Double O Countdown: Die Another Day

Unfortunately, this should not take long. This was the hardest post to find seven things for since it is at the bottom of my list of Bond Films. Don’t get me wrong, I will still watch this thing if I happen by it on the satellite, but I won’t be proud of myself. It’s too bad too because there are some great concepts, they just get swallowed up by preposterous CGI and incredulous plot points.

001  Laser Surgery

The fight between Bond and a Samoan henchman in a laser lab designed to change peoples faces if the start of too much technology getting in the way of the story. Except it does have a good money shot.

002  Screwing with tradition

Purists will squawk about it, but I enjoyed a variation on the famous gunbarrel opening.

I liked the variation of the bullet coming right at the audience. Of course it is a CGI tip off of things to come.

003  Escaping from your own side.

Bond is returned to the British in exchange for Zao, and promptly put under lock and key by M and the suspicios intelligence community that thinks he broke under pressure. He fakes a heart attack so he can use a defibrilator on his Doctors and step off a ship in Hong Kong Harbor.

Of course James Bond has the audacity to simply appear at his favorite hotel in Hong Kong, soaking wet in his pajamas and still manage to swagger. ( A characteristic the villain mocks later in the film)

A call to his tailor, a fine meal and some Bollinger and all is right with the world again.

004  Fan Service Underground

In a secret vault, in an abandonded underground station, M and Q have some more uses for 007.

M grills him about what he learned while out of their sight in Cuba, and then points him at the suspected enemy.

Before “Q” provides him with the ultimate conclusion of any credibility, we get a little tour of the vault with past souvenirs from other adventures.  If you can’t make it good, at least make the fans happy.

005  Honey Ryder, 2002 Style

Mimicking the first appearance of the first Bond girl, Halle Berry shows up on the screen like Venus rising from the surf.

I don’t think there is any doubt about why she is in this movie. Maybe the most beautiful Bond girl since Solitaire.

006  Insider Fan Service

The sleeper agent in Cuba offers to assist Bond and while they talk in his office, Bond casually picks up a book.

The title is the same one as a book that Ian Fleming owned. He took the name of the author for his main character because it sounded so mundane to him: James Bond.

007   Torture in more ways than one.

There are two unfortunate things about my favorite element of this movie. First, it occurs very early on in the film. In fact, the best sequence of the movie finishes just after the titles.

James Bond is caught and brutally tortured to give up information.

The last bit of North Korean cruelty is that as they exchange him for their own spy, they let him think he is being executed.

The second unfortunate thing about my favorite part of the movie is that James is not the only one being tortured here. The whole audience is subjected to an atrocious Madonna song as the Torture sequence is mixed with the title credits and song. Had they used this music, 007 would not have been able to hold out for 14 months.

James Bond will Return in “Casino Royale”

Double O Countdown: The World is Not Enough

As I go back through all of the Bond films, some things change and some stay the same. I continue to believe that Sean Connery was the Best James Bond and that Pierce Brosnan was my least favorite. I think the weakness of Brosnan’s films was the dialogue. Too many times, bad puns or sexual innuendo are forced into a scene and it just stiffs. He looks great in the part and he is a solid actor. His scenes with the villains are usually solid, but his sequences back at MI6 are often leaden. “The World is Nor Enough” exemplifies this pattern. A confusing early premise, is overcome by effective antagonists and good action scenes. I formerly thought “Tomorrow Never Dies” was a better film, but I think I’m now of the opinion that is is Brosnan’s second best outing as 007.

001  A Joke or Not?

Having just bitched about the bad sex jokes, I’m joining to undermine my position and list one of them as a favorite element of the film. It probably stands out because so many don’t work and this one did, for the time. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it? Let’s look and you decide.

In the middle of the pre-title sequence, James comes back to London and gives Moneypenny a cigar that he received from a treacherous Swiss banker. She looks at him coyly and says, “I know just where to put this.”  She waits a beat and then tosses it in the trash. I think we just got a Clinton-Lewinsky joke in a Bond film.

002  Part Two of the Pre-Title Sequence

After a shootout and escape from a tall office building, Bond returns a large sum of cash to MI6 and the rightful owner. It turns out to be explosive and an Assassin with a rifle is on the Thames right outside the building during the fracas. Bond jumps into a mini-boat that Q is working on and a chase ensues.

It starts with a rocket like launch out of the facde of the smoking MI6 building.

Halfway into the chase the mini boat does several 360 degree rotations.

The boat is partially submersible and James adjusts his tie in true cool 007 style.

After several minutes of crashes, building blown through and some unnecessary comic moments, the boat launches out of the water and Bond launches himself onto a dangling rope to continue the chase.

003  Once Again, I show my fondness for James Bond on skis.

He meets Electra King out on the slopes near a mountain range where her pipeline is supposed to go, and they are attacked by a bunch of flying snowmobiles that James later calls “parahawks”.

Lots of Ski action and explosions follow their arrival.

There is even a nice reversal of a moment from an earlier Bond film. As one of the snowmobiles goes off the edge of a cliff, James makes a cutting remark and begins to turn away. Suddenly, the Russian made parahawk launches a back up parachute. “The Spy Who Loved Me” is reversed and the chase continues.

