Friday, July 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part VII)

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 with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy




***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 last month's posts are dedicated to his memory.***






By the time that it came around to filming Octopussy, Roger Moore was getting on up in years.  His contract to make Bond films had officially ended with Moonraker and he had agreed to stay on for one more film (For Your Eyes Only).  But he was not anxious to continue on in the role.  A few other actors had auditioned for the role, including a future Bond, Timothy Dalton and,  believe it or not, James Brolin. (Having an American actor in the role of the iconic British agent probably would have raised some hackles on purists, I bet.)

However, when word got out that Sean Connery had agreed to reprise his James Bond role (Never Say Never Again) for a competing non-official Bond film, it was thought that a new Bond competing against the classic Bond actor would have been somewhat catastrophic for the box office, so the producers redoubled their efforts to entice Moore to be Bond again.  And it turned out to be a good decision because Octopussy did better at the box office than the Sean Connery Bond entry.

What would end up being the final two appearances for Moore as Bond also had a bit of help from some fantastic actors to play the villains.  In Octopussy, we get two.  Louis Jourdan, was prominently known as a ladies' man in films (see Three Coins in a Fountain, Gigi and Can-Can), but he carries himself well here.  He is outdone however by Stephen Berkoff as a renegade war hawk Russian general, General Orlov.  Berkoff is memorable to some as the villain in Beverly Hills Cop and another role as the villain, another Russian general, in Rambo: First Blood Part II.  Fans of the mini-series War and Remembrance  will also recognize him as yet another evil villain...Adolph Hitler.  Obviously he was very good playing the villain role.  Even if he did have a tendency to overact on occasion.

Going on to the next film in the saga, we've got one of the best actors ever when playing unhinged characters, of which is a good description of any Bond villain, but Christopher Walken has done ithe "unhinged" aspect more times and better than just about anyone from his era.  (I leave it open to you to decide if he does "unhinged" better than, say, Cagney or Bogart, but I will pit him against any other actor in the same style of character in the modern era, even Nicholson).

Grace Jones, a singer and model, had some training as an actress, but for the most part she stuck to the other two careers.  She had an oddly intriguing look, somewhat vaguely androgynous in her appearance, and apparently quite athletic.  Her other major role that comes to mind is as the female warrior who accompanies Conan on his quest in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Conan the Destroyer.  
























Octopussy (1983)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: # 11

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  # 17

Best Bond Quote:  (On being told that Octopussy's island is exclusively for women)  "Sexual discrimination?  I will definitely have to pay a visit."

Best Bond Villain Quote:  Kamal Khan: (being a master of the obvious; to Bond) "You have a nasty habit of surviving..."

Best Weapon:  Good god, there's so many...  But that yo-yo with the saw blades in place of the spinner is really cool.  Even if it is a villain weapon.


The opening has Bond, disguised (and not very convincingly by my eyes) as a Latin American colonel, trying to plant an explosive in a weapons depot.  He is caught by the person he is supposed to be impersonating and taken prisoner.  Of course he escapes, using a fold-out plane that was in a horse trailer.  And needless to say, manages to fulfill his mission of destroying the weapons cache in a different way.

The opening credits song, "All Time High",  was done by Rita Coolidge.  It was the second Bond theme song which did not have the title of the movie in the lyrics, not including Dr. No, of course, which didn't really have a theme song.  (Pretty hard to find a way to get "octopussy" in a song, I'd say).  The song cracked the top 40, making it to #36, thus making it a fairly popular hit.  These days, though, you almost never hear it.  But then the list of Bond themes you DO hear on the radio from days gone by are pretty rare indeed. Odd, considering many of them did become pop hits at the time.

Somewhere in East Germany a clown runs from a pair of twin knife throwers.  The clown (we find out later) is 009, a British Secret Service agent.  He is killed but manages to escape long enough to get on the other side of the border.  He has in his hand a Faberge' egg.  At MI6 HQ, we find out that the egg is fake.  Someone is dealing with counterfeit jewelry and Bond is sent to investigate.

His investigation leads him to Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), who is actually at an auction bidding on the real Faberge'.  Bond surreptitiously swaps it out with the fake one before Khan succeeds in winning the auction.  Later he uses the real Faberge' to hoodwink Khan in a rigged backgammon game.  Of course, Khan is not entirely pleased and sends his henchman, a huge India native named Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) to express his displeasure.

Magda (Kristina Wayborn), one of a member of an all-female band of miscreants, and a confidante of Khan seduces Bond (or vice versa), and gets away with the real egg, but Q and Bond have placed a miniature homing device in the egg and Bond actually intended for her to get away.  This leads him to a meeting between a renegade Russian general, Orlov (Stephen Berkoff) and Khan.  At some point it should be clear why there is a counterfeit/real conspiracy going on with artifacts, but other than it somehow has to do with financing Orlov's evil plan, it escapes me.

Bond meets our titular character (no pun intended), Octopussy (Maud Adams), the head of the all-female group.  She is initially a foe of Bond, but as we have seen before, Bond has a way of seducing women away from the dark side, and she eventually begins to help Bond foil the plot of Orlov and Khan.

What is the plot?.  Orlov plans to explode a nuclear device, using a travelling circus as a cover, in a US military base.  The complicated ruse, which prevents Russia from being implicated in the disaster, is that it will appear to be an accident, causing worldwide demand for nuclear disarmament.  "Worldwide" not including Orlov's Russia, thereby making it easier for the Soviets to conquer the rest of the Europe and eventually the world.  However, since Orlov is acting independently from Russian government approval of his actions, he has other, saner Soviet men trying to stop him too.

