flippancy and here lies Golden Gun’s major failing. The producers, writer, director or maybe all three do not seem to know what sort of film they want. It tries hard to be funny, but it’s more slapstick than ironic and this impacts what should be Bond’s saving grace: the action

There are some flair touches: Bond is suitably roughed up in Beirut, he takes a moonlight boat ride across Hong Kong harbour and there is a spectacular, if swift, car jump. But we are also presented with a series of set pieces that seem to be thrown into the film as if to fill the gaps. Bond is rescued by karate kicking school girls, assaulted by two sumo wrestlers, a black belt champion and even Nick-Nack. There is a pursuit through Bangkok’s river canals and another across its streets. None of it raises the temperature. The chases are long and the fights lack tension. Even Bond’s gun duel with Scaramanga is played out for an interminably long time, made tedious by the fact we’ve seen the set up before in a pre-title sequence that’s possibly the most pointless five minutes of the whole film. Scaramanga deserved a better send off.

Designer Syd Cain’s Fun House is a childish and unconvincing ghost ride. Bruce Lee handled theme park theatre far better in Enter the Dragon, which is clearly the inspiration. Cain’s whole solar energy complex is reminiscent of Tracy Island and when it finally blows up, I could only think how much better it was on Thunderbirds. John Barry too has caught the bug and his score is appalling, at times providing us with little more than single note musical chortles.

Golden Gun didn’t have to be so bad. The energy crisis story is good and, unlike most Bond films, still relevant today. It’s the execution of it that’s poor. The formula that worked so well for Eon for just over a decade seems to have run its course. The old guard who were once innovators were becoming imitators. They had a new James Bond; they needed a new product to go with it.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME   
17/10/08

There is a moment midway through The Spy Who Loved Me when James Bond admits to his female Russian counterpart that he killed her lover, his justification being that “you don’t have time to think when someone’s shooting at your back.” It is an unsentimental scene and Roger Moore plays it perfectly, expressing with his voice the certainty his character is right while his expression reveals the sorrow for the obvious pain he has caused. It is a powerful moment in a monumental film.

If Roger Moore finally finds his niche as Bond, and delivers his best performance, then he’s aided by producer Cubby Broccoli who belatedly throws off the shackles of the sixties and brings 007 bang up to date. We have a returning director in Lewis Gilbert, the man who helmed the visually impressive You Only Live Twice, and he brings a fresh screenwriter and a new photographer. Ken Adam also returns in abundance. The challenge was to create something from nothing, as the terms of the Fleming estate permitted only the title of Fleming’s novel to be used.

The Spy Who Loved Me touches on themes of nuclear war, food shortages and the future of mankind. The villain, Stromberg, is a maniac whose master plan is to house the survivors of a nuclear catastrophe under the sea; all he has to do is start the war. It’s insane of course, but that’s hardly relevant, what matters most is what we see on the screen and how much we enjoy it.

The movie starts at a cracking pace. Bond is skiing in Austria when he is attacked by Russian assassins; in escaping them he launches himself off a precipice and is saved from certain death by opening an emergency parachute. It is the most spectacular pre-title sequence since Thunderball and the thanks should go to ski-jumper/stuntman Rick Sylvester and cameraman/skier Willy Bogner. Aerial shots make a welcome return to enhance the scale of Bond’s predicament. From this scene on the audience knows they are watching something different. No longer is Bond tired and limping, he’s fresh, revitalised and reinvigorated.

Bond travels to Egypt where he meets the beautiful Russian agent Anya Amasova, cryptically code-named XXX. Barbara Bach is stunningly beautiful and her big round eyes and sharp face are suitably expression free; Anya is, after all, a product of the heartless Soviet Bloc. When she is required to seduce Bond, her eyelids droop and her lips part sensually; when she wishes to kill him she offers only a fixed steely stare. The scenes between Moore and Bach are excellent throughout, all yearning stares with guarded eyes. The element of will-they-won’t-they isn’t there – we know they will, but getting there is a delight. When she finally succumbs, the writer invokes It Happened One Night and the two of them undress on separate sides of an interconnecting door. Her role isn’t very physical and it’s a touch under drawn, but Bach makes the most of it, and Rosemary Burrows provides her with a series of stunning outfits to wear.

