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.”

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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
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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.

 

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN

The Sean Connery Years, part 2

When Sean Connery looks across the card table during a game of Baccarat Chemin de Fer in the opening of Dr. No, he started one of the greatest movie series ever simply by giving his name, “Bond, James Bond.”  Since then the Bond films have gone on to be one of the most successful movies franchises ever.  The eight Harry Potter films achieved unprecedented box office numbers.  Star Wars is back near the top. If you add up all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, they get number one on the revenue list, but there are many films; you know, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy. These are not all about one character, so does it count?  There are 25 Bond films, and it will take at least 2 more for the series to equal the Potter gross revenue figures.

Previously we recapped the first 4 Bond films, starring Connery as the super spy.  Connery was back for the fifth outing in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, based loosely, very loosely, on the 12th Ian Fleming novel of the same name.  Since the novel is a continuation of a story line from a previous novel, not yet filmed, we are in for some Cold War era rewrites here.

Consider this paragraph a giant spoiler alert.  In the opening Bond is sent to Japan where he is set up and killed by foreign agents.  The naval commander is buried at sea and that is the end of Bond.  OK, it’s not. It is all a set up so Bond can go under cover in Japan to work with the head of the Japanese secret service to find out who has captured an American spacecraft.  Here we get to see Bond train as a ninja and invade, along with a female assistant, of course, an island run by an evil SPECTRE mastermind.  There are battles, explosions, chases and remarkable rescues, just the usual Bond magic.

Remarkably, the next movie is based on the previous novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).  The sixth Bond production brings on a new actor in the role of the super hero and a new director.  Since Connery decided to retire from the role, the producers elected to go with an unknown Australian actor and model, George Lazenby.   His good looks and screen tests won him the role.

The story involves a “Bond girl” who James saves at the opening, then later meets at a casino. It’s actress Diana Rigg in an early role as a Countess. Her father sets Bond on an investigation of her solicitor, which in turn leads the spy to an evil plot by the head of SPECTRE (a plan to distribute biological warfare).  This may all sound rather fantastic, but this time the producers tried to stay closer to the book.  Yes, the film series got people reading the books.  Imagine that!

By the end of filming, Lazenby had decided that he had enough of Bond, even though he was offered the next movie which was supposed to be The Man With The Golden Gun.  He passed on it and the movie was put on hold.  It was reported that Lazenby’s agent told him the Bond series would be outdated by the 1970’s anyway.

After a couple of years and a film that did not have the box office magic of the Connery films, there was only one thing for the producers to do.  They decided to bring back the magic.  The story was switched to Diamonds Are Forever (1971).  Guy Hamilton was brought back to direct.  He was the director of the critically acclaimed Goldfinger.  John Barry again did the score, as he did for all but one of the Bond films.  Shirley Bassey, who sang the title tune for Goldfinger, is back for this title tune.  There is a gorgeous “Bond girl” with Jill St. John.  Just one more element was needed to insure a return to the top for the movie series.

Producers gave their Bond actor over a million dollars (unheard of territory then)  and a piece of the gross to take on the super suave spy.  Finally, the major challenge was met and Sean Connery was set to return as “007.”

The story is based on the 4th Ian Fleming novel published in 1956.  Bond is chasing diamond smugglers and the action moves from South Africa to Holland to the United Kingdom and on to Las Vegas.  Of course, a bit of a rewrite of the story allows us to have an old nemesis, Ernest Stavro Blofeld, a SPECTRE mastermind. The Bond girl is appropriately named, Tiffany Case.  Fleming loved to give the girls names with double meanings within the story.  The Las Vegas chase scene almost makes the movie experience worth the time. The casino owner at the middle of the thriller is played by Jimmy Dean.  Yes, that Jimmy Dean, country singer and sausage king.

From here the film series moves on to the Roger Moore years.  In 1973 Moore becomes the famous spy for the next seven films.  Connery moves on to other film projects, promising never to play the secret agent again.

Owners of the Thunderball rights, won in a court battle, desired to film the movie.  Additional court battles over what could be used would follow upon any attempt to make a rival Bond film in the midst of the Bond years.  Even while the Roger Moore films were being released, plans for a rival Bond movie were moving forward.  Not wanting to call the film by the same name and facing a variety of legal challenges, the producers went ahead with a similar story and no rights to the iconic music.  Even with a good script, how could they be successful in the same year with the release of a Roger Moore film?

