James Bond 25: Craig’s 007 so far.

Daniel Craig will return as James Bond, and the next film is set for a November 8th, release date. The film will reportedly be Daniel Craig’s last as James Bond, but one has to wonder, what direction will the series take in this new installment, and going forward?

While many of the earlier films had a self-contained nature, with little linking them apart from Bond himself, his supporting staff at MI6 (M, Moneypenny, Q, and occasionally Bill Tanner and Felix Leiter) occasionally the plans of Blofeld and SPECTRE (in the 60’s) and of course your basic Bond formula of “Martinis, girls, and guns,” the Craig films attempted to start (more or less) fresh (as Judi Dench was still M, with no explanation as to how this fit into anything), with Bond being a newly minted 00 who gradually grew into the more familiar spy, and with a somewhat more grittier, more back-to-basics approach than the space weapons, crazy stunts, and over the top villains that often appeared in the earlier films . CASINO showed him becoming somewhat more ‘sophisticated’ due to Vesper’s guidance…from this:

 

to this:

But it also hardens him, when it turns out Vesper had been blackmailed into stealing the Casino winnings.

Although by the end of Quantum of Solace,  as the title suggests, he at least partially understands what happened (hence the title).

In “Skyfall” he’s become a somewhat more familiar Bond, cracking quips and doing impossible feats, as well as a sense of class, pulling his cuffs up after a huge jump…

 

Although he’s kind of reverted to his early Casino Royale self after getting shot and lying low for a few months…

But he’s pretty much back to his prime halfway through.

Skyfall of course is notable in that it introduces Bond’s supporting cast of MI6, apart from M and Tanner, as well as a new Male M, Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Moneypenny and Q in particular are far less office-bound than their predecessors (although Desmond’s Q did occasionally equip Bond on the field, especially in “Licence to Kill” where the roles of M and Moneypenny were minimalized).

 

Of course the film most notably killed off Judi Dench’s Q, pretty much removing the only real narrative link to the previous continuity (As Judi Dench’s M was also Brosnan’s)

 

 

SPECTRE of course introduced the Bond villain organization of the 60’s back into Bond’s world, and also (retroactively) ties the villanous plots of CASINO, QUANTUM and even the seemingly self-contained SKYFALL into the machinations of one man: Hans Oberhauser, Bond’s spiteful stepbrother who faked his death, built a criminal organization and did it all in part to spite his stepbrother. Of course, he also uses a new name, Ernst Stravro Blofeld.

 

This is in part accomplished by bringing back Mr. White, one of the players in the “organization” established in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and called “Quantum” in the latter film, turning out to be SPECTRE all along.

Asked by Mr. White to protect his daughter, Madeline Swann, Bond and Swann end up falling for each other and foiling Blofeld’s plans, but also Bond, figuring he’s got something “better to do” spares Blofeld’s life and rides off with her into the streets of London in his  rebuilt Aston Martin, possibly into retirement.

 

 

But with Craig returning, retiring’s not something his Bond is really good at. He tried in Casino Royale, and we all know how that turned out.

And of course, SPECTRE leaves Blofeld alive, and the last time in the series Bond left Blofeld alive (although it’s possible he considered him dead) and tried to settle down, it ended badly, in an event often brought up in later Bonds as a bit of a continuity nod-the death of his new wife, Tracy.

Dialing back a bit, there’s something familiar about the framing of OHMSS and SPECTRE’s endings here….

Although Bond 25’s still a bit way off, I’ll continue to offer more speculation into where the general Bond series direction is going, and how this might close Craig’s Bond ‘story’, perhaps paving the way for another reboot at some point (Perhaps even kill off Bond somehow? I’m not a big fan of the ‘code name’ theory-a fan theory cooked up to explain the changes in Bond actors and ages, like how a 60ish Roger Moore suddenly became 40something Timothy Dalton-so I’d rather something like him passing the torch does not happen, or the “this never happened to the other fella” quip) but rather a mostly fresh reboot like CASINO). Could Bond beyond Craig stick with the same basic continuity, but just change the actor without any explanation as the old films did?

Bond in Review: Never Say never Again Part V

Bond shows up on the Flying Saucer, in a wetsuit, but he’s expected, but his ‘hosts’ are nice enough to give him a bathrobe. Bond seems to wear these almost as much as he does tuxedos, going back to Dr.No, it seems.