004  M is Kidnapped

When M was played by crusty old guys like Bernard Lee or Robert Brown, there was never much emotional investment in the relationship with 007. In the books, although he sees James as an valuable agent, M sometimes hints of a paternalistic relationship. No such effort was made with the films.  As the series continued though, Judi Dench suggested a more maternal interest in Bond, and when she is threatened, it makes the concept more believable.

We discover Electra King’s real character and in an embarassing breach of security, all of the agents with M get killed and she is taken captive and moved to Istanbul for the climax of the film.

Two long sequences of exposition occur with M and Electra and then M and Renard. Both allow the actors some chances to chew a little scenery and make their characters more interesting.

005  The Action Climax in a Submarine

Weighed down by the second most annoying Bond girl in the series (right after Mary Goodnight), Bond tries to rescue Christmas Jones and stop the detonation of a nuclear device. Oh yeah, this all happens on a sinking submarine.

Gravity applies to everyone, even under the sea.

James will have to exit and reenter the sub at some point.

Of course it is not a smooth re-entry.

Denise Richards shows us why she was cast in the picture in the first place. She is no Jacqueline Bisset, but a amateur bar t-shirt contest can’t be far away.

Nice miniature work to finish off the sequence.

006  The Antagonists [Spoilers Ahead]

As usual, a beautiful Bond girl will die after making love to our hero.

Less usual, she dies at the hands of 007. In a moment of typical Bond tough mindedness, Bond shoots the treacherous heiress that he has been wooing.

Creepy Terrorist, Renard the Anarchist is revealed to be dying slowly as he gains strength and loses all feeling of pain. (sounds like Darkman)

I have liked Robert Carlyle since “The Full Monty”. He had several good moments in the film. I could have used a bit more of his presence at times but generally a solid bad guy.

Robbie Coltrane

Valentin Zukovsky is not really a bad guy in this film, but he does have an occasional difference of opinion with Bond. I just appreciate that the character and actor came back for a second helping of Bond, oh yea and of caviar.

007  The Title

Being a Bond fanatic, I knew where the title came from when it was first announced. I had a conversation on the radio with Rod Lurie about it a few weeks before the films release. Sometimes it s a joy to be a geek about something.

James Bond’s Family Coat of Arms with the motto translated for you who did not already guess.

James Bond will Return in : “Die Another Day”

Double O Countdown: Tomorrow Never Dies

A middling Bond is better than most other films, but still it is less than one might hope for. “Tomorrow Never Dies” is not a bad film, it just seems to be missing some of the things I like so much about 007 films. The romantic angle does not really work. The Villain is not particularly interesting, and James seems to struggle to make his witticisms work. I enjoy this movie, but it is not one of the films that i have seen more than a dozen times (probably only ten or so). With that said, here are the Double O Seven things I did like best about the film.

001  The one bad pun that actually works.

There is a horrible sequence where Bond and M are meeting in her car and they start trading quips. Moneypenny jumps in with a particularly leaden attempt to flirt and be clever. It is one of the most painful exchanges of dialogue I can think of in a Bond film. There is a much better piece of verbal humor later in the film. It still is a bit out of place, but it comes close to a line that I could imagine Sean Connery making work. As Bond and his Chinese counterpart are brought to the Saigon headquarters of media villain Elliot Carver, a giant banner with his image hangs off the building.

Bond’s comment: “Another Carver building. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he developed an edifice complex.”

002  Back Seat Driving

I suppose we should be wary, knowing where all the fancy car technology will lead Pierce Brosnan to in his final appearance as James Bond,  still this tool seems plausible. The Q provided BMW that James drives in Germany, can be operated by remote control in his cell phone. That gives him the chance to escape from the bad guys in the back seat of his car.

He launches a series of weapons at his pursuers that slow them down or stop them in their tracks. Included in the arsenal are road tacks, miniature rockets, a cable saw and the like.

The thing that seems to give him the biggest kick though is the simple out maneuvering of the chase cars with his own vehicle. The expression on his face here reminds us that there is a funny side to Mr. Bond that is not just bad double entendres.

003  “The Future Mr, Gittes, the future.”

Elliot Carver is a thinly disguised version of media mogul Robert Maxwell who had died mysteriously a few years prior.  The tabloid style and high tech trappings of the film are not too distant from some of the real life media demagoguery that we see these days. I enjoyed Carvers attempts to write and report stories, often before they happened.

The Future News Today. Carver as a character is blah, but the idea of media manipulation of the news is actually old school as he mentions William Randolph Hearst himself.

004  Joe Don Baker is back.

Big lug Jack Wade, Bond’s new CIA contact is back for his second film in a row. Baker was also in “The Living Daylights” as a different character. That means he was in three out of four Bond films in a decade.

Greeting his uniformed, counterpart an American Air Base in Asia, you can see the way we Yanks are having our chains yanked. Bond id fit, with great posture and clothes. Wade is a good ole boy with a gut, an informal manner, and n Aloha shirt that would fit nicely in my collection.

