Reviews Of James Bond Films By Professional Critics

CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

I’ve found a bunch of reviews of Bond films. Apologies if some of these have been posted before.

Lots here to comment on!

SIGHT AND SOUND October 1962

DR. NO {United Artists), It has taken James Bond a surprisingly long time, all things considered, to reach the screen, but now.that he has arrived it seems he is here to stay. Dr. No has all the look of a pilot project for a series; and a carefully prepared one at that, with Sean Connery’s Irish-accented Bond, the Jamaican setting, the midAtlantic dialogue, all suggesting a watchful eye on the American market. All the accusations made against Ian Fleming’s novels (the sadism; the snobbism; the fantasies of master criminals with their recherche torture chambers and silken splendours) can now be repeated, as they no doubt will be, against the film. Death by flame-thrower and by cyanide; attempted murder by a tarantula under the bed-clothes; electric shock; the staking out of the heroine to be crawled over by insects; the final disappearance of Dr. No into his own atomic pile: this catalogue of brutality is calculated to a fine point. And, naturally, we have Bond’s vodka martinis, his wardrobe, his expertise with guns and women, to fill in the intervals. Dr, No makes almost no appeal that is not to everyone’s worst instincts: innocent blood and thunder have been left some way behind, as Mr. Fleming drives straight for the subconscious. Terence Young has not managed to find a visual equivalent for the high vulgarity of the writer’s style, and one isn’t quite sure that the screen’s James Bond can yet tell a Facel Vega from a Lancia, a Taittinger from a Lanson; but no doubt this will come with time. Meanwhile, Dr, No IS an unusually shrewd production job, down to the really solid look of the doctor’s underwater headquarters and atomic plant, and of the flame-thrower tank he sends scurrying about his island. One really excellent joke— revealing the whereabouts of the National Gallery’s missing Goya - almost tempts one to let this reprehensible (but admittedly watchable) film off with a caution.


Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.


  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    Thanks for posting this, @CoolHandBond! Some good points, some errors, and a nice look at how the first Bond movie was seen back then.

  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,421Quartermasters

    Interesting reading. Irish accented, indeed. 😄

    Overall though, I think a pretty well considered response to the debut Bond film.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    Here's one to add @CoolHandBond

    Note: Tatius was responsible for the Rape of the Sabines in Roman myth. There are a few unfortunate derogatory words of the time being used, but only as an example of older, less enlightened writings

    James Bond leans back on his chair, pulls out his gunmetal cigarette case. The cornered geologist huddles untidily on the floor, his gun out of reach on the bearskin rug. Not a minute since, he has fired six shots from it at the sleeping form of a Chinese beauty, from whose bed, not a minute since Bond has risen.

    Bond lights his cigarette. The geologist edged the bearskin closer. He can almost touch the gun. So is Bond slipping? Can’t he see through all that Technicolor smoke? The geologist grabs the gun. Pulls the trigger. Bond speaks. “It’s a Smith and Wesson,” he says, “and you’ve had your six.” He picks up his own gun and shoots the man dead.

    This study in etiquette comes from Dr No, ‘the first James Bond film’, set in Jamaica. Bond is there to find out who is toppling American missiles as fast as they are shot up from nearly Cape Canaveral. Bond is already part of British mythology in book and comic-strip, and as more films are promised it’s worth looking at how he translates onto the screen. In Ian Fleming’s books he is a top person’s spy, with a flat in Chelsea, handmade suits and cigarettes, a cold sexuality which allows marginal involvements with all the women he wants and a dedicated hatred of Russians.

    His lineage has been traced to Tatius and the third-century Alexandrian novelists. He is also out of Bulldog Drummond, who went after Wogs, Wops and Jews and then had his pint – though in Bond’s case it’s a Medium Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred.

    Fortunately, Bond on screen has turned out a lot less nasty. Much of this is due to Sean Connery, who looks and acts tough, but is more sympathetic and less Establishment cad than his prototype.

    The rest is due to the stance of the director, Terence Young, who takes all the ingredients of the book – ‘tough, suave, sensual’ – but not too seriously. Fleming lingers sadistically over his matings and killings, as in Dr No (one of the least unpleasant of the novels at that) where the heroine is chained naked to the floor to be eaten by foot-wide crabs.

    But as Young tells the story, girls and corpses are simply moves and stops in a game played with speed and style. For example, if you’re quick you’ll spot the missing Goya in Dr No’s hideout, a riot of copper, marble and indoor gardening, an Esquire-via-Scientific American version of what the hip millionaire will want in his fallout shelter. (Interesting how the West’s enemies are conceived with Western tastes in luxury.)

    Right from the garish, abstract opening titles, as accomplished as the very best advertising, we are playing cops and robbers in consumer-land… So though the film probably forms attitudes it would be better to lose, it excites no emotions. In spite of murders, lays and anti-Sovietism, it’s fun for the whole family, and to prove it, there’s a ‘A’ certificate.

    Daily Telegraph, Pat Williams, 8/10/1962  

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    That’s certainly a better review than the Penelope Houston effort. Good find @chrisno1

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    A review of MOONRAKER and the Bond canon to date…

    FILMS ILLUSTRATED #98 October 1979

    Moonraker is the latest, loudest and most expensive of the Bond films so far, as it catapults Ken Adam’s staggering sets and Roger Moore’s plastic 007 spacewards in what’s presumably an attempt to conquer the Star Wars territory. (You may remember that this one was going to be “For Your Eyes Only’’, but the present enthusiasm for sci-fi at the box office probably suggested that a spaceorientated title would be more astute commercially.) They’ve spent a staggering amount of time and money on the ubiquitous machinery and effects but purposeful action, which is ultimately what makes a thriller thrilling, has been given a fatal miss.

    Instead, they’ve gone for mechanical slapstick in which the only way to suggest the perennially huge budget is to make sure that the million dollar hardware is blown sky high as often as possible. Explosions abound; gondolas turn hovercraft and take to the streets; motor boats vault over one another; hero and villain grapple in breathless freefall; space guerrillas duel noisily with lasers: but the plot line which supposedly connects all these admittedly spectacular stunts is almost non-existent.

    Moonraker is the Bond dream gone crazy, a glittering carnival of combustible hardware and ridiculously amplified action finally rendered impotent by its own pointlessness. The Bond team have been heading in this essentially camp direction ever since Sean Connery guyed up Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, but up until now there has always been some pretence at tension and suspense. This time there’s no tension because there’s really no plot; the feeble little story they’ve dreamed up is so confused and forgettable that you’ve forgotten it inside ten minutes. Nominally Moonraker is supposed to be about another loony scheme to take over the world, but actually it’s an excuse for the special effects boys to have themselves a field day. It’s a louder and less imaginative version of the kind of thing Joseph Losey was playing at in Modesty Blaise.

    Losey’s version of the spy game was much more refined, surreal and neurotic, a pop art toy with sadistic undertones, but it also served to demonstrate the impasse you reached if you took away the plot. Despite its ingenuity and invention it was really no more than an extended series of cinematic happenings loosely based around the espionage theme. The problem, the implicit one, was that there was no basic core of interest to tie the extravagance down and give it some sense of direction. Losey’s film lost out at the box office because it felt loose and aimless and in 1966, the year everyone was making spy movies, they needed to be jetpropelled.

