Double O Countdown: The Spy Who Loved Me

“The Spy Who Loved Me” is Roger Moore’s best work as James Bond. The series had some humor still but did not go off the deep end until the next picture. It reworks the concept of “You Only Live Twice” pitting the Soviets and Americans against each other, this time to destroy the world so that the undersea empire of Stromberg will survive. Three nuclear submarines end up in a supertanker that was the largest sound-stage of any movie studio ever.

001 Submarines Fight World War Three inside a tanker.

002 The Pyramids Night Time Lighting Ceremony

I have no idea if this is a real thing or not, but it ought to be. Bond follows XXX to meet the mysterious seller of the tracking technology they are both after. They are not alone however, as the killer Jaws is also after the seller for a different purpose. All this takes place while the narrator of a cool light show at the pyramids keeps talking. This is the only time I ever thought about visiting Egypt.

003 Jaws

A hired killer who stands over seven feet and has steel teeth that he uses to bite the carotid artery in his victims neck. Richard Kiel played the part in two Bond films, and despite the obvious rip-off of the name from a familiar film from a couple of summers earlier, he became iconic in his own right.

Taking a bite from his namesake

His hand is as big as Bonds head. That’s pretty intimidating.

004  Speaking of Submarines

After the ejection seat of “Goldfinger” you might wonder what the Q branch would come up with for 007 to drive on assignment. Well, they out do themselves here, a high speed Lostus that doubles as a submersible,

A cool car and helicopter chase, ends with a plunge into the Corsican sea.

 Caroline Munro, B movie Queen of the era, captains the helicopter.

005 Carly Simon sings the theme song.

This tune was all over the radio in the late seventies. Some people  (Fogs) even think it is the best Bond theme. It has a polish that makes the movie feel sophisticated even when it is occasionally silly.

006 My Favorite Moment From Roger Moore as 007

Most people think of Roger Moore’s James Bond as an avuncular,  dandy who never got his nails dirty. Here is a sequence in which Moore explodes that myth. After a fight in the rooftop of an Egyptian apartment, Jaws partner, Sandor, teeters on the brink of death, grasping Bond’s tie to keep from toppling over.

 Bond questions him about the location of the arms merchant who has the submarine tracking tool for sale. As soon as he gets his answer, Bond flicks his tie.

 Down goes the bad guy, another casualty of the spy game.

Than 007 casually straightens out his tie to look good for the rest of the afternoon. Cold, James, really cold.

007 The Pre-Title Sequence

Almost everyone will agree, this was a spectacular stunt. The unfurling of the Union Jack got a standing ovation at the Royal Premier of the film attended by Prince Charles. I’ll stand up for our allies here as well. For Queen and Country James.



James Bond Will Return in: “Moonraker”

Double O Countdown: The Man With the Golden Gun

The Man with the Golden Gun is one of the lesser Bonds in my opinion, put it does have some points to recommend it and I have to admit that each time I see it, it grows on me.

001 The Kung Fu Kick gets a 007 Twist

The early Seventies were filled with Blaxpoitation and Kung Fu Movies. Since the year before, Bond had indulged in the urban drama of the gritty streets, it seems logical that Bruce Lee will not have died in vain. His legacy provides Bond wit an opportunity to don a gi and get his karate freak on. Of course in the end, the twist is that the two teen girls are the real Bruce Lees of the film.

002 The Cartoon Funhouse Shooting Gallery

At the beginning of the film, a mob assassin shows up to do in Scaramanga, but he is deposited in a strange “dark ride” environment. It makes little sense but it is visually fun and it sets up the duel between Bond and Scaramanga at the end of the film.

003 The Secret Lair

The movie has some spectacular locations, none more beautiful than the island lair of Scaramanga, supposedly located just inside Chinese territory to give him cover.

The lush background for the duel between the titans of death is also the location of a solar energy plant. And it’s not located in the California dessert just before the Nevada border.

004 A Penny Slide Whistle Ruins a Great Stunt

As complicated and dangerous as the alligator gag in the previous movie, but requiring more physics and math than most of us will ever do. AMC cars, a sponsor of the film (based on the make of most of the vehicles in Thailand) gets it’s money’s worth with an incredible 360 degree spin of a car jump. It looks great but as it happens, someone made the mistake of choosing to make it a comedy moment and they add a slide whistle sound effect to the film. It spoils the moment but not the achievement.

