A TALE OF THREE BONDS – Rich Paschall

Casino Royale, By Rich Paschall


When Eon Productions, maker of all those James Bond movies, finally made a film based on the very first Ian Fleming novel, fans of the super spy may have wondered what took them so long.  The novel, published in 1953, introduced us to the Cold War spy with a “License to Kill”, but why no movie?  In the book as in the films (plural, follow along), Bond’s mission is to bankrupt the evil Le Chiffre of the Russian secret service by beating him at cards at the Casino Royale.

Le Chiffre is desperate for the money but confident he will win.  His own life will be at risk if he loses.

Original hard copy with dust jacket

The book was a hit in the UK, but sales in the US were slow and this set into motion events that would keep a serious adaptation of the novel away the big screen for over 50 years.   In an effort to popularize his hero in America, Fleming sold the television rights for the novel to CBS to adapt into a live drama for the series Climax!

The program aired October 21, 1954, and probably would have been lost forever, if not for the eventual popularity of the novels and movies.

Casino Royale 1954
Casino Royale 1954

The television production starred Barry Nelson as James Bond, an American agent.  Sometimes he is referred to as “Jimmy” which ought to make long-time Bond fans cringe.  The American agent in the novel is now a British agent named Clarence Leiter (rather than Felix).

For the live drama, parts are condensed or eliminated and the focus is on the card game.  Since the game is baccarat, not poker as in the latest movie, a little time is spent explaining it for the American audience.

Le Chiffre is played by Peter Lorre, a veteran of the big screen, with just the right amount of evil.  A film star of the 1940’s and 50’s, Linda Christian, gets the honor of being the first “Bond girl.”  You are left to wonder, at least at the outset, whose side she is really on.  I guess for an early black and white television drama, it is not too bad, if you can get past Jimmy Bond as an American spy.

In 1955 Fleming sold the movie rights to film director and producer Gregory Ratoff for a mere 6 thousand dollars.  Perhaps it was big money then.  Unfortunately, Ratoff died in 1960, never having developed the story for the movies.  Next up was the producer, attorney, and talent agent Charles K. Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights.

By now, the Bond series was off to a good start, so how could Feldman possibly compete?  Failing to negotiate an agreement with Eon, he decided to do something that may have been typical of the mid to late 1960’s.  He produced a “madcap” comedy, a spoof of the spy series.

There just is not enough space here to explain what the producers and various directors did to this film.  Although they assembled what was meant to be an “all-star” cast, you can not say they got a lot of great performances from this crew.  Various writers created sections that were to be filmed by different directors and all would be edited together.  This allowed them to work with many stars doing different scenes at different locations and studios at the same time.

A movie monstrosity ensued.

John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left.  Five other directors worked on the project, one uncredited.  David Niven is “Sir James Bond” who must be convinced by Huston, Charles Boyer, William Holden, and Kurt Kazner to come out of retirement to deal with Le Chiffre.  Bond takes on the role of head of the spy agency upon M’s departure and they recruit Peter Seller’s (Evelyn Tremble), a baccarat expert, to impersonate Bond and play Le Chiffre at the Casino.  Le Chiffre is played by Orson Welles.

Explanations are pointless. See it — or not.  The temperamental Sellers left the project for a rest before his part was finished.  He was asked not to return.  Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they barely spoke to each other.  A gaggle of stars perform cameos.  When all was said and done, it was a confused mess.

Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd) — a hopeless attempt to add some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ performance.

Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the end. There is no sensible explanation for the final scenes.

The critically-panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 1960’s did.  At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love.

The film rights next passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that had put out this disaster.  They held onto them until 1989 when Colombia was acquired by Sony.  A legal battle followed, and the rights were used as a bargaining chip with MGM/UA for … wait for it … MGM’s portion of the rights to Spiderman.

Spiderman was traded for the original James Bond in 1999.

Casino Royale was not next as there was one more Pierce Brosnan movie to be made.  When Brosnan declined a fifth film, the opportunity to “reboot” the spy series was at hand.