 

This scene is largely similar to the scene in Thunderball where Bond is invited to Largo’s estate, except in this case it’s much later in the film. Except of course Bond is allowed to leave in this case, whereas the Flying Saucer has already set sail to Palmyra (which is the name of Largo’s estate in Nassau in Thunderball, but here is located somewhere in North Africa).

…of course he also gives Bond a look at his situation room, which of course gives Bond an idea.

He meets with Domino in the gym (with that awful music playing), aware that Largo’s probably in his observation room behind the mirror (as we saw earlier in the film). He kisses her, to get a ‘reaction’ so Largo will freak out, and Domino also pushes the fire alarm so that the situation room will be evacuated, allowing Bond to send a distress call to M. He also gets amused by Largo’s nuttiness as he takes a fire axe to the piano and stereo, and apparently the music in the gym is so loud he can’t even hear the fire alarm until he smashes the stereo!

He doesn’t do anything until they arrive at Palmyra, which is much larger and ornate than Thunderball’s oceanside estate, where he quickly orders Bond to be taken away. We then get a very, very tense scene where Largo creeps around her and messes around with a green statue (Her “Wedding present”).

It’s far more psychological than his physical torture of her in Thunderball, with Largo embracing his craziness when accused of it: “Ja. Maybe.”

And one nasty forced kiss too.

Largo

He also delivers a monologue to Bond a bit later, revealing the location of one of the nukes (Washington) and leaving him chained up. Thankfully he forgot to confiscate Bond’s watch…which of course has a laser.

Domino is put up to be sold as a wife to local bidders (Her “wedding”) and we hear that music again, but Bond quickly saves the day on a horse, leading to an awkward close-up of Connery as he shouts “HOLLLD ONNNNN!” as they jump into the sea. Including the horse.

Image result for Horse never say never again

Although part of this is accomplished via some sort of crappy green screen effects, the last shot seems to show a real horse falling sideways into the water. This actually caused some controversy, and it’s said that the “No animals were harmed” disclaimer is a result of this scene….although other sources seem to indicate that it’s been in place since 1939’s “Jesse James”.

Palmyra gets shot up by the navy, but the saucer’s already on it’s way out. Tracking them in a nearby sub, Bond figures out that the pendant Domino has is where the second nuke is being placed-right near some oil fields in an ancient underground temple. Cue Bond using the jetpack, although one nowhere near as cool as the original Thunderball version IMO.

 

Sure, the helmet’s a bit corny, but there’s just something in the less complicated design, and the fact that Bond’s wearing a suit while using it that says “Bond” more to me than whatever tactical suit he’s wearing here. Sure, Bond often wears several more tactical clothes in the films many times, but if they were trying to re-create the jetpack here, it could’ve been done better.

 

After telling a delighted Blofeld (The last shot of him we’ll see in the movie, talking once again to the skull camera), the big end battle begins in the ground temple. Although maybe it might seem a bit more fast-paced than the big underwater battle that ended Thunderball, it just seems to lack tension and excitement…and this is from the same director who did some of the most tense battles ever in film.

Yes, this one-what else?

In all the confusion-which does include a kind of cool stunt of Bond knocking the head off a statue-Largo manages to escape with the nuke, much like he did in the original, except this time he’s underwater. The result is pretty much the same. Death by Domino’s harpoon.

 

Although I think the original is far better in this regard.

Instead of crashing the Flying Saucer and getting extracted via fulton balloon like in the original, we have them lounging in a pool (probably in the Bahamas)

Domino is wearing a tiger swimsuit, which was the focus of a lot of the film’s marketing, of course, much like her predecessor’s look in the original.

 

They’re interrupted by an intruder, who just happens to be Nigel Small-Faucet, who says that

“M says,  without you in the service,he fears for the security

of the civilized world!”

But Bond state’s “never again”, recalling the title of the film…but then gives a wink to the audience, while being encircled by the pseudo gunbarrel “007”…hinting this Bond might come back.