The travelogue around Egypt is well filmed by Claude Renoir, the first of a series of colourful and striking landscapes. Lewis Gilbert creates a tense atmosphere amongst the ancient tombs as 007 and XXX battle Jaws, a steel toothed seven foot killer who seems curiously impregnable. Switching swiftly to Sardinia, they meet Naomi, the buxom Caroline Munro, who also tries to kill them, this time from a helicopter, before they uncover more of the plot by using a Lotus Esprit that handily converts into a submersible. Munro has the distinction of being the first female we see Bond killing. It’s a pity she leaves the action so soon for there is some fine interplay between her, Moore and Bach.

Lastly the action moves to the Pinewood 007 Stage, or rather the interior of the Liparus oil tanker. So huge is this set, Ken Adam constructed a whole new sound stage especially for it. And it is suitably impressive, with gleaming gangways, stairways, monorails and three water tanks for the kidnapped submarines. Needless to say the plot is thwarted and the Liparus destroyed. Bond tracks his prey to Atlantis, a water bound laboratory, where he finally kills Stromberg and wins the girl. It’s all highly satisfactory, with hardly a dull moment.

Is there anything to dislike? Well, Curt Jurgens’ Stromberg may be powerful, intelligent, decadent and stark raving mad, but he never once poses a genuine threat to Bond or Anya. It takes more than killing your secretary and leaving her shark severed arm on display in an aquarium to put the frighteners on 007. If Jurgens disappoints, he can’t be blamed for trying. The character is thinly based on Blofeld, the premise being that Bond would have avenged the death of his wife, neatly transposing Anya's own revenge mission. Sadly a court injunction from Kevin McClory prevented Broccoli re-introducing SPECTRE.  One for the “if-only” brigade. In addition, Richard Kiel as Jaws, though brutishly impressive to look at, doesn’t cause our heroes any undue anxiety, except when disturbing their furtive love making.

The film is uneven at times and in between copious wry double entendres, writer Christopher Wood is referencing other Bond films. The plot is a virtual re-run of You Only Live Twice, except with submarines not space craft and it is Bond who frees the imprisoned crew, Jaws is another rendering of Oddjob, we have a special car from Q and an easily constructed wet bike a la Little Nellie, M has a hidden headquarters in an Egyptian tomb and there is even a fight on a train. Thankfully most of this is so well blended with the other bangs, crashes, kisses and uppercuts we hardly notice.

Importantly The Spy Who Loved Me has a new composer, the award winning Marvin Hamlisch. His score also dips painfully close to parody, such as when Bond and Anya walk the desert to the strings of Lawrence of Arabia or the clumsiness of the concluding male voice choir. But Hamlisch also provides an excellent finale, as the echoing music accompanies the cacophony of battle, and a whole series of evocative themes that match the silliness of what we are watching but do not overpower it. The Bond theme is revamped and Carly Simon sings an Oscar nominated title song, Nobody Does It Better.

The song title could almost have been the film title. There had been some doubts growing about James Bond; the previous few films had all failed to deliver in one way or another and Moore had not comfortably established himself in his role. But The Spy Who Loved Me dispels all those doubts, with interest. It’s a pivotal film in the James Bond canon and proved there was still life in Britain’s top secret agent. Stromberg couldn’t put it better himself: “For me this is all the world. There is beauty, there is ugliness and there is death.”  In The Spy Who Loved Me, it’s there in abundance.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

MOONRAKER   
17/10/08

When defending his critics against Moonraker, Cubby Broccoli used to talk of the Harry Houdini Syndrome: that if an audience liked something you gave them more of the same. He certainly does that here.

Moonraker is a re-run of The Spy Who Loved Me, from its plot machinations to the cast and crew. It has the same exotic look and a similarly unruffled hero. We are in another world; by the end of the film, literally.