Back to the beginning.  Our hero became “007,” and the silver screen welcomed Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”

DIVIDED WE FALL – Rich Paschall

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all, 
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall; 
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed, 
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

-John Dickinson, The Liberty Song, 1768

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Throughout the history of this country, the concept that we stand together has been expressed in song, in writing, and at the podium in speech.  It was the rallying cry of the Revolution and the days following 9/11.  It was spoken during the Civil War and the armed conflicts since.  It was the thought of trade unions fighting for better working conditions.  We may never have all stood together, but we were never divided at critical times in history.  Until now, that is.

From the opening of his campaign until the present day, the leader of our country has worked hard to divide Americans with an “Us versus them” attitude.  He speaks it, he tweets it, he lies about it.

In the opening salvo, he started by trying to assert that many of our neighbors who came from other countries were the enemy.  Of Mexico he stated: “They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.”  You likely know the most egregious things he said about Mexico.  Let’s consider another statement.

Dividing us from other friends, 45 went on to say: “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening.”  This was stated despite a strict immigration policy under President Obama.  Ask anyone who entered (or was deported) at that time.

Also at the time of his announcement, China and Japan were particularly criticised, along with the leaders of our own country.  It is not unusual to criticize the other party during a campaign, but consider carefully the deals the country made during the Obama presidency and the comments made by Trump, the candidate.  There is campaign rhetoric, and then there are falsehoods and divisions.  The announcement of candidacy is filled with quotes that are not attributed to specific people and many statistics that raise questions of accuracy.  Did he portray us correctly?

After a campaign of insults and hateful comments, 45 has spent a great deal of time on his twitter account blasting out hateful and divisive comments among people here and abroad.  How do we feel about this?  Early in the year the Quinnipiac University National Poll found that the Tweeter in Chief is dividing the nation.  While polls results show that the majority of Republicans do not feel this way, Americans by 64 to 31 per cent feel that 45 is actually doing more to divide the country.

Worse yet, many are unsure if the man is actually stable. “President Donald Trump can’t seem to improve his approval rating, perhaps because of the troubling fact that half of the voters we spoke to think he is mentally unstable,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.  But apparently, some of those voters are willing to stand by him anyway.

He tried to change the narrative on the NFL anthem controversy, perhaps because he could not get an NFL franchise years ago.  The NFL commissioner and the NFL Players Association fired back. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” commissioner, Roger Goodell, said.  NFLPA executive director, DeMaurice Smith, indicated that they would not back down.

NFL QB Tom Brady, believed to be a Republican, responded “I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. I just want to support my teammates.”

Last year in September, the New York Times’ Peter Baker provided this news analysis, “Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together.”  Isn’t it troubling that our leader has so many negative things to say?

Baker also noted, “In his brief career as president and a candidate for president, Mr. Trump has attacked virtually every major institution in American life: Congress, the courts, Democrats, Republicans, the news media, the Justice Department, Hollywood, the military, NATO, the intelligence agencies, the cast of “Hamilton,” the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” the pope and now professional sports. ”  Is this presidential?

While the tweeter is in a rage, outside forces are also trying to undermine American life.  Fake social media accounts have reportedly planted fake stories and memes meant to drive a wedge between parts of our society.  Apparently it has been working.  If you have been a regular user of facebook or twitter you know exactly what the problem is.  As these fake stories pop up, unwitting supporters retweet, reblog and share these items on their news feed.  Do you think foreign influences are behind this?

isys6621.com

Social media believes we are under cyber attack. Google, the parent of YouTube and other media platforms, deleted Iranian accounts.  Facebook and others have removed Russian accounts.  These accounts were there to influence opinion and perhaps even divide Americans through fake stories.  Was there collusion by 45 and/or his minions to help spread lies posted by Russians?  Time will reveal the answer.

With full-blown propaganda wars in play, some started by and perpetuated by our leader, our enemies must be rejoicing.  They see the unraveling of the American fabric, aided by our own leader, allowing them to advance to a stronger position in the world.  If they can divide us and turn American against American, with Trump’s help, then our foes will watch as we stumble and fall in the eyes of the world.