Technically, he would return in another remake of one of his old classics, but this time the video game version of “From Russia With Love”. I’ve heard the game’s actually pretty good, but from Connery’s voice in the game it sounds very different-his scottish accent, in particular, is much more present. There were also rumors about Connery returning to film another Thunderball remake, although this time as the villain(!) against Timothy Dalton-Warhead 2000, which I brought up quite a while back. Connery of course has been retired from acting for over a decade, and is well into his 80’s, so beyond this I doubt we’ll see him in any Bond film down the line. (He also has had some mixed feelings about the character, especially given the typecasting in the 60’s).

As for the film, it’s an unusual beast. I prefer the original Thunderball, but there are certain aspects that are a bit better, such as the villains. Largo in the original was pretty much just a tough guy, whereas the new Largo feels much more dangerous and psychotic. Ditto with Fatima (Can’t really say much for Sydow’s Blofeld, though, he’s not given much to do) Connery also gives a much better performance here-and looks better-than in his official sendoff, “Diamonds Are Forever” (It also feels far less campy and dated, despite the video game aspects and the wackiness of Barbera Carerra’s Fatima). Some of the changes here-such as the gadgets, the idea of Bond losing his edge and considering retirement, and the MI6 staff changes-also foreshadow future developments in the series. The action scenes seem a bit uninspired though, the settings somewhat more bland at times (with some exceptions such as the Casino and Palmyra), and of course this lacks some of the series trademarks-the gunbarrel, the opening credits, the theme music-which help make Bond, Bond. Sure, the Craig films played around with this a bit, but they still largely kept the theme music and opening credits. So the film’s sort of an oddball, but overall, worth a look.

Bond in Review: Never Say Never Again Part IV

 

Nicole drops Bond off at Largo’s fancy fundraiser, which he quickly gets in by intimidating a guard with a device that he pretends is explosive (in fact, just a fancy cigar box).

As we enter a Casino, one wonders if we’ll get a fancy round of Bacarrat, or even poker or crap tables. But nope! The casino, it turns out, also functions as an arcade, showing that this particular Bond, like Wargames, Tron, and the Last Starfighter, wanted in on the whole video game mania (although the plot of course doesn’t revolve around video games as much; just this particular sequence).

Some Bond fans have remarked that one of the extras looks like Timothy Dalton. I seriously doubt it, though. Dalton at the time was pretty much established in Britain, and it wouldn’t make much sense for him to have a one second cameo in a Connery movie.

His face just doesn’t seem anywhere near as severe as Dalton’s, either (The eyes and mouth, especially). Sure, the hairstyle, and thick eyebrows, as well as the tux are similar to his “License to Kill” Casino look, but yeah, I’m not buying it anyway.

Image result for Timothy dalton license to kill casino

Just for comparison’s sake, here’s a look at Dalton in 1983, the year NSNA, from a similar angle.

Funny thing is, McClory did consider making a Dalton James Bond film as a rival to the Brosnan ones-another remake of Thunderball, called “Warhead 2000” (About the least Bondy title one can think of), where he would face off against Connery as Largo or Blofeld! One of the stranger Bond film concepts…

This is also the only scene where we see Fatima really interact with Largo as well. It’s clear she sort of has feelings for him, sort of a mutual sadism.

It’s pretty much the analog to this scene from Thunderball, although there was really no chemistry at all there.

 

Bond mean while, is cozying up to Domino by buying her a drink, despite their awkward last encounter, and asks about her brother, but Largo quickly intervenes, introducing his own video game-Domination. This is perhaps one of the best remembered and unique scenes in the film. The official Bond films wouldn’t really deal with anything really video-game related until Die Another Day, where Bond dons VR glasses for a simulated takeover of MI6. (and they of course figure into the film’s later Moneypenny gag).

The game, played over a long table with a holographic display in the middle, sort of parallels the plot, involving the two nuclear missiles. Gameplay wise it seems a bit like a 3D version of “Missile Command”.

Of course this being a Bond film, there’s some real world stakes, such as electrically-charged joysticks that’ll shock you if you lose, and of course Largo and Bond start to pump them up to near lethal levels, something that almost kills them both.

Bond, being Bond of course wins the game, and we get a great line from Connery as Largo asks: “Do you lose as gracefully as you win?” to which Bond replies, “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never lost”. Bond’s only request is a dance with Domino.