The only solution seemed to be a film starring Sean Connery as James Bond, but Connery was 52 years old.  Moore, on the other hand, was older.  While Connery looked fit and able to play an action hero, the story was modified as if “007” was under used due to age. He is brought back to deal with the hijacking of 2 nuclear bombs.  Like Thunderball, there is a limited time to find the bombs and save the world from massive destruction.  Connery makes the most out of playing an aging James Bond who can still deliver in times of crisis.  The overall result is a film much more satisfying than the original Thunderball.  Some thought the short underwater climax was disappointing, but it was better than the overblown original.

Connery provides us with all the charm you would expect of the world’s most famous “secret” agent.  The film did almost as well at the box office as the Roger Moore/James Bond film that year, Octopussy.  The title of the Thunderball remake was suggested by Connery’s wife who reminded them that Connery had previously said “Never again” to playing the famous British agent.

Related:
Bond, James Bond – The Sean Connery Years

On Friday: “Moore Bond”

BOND. JAMES BOND. – Rich Paschall

A few years ago I set out to watch all of the “official” James Bond movies in order, the EON Productions films, that is.  I saw the other 3 as well. As I finished the films of each actor, I wrote down my thoughts on the movies.  This took place over a couple of years, as procrastination left a time lag between actors.  In some cases, I was also chasing down the DVDs.

There will be a lot of talk about Bond 25 for the next year as it will soon go into production and will be released in the fall of 2019. 

First, let’s go back to the start.

The Sean Connery Years, Rich Paschall

If you remember the very beginnings of the James Bond movies, then you have to admit this: When you hear that often used introduction, you immediately hear in your head the iconic music which has been a staple of so many Bond movies.  James Bond, Sean Connery and that music are forever intertwined.

James Bond was created by writer Ian Fleming in 1953 in the novel, Casino Royale.  He wrote a dozen novels and two short story collections.  The character was adapted for television, movies, comic strips and video games.  Connery set the bar high as the first James Bond in the films.

Since the first novel, Casino Royale, had been sold for a television production, and later a spoof starring David Niven (1967), the first movie had to start elsewhere.  Interestingly, it is the 6th novel, Dr. No, that is the basis for the first James Bond feature film (1962).

Bond, James Bond

The film shows us a suave and debonair James Bond, although Fleming had not initially seen Bond as that type of character.  He envisioned his hero as a dull sort of guy to which things happened.  As the movies have shown, Bond stood up to whatever challenge he faced. He was not dull.

Dr. No not only introduces us to Bond, but it also introduces an organization, SPECTRE, that will be the evil nemesis in many of the Bond films. In the story, a British agent is killed in Jamaica and Bond is sent there to investigate the circumstance.  It leads him on to an island where Dr. No is planning an evil plot to destroy a USA Mercury space launch.  Yes, it is the early 1960s so this all makes sense somehow.

Connery gives a commanding performance as the British Naval Commander and “00” secret agent with a “License to Kill.”  It may be fair to say that without this strong start, the movie series may never have become what it is today.  Some of the sexist lines and double entendres featured in the early films, would never make it to the screen today, however.  The charm and wit of the central character have remained a feature throughout, even if some of the clever quips have been abandoned.  Dr. No gets high marks for adventure and intrigue, especially for the cold war era in which it was made.

Nothing highlighted the Cold War spy era like From Russia With Love (1963).  The second Bond film was based on the 5th Fleming novel.  The plot to steal a cryptographic device may seem terribly amusing now, but was high drama then.  Bond is sent off to another exotic locale, this time Istanbul, to take the “Lektor” device and avoid capture.  Again SPECTRE is the enemy, a beautiful girl is caught up in the intrigue, and chase scenes and suspense are en vogue.  This is a worthy second entry to the film series. The first two films were directed by Terrence Young.