Moonraker starts with an irrelevant but fantastic sky diving stunt, accompanied by a re-vamped Bond Theme from John Barry, who does some sterling work on this film. His title song, while slight, has a melancholic touch and he integrates this mood through film. Maurice Binder’s film sequence to accompany it is above standard, recalling his sixties heigh day.

Next, during airbourne transportation, a space shuttle is stolen and Bond is assigned to discover who is responsible. His travels take him to a French palace imported and reconstructed in the California desert, real palaces in Venice, the carnival in Rio de Janerio, Mayan temples in the Amazon and, ultimately, a space station orbiting the earth. On the way he gets into numerous scrapes and beds a bevy of beautiful, but passive, women.

It’s all splendidly photographed by Jean Tournier and magnificently realised by Ken Adam and a willing army of designers, set dressers and costumers. You can’t fault the stunt team either who give us fights in glass museums, chases on rivers and over waterfalls, a particularly nasty episode in a centrifuge machine and a stunning confrontation on the cable cars at the Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Michael Lonsdale does and an adequate job as Drax, the villain of the piece, as smooth a megalomaniac as you will ever meet. Writer Christopher Wood gives him a nice turn of phrase, never more so than when, having witnessed Bond dispatch a twenty foor anaconda, he sighs: “You defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.” 

But other than competing for the wittiest line, Lonsdale hardly raises an eyebrow of concern from Roger Moore’s Bond. Ditto Richard Kiel’s Jaws, who returns here to pad out some of the less interesting showdowns. Bond seems more likey to be curtailed by Lois Chiles’ icy Holly Goodhead, who has a handbag of tricks as smart as Bond’s own, and isn’t adverse to using her womanly charms to get her way.

Despite all the mayhem, the film is rather charmless and director Lewis Gilbert, who did such good work last time around, isn’t inclined to control it here and by the time Bond is floating about in zero gravity, we’ve given up on it also. Moonraker has all the flash high tech wizardry, but there is no place for Ian Fleming. The real Harry Houdini Syndrome on show is the disappearance of James Bond.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

"Two weeks of Bondage"

Borat sez : "Wa wa wee waa.....naughty , naughty....I like !" *grins*

Son , what you do in private is your own business and not something we'd like to know ajb007/lolajb007/tongueajb007/wink

*kidding*

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Very enjoyable reviews, chrisno1.  I do have a question, though:

chrisno1 wrote:

LIVE AND LET DIE   
16/10/08

...Mankiewicz does retain a few incidents: Bond meets Mr Big and has his finger broken

The way I remember that film, Mr. Big merely threatens to have Tee Hee cut off Bond's 'pinky' finger with his pincers, based on Solitaire's answer to a posed question.

I've always felt that Bond ought to have his pinky finger truly broken in such a sequence, and feel that Daniel Craig is just the Bond to endure such a thing...

"Blood & Ashes"...AVAILABLE on Amazon.co.uk: Get 'Jaded': Blood & Ashes: The Debut Oscar Jade Thriller
"I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
"Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

Loeffelholz wrote:

Very enjoyable reviews, chrisno1.  I do have a question, though:

chrisno1 wrote:

LIVE AND LET DIE   
16/10/08

...Mankiewicz does retain a few incidents: Bond meets Mr Big and has his finger broken

The way I remember that film, Mr. Big merely threatens to have Tee Hee cut off Bond's 'pinky' finger with his pincers, based on Solitaire's answer to a posed question.

I've always felt that Bond ought to have his pinky finger truly broken in such a sequence, and feel that Daniel Craig is just the Bond to endure such a thing...

In Craig's world I reckon he would have it busted too, however, Sir Roger as we know would never have so much as a hair put out of place.

The incident I refer to, and the others in that paragraph, occur in the novel, I was pointing out the scenes as Fleming wrote them, rather than how they were interpreted on screen. It is a bit of a clumsy sentence I agree.

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Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
18/10/08

After the space bound high-jinx of Moonraker there wasn’t anywhere else for James Bond to go but down. He does so with a crashing thump. For Your Eyes Only is the toughest Bond film for quite some time. No superficial heroics here; just good old fashioned blood and thunder –  in abundance.