Whereas in THUNDERBALL Bond revealed the details of her brother’s death to her on an empty beach, here he’s doing it while they’re dancing the tango. It’s a pretty well shot sequence, and I like Kim Basinger’s expressions here as she sort of tries to keep a look between composed and shocked.

Bond’s facts about her brother seems to be confirmed by Largo being kind of dodgy on the subject of her brother, but Largo invites him over to his yacht anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the villa he shares with Felix and Nicole, we’re given the somewhat nasty and disturbing shot of Nicole drowned in a small pool, pretty much confirming her as this film’s Paula (Although Paula took her own life to avoid leaking information, the culprit here is Fatima).

Bond notices Fatima get away, and we pretty much get this film’s gadgety chase scene, this time with a motorcycle. This is something also rather unique. While many motorcycles feature in Bond chase scenes, there’s only been a few with Bond himself as the rider apart from this one-the Goldeneye escape where he jumps from it to a falling plane, “Tomorrow Never Dies” Saigon chase, the short one in Quantum of Solace (where he mainly uses it to help get on the boat) and the Istanbul chase that is part of Skyfall’s opening….and none of them were Q brand, just something Bond just picked up on the way. This one has rocket launchers and boosters.

It’s an OK scene, not the best chase scene but still fairly interesting and with some decent stunts. It’s cut short by Fatima who derails it, and she then traps Bond, and like Red Grant in Never Say Never Again, wants him humiliated and her own ego puffed up.

Of course Bond, like the earlier scene with Grant, can’t resist getting a few insults in just to provoke-and then of course, the pen rocket-which has a delayed reaction, causing Bond to nearly get shot.

But in the nick of time, it ignites and soon there’s just two smoking high-heeled shoes remained of Fatima.

Although I think the death of her Thunderball counterpart is still a bit funnier with the added Bond pun.

 

To evade the police, Felix shows up and remarks at the skill Bond handled her, but then we get a kind of goofy exit as just some guys exercising around the place.

 

 

Bond In Review: Never Say Never Again Part III

Bond arrives in the Bahamas, and pretty much right away starts flirting with a girl on a fishing boat. She might look familiar to Bond viewers-she’s Valerie Leon, who  played a hotel receptionist in The Spy Who Loved Me six years earlier (Who likewise flirted with Bond). Here she plays a sort of minor Bond girl/conquest of Bond.

Another introduction is far more familiar-Rowan Atkinson, famous for his Mr. Bean and Black Adder characters. Here, he plays Nigel Small-Fawcett, sort of a goofy character who is rather clumsy with the spy stuff.

Although I suppose you can say he got a bit better at it…(but not by much).

 

He pretty much just gives him some info on Largo, and of course provide some comic relief. Not exactly Bond’s best local contact….

Image result for Barbara carrera bahamas

While observing the disco, Bond observes Fatima waterskiing, and then flips onto the bar Bond is at, and we get the great line:

Fatima: “Oh, I’ve made you all wet!”

Bond: “Yes, but my martini’s still dry”.

For some reason,  Bond agrees to her wanting to ‘help him find what he’s looking for’, which isn’t exactly clear. I mean, obviously he’s up for a “little fun” with her, but it’s sort of putting him in harm’s way and doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the mission. Especially the last part which I’ll get to.

Of course this leads to innuendo and the two get together, but the last part is a bit odd. He goes scuba-diving with her and she has him look into a wreck for some reason, and then plants a homing device on his back which attracts some Sharks with devices on them. How did Bond think this was going to work out, anyway? Did he think the nukes were in the wreck and this woman who he already knew was a villainess would just let him know?

 

Never Say Never Again (1983): the lost recap (part 3 of 6)

Bond evades the sharks, much like he did in the original Thunderball, and emerges to find Valerie Lion’s unnamed character going fishing nearby.

We get a sort of goofy scene of  Fatima camping it up dancing to steel drums, when the girl’s boat docks and Bond is showing off his ‘catch’.

She follows Bond and the girl to the hotel, and plants a device in Bond’s room, detonating it, in this shot which is one of the film’s best-Fatima of course is sort of doing her SPECTRE mission, but also sort of has the look of almost being spurned. Fortunately, he decided to go to the local woman’s hotel room instead.