    Moonraker reverses the most basic principle of the Bond genre; it turns the spy thriller back into a commercial. Ian Fleming’s James Bond was an intensely traditional figure made plausible by being given a contemporary lifestyle. By wrapping his creation up in a post-war Civil Service routine and by insisting that he was a paid professional not an amateur aristocrat, Fleming had cleverly suggested that the patriotic dragon slayer could exist believably in the materialistic society of the ’50s and ’60s. The films took this revamping of a traditional figure in an anti-traditional age a stage further. Sean Connery’s Bond wasn’t the dandy adventurer of Fleming’s novels but a translation of this old-fashioned character into the imagery of the ’60s copywriters. The sleek, dinner-jacketed Bond and the technological playland he inhabited was an extremely deft exploitation of the superficial glamour of the new affluence. In a very real sense, Bond was an athletic male model who had mobilised the luxury world of the consumer commercial, given it purpose and added the thriller ingredients of violence and danger. Most of the ’60s movie spies modelled on the Connery prototype were a debonair combination of playboy and commando, high-living charmers with a soldier’s sense of purpose. They had taken the consumer commercial and given it wings, grafted an adventure story on to the copywriters’ chic fantasy of available sex and mechanised sophistication and implied that the world of expensive things could actually go somewhere. The commercial promised you instant satisfaction and material luxury; the Bond movies told you a story as well.

    Sean Connery’s lithe and virile Bond was the ideal hero for this process; dangerously handsome and insolently cool, with a lethal savoir faire that made him the effortless master of his own violent fantasy. Whether slugging it out aboard the Orient Express in From Russia With Love or battling through the deep blue seas of Thunderbatt, he was the image of the expensive jet-setter who had grabbed himself a slice of the action. Connery-Bond was an elegant embodiment of many of the things the ’60s admired: young, anarchic, impertinent, promiscuous and classless while nominally toeing the line as a hired Government agent.

    The wry Scots brogue and the nonchalant physical grace of the performance put paid to any suggestions of aristocratic effeteness or clubland accents. There was a popular contemporary callousness to Connery’s deadly cool, a suave insolence that always stayed just on the straight side of hip. It wasn’t until 1973 and the disappointing Live and Let Die that Roger Moore revived the image of Bond as an archetypal English gentleman, and traded in Connery’s cigarettes for dapper little cigars. The high-living commando became the well-heeled dilettante, and most of the sting of the lethal ’60s image was drawn.

    In the ’60s Bond hadn’t just acted as a display case for the enticing glamour world of jet-set sex and sophisticated technological marvels; it had taken the thriller and used it to give this world a central propulsion system. The early Bonds rushed headlong through their plots throwing the sophisticated packaging aside with impertinent style. Their stories were fast, logical and hardedged, and they provided an essential backbone for the potentially camp playlands in which they were based. The Bond movies were serious as well as knowing, and it was this endearing ingenuousness that made them so uniquely appealing. They could have you on the edge of your seat with delight and surprise because they were in it to thrill you, not just to make you laugh.

    Kingsley Amis, in a television programme put out just before the release of Diamonds Are Forever, warned prophetically of the dangers of the whole routine turning into a joke; it was so much easier to say to an audience, “Look, isn’t this all terribly amusing?’’ than really thrilling them. In fact. Amis was talking about the jokey combat scenes in Thunderball but, looking back on it, he might just as well have been giving us a prescription for what Bond was to do the whole way through the ’70s.

    Diamonds are Forever saw Connery returning to the Bond role after George Lazenby’s strait-laced gaffe in the. otherwise first class On Her Majesty’s, Secret Service; it also saw the moviemakers losing faith in the excitement principle as they piled all the luxuriance they could muster into a wittily written black comedy that allowed Connery to send his ’60s superstud image sky-high, This time Connery was an adroit comedian larking about with his own legend, a star performer a thousand times more effortlessly urbane and flippant than the rather plodding and weary movie they’d built for him. Diamonds Are Forever was fun because Connery made it fun; when they tried the same send-in-theclowns principle in the slipshod Live and Let Die, the style of the thing fell flat on its face in favour of a form of giggly slapstick. They turned witty thriller into slapstick spectacular, and the dextrous and highly original double act of comedy and thrills that the early Bonds initiated has been outlawed by this essentially timid reliance on self-conscious spoof.

    The whole routine has turned camp, and camp, in the end, is parasitic. The present Bonds are doing the things the second-rate ’60s rip-offs used to do. There’s not much difference between Our Man Flint and Moonraker as far as tone is concerned, except that Moonraker isn’t as much fun, Moonraker is the ultimate insistence that the spy movie can rely on a showy spirit of jokey aimlessness and still pull in the crowds, but you wonder, watching this jaded firework display, just how long people are going to keep flocking to such graceless overkill. There are signs that audiences are getting fed up with being palmed off with what’s really substitute Bond. The lead letter in the Daily Mail of July 2 sounded distinctly annoyed and disenchanted with the “loud guffaws’’ and “silly toys’’ of which Moonraker had been full. Whether this is going to indicate a sizeable drop in audience numbers is something that only time will tell, but it does show that the general shoddiness of the series is not going unnoticed.

    For a parade-style fun movie, Moonraker looks handsome enough, but its style is really just picturesque; the above-average compositions don’t contribute to the atmosphere, they merely look pretty and slick. In the old days the Bond movies didn’t disperse themselves as widely over the globe as this one does, and they each tried to build up some distinctive visual feel of their own. They managed to get the warm yellow of gold into virtually every frame of the stylish Goldfinger: Freddie Young (who used to shoot movies for David Lean) made the Japan of You Only Live Twice superbly rich and luxuriant; they got some gloriously clear Alpine photography in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Ted Moore captured something of the dusty spaces of the Far West in Diamonds are Forever. In Moonraker they go to so many places and try to kid you you’re inside so many different sets that you lose all sense of place, design or atmosphere. You never get your bearings as you need to in a movie like this because they keep on shunting you round the universe in case you get bored and want to go home. In its glossy way the resulting melange is giddy and unattractive: there’s no single dominating image you can take away from Moonraker, not like the shining interior of Fort Knox, or the gleaming volcano of You Only Live Twice, or those knock-your-socks-off Alpine chases in OHMSS, or that cavernous supertanker in The Spy Who Loved Me. The movie doesn’t look ugly and flat, like the Matt Helm films used to, but it does feel it and it doesn’t look distinguished either. The sheer expense of the thing seems to have scared off everyone’s sense of style. Moonraker tries to go everywhere and show you everything but ends up a confusing jumble, lacking a plot to hold it together and a star to keep it alive.