For Your Eyes Only is based on two short stories from an eponymous collection of five. The first and title story, involves an avenging daughter who obstructs Bond in his assassination mission. This is swiftly dealt with in the earliest portion of the film, but the revenge theme lingers over the movie. Afer some excitement in the Italian Alps, the second story, Risico, is followed closely, then expanded to the film’s conclusion, as Bond pits his wits against two Greek smugglers, one of whom is a KGB spy.

The return of Ian Fleming’s influence to the Bond series is most welcome and for that we have to thank Richard Maibaum, who wrote almost every Bond script in the 1960s. He contributed to others, but this, in tandem with Michael G. Wilson, is his first full outing since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The change from Moonraker is evident: there is a thoughtful, coherent plot and, while the action is gutsy, it never overwhelms the story.

The film displays many of the touches associated with the most literal adaptations. We have a casino scene in not too ostentacious surroundings, a gun battle in an opium warehouse, a chase along a deserted beach,  secret messages marked on mirrors, hidden tape recorders in table decorations, a cheerful larger than life male compadre, we wallow a little in the local culture and Bond gets cut up rough during a keel hauling scene, lifted directly from Live And Let Die, and excellently replicated here. Bond dishes it out too, killing one adversary by viciously toppling his car over a cliff face.

The writers provide us with three thoroughbred Fleming characters, who all have background and motives, but they have neglected to put full flesh on their bones. Julian Glover’s Kristatos doesn’t convince as a bad guy or an underworld king pin; he lacks authority and can’t even control his teenage skating protege. Colombo is a poor man’s Kerim Bey and although Topol does the best he can, the role is under written; it’s an amusing vigorous cameo.

Carole Bouquet gets the roughest ride as Melina. Fleming’s heroine was called Judy and he descibes her as having a  beautiful wild face with soft obediant eyes. Bouquet unfortunately has neither of these. A romance develops between her and Bond, but it’s so unlikely the audience needs to be prompted by a troika driver, who mutters “Amore, amore.” Bouquet shares three key scenes with Roger Moore and there are clear parallels being drawn between Bond and Tracy, his dead wife, and Melina and her dead parents. But while Roger Moore has a lot of dialouge and comes across as sympathetic albeit realistic, Bouquet is saddled with a motive based on Greek mythology. It's a pty as Moore once again shows a deft touch for pathos.

The rest of the cast is fairly inconsequential. Cassandra Harris plays Colombo’s mistress Lisl and, while an attractive daliance, she adds nothing to the plot. There is a KGB agent who (yet again!) resembles Robert Shaw’s Grant and a bespectacled killer who remains curiously silent. The actors John Wyman and Michael Gothard don’t try too hard as their roles are spurious at best.

But I feel terribly sorry for Lynn Holly Johnson who plays the afore-mentioned skating star, Bibi, and is handed trite dialouge and an intolerable role as a lolita-ish seductress. It’s clear this was designed as a comedic interlude, but Bond’s denial of this potential bed-mate is perplexing. It isn’t funny and it draws attention to Roger Moore’s age. Bibi does score points for being the most brazen of Bond’s suitors: “The porter will do anything for me” she trills, and of Kristatos she says “He still thinks I’m a virgin,” while patting the pillow beside her in a manner not unfamiliar to James Bond. Further on she just becomes annoying. It would have been easier for Bond to take her to bed; generally his first conquest gets killed in the next reel.

Luckily most of the one liners aren’t quite so mawkish and don’t detract too much from the real business in hand which is very exciting as Bond searches the Aegean Sea for a gizmo called ATAC. Director John Glen handles the various goings on well. He doesn’t have much of an eye for detail, but he’s strong where it counts and doesn’t dwell too long over any scene or shot. The film generally is well edited, boosting our perception of the dangers unfolding before us.