Bond then learns that the Saucer has left for France. Did Bond even need to really go to the Bahamas in the first place, just to keep an eye on the Yacht? Couldn’t he have had Faucet tell him in London over the phone? Oh well, guess they needed to somehow keep at least part of the setting of the original Thunderball, and have Bond face off a bit with Blush. But it just seems a little too much time spent with little plot development.

In France, we get to meet Nicole and a new Felix, played by Bernie Casey. Felix plays a similar role to his Thunderball counterpart, while Nicole is pretty much a stand-in for Paula in the original film, but doesn’t really do much at all compared to her.

They check out the Flying Saucer from the POV of a local villa with bionoculars, and spot Largo and Domino, and of course Bond, learning that Domino is the sister of the air force pilot, goes to check her out, posing as a massage guy. We get another one of those “ladies stare longingly at Bond” scenes the main series seems to use a lot.

 

He then starts to massage Domino, and there’s some slight creepiness here, but then this is Bond I’m writing about. He gains some information that there’s a charity ball tonight at a casino. After he spots the real masseuse arriving, Bond quickly leaves, and the real one tells her that Bond doesn’t work there. Instead of immeadiatly calling Sûreté nationale, she looks slightly alarmed for a second before breaking out in a bit of a goofy grin. Seriously.

Bond in Review: Never Say Never Again Part II

Fatima then sends Lippe to take care of Bond. While in the original movie, Lippe was more or less the mastermind of phase one of SPECTRE’s plan, Lippe here is more of a heavy, played by a guy who pretty much is skilled at this kind of thing: Pat Roach, who fought Indiana Jones three times in the Indiana Jones series (a fourth time was cut)

 

Image result for Count lippe Never Say Never again

Here, after a fight with Connery that destroys a good chunk of the clinic, Bond finally manages to defeat Lippe with his urine sample(!) which blinds him and causes him to back into a wall of syringes, killing him. Not quite as graphic as his demises in the Indiana Jones films, but ‘death by pee joke’ is kind of a weird way to go out.

M of course is kind of pissed (heh) at this, (whereas Bernard Lee’s M actually was kind of proud of the intelligence Bond picked up at Shrublands in the original film-

“If 007 says he saw Derval last night at Shrublands and he was dead,

that’s enough for me to initiate inquiries.”

Although to be fair, this is before the whole nuke-stealing plot unfolds, whereas in Thunderball, it was after.

Which of course, unfolds now, with Jack actually launching the nukes using his false eye to gain clearance, instead of them being stolen via plane like in Thunderball.

 

Image result for Jack never say never again

This replaces dummy warheads with real ones, and launches them, but to land safely on Largo’s yacht, the Flying Saucer, the Disco Volante. We get some fairly cringey blue-screen work here as the missiles fly over beaches and countryside, sort of reminding me of some of the lesser flying effects in the Superman films. (Such as when Superman has to stop two nukes on his own).

A bit of a word on the Flying Saucer, in real life it’s called the Kingdom 5KR, with a few different names.

However, shortly after this film was released, it was sold to a certain billionaire who seems to be in the news a lot lately….

and that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Anyway, in a slightly similar fashion to Fiona taking out Count Lippe in the original film, but a little more twisted, Fatima takes care of Jack by throwing a snake into his car, causing it to crash. She then recovers her poor snake before destroying the rest of Jack’s car.

Blofeld then gives his ultimatum, similar to Thunderball, although this time he’s got a camera inside a silver skull, instead of the usual Octopus images the organization are associated with. He demands oil money this time.

Of course alarmed at this, the secretary tells M to reactivate the 00s (I guess they were sort of ‘inactive’ or something? It’s not really made clear, apart from Bond saying earlier that he had “little use” for the section, and that Bond for some reason was teaching?)

We get a second scene from Moneypenny, as Bond is investigating a matchbox he found on Jack’s bed at Shrublands which features Largo’s flag symbol. Once again, M largely ignores 007’s idea about the eye and Petachi.

We then come back to the FS, where Largo is watching Jack’s sister, Domino (played by future megastar Kim Basinger in an early role), do some aerobics to some very funky music. It’s all so very goofy and so 80’s, even Largo can’t help laughing a bit at it.