Sources: “The Liberty Song,”  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Liberty_Song
“History of the Motto,” Smithsonian Museum of American History 
Here’s Donald Trump’s Presidential Announcement Speech,” Time, June 16, 2015
Quinnipiac University National Poll, January 17, 2018
“Roger Goodell, NFLPA angrily denounce Trump’s ‘divisive comments’,” NBCSPORTS.COM, September, 23, 2017
“Tom Brady: I Disagree With Trump’s ‘Divisive’ Comments,” thedailybeast.com
“A Divider, Not a Uniter, Trump Widens the Breach,” The New York Times, September 24, 2017
“Not just Russians: Google follows Facebook to remove
Iranian accounts,” Financial Times, http://www.ft.com
“President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days,” The Washington Post, August 1, 2018

Click on the source links above for further information on the above statements.

BOND REBOOT

Casting is now taking place for Bond 25 (working title) and Daniel Craig will return as “007.” The movie is set for a Fall 2019 release, so there will be plenty of talk for the next year about the next film and the next Bond, if Craig does not return.  In his work preparing for Bond, Craig recently visit CIA headquarters. According to the Guardian: “The agency said its motivation was ‘to combat misrepresentations and assist in balanced and accurate portrayals’ of the intelligence community.”

The Daniel Craig Years, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

After 20 James Bond films and 40 years, EON Productions finally had something that eluded them from the start.  They obtained the rights to the first Ian Fleming novel, 1953’s Casino Royale.  The story had been adapted into a 1954 American television drama and a 1967 comedy spoof, but had never been given a serious big screen treatment.  The chance was at hand when Pierce Brosnan declined the opportunity to go on as 007.

Daniel Craig is James Bond

The change to a new Bond also meant another change in attitude at the studio now run by Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of original Producer, Albert R. Broccoli, and by his stepson, Michael Wilson.  Other studios had given their heroes a new start to great success, so why not Bond?  Comic book characters had moved away from cartoon portrayals to serious action heroes.  It was time to move Bond away from the comic quips and amazing gadgets.  With an eye towards a more faithful portrayal of the book than any of the previous Bond movies had done, Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig took the story back to the beginning as secret agent Bond becomes 007.

Interestingly, the series did retain one cast member.  Judi Dench returned as the head of MI6 and the boss of James Bond.  She sends him on his first mission to Casino Royale.  Only Timothy Dalton gave us such a serious Bond, but Craig shows less emotion than any previous version of our favorite spy.  He is serious and calculating in his efforts to defeat the bad guys and serve his country.  If you were a fan of the novels and a more serious Bond, the “reboot” might be much to your liking.

In Casino Royale, Bond must defeat the terrorist financier Le Chiffre at the Casino.  Taking away the bad guy’s money is a dangerous plan for both players.  There will be no spoiler alerts, but Bond will not escape with a few double meaning quips and hidden gadgets.  This will be a painful ordeal.

Not everything is resolved at the end of the movie which allows for something the series has not tried before, a story arc.  Elements are carried into Quantum of Solace as Bond seeks revenge for a murder and tries to learn about the organization, Quantum.  It is a more serious and more violent film than any Bond movie we have had so far.  An interesting side note is that Craig and director Marc Forster wrote sections of the script due to a screenwriter’s strike.  They did not receive screen credit. The role of Judi Dench is expanded this time out.  It make sense to make greater use of an actor of this stature.

The third Daniel Craig movie, Skyfall, may be the best so far.  It honors the Bond canon by bringing back some favorite characters in the person of new actors while making reference to times past.  This time out the story centers around  M (Judi Dench) and the challenges to MI6 from outside and in.  The only agent she can really trust to hunt down the threat is, of course Bond, James Bond.  Already in her late 70s at the time, Dench is featured in the trap that Bond lays for the bad guys and the action sequences that follow.  Javier Bardem is the evil trouble maker who is out to destroy the spy agency and get M.  The action is intense.

