Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part V)

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

Note: To the reader.  Because of the presence of a recurring villain in these two movies ("Jaws" played by Richard Kiel), I have chosen to skip over the sequential format for this and next month's entry in order to pair these two in one entry.  Apologies to anyone who expected the sequential format.  The sequential format will be resumed in the July installment.

The best Bond villain wasn't the primary villain in any movie.  The best Bond villain was just a henchman, but he was a henchman for hire.  Richard Kiel, a gigantic menacing looking actor in his own right, played a character only known as "Jaws".  (He got this moniker, apparently, from the fact that his teeth had been replace by steel dentures, and he had a bite that could cut through steel cables and chains.)

"Jaws" appeared in two Bond entries.  His first appearance was as a henchman for Bond villain Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Unlike most Bond villains and their henchmen, Jaws was virtually indestructible, and survived at the end of that entry.  At the beginning of the next Bond entry, he is a henchman of an unnamed villain in the opening sequence of Moonraker.  Even falling without a parachute from an airplane does not kill him.  (He fortuitously lands on a circus tent, which somehow, miraculously, softens his fall.)  Later in the film, he is hired by that movies villain, Hugo Drax, to continue to harass Bond.

Kiel had a career before and after Bond playing menacing people, most prominently as a henchman for Dr. Loveless in the 60's TV show Wild Wild West. And later as some of the more memorable co-stars in such movies as the Burt Reynolds flick, The Longest Yard.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #8

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  #7

Best Bond Quote:  "Can you play any other tune? (to Anya who seems to be having trouble getting their escape vehicle into the right gear)

Best Bond Villain Quote:  Stromberg: "Well, well, a British agent in love with a Russian agent.  Detente, indeed."

Best Weapon:  Who wouldn't want a car that doubles as a submarine?

The pre-credits sequence involves a hijacking of a British nuclear submarine.  At the same time, a Russian submarine is also hijacked.  England calls in it's best spy ("007" James Bond, of course).  Russia calls in its best spy Agent XXX.  Of course the surprise in the love scene where XXX is involved in a romantic tryst is that Anya Amasova (Catherine Bach) is the secret agent (women's lib, indeed).  A third scene involves Bond in a snow chase in which he kills one of the Russian agents chasing him.

Then we have the opening credits with a song by Carly Simon "Nobody Does It Better".  This is one of the better Bond themes.  As a matter of fact, the song garnered a nomination for best song at the Oscars, but it lost to "You Light Up My Life"...(gak!!!!)

The scene then transfers to the Kremlin where Anya is informed that her lover has been killed (If you were paying attention, it is the guy Bond killed.  She swears she will kill the agent when she discovers who he is.  (We are left in suspense, of course, since if she knew right away, she probably wouldn't work with Bond, and then we'd have no movie...)

At a secret location, Bond meets up with M and others where they discover that someone has copies of the (supposedly) top secret routes that the submarine takes.  The scene switches to an underwater fortress, and we finally meet our villain, Karl Stromberg  (Curt Jurgens).  He has his secretary fed to the sharks for smuggling out secret plans.  He pays off two scientists who helped him develop the submarine tracking device which got him his two submarine prizes.  Typically of these villains, however, he has  their helicopter exploded as it leaves the fortress.  He then sends Jaws and another henchman out to find the stolen plans and kill anyone who has seen them.

Meanwhile, both Bond and Anya are trying to recover the stolen plans for their respective governments.  Thus they frequently encounter each other, which eventually leads to a cooperative liaison, in which the two work together, both in trying to achieve the stolen plans, bu also in avoiding being killed by Jaws, the indestructible "superman".

Nothing deters Jaws.  Not a collapsing archaeological dig, not being shoved out the window of a speeding train, not in a one-on-one battle with a shark.  Those steel teeth of Jaws must also be running through his entire body.  One thing I can say about Jaws is, he is not easily deterred from his mission.

Anya eventually discovers that Bond is the one who killed her lover, but she swears to postpone her revenge until after their mission is complete.  (She is obviously the consummate dedicated patriot to he country, first).

They discover the secret to the disappearance of the subs; it's a supertanker owned by Stromberg, capable of opening up and engulfing the submarines.  Stromberg's plan comes out, he wants to get a nuclear war started, one that will make the surface world uninhabitable.  Thus his dream of a civilization of his own beneath the sea.  (hey, at least its better than creating a new civilization on a space station...)

And if you want to know if Anya actually kills Bond after its all over, you are in the wrong theater...

Moonraker (1979)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #18

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #12 (see below for an explanation of this one)

Best Bond Quote:  "How do you kill five hours in Rio.  If you don't Samba?"  (Bond has a great way of getting to the real action...)

Best Bond Villain Quote:  Drax:  Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you..."

Best Weapon:  What's better than a gondola that can get up out of the water and drive on land, too? (a reverse of the previous movie's theme of a best weapon...)

Moonraker was the first Bond movie I actually had the opportunity to see in a theater, and started a tradition that would continue for the next 20+ years, in which I would eagerly go to the next installment in the movie run.