 

He then gives her a necklace, which of course will become very important to the plot later (and sort of a critical error on Largo’s part) . He also warns her, that if she ever leaves him, he’ll cut her throat (he also strikes a bad note on the piano nearby when he hears it). The Thunderball Largo has nothing on this guy’s level of utter creepiness, even when he was torturing her at the end of that film. For all the film’s other problems, Largo is an effective villain.

Although we haven’t seen M technically order him to go to the Bahamas or anything, Bond’s going there anyway simply because Largo’s boat is docked there, at the moment, and I guess to incorporate a little bit of the flavor of the original Thunderball, which was set almost entirely at Nassau in the second half of the film.

But before we do that, we’ve got the “Q scene”.  Although this Q is certainly not Desmond Llewylnn’s Major Boothryd, but a guy named Algeron, whose lab, attire, and attitude is certainly less refined then either of his official counterparts (Boothryd and the new Whishaw version).

Image result for Q never say never again

This is clearly defined by his attitude to Bond, the polar opposite of the EON Q’s attitude to Bond’s lifestyle (and somewhat sort of defines Bond movies in general):

 

“Now you’re on this, I hope we’re going to

have some gratuitous sex and violence.”

A bit of a note here, it’s interesting that the gadgets in this film (apart from the motorcycle) in someway anticipate Goldeneye’s. Although it’s a pen weapon it fires rocket projectiles instead of functioning like a grenade like Goldeneyes (Plus it’s a vastly different pen).

Image result for Goldeneye pen

There’s also a laser watch, which also of course would be used in Goldeneye .

There’s even the gag of Bond mistaking something ordinary for one of Q’s gadgets-in this case it’s an inhaler for Q’s sinuses, instead of a submarine sandwich.

Finally, we’re capped off with Bond telling him he’s going to the bahamas, to which Q responds “Lucky bloody you!”

 

 

 

Bond in Review: Never Say Never Again Part One

Although I’ve covered all the official “Eon” films of the Bond canon, I thought I’d move on to this particular-and somewhat peculiar-“unofficial” Bond film, which brought Sean Connery back to the role-in a remake of the movie he starred in during the 60’s. The story of it’s creation is a fairly long one-basically, the Thunderball novel-which introduced SPECTRE and Blofeld-was originally written as a script by Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory. When Fleming wrote his novel version based on that script, McClory demanded credit for the movie adaptation, and also the rights to Blofeld and Spectre-which he got, and hence after “Diamonds Are Forever” the villain was written out of the films altogether (although he sort of showed up in “For Your Eyes Only”) until 2013, when the rights finally made their way back to EON, who used a reinvisionsioned Blofeld in 2015’s SPECTRE.

 

We begin with a lot of “007s” replacing the standard gunbarrel, and the song Never Say Never Again by Loni Hall. Instead of the usual imagery of girls and guns, we instead get Bond infiltrating what looks to be a compound in South America. It’s a bit weird to see a fairly romantic song applied to Connery garroting, punching, and shooting people. It’s almost like if “Spy Who Loved Me” was playing “Nobody Does it better” in the background when Bond was fighting Jaws, for instance. Out of this context though, I kind of like the song; it’s not exactly one of the greats, but it’s all right.

Jack Shwartzman BTW was, at the time, the husband of Talia Shire (hence the “Taliafilm” production company label), and the father of actor Jacob Schwartzman. Shire of course was well-known for her role as Adrian in the first five “Rocky” films, and Connie Corleone in her brother’s “Godfather” trilogy.

However, on the production style of things, perhaps the most interesting fact about this film is that it was directed by Irvin Kershner, who of course, is well-known as the director of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, which many fans and critics believe is the best in the series (and certainly the one that, thematically, changed the course of the series with it’s shocking revelation at the end).

Image result for Irvin kershner

Back to the film, Bond’s infiltration ends in failure when he’s stabbed by a captive woman who is brainwashed. Funny, that’s kind of how a certain Bond movie plot went…(and this isn’t the only time NSNA anticipates certain future developments in the series, even though it’s a remake).

 

Turns out the whole thing was an elaborate training exercise, that Bond, M and another guy, Elliot, who is sort of the Bill Tanner or Robertson of this film, are watching on videotape. I can’t help but be reminded of this a bit:

 

This M of course isn’t Bernard Lee or Robert Brown, but the Edward Fox (A British actor who has appeared in many war films), who plays it somewhat more as a caricature than a concerned Boss, and then demands he gets in shape at the Shrublands clinic.