The helicopter teaser is silly, but the stuntmen keep us perched on our seats by hanging perilously above the Thames dockyards. It also lays to rest the man with the white cat – he’s not named, but we all know it’s Blofeld. Bond deals with this crisis by his own hands and continues to avoid technology through the whole film, his only gadget being an excessively burglar proofed car. There is another great ski chase and Bill Conti’s zippy music score is at it’s best here when 007 is pursued by a motorcycle down a bob-run. There are some underwater heroics and a final heart in the mouth climb up a sheer mountain face to a monestary hide out. The last of these still makes me feel vertigous and Rick Sylvester again deserves plaudits for his stunt work.

Perhaps disappointingly for such a tenacious film, slapstick takes over at the end and we have a quite ridiculous scene involving the Prime Minister and a parrot. It was hilarious at the time, if a trifle schoolboyish; now it appears out of context and a little embarressing. I don’t let it detract from my overall enjoyment of For Your Eyes Only, but it is a foretaste of things to come.

24

Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

OCTOPUSSY
18/10/08
   
Octopussy is based very loosely on two of Ian Fleming’s short stories. They are buried inside the film and are hardly relevant, which is frustrating after the previous episode’s attempt return Bond to his literal roots. Instead the titular character is a wealthy  international smuggler who runs her all female operations from an island palace in Udaipur. It’s an excellent premise, but the writers do not make enough of it and instead we are presented with a confusing story about fake Faberge eggs, circuses and atomic bombs.

The teaser is some inconsequential fun involving an acroset jet and a Cuban heat seeking missile and the story proper begins well, with two knife weilding twins killing a British agent, who, disguised as a clown, has stolen one of the jewelled eggs. Photographed at twilight it has a sinister feel, recalling the atmosphere in the teaser for From Russia With Love. Sadly this is as good as Octopussy gets.   

There is so much wrong with Octopussy. It has an incomprehensible plot, numerous ineffective villains and dumb henchmen, a tired looking Roger Moore, muddy photography, no tension, and no less than three drawn out and sluggish finales. Director John Glen, his editors and writers seem out of their depth, unable to concise the action, they just aim for something bigger and longer. No one seem to have realised what a shoddy product they’re making. Nobody  much seems to care at the box office, but it’s a poor artistic return for such a healthy investment. If there are redeeming features, and I struggle to find any, all claims to quality are quickly dispelled by two recurring faults: the humour and the misogyny.

Screen writer George MacDonald Fraser was reponsible for the Flashman novels and a series of tongue in cheek swashbuckling movies in the ‘70s. He’s good at what he does, but his style doesn’t suit James Bond. He has prime billing and I recognise his hand in the cumbersome situations, laced with too many asides, too many jibes and too many visual jokes. Most of these occur during the action sequences and reduce 007 to nothing more than a stooge for props and one liners. If Bond has to impersonate ghosts, circus clowns and Tarzan to escape the bad guys, he’s really losing his touch.

And it isn’t just Bond. M and Q are given a series of quips to administer, as is Moneypenny and her new assistant, inappropriately called Miss Smallbone. Vijay Amritraj’s sole purpose is to have the fun poked at his tennis career. In fact the depiction of the Indians is particularly poor. Not only are the secret service men in Udaipur under used – Q steps into their shoes, for no sensible reason other than Desmond Llewelyn’s superior comic timing – but they are stereotypes: having won half a million rupees at backgammon, Bond chortles, “That’ll keep you in curry for a month.” There is a chase scene during which Bond passes through an unlikely market place, utilising the assorted sword swallowers, fakirs, nail beds and hot coals. None of it amuses. Equally, Q’s lab is full of daft tricks based on some 18th Century view of the sub-continent. As Moore’s incessent mocking tone and hapless mugging went on, I became increasingly uncomfortable.

He isn’t alone in the face pulling stakes. Louis Jourdan and Stephen Berkoff are a dreadful pair of the baddies. Berkoff in particular over acts from his very first sentence. Madness takes all forms, but this Russian should have been locked up long before he got a seat at the Prosidium Council. Jourdan simply can’t act and his face is set in stone throughout the film. Neither actor convinces when required to be remotely serious. Admittedly, that doesn’t happen very often.