The movie opening sequence, a U.S. space shuttle being hijacked while being transported under loan to the  U.K.  England is very distraught, as is the U.S., and M calls Bond back from his current mission.  He narrowly escapes free fall without a parachute, disposing of one bad guy and sending Jaws to a new career as a circus clown... (see intro)

The Bond movie theme was sung by Shirley Bassey (her third try at the job).  Although the song is not all that bad itself, I didn't particularly like it.  I probably would have rated it in the high teens or low 20's on my list.  However, the saving grace for it, in the end credits, a disco-themed version was used.  This jacked the theme up a few notches to it's ranking stated above.  (What can I say, I liked disco and still do...)

Moonraker tried to cash in on the then current space wave started by the release of Star Wars.  Of course, there isn't any futuristic spaceships or light sabers or unfathomable Force here.  But there are a few laser guns, and of course, there is a major scene on a space station (launched by Drax), and we are introduced into what was then pretty cutting edge technology with some space shuttles.

Bond is sent as an emissary to Drax's headquarters to find out why there was no wreckage of the stolen space shuttle among the wreckage of the plane.  This particular movie is one of the few in which Bond does not go undercover as someone else, only to later be discovered to be "James Bond".  Bond is not necessarily overt in his secret agent guise, but he does represent himself by his real name to Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) from the outset.  He also is introduced to a female doctor, Dr. Goodhead (who comes up with these slightly or even overtly prurient names...?)  This being 1979 in the real time, and Bond not being quite as cosmopolitan in his view of women in general, it comes as a surprise that the doctor is not male.

Of course, Drax, for his part, doesn't have to wait until the dramatic mid-point discovery that Bond is a secret agent either.  He sends his #1 henchman, Chang (Toshiro Suga), to see that some unfortunate accident befalls Bond.  This one involving a G-force machine which Chang manipulates so it will kill Bond.  (Of course, Chang is unsuccessful, but at least he has another chance later in the movie.)   Bond leaves from there on his own two feet and, with the assistance of one of the secondary Bond women in this outing, Corinne (Corinne Clery), finds blueprints in Drax's safe for glass vials which leads him to Rio De Janeiro.

In Rio several things happen.  One:  Bond finds a secret lab where he quite by accident discovers the scientists are working on a potion that becomes a gas, but it only kills humans (the scientists are the victims in this accident, not Bond).  It does not, however, kill the mice or the plants in the room, so it is being designed for nefarious purposes (but you already knew that, didn't you?)  Second, Chang makes a second attempt on Bond, but is dispatched himself instead.  When Drax gets the bad news, he has to hire a new assassin.  (Guess who?)

In the process of Jaws' attempts to dispatch Bond, he is involved in a crash of a cable car into a mountain (which musses up Jaws' clothes) and goes over a waterfall in a speedboat (which gets his clothes wet).  This continues the legend of indestructibility of Bond's nemesis.  But in the process Jaws meets a short, buck-toothed, glasses wearing, pig-tailed blonde and it's love at first sight.

Bond and Dr. Goodhead are reunited, but not for long, if Drax has his way.  He puts them in a chamber below a launching space shuttle.  But Bond and Goodhead are not really in the mood for barbeque , so they escape.  They manage to finagle their way into piloting one of the remaining space shuttles.  And Drax's real plan becomes clear.  He is taking a selected bunch of superior physical and mental young humans and plans to launch his deadly gas, killing off the Untermenschen (sorry, it was just too easy.   If Lonsdale had had no beard, but just the mustache, it would have been even MORE obvious.)

BTW, in case you were wondering about Jaws and his girlfriend, when he hears about Drax's plans to eliminate undesirables from his heavenly cadre, Jaws revolts to Bond's side.  Left on the space station after helping Bond, the section he and his girlfriend are in breaks off and goes hurtling through space.  Spoiler Alert!: (Now you didn't REALLY think something like free fall through the Earth's atmosphere would really destroy Jaws, now did you?  You can hear a mention they found a piece of the wreckage with two survivors at the end of the movie)

I'm not sure I'd rank Michael Lonsdale's portrayal of Hugo Drax as being very high if I were ranking Bond villains.  He just doesn't have the personality.  He doesn't even deliver the best Bond Villain line (see above) with much more menace than a snapping turtle in a drug-induced coma.  Without even saying anything for most of two movies, Kiel's Jaws has more charisma.

Time to go relax with another martini.  You folks drive careful.



  1. You have paired my #1 favorite and my least favorite Bond film here...I Love Spy Who Loved Me!! Everything from the Pyramids in Egypt, the brilliant production design of Curt Jurgen's underwater palace, the cool sportscar that is a submarine, the most beautiful Bond girl of all - Ringo's wife Barbara Bach, Carly Simon's timeless amazing song, and the tongue-in-cheek, suave and debonair Sir Roger, who looked like he was having a wonderful time!!

    The other one, even though Lois Chiles is lovely, is totally unmemorable to me...

    1. My favorite is, and probably always will be, A View to a Kill, even though Roger Moore looked like he needed to be in a wheelchair and not gallavanting for queen and country. Thanks for reading, Chris.


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