Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part VI)

2017 marks 55 years of James Bond on the movie screen.  To celebrate this momentous year, I am undertaking to review the entire oeuvre of Bond films, all 24 of them (at this juncture in history), two at a time.  These will appear on the 7th day of each month  (Bond's agent number being "007").  At the beginning of each entry I will give my personal ranking of each movie and of each movie's theme song.  (These are subjective rankings and do not necessarily agree with the view of the average Bond fan, so take it as you will).  I hope you enjoy them, nay, even look forward to the next installment.  As an added note, I am deeply indebted to Tom DeMichael, and his book James Bond FAQ,  for tidbits of information I with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy




Note: As stated last month, I skipped over The Man with the Golden Gun so I could pair the two movies featuring the Richard Kiel character "Jaws".  I revert back to the chronological order with this month's entry. (sort of)



***I have to begin this review on a sad note:  On May 23 Sir Roger Moore passed away.  Roger Moore will always be my favorite James Bond.  Both this and next month's posts are dedicated to his memory.***


The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #2

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  #6

Best Bond Quote:  (I'm cheating here. The scriptwriters gave M such a classic retort it HAD to take precedence.  After Bond comments "Who would pay a million dollars to have Me killed?")
M:  "Jealous husbands...outraged chefs...humiliated tailors.  The list is endless." 

Best Bond Villain Quote:  (after Bond and two young girls have defeated the best of Hai Fat's students at his karate school)
Scaramanga:  "What do they teach at that academy?  Ballet dancing?."

Best Weapon:  OK.  I was promised by 2015 I'd have flying cars (see Back to the Future).  If Bond villains are hoarding them, I say we mount an attack.  The flying car in this movie gets my vote.  Even if it did have to have airplane wings attached to accomplish it.

The pre-credit sequence for this installment does not involve Bond himself.  It sets up the character of Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and his valet/henchman Nick-Nack (Herve Villechaize).  It looks like Nick Nack has hired a Mafia hit man to take out his boss, but instead, it turns out, he is just providing entertainment for him.  (If you can call being in a gun battle with a hit man "entertainment":...)  A wax dummy of Bond does make an appearance after the battle, and Scaramanga shoots it's fingers off...ouch.

The credits sequence features the song, sung by Lulu.  Alice Cooper had also recorded his own song that he intended to submit for consideration, but his entry was one day too late, as Lulu's song had already been accepted.  It was a different song altogether.  If you'd like to see how the credits would have rolled with Cooper's entry, I provide this video..





Someone sends a golden bullet, engraved with "007", to MI6, implying that Scaramanga's next assassination is to be Bond himself.  Bond is called in and taken off assignment  (he's trying to find the Macguffin-like object called the "Solex Agitator"), and told to take some time off.  But Bond realizes that his real "assignment" is to locate Scaramanga and resolve the issue.

With the help of a female agent, a ditzy blonde named Goodnight (Britt Ekland), Bond goes looking for Scaramanga.  His first goal is to locate the person who is Scaramanga's connection to the golden bullets, which leads him to a weapons manufacturer named Lazar (Marne Maitland).  This leads him to Scaramanga's lady, Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), the one who picks up the bullets for him.  (BTW, Maud Adams is one of the few actors and actresses that appeared twice as different characters in a Bond film.  She shows up as the title character in Octopussy).

Through Anders Bond traces Scaramanga to a nightclub where the inventor of the Solex Agitator appears.  The inventor is killed by Scaramanga and in the ensuing confusion, the Solex Agitator is stolen from his body.  Bond proceeds to pose as Scaramanga himself and goes to the residence of the man who may have hired Scaramanga.  Unfortunately for Bond, the man knows he is not really Scaramanga, and Bond has to escape an entire dojo of karate students.  But he does get some help from two unlikely teenage girls.

Ultimately Bond ends up on Scaramanga's island fortress, helped along because our ditzy Goodnight had the misfortune of being kidnapped by Nick Nack and Scaramanga.  Of course, Scaramanga has the Solex which Bond has been looking for all this time, but despite the altruistic potential of the device, you just know our villain has other plans for it's use.  And this is part of what makes this movie my #2 favorite Bond film (that and the presence of Lee as one of the best Bond villains).




For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie:  #24

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #5

Best Bond Quote:  "I hope he was dining alone." (after a shark swims by)

Best Bond Villain Quote:  OK.  this is cheating, I admit, but look at my ranking of the movie... The best Bond villain quote comes from Loque  who manages to get through the movie without saying one damn word.