As usual, there is a nail-biting finale in which Bond races to try to prevent the villains from succeeding in their endeavor.  I particularly like Bond's struggle with the two knife throwers who killed 009 earlier in the movie.  Of course, Bond is successful, but watching him in his attempts to succeed is the whole point of a Bond movie, anyway.








A View to a Kill (1985)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #1

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  #2

Best Bond Quote: (referring to Stacey in a trucker's disguise)  "It's women's lib.  They're taking over the teamsters."

Best Bond Villain Quote:  (after dumping one of the men out of the zeppelin)  Zorin:  "Anyone else want to drop out?"

Best Weapon:  Not really much in this one.  I guess I'd have to vote for the gadget that lets Bond get an image of the check that Zorin gave to Stacey.


By 1985, Roger Moore was pushing 60, and his age shows in this outing, especially in the face.  I'm not entirely certain if Sir Roger had had any face-lifts at this point in his life, but he certainly looks too old.  Despite that fact, as seen above, I rate this one as my favorite Bond film, as much for Moore's performance as for the fact that one of my favorite actors, Christopher Walken, is the Bond villain.

The movie opens with the pre-credits sequence, in which Bond retrieves a microchip from the dead body of a fellow agent in the snowbound mountains.  Of course, the Russians want the chip too, and he is chased down the mountain on skis, while being pursued by his nemeses.  At one point he commandeers a ski sled, which eventually is disabled, but not before Bond can turn one of the skis into a surfboard.  Which results in him surfing down the mountain... accompanied by the most ridiculous but fun part of the movie...the Beach Boys singing "California Girls" over the scene.

Duran Duran did the title song.  It was the first Bond title song to reach #1 on the Billboard charts, probably due more to the fact that it was Duran Duran than whether it was a good song.  Be that as it may, it ranks as #2 on my list of favorite songs because its driving rhythm is more fitting to what I expect should be a Bond song.  Those movies that have sweet sultry openings don't always mesh with the action. (Maybe they do for the love scenes, but who watches a Bond movie for the love scenes...?)

Bond gets to MI6 HQ to find that the microchip is an exact duplicate of one that Zorin Industries has developed for the West.  There must be a saboteur, it is deduced, in the company.  But surely not Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), he is a staunch "anti-communist".  Bond goes to a horse race in which one of Zorin's horses is entered.  Zorin's horse, naturally, wins, but was it pure effort or was there something else?

Under the guise of an interested buyer, James St. John-Smythe, Bond attends a horse sale on Zorin's estate, with Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee), a fellow agent and former horse trainer posing as his chauffeur.   They discover (surprise surprise) that drugs were involved.  But while investigating this they also find an enormous stash of microchips in Zorin's warehouse.

On the other side of the doors to this warehouse, there is the Bond girl of the moment, Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts).  Zorin has written a check to her, which Bond discovers with his secret tool mentioned above.  He tries to connect with her, but his charm fizzles as she snubs him.  Which would have been devastating if he didn't have the panache to shrug it off.  (Of course, then again, maybe he read ahead in the script and knew he'd get her in the end...)

Zorin eventually discovers "Smythe" is really James Bond/007 and proceeds, as all villains do, to try to eliminate Bond.  After May Day (Grace Jones), his accomplice, kills Tibbett, the two knock out Bond and put him in the car with the now dead Tibbett and send it into a lake.  Thinking they have succeeded they go on about their nefarious plan.

So what is the nefarious plan?  This is one of the more interesting evil plans of the Bond films.  Zorin plans to send a bomb to blow up on the San Andreas Fault and start a chain reaction that would eventually destroy the entirety of "Silicon Valley", the place where the world's biggest microchip producers reside.  Thus, Zorin would become richer and his comrades in the plan (which include members of various countries), would benefit from the destruction of the American competition)

Ultimately, of course, Bond with some help from a surprising ally, foils the plan.  And there is a climatic battle between Zorin and Bond on top of the Golden Gate Bridge (which gave me the willies seeing on the big screen since I have a slight case of basiphobia. That's a fear of falling for those of you who aren't phobia experts...)

As mentioned earlier, Walken, more than anything else, makes this movie my favorite in the Bond oeuvre.  He has a knack for inspiring a loathing for the character he plays while still acquiring an admiration of the way he portrays them.

Well, folks, time to fire up the old Plymouth.  Have a martini and a face lift on me.

Quiggy




4 comments:

  1. "A View to a Kill" is one I remember my dad watching a lot when I was a kid. Christopher Walken is always so memorable, no matter who he's playing! Did you ever see "Sarah, Plain and Tall"? He's remarkably sweet and kind in that. Totally different role from what we usually see him in!

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    1. To tell the truth, Rachel, I actually prefer my Walken a little (or a lot) on the crazy side. But if my library has that one I'll give it a try. Thanks for reading.

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    2. Have you seen The Rundown, then? One of my guilty-pleasure movies, because it's pretty much macho fluff, but it heartily amuses me, and Walken is very Walken-esque in it.

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  2. Neither of these is my all-time favorite but I enjoy them both. The Duran Dyran theme song is excellent, among the best...
    I just watched For Your Eyes Only and Moonraker again...even if they're not great films, Sir Roger is my favorite Bond. Even if a little craggy!
    -C

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