Friday, April 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Pt. IV)

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

Sean Connery returned after the dismal performance of George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  However, that only lasted for one more film, as Connery was tired of the role.  Roger Moore, who though considered for Bond on several occasions but was unable to take the role, finally got the call to make the next Bond movie in 1973.  He would go on to become the most prolific Bond of them all, playing the role 7 times.  Moore was also the only Englishman to play Bond, until the arrival of Daniel Craig.  (Connery was a Scotsman, Lazenby was an Australian, and successors to the role, Dalton was a Welshman and Brosnan was Irish).

An interesting change in the character from Connery's portrayal to Moore's was the dispensing of the "dry martini, shaken not stirred".  Moore only orders bourbon in this first outing.  This was an intentional thing on Moore's part.  He purposely decided to deviate from that concoction in order to separate his performance.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #4

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #11

Best Bond Quote:  "Your problems are behind you now." (Said as he stuffs the launching cassette in the back of Tiffany Case's bikini briefs).

Best Bond Villain Quote: Almost any of the repartee between Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd qualifies.  But the understatement of the year goes to Mr. Wint who comments "Curious, how everyone who touches those diamonds seems to die."

Best Weapon:  What could possibly top a space satellite with a diamond-powered laser?

The opening scenes have Bond finally tracking down Blofeld (Charles Grey) after the death of his Bond's wife (see On His Majesty's Secret Service).  He seemingly gets his revenge by dumpin Blofeld in a vat of goo, but like Bond himself,  we know that it's never all that easy to kill Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The credits sequence includes the return of Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger) returning to sing the theme song.  The song was not the hit that the previous Bassey song was.  It topped out at only #57 on the Billboard top 100.

Someone is smuggling diamonds.  Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), a pair of barely concealed homosexual flunkies, kill off everyone who passes on the smuggled diamonds.  They have some fairly devious tricks they pull to accomplish this, including putting a deadly scorpion down the back of the shirt of one man, drowning an old lady who is posing as a schoolteacher,

Bond is sent to Amsterdam where he takes the place of Peter Franks (Joe Robinson) and meets up with his contact, Tiffany Case (Jill St. John).  Unfortunately for Bond, Franks escapes and shows up at Tiffany's apartment.  A fight ensues, and Bond kills Franks, and exchanges IDs with him, giving Tiffany the impression that Bond, as Franks, has killed the "real" James Bond.

Bond and Tiffany, with the diamonds cleverly hidden in the coffin carrying Franks, smuggle the diamonds into Las Vegas, where the Mob takes possession, and Bond is knocked out by Kidd and Wint and sent to his death in a cremation chamber.  But the Mob, led by Shady Tree (Leonard Barr), find out the diamonds Bond passed were fake and pull him out before he gets burned up.

Bond ends up with Tiffany in "The Whyte House", a hotel owned by a reclusive millionaire, Willard Whyte (loosely based on Howard Hughes).  When Bond goes up to talk with Whtey, he discovers, insteard, Blofeld.  In fact, he discovers TWO Blofelds...(one of them is a clone).  Bond kills Blofeld, albeit the wrong Blofeld.  The real Blofeld captures Bond and sends Kidd and Wint to dispose of him in the desert.  (Just a question.  Why don't these villains just put a bullet in Bond's head, instead of devising ingenious methods of destruction for which Bond always seems to escape?)

It turns out that Blofeld has been smuggling diamonds for use in a powerful laser which is launched in a satellite in space.  One of the reasons this particular outing ranks so high in my own list is that Blofeld actually does succeed in using the laser on three separate targets; a missile silo in North Dakota, a Russian nuclear submarine and a rocket site in China.  The plan is to use his new found weapon to extort money from the world's super powers.

A fantastic final reel in the movie involves Bond trying to switch the real programming cassette which operates the laser with a cassette of music.  At the same time, an all out attack is launched on Blofeld's hideaway by our old friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (played this time by Norman Burton).  Of course, you know Bond succeeds, but the final battle is still thrilling.

Live and Let Die (1973)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #12

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #3

Best Bond Quote:  With the coming of Roger Moore as Bond, the sexual double entendres came out in full force.  The best one in this movie was after Rosie complained that she was going to be useless to Bond: "I'm sure we'll be able to lick you into shape."

Best Bond Villain Quote: Cab Driver:  "Man, for $20 I'd drive you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout!"