Most critics will agree that the third Bond film, based on the seventh Fleming novel, is among the best of the Bond features.  This time Guy Hamilton is brought in to direct as Bond is off to investigate the activities of Auric Goldfinger, a gold smuggler and suspected financier of terror.  Goldfinger (1964) contains a rather fantastic plot involving the robbery of Fort Knox.  The double meaning dialog is on full display as Bond (Sean Connery) tries to seduce Goldfinger’s personal pilot, Pussy Galore, in order to defeat the evil plan.  The villain’s henchman, Oddjob, becomes a film classic for his derby hat with the rim of steel blade.

Terrence Young is back to direct the 4th Bond film and Sean Connery is back again as the hero of Thunderball (1965).  They are given a budget more than double Goldfinger and you would think this would bring great benefit to the production.  Sadly, it does not.

Based on the ninth Fleming novel, the atomic age thriller finds Bond in search of two stolen atomic bombs taken by SPECTRE. They are to be ransomed back to the Western World or the countries will pay the ultimate price of having the bombs hit strategic targets.  It is a race against the clock which includes exotic locales and another gorgeous “Bond girl.”   Every film features a beautiful woman who just happens to get caught up in the intrigue.

The film spends too much time on chase scenes.  While the back drop of the Bahamas may have seemed to liven up the chase, the mere length and pacing of these sequences points out the need to find a film editor.  The climactic battle in the water may have worked had it not been excessively long.  When you wonder if the darn thing will ever end, you know some of this mess should have been left on the cutting room floor.  The Bond mission is successful, he ends up with the girl, and the movie finally ends after 130 minutes.

The story itself was under legal battles shortly after the publication of the 1961 novel of Thunderball.  Fleming was taken to court over ownership of the story.  Two others had co-authored a script for the story years earlier with Fleming. It did not sell and Fleming used it as the basis of his novel.  An out of court settlement was reached that led to plans of a rival Bond production years later and more court battles.  Could another studio actually take a Bond story and produce a one time rival Bond film?  They did it using the same story.  How could they possibly make such a thing successful?

More on the Connery years Tuesday, and the making of a second Thunderball.

BOND REBOOT

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.

The change to a new Bond also meant another change in attitude at the studio now run by the daughter of original Producer, Albert R. Broccoli.  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 clearly 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 Craig be back?  Will the newly reintroduced regulars be back with the same actors?  Will the storylines 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.  I hope Craig is back, or someone who can bring the same level of action and intensity.

Just for fun, even the Queen is willing to appear in a James Bond film:

Related:
Bond, James Bond
Never Say Never Again
Moore Bond
For Your Eyes Only
Bond Is Back
Goldeneye
A Tale of Three James Bonds

A TALE OF THREE JAMES BONDS

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.

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 the long time Bond fans cringe.  The American agent in the novel in now a British agent and 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 a 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 producer, attorney, talent agent Charles K Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights.  By that point, the Bond series was off to a good start and 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 mess ensued.

John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left.  Five other directors worked on the project, one is 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.

OK, now we will stop trying to explain it.  You have to see it (or not).  The temperamental Seller’s left the project for a rest before his part was finished, and he was asked not to return.  Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they did not speak to one another, or work together much apparently.  A whole gaggle of stars make cameo appearances.  When all was said and done, and there was a confused mess on film, Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd)  It was an attempt to find some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ part. Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the ending. There is no good explanation for the final scenes.

The critically panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 60’s had done.  At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love.  The film rights then passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that put out this mess.  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 Spider-Man.  Yes, Spider Man 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.  It was back to the beginning.  Our hero becomes “007,” and the silver screen welcomes Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”

 

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 Studios 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 first Bond film not to take the title from an Ian Fleming story.  The original work did pay homage to the Bond creator by taking its name from Operation Goldeneye.  This was a project Fleming was a part of when he was 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 and 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
Never Say Never Again
Moore Bond
For You Eyes Only
Bond Is Back

FILMS ALL GUYS SHOULD SEE

My personal top 20, by Rich Paschall

This is probably the opposite of “chick flicks.”  You know what I mean, the romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock or Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, or Zac Efron.  You may have to see those as a consequence of the long tradition of “date nights,” but these are some of the films every guy should see.

There could be hundreds of good films for this list.  The heroes are strong, the action is intense, the dialogue is smart and every guy in the theater would like to be the leading man of the story.  They speak not only good versus evil, or right versus wrong, but they also include noble intentions… most of the time anyway.