Wade may not be the model of cool that we would hope for an American spy, but he provides a nice touch of humor for James, in a style that the rest of the cast would not have been able to carry out.

005  HALO Jump

This was probably my first time hearing of this technique and it was a nicely effective sequence in the film.

Bond gets prepped by American intelligence personnel, and we get to have some exposition of the HALO strategy. A five mile free fall in a high altitude suit at a speed above terminal velocity, and then a quick release of the chute close to the ground.

A similar stunt is done in the rebooted Star Trek movie twenty years later.

006  A Chase sequence that is a little different.

Trying to get away from carver’s minions, Bond and Wai Lin, handcuffed together, grab a motorcycle and streak through the streets of Saigon. The varius cars that chase them fall away, but only as more and more eloborate escapeds are shot.

A helicopter joins the chase and the maneuverability of the motorbike suddenly loses much of it’s advantage. After all, the sky has no alleys that it has to take to follow the spies.

Sneaking past a helicopter flyng low requires being high. Fortunately for the two agents, they ended up on top of a building right across from another building of equal height.

A very impressive stunt.

After going high, our two heroes have to go low to finally get the best of the pursuers. It’s all a bit preposterous but it is a fun sequence.

007  Michelle Yeoh

The Chinese martial arts star is not much of a romantic counterpart to Bond, she and Brosnan just don’t seem to have that kind of chemistry, but in the action beats of the film she is aces.

Wall walking like Batman, except she walks down the wall rather than up. A jaunty wave at the more earthbound 007 gives her a little more personality.

She is an accomplished Martial arts star, so naturally she gets to kick some ass.  The best bit in the fight is a Jackie Chan like move where she walks up a wall, flips over her opponent and reverses their situations.

It was a terrific moment that we needed more of in this adventure.

James Bond Will return in:

“The World is Not Enough”

Double O Countdown: Goldeneye

We enter the decade long reign of Pierce Brosnan as 007 with this spectacular reboot of the franchise after a long layoff due to legal wrangling. Maybe the anticipation of a new Bond film after six long years, or the final arrival of the heir apparent was enough to satisfy my hopes, but I think it really came down to a very good film. Unfortunately from my perspective, it was the high point of Brosnan’s turn at bat.

001 The Opening Bungee Jump

For others it might rank higher, I think it is a terrific pre-title moment, but the one CGI shot at the end makes it just a little less than perfect for me.

The  pause before the leap, the way the cameras shift between viewing angles, and the stuntman reaching in for the piton gun as the jump is nearing the end are all perfect. And then this happens.

It’s just fake enough to take you out of the moment. Still, it is one of the best openings since “the Spy Who Loved Me.”

002  Two Great Character Actors who will Make Return Visits.

Robbie Coltrane as former KGB man Zukovsky, now a Russian mobster, fills the bill as a former adversary who becomes an uneasy ally in tracking down “Janus” the head of a rival Russian Syndicate.

Joe Don Baker, who was one of the bad guys in “The Living Daylights, comes back to the series as CIA man Jack Wade, a more workaday and slovenly Felix Leiter, providing a little comic relief and exposition along the way.

Each of these characters will join James in a future episode.

003 006 Traitor

Purists might not like the idea of a Double O turning on his clan, but admittedly, a Double O woill make a fearsome opponent for James Bond. After establishing some bona fides in the opening, Alec Trevalyn disappears but Sean bean is too big a name to be gone after five minutes.

Bond goes to meet the mysterious “Janus” and the two faced god turns out to be his old friend, a traitor with a grudge. For the rest of the movie they trade masculine put downs and engage in the kind of one upmanship we would expect from a couple of alpha spies.

Why don’t you just die?

You First.

004  Xenia Onatopp

Another double entendre name and a fem fatale with bloodlust. The evil female side kick to the villain in this movie gets off on inflicting pain and death. The scene where she machine guns a room full of unarmed computer programmers has her facial expression as if she were arriving at a sexual climax.

So she is definitely a sadist.

She and Bond have several encounters of foreplay before their climactic scenes.

Sex was always the way to get the drop on 007.

Naturally, her demise will be a variation of her favorite method of execution, a squeeze that robs the victim of life. Her squeeze is provided by a helicopter and a tree.

005  Judi Dench “The Evil Queen of Numbers”

Bond is none too pleased to discover that the new “M” is a woman, and that as an analysit she depends on statistics to make her decisions. She is equally unhappy that she has to rely on a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, who is a relic of the cold war.

They establish a chilly truce, but you can see that loyalty to the cause will eventually warm up the relationship. Dench will be “M” for six more films.

006  The Hero of the Franchise Martin Campbell.

 Campbell, who will return to the franchise to reboot it again ten years later, is a director know for action films and well paced scenes. This film is full of explosions, running and vehicular mayhem. He was the right choice to update the style of 007 in 1995.

007  Tank Ride through St. Petersburg.

A muscular chase scene with 007 pursuing the rogue general and the girl in trouble, through the Russian city with abandon.

A building or a bridge is no match for a  piece of armoured equipment like this.

The film makers also wait until the start of this scene to unleash the Double o Seven theme on the audience. The result is action bliss.

