Rating Bond’s pre-title sequences – Part 2

Posted: May 31, 2016 in James Bond
Tags: , ,

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And so we move onto part 2, part 1 is here in case you missed it. The sixties are long gone, Sean Connery is long gone, and people have probably forgotten Lazenby was ever James Bond. For more than a decade Roger Moore will now play 007 before handing over to Timothy Dalton, but how do their pre-title sequences hold up?

We shall see…

Once again, a word of warning; these reviews will include spoilers!

Live and Let Die (1973)

Duration approx. 4:02

Relevance to the film: The three deaths are all relevant as they prompt Bond’s involvement. We see three locations that will feature in the film, and even get our first look at the film’s villain and Bond girl.

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He’s watching this pre-title sequence too

 

At the United Nations in New York the UK ambassador is looking bored as he listens to the Hungarian representative droning on. He’s still a bit perplexed when the sound suddenly cuts out however. If only he knew this was down to someone unplugging his feed in the translator’s booth and replacing it with some kind of sonic weapon. Moments later he is dead. The shocked assemblage look on, including the representative of a place called San Monique and his attractive assistant.

In New Orleans a man is steaking (sorry) out a restaurant called the Fillet of Soul when a huge funeral procession, led by a jazz band, passes by. Our agent (who let’s be honest stands out like a sore thumb) makes the mistake of asking whose funeral it is. Unfortunately for him it’s his own. The sombre tone of the band is replaced by something more upbeat once the American agent is scooped up by the coffin.

Finally we move on to San Monique, its night and a voodoo like ritual is being enacted, led by a man in a funny hat brandishing a snake. Another white man is tied to a stake. He struggled to avoid being bitten but the venomous snake does its work. He slumps dead against his bonds and the titles start.

And so Roger’s tenure begins and, I have to say, it starts quite inauspiciously and for the first time ever we have a pre-title sequence sans Bond; even From Russia with Love actually featured Connery. Whether this was a conscious decision not to ape the arrival of Lazenby by not making a big deal of Moore taking over the part, or whether it was done for story reasons is unsure, but it does lead to a slightly leaden opener.

It doesn’t help that our first sight is a man who looks bored, and the death of the UN representative is the least interesting of the three assassinations. We do get sight of Yaphet Kotto and Jane Seymour—not the first time we see villain or Bond girl in the pre-title sequence but the first time we see both together—but it is a bit of a blink and you miss them moment.

The murder by jazz band in New Orleans is perhaps the most inventive death, especially featuring as it does the darkly amusing “who’s funeral” line. Still it feels ponderous. It takes the procession an age to draw level with the American agent. Thank goodness they raise the tempo after he’s dead. Plus it’s an awfully involved way to kill someone.

Then it’s off to San Monique where we watch a bunch of people cavort around in a voodoo ceremony before another poor unfortunate man dies. A white man. Three white guys all murdered by nefarious people with darker skin tones. It does feel a trifle obvious. At least the film will redress the balance somewhat with the inclusion of Strutter and Quarrel junior later on, but however much I like Seymour you can’t help but wonder if they should have stuck to their initial plan for a black Bond girl.

So we have three murders of varying imagination. We see the three locales the film will focus on; New York, New Orleans and San Monique, and we get to see Dr Kananga and Solitaire, although they don’t do anything. On the whole it needed something more, some spark. It would have taken some shoehorning to get Moore into the mix, but as we will see it’s possible to have a great pre-title sequence that doesn’t feature Bond. This ain’t it though 4/10

 

The Man with the Golden Gun

Duration approx. 7:18

Relevance to the film: A lot, we meet Francisco Scaramanga, the titular villain of the piece and get to see just how dangerous he is.

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Tired of being staked by Van Helsing, Count Dracula decided on a new approach…

 

On an island somewhere in the South China Sea a diminutive butler delivers champagne to his master, Scaramanga. Scaramanga has just been for a swim and after he emerges from the sea his female companion dries him off, giving us a chance to be shocked (or titillated?) that he has three nipples.

The butler, Nick Nack, goes back inside where he greets a man who looks for all the world like a Mob hitman, probably because he is. Nick Nack ushers him inside and gives him an envelope full of money, telling him he’ll get the rest after the job is done.

