Monday, August 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part VIII)

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

It had to happen sooner or later....  After working on A View to a Kill, Roger Moore finally followed through with his threat to retire from the Bond role, and a casting call went out for someone to take the reins.

The call went out and the final decision was to have Pierce Brosnan take over the role.  But wait a minute.  Brosnan had just finished up playing a role in a TV series, Remington Steele, which had been cancelled.  Except that after hearing about their star being cast as James Bond, and thinking that was good publicity for their show, the network decided to renew the series.  Thus Brosnan was committed to another season of the show and was unavailable.  Worse, the next season only aired 6 episodes before it was cancelled permanently.  But by then it was too late for Brosnan.

Timothy Dalton, who had been among the finalists years before to replace Connery was tagged for Moore's replacement.  (He had decided he was too young the first time, and also did not want the task of replacing Connery, but by 1987, he was ready to give it a try.)

The role of Miss Moneypenny also became available. Lois Maxwell had decided to retire along with Moore, and a younger (and infinitely sexier) Moneypenny was cast, with Caroline Bliss in the role.  With or without the glasses she affected to distinguish her from Maxwell, she still looked the part of a Bond girl, so it must have been pure professionalism that Dalton's Bond did not succumb to her charms.

The Living Daylights (1987):

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: # 19

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  # 8

Best Bond Quote:  (After hearing Koskov tell him an old Russian saying) "We have a saying, too, Georgi.  And you're full of it."

Best Bond Villain Quote:  (wielding an M80, after Bond has expended the 8 bullets in his gun.) Whitaker:  "You've had your 8, Bond.  Now I have my 80."

Best Weapon:  A key chain that has two really cool features, both responding to a certain whistle from Bond.

In the opening sequence, Bond and a handful of other agents are in a war game exercise where they have to infiltrate a stronghold, defended by fellow military personnel.  The agents who are shot by the defenders (with paint guns) are out of the game.  But there is someone who is not playing by the rules, and kills several people, both agents and defenders.  When Bond discovers the deception, a chase ensues on the mountaintop in a truck filled with explosives.  And I don't guess I have to tell you how that scene ends...

The opening credits, which includes a song by the Norwegian band  a-ha, leads into the main story line.  Russian General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) wants to defect to the West.But there is information circulating that the Russians plan to kill Koskov as he defects, so Bond is tasked with preventing the assassination.

Bond sees the beautiful Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo), a cello player in the orchestra with the rifle, and instead of killing her as instructed, he merely wounds her.  Koskov escapes to the West.  But at a safe house, a tall blond killer called Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) infiltrates the place and causes chaos, in which in the interim, Koskov is kidnapped from the safe house.

Koskov is a weasel, and it's almost telegraphed from the start that he is playing both sides of the candle against each other.  So it's no surprise to find out that it isn't the Russians who recaptured Koskov.  It was all part of an insidious double-cross, or triple-cross or even quadruple-cross.  It turns out that Koskov has been playing games with Kara, pretending to be her lover.  In fact, he had set her up, too.  She was supposed to fire blanks at Koskov during his defection, but she was also supposed to have been killed by Bond or the MI6 agent sent to prevent his "assassination",  thus eliminating a loose end in the plan.

It turns out there was a complicated plan in which opium was traded for guns and guns were traded for diamonds and the whole plot centers around trying to get Koskov's boss, General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies, the actor who played Indiana Jones' friend, Sallah), assassinated.  In help for this matter is the false rumor that Koskov spreads to MI6 that Pushkin is planning on reinstating the Stalin era plan of smiert spionim. ("Death to spies").  This is totally untrue, and Bond discovers the whole ruse.  He also helps Pushkin out by faking Pushkin's death at the hands of Bond.

Bond is arrested as an assassin by russian agents, with Koskov still playing his ruse as the now head of Russian KGB.  The police put Bond and Kara in prison, but as usual Bond finds a way to escape.  He also frees a fellow prisoner, an Afghan, who turns out to be a leader in the Mujahadeen.  (This being prior to the events of 9-11, the Mujahadeen were still regarded as allies, especially since they were enemies of the Russians.)  Art Malik, who has made somewhat of a career in Middle eastern roles, plays the rebel leader.  And he eventually, although somewhat reluctantly, repays Bond for helping him escape by helping bond in his mission.

Koskov's real ally is Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker), a wannabe leader and mercenary who basically sells his services to the highest bidder.  It is he who is involved deeply in the diamonds/opium/arms trade.  He is also a gung-ho military man who among his delusions of grandeur imagines himself to be the consummate war strategist.  In his fortress hideout he has a room in which he re-enacts famous battles with toy soldiers, complete with sound effects from a high tech sound system, and busts of famous generals of the past around him.  (although, as a credit to his ego, they all have his face...)

The only thing that keeps The Living Daylights from being ranked even lower on my scale of Bond movies is the presence of Joe Don Baker as the renegade military man.  Baker is a pleasure to watch in almost everything I've ever seen him.  (He was fantastic as Buford Pusser in Walking Tall.)  The character is essentially a cardboard cutout of a mercenary leader, but Baker puts more pizzazz into the character than a lesser actor could have achieved, and even though I am glad to see a villain get his comeuppance in a Bond film, this is one where I kind of wish he had survived...

Timothy Dalton created a new image of Bond which stayed as far away as possible from the witty predecessor of Roger Moore.  It seems to hearken more back to Connery, although Dalton did put his own spin on it.  But he is not one of my favorite Bonds.  I wouldn't even rank him above Brosnan.  But I must admit, as you will learn if you read further, that one of my favorite overall Bond movies is his second try at the role.