 This was the Bond film that was needed to answer the question of whether Bond was still relevant.

James Bond will Return in:

 “Tomorrow Never Dies”

Double O Countdown: Licence to Kill

The last of Timothy Dalton’s time as James Bond is a nice piece of revenge drama, that feels like an 80’s film starring Stallone or Schwarzenegger. Bond goes after the drug kingpin that mutilated his best friend and murdered his best friends wife. The British Secret Service takes a dim view of revenge and has basically disavowed Bond. The original title was to be “Licence Revoked” but someone at EON was afraid American audience would not know what revoked meant. 007 tracks down the kingpin and uses a seed of disloyalty to bring down his empire. The movie is filled with more violence and torture than the usual Bond film. This would never have been a movie that starred Roger Moore. Dalton’s more cold blooded and realistic take on Bond is a perfect match for this gritty story, with one of the best Bond villans ever, Franz Sanchez AKA Robert Davi.

This entry in the series is extremely spoiler heavy. Proceed with caution if you have not seen the film.

001  Another Plot Point from the Novel Live and Let Die, adds to a film with a different story.

Felix Leiter has been Bond’s CIA counterpart since the first Bond novel. In the movies he has been an underused character, but in this film, he gets a bigger role. Making a return to the part is David Hedison, who played Leiter in “Live and Let Die”. Temporarily assigned to the DEA, Felix is tortured by Sanchez using a shark and a pulley system.

His mangled body is returned to his home where James discovers his dead bride and finds a sarcastic note with a twisted pun attached to his barely surviving friend.

Finally, a dirty DEA agent, who took a two million dollar bribe is cornered by Bond in the same shark tank that his friend was subjected to. As he hangs over the tank, trying to make a deal with Bond, James tosses him the money and tells him to keep it, of course the suitcase full of cash causes the treacherous turncoat to fall to his doom.

002  Secondary Bad Guy gets what is coming to him.

As I said, the movie is full of sadistic moments, fortunately most of them are turned on the bad guys. Milton Krest, the diving company owner who is partners with Sanchez, is framed by Bond to appear as if he is trying to steal from his partner.

First he is tossed in the decompression chamber used for deep sea divers on his boat.

Sanchez turns up the pressure and then suddenly breaks off the safety valve, causing Krest to basically explode.

Then he tells his men to launder the money was was hidden there, and he does not mean simply run it through their dummy companies.

003  Action Scene from Act 2.

John Glen, who was the director for all of the Bond films made in the 1980s, knew his way around the action scenes. His Bond films are filled with great stunts and this film featured one of the best. Bond sneaks aboard the Wavekrest, the ship used to guide all the smuggling operations, and discovers a whole bunch of information. His companion is killed and he has to make a venge filled escape himself. As he fights Krest’s men under water, he shoots a spear-gun with a rope attached into the pontoon of a smugglers plane. It yanks him from their clutches and he performs a series of amazing stunts to get away.

 

He skies on the balls of his feet as he is dragged by the plane, and then whips around to grab onto the plane.

 Once the plane takes off the water, he has to get aboard still.

004  Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez

The Drug Kingpin Sanchez has basically bought himself a country to hide in, which renders him immune from extradition. Robert Davi plays Sanchez as a sadist with a smile. A smart guy who values loyalty, but who can be dragged down with suspicion.

 

He beats his cheating mistress with the tail of a stingray and has the heart of her lover cut out.

 He treats his pet iguana as well as most of the people who work for him, and he employs a sick murderer, played by a young Benicio DelToro, to do his dirty work.

Bond ingratiates himself into his camp and begins a campaign to take down the kingdom from the inside. Following the Godfather’s advice, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

005  Uncle Q

Q has been in almost all the Bond films before this, often supplying 007 in the field. Here he takes a much more paternalistic interest in James. Having been abandoned by the Secret Service, Bond is persona non grata , but Moneypenny tracks him down and sends Q to assist unofficially. Desmond Llewelyn gets to play spy a little and have a grad adventure with James and not just chastise him for ruining equipment.

A fun piece of extra business, maybe it is fan service, but you got to keep the fans happy, and it did that for me.

006  Revenge Death Number 3

Dario, Sanchez hired thug, recognizes Bond and blows his cover. Sanchez attempts to drop Bond into the grinder used to break up the bricks of heroin he is smuggling as liquid in gasoline.

Of course at the last minute Bond gets hooked on the conveyor belt and hangs over the grinder, Dario decides he needs to help Bond along.

Bond’s CIA Contract pilot and requisite Bond Girl comes along in time to shoot Dario and then Bond reverses their situations.

The result is a blood soaked ending, similar to the snow plow in “OHMSS”. I’m afraid I love it too much when the bad guys get the reward they deserve, This is the third villain to get his comeuppance on my list.

007  A Climax to a picture, that really is a climax.

Spoiler Warning

Bond pursues a caravan of gas trucks, loaded with liquefied heroin and mayhem results.

Taking over control of one truck, he manages to destroy or disable several others. Sanchez and his crew are alerted and wait for him with a stinger missile to end his plans. A clever piece of stunt driving defeats the aim of the stinger.