    Roger Moore as Bond isn’t a star because he doesn’t have the style or the outsize personality for it; he’s an amiable asteroid on loan from television. His personality is small, perky and smug, and he’s best in long-shot when he’s not moving. In close-, up you see straight through the awful middle-aged youthfulness to the flabby jowls and the one expression he’s learned he can get by with from television. As a performer he’s so neutral that he has a kind of vacancy, a substitute for the clean-cut heroism you’re not being given. When he delivers a joke he’s so keen for you to get it that he drops it like a lead weight; years of television have taught him that you have to adopt this inflexible obviousness if you intend to stay the course. If you’re adequately weightless in everything, the chances are that people will get used to you and you’ll go ongetting pans. Watching Moore coasting through Moonraker on autopilot, you can see exactly why Connery said recently that he thought he played the part with more subtlety and greater weight .

    Moore can’t move and he can’t really deliver dialogue and he hasn’t the star charisma that would forgive the other two. Moonraker is built round a star but it hasn’t got one, and all the paraphernalia that’s designed to show him off ends up supporting him. Moore isn’t keeping all this expensive packaging alive, as Connery did with that insolently witty performance in Diamonds are Forever, but gliding through, hoping the way-out hardware will disguise the vacuum at the centre. At best Moore was a lightweight charmer who was energetic enough for you to forgive his badness. He was quite punchy as “The Saint’’; second string David Niven cropped to fit the television screen. And when he moved on to “The Persuaders’’ his Lord Brett Sinclair seemed tolerably right because the whole set-up was a superior snigger at fringe espionage and Moore was the eipitome of the ’60s tele-star ready to camp up his own past. But there’s no energy in the Moonraker script and Moore wanders helplessly through this demented Disneyland like a chat show host looking for a show. This time they ask him to play James Bond flat on his back, and he simply doesn’t have Connery’s laid-back wit.

    It’s no good putting all of the blame on to Roger Moore for the way the series is going. Moore isn’t good but it’s the moviemakers who are insisting that he’s this obvious throwaway goon who’s only idea of a comedy is smart-arsed slapstick. They’ve buried the series in jokes.

    They’ve got so uneasy about their creation that the only response they’re allowing you is the snigger. Moonraker is a milliondollar titter machine that looks pretty close to exhaustion. There’s simply not a great deal you can do with the titter, and, as they roil the surprises out of the cupboard and explode yet another expensive set, you begin to see the rudimentary mechanism at work and you marvel at its paucity.

    The change of life isn’t satisfactory. Bond has evolved into a plotless version of the machine-mad television series “Thunderbirds’’, and it’s got a dummy at the centre who behaves like a push-button Superman. They’ve made the whole thing too easy. Bond no longer has to work at the problems he’s set, he just flicks a switch and he’s free. The whole idea of logic backing up the implausible has been jettisoned in favour of the gag principle.

    In his novel “Thunderball’’, Fleming gave you a run-down on the complex propulsion systems driving Largo’s yacht “The Disco Volante’’ simply to get you to believe in the thing; in the same spirit Desmond Llewelyn’s marvellously tetchy Q explained exactly how Connery’s Aston Martin DB5 worked in Goldfinger, and even assembled a pocket helicopter in front of your very eyes in You Only Live Twice so that you could see how it was done. Now they just chuck the machines at you with a blithe indifference to plausibility; in fact, the more obviously silly these devices are, the more likely it is that they’ll get the requisite laughs. Facetious gadgets litter Moonraker but they’re all sniggery jokes, like Derek Flint’s impossible multi-purpose cigarette lighter. Bond’s ludicrous gondola that suddenly converts into a hovercraft via a speedboat looks as if it’s straight out of a lavish episode of “Batman”, particularly with Bond sitting primly atop the thing while a stagey crowd spills beer over itself in caricature amazement. Moonraker is spin-off Bond with a broad smirk on its face, and the moviemakers have never been in more danger than this of imitating their imitators.

    On the credit side, Lois Chiles is a gorgeous, witty heroine who acts the pants off everyone in sight; the pre-credit aerial sequence is breathlessly well-staged; the sets and effects may win the film an Oscar or two, and John Barry has written a lousy title song but a lovely symphonic score to go with it.

    The packaging is superb; it’s how they use it and what’s inside that’s disappointing.


    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    Well, at least he was correct in praising John Barry's score. I could point out some errors of fact but as for the rest he's as entitled to his opinion as anyone else, although there was a vein of nastiness which leaves a bad taste.

  • The Red KindThe Red Kind EnglandPosts: 3,256MI6 Agent

    ... and he's incorrect (IMO) about the title song. I love it! And certainly the score is brilliant.

    "Any of the opposition around..?"
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    FILMS ILLUSTRATED said: Kingsley Amis, in a television programme put out just before the release of Diamonds Are Forever, warned prophetically of the dangers of the whole routine turning into a joke; it was so much easier to say to an audience, “Look, isn’t this all terribly amusing?’’ than really thrilling them. In fact. Amis was talking about the jokey combat scenes in Thunderball but, looking back on it, he might just as well have been giving us a prescription for what Bond was to do the whole way through the ’70s.


    whats this about a Kingsley Amis television program where he analyses the films? is there really such a thing? if so has anybody seen it, or even better is it maybe up on youtube?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    It was an interview with one Brian Connell. I don't think it's available on the Tube. The quote about it being so much easier, etc, comes from "The James Bond Dossier" though of course he may have repeated it during the interview.

    Our friend @Silhouette Man has more from Amis on his blog which may be of interest

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,371MI6 Agent

    'Explosions abound; gondolas turn hovercraft and take to the streets; motor boats vault over one another; hero and villain grapple in breathless freefall; space guerrillas duel noisily with lasers...'

    He's sold me on it!

    Actually, a lot of film criticism was like that back then; indeed Tarantino's book Celluloid Speculation roasts some of the 1970s LA critics because they struck up that sneering attitude, then again I suppose I do it with the Craig films, what you don't like you don't like. I recall I think in a mag called Film Review a piece on For Your Eyes Only - the writer didn't like it, didn't like Moore, it was a takedown. I sort of agreed, but then again, as Barbel says, it's the tone of it, the relentlessness.

    BTW Congrats to @CoolHandBond for typing that out!

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,751MI6 Agent
    edited March 27

    I believe it refers to this programme from 23 December 1971:

    I've been researching literary Bond topics over the last while using a paid subscription to The British Newspaper Archive and have uncovered some interesting stuff, including reference to this half hour TV programme on the Westward service. I hope to use some of my findings in upcoming blog articles or other projects. Like @Barbel says above I suspect this is lost to time unless anyone recorded it and eventually uploads it to YouTube. Of course it could still be in the TV archives somewhere though a lot of stuff was taped over and not kept in the earlier days of TV. There is a bit of Kingsley Amis stuff on YouTube but only really one directly Bond related thing I can think of - an upload of Amis, Amis and Bond from BBC Radio 4 [2007]:

    Amis, Amis & Bond (

    However there is the following interesting review of Licence to Kill by Amis in a segment on the BBC World Service radio arts show called Meridian, dated 16 June 1989:

    BBC World Service - Meridian, Kingsley Amis on Bond

    I think Amis was wheeled out as a celebrity fan (and of course the author of three books on Bond) any time there was the need for a "talking head" so I'm sure he had plenty of Bond related TV and radio appearances over the years.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    thanks fellers, I'm always surprised how many places Amis has commented on Bond books or films.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,751MI6 Agent
    edited March 27

    Yes, me too. I tend to think of writers as always being at their desk slaving over a typewriter but of course they appeared on TV and radio for book promotion and other purposes too. Sadly I wasn't around to witness the Golden Age of Kingsley Amis and others such as John Gardner commenting on the Bond films from a literary perspective. I know there was also a programme on BBC Radio in 1967 or so which featured Amis as a commentator though that was more on the literary Bond I think.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    That Moonraker piece was, well, something I could both agree with an detest. I enjoyed the appraisal of the Bond films up to 1979, how the central character had evolved; I get that totally. But his dismissal of MR is well beyond harsh. Mind, I think quite a few Bond fans would agree wholeheartedly with his POV.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,371MI6 Agent

    Amis was interviewed by the James Bond British Fan Club in the early 1980s, he was good value but oddly (it now seems) that membership was not overly keen on Moore, that was just the commonly held belief, oddly shared by me who took the view - encouraged by my parents to some extent - that Connery was the real Bond etc etc Just as the Beatles were superior to Wings.

    Amis was scornful of the pre-credits of The Spy Who Loved Me, and the union flag parachute opening and of course it is ridiculous in a way, but it's also brilliant.

    Could look up the issue and give it a scan if you like?

    In those days, you couldn't do a 'one side but then again the other' review.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 600MI6 Agent
    edited March 27

    The reviewer's reference to "third-century Alexandrian novelists" indicates that this Tatius is not the one responsible for the rape of the Sabines but rather the second century novelist from Alexandria who wrote Leucippe and Clitophon.

    I'd never heard of Andrew Rissick before but now I'd like to read more by him, especially his book The James Bond Man: The Films of Sean Connery. I can understand why some might dislike his tone, but I think he was mostly right about the "jokey aimlessness" of the "jaded firework display" that is Moonraker ... aside from his praise of Lois Chiles. How could she act the pants off everyone when she could barely stay awake?

    Anyway, to continue this excellent thread, here is the Sunday Times review of Dr. No, excerpted from "Porgy, Bess and Dr No" by Dilys Powell (Oct. 7, 1962):

    Efficiency: perhaps that doesn't sound high praise, for Dr No (London Pavilion: director Terence Young; Technicolor; A), but I mean it as high. The first of the James Bond films (I trust there will be others) has the air of knowing exactly what it is up to, and that has not been common in British thrillers since the day when Hitchcock took himself off to America. The jokes (one of them, a beauty, has been buzzing round London all the week) are tossed away with exactly the right carelessness. The excitements have a right little skincrawling effect, but they aren't over-emphasised; the hair's-breadth escape from the ambush is handled with the nonchalance proper to agent 007: all in the day's work, now for the next, please.

    That is as it should be with a film based on an Ian Fleming thriller. Dr No by the way, is the one about the painful goings-on at Crab Key, the island, somewhere off Jamaica, which doesn't like to be visited. The screenplay (by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather) makes them less painful than in the original: the red-hot ventilator-shaft but not the cageful of tarantulas, not the giant squid. You couldn't accuse the film of sadism, even the deliberately risible, surreal sadism of Mr Fleming's books: this James Bond is never obliged to scream.

    The player, Sean Connery, I find admirable in the first half of the story, where his impassive good looks and casual delivery of the retort to danger are just what is needed. In the latter half a shade more anxiety wouldn't hurt; but then the latter half with its romantic encounter and its science-fiction laboratory is itself not as sharply devised. Never mind: all good and, I am glad to say, not quite clean fun.

  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 600MI6 Agent
    edited March 27

    And while I'm at it, here's the Sunday Times review of From Russia With Love.


    Don't Ask Me About the Periscope

    By Dilys Powell (Sunday Times, Oct. 13, 1963)

    It is a serial without the tedium of waiting for next week's installment. It is Rocambole and Fantomas, it is Pearl White and The Perils of Pauline and The Exploits of Elaine, but witty. It is the Clutching Hand, but for you and me. I am speaking, of course, of the second Ian Fleming-James Bond film, the one based on From Russia With Love (Odeon, Leicester Square; director Terence Young; Technicolor; A).

    And now the problem of praising without betraying. Eager to share, I rushed home from the Press show, but as I began to recount the savage little jest of the pre-credits sequence I realised that even there foreknowledge was ruinous: stalking-match, mask, roll-up rapier, time-keeper, I had to keep them all to myself. Even to talk about the credits themselves, wickedly undulating across the anatomy of a bellydancer—no, nothing to be done except give recognition where it was due and thank the designers, Robert Brownjohn and Trevor Bond.

    I can, I suppose, go so far as to say that agent 007 is assigned the job of stealing a Russian decoding machine; that he knows there is a trap somewhere; and that though Russian agents are involved the ultimate enemy isn't Russia (no political mischief, in fact). I can mention the cast too: Daniela Bianchi as the lovely decoy; Pedro Armendariz, engagingly brisk as a Turkish ally, a Mr Fixit; Robert Shaw addressing himself with ferocious calm to the role of the killer; and, composed and debonair among the anxious figures of the assorted spies and counter-spies lurking in railway stations, hotel foyers and mosques, Sean Connery as, once again, James Bond: a James Bond with the sexual arrogance and the cool delivery of the throwaway line proper to Mr Fleming's hero.

    And the script—no harm in a few words about that: Richard Maibaum's screenplay (which adapts its original pretty freely) is punctuated by smart cracks; by visual jokes too, impudent, ironic or Stygian. But on the exact shape of the jokes and their relation to the plot; on the lightning succession of attacks and escapes, twists and tricks; on the complex of splendid absurdities which are the delight of the entertainment my lips have to be sealed. I can't tell you about the helicopter and the speed-boats,the defensively packed suitcase, the all-emergency boots and the providential periscope in the basement.

    I may refer to scenes in Istanbul (my regret at having once missed the chance of visiting the place is aggravated by a film so gaily shot in colour) but not to the peculiar uses of a film poster. No ban on the Venice chess international (if there were I should be tempted to defy it and pay tribute to a passage so brilliant in plan and so sinister in detail), but I have to keep mum about the fighting fish and the lap-eat—and not a whisper about the tape-recorder joke, the camera joke and the knuckleduster joke.

    Permissible, possibly, to say something about the style of From Russia With Love; and here, cautiously skirting the place of the scenes in the story, I can recommend the sense of urgency which the director and his team have infused into the train sequence; the arrival at Zagreb, for instance, is beautifully done, full of imprecise alarm. Or I might applaud the respect for etiquette which governs the first encounter of two strangers of opposite sexes, the frailer of them unheralded and nude in the other's bed; the film is all for good form.