When Scaramanga comes back inside he is confronted by the hitman, only before the other man can shoot Nick Nack dims the lights, giving Scaramanga a fighting chance. The two men stalk each other through Scaramanga’s bizarre maze/shooting range/training facility, whilst Nick Nack cackles and taunts them over the tannoy.

Scaramanga finally catches sight of his golden gun, but the hitman is close, turning a flight of stairs into a ramp he skies down, rolls, grabs his gun and places a golden bullet in the hitman’s head. Nick Nack appears and it becomes apparent that the two men have an arrangement, Nick Nack hires men to try and kill his boss. If Scaramanga survives it’s a useful training exercise, but should Scaramanga die Nick Nack will inherit everything.

“You’ll be the death of me yet,” Scaramanga jokes before using the hitman’s gun to shoot the fingers off a nearby manikin, a waxwork of 007!

And so for the second film in a row, Bond isn’t in the pre-title sequence, unless a dummy counts (you can make your own jokes, I’m not doing it for you!) Whereas the pre-title sequence from Live and Let Die had been a dull affair, on this occasion 007 isn’t missed.

As Scaramanga and Nick Nack Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize make for an engaging double act, especially once it becomes apparent that the servant is double crossing his employer…sort of. We’ve seen villains and henchmen before in pre-title sequences, but I doubt we’ve ever got such a good look at them in action. Lee really is perfect as Scaramanga; urbane yet deadly, charming yet reptilian. By contrast Villechaize is sneaky and cheeky. Frankly in another universe I can’t help wondering if there is a series of Scaramanga/Nick Nack films…

We also get a look at Scaramanga’s island lair, which is the perfect Bond villain hideaway, and the confrontation between the two men treads a fine line between tense and campy. It’s like an episode of The Avengers (and trust me that is meant as a compliment.)

Yes it’s a trifle cheesy, especially when Western and Roaring 20s’ arrangements of the title track start playing, and yes the hitman (played by Marc Lawrence, a man who made a career out of playing mobsters, and a man who menaced Connery in Diamonds are Forever) should kill Scaramanga the moment he sees him. Yes Scaramanga’s ski and combat roll don’t quite work (though Lee is a lot more convincing than Connery’s combat roll in Diamonds). And you have to wonder why Scaramanga has a waxwork of Bond (and later wonder why said waxwork is armed with a fully loaded Walther PPK!) but in the end does any of this matter? It’s an exciting, funny sequence that sets up Scaramanga and Nick Nack as dangerous opponents, and the lack of 007 hardly matters. 8/10

 

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Duration approx. 7:05

Relevance to the film: British and Soviet submarines are attacked, the KGB assign Agent XXX and Bond manages to kill her lover inside the first 7 minutes. Which might make romance tricky.

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Roger Moore actually did all the stunts here, but the film makers altered the footage to give it that ropey back projection feel in order to hoodwink the insurers.

 

It’s just an ordinary day aboard the British nuclear submarine HMS Ranger, until a quiet game of chess in the rec room is disturbed by a series of vibrations. On the bridge the captain orders the sub to surface before they lose power. He looks through the periscope and whispers “My God…”

At the Admiralty an officer who looks suspiciously like Sir Hilary Bray is notified of the loss of Ranger. A similar conversation happens in Moscow where General Gogol is advised that the submarine Potemkin has gone missing. He advises the politburo that he’ll assign his best agent.

Cut to a rest and recreation centre where a couple make love. The man is handsome, dark haired, he looks a trifle Bondish (no surprise given Michael Billington screen tested for Bond multiple times). The couple’s rest and recreation is disturbed when the music box beside the bed beeps and indicates that it has a message for Agent XXX. Our Bond looking fellow leans up…and then gets out of the way so Barbara Bach can take the message. Yes that’s right, the Soviet’s top agent is a woman!

M is advised of the loss of Ranger and similarly advises that he’ll put his best agent on it as well. Moneypenny advises that Bond is on a mission in Austria (as an aside does M ever know what his agents are doing?) and M orders his recall.

In a remote mountain ski lodge Bond’s “mission” appears to consist of seducing a blonde. He quickly sets aside all thoughts of amour when duty calls and leaves, at which point the blonde, who’s a wrong ‘un, advises a KGB hit squad that Bond is on his way. The hit squad is led by XXX’s lover.