After dodging that bullet, the bad guys chase Bond but end up in a trail of fire, it is not hard to follow the trail of destruction Bond leaves at the end of a movie.

Their car flys off the road and just misses hitting the plane flown by Pam Bovier.

 At the bottom of a hill, the crashed truck that both Bond and Sanchez were on lays in ruins with gasoline poring on the ground. A soaked Sanchez raises his machete to do in Bond when 007 gets him to pause for just a second so he can explain why he has done all of this. He flashes a genuine Felix Lighter.

He flicks it engulfing Sanchez in flame.

Multiple explosions ensue.

James Bond Will return in: “Goldeneye”

Double O Countdown: The Living Daylights

We enter a new era of James Bond Films with “The Living Daylights”. For the first twenty-five years of Cinematic James Bond, there were two actors who held the throne with a brief interruption by a usurper. For the next twenty five years, the role was dominated by two other actors, after a brief reign by a Crown Prince that could not hold the throne. Timothy Dalton had been eyed as a James Bond as early as “OHMSS”, he finally got the role by default when Pierce Brosnan was held hostage by his television show. In my opinion, he might have given Connery a run for his money as the best James Bond, if only legal chaos had not pulled him from the role. As it is, we have two sparkling adventures that just begin to show his promise.

001  Another Snow Escape

Bond comes equipped with a couple of modes of transportation from opposite ends of the spectrum. He starts off with a Q provided Aston Martin Volante, with special modifications including a heads up display, rocket launchers, a set of skids for the snow and a jet boost.

The high tech vehicle only helps out our hero in the first part of the chase. He has to improvise with the last half and that involves tobogganing down the slopes in a cello case.

It is one of those amusing and innovative ways that 007 finds to use his natural instinct for survival.

Of course it is a filmed entertainment, so to make it more fun a gag is added at the end which doesn’t spoil the bit but does remind us that we are watching a James Bond Adventure. As they escape past the border, Bond gets the cello over the gate by tossing it to himself.

002  Mujahideen –Afghanistan before it gets even nastier

As part of the plot, Bond and Kara escape a Russian Military base in Afghanistan (during the Russian Occupation) and are taken prisoner or into protective custody by the freedom fighting Mujahideen.


This section revels one of the complications of political/military operations in that part of the world. The insurgents work with a local warlord who is selling opium to the Russian General Koskov.

At the end of the film, M introduces the Mujahideen leader to General Golol, an awkward moment diffused by Kara wondering where James has got to.

003 Opening Training Sequence

We see commandos parachuting onto Gibraltar, but soon realize from the paint guns being used that it is a training exercise, at least until the commandos start being executed by a mysterious figure on the island. Bond is revealed and chases down the assassin in a jeep loaded with explosives. It crashes off a cliff and explodes.

 

But not before James pulls the cord on his backup parachute and escapes.

The new James Bond arrives on a yacht with a bored beautiful woman, and we know all is right with the world.

004  The Dirty Job of a Secret Agent

Bond has never liked the idea of simply being a tool to be used in the place his superior sees best. He does not relish the role of assassin, although it does come up on occasion. From the original story by Ian Fleming, Bond has to shoot a sniper that is trying to kill a defector the British want.

The head of the station seems to be a prig who views him as a thug, and doesn’t want to trust 007 at all.

Bond spots the snipe but recognizes she is an amateur, not a professional killer. As an admirer of the feminine form and a man who doesn’t kill for no reason, he makes a snap decision.

He shoots to miss.

005  SMERSH

The name has not been mentioned by the film series since “From Russia with Love” and it was on;ly mentioned in passing there. The name is a contraction of “Smiert Spionam”, meaning “Death to Spies”. It was the main organization that Bond faced in the novels but was replaced in the films by the non-aligned SPECTRE.  As a plot point, to provoke the British into acting, the Organization is revived.

The death of two British intelligence agents is laid at the foot of General Pushkin, played by John Rhys-Davies  (From Indian Jones and The Lord of the Rings).

 Bond knows better and the plot thickens when he refuses to go along with his orders. Again, he refuses to be a mere assassin.

006  More Amazing Air Stunts from the Bond Team

Near the end of the film, Bond has taken control of a giant C-130 plane, transporting the opium out of Afghanistan. Koskov’s assassin Necros has gotten on board and as a bomb is ticking, the cargo bay door opens and a great fight stunt is done in mid-air (and on a sound-stage)

Another tour de force for the James Bond Stunt Team.

007  James Bond is not the only proficient agent in MI-6.

When Necros infiltrates the safe house to “kidnap” Koskov, he encounters another MI-6 agent in the kitchen of the manor house. There is a terrific fight that James Bond has nothing to do with, but one of his colleagues, a nameless agent keeping watch,  performs above the call of duty, although he ultimately fails to keep Koskov out of Necros’ hands.

It is a terrific fight sequence, and one of my favorite moments because all the other agents are not just bodies to tumble when the shooting starts.