    Even the violence has its rules: you don't, I mean, chuck a man into the Adriatic without untying his hands. But the formality is never overdone: the gypsy punch-up and the battle—a smasher in every way—in the railway compartment have a freehand effect: bang as bang can. I am aware of the inventions, the smooth and exact skills which have gone to the making of From Russia With Love. But what results is a film to be accepted as one used to accept the cinema when it was new and full of its own enthusiasms. A film, in fact, to be simply and uproariously enjoyed.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent
    edited March 28

    When I started this thread I was hoping for some debate about the reviews - well, it has certainly exceeded my expectations! Thanks to all who have contributed and thanks to @Revelator for adding some more reviews. Dilys Powell was always one of the greatest defenders of the Bond films when other reviewers were less than impressed.

    To keep to MOONRAKER here is the review from James Bond In The Cinema author John Brosnan from Starburst #13 (1979)

    The first few minutes of Moonraker sets the tone for the rest of the movie— a stunt sequence of literally breath-taking brilliance involving Bond being thrown out of a plane without a parachute is ruined when it degenerates into pure absurdity. The pursuing villain, Richard Kiel, fails to open his parachute in time and plunges through the top of a circus tent, causing it to slowly collapse. Humour has always played an important part in the Bond films but in Moonraker it's carried to ridiculous extremes — to the detriment of the movie as a whole.

    What’s worse, the humour is on a level that makes the average Carry On film look positively sophisticated by comparison, and this applies to both the corny slapstick and the dialogue. Scriptwriter Christopher Wood's double entendres are so appallingly juvenile that even Kenneth Williams would hesitate before unleashing them upon an audience. But as Wood, under the pseudonym of Timothy Lea, was responsible for the Confessions of a Window Cleaner series of books and films I suppose that's to be expiected . . .

    Not that Wood should bear all the blame: according to producer Cubby Broccoli the Bond scripts are written by committee. "I sit down with the writer, director and executive producer," said Broccoli, "and we decide what we want in the script. We have discussions, we have ideas. The final decision is made by me." I can imagine Broccoli and his team falling off their chairs with laughter when they came up with some of the ideas that made it into Moonraker and perhaps at the time they seemed good: "Hey, what if Bond's gondola is really a high-powered, armoured speed-boat with a whole mess of hidden gadgets?" "Yeah, great idea Cubby! And when he's finally cornered in a canal he presses a button and the gondola turns into a hovercraft!" "Marvellous!" "Yeah . , . and then the hovercraft goes up these steps leading into a square full of amazed tourists. It will be just like that scene we had in The Spy Who Loved Me when Bond's underwater car drives up onto the beach and surprises everyone, only it'll be a lot funnier. We can have shots of drinkers doing double-takes as Bond goes by and waiters spilling things ... we can even cut to shots of a dog and a pigeon doing double-takes! Nobody's ever done that before!" "Great, boys, just great!" says Broccoli, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, "and then we can have one of Bond's pursuers lose his balance and fall into the canal . . ." Shrieks of laughter follow.

    Well, believe it or not, all the above does appear in one of the sequences in Moonraker and while watching those scenes I decided that the Bond series had gone about as far down the tube it could possibly go without reaching China.

    Most of the absurdities in Moonraker concern the "Jaws" character, played by the giant Richard Kiel, who first appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me. In that film his apparent invulnerability was an amusing gimmick that was handled quite well but this time, like so much else in Moonraker, it's carried to extremes. Apart from falling thousands of feet out of a plane he survives crashing through a building in a runaway cable car, plunging over a waterfall and falling to Earth in the wreckage of a space station. They provide him with a romantic interest — a pneumatic little blonde who looks as if she came off a calender advertising farm machinery, and the mawkish scenes they have together were, no doubt, supposed to be amusingly touching but had me writhing with embarrassment. Even worse, he's turned into a sympathetic character at the end and actually helps Bond to defeat the villain.

    One has long given up expecting the Bond films to have any sort of logical plot development — the story exists only as a tenuous link between the action set pieces — but in Moonraker the total lack of narrative progression is hard to ignore. For instance, after the sequence where Bond has gone to great and complicated lengths to escape from a squadron of the villain's armed motor boats in some remote section of the Amazon river he then simply walks into the villain's headquarters without making any attempt at concealment. Some secret agent — he might as well carry a neon sign around with him.

    As for the plot itself, it bears little resemblance to the original, but that's understandable because Ian Fleming's novel was published back in 1955 and is a little dated now. It concerns a mysterious millionaire called Hugo Drax who is helping to finance the British space program (how times change) out of his own pocket. He has set up a base on the South coast of England where he is planning to launch his Moonraker rocket — the first step in putting a Briton on the moon. However Drax is really a Nazi agent and plans to wreak vengeance for Germany's defeat in World War 2 by having Moonraker, complete with nuclear warhead, land right in the middle of London. But of course he is thwarted by James Bond who alters the guidance mechanism in the rocket, causing it to land on top of the submarine that Drax is using for his escape (interestingly, the gimmick was used in The Spy Who Loved Me thwarted by James Bond who alters the guidance mechanism in the rocket, causing it to land on top of the submarine that Orax is using for his escape (interestingly, the gimmick was used in The Spy Who Loved Me).

    In the film version of Moonraker Drax has gone up in the world — he's a multi-billionaire and obviously the richest man alive — and Moonraker is now the name of the space shuttle that Drax's company is manufacturing for NASA. Drax's ambitions have also increased in scale along with his fortune — he intends to wipe out all human life on Earth and replace it with a specially bred race of perfect people who will obey his every command while he orbits above them in his space station like a god. Naturally Bond, with a little help from a squad of laser-firing American astronauts, brings Drax and his Olympian dream back down to Earth with a spectacular bump . . .

    The outer space sequences provide the best moments in the film thanks to the special effects supervised by Derek Meddings which are simply brilliant. All the model work looks remarkably good and very convincing but the most impressive miniature is the space station based on Ken Adam's design (his interior for the space station is equally impressive). The sequence where Bond and Holly first glimpse it as they approach in their space shuttle is the most memorable in the film — it appears as a row of jewelled lights in the darkness of space then gradually comes into full view as it moves out of the Earth's shadow — though I do realize it owes a lot to the similar scene in Star Wars.

    The battle in space between the Americans and Drax's men is also impressive, particularly when you consider how difficult it must have been to stage (shots of live actors were intercut with long shots of puppets on wires). Unlike the similar battle in Thunderball (similar because it took place underwater and therefore movements were slowed down) this one moves at a fast pace and is visually exciting.

    As for the cast, the plastic Roger Moore is back as James Bond and either he's getting better or I'm getting more tolerant in my old age. I didn't find him as objectionable as usual though I still maintain he is miscast in the role — more James Bland than James Bond. Michael Lonsdale, however, is excellent as Drax. Though nothing iike the bizarre figure in the original novel (a plastic surgeon had made a mess of his face) Lonsdale succeeds in endowing the character with a genuine air of menace, something that has been missing from the chief Bond villains for some time. Lois Chiies as Holly Goodhead is also one of the best Bond women in a long time, though the script could have provided her with some better lines (it could have provided everyone with some better iines). And at the risk of sounding sexist I was very disappointed that she didn't appear once in the costume she's barely wearing on all the posters advertisirig the movie. That's what I call a serious violation of the Trades Descriptions Act.