Best Weapon:  I can't really give any praise to the weaponry (Bond's only weapon is his gun).  I gotta hand this one to Melina's car, a Citroen, which must have been made by Timex, because it took a licking and kept on ticking.


I preface this by restating that Roger Moore was my favorite Bond.  But this entry was the worst, but not entirely due to anything that Moore did.  It's just a pretty shoddy script.  It appears to have several short stories cobbled together to make one movie.  Which is not entirely unprecedented.  The book that Ian Fleming wrote bearing the title For Your Eyes Only was a collection of short stories.

The movie opens with Bond visiting the grave of his wife (he had married in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and she had died at the end of that film).  A helicopter arrives to take Bond back to headquarters, but it is commandeered remotely by a villain who, although not named, is given a lot of clues that it might be Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE.  "Blofeld" tries vainly to kill Bond, Bond wins the day and drops "Blofeld" down a smokestack.

The opening credits feature Sheena Easton singing the title song.  It also features, for the first time, the actual face of the singer singing the song.  I credit this to the fact that the movie was made around the same time as the premiere of MTV, and it was probably supposed to be functional as a video for the station.  (yes, kiddies, at one time MTV actually DID play music videos...surprised?)

The death of Bernard Lee early in 1981 prevented him for reprising his role as M.  The production on the movie had already started at this point, but Lee's scenes had not yet been filmed.  Instead of replacing him (which they would do in the following Bond movie), they chose to just say, within the movie, that he was "on leave".  Instead, filling the responsibilities in M's absence are the Minister of Defense and the MI6 Chief of Staff.

Bond has been called in on assignment because a British spy ship has sunk.  (It was an accident, not through any subversive sabotage.  It seems it caught an old sea mine in its netting and the mine did what mines were supposed to do.)  But on board was a special computer called Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC), which becomes the MacGuffin of the movie.  The British want to retrieve it and the Russians want it for themselves.

The British have employed the services of a marine archaeologist to find the machine, but he and his wife are gunned down, in view of the doctor's daughter, Melina (Charlotte Bouquet).  Bond is sent to the area to find out who killed the doctor and his wife, but his efforts are frustrated when Melina shows up and kills the man Bond was supposed to be investigating.  Needless to say, Bond's superiors are extremely displeased.

Using help from Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and an identifying computer, Bond determines that a suspicious character he observed at the gunman's place is a man named Locque (Michael Gothard).  This leads him on the trail to Italy.  There he meets his contact, Ferrara (John Moreno), who in turn introduces him to Ari Kristatos, a Greek business man.  Kristatos tells Bond that Locque  is in the employ of Milos Colombo (Topol).

Bond also meets Kristatos' ice skating protege, Bibi Dahl {...really...?} played by real ice-skating champion Lynn-Holly Johnson.  Bibi becomes immediately smitten by Bond, and does something for which Bond is extremely unprepared.  She tries to get HIM to go to bed with HER.  Bibi shows up occasionally over the course of the film, but disappointing to prurient interests, she fails to get Bond in the sack.

In the course of his investigations, Bond comes to realize  couple of things.  First, Kristatos is not the ally he seems to be, and second Colombo is not the enemy he seems to be.  Both are involved in illicit trade and both were former partners.  Each would like to get the other out of the way.  It turns out that Kristatos is a true businessman as he intends to get the ATAC (remember the ATAC from the beginning of this movie?) and sell it to the Russians in the person of our old friend General Gogol (Walter Gotell).  Bond's new found ally in Colombo and his men try a valiant siege on Kristatos fortress to see to it that the trade goes wrong.

Part of the reason that this movie gets ranked as the worst on my list is that by 1981, we had come to expect a Bond with a rather quick wit, and there seems to be little of it here.  Of course, some of my fellow Bond enthusiasts rank the Roger Moore Bond's as the least of their favorites precisely because that dry wit annoys them.  But its exactly the same reason why I rank them high.

The martinis are waiting, so it's time to head home.  Drive safely, folks.

Quiggy






2 comments:

  1. Roger Moore is my dad's favorite Bond, so I've seen a lot of his 007 movies. (Did I say that already in a post of yours? If so, sorry to repeat myself. Must be getting old.) But, like you, I've never cared for "For Your Eyes Only." I can never remember the plot, which I'm guessing, thanks to your review, is because it doesn't have a good one.

    "The Man with the Golden Gun," though, is delightful. Christopher Lee is just always a good time, especially when he gets to be in a good movie!

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    1. Be sure to watch for next month. I'm covering "Octopussy" and "A View to a Kill". AVTAK is my absolute favorite, which I already reviewed once, last year, but I'll be doing a different take on it this time. Thanks for reading.

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