005 The Sun Never Sets on England (or at least English Territory)

Great Britain still controlled Hong Kong in 1974 , and in the harbor, a shipwrecked “Queen Elizabeth”, the companion luxury liner to the “Queen Mary”, lies on it’s side,a burnt out hull, or does it. MI6 apparently can’t afford the rents in Hong Kong anymore than the rest of the world, so some great set design is used to take a piece of contemporary history and turn it into a James Bond moment.

006  Francisco Scaramanga AKA Christopher Lee

With his skyscraper frame and intense eyes, he makes a perfect Bond Villain. The late Christopher Lee loos terrific in the white suits and sea island shirts that he wears in this film. He feels like he is indeed a match for James Bond.

An assassin who gets a million dollars a contract, Scaramanga also manages a business stealing technology and using it to blackmail the rest of the world. His secret weapon, well let’s just say we will be discussing this in a moment.

When he acquires the solex that turns his solar panels into energy, he also manages to turn that energy into a weapon. The golden rays of the sun become a metaphorical golden gun that he uses against

Bond’s plane.

007 The Golden Gun

My most coveted piece of Bond memorabilia. I’d love to get one of these reproductions of the clever Golden Gun that the villain uses to dispatch the objects of his contracts.

  A cigarette case, a lighter, a fountain pen and a cuff link, come together to create a deadly toy.

Just the Christmas present that anyone would be happy to recieve, hint hint, nudge, nudge.

James Bond will Return in: 

“The Spy Who Loved Me”

Double O Countdown: Live and Let Die

Enter Roger Moore for a long stay as 007. The Moore films are remembered as being light, full of humor and self depreciation, as well as being over the top. The only people for whom Moore was the best Bond are kids who first saw 007 in the 70s and fondly recall how much they enjoyed the films. Sir Roger has his moments and I think he managed to fit well with the films given their styles from that period. This is his first one, and in my opinion it was one of his best.

001   The Best Poster From any Bond Film

I did a write up a couple of years ago on the Bond Posters, and I named this as my favorite. A couple of other people shared their opinions but I’m sticking by my guns. If you want to read the whole post, click on the beautiful image below.

http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2013/06/007-posters-top-ten-list.html

002   One of the Stupidest Things I Ever Did as a Kid

I had a couple of friends as a kid who were far and away crazier than I was, but I happily followed them down the path of madness. We took the shaft of pen cartridges and cleaned them out, crimped one end, put them between a bobby pin and stuffed them with sulfur from matches, creating little canons that would shoot rock salt. James Bond never did that, but… he did do this…and so did we. I’m lucky I’m not blind.

003 The Film’s Motif.

I’m going to cheat here to get in some extra elements that I like about the movie. It is full of blaxploitation, voodoo, Southern Gothic, fortune telling crazy stuff.

A guy with a claw for a hand.

Tee Hee is a big guy as well, towering over Bond. He inspires one of my favorite quips from Bond. When Bond is a prisoner and Mr. Big orders Tee Hee to take his watch so he can use the serial number to test Solitare, the henchmen fumbles with it and Bond mutters “Butterhook”.

Solitaire, the Bond Girl of the film, played by the beautiful Jane Seymour, reads the future for Mr. Big and Dr. Kananga. The voice over while Bond is traveling to the U.S. is full of foreboding fun.

I gave my daughter who is also a Bond fanatic, a deck of these cards as a Christmas gifts four or five years ago. The imagery on the cards is used in the poster and it was cleverly used by Bond to infiltrate the Mr. Big organization. He was Solitaire’s destiny by  design.

The Funeral in New Orleans as the CIA man is disposed of with a coffin made for clean up duty on the streets.

One of the themes that was kept from the original story was the way Mr. Big controls a lot of his followers through the superstitions around Voodoo. Bond’s treacherous partner Rosie, freaks out at the hat with the chicken feathers, Bond trails his suspect “Whisper” to a retail outlet specializing in the occult, and on the island that Kanaga controls, his enemies are murdered in a voodoo ritual featuring the King of the Dead Baron Samedi himself, sometimes a nightclub performer, sometimes a robot and sometimes an actual specter of doom.