Skyfall picked up a collection of nominations and awards.  Adele sang the title song which you could not escape on the radio for a long time.  It won the Oscar.  Miss Moneypenny returns to the franchise.  If you have not seen it, I will leave the surprising revelation for you.  The Quartermaster (Q) returns and he is not the old-timer we were used to seeing in Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.  Of course, Llewelyn was a lot younger when he first appeared in a 1963 Bond film.  British stage and film star Ben Whishaw is the younger Q, much to the surprise of Bond.  He is more of a computer geek than a developer of gadgets, although he does have something for Bond.  He is the perfect 21st century Q and a clever return for the character.

Ralph Fiennes is on hand as Mallory, M’s boss, and will play a continuing role into the next feature.  Veteran Albert Finney is also on hand to support Bond in the late action sequences.  All things considered, I liked the casting, the return of certain characters and even bringing back the Aston Martin.  It is clever script writing by people familiar with the Bond legacy. It is directed by  Sam Mendes, who returns for the 4th Craig film.

If you saw the early Bond films or read the books, you knew that James Bond was often on the trail of members of the criminal organization, SPECTRE.  So it should be no surprise that the Bond reboot will find our hero on the search for information about the organization and its leader.  We find another name from the past as the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

SPECTRE contains all the right elements: M, Q, Moneypenny, evil villains and beautiful “Bond Girls.”  The storyline incorporates elements from early Bond stories by Ian Fleming.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here.  Will the next storyline continue to look for elements from Fleming novels and bring them up to date?

It is impossible to compare the Craig portrayal of Bond with the previous actors.  The series “reboot” has given us a Bond for the 21st century, different from what we had before.  I think it was the only way to go.  The Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Brosnan portrayals are charming, yet dated.  Like Bond, Craig will be back.

Just for fun, even the Queen is willing to appear in a James Bond film.  You will have to click the link over to You Tube to watch, as they have now blocked it from playing on other sites.

Sources Include: “Daniel Craig visits CIA in run-up to shooting new James Bond film,” TheGuardian.com, July, 6, 2018.

RELATED:
Bond, James Bond, The Sean Connery Years, Part 1
Never Say Never Again, The Sean Connery Years, Part 2
Moore Bond, The Roger Moore Years, Part 1
For Your Eyes Only, The Roger More Years, Part 2
Bond Is Back, The Timothy Dalton Years
Goldeneye, The Pierce Brosnan Years

GOLDENEYE

The Pierce Brosnan Years, by Rich Paschall


Although Timothy Dalton had a six-year, 3 film deal to play the famous secret agent, James Bond, only two films were made.  The third was delayed by a protracted legal fight between Danjaq, holder of the Bond copyright, and a variety of parties, including mega studio MGM.  When the six years expired, Dalton walked away.  He felt it might not just be the end for him as Bond, but the series itself may be over.  Sixteen films had been made by 1989 which is a good run for any series.

While the legal battles went on, EON Productions planned to go ahead with the Bond legacy.  With Dalton dropping out, the producers called on Pierce Brosnan who had actually been considered as the one to replace Roger Moore.  His contractual agreement to a revived Remington Steele television series kept Brosnan from agreeing years earlier to the super sleuth.  In 1994 he went into production on his first Bond film, GoldenEye.

The initial Brosnan movie was the second Bond film not to take the title from an Ian Fleming story.  The original work did pay homage to the Bond creator, however, by taking its name from Operation Goldeneye.  This was a project Fleming participated in as a Lieutenant Commander in British Naval Intelligence.  Years later, after the success of the Bond stories, Fleming named his Jamaica estate, Goldeneye.  The book GoldenEye is actually a novelization of the movie.