License to Kill (1989):

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: # 5

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  # 13

Best Bond Quote:  (Having just been given the snub by a potential sexual conquest with Pam) "I hope you don't snore, Q."

Best Bond Villain Quote: (Actually a note attached to Felix Leiter, but we will assume it was written by Franz Sanchez:)  "He disagreed with something that ate him."

Best Weapon:  A gun that looks like a camera, but is engineered and works only from Bond's hand print, making it totally useless when one of Sanchez's henchman tales it away from him.

There are more current and future stars in this outing than you could shake a stick at.  Priscilla Barnes, who took over the resident blonde role after the departure of Suzanne Somers on Three's Company, is cast as the tragic figure of Mrs. Felix Leiter.  Benicio del Toro, in a very early role, is Robert Davi's right hand man, a superb villain.  Anthony Zerbe and Wayne Newton (yes, THAT Wayne Newton) also appear in significant roles.  Grand L. Bush, whom you will recognize by face, if not by name, because he has been in dozens of action movies, is Hawkins.  The same goes for Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.  Both are regular actors, if you like the type of movies I most frequently review.

The opening sequence features Bond and his pal, CIA Agent Felix Leiter (played this time by David Hedison) on their way to Felix's wedding to the future Mrs. Leiter (Priscilla Barnes).  A Coast Guard helicopter intercept the entourage and informs Leiter that Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), a notorious drug kingpin, is on United States soil, and the game is afoot to capture him.  Despite being on their way to a wedding, Leiter and Bond join the chase.  After an impressive action sequence which also involves Bond hooking up Sanchez's plane with a wire and taking him into custody, the two parachute in to the wedding.

The opening credits feature what was to be Maurice Binder's last work as credits designer for a Bond film.  He would pass away from lung cancer in 1991.  The song featured was done by Gladys Knight, one of the first songs to be done after the disbanding of her backup group, known as Gladys Knight and the Pips.

At a CIA interrogation, Sanchez makes a blatant statement that he will escape, and says that he will pay 2 Million dollars to whomever helps him.   It works because one of the agents present, Killifer (Everett McGill), takes the bait (and the cash).  Sanchez takes over in his revenge by kidnapping Leiter and killing his new bride.  He feeds Leiter to the sharks.  Bond hears about Sanchez's escape and goes to Leiter's house where he finds Della dead, and Leiter barely alive.

Bond goes to investigate a boat owned by Milton Krest  (Anthony Zerbe) and discovers evidence of what happened to Leiter.  He also confronts Killifer, who tries to bribe Bond, but Bond is having none of it.  He is now on a mission of revenge.  Bond is taken to a secret quarters where M (Robert Brown) informs him that he is supposed to be on assignment, but after a confrontation, Bond finds his 007 "license to kill" is revoked.

Bond begins a systematic plan of revenge, his ultimate goal being the death of Sanchez.  Sanchez's right hand man, Dario (Benicio del Toro),  encounters Bond as Bond meets with Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), a pilot and ex-CIA agent.  Escape from Dario is eminent, but Dario can identify Bond.  Bond makes his way back to Krest's boat, where he hijacks a load of drug money from the associate.  He takes the money and opens an account in Isthmus City, Sanchez's home base, and begins a systematic plan to infiltrate the drug kingpin's team of trusted servants.  He has the help of Q, who is probably going to be in deep trouble with M later for helping Bond out.

Professor Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton), a sleazy tele-evangelist, uses his television program to inform potential buyers of the drug prices and sales.  Sanchez's financial adviser,  Truman-Lodge (Anthony Starke) informs Sanchez of the deals that are made via the tele-evangelist's program.  The base of operations for the drug processing are located in Butcher's supposed meditation retreat.  A concept that, although logistically unbelievable (it involves mixing the drugs with gasoline to disguise them, which are later reprocessed back into pure cocaine), is revealed.  The drugs are packed into four tanker trucks and ready to go.

At the plant, Bond destroysthef  , as the tankers leave the facility. One of the action sequences that ensue involves what I consider one of the greatest stunts of all time.  As Bond is driving one of the tanker trucks, several of Sanchez's henchman stand by and fire a Stinger missile at him.  Bond uses a boulder on the road to cause the tanker to do a wheelie to avoid the missile.  While a two wheelie in a car is not necessarily passe', I think this nine wheelie is absolutely fantastic.

Davi is possibly the best and most fearsome Bond villain of all time.  He definitely manages to exude more of the unmitigated despicableness that makes a Bond villain memorable. Despite the fact that this movie has no real "conquest to dominate the world" like most of the Bond entries, and despite the fact that I really don't care for Dalton as Bond for the most part, this entry ranks as #5 on my list simply because of Davi's ad de Toro's performance, and the aforementioned "favorite stunt".

Well, folks, the martinis are calling.  Have a good night until next time.



  1. Dalton is my least favorite Bond, too, Quiggy--humorless for the most part, and these movies seem to take the whole thing a bit too seriously and lack the element of fun. Ironically, I now love Timothy Dalton as a character of his best performances is a supporting role in one of my favorite films, Hot Fuzz....and he displays lots of tongue in cheek humor that would have served him well as 007.
    - C

    1. I've seen Dalton in a few movies. Most memorably as Prince Barin in Flash Gordon (which I reviewed last year) and as Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer (which I still haven't gotten around to reviewing). Even if you don't like Dalton as Bond, surely youagreethat Davi was one of the better villains. I'd rank him in the top 5, possibly even just below Walken as #2... Thanks for reading. Glad to have you back, Chris.


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