004   An Amazing and Entertaining Boat Chase through the delta lands.

While it does introduce a comic supporting character that is unwisely included in a second Bond film, the boat chase should not be diminished by the presence of  Sheriff Pepper.

003 Yaphet Kotto as the Villain Mr.Big/Dr. Kananga

This wonderful actor with a distinctive pronunciation and voice, is one of the best villains in the Moore years. He has a real part and gets to play it up duringthe story, he is not some vague megalomaniac millionaire trying to destroy the world, he is simply a clever gangster who dreams big and knows how to get what he wants.

When he and Bond have their climatic fight at the end of the movie, he wields a knife like he knows how to use it. Trapped underwater (In a shark tank of course) Bond forces an anti-shark pellet down his throat.

The result is explosive.A funny and fitting end to the bad guy.

006  If They Hadn’t Done it for Real, you’d hoot at the idea.

Bond is trapped by Tee Hee on an island in the alligator farm where the heroin is manufactured. He has run out of chicken pieces to distract the gators with and must figure a way out that avoids being the main course. The exit the writers cooked up is preposterous, but the stunt was really performed on camera, live. It was dramatic, silly and a laugh that earns it an honored place on my list.

007  The Opening Titles and the Title Song

The best theme of the 007 Rock era, is played over naked women in silhouette, with fire and exploding skulls. Paul McCartney proves that post Beatles, he had the best ear for a catchy tune of all the fab four.

That’s all for now,

James Bond will Return in:

 “The Man With The Golden Gun”.

Double O Countdown: Diamonds Are Forever

This one is a little tough because it is one of the lesser Bonds. It has it’s qualities but most of them are not particularly unique so it might sound a bit familiar as we go along here. This is one of the few times in the series that a large part of the action takes place in the states, and the setting of Las Vegas was novel for the time. Bits and pieces of the era creep in and make it one of the more dated stories.

001 The Theme Song

It feels like a cheat to include the theme song in so many of my lists for this project, but Bond fanatics know that the music in the movie is one of the draws. This was a triumphant return of Shirley Bassey to the fold, and she does a silky smooth opening song that mixes electronic instruments with a great bass riff.

002 The Henchmen

If they tried this today they would be crucified. The secondary killers for Blofeld are a couple on near mincing homosexuals that are exploited for laughs more than for the danger they present. It is politically incorrect, but it was one of the first times I’d encountered a gay character in any fistion, so it was memorable to me.

Wint and Kidd are closing up the smuggling pipeline and killing all the contacts along the way. They try to get Bond a couple of times, but never manage to do a credible job of it. Mr. Wint’s perfumery cologne gives him away at the end of the film.Bond does him in with his own bomb cake and a suggestive handlock between the legs that  is another gay punchline.

At least Mr. Kidd gets a more dignified death, if you consider immolation to be superior.

003 The Double Entendres

James Bond in the movie is different from the books in a number of ways, one of which is his play with language. Although the puns and risque wordplay are tiresome in the Pierce Brosnan films, they still worked coming out of the mouth of Sean Connery.

James Bond: Weren’t you a blonde when I came in?

Tiffany Case: Could be.

James Bond: I tend to notice little things like that – whether a girl is a blonde or a brunette.

Tiffany Case: Which do you prefer?

James Bond: Well, as long as the collar and cuffs match…

I did not get this joke in 1971, I was thirteen at the time. Years later I almost busted a gut when i heard it again.

Here is another one from the film that I did not get the first time around and now it would get a spit take from me.

“Hi I’m Plenty”

 “Plenty O’Toole”

“Named after your father perhaps.”

004  Mustang Mix Up

It is hard enough to make a movie, much less one where everything needs to be consistent. Bond and Tiffany are chased through old Las Vegas in their Red Mustang. In order to escape at one point Bond drive up a ramp, tips the car on it’s side and drives through a narrow pathway that the cops can’t follow through.

All well and good, except when he comes out on the other side, there is a slightyly odd issue with physics that needs to be explained and never is.

Exactly how does the car come out the opposite way it went in?

I’m not that picky, it was still a cool stunt.