Best Weapon:  That watch of Bond's, which not only houses a super-powered magnet, but also doubles as a miniature saw to cut the ropes tying him up.

The opening sequence is only the second time in the series that James Bond does not appear.  (The appearance of a Bond look-alike who is killed off in From Russia with Love was the first.)  Three separate agents in the employ of her majesty are executed.  In the first, a member of the United Nations, representing the UK is killed by a high-pitched blast.  In the second, in New Orleans, an unwitting agent becomes the guest of honor in a jazz funeral.  And lastly, another member is killed by a snake being used in a voodoo ritual on the (fictional) island of San Monique.

Fresh off the recent disbanding of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and his then-current band, Wings, perform one of the best Bond songs ever.  This song spent 3 weeks as #2 on the charts, and was jumped by two separate songs.  The first week it was #2 behind Maureen McGovern's "The Morning After".  The second week it was jumped by Diana Ross' "Touch Me in the Morning", and on the third week at #2 it was jumped by The Stories' "Brother Louie".  An added note:  This was the first Bond theme song to be recorded by the person who wrote it.

To start off this adventure, M (Bernard Lee) makes a visit to Bond's own personal digs, just barely avoiding catching Bond in flagrante delicto with a female lover.  M sends Bond off on his mission to find out who is behind the killings of several agents (from the prologue sequence).  In New York, a pimpmobile cruises by the car carrying Bond and shoots his driver.  Not a very auspicious beginning to say the least.

It should be noted at the outset that this outing was obviously designed to cash in on the then current "blaxploitation" genre of movies.  Almost all of the bad guys are black, but then so are several of Bond's comrades-in-arms.  The main character Bond has to deal with is Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) who is the leader of the aforementioned fictional Carribean island of San Monique.  He is also running a secret heroin trade under the guise of "Mr. Big".

Kananga has the help of a few memorable villains in this endeavor.  One, his right hand man (so to speak, since the character has a mechanical replacement for his right arm, so pun not intended..), a character call "Tee Hee" Johnson (Julius Harris).  Called Tee Hee probably because this guy is always grinning, especially when he has the upper hand (again pun not intended) in the situation.

Also helping out Kananga is a tarot card reader called "Solitaire" (Jane Seymour).  (Just to interject something:  I realize this is a movie and as such is a fantasy, but I had one hell of a time suspending my disbelief that such malarkey as tarot card reading really worked.)   Nearly all potential allies for Bondin the early part of the film are actually working for Kananga.  Check out the scene where Bond tails a car to Harlem in a cab.  An innocent cabdriver in the endeavor?  Not hardly.  Neither is the supposed ally CIA agent that Bond hooks up with early in the movie.

There are two really exciting chase scenes in this movie that, although they take up about 20 minutes of running time, are very well executed.  The boat chase on the Louisiana bayou is particularly exciting, especially when a local Sheriff (Clifton James) gets involved in the act (on land, chasing the boats via roads and bridges).  The Sheriff scenes are strictly for comic relief, but Clifton James instills a good-ol-boy style to the sheriff that is enchanting.  He would later reprise this role in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Eventually (of course), Solitaire comes over to the side of the good guys, although initially that must be seen as an act of self-preservation, since by losing her virginity to Bond, she also loses the "powers" she has in reading the tarot cards, which doesn't make Kananga very happy.  Of course we have to have the obligatory attempt to kill Bond, which in the final scenes involves him being cut on the arm and then slowly lowered  (..."SLOWLY"...) into a shark infested tank.  The slow descent giving time to devise a way out of the predicament.  (Again, why don't these villains just put a bullet in Bond's head?  Why do they have to get cute?)

A great movie all-around.  I particularly like the on location scenes in New Orleans.  They didn't look all that familiar, but they reminded me of my own trip to the Crescent City back in 2003.  I feel certain I walked that street a few times during my stay.

Well folks,  time to head home.  Drive safely.



  1. These are actually two of my favorites, especially the New Orleans style, voodoo, Jane Seymour and Paul McCartney's kick-ass theme song of Live and Let Die. I also love Connery's penultimate Bond appearance...if you count Never Say Never Again...

    1. Live and Let Die has another distinction in my book. It is the ONLY cover version of a song done by Guns N Roses that is any damn good. Not as good as the original, but a damn sight better than anything else they covered. Thanks for reading, Chris.


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