My Two Days with James Bond

Original British one-sheet for From Russia With Love

So last night my wife Sophie and I finished watching all 23 “official” James Bond films in order, 1Some purists might argue that there are only 22 “official” films, the ones produced by Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions. (By the way, has there ever been anyone else in history with the last name Broccoli, or even anyone else so prominently named for a vegetable?) Those people are wrong and are not welcome at my house for brunch. The renegade Never Say Never Again, released in 1983 by Warner Bros. as a product of writer Kevin McClory’s long and exceedingly well milked legal battle with the Ian Fleming estate, was brought into the fold in 1997 when MGM purchased its rights, and it’s now considered canon by all but the most peevish peeves. (Only the exceptionally irritating consider the 1967 parody Casino Royale a real Bond film.) a project that, at a rate of about one movie a week, took about five months and more brain cells than the time I hit my head on the pommel horse.

More accurately I was re-watching the movies, because — with the exception of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which I’d managed to avoid my whole life — I’ve seen them all multiple times. As such, I don’t quite know why I suddenly chose to devote over two days to something only slightly more beneficial than a daily Fribble. I think the impetus came at a 2011 holiday party, where I had a conversation with a USC classics professor who loves Ian Fleming’s novels. I haven’t read most of them, but we talked about the movies, and he kept admiring how much I knew about them, like I was some sort of expert. It seemed strange to me, because I always thought of myself as something of a Bond dilettante.

But 007 has been a part of my life for over 30 years — the first Bond movie I saw in the theater was Octopussy in 1983 at age 8.

I wanted to go because I knew the movies from TV, though that doesn’t quite explain why my parents found it appropriate to take a yet-to-be fourth grader to see an entertainment called Octopussy in which a guy gets shredded by a buzzsaw yo-yo. (In my parents’ defense, around about that time Sophie was sitting next to her dad watching a dude get chainsawed in Scarface, and neither she nor I have been convicted of many felonies.) I guess decades of watching every new Bond film in theaters, catching bits of them over and over on TV, reading a few of the books and comic books, playing the role-playing games, mixing the cocktails, and masturbating to Barbara Carrera eventually sinks in and becomes background knowledge.

Why do the worst Bond movies have some of the best posters?But the conversation made me realize that over those decades many of the movies had blended together in my head, lots of details had faded, and I couldn’t really even remember clearly which ones I liked and which I didn’t. The day after the party I noticed that Netflix had all the 007 movies available for streaming. They’ve since been pulled in favor of all the Ghoulies and Children of the Corn movies, but at the time it seemed like something worth taking advantage of to reset my baseline of knowledge about such an important cultural icon and to keep from doing more important things that required effort. Plus Sophie was off of work for two weeks, so we could watch them together. She’s an even bigger Bond fan than I am; our first date/not-a-date (depending on whom you ask) was going to see GoldenEye in 1995. There were two showings that night: one starting right away with analog sound, and a later one with new high-tech digital audio. I really wanted to wait to see the digital version, but I didn’t want to admit it to Sophie because I didn’t want her to think I was realize I was a geek. Then she said, “Can we go see the later one with digital sound?” She eventually told me that if I had objected it pretty much would’ve been a dealbreaker.

Anyway, all this boring backstory is because there’s not a whole lot to say about the movies that hasn’t been said many times already. But I’ll mention that I was surprised at how, overall, the series isn’t that great. Some dogs are to be expected over 50 years and 23 movies, but there are more bad films than good. (I redacted that, because I just went back and checked my Netflix ratings that I updated as I rewatched each movie. According to those, the good movies outrank the bad 14 to 9. It says something, though, that I’m left with the impression that there are more bad than good.) And while some of the films are truly awful, none are truly excellent. I haven’t thoroughly thought this next statement through, but I doubt that the best moment in all of the 007 movies is as great as the worst moment in all of the 007 movies is lousy.

But I’ll always love them nonetheless. So I’ve put together a few short lists of some of my favorite and least favorite stuff from the films. This is mainly to start arguments, so please, use the comment section to rant all you like and offer counter-lists or additional lists.

Oh and by the way, I’ve now moved on to reading all of Fleming’s books in order and writing long-winded reviews of them. My thoughts on Casino Royale are here. I’ve just finished the second novel, Live and Let Die, and I’ll write it up in the next couple of days. Spoiler alert: it sucks.