005  Willard Whyte

Singer Jimmy Dean plays a reclusive billionaire who is kidnapped but no one knows it. Why? because he has not been seen in public for a number of years before it happens. Those of you not familiar with the history of Vegas and Howard Hughes will miss the sly references and outright theft of some of his story.

The above shot also includes frequently used character actor Shane Rimmer (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, and a voice in Live and Let Die)

Like the fictional Willard Whyte, Hughes occupied the top floors of the hotels he stayed at. He actually bought the Desert Inn while living there to avoid more conflict with the management.

The best part of the story with Whyte is the Penthouse suite occupied by Blofeld. It is another gem of design from the 007

006 The Poster

One of the best posters of the series. For a complete discussion check out my post on Bond posters by clicking the image.

http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2013/06/007-posters-top-ten-list.html

007 The Elevator Fight

Bond has a lot of hand to hand combat in the films. This was a unique fight because it was so brutal and it takes place in an old style open elevator. The conflict with smuggler Peter Franks has drama and a couple of black humor bits because the quarter are so close the combatants can’t get much momentum or leverage with one another.

The best sequence in an otherwise less than thrilling film.

James Bond Will Return in “Live and Let Die.”

Double 0 Countdown: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

My on-line friend Dan Fogarty, holds this entry into the 007 cannon in low esteem. He has it ranked near the bottom of the list and he lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of George Lazenby. He thought Lazenby was boring and the script is boring having Bond go undercover as a college professor. Maybe I’m a little biased, what’s wrong with that?  Anyway, this is the first, first run Bond film I saw as a kid. All of the Connery films I’d seen before this had been in re-release. I had watched enough Avengers to know who Diana Rigg was, and the idea of Bond really falling in love was a nice twist.

001  The New Blofeld

After meeting Bond in the Flesh, and Bond meeting Blofeld face to face in “You Only Live Twice” it is a little hard to figure why in continuity, they would not recognize each other when they finally meet up here. Maybe it is the fact that both characters are played by new actors. I’ll let other debate the merits and faults of Lazenby, but as for Blofeld, I think this was a step up. Instead of being a near dwarf with a scar, in this film, he is played as a vigorous man, capable of fighting on a bobsled and skiing dangerously down a mountain. Telly Savalas wins my vote as the best Blofeld that we get to see.

002 The New Bond

In the one wink to the audience, the new Bond acknowledges his situation. Sean Connery had left the series, the posters for the movie featured a faceless 007, and after the first fight, when Bond beats the bad guys but loses the girl as she drives off. He stands on the beach with her shoes in her hand and says, as he looks straight at us…”This never happened to the other fellow…“. That’s a good laugh and it is in the spirit of the films continuing on.

“This never happened to the other fellow”

003 No Title Song

For years one of my pet peeves about the movie was the lack of a title song. The Louis Armstrong vocal is a nice tune but it is buried in the plot. At some point however, I started paying attention to the theme played over the titles and guess what, it kicks ass. Those four descending notes played with electronic magic actually build a lot of excitement.





The guitar and horns complement this melody perfectly. Excellent!

004  1969 Technology



Bond breaks into a solicitors office in Switzerland to gain access to documents that might reveal Blofeld’s location. He need a safe cracker and a photocopier. Lucky for him, they come together in a single piece of equipment, unlucky for him, that equipment is the size of a shipping trunk. No problem, he arranges to have it delivered to him in the office by a construction crane and bucket from a project next door. Now, what to do while waiting for the safe cracking machine to do it’s job? Fortunately, there is reading material in the office. 

 This is a tight little sequence that build tension out of a guy coming back from lunch. It may not be a countdown on a nuclear device, but it builds some good suspense and it has a fun little payoff when 007 tears out the centerfold to take with him. 

005  The Bond Girl

Countessa Tracy Draco is played by the former Emma Peele of the Avengers British spy TV show. That catsuit she wore in the credits was enough to solidify my sexual orientation at 10 years old.  Now I was more mature and so was she. As Bond’s object of affection she was quirky, standoffish, beautiful and capable. Late in the film she fights a henchman for five minutes and thrashs him with a broken bottle and nails him against a wall. She is not a damsel in distress, so much as the type of woman Ian Fleming always said Bond would fall for, “a bird with a wing down”.

