Thursday, April 21, 2016

More, More, Moore: Roger Moore's Best James Bond

A fellow blogger,  Radiator Heaven recently posted a review in which he stated how Roger Moore was his least favorite James Bond, citing several things that were typical of the Roger Moore era as being the sore spots in his way of thinking.  I commented how much of the stuff he found irksome was the same stuff that I found endearing, and I have always considered the Roger Moore Bonds to be my favorites.

In addition, two of my favorite Bond villains are from the Moore Bond age.  Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, and  Christopher Walken as Max Zorin in A View to A Kill.  (Is there a coincidence that both men were named "Christopher"?  I don't know, but I must admit they did a damn good job at it.  Especially Walken.  He gave new meaning to psychotic Bond villains)

 Being a child/young adult of the late 70's and 80's, I also found some of the Bond women much more attractive.  I mean, come on, what red-blooded heterosexual male couldn't be swooning over the likes of Tanya Roberts or Barbara Bach?  And Moore got to hop in the sack with both of them as Bond.

Anyway, not to disparage my fellow blogging compatriot's opinions, I felt a need to address the issue and, hence, re-watched both A View to A Kill  and The Man with the Golden Gun.  Both films serve as bookends to the career of the Moore/Bond saga.  View came at the end of the era, while Golden Gun served as the second outing for Moore and a stellar beginning to the same saga.

A View to a Kill (1984)

As with every Bond movie, the beginning was a teaser, to get your blood pumping before the opening credits.  While some Bond movies had opening sequences that were separate from the plot (in other words, just the end of a previous caper and had nothing to do with the main body of the film), this one had an opening that served to segue into the next caper.  Bond does some exciting skiing (and snowboarding) to escape Russian agents, after having retrieved a microchip from a dead British agent.  (The sequence with Bond snowboarding on what is essentially an unexploded part of a snowmobile, features one of those witty sequences I found so much fun, with The Beach Boys singing "California Girls" as background music)

Surfing safari

Back at MI6, Bond and company discover that the microchip that Bond found was an exact replica of a chip the good guys were making that could withstand a nuclear detonation.  (OK, I need to point out that much of the technology in View  will probably seem ancient by today's standards, but after all, this was 1984, when such stuff was still cutting edge or even futuristic)

Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), the head of Zorin Industries,  the makers of this new technology is thought to be above reproach.  He is supposedly "anti-Communist", and therefore would be averse to dealing with the Russians, even on the side.  Bond needs to get on the inside to check things out though, so he goes to a horse race and observes Zorin's horse win in an incredible come-from-behind victory.

Bond goes undercover as James St.John-Smythe, a wealthy man who is interested buying a horse to breed his own racing stock.  His helper in this endeavor his Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee), a racehorse expert and agent.  But Bond's ruse is uncovered. Zorin's "henchman" in this outing is a woman, May Day (Grace Jones, in her follow up to appearing with Ah-nold in Conan the Destroyer).  She is an assassin who takes out Tibbett, and TRIES to take out Bond, all in the name of loyalty to Zorin.  Grace Jones is a pretty scary person in real life (or at least her stage persona is ) so she pulls off a pretty good henchman.

The basic plot, ridiculous as it may seem today, is that Zorin plans to dynamite the San Andreas fault at a critical juncture and time in an effort to flood Silicon Valley, the HQ of all microchip production in the US, thus making his company have the sole monopoly on microchip production.  The psychotic maniac even kills a whole boatload of his own henchmen to facilitate  this, and jeopardizes May Day's life in the process.  Unsurprisingly, she doesn't take this too kindly and helps Bond to foil Zorin's plot.

The final fight between Zorin and Bond takes place high on the support structure of the Golden Gate Bridge (as seen above in the movie poster and below).  I have a slight fear of heights, and this fight scene gives me the willies, even on the small screen.  It was even more dramatic on the movie screen.  It'll make you cringe.

There is a secondary part of this movie that is intriguing to me.  It is hinted that Zorin's mentor, Dr. Carl Mortner (Willoughby Gray) is a former Nazi who may or may not have been involved in genetic engineering, of which Zorin is a product.  It has the hints of other movies, including one of my favorites The Boys from Brazil in which Joseph Mengele, a real Nazi doctor, supposedly engineered a clone of Hitler to be produced to take over a future Reich.