My Five Favorite 007 Films (in chronological order)

  • From Russia With Love
  • Goldfinger
  • Never Say Never Again
  • The World is Not Enough
  • Casino Royale

My Five Least Favorite 007 Films (in chronological order)

  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • Live and Let Die
  • A View to a Kill
  • Licence to Kill
  • Die Another Day

My Favorite Bond Portrayers (in reverse order of preference)

  1. George Lazenby
  2. Timothy Dalton
  3. Roger Moore
  4. Daniel Craig
  5. Sean Connery
  6. Pierce Brosnan 2Nos. 1-3 here were very hard to order. It’s something of a heresy to not list Connery as number one, but Brosnan to me is just more of what I want Bond to be. Craig is hard to rank, because what he’s been asked to do is so different from his predecessors.

Somewhat Interesting Side Note:
The actor that most resembles the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels is arguably Timothy Dalton. Compare him to the illustration of Bond drawn by Fleming himself:

Timothy Dalton compared to Ian Fleming's sketch of James Bond

My Five Favorite Bond Villains (in no particular order)

  • Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximilian Largo in Never Say Never Again 3He’s heads and tails above everyone else. One of the all-time great movie villain performances.
  • Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love
  • Sophie Marceau as Elektra King in The World is Not Enough
  • Putter Smith and Bruce Glover as Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wynt in Diamonds are Forever

The 10 Greatest Bond Cars (in chronological order) 4My obvious preferences make this list exceptionally boring, but I had to include it.

  • Sunbeam Alpine in Dr. No
  • Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger and From Russia With Love
  • Toyota 2000GT in You Only Live Twice
  • Ford Mustang Mach 1 in Diamonds are Forever
  • Aston Martin DBS in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage in The Living Daylights
  • BMW Z8 in The World is Not Enough
  • Aston Martin V12 Vanquish in Die Another Day
  • Aston Martin DBS in Casino Royale 5Actually a DB9 modified to resemble the yet-to-be-completed DBS.

The Five 007 Films to Watch if You’re a Lecher Who Just Wants to Ogle Beautiful Women

  1. Thunderball (Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi)
  2. Diamonds are Forever (Jill St. John, Lana Wood)
  3. Never Say Never Again (Kim Basinger, Barbara Carrera)
  4. Die Another Day (Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Samantha Bond)
  5. Octopussy (Maud Adams, Kristina Wayborn, an army of sexy female acrobats)

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1. Some purists might argue that there are only 22 “official” films, the ones produced by Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions. (By the way, has there ever been anyone else in history with the last name Broccoli, or even anyone else so prominently named for a vegetable?) Those people are wrong and are not welcome at my house for brunch. The renegade Never Say Never Again, released in 1983 by Warner Bros. as a product of writer Kevin McClory’s long and exceedingly well milked legal battle with the Ian Fleming estate, was brought into the fold in 1997 when MGM purchased its rights, and it’s now considered canon by all but the most peevish peeves. (Only the exceptionally irritating consider the 1967 parody Casino Royale a real Bond film.)
2. Nos. 1-3 here were very hard to order. It’s something of a heresy to not list Connery as number one, but Brosnan to me is just more of what I want Bond to be. Craig is hard to rank, because what he’s been asked to do is so different from his predecessors.
3. He’s heads and tails above everyone else. One of the all-time great movie villain performances.
4. My obvious preferences make this list exceptionally boring, but I had to include it.
5. Actually a DB9 modified to resemble the yet-to-be-completed DBS.

Kindly Provide Mr. Madej With Your Viewpoint

6 Comments

What, no Goldfinger as a great villain??   Bond, while on table with laser burning up to his crotch: “Do you expect me to talk?”, Goldfinger:  “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
And although not as clever as Putter Smith and Glover, OddJob still was a marvelous character.

I’ve always found Goldfinger himself to be a little thin and Gert Frobe’s dubbed performance to be kind of annoying, but he’s in the top 10. Oddjob’s a big guy who throws a hat. It’s a neat gimmick as far as henchmen go, but not a whole lot more.

Don’t forget top five movies for Bond clothing:
 
1. Goldfinger
2. Goldfinger
3. Goldfinger
4. Connery’s chest hair in Dr. No, which is remarkably perfectly square
5. Goldfinger

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