Since I had to stick with movies I have seen, the list will probably date me to a time when I went to the movie theater more often.  A few of these I have only seen at home, but on a much larger television than when I was young.  Whether you are a Citizen Kane or a Raging Bull, it will be a Bad Day At Black Rock if you do not see all of these.  I normally do a top ten but I could not fit The Great Escape on the list and M.A.S.H. them down to 10.  It may not yet be High Noon, but it is time for the list.

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven

20.  The Magnificent Seven. Outstanding remake of the Japanese classic The Seven Samurai, but set in the old West
19.  Dirty Harry. “I know what you’re thinking.”  This movie contains some of the greatest film quotes of all time.
18.  On The Waterfront. Marlon Brando could have been a contender. In fact, he won an Oscar.
17.  Patton.  George C. Scott will scare the heck out of you as the American General and war hero.
16.  Von Ryan’s Express.  Mesmerizing performance by Frank Sinatra trying to lead his troops to safety.
15.  Rocky.  Admit it, you love it.  It is a triumph of the spirit.  The sequels … not so much.
14.  Run Silent, Run Deep.  Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable face intrigue and insurrection on a submarine.
13.  The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Alec Guinness as the noble British officer forced to build a bridge with his fellow prisoners.  And the Oscar goes to…
12. The French Connection.  New York, France, drugs, car chases, cops and the perfect cast.  An Academy award winner.
11. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. The ultimate “Spaghetti Western.”

10.  Dr. NoBond, James Bond  If it is not exactly what Ian Fleming had in mind for his spy hero, it is nonetheless a great start to the ongoing series of action adventure movies.  If it were not for Sean Connery, would this series have gone very far?

09.  The Maltese Falcon.  Humphrey Bogart plays the detective who hunts down those responsible for the death of his partner.  It’s an odd speech he gives to Mary Astor at the end, but the final scene remains a classic.

08.  North by Northwest.  Cary Grant is forced to find the killer of an official at the United Nations.  The cross-country thriller is one of the finest works of director Alfred Hitchcock.

07.  Cool Hand Luke.  Paul Newman is a hero of another kind in the 1967 prison movie which earned an academy award for George Kennedy.

06.  Glory.  I loved Matthew Broderick in a number of lightweight movies, but here he rises to the dramatic occasion as the young officer who leads a troop of black soldiers into battle during the Civil War.  Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman also head the stellar cast.

05.  12 Angry Men.  One room, 12 men, one case, all dialogue.  Henry Fonda leads the powerful cast as the hold-out jury member who is not convinced of one boy’s guilt.  The confined setting adds to the unfolding tension.

04.  Jaws.  This movie made a lot of people afraid to go in the water.  Three unlikely people (Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss) go shark hunting in this 1975 thriller, directed by Steven Spielberg.

03.  In The Heat Of The Night.  Sydney Poitier commands the screen as the Philadelphia detective in the wrong place in the South. Rod Steiger is the ultimate racist southern sheriff.  The movie should make you squirm just a bit (or a lot) no matter what side of the color line you are on.  This is way beyond the sanitized television series and an important movie in 1967.

02.  The Godfather.  While some will not agree, I find this the best of the trilogy.  Marlon Brando is the Godfather, the Italian don, head of the crime family.  The 1972 film is a movie you can not refuse.

01.  Casablanca.  If you did not know this was coming, you have not been following me for very long.  It may be Casablanca, but we’ll always have Paris.  Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried, Claude Reins, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and a supporting cast that look like they belong in the French Moroccan city.

Find trailers for the top 10 here on my You Tube channel.

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.

First up for Dalton was a film based on the Fleming short story, 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, 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.

Related: Bond, James Bond
Never Say Never Again
Moore Bond
For Your Eyes Only

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 almost to 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 Guy Hamilton 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 more than an effort to avenge the death of a fellow agent, it has to do with finding an Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator that was on-board a sunken spy ship.  This of course means underwater intrigue, which we have, of course, seen before.  This time it may be pulled off 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 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 the film.  Now instead of being about Nazi gold, it is about Soviet jewels.  It is also an attempt by a rogue Soviet military officer to create conflict, perhaps war, between the super powers.  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, decided to put out the Bond film but they were presented with one interesting problem.  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.