We also get our first look at this film’s moneypenny, Pamela Salem, who previously starred with Connery in The Great Train Robbery. While Pamela certainly looks the part, there’s very little of the customary innuendo in either of her scenes. Her first scene is mainly just a joke, when she mistakes M’s order for Bond to get rid of “free radicals” (meaning his “red wine and white bread” that according to M is making him inefficient) as an order to take out some bad guys. Their scene together in “Great Train Robbery” actually seemed a bit more like a typical Bond/Moneypenny moment.

 

As Bond heads to shrublands, much like he did in the original film, we’re given yet another moment similar to the original, with  SPECTRE meeting together. Here we have great actor Max Von Sydow (known from the Exorcist, Seventh Seal and many other roles but most perhaps most recently for roles in Game Of Thrones and The Force Awakens) playing Bond’s arch-nemesis, Blofeld, but like FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and the original THUNDERBALL, he’s mainly the man behind the scenes, although we do see his face this time-and like in the original novel, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and SPECTRE he’s not bald, although he does have the white persian cat from his other incarnations. He’s also the only Blofeld with a beard, although reportedly YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was going to have one, but the actor was replaced by Donald Pleasence when he gave off too much of a “Santa” presence.

 

Next we’ve got Maximillion Largo, who is younger, lacks an eyepatch, and gives off more of a cold, calculating charm with moments of psychosis, rather than more “in your face” evil of his predecessor. He comes off as more believable, I think, as someone Kim Basinger’s Domino would fall for.

Image result for Maximillian largo

 

Third, we’ve got Fatima Blush, who is pretty much Fiona Volpe, but way more crazy.

 

Fatima, like Fiona Volpe, directly involved in phase one of the plan, which involves the use of a colonel. However, instead of NATO pilot Francois Derval and an overelaborate scheme involving plastic surgery body doubles, their fall guy is air force pilot Jack Patachi, who is going along with the plan due to a mix of bribery, drugs, presumabely Fatima’s feminine wiles, and threats of harm to his sister, Domino. In this case, Jack, who has access to an air force base with nukes-is given a contact lens identical to that of the president’s eyes so he can authorize the nuke stealing. All this is happening, of course, at the same clinic Bond’s staying at.

 

Like in the original film, Bond has a fling with nurse Patricia Fearing (here played by Prunella Glee, who doesn’t quite give as a performance or make an impression as much as Molly Peters did IMO), although he wins her over with a suitcase full of:

“Lentil delight. Dandelion salad.Goat’s cheese.Beluga caviar. Quail’s eggs. Vodka.Foie gras.Strasbourg.”

as opposed to the iffy blackmail of the original film.

Meanwhile Fatima is playing nurse to Jack, who is super-nervous about this whole thing, and is smoking, causing Fatima to royally freak out-with the noise attracting Bond’s attention.

Image result for Fatima blush nurse

Image result for Fatima blush nurse

Jack, BTW, is played by Gavin Herlilhly, who might be a familar face to fans of 80’s cinema, as he was also notably in many films from that time, namely  Superman III and Willow. In Superman III he also lets the bad guys get access to a system they shouldn’t, but this time as Brad, an older, drunker, security guard version of the football jock from the first film.

 

Bond, checking things out and wondering why this weird nurse is hurting this man, getting him to do some kind of eye-test for drugs, accidentally lets the window shade fly up, spoiling his cover, although he’s able to hide-but not well enough from Fatima’s Night-vision goggles.

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Fatima recognizes Bond (although they’ve never met, I guess in this alternate universe he’s had missions similar to the others where he crossed paths with SPECTRE before), and we get a great line-reading by Barbera Carerra here “Oh….yes. Double-O-Seven….” (with a big emphasis on the O)

 

Bond in Review: Live and Let Die Part IV

Bond, Felix, and Quarrel Jr. take the fight back to San Monique to destroy Kananga’s operation and rescue Solitaire. Bond trades his usual PPK for a Smith and wesson magnum revolver, and decides to be a bit stealthy, wearing  an all-black suit. Among it’s many callbacks to other Bond films, Bond’s suit in this movie seems to be reference in the SPECTRE poster (although the outfit he wears in the film is a bit different)

 

Image result for Live and let die revolver

Image result for SPECTRE poster

Here, Solitarire is bound and about to be sacrificed to a poisonous snake like Baines earlier in the film, in a scene you’d probably expect to see in a King Kong film, not in a Bond film.

