FIRST of all, Merry Christmas (again).
Second of all, I am not writing a blog post on Christmas Day . No, no… I’m eating tons of chocolate, waiting for the Doctor Who Christmas special to come on and trying to work out whether Carolyn really did like her prezzie.
However, I thought that I would write this post in advance and schedule it for publication on Christmas Day, and what better theme for a festive post than James Bond films, that staple of the Christmas TV schedules?
So for what it’s worth, here are my three favourite and three least favourite James Bond films. Feel free to comment, but I’m not sure how often I will be allowed access to my computer to moderate.
TOP THREE JAMES BOND MOVIES:
1. Goldfinger (1964).
The perfect movie. Connery has settled into the role by now, is looking more relaxed and cool than ever. We have a perfect baddy in Gert Fröbe, the perfect henchman in Oddjob, the perfect theme tune by Shirley Bassey, one of Fleming’s best novels (with a plot that was actually improved upon by the screen writers) the perfect gadget – the famous ejector seat – attached to the perfect, sexiest screen car ever, the Aston Martin DB5, and more perfect set-pieces than you can shake a Walther PPK at. This is the movie every Bond film made since has been trying to emulate.
2. Casino Royale (2006).
Daniel Craig confounded the critics with his masterful performance in this brilliant reboot of the series. Continuity was (rightly) thrown out the window, with Judi Dench reprising her role as M in Bond’s first mission as a double-0, even though she had been Brosnan’s boss previously. Who cares? This was superb.
3. The Living Daylights (1987).
Timothy Dalton’s debut as Bond is woefully underrated. This was a near-perfect construction, introducing a new, hard-bitten, tough, cigarette-smoking Bond who was a refreshing antidote to the bland dullness of Roger Moore’s later movies. Viewed from a post-9/11 world, it’s noteworthy that the Afghan Mujahadeen are depicted as heroes and allies…
AND NOW, THE THREE WORST BOND MOVIES EVER MADE:
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). I can imagine many a Bond afficionado choking on their plum pudding as they read that. OHMSS is generally considered by Bond fans as one of, if not the, best in the series. Except it’s not. It’s a really, really bad movie, worth watching only for the novelty value of George Lazenby doing his lamentable Sean Connery impression. Right from the beginning, with his embarrassing “This never happened to the other fella” line into camera, to the plodding and unconvincing montage of romance scenes as Bond woos Tracy Di Vicenzo (an entirely sexless Diana Rigg) to the sound of Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World”, this just isn’t a Bond movie. Yes, the ending is dramatic and emotional, but every time I see it, all I can think is: “How fantastic would this film have been if Connery had stayed for one more movie?” And who was the genius who thought it would be a good idea for George Baker’s voice to be dubbed over Lazenby’s for a large portion of the movie? Dire.
2. Octopussy (1983). Despite a great opening scene set (I think) in Cuba, and a very good theme tune from Rita Coolidge, this film goes rapidly downhill. There’s something about a Faberge egg and Steven Berkoff as a mad Russian, and a nuclear bomb in a circus, or something. Really, really dull. And this was made, remember, at the same time as Sean Connery’s rival Bond movie, Never Say Never Again (a remake of Thunderball), so you would have thought that Brocolli and co. might have wanted to raise their game, wouldn’t you? Just as well Connery’s effort wasn’t that great either.
1. For Your Eyes Only (1981). Bond is about atmosphere, tension, intrigue. For Your Eyes Only is about a paper mill, a 2CV and a love-sick 14-year-old ice-skater. By the time this was made, I’m guessing the writers would sit down together and ask: “Okay, so how can we make this really, really funny?” And they didn’t even manage that. This tries to be From Russia With Love, but ends up being Carry on Spying, except not as entertaining. And what’s with the opening sequence? It starts well, with a rare attempt at continuity: Bond visiting the grave of his beloved Tracy. But then… Bond is abducted in a helicopter that’s being remotely controlled by not Erst Stavro Blofeld. Because at the time Eon, the production company, didn’t have the right to the use of that character, so they had an unnamed villain, whose face we never see, who’s stroking a white Persian cat, is wearing a neck brace and is confined to a wheelchair. “And get this,” I imagine one of the writers saying, tears of laughter flowing down his cheek, “he speaks in rhyme!” “Hilarious!” reply his fellow writers, and immediately approve it. “And how about Bond dumping him down an industrial chimney while he’s still in his wheelchair?” suggests someone else.” And the meeting erupts in guffaws.
Very little incidental music, no tension, no plot, no decent baddies, no remotely dramatic or even interesting climax. Pish.