 She also rescues Bond and drives her car as well as he does in the opening scene and in the chase that is featured latere in the film. 

006  Snow Plowed

I appear to have an affinity for exotic death scenes in the Bond series. The skiing chase down the snow covered alps is the first of a long line of ski sequences in Bond films. From the looks of the trailer, Daniel Craig is about to join the list of Bonds who have used mad snow skills to defeat their enemy. In “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, one of Bonds pursuers does not make it across the trench that a large snow plow is working on. Well before Steve Buscemi was disposed of in “fargo” we got this scene.

007 The Ice Slide

This series will be filled with brief moments that mark the series with indelible memories. My favorite from this film is James Bond, on his belly, with a machine gun blasting, sliding along the ice at Piz Gloria, where he had been curling with the bodacious beauties just a day or two before. It is the coolest image from this snowbound story. It was an improvised moment of brilliance from director Peter Hunt.

James Bond Will Return in “Diamonds Are Forever.”

Double O Countdown: You Only Live Twice

Despite the exotic setting and the lush musical theme, “You Only Live Twice” is not one of my personal favorites. It feels a little long and there are plot points that make no sense, but it does have some assets and those that I find most worthy from the film are as follows:

001

The lovely Kissy Suzuki, a Bond girl with few lines, a beautiful face and a name that only hints at being coarse.

002

In a Pre-title sequence that seems to exist only because it is cool to show, Bond gets “killed” in bed and is subsequently buried at sea.

 

003

  Not quite as cool as a shark tank, but equally gruesome to contemplate.  The evil Helga Brandt learns the fate of those who fail SPECTRE.

004

This one and the next entry could be reversed and it would be alright by me, both feature the secret lair of Blofeld. This one has Ninjas.

005

What is the best place to hide a secret rocket base in Japan… where else but in a freaking volcano. The Ken Adams design on this is marvelous and the use it was put to was extensive. Reportedly, the set cost more than all of the money spent making Dr. No.

006

Little Nellie

Q comes to Japan with a couple of suitcases and Bond wipes out the SPECTRE air force in an afternoon. The Frank McCarthy painting is spectacular

but the actual shots of the gyrocopter are pretty cool as well.

007

Finally face to face with Ernst Stavro Blofeld. After appearing in two films from only the back or chest down, the master mind behind the massive criminal cartel is revealed. A lot of Bond fans don’t care for the diminutive scarred criminal that is shown here, but the Mao Jacket and the scar go a long way in establishing an ethos for Blofeld that will be unshakable for the future. Hats off to the late Donal Pleasance.

Monologuing his way into our consciousness, while all the while petting the cat.

James Bond Will Return in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

Double O Countdown: Thunderball

James Bond returns in the biggest Bond film yet. If “Goldfinger” was an explosion, “Thunderball” was an earthquake. This film is the closest thing to today’s event blockbusters. It did incredible box office, broke records everywhere and set a standard of “BIG” that all the Bond films since have emulated.

001

For me as a kid, the most memorable images of ugly death from a James Bond film, came in this film.  The treacherous Angelo, operated on to resemble Derval, lands the hijacked bomber in the ocean. For his last minute demand for more money, Largo takes the opportunity to kill him by cutting his oxygen while trapped in the seat of the plane. Watching him flail and then stop was traumatic for my nightmares for years.

002

As a last minute replacement, so the opening song of the film would include the title, Tom Jones wails his heart out (and reportedly collapsed after sustaining the last note).

003

Every spy film lampoon since has used some variation of the shark tank, an original created for this film.

004

Upping the stakes and the gadgetry starts with the Jet Pack that 007 uses to escape in the pre-title sequence in this film. The artwork for the poster exceeds the actual shot which has Bond donning a helmet in the middle of the chase.

005

John Barry Rules

Maybe his greatest work for the series that he did from it’s inception to “The Living Daylights”. Here is a section of Barry Awesomeness that you can enjoy for ten minutes.

006

It goes on too long, and the setting ends up being a hindrance to the intensity of a real fight, but the underwater battle scene is the highlight of the visual moments in the film.

007

In a boardroom meeting among killers, we should expect brutality, the send up in Austin Powers is what most of today’s audiences will remeber, but my guess is after the new film opens, and the organization is revealed, there will be more respect than laughter in the audience.