    For all my quibbles (some of which are large ones, as Mr Wood would say) Moonraker is still basically good fun and I suppose that's all it's supposed to be, but I can't help wishing that the script at least measured up to all the technical expertise that went into the making of the fiim.

    And to end on an even sourer note — after the stunning impact of the pre-credits sequence John Barry's theme song for Moonraker came as an even greater anticlimax and must rank as the most forgettable of all the Bond themes. It's hard to believe that it came from the same composer responsible for Goldfinger or On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I even preferred Marvin Hamlisch's "Nobody Does It Better" theme in The Spy Who Loved Me, which is a sad thing for a John Barry fan to have to admit.



    So, another review which tallies with the one by Andrew Rissick. I will add that in private conversations with John Brosnan he was scathing of the way that Cubby took the series with Roger’s influence in making them comedic entries. He was even more dejected that Cubby got his extended version of James Bond In The Cinema banned from publication in the UK though the injunction was dismissed in the USA and it was published there.

    At the time of release I did not like MR. I didn’t like the way the films were going. I thought the title song was awful. Since then, and in hindsight of how the films went after the appointment of Pierce Brosnan, my opinion has softened a lot. I regard the Moore era as a good one, albeit that I think he should have called it a day after FYEO. I’m still unimpressed by the soundtrack, although I know I’m pretty much alone in that opinion.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    @Revelator wrote: The reviewer's reference to "third-century Alexandrian novelists" indicates that this Tatius is not the one responsible for the rape of the Sabines but rather the second century novelist from Alexandria who wrote Leucippe and Clitophon.

    Thanks for that. I did wonder why such an obscure, unjustified and unevidenced reference to James Bond's treatment of women was included in the review !

  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 600MI6 Agent

    Thanks again Cool Hand--I again have to agree with most of Brosnan's points. But I will also agree with you in thinking MR seems less awful nowadays. I also agree that the theme song wasn't one of greatest Barry's best efforts.

    Traveling back in time to the mid-60s, I found that Dilys Powell didn't review Goldfinger, but she made sure to catch the follow-up and left an insightful review.


    Blood and Thunderball

    By Dilys Powell (Sunday Times, Jan. 2, 1966)

    If you look back on the pre-Dr No, pre-Moonraker, pre-Thunderball world you can see that thriller-fiction used to be a great deal less detailed. In those simple days hero and villain blew one another up with uncomplicated explosives, shot one another with any old gun and drank, even in the advanced society of Los Angeles, nothing more recondite than a fifth of Bourbon. The first contribution of Ian Fleming was to fill in the picture.

    He made other contributions: the strong brisk writing, the delirious plot-inventions, especially the character fantasies, with at their head dear James Bond himself, a happy amalgam of Henry V and Ethel M. Dell (you remember the “dark, rather cruel face”?). But it was the packed detail—the movements at golf or chemin de fer, the choice of the hero’s tie, champagne, revolver, and car—which gave the stories the solidity to make you read on while at the same time lifting the whole affair into the realm of a high-life dream. In that stratosphere nothing could be taken seriously, and to grumble about the violence and call it sadism merely marked the critic as a solemn prig.

    Now that the fourth of the Fleming films—Thunderball (London Pavilion and Rialto; director Terence Young; Technicolor; A)—has appeared one can take stock of the way the cinema has, dealt with the problems of translation; for James Bond offered problems as well as a gold-mine. The character of 007 himself has from the start come off splendidly in Sean Connery’s poker-faced throwaway delivery; the screen has even sharpened the insolence of the lines now and then (the screenplay here is by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham joining in as story-writers). The difficulty is the detail. A pity to reject something which gives the Fleming cycle so much of its entertainment; on the other hand precision about drinks and clothes and cars, funny in print, won’t work on the Panavision screen.

    The cinema, then, lays the stress on another kind of detail: gadgets. The meeting of the criminal organization SPECTRE and the contraption for electrocuting an erring member at the table; the underwater chariot by means of which the atomic weapons in the hi-jacked NATO plane can be removed and hidden—Fleming himself put plenty of gadgets into Thunderball. The film, enlarging the story of the threat to use the weapons unless a ransom is paid, piles on more: the car with anti-pursuit firehose, the radio-active pill which, once swallowed, signals the hero’s whereabouts, the sliding metal cover of the swimming pool and the handy entrance for the sharks. It throws in some extra adventures: more fights, escapes, corpses. It even throws in another girl or two, presumably for the sake of providing Bond with what he would call Exercise. What it doesn’t throw in is more character.

    My favourite among the 007 films is still From Russia with Love; the enlarging process then hadn’t got the upper hand over Fleming’s wicked astringent jest, and the piece was the smartest, the funniest, the one with the greatest number of players whom you wanted to watch. In Thunderball Bond himself is faintly diminished by an excess of contraptions which never leave him at a loss. Mechanical ingenuity undermines human resource, and you can have too much of the pocket breathing device and the do-it-yourself rocket—just as you can have too many cars and yachts bursting into flames; in this exercise in fire and water I found myself disproportionately grateful for any scrap of real acting: for the way the late Reginald Beckwith, in an obscure silent role, indicated character by his walk, for Desmond Llewelyn’s curt sketch of a dispenser of secret equipment.

    Thunderball, in fact, has been blown up too big. In that huge compendium of huge shenanigans you can sometimes lose track of who is doing what and why, sometimes miss a wry joke (and there are some brilliant ones). But then the story rushes on, and in the rattle of explosions and sudden death you forget to inquire further. In one department, though, size is to the good. Ken Adam has designed for SPECTRE’s concealed boardroom a set in which you could comfortably accommodate the finale of Götterdämmerung; bravely keeping up, M and his lot meet in an office reminiscent in height of the interior of St. Paul’s; size makes the joke. Marks to the long under-water sequences too: the best tank-fights I can remember.

    And really when I come to look back on it, Thunderball, blown up big or not, in over two hours, includes not a minute’s boredom. The cinema was a duller place before 007.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    Thanks for another great Dilys Powell review @Revelator TB is Connery’s best performance as Bond in my opinion and the film is the one that resonates most with me at the cinema as a 9-year old in 1965. It sits easily in my top 5 favourite Bond movies.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    And it would in mine, too, if I made lists. This (and it's companion thread) are providing essential reading.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    Dilys Powell always wrote good reviews and was always a supporter of Bond

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    Here is another from the archives:

    From Russia With Love is the new James Bond instalment and hilariously maintains the disinfecting, larky tone of its predecessor. Two gypsy girls scrap (rather tamely), poisoned knives sprout from the toes of villain’s boots, and a gun is ominously aimed at Bond’s privates by Robert Shaw’s assassin – “homicidal maniac, splendid material” as the principal of a murder college points out. These screen doings-over of the Fleming books certainly have their small hints of real nastiness. But the interesting thing is what has forcibly to become explicit on screen is a hundred times milder than the horrible imaginings stimulated by Mr Fleming’s elliptic pages: better yet, it tends to come out funny. Terence Young and his script writer, Richard Maibaum, give Bond (Sean Connery, again) some nice laconic cracks to round off the surreal events of his working day. A bad man crawls out between Anita Ekberg’s lips on a giant hoarding and is picked off through telescopic sights. “She should have kept her mouth shut,” drawls Bond. Mr Young’s direction is still hazy when it comes to simple exposition and Lotte Lenya’s impersonation of evil old Rosa Klebb disappoints, but a genuine filmic sense animates the fantasy – from a blinding pre-credit sequence in the grounds of that school for murder on to the final, literal flare up. There’s even a death-dealing helicopter – and thank you, Hitchcock, Losey and all who flew in her before.