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However, Bond withdraws his shot when the snake ritual abruptly switches to another thing, Baron Semedi, rising from his “grave”. What follows is pretty weird, as Bond opens fire on Samedi and the revelers; killing the snake man and apparently hitting Samedi too, but it turns out to be perhaps a wooden dummy. However, before it collapses, it’s eyes roll up, which is kind of weird.

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After Bond saves Solitare, Semedi (the real one?) emerges from his grave again, and challenges Bond to a machete fight, as Bond has just used up his ammo already.Related image

Quess he didn’t follow his own advice years before…”That’s a smith and wesson, and you’ve had your six.”

 

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Bond manages to knock Semedi into a casket of snakes, where they bite and poison him to death…or do they? and uses the Baron’s grave to gain access to Kananga’s underground base. Kananga seems a bit more genial here, much more upbeat and less angry than his earlier appearances in the film. Here, he takes Bond’s other weapon-a shark gun that shoots compressed air bullets (presumably if Bond needed to swim his way out?) which he then gleefully uses on a couch.

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Kananga says that the explosives which have now destroyed the poppy fields have only damaged part of his operations, and that he can rebuild easily with Bond out of the way. As Felix makes another ironic quote about Bond getting ‘tied up’, Bond in fact does get tied up, over a pool of sharks-and with Kananga cutting his arm so it’ll attract sharks.

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Parodied of course later on in “Austin Powers…”

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But like Austin later on with his floss, Bond’s got a little dues ex machina of his own. Not only does his watch of course function as a magnet-which he uses to get one of the bullets-but the watch also doubles as a small saw!

Image result for james bond buzz saw watch

Escaping and facing Kananga in a brief stand off, Bond manages to overpower him and they both go into the water, where Bond feeds him the bullet. And we’re given perhaps the most ridiculous (and fairly grainy, for some reason) death in the series, as he pretty much turns into a balloon and bursts (although it’s totally bloodless).

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But, like Diamonds Are Forever and the next film, we’re given a post-villain scene where the henchman tries to get revenge. Bond tries to teach Solitare a game of cards (in this case, Gin rummy).

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But it turns out Tee-Hee has gotten a ride and wants vengeance for his boss, and so we’re given one of those Bond cliches, the train fight. There’s a brief fight here but Bond quickly manages to damage and jam Tee-Hee’s arm, throwing him-and then his mechanical arm-off the train. We get a kind of double joke here-Solitaire saying “That wasn’t very funny!” since she was stuck in her bed for most of the fight (an unintentional joke to Tee-Hee’s constant giggling) and Bond saying “Just being disarming, darling).

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But that’s not it, yet-the final shot of the movie is Baron Semedi on the very front of the train, laughing!

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It’s not ever followed up on, of course, unless you count the Goldeneye 64 mission.

 

Although it’s a bit bizzare in going for the more supernatural than the fantastic, Live and Let Die I feel is a far more polished, good looking, fast-paced and entertaining film than “Diamonds Are Forever”, and easily the strongest of the “Guy Hamilton trilogy” of early 70’s Bond films. Sure, it’s got some silly moments like it’s predecessor, but somehow with Moore it works far better than the usually more serious Connery. It also doesn’t really hit you over the head with it’s location the way “Diamonds” did, and unlike Diamonds-which was mainly stuck in Vegas-feels like more of a globe-trotting adventure, leading perhaps to Bond locations being somewhat more varied in later films (Especially The Spy Who Loved Me, for instance). Although Moore hasn’t quite fit perfectly into the role yet, he comes across far more friendly here than his somewhat more mean-spirited performance in his next film. In addition to the supernatural angle, it also departs in a few other ways from formula, perhaps to distinguish itself more from the Connery films-Bond’s intro for instance quickly getting the briefing out of the way, and in a different setting than M’s office; and of course the total absence of Q.

This kind of ends the “Bond in Review” of the regular Bond films, but at some point I’ll post a review of Connery’s return to the role, in the interesting 1983 Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again.