The female leads are equally bad. Maud Adams returns to the fold as Octopussy, an older Bond girl for sure, but this seems more to remind us that Bond isn’t a young man any more. His seduction of her is crude and unlikely. The other woman is Kristina Wayborn and the writers never decide whose side she’s on, so the poor girl sits around looking stony faced and spurning Bond’s uncharismatic advances. When they finally copulate she’s so obvious even Roger Moore looks faintly embarressed.

It’s baffling that these two central characters do so little, as they inhabit potentailly pivotal roles, and the idea of a female cult that’s also doubling as a smuggling organisation isn’t without its cinematic possibilities. What grates even  more is the treatment of women in general.

The film’s very first scene has two huge Cuban officers cast salivating looks at a beautiful woman, who wears little more than a few strips of cloth and high heels. She turns out to be Bond’s aide in Cuba and later she uses her charms to similarly distract some soldiers and help Bond escape. This is just a forestaste of the flesh to come as we are confronted with so many legs, tums, bums and breasts it actually becomes a distraction. I could not count how many times Bond walks into a bar, a restaurant or a hotel and casts admiring glances at half naked women. This lecherous conduct is not endearing.

Even the stately Q, who initially berates Bond for his “adolescent antics,” leans towards the lascivious when he drops into battle in a hot air balloon, saving a band of buxom acrobats and receiving a host of hugs and kisses for his troubles. Happily received I’m sure, but a feeble jest at his expense.

Indeed Octopussy overall is a feeble enterprise, poorly conceived and badly executed. Even the exotic Indian cityscapes and a fairly worthwhile fight on top of a train can’t save this one. James Bond wasn’t supposed to be a comedian. Later audiences would have Austin Powers, but if Bond was going to blatently send himself up, the least the producers could have done was let him do it with some dignity.

25

Re: Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

A VIEW TO A KILL
18/10/08

There’s a scene in A View To A Kill when Bond and his assistant switch on a pre-recorded tape of their conversation to fool an eavesdropping surveillance team. It’s a clever little scene, but we see precious more of its ilk. There is a lot of laziness surrounding this Bond adventure and the limping heroics of Roger Moore look dated and unattractive.

The scenarios created for this never ending tale involve a stunning interlude at the Eiffel Tower, a well costumed couple of days at a beautiful French chateaux, some mischief on an oil drilling platform, an escape from a burning lift shaft, a subsequent chase with a fire engine, a flooding mine and ultimately a climax atop the Golden Gate bridge. It sounds exciting. It’s excrutiating.

Everything is a little obvious here. Bond is the odd man out at a stud farm auction; Tanya Robert’s heroine is slight, likes to be rescued a lot and screams even more; the mad doctor is clearly a Nazi scientist; the stables house the door to the laboratory; and the San Francisco cops are as hopeless as those in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Keystone. When the eventual conclusion comes upon us, we’re too worn out with the tedium to care.

The film makers can’t maintain a good scene or stunt without extending it far beyond its boiling point. Perhaps they didn’t think they had enough ideas for the whole film. As if to prove the point both Patrick MacNee’s amusing Tibbett and David Yip’s wasted Lee are both killed in a similar car wash throttling. Any tension or danger is diluted by Bond’s or his adversaries’ cheekiness. They’re a good bunch this lot, with such a nice line in humour that Bond doesn’t even bother to kill any of them. He bombards them with rock salt, wraps them in packing cases and allows them to tumble off bridges. How chilled is that?

John Barry’s music is reminiscent of Moonraker and if that film attempted to replicate Star Wars, this one feels more like a daytime television detective show. Each mystery is easily revealed; each character a cardboard cut out; each segment ending on a pun or a not too strenuous puzzle; even the cliffhangers are tame.

It’s an indolent, laid back Bond film in which everything falls neatly into place without ever putting too much stress on the actors, the crew or the audience. So nicely is it all going that Christopher Walken’s Zorin is suitably astonished when Grace Jones’ May Day thwarts his plans.

He must wonder how it all went wrong. How indeed.

Last edited by chrisno1 (19th Oct 2008 15:26)