The story finds Bond investigating the theft of a helicopter, and the attack on a Russian outpost that controlled a satellite with the “GoldenEye” weapon.  Was GoldenEye real?  Was it capable of destroying London’s financial district?  Could anyone save the day?  Pierce Brosnan brings charm back to Bond with plenty of opportunity for the double entendre.  Judi Dench now becomes M, head of MI6.  Some regulars are recast but Desmond Llewelyn returns as Q, having played the part since the beginning of the Bond films.  It is a good effort by Brosnan and he revives the series with the 1995 release after the long hiatus.  The stunts and special effects are over the top as usual, and they will again ask you to accept the improbable (if not impossible) as fact.

james-bond-movie-crazy-pierce-brosnan

For the second film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), can you imagine a media mogul who tries to manipulate the news to improve on ratings?  If this seems a bit more modern, perhaps it is meant to be so.  A British ship is sunk near China, a Chinese plane is shot down and the resulting tension seems to be pushing the world toward World War III. One cable news outlet is always on hand to catch the disasters as they happen.  Jonathan Pryce plays the media mogul and Teri Hatcher is his trophy wife.  Bond teams up with a Chinese agent (girl, of course) to find out what is really going on and the world will once again be saved.  Despite script disputes with studios and also with actors, the final product was a success at the box office.

The World Is Not Enough (1999) for the evil villains that populate this story.  There is no brief summary for this tale of a former KGB agent who is now a terrorist and has to be stopped after he gets weapons-grade plutonium.  Is the daughter of an assassinated businessman, who had been kidnapped but later set free, still safe?  Can Bond protect her?  Is she sympathetic to her former captors? What about M who is later kidnapped?  What about the pipeline to save a poor country?  What about Istanbul?  If you can stay with the interconnected storylines it is an engaging, if somewhat long, Bond affair.  Denise Richards is the “Bond girl.”

After many years with United Artists, MGM becomes the distributor of the Bond films.  The business dealings of MGM and it various holdings, United Artists, Danjaq, EON Productions and others has become more complicated than this Bond film.  MGM will count on Bond not just to save the world, but the studio too.

A sad and ironic side note to The World Is Not Enough involves actor Desmond Llewelyn.  In the film he seems to be training John Cleese to be his successor of Q division for gadgets.  He indicates he is not retiring and there was no intention of replacing the aging performer in the role.  Aside from continuity, he was a beloved character in the series.  Soon after the première, Llewelyn was killed in an automobile accident.  Cleese will indeed move up in the next film.

No one can kill James Bond, not even the North Koreans.  While investigating a North Korean Colonel and the sale of diamonds for weapons, Bond is captured and imprisoned but he lives to Die Another Day (2002).  Brought home through a prisoner swap after 14 months, Bond is suspended from duty but will that stop our hero?  Of course not.  Soon he teams up with an American Agent, Halle Barry, to follow the trail of diamonds and weapons from London to Cuba to Iceland.  Like some other Bond films, the climactic fight takes place on a plane and who is flying the craft?  Cleese is now Q.  Madonna has a small part and performs the title tune.  The film marks the 40th anniversary of the first feature when Sean Connery told us he was “Bond, James Bond.”

Brosnan had an option on a fifth film.  In fact he had once mentioned he thought he might like to do six films.  But he was already 50 and recalling the criticism Roger Moore took for staying too long in the role.  He decided to decline the option and move on.  This gave EON the opportunity to restart the series and go back to the first James Bond story and make the movie that had eluded them all along, Casino Royale.

RELATED:
Bond, James Bond, The Sean Connery Years, Part 1
Never Say Never Again, The Sean Connery Years, Part 2
Moore Bond, The Roger Moore Years, Part 1
For Your Eyes Only, The Roger More Years, Part 2
Bond Is Back, The Timothy Dalton Years

BOND IS BACK

The Timothy Dalton Years, by Rich Paschall


James Bond first appeared in film in 1962 with Sean Connery bringing charm and adventure to the world’s greatest spy with a license to kill.  After 6 films by Connery and one by George Lazenby, Roger Moore took the role for seven films.

James_Bond_Timothy_Dalton

After these 14 Eon Productions, a rival production that was a remake of Thunderball (Never Say Never Again) and a spoof (Casino Royale starring David Niven), it might seem that James Bond had reached the end.  Moore’s last film, 1985’s A View To A Kill, did well at the box office, but was not particularly well received with the critics.  It seems Moore was a bit too old for the secret agent.

