Double O Seven Double Feature: Tribute to Roger Moore

It was a sad day and a joyous day, all rolled into an afternoon in the cinema. Sir Roger Moore, who was the third  007 in the official series of films, passed away just over a week ago. As they did with Gene Wilder and Prince last year, AMC Theaters arranged nationwide screenings of some of his work as a salute to the star of seven James Bond adventures. People who do not understand the film business complained last year that AMC was cashing in on the deaths by selling tickets to the older films. The overhead for these special presentations and the screens that they have to give up to arrange them, will hardly cover the cost of putting this together. Maybe as a way of defraying these criticisms, whatever proceeds came from this presentation were donated to UNICEF, an organization that Roger Moore had served as an ambassador for several years.

For a generation behind me, Roger Moore was James Bond. He started making these films in the seventies and was the primary Bond of the 80s as well (no disrespect to Timothy Dalton). Gen-X had a suave, pretty and humorous Bond to admire. Moore was never the physical threat that Sean Connery was, but he had the fashion sense, snobbery, and tongue in cheek attitude necessary to carry the franchise through a transition period. The Bond films were solid money makers, but they were not the blockbusters that the mid-Connery era films were. Roger Moore stuck it out though two solid films, and in his third outing helped return the series to the heights it once had. Even though the films were big and successful, they became a little too silly to have the status of “classic”.  “Moonraker” and “A View to a Kill” are fun entertainment but are also a bit embarrassing. There is however one Roger Moore Bond outing that qualifies for almost all 007 fanatics top ten list, and that is “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

The two films chosen to represent Moore as James Bond in this tribute include that one truly extraordinary 007 adventure, and then his most serious outing, meant to restore the franchise to Earth after the shenanigans of the previous film. In an interesting choice, they actually played in reverse order for my double feature at least.

For Your Eyes Only

Fans of 007 who have read the books, will certainly appreciate the grounded nature of this entry. The story does not concern a megalomaniac trying to destroy the world, but rather a mercenary double agent who simply sees profit in selling out to the Soviets. It also includes bits and pieces of short stories and scenes from other Bond novels that had not been included in the films made of the original books.

As an illustration of the more serious tone of this story, Bond actually refrains from sleeping with the ingenue who seems to be a third his age. The romance angle that does get exploited concerns two grown women, neither of who look to young to find Roger Moore attractive. There is also a two pronged revenge story at the heart of the movie. The main Bond girl played by Carole Bouquet, is trying to kill those responsible for the murder of her parents. Bond himself pursues one of the villain in retribution for the killing of a friendly station head that Bond had trusted. We even forget the macguffian for most of the film as this pair of stories plays out.

In one of my favorite scenes in a Roger Moore Bond film, 007 races up a series of staircases to outflank an escaping vehicle that has to use a switchbacked road to reach the top of a hill. As Bond shoots at the vehicle it slides off the road onto the edge of a cliff. As it barely clings to the top, the murderous assassin is trapped in the car. Bond walks up to the vehicle, reminds him of the agent that he murdered and then kicks the car in a cold blooded move, sending tumbling down the side of the cliff to it’s demise. It’s a great moment for Moore to show he is not just a pretty boy playing at espionage.

Although the title song is solid, with Sheena Easton looking gorgeous in the background of silhouetted nudes in the title sequence, the rest of the score is a disappointment. I like Bill Conti but the electronic instrumentation in the first half of the film drains the action sequences of any tension. The music tightens up in the last third but by that point, some people may have tuned out. The film adds considerable charm when Topal shows up as a suspect and then an ally of Bonds. There are two awful aspects to the film that you should be warned about, and neither of them is the fault of the lead actor. Bernard Lee, who had played “M” for almost twenty years, died as the movie was filming and the chief of staff of the Secret Service is filling in while “M” is on leave. The actor they cast and the direction he was given create one of the least pleasant characters on the British side. For the stinger at the end of the movie, they simply could not resist the novelty that the head of state at the time was a woman, so a Thatcher doppelganger is used for a punchline.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Ian Fleming’s least favorite of the books he wrote is turned into a film that almost everyone will love. It has no connection whatever to the original story and uses the title to build the premise around. In the seventies, the Soviets were still an enemy, but the notion of British and Soviet intelligence working together provides an irresistible twist to the film. This film does feature a rich villain with plans to wipe out the population, but it is all the by-play between the two spies that provides most of the fireworks in the movie.

 

Roger Moore was at the peak of his physical attractiveness for this movie. He was a mature man who looked like he could engage in a fight, woo a woman and still look good in his clothes afterwards.

 

His pairing with Barbara Bach as agent XXX makes some sense since both sides are missing nuclear subs, and the two of them look great together thorough most of the film. Of all his co-stars, she is the one that provided the most chemistry and helped Bond feel more real than he had in a long time.

“The Spy Who Loved Me” celebrates it’s 40th anniversary this year. It was a huge box office success and is probably best remembered for the title song, the villain “Jaws” and the parachute escape in the pre-title sequence. There is so much to recommend this film that you could put your finger down at any spot and have something good to say about that moment. The whole sequence in Egypt around the pyramids and ruins was beautiful to look at and nicely staged. The battle on the super tanker is a well staged action sequence. The chase sequences on the island of Sardinia were also excellent, and they feature the second best car 007 ever drove. A Lotus that doubles as a submarine.

 

When I was in London a year ago, I added myself to the film legacy of the submersible car by posing for a picture with it in the Bond Exhibit at the national film Museum in London.

Moore had another great tough guy moment in the film when he flicks a hand off his necktie and sends a secondary bad guy to his doom by doing so. He then straightens the tie and makes a typical Moore quip.

He may not have been everybody’s  favorite 007, but he made more of the official Bond films than anyone else. He is the first of our 007s to make the jump to the next great adventure and we should all miss him as a human being. Lucky for us, he had these two outing to leave us with the best of impressions.

Links

For Your Eyes Only 007 Countdown

The Spy Who Loved Me 007 Countdown

The Spy Who Loved Me : Summer Movie Project

 

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”

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”