James Bond Will Return in:

 “License to Kill”

Double O Countdown: A View to a Kill

Two out of three of the Roger Moore Bond films are on the bottom of my list of 007 cinematic adventures. I sometimes can’t decide which is the more ridiculous, this film or “Moonraker”. It doesn’t matter much because it is still a James Bond film and we love even the ugliest of our kids. There are some things to like about this film, even though it was a sad end to the Roger Moore era.

001  Guest Star Patrick McNee.

James Bond films had a lot of impact on the 1960s pop culture. Spy shows were everywhere once the 007 films took off. One of the most inventive was the English show “The Avengers”. Original female co star Honor Blackman appeared in “Goldfinger”, even more prominent co-star Diana Rigg was Mrs. Bond for a brief amount of time. Eventually, John Steed joined them as a co-star in a Bond film.

 Patrick McNee died earlier this year and I went to a screening of the Howling that was part of a tribute to him at the American Cinematique.

002  A Jump Off the Eiffel Tower

The villain Mayday kills an informant and is chased by Bond up the Eiffel Tower. She uses the same technique he did to escape from the Soviets in the opening of “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

The stunt was authorized, but some of the crew who missed an opportunity to particpate did an unauthorized jump later that day and got fired from the show.

003  James Bond invents Snowboarding

The film starts with an unrelated adventure at the North Pole. Bond has to escape on skies but loses them in the long pursuit. I’ve already said I’m a sucker for these snow scenes, this one takes a twist. After stealing a snowmobile and crashing it, Bond takes one of the runners and finds a new way to move across the frozen stuff. It was the first time most people saw a snowboard in use.

At one point, James gets some sick air.

004  Fisticuffs on the Golden Gate

The film features villain Max Zorin’s dirigible headquarters.  In a scene stolen from “Goldfinger” one of the potential partners backs out of participating. He is dropped in the drink rather than given a drink as promised.

The high flying villain seems to have the upper-ground in any combat. When his plans falter he grabs the girl and Bond follows. The climax of the film is a fight on the Golden gate Bridge. Several actual locations were used to get a pretty impressive high altitude fight sequence.

005 Christopher Walken as Max Zorin, Product of Nazi genetic research.

Sometimes I think Walken was a failure as a Bond villain. He had no great lines and sometimes the plot called for capricious behavior. That’s not his fault though, and when he flashes that creepy smile of his or displays his light on the feet dancing movements, he seems to be cast just right.

Big plans call for big gestures, and Walken is the ham who can deliver.

Max Zorin’s retirement plan for his men is not one that they will appreciate.

Light on his feet, Fat Boy Slim’s weapon of choice has him dancing into the fire with an axe on the Golden Gate Bridge.

When things don’t go as planned, make sure you exaggerate your weird facial expressions, that’s why they hired you instead of Rutger Hauer.

006 Mayday

Grace Jones could not act to safe her life, but she had a fierce persona and a lean, muscular look that was just right for the mid 1980s. The tag line in the promotional material asked:

“Has 007 met his match? ”

Mayday is Oddjob to Zorin’s Goldfinger. A killing machine to be feared.

The Russians learn how dangerous she is before our hero does.

007  Once again the title song comes to the rescue.

The only  Bond song to reach Number one  in the U.S.

James Bond will Return in:

 “The Living Daylights”.

Double O Countdown: Octopussy

I have a fondness for this film that is out of proportion to it’s qualities. That fondness may stem from the circus theme, the Cold War plot, or maybe it is the Indian setting that dominates the movie. Anyway, this was the last good Roger Moore 007 outing. It went head to head with the Sean Connery starring “Never Say Never Again” rogue film in 1983, and it was the box office champ in that showdown. I like the posters for the movie as well. If you are interested in a post I did on the film for a blogathon last year, just click here. 

 001 The Clown Prince of James Bond Actors

Roger Moore just seems like a good sport to me. He was willing to make the movie the director and producers wanted, and he did not mind taking one for the team. As proof I offer the following.

Can you imagine Daniel Craig letting this happen to him?

Another 00 gets tracked down and killed early in the movie, trying to escape dressed as a clown. He manages to deliver the MacGuffin of the film, a Faberge Egg.

Late in the film, 007 needs to also blend into thecircus background he finds himself in, and lo and behold, he is done up the way the other agent was. Holy bookends! Well anyway it works for the story and the image of Bond saving the day from nuclear destruction as a clown probably fits most critics views of James Bond to begin with.

I give them credit for chutzpah anyway.

002 The Flying Guillotine

The only place I’d ever heard of a weapon like this was in some crazy Kung Fu movies from the 1970s. It may not make much sense but it is a lot of fun.

003 The Pre-Title Mini Jet

The opening of the film is an entirely self contained story that has nothing to do with the main plot. Bond is up to some spy business in Cuba and has to escape. Fortunately, he has a RV that he is towing which is perfect for the moment.

In one side of the building.

Out the other side.

And after blowing up the secret military operation and escaping, you discover you need fuel, no problem.

004 Kalashnikov on the Stairs

Many cool moments in Bond films are fleeting and feature James shooting a weapon in an unusual way. Like the shot of 007 sliding on his belly with a machine gun from “OHMSS”, this is just one of those fun moments. They also get in a Bond style joke .