Eon decided to move forward. Bond was back in the person of Timothy Dalton in the 1987 film, The Living Daylights.  It was based on the Ian Fleming short story of the same name.  This time the film may have retained more of the essence of the Fleming piece than many of the other Bond films had done.

With the first Dalton film you will find more of an intense James Bond than previously revealed.  There is less of the charm and more uncertainty than we are used to in the Bond character.  Dalton is not Connery or Moore in his portrayals of 007.  He is a serious agent at work.  Why the shift?  Whether it was in the script or not, Dalton was attempting to move more toward the Bond as described in the novels rather than the Bond people had already seen.

Reports are that Dalton could be seen on set reading the Fleming novels to see what the original author had meant the character to be.  The books were not describing the Bond seen in previous films.  Some of those movies only used the title and little else from the original author’s story.

In The Living Daylights, as in the short story, Bond is set up as a sniper to shoot anyone who might harm a top Soviet defector.  Bond does not kill the other shooter but only wounds her.  Some think it is because the other sniper was a woman.  We later learn she is the girlfriend of the defector Bond was supposed to protect, and she was just there to create the illusion of harm.  From there Bond is left to figure out the real roles of the girlfriend and the defector, as well as diamond dealers and drug dealers.  There is a little humor, a little charm, and a lot of intensity.

Next up for James Bond was the film Licence To Kill.  No, you will not find an Ian Fleming story with that title.  It was the first story to use an original title, although the term “licence to kill” was used often in the Bond stories.  In truth many of the films retained almost nothing of the story from which the title was taken.  There are references to other stories and characters in this movie, but the series has clearly gone in a new direction.

The sixteenth Eon production was written with the darker portrayal of Bond in mind.  The charm is left behind as Bond is on more of a personal vendetta against a drug lord who has murdered friends of his.  When one wonders why Bond has taken up the pursuit, someone refers back to something we see at the end of the sixth Bond film and is referred to in one of the Moore films.  I won’t give that away just in case you have not seen it.

With James Bond now seen as a rogue agent, his “double 00” status is revoked.  “Q” takes a vacation so he can help Bond in secret.  This gives character actor Desmond Llewelyn, who played the keeper of all those Bond gadgets, an extended part in a film.  Llewelyn had played the character throughout the series at this point.  Here he is caught up in the action, as unlikely as that may seem.

The Dalton films were directed by John Glen, who also directed the last three Moore films.  Just as before, Bond performs incredible action stunts throughout the features.  Perhaps filming techniques have improved to the point that they can make the sequences appear more dangerous with minimal risk.  Bond’s fight with the villain in Licence To Kill may be the most incredible yet.

Dalton had a six-year, three film deal with Eon Productions to play the super spy.  After Licence To Kill, however, producer Albert Broccoli and his company Danjaq, holders of the Bond copyright, found themselves in a protracted legal battle over the Bond series.  This effectively delayed the series for years as the lawsuit between Danjaq and MGM/UA dragged on.  The movie studio had leased the back catalogue of Bond films to another party at below market value.  MGM, which had previously merged with the UA who had funded the Bond series at the beginning, was owned by Qintex, which wanted to merge with Pathe Communications so they made the lease deal and… OK, that’s enough of that.

While all of this went on, the six-year deal with Dalton expired.  Dalton reportedly said at the time “My feeling is this will be the last one. I don’t mean my last one, I mean the end of the whole lot.”  We have already seen, however, that James Bond does indeed live more than twice.  Bond will be back.

Friday: “Goldeneye, The Pierce Brosnan Years.”

RELATED:
Bond, James Bond, The Sean Connery Years, Part 1
Never Say Never Again, The Sean Connery Years, Part 2
Moore Bond, The Roger Moore Years, Part 1
For Your Eyes Only, The Roger More Years, Part 2

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

The Roger Moore Years, Part 2 – Rich Paschall

After four successful outings in the 1970s as British Secret Agent 007, James Bond, Roger Moore was back in the 1981 film, For Your Eyes Only.  The title does not refer to secret documents.  If you have not guessed the meaning (really, Bond fans?), you will have to wait until you get near the end of the movie to hear the famous line.