James Bond will return in “You Only Live Twice”.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

This is one of those meta experiences that so often crop up in films these days. It is a film about spies that references James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, yet it engages in the same over the top story telling and effects that it is simultaneously lampooning. Having done the same thing to Fairy Tales with “Stardust” and Comic Books with “Kick Ass”, director Matthew Vaughn now turns to a new genre with this hyper violent exercise in adrenaline based movies. Oh, and just so you know, he pulls it off brilliantly.

The opening credits will make you giggle with the use of exploding pieces of an ancient fort, blowing onto the screen to form the credit titles. All of this is scored with Dire Straights “Money for Nothing”, yeah that’s the way you do it. Colin Firth is is Harry Hart, codename Galahad, an agent of the privately organized intelligence and espionage agency that borrows from every cartoon spy film of the sixties and makes the idea of a gentleman spy come to life. Firth was once imagined as a James Bond replacement, and the fact that his boss “Arthur” is played by Michael Caine, the working class Bond of the Harry Palmer films, makes the whole thing even more delicious.

Newcomer Taron Egerton plays the hard knock, working class son of an earlier protege of Galahad, rough around the edges but ready to be polished. Early parts of the movie and recurring sequences focus on the recruitment and testing process of likely “Kingsman” material. As the job interview begins, a threat to the world by well meaning but crazy billionaire tech guru Valentine, sends the regular agents out in the field to investigate. Samuel Jackson plays a George Soros/Al Gore hybrid with a distinct lisp and an aversion to seeing the violence that he himself wants. As Hart crosses swords with Valentine, they engage in a parody of cliches from most spy movies of this variety. In their interactions they even discuss the Bond films that feature megalomaniac rich guys who play villain to the English spy, and they both play with those roles effectively.

If your liberal sensibilities are easily offended, you may want to stay away from this. Jackson’s character is a rich genius with an evil plan to save the world from global warming. He attempts to recruit influential leaders and celebrities from around the world to be part of his new world order. Visualize the Socialist/Green/Celebrity Environmentalists as the dupes that will populate the Earth like Drax’s genetic specimens in “Moonraker” or Stromberg’s mermen in “The Spy Who Loved Me”. This is the biggest drubbing of liberal sacred cows since “Team America”. The Kingsman might seem reactionary to some, invoking as they do the names of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. They even use a piece of equipment supposedly part of the loathed Strategic Defense Initiative [referred to as the Star Wars satellite system] to fight back against the plans of the villain.

Since Star Wars does get mentioned here, it is fun to note that a nearly unrecognizable Mark Hamill appears as a kidnapped scientist. Mark Strong, who has been in most of Vaughn’s previous films, plays “Merlin” the aide de camp to the Kingsman.  There also seems to be a CGI version of an American Leader with prominent ears, who plays along with the scheme. At this point some audience members heads will explode, but hold on because that will not be the end of the fireworks. This movie also parodies the Westboro Baptist church crazies, the aristocrats of Great Britain, and dog lovers everywhere. Some of the humor is broad, such as the meal served by the suspected billionaire to the agent posing as another billionaire. It is either biting satire or great product placement.

The young leads get to take over the action at the end and they are just as effective as Firth was in his moments of glory ( or maybe I should say gory). This movie takes “Kick Ass” violence to new levels with some sick jokes mixed in. Imagine the damage a flying marital artist with razor sharp blades for feet can do, and then expect to see it on the screen. The slow mo, fast action styles explored in other films of this ilk are used here to good effect, but if you are over that approach, there are plenty of other bits of violence to delight you.

In all honesty, this is a movie that was genetically designed to tickle my funny bone and stimulate my adrenal glands. If “Kick Ass” and “James Bond” had a love child, this would be it. The film never takes itself too seriously but sometimes it plays with that idea as well. There is classic rock on the soundtrack, Colin Firth, Samuel Jackson and Michael Caine on the screen, and there is enough violence for ten movies. I was in love with this film when it was being hatched in the minds of the comic book artist who created the concept and the person who is responsible for putting Matthew Vaughn in charge. To quote Harry Hart: “Manners maketh man. Do you know what that means? Then let me teach you a lesson”. I consider myself well schooled after seeing this.