To outfox the thugs on the first floor, Bond descends the stairway in an unconventional manner, with his gun blazing.

All is well until he notices the stop at the bottom of the stairs.

Its OK though, that’s the advantage of having a machine gun.

He just shoots it and it breaks off when he gets there. Smooth James, not enough ooos in smooth.

005 James Bond loves to get it on on a train. 

Bond is notorious for traveling by train, which makes some of his fights more interesting because of the close quarters. In this film, the close quarters are replaced by a open sky.

He gets smuggles himself aboard the circus train and confronts the deadly acrobat knife throwing team that killed his 00 predecessor on this assignment.

The struggle finally ends up on the roof of the train as it travels through East Germany.

It is one of the better action sequences in the Roger Moore films.

006 The Plane Fight

Not content to have mixed it up with secondary characters on a train, he ends up having a great fight on the outside of a plane when it is in the air. Again, this was terrific stuntwork.


The blue screen work matches up pretty well with the actual stunt.

007  I love the Cold War plot.

The movie was released in 1983. The Soviet Union was in a strong strategic position with conventional weapons in Eastern Europe. American policy moved to deploy theater nuclear weapons to balance out the  advantage the Soviets had. That move was controversial and was one of the factors behind the Nuclear Freeze movement of the time. This film plays off of real geopolitics of the moment. A rogue Russian General, is planning to detonate a nuclear device on a NATO base, which will be blamed on the U.S, resulting in a withdrawal of nukes from the theater and giving the Soviets an opportunity to invade.

The general cannot convince his superiors so he finances his plot with loot stolen from pre-revolutionary art collections

octoThe smuggler “Octopussy” thinks she is moving contraband jewels, but she has been fooled by a switch to a device hidden in the cannon of the human canonball in her circus, scheduled to visit a NATO base.

No honor among thieves.

James Bond will Return in

“A View to a Kill”

 

 

Double O Countdown: For Your Eyes Only

I really liked that this movie brought James Bond back to Earth. The story is more basic, with a MacGuffan that everybody wants. The bad guys are not megalomaniac bizillionaires trying to destroy the whole planet, they are just evil spies, willing to sell out their friends for money. I also like that the film has a revenge theme that it took from the collection of short stories that this title came from. There are a couple of things that hurt it a bit, what the hell is Lynn-Holly Johnson doing in the story, and we could do without the Margaret Thatcher parody at the end. Also, the Chief of Staff Bill Tanner was Bond’s friend in the books, here he is an insufferable snob with delusions of replacing M, it may be my least favorite character in all the Bond films. Let’s not dwell on the bad however, instead, enjoy the seven best things in the film.

001 Farewell to Blofeld

Bond is interrupted in a moment of reverie at the grave of his lost bride. It is one of the few times that plot point ever comes up in the series.

 A helicopter has been dispatched to bring him back to headquarters, but low and behold, a familiar bald headed, cat stroking figure in a wheelchair seems to have taken remote control over the copter.

Because SPECTRE and Blofeld are part of the ongoing litigation with another producer, the character is never identified, but every Bond fan knows who it is supposed to be. The scene did play a bit with a comic touch but the result is a lot more satisfying than leaving the character hanging in a bathysphere while an oil rig blows up around him. Naturally 007 regains control of the copter and then turns the tables on his old adversary.

This is the sort of nasty exit we want for Earnst Stavro Blofeld. Dropped by Bond down a hole from which there will be no escape. Even hearing him plead comically with Bond doesn’t take away from the fact that Tracy’s killer has finally met his doom.

002 Castle in the Sky

After storming a space station and an underwater city in his previous adventures. Bond has to follow his enemy to a monastery on a rock that is basically a fortress in the clouds. Before Tom Cruise di all his climbing stunts in the Mission Impossible Series, James Bond was a mountain climber ahead of his time.

003 Another Shark Death Planned for 007

One more time, sharks are supposed to be the end of James Bond. This death is actually planned for Bond and Solitaire in the novel “Live and Let Die” but gets transposed to this adventure in the Aegean rather than the Caribbean.

Captured and tied up with Melina, a great Bond girl who can take care of herself.

They get yanked off of their boat and dragged across a corral reef, to bring blood and sharks

 

Of course they foil the plan and a nameless henchmen gets eaten instead.

004  Back to the Slopes.

For a guy who does not like the snow, I’m a sucker for ski sequences, and this one is pretty good, featuring a ski jumping hill and biathlon and motorcycles.

Bond lucks out as he is forced to ski down a giant slide, where at the bottom, the villainous Eric Krieger, East German Biathlon champion is waiting to shoot him. Another henchman ends up chasing Bond on the slope and Krieger does not know which figure to shoot.

 Bond flees down a cross country style slope, avoiding the killers by twisting and turning in mid air.

More henchmen on motorcycles equipped with spiked tires pursue him through the woods.

A cleverly placed ski pole managed to dismount a pursing cyclist.

And frustrated man mountain Krieger flings his motorcycle ineffectively at the escaping 007.