While the previous film, Moonraker, was a success at the Box Office, it was also expensive to make for its time period.  The special effects looked okay, but the science fiction romp directed by Lewis Gilbert was remarkably improbable, even for Bond.  It was time to move on. John Glen, who had already worked on three Bond movies as film editor, was now in charge of the new production.

for your eyes only posterAs was often the case for Bond films, For Your Eyes Only does not take much more that the title from the short story on which it is based.  This time it is a rather complex story of not just an effort to avenge the death of a fellow agent, but also to find an Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator that was on-board a sunken spy ship.  This of course means underwater intrigue, which we have seen before.  But this time it is done a little better.

If it does not resemble the Bond creator’s story, you can still give the studio credit for a more intelligent story.  Follow along closely, it is not just a tale of chase scenes or under water battles.  We are once again treated to an Academy Award nominated song.  This time it is Sheena Easton’s turn to provide a memorable number.

The fourteenth Ian Fleming book contained two short stories in the 1966 publication.  Later editions of the book contained two other short stories that had appeared in magazines a few years earlier.  It was the final book by Fleming.  The story Octopussy was updated for a feature of the same name.  Now instead of being about Nazi gold, it is about Soviet jewels.  There is also an attempt by a rogue Soviet military officer to create conflict, perhaps war, between the superpowers.  The British super agent needs to figure out what is going on and stop it.

The 1983 movie was the 6th Roger Moore film.  All of the Bond tricks and chases are on display in what should have been the last Moore film.  It was well done and of course Bond saves the world from a nuclear explosion and possible war in Europe.  Rita Coolidge sang “All Time High” as the Bond theme song.

In a surprise move, another studio planned to bring out a rival James Bond film in the same year.  It seems Fleming had used a failed storyline developed years earlier with two others, as the basis of Thunderball.  When the others were granted their rights to the story, they wanted to cash in as well.  Another studio, who could not use the same title by the way, decided to put out the Bond film. They were presented with one challenging problem, among the many that would arise.  Who would be Bond?

Sean Connery was back as James Bond in the rival film, Never Say Never Again.  They were wise enough to include the fact that Bond (Connery) was much older now and perhaps past his prime.  Still, he is smart enough to know how to save the day.  Meanwhile an older Roger Moore is performing heroics as if he was a much younger man.

Moore returns for a final turn as 007 in 1985 in A View To A Kill, which almost borrows the title and virtually nothing else from the short story, From A View To A Kill.  The story first appeared in 1959 and was collected in the book, For Your Eyes Only in 1960.  The movie goes elsewhere than the short story.

By now it is impossible to believe that the 57-year-old Moore is capable of the athletic feats attributed to Bond in this storyline.  I am glad to see a man this age is still attractive and the object of desire.  I guess it is a bit of a fantasy.

Christopher Walken is a good villain, as you might imagine.  Grace Jones is his companion, whom Bond is successful at seducing at one point.  Perhaps the black and white physical relationship was a bit ahead of its time then.  Maybe audiences were ready for it.

It is remarkable how often Bond escapes the clutches of Max Zorin (Walken), but he does. That leads to the unlikely battle at the end.  I will save the details in case you have not seen it.  The obviously 80s film has a theme song by the obviously 80s Duran Duran.  They must have been trying to attract a younger audience with that.

Reviewers were not kind to A View To A Kill, although I thought it was better than some of the other Moore films.  Roger Moore himself would later state that it was his least favorite film.  Perhaps he knew he stayed on for one too many.

RELATED:
Bond, James Bond, The Sean Connery Years, Part 1
Never Say Never Again, The Sean Connery Years, Part 2
Moore Bond, The Roger Moore Years, Part 1

Roger Moore passed away last year at the age of 89.

Tuesday: “Bond Is Back, The Timothy Dalton Years.”

MOORE BOND

The Roger Moore Years, Part 1 by RICH PASCHALL


After five films the original James Bond, Sean Connery, left the series, but when George Lazenby only stuck around for one film despite an original offer for more, Connery returned for Diamonds Are Forever.  The franchise rebounded nicely from the comparatively weak showing with Lazenby, but Connery was tired of 007 and thought he was a bit too old for the part. He said he would never play Bond again, but Never Say Never Again was in his future.