Walken's Zorin is over the top on occasion, and the previously mentioned witty jokes can come off as stale sometimes (I'll concede that point to my fellow blogger), but I would take this outing over any of the current Daniel Craig Bond's simply because of those witty lines.  Also View has one of my top 5 Bond theme songs, sung by Duran Duran.  It makes Sam Smith seem even lamer than he really is.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

This outing begins by introducing us to Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and his midget henchman Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize).  {A note on the word "midget".  It is not my word.  In the movie he is called a midget, and in fact Villechaize preferred the word "midget" as opposed to "little person", according to the wikipedia entry on the actor}  Scaramanga and a hired gunman (Marc Lawrence) engage in a battle.  The scene plays out as if Nick Nack has hired the gunman to kill Scaramanga, but as the scene plays out it looks more like the gangster was a dupe to Scaramanga's desire for a chess match style hunt in his room of many mirrors.

Back at MI6, Bond is called in an informed that Scaramanga has sent a golden bullet with his agent number 007 on it.  M requests that Bond take a leave of absence to which Bond responds that his best action would to be to kill Scaramanga before Scaramanga kills him.

Bond goes to Macau, the scene of a recent death from one of Scaramanga's golden bullets and engages in a tete-a-tete with a belly dancer (Carmen du Sautoy) and a fight with a few brigands determined to kill him. Bond encounters Andrea (Maud Adams), Scaramanga's mistress and a go between collecting the specially made golden bullets he lover uses in his assassinations. Under Bond's influence, Andrea reveals where Scaramanga will be next.

 But all Bond sees is the next assassination that Scaramanga performs, that of a scientist named Gibson who has developed the "Macguffin" of the story, a device called a "solex agitator" which can convert solar energy to electricity.  (Ever on the cutting edge of the current trends, the energy crisis of the early 70's was the inspiration for this device).

With the help of an astoundingly stupid fellow agent, Goodnight ( Britt Ekland), who seems more interested in getting Bond in bed than in any secret agent stuff, Bond continues his pursuit of Scaramanga an the stolen device.

Bond tries to catch up with the stolen agitator.  He succeeds in finding the device when he meets Andrea at a fight, along with a dead Andrea.  Scaramanga has killed her.  Bond passes the device on to Goodnight, who subsequently gets locked in the trunk of Scaramanga's car.  The car is turned into a plane and flies off.  Bond uses another plane and the homing device that Goodnight had to track down Scaramanga on his island.

The evil genius part of the typical Bond movie (finally!) rears it's ugly head when Scaramanga reveals that rather than use the solex agitator for the good of the world, he plans on using it for a solar weapon, more powerfully than any old pistol or "golden gun".  In fact Scaramanga refers to this thing as his real "golden gun."

Though not quite as chock full of innuendos and double entendres as later movies, this one still has a few, and Britt Ekland makes an excellent eye candy especially in a bikini, even if she is pretty dimwitted to have made it very far in the MI6 organization.  The only other two Bond girls are not my type, but they do have what is required.  As far as theme song, Lulu does a decent job of the title song.  It would never replace Paul McCartney (from the previous movie's soundtrack Live and Let Die), but it is pretty cool.

The concession stand is about to close, so I'd better go get some more vodka martinis.  Drive home safely, kiddies.



  1. I agree 100%....Roger Moore was the best Bond. I recall reading somewhere that he was one of the original choices to play Bond in film however he was already tied up with The Saint at the time so the timing was bad. A View to a Kill is my favorite of all the Bond films ( the one I grew up with too ) and I always thought it had the best opening teaser of them all. The new 007 films are okay but Craig lacks Moore's comical asides ( even Brosnan was quick with the lines )...and they took all the wild fun out of the Bond franchise. Incidentally, I would hit the drive-in in a flash if this double-feature were playing; you picked a great line-up.

    1. Thanks for the good words. Wish I could arrange a real drive-in double feature for you.

  2. As a fellow child of the 1970s, I must agree with you, Roger Moore was OUR James Bond. (No offense to other elegant gentlemen who have played him.) Sir Roger was just über-cool, and M's technology was mind-blowing (my favorite was the car that turned into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me.) And yes, the girls were prettier. (Although Ursula Andress was pretty statuesque in the 60s...)

    The Man with the Golden Gun is an amazing film, with its exotic locations, and best of all Christopher Lee and Herve have made me want to see it again, along with View to Kill.
    My favorite Roger Moore Bond Girls were Barbara Bach (Spy) and Lois Chiles (Moonraker).

    Quiggy, you have perfectly articulated the appeal of the era and this genre. Awesome.

    1. Thanks, Chris. Moonraker was my first foray into Bond in the theaters. Wasn't particularly impressed with Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), but the Bond girls were nice.


I'm pretty liberal about freedom of speech, but if you try to use this blog to sell something it will be deleted.