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, leading 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
Never Say Never Again
Moore Bond

MOORE BOND

The Roger Moore Years, Part 1

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 of seven, Connery returned for Diamonds Are Forever.  The franchise rebounded nicely from the 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.

never say never again

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 of 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 was the suave and 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 southern sheriff into the chases 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 Ian Fleming 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 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, we have a 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 next week.

 

SPECTRE – 007 IS BACK. AGAIN.

First, the good news. The cinematography is sometimes brilliant. A bit dark. Okay for the big screen, but I hope they brighten it up for viewing at home. Dark doesn’t play well on a small screen.

It’s a very loud movie. The explosions range from loud, to louder, to loudest. Don’t worry about hearing the dialogue though because there isn’t any. No one says anything memorable. Pity about that because given half a chance, I’m pretty sure Daniel Craig can act, but you’d never know it from “Spectre.”

spectre daniel craig

The movie is at least 20 minutes too long and has half a dozen false endings. Deleting a few false endings might have improved it.

Motivation? Plot?

Bad guys want to take over the world because they are evil. Good guys want to stop them because they are, you know, good. There are some women, too.

Sex? Either too much or not enough. I’m not sure which. Gratuitous violence? Absolutely. There were at least two scenes too violent for me during which I had to hide my eyes.

Bond survives (to make at least one more movie) in the usual way. Which is to say, the evil head of Spectre doesn’t know when to shut up. He has a devilish, incredibly complicated (slow) way to kill Bond. The bad guy has lots of time to recap every horrible thing he has ever done to Bond … while giving 007 ample opportunity to escape.

Spectre_poster

There are bad guys who refuse to die. Bond keeps killing them, but wait, they’re back! What a surprise! We’ve never seen anything like that before. Much of this was tired by the time Roger Moore was playing 007. It has gotten older, but not better. Except — the old Bond movies were usually amusing. Funny. Clever. Witty.

Spectre isn’t funny, clever or witty. It’s car chases, stunt flying, destruction of expensive machinery including at least one airplane … and of course killing. Motivation is murky, characters do stuff without apparent rhyme or reason. The high point of the movie is when Bond — in the midst of a car chase — gets stuck behind a slow driver. Sadly, that moment was over too soon, leaving a long way to the final credits.

It wouldn’t cost more to have a script. To add dialogue and a hint of motivation for characters. They have writers, so why not allow them to write? They should also hire an editor and tighten up everything, from end to end. My butt fell asleep. My brain clicked off. By the time the credits rolled, Garry and I had wicked headaches. Too many explosions, too little dialogue.

The final, perfect touch? It cost $4.75 for a bottle of water and $5.75 for a pretzel. I was short twenty cents, but they let me keep it anyway.

Wait for it to come to cable. Make your own microwave popcorn.

If you think I’m the only wet blanket who doesn’t like it, check out the review by Scott Mendelson from Forbes. And other places. It’s not a great or even good movie, but I’m sure it’ll make money. I’m sorry some it was ours.

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN

The Sean Connery Years, part 2

When Sean Connery looks across the card table during a game of Baccarat Chemin de Fer in the opening of Dr. No to give his name to his female opponent, he started one of the greatest movie series ever by responding, “Bond, James Bond.”  Since then the Bond films have gone on to be one of the most successful movies franchises ever.  The eight Harry Potter films achieved unprecedented box office numbers.  If you add up all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, they get number one on the revenue list, but there are 11 popular and recent films; you know, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and they are not all about one character so does it count?  There are 25 Bond films, and it will take at least 2 more for the series to equal the Potter gross revenue figures.

Previously we recapped the first 4 Bond films, staring Connery as the super spy.  Connery was back for the fifth outing in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, based loosely, very loosely, on the 12th Ian Fleming novel of the same name.  Since the novel is a continuation of a story line from a previous novel, not yet filmed, we are in for some Cold War era rewrites here.

Consider this paragraph a giant spoiler alert.  In the opening Bond is sent to Japan where he is set up and killed by foreign agents.  The naval commander is buried at sea and that is the end of Bond.  OK, it’s not. It is all a set up so Bond can go under cover in Japan to work with the head of the Japanese secret service to find out who has captured an American spacecraft.  Here we get to see Bond train as a ninja and invade, along with a female assistant, of course, an island run by an evil SPECTRE mastermind.  There are battles, explosions, chases and remarkable rescues, just the usual Bond magic.