If Connery was feeling a bit old for the part, then it would seem a bit surprising that the next actor to play Commander Bond was almost 3 years older.  Roger Moore, however, had all the qualities the producers wanted in James Bond.  He was handsome and charming and had experience as a super sleuth. Moore was Simon Templar in the long running television series, The Saint.  In a bit of irony, in an early episode of The Saint, Templar is confused for Bond.

First up for Roger Moore was Live And Let Die (1973).  The eighth Bond film was based on the second Ian Fleming novel.  The series made no attempt to film the books in order.  While some novels actually continued elements of previous stories, it was not a series in the same sense as Harry Potter, for example.

The film brings back Guy Hamilton as director.  He not only directed Diamonds Are Forever, but also the critically acclaimed Goldfinger.  Sir Paul McCartney contributed the Academy Award nominated theme song. Roger Moore proved to be the engaging secret agent the producers had hoped.

The film does not stand up well to the test of time.  The cliché ridden antics of 1970s era films are on full display.  The chase scenes are incredibly long and the introduction of a stereotypical and somewhat comical southern sheriff into the action is a bit on the absurd side.  Nevertheless, the Bond franchise is now moving ahead again, with a full shaker of vodka martinis.

Next for Moore was Man With The Golden Gun (1974).  It was supposed to be the second Lazenby film, but when he refused to do the project, it was put on the shelf for Connery’s return in a different story.  Even though it was the thirteenth Ian Fleming novel, the movie found a way to incorporate elements from the previous film based on the second novel.  With more over blown and lengthy chases, the film even finds a way to include the southern sheriff from the previous film.  Yes, he is on vacation in southeast Asia with his wife and finds himself in the midst of the chase.  An incredible jump with a car by Bond looks a lot like one done by Pierce Brosnan as Bond decades later.

man with the golden gun

Guy Hamilton directed Golden Gun as well.  After two long films with improbable and lengthy chase scenes, he was done. While the films did well as the box office, Man With the Golden Gun was not well received by critics.  It was time to move on

The third Roger Moore film finds the hero hitting his stride, in my humble opinion, with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).  An American and a Soviet submarine disappear and Bond is sent to investigate along with a beautiful Soviet agent, who would prefer to kill Bond for the death of a Soviet agent who had once tried to kill Bond.  The chase scene on skis is more exciting than the car and boat chase scenes of the previous two movies.  The intrigue is there, the Bond girl is beautiful, the scenery is great and the Bond devices and tricks supplied by “Q” are up to par.  This film finally has the charm of the Connery films, something that has been lacking despite the box office success.

The fourth Roger Moore film, Moonraker (1979), bears almost no resemblance to the 1955 novel from which it takes its name.  Nothing in the Fleming story could have suggested this.  The film moves full speed ahead into the realm of science fiction, retaining some of the traditional Bond elements before Roger blasts off into space with the latest “Bond girl.”

Instead of preventing a nuclear missile from destroying London, the film has Bond on a quest to find a missing space shuttle.  You will recall the previous film had him looking for missing submarines.  Now it is not just London that Bond must save, but the entire world.  Who knew so many space shuttles were at the ready of the villain and NASA?  Yes, there will be battle and a chase in outer space.

In the novel, the villain is an ex-Nazi.  Remember the book is from 1955 so the ex-Nazi and Soviet connection is plausible.  In the updated story, the villain is attempting to set up a scenario where he can establish a master race.  I won’t go into exactly how he intends to pull this off, put it requires space ships, satellites, a space station and lots of lasers.

These films were not made in the rapid succession of the early Bond films.  After the fourth film, Moore was 52 years old, but continued to be a popular Bond.  Moonraker was the top grossing Bond film at that point and Moore would be in demand for more films.  Yes, the Roger Moore era was nowhere near the finish.

The Roger Moore Years, Part two on Sunday.