005 The Traditional double cross switch of allies.

Bond has believed that intelligence informer Kristatos is his ally. He has told Bond that the likely killer of his station head is a smuggler known as “the dove” who is actually a former war partisan and partner of Kristatos called Columbo.

 

In a plot point right from one of the Fleming stories, this whole tale was told at dinner and the center-pieces on the table contain a tape recorder that allows Columbo to here Bond agree to kill him. Imagine our surprise when it turns out that Columbo is the real patriot and Kristatos has been describing his own criminal actions as those of his former friend.

The delightful Topal, the star of “Fiddler on the Roof” plays Bonds new ally. Together, they take down a heroin storage warehouse in a solid action scene.

006 Sheena Easton

The Scottish chanteuse sings the title song and is the only artist to sing a title song whose image appears in the credit sequence. It’s a music video just as MTV was getting started. It also serves as commercial for the film.

007 Once more Roger Moore gets a shot at being a Badass.

The killer Locque, who Bond and Melina have pursued, is at the warehouse when Bond and Columbo make their move. He escapes in a car that travels up a steep set of switchbacks on a hill. Bond id determined to get to him and runs flat out up a series of staircases that are a more direct line to the top of the hill.

At the top, in a tunnel that the car must go through, Bond stops and takes aim.

Locque is shot in the shoulder, loses control of the car and it veers to the edge of a cliff.

Bond confronts the killer and delivers a message, returning the dove pin that Locque left on the body of Bond’s colleague.

And then, like he did in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and in “Dr. No”, Bond shows that he can be a cold blooded bastard, and the film is better for it. He kicks the car an that is the end of Lpcque.

James Bond will Return in “Octopussy”.

Double O Countdown: Moonraker

This is a tough one, there are easily seven things I hate about this movie, I’m not sure there are seven things that I like. Let’s see what I can come up with.

The summer that “The Spy Who Loved Me” opened was the same summer as “Star Wars”. EON Pictures saw the writing on the wall and they scratched “For Your Eyes Only” and rushed in a title that had “space” all over it. I think in rushing, they skimped on story and basically replicated the same plot as the last film, with space as a substitute for under the sea.

001 Shark Tank, Piranha Tank, Shark Tank, Snake Tank

Creative juices start to dry up and the Shark Tank that was featured in “Thunderball” and “Live and Let Die” and “The Spy Who Loved Me”, plus the Piranha Tank in “You Only Live Twice”, are simply updated with an Anaconda tank to fit the South American Setting. He is smart enough not to cross the pond on the bridge, but surprise!! the path tips over and drops him in anyway.

 All the beautiful women must have distracted him

Fortunately James has snake vaccine.

Unfortunately, Jaws is waiting for him, despite being dropped off a waterfall.

002 It’s no ejector seat but it will do in a pinch.

A boat chase through the Amazon and James manages to blow up some pursuers with relative ease.

 There are more boats however and after taking out a couple more, he runs out of river and into a waterfall. There is not much else to do but abandon ship in a hang glider conveniently provided in the top of his boat by Q branch.

 It’s a great way to see the jungle and accidentally discover the secret rocket base hidden in the forest.

003  Dr. Goodhead takes Bond for a ride.

All space centers have a centrifuge right? How could James turn down the opportunity to test it out, he’d look like a wimp in front of the CIA.

Fortunately, as Roger Moore is getting on in years, this device provides him with a little facelift.

004  Rio From Above

A chance to see “Christ the Redeemer” gives Bond and Dr. Goodhead a chance to ride a cable car above the city.

Of course they are not the only tourists sightseeing that afternoon.

Realizing he does not have a return ticket, Jaws decides to join James and Holly on the ride down.

Next time don’t settle for the economy tour.

005 Set Design to the Rescue

There are some clunky effects shots in the space battle, but the location is aces, with an imaginative design and practicality to much of what is shown.

Sections of the Space Station are connected with interior tubes that allow movement without having to rely on gravity boots on the floor of the station.

Fascist crazy billionaires get a chance to speak to the troops in an elegant landing that floats above them.

Plenty of parking is available for residents and visitors.

006 Hijacking the Moonraker

We had actually seen the space shuttle being transported on the back of a 747 at this point, so the opening shot fits in with contemporary visuals.

What happens next is not exactly the way it is planned by NASA.

Wait, can it do that? It doesn’t matter, it’s a cool idea to steal a space ship when you are one short.

007  Parachutes, I don’t need no stinking parachute.

The best stunt in the movie is the opening escape by Bond from being thrown out of a plane without a parachute. Several years before “Point Break” James Bond had already figured out the answer.

When Jaws tosses Bond overboard, you wonder what will happen, and then you remember the guy who went out before James did.

James maneuvers himself into position and then,

Steals himself a parachute from the other guy.

So a great stunt right? Hell, it gets better when Jaws comes after him, but when they turn the music on for Jaws landing on earth, the circus starts. They blew their wad in the opening and then stepped on the action with a comic musical joke.  And they do it for two more hours. Fortunately, James Bond returns to Earth in the next adventure.

James Bond will Return in “For Your Eyes Only”