Remarkably, the next movie is based on the previous novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).  The sixth Bond production brings on a new actor in the role of the super hero and a new director.  Since Connery decided to retire from the role, the producers elected to go with an unknown Australian actor and model, George Lazenby.   His good looks and screen tests won him the role.  It was the only time a person not from Great Britain would take the lead.

The story involves a “Bond girl” who James saves at the opening, then later meets at a casino. It’s actress Diana Rigg in an early role as a Countess. Her father sets Bond on an investigation of her solicitor which in turn leads Bond to an evil plot by the head of SPECTRE to set in motion a plan to distribute biological warfare.  This may all sound rather fantastic, but this time the producers tried to stay closer to the book.  Yes, the film series got people reading the books.  Imagine that!

By the end of filming, Lazenby had decided that he had enough of Bond, even though he was offered the next movie which was to be The Man With The Golden Gun.  He passed on it and the movie was put on hold.  It was reported that Lazenby’s agent told him the Bond series would be out dated by the 1970’s anyway.

After a couple of years and a film that did not have the box office magic of the Connery films, there was only one thing for the producers to do.  They decided to bring back the magic.  The story was switched to Diamonds Are Forever (1971).  Guy Hamilton was brought back to direct.  He was the director of the critically acclaimed Goldfinger.  John Barry again did the score, as he did for all but one of the Bond films at this point.  Shirley Bassey, who sang the title tune for Goldfinger, is back for this title tune.  There is a gorgeous “Bond girl” with Jill St. John.  Just one more element was needed to insure a return to the top for the movie series.

Producers gave their Bond actor over a million dollars (unheard of territory then)  and a piece of the gross to take on the super suave spy.  Finally, the major challenge was met and Sean Connery was set to return as “007.”

The story is based on the 4th Ian Fleming novel published in 1956.  Bond is chasing diamond smugglers and the action moves from South Africa to Holland to the United Kingdom and on to Las Vegas.  Of course, a bit of a rewrite of the story allows us to have an old nemesis, Ernest Stavro Blofeld, a SPECTRE mastermind. The Bond girl is appropriately named, Tiffany Case.  Fleming loved to give the girls names with double meanings within the story.  The Las Vegas chase scene almost makes the movie experience worth the time. The casino owner at the middle of the thriller is played by Jimmy Dean.  Yes, that Jimmy Dean, country singer and sausage king.

From here the film series moves on to the Roger Moore years.  In 1973 Moore becomes the famous spy for the next seven films.  Connery moves on to other film projects, promising never to play the secret agent again.

Owners of the Thunderball rights, won in a court battle, desired to film the movie.  Additional court battles over what could be used would follow upon any attempt to make a rival Bond film in the midst of the Bond years.  Even while the Roger Moore films were being released, plans for a rival Bond movie were moving forward.  Not wanting to call the film by the same name and facing a variety of legal challenges, the producers went ahead with a similar story and no rights to the iconic music.  Even with a good script, how could they be successful in the same year with the release of a Roger Moore film?

The only solution seemed to be a film starring Sean Connery as James Bond, but Connery was 52 years old.  Moore, on the other hand, was older.  While Connery looked fit and able to play an action hero, as many his age had for action heroes, the story was modified as if “007” was under used due to age and he is brought back to deal with the hijacking of 2 nuclear bombs.  Like Thunderball, there is a limited time to find the bombs and save the world from massive destruction.  Connery makes the most out of playing an aging James Bond who can still deliver in times of crisis.  The overall result is a film much more satisfying than the original Thunderball.  Some thought the short underwater climax was disappointing, but it was better than the overblown original.

Connery provides us with all the charm you would expect of the world’s most famous “secret” agent.  The film did almost as well at the box office as the Roger Moore/James Bond film that year, Octopussy.  The title of the Thunderball remake was suggested by Connery’s wife who reminded them that Connery had previously said “Never again” to playing the famous British agent.

Related:

Bond, James Bond – The Sean Connery Years