    New Statesman, John Coleman, 11/10/1963  

  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 600MI6 Agent

    Thanks for that revealing piece! The New Statesman critic says the parts of books made explicit on screen are "a hundred times milder than the horrible imaginings stimulated by Mr Fleming’s elliptic pages." But one may quibble with "explicit"—the Bond films have always toned down the violence from the books. The novel's fight with Red Grant was a literal bloodbath, starting with a knife to the groin; in the film it was a comparatively bloodless scuffle ending in strangulation. One can make similar observations throughout the course of the series—even the 2006 Casino Royale has a bloodless torture scene compared with Fleming's.

    That the violence "tends to come out funny" was a necessity back when movies were still emerging from the restrictions of censorship, whether self-imposed (as in the US) or external (the UK). Richard Maibaum stated that the delay in starting the Bond films was for the best, because even a couple years earlier the restrictions on sex and violence would have been greater. The early Bond films were able to get away with their violence by adding humor—in the books such puns and wisecracks would have come off as phony and corny on the page, but onscreen they prevented the violence from seeming extreme for the time. But as the Bond films went further into fantasy and self-parody and lost much of their edge, the humor lost its original point and became dopier.

    Returning to Dilys Powell, here are her next two Bond reviews...


    The Machines Take Over

    By Dilys Powell (Sunday Times, June 18, 1967)

    Odd that among Ian Fleming's novels, one of those with the fewest fights, tortures and escapes should provide the basis for the most violent of the James Bond films. On the printed page You Only Live Twice devotes a great deal of its time to a 007-view of Japan; Bond given a quiet diplomatic job by an "M" who believes him to be physically in decline, spends weeks in valuable conversation with Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service, before as a friendly quid pro quo he sets off to destroy single-handed an unwelcome foreign settler—unwelcome because he encourages the Oriental propensity to suicide (he turns out, naturally, to be Bond's old enemy Blofeld). The film which, directed by Lewis Gilbert in Technicolor, now appears with an A certificate at the Odeon, Leicester Square, bounds straight into adventure: fake death, secret rendezvous, murder, gunmen, battles, explosions, the lot.

    But then the screenplay (by Roald Dahl) dispenses with the original material. Well, almost: 007 is left, and Tanaka, and Blofeld and his man-eating fish. But the diplomatic mission and the simple elimination are replaced by a vast international confrontation job; Bond (Sean Connery, ironic, athletically commanding as ever, but with a shade of world-weariness) has to prevent a war of extermination by finding out why both American and Russian space-ships are vanishing and who is intercepting them. You Only Live Twice never lets up on death and bang-bang.

    In the design of the production Ken Adam has outdone himself. The elegant industrial offices, Blofeld's sub-volcanic headquarters with the monorail and the camouflaged sliding roof and the rocket-launching pad—everybody concerned in the creation of the huge sets has done wonders. The marriage of the real locations and the manufactured backgrounds is an achievement; technically You Only Live Twice is overpowering. So overpowering, in fact, that it threatens to extinguish the players, and I don't mean merely the scores of extras who are drowned, strangled, shot, stabbed and blown up. One or two characters survive in memory if not in the flesh; I was sorry to see Charles Gray, one of my favourite portrayers of British sangfroid, bumped off so early. But as for the majority of the cast, they fade into the sets; it is another kind of player I find myself appraising.

    The bandit space-ship for example: crocodile-faced, cannibal it draws a portrait of menace. The timing of the killer-cigarette is flawless; flawless, too, the action of the folding bed, the torpedo-tube, the trap-door. The giant magnet never for a moment loses its grip on the narrative. Behind the toy-like air of Little Nelly, the assemble-it-yourself helicopter, Iurks a swallow's darting flight, a fury of fire-power . And from the volcano, central figure of the-drama, comes a display of scientific concentration suddenly, at the pull of a lever, bursting into rage: a spectacularly explosive performance. The machines have taken over at last.


    A Bond Honoured

    By Dilys Powell (Sunday Times, Dec. 21, 1969)

    Begin with adventure; in this season of goodwill and international extermination begin with private massacre, with the body chucked over the precipice, or fried in the helicopter attack. Begin with 007.

    Inevitable that the appearance in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Odeon, Leicester Square; director Peter Hunt; Technicolor; A) of a new James Bond should stir regrets for the previous one. I can't help missing Sean Connery with his saturnine mask and his flat delivery of the throwaway line. His successor, George Lazenby, I find too amiable; one doesn't get the rasping indifference to danger which used to combine so happily with the sybarite's tastes in drink. As a matter of fact Mr Lazenby is most effective when Richard Maibaum's screenplay allows him to be something other than pure 007, when, for instance, he masquerades as the emissary of the College of Arms sent to authenticate the claim to nobility of the villainous Blofeld (Telly Savalas).

    But then one must remember that the Bond of On Her Majesty's Secret Service had changed. He was indestructible as ever, but this time he wanted to marry the girl (Diana Rigg). Perhaps before making a judgement one should wait for the next film in the series. Meanwhile one might as well enjoy the ferocious speed of the present narrative with its chases: by ski or bob-sled, through avalanche or the melee of a stock-car race on ice. And perhaps one might spare a moment to consider whom, after the /director, to congratulate first, the aerial cameramen, the ski cameramen, the stock-car sequence director, the stunt arranger or the editor and second unit director.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    Surely Coleman just means "clearly stated" when using "explicit" as in visually clearly stating that SPECTRE are filming Bond and Tania making love.

    We see the scene, and it is remarkably close to Fleming's description, but just holds back enough - if my memory serves me Fleming had lines about sweat on faces - from the pornographic detail of sex or in other instances shootings, stabbings, etc.

    And as you say, the humour desensitises the audience to some of the genuine nastiness. "She's had her kicks" for instance.

    I was more baffled by the Hitchcock, Losey reference. Any ideas on that anyone?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff
    edited March 30


    Losey: there's a menacing helicopter in his Hammer movie "The Damned", not long before FRWL.

    Hitchcock: the similarities between the plane chasing Cary Grant in "North By Northwest" and the copter chasing Bond in FRWL are often remarked on.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    Lotte Lenya’s impersonation of Rosa Klebb disappoints? Is he crazy? It’s a great performance! If he’s referring to how Klebb is described in the book then it would be a impossible to recreate on screen without lots of makeup.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    It’s nice to see that Dilys Powell was one of the few critics to not slate Lazenby’s performance.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    John Brosnan’s review of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY - Starburst #37 September 1981:

    When I heard that Bond producer Cubby Broccoli had taken the criticism of Moonraker to heart and was going to try a different approach to For Your Eyes Only, cutting back on the humour among other things, I was very pleased. I was even more pleased when director John Glen told me that From Russia With Love was his favourite Bond and that he was trying to get that same quality into the new Bond, even though I had my doubts that he would achieve this. Time, after all, has moved on from when From Russia With Love was made and the Bond series has changed drastically over the years. Would audiences who have grown accustomed to Bond movies of the 1970s with their faster tempo and almost complete detachment from reality, accept a throwback in style and approach to the Bond of 1963. More importantly, would Broccoli risk his usual huge profits by giving the public something different from what they expected?

    Well, For Your Eyes Only is certainly different from Moonraker in many respects but it is no From Russia With Love. Instead of going all the way back to 1963 I'd say the makers stopped at 1973 as the film FYEO most resembles in style and approach is Live and Let Die, though more money has obviously been lavished on FYEO and it's definitely superior to the former film in terms of technical quality. FYEO may lack the slapstick elements of Moonraker, along with the science fiction hardware, the giant sets and Jaws, but it has none of the mood of From Russia With Love. One of the reasons for this has to do with the subject of plot. For Your Eyes Only doesn't have one . . .

    If you look at From Russia With Love you'll see that it has a solidly constructed storyline which, of course, owes much to the original Fleming novel— the first part of the film shows SPECTRE setting up the scheme that is designed to destroy Bond and discredit the Secret Service; the middle section deals with Bond blithely walking into the trap to obtain the bait (the cypher machine and the girl) and the third section consists of one long chase as Bond attempts to avoid the closing teeth of the trap, just barely managing to overcome every obstacle SPECTRE can put in his way. The film thus has a built-in momentum as the plot develops and the pace quickens with each change of the narrative gear.

    There are no such changes of gear in For Your Eyes Only because there is no plot to be developed and though there are plenty of moments of high excitement they are all on the same emotional level. At the end of the film you don't feel that you have travelled from A to C (or to B) but simply gone round in circles. It is definitely a movie where you can start watching it at any point and not feel confused about what is going on — because there is nothing going on.

    As a substitute for a plot it was not enough to Just cobble together two of the stories from the For Your Eyes Only anthology and then frame it with a vague storyline about a missing code transmitter. Of the two themes taken from the short stories the revenge one might have worked if more attention had been paid to it but it gets lost along the way. The other problem with it is that (Carole Bouquet isn't very convincing as the girl looking for revenge. Though extremely beautiful, Ms Bouquet is far from successful at suggesting she is a fiery half-Greek girl burning with a passion for vengeance. In fact I suspect the only way you could get a fiery look in those gorgeous eyes would be to hook her up to a 50,000 volt generator (Lynn Holly-Johnson, who plays the ice-skating nymphet, has much more screen presence and comes across as the only real person in the picture.

    For Your Eyes Only is more realistic than recent Bonds in that it's less fantastic. The action is mainly concerned with just people rather than far-fetched machinery — there are no cars that turn into submarines or gondolas that turn into hovercraft (thank goodness) — and the villains have been similarly scaled down. There is no super villain this time, apart from Blofeld's brief appearance in the pre-credits sequence. Instead the chief villain, played by Julian Glover, is a rather ordinary, uninteresting character and his henchmen are similarly undistinguished. There is no equivalent to the line-up of memorable villains in From Russia With Love — Red Grant, Rosa Klebb, Kronsteen and SPECTRE itself. Michael Gothard as Loque has possibilities but they are not developed by the script In fact his only line in the picture is "Arrrghhhhh" as he goes over a cliff. Similarly unexploited is the KGB agent Kreigler (John Wyman).

    Also lacking is the customary Big Climax— instead we just get a rather routine fight on top of a mountain between two small groups, though admittedly the build-up to this limp climax involves some quite amazing mountaineering stunts.

    While I agree that Broccoli was right in trying to change direction after the absurdities of Moonraker I think that the larger-than-life villains and the Big Climax were two Bond traditions he could have left untouched. As it is you feel there is something missing from For Your Eyes Only.

    And if Broccoli had really wanted to toughen up Bond and bring back an element of realism to the series the first thing he should have done was get a replacement for Roger Moore. This is Moore’s fifth time in the role yet I still can't take him seriously as Bond — and as a result I can’t take the situations he’s involved in seriously either. Moore is basically a light comedy actor and this persona works against any attempt to introduce an atmosphere of ’realism’ into the film.

    Also at odds with the less far-fetched style of most of For Your Eyes Only are the jokey opening and end sequences. The former has Bond trapped in a helicopter controlled by none other than Blofeld (in a wheelchair and neckbrace, and also bald again, looking like he’s come straight from the climax of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — which suggests that all the Blofelds in the subsequent Diamonds Are Forever were imposters) who ends up being dropped down a giant chimney. The closing episode is worse — it features Mrs Thatcher, impersonated by Janet Brown, and husband Denis (John Wells). It got a lot of laughs at the press show but I suspect it’s going to look awfully dated and embarrassing in a very short time.

    But in spite of all that there’s still a lot to enjoy in the movie. The action sequences are brilliantly handled, in particular all the skiing scenes, the mountaineering footage and the episode lifted from the novel of Live And Let Die where Bond and the girl are towed behind the villain’s boat and dragged at high speed over coral to attract the sharks. The other underwater scenes, including the battle between the submersibles, are impressive technically but tend to slow the film down. And as usual the film itself is about 10-15 minutes too long.

    Veteran stunt arranger Bob Simmons succeeds in making the fight scenes seem fresh and inventive yet again and even gets a walk-on part (he’s the one who gets blown up by Bond’s booby-trapped car), and Derek Meddings’ special effects are also as impressive as ever, especially his model shots which are impossible to spot (I am reliably imformed that part of the opening helicopter sequence involved models; the Albanian harbour front that gets blown up was a model and that models were used in some of the underwater scenes but I detected none of them).

    Considered as a series of almost unconnected action set-pieces— a sort of anthology of stunt scenes from previous Bonds— then For Your Eyes Only is undeniably entertaining but it’s a shame it was prevented from being anything more than that by a badly misconceived script. Part of the blame goes to the new script writer Michael Wilson, a former tax lawyer who is also Broccoli’s step-son. He writes better dialogue than Christopher Wood (thankfully the awful double-entendres of Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker are missing) but doesn’t seem to have much idea about how to construct a satisfying story-line. Not that he deserves all the blame — in Screen International it was revealed that: "Although he (Wilson) and Richard Maibaum receive the screenplay credit it was he and producer Cubby Broccoli who prepared the story and then Maibaum came up with a plot."

    That explains a lot. When you realize that they came up with the "story" first and then the plot you can understand why For Your Eyes Only turned out the way it did.


    I think this is Roger’s best performance as Bond and my favourite Roger Moore Bond movie. The plot is thin, but there is a plot and I think John was being a bit mischievous there. And he makes no reference to Topol’s great performance, which is a bit mean.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
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