As Bond skis down the slope he is pursued by a gaggle of armed men. Using a gun concealed in one of his ski poles he kills one of the Russians (care to guess which one?) but any hope of escape is dashed as he runs out of slope and skies off the edge of a cliff!

Guess he’s done for.

And he falls…

And falls…

And falls…

And then a parachute opens, and not just any parachute, it’s a Union flag parachute!

Phew!

Of all the Bond pre-title sequences this might be the one it’s hardest to be objective about. In part because it’s the one I’ve seen more than any other(thanks to a bit of a tradition with some friends) in part because it is such an iconic bit of Bond lore, and in part because it’s had the piss lovingly taken out of it by Steve Coogan.

This is perhaps the moment the slightly cheesier Moore era began, so how you feel about this might depend on how you feel about campy double-entendres, because there are a few of them; “Tell him to pull out” “Let me enlarge your vocabulary” “Sorry darling, something came up”.

Personally I like fun Bond films as much as I like gritty Bond films, and the tone of this suits Roger Moore down to the ground. You can also argue that things will get a lot campier, and that in many ways The Spy Who Loved Me is the peak of Moore’s era because it balances the various elements so well.

The initial events aboard Ranger are tense, and despite the quite obvious similarities between this film and You Only Live Twice, at least on this occasion the film makers don’t shoot their bolt by showing you how it’s done, no all we have is a reaction shot of the Ranger’s captain, leaving the reveal of the submarine eating oil tanker for later. We don’t even get to see the Potemkin taken!

The introduction of Major Amasova is a deft piece of misdirection that plays on our assumptions about Bond films. So of course the guy who looks like Bond is the KGB agent, and the woman is just his conquest. Except they’re both KGB agents, and though we don’t get to see XXX in action as a spy, the very notion that Gogol would turn to her to investigate the loss of a Soviet submarine speaks volumes as to her competence. In a film series not often noted for its fair treatment of female characters it’s an exceptionally well done scene.

But, finally, we get to see Roger Moore in a pre-title sequence (wax dummies notwithstanding, and you really can stop making jokes at the back there) and he is fun in this. I’m not quite sure how sex with 007 is equivalent to owning a thesaurus, but it’s an amusing line anyway. His digital watch that spews metallic tickertape is wonderfully clunky, and his choice of ski attire is about as far from inconspicuous as you can get, the back projections while Roger ‘skis’ is obvious and yes, let’s be brutally honest here, why on earth he has a parachute is open to debate (as is why it’s such a patriotic parachute) but if you ignore those issues it is a really great sequence. The camera and stunt work is top draw, culminating in that stunt, a moment that puts any CGI to shame. To this day it still seems to take an age for his chute to open, and now I know that one of the skis so nearly ripped the chute on the way down I can’t help but watch for it.

A wonderfully rug pulling introduction of the Bond girl, Roger Moore at his suavely cheesy peak, a sequence that not only sets up the mission, but creates tension between Bond and the Bond girl, wonderful stunt work and a moment of sheer icon brilliance that will probably have you singing Rule Britannia even if you’re not British. I debated what to give this for ages, but really there is only one choice. 10/10

 

Moonraker (1979)

Duration approx. 5:00

Relevance to the film: Quite a bit. A Moonraker space shuttle is stolen from the RAF, plus we get the reappearance of Jaws!

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“Good God! What’s Bond doing?”

 

A 747 is on its way to the UK carrying a space shuttle on its back. Shortly after take-off a pair of nefarious looking men in matching leather jackets emerge from hiding aboard the shuttle. Within moments they’ve started up the shuttle’s engines, flying away from the 747 which explodes in their wake.

In London M is informed—and as an aside, can anyone say “Good God…” quite like Bernard Lee I wonder? — and for once he actually seems to know where Bond is, or at least where he was. Moneypenny informs him he’s on his way back from the Africa job.

Bond is aboard a private jet and involved in yet another amorous encounter, this time with an air hostess. Before you can say “Really 007…” she’s revealed a gun (yup she’s another wrong ‘un). The pilot (who seems to be James Mason) appears with two parachutes. He shoots up the controls, intending to leave Bond to die when the plane crashes.

Bond isn’t too keen on this idea and a fight ensues. Eventually the door is opened and Bond throws the pilot out. Unfortunately for 007 Jaws was also on the plane and he pushes Bond out after the pilot. And this time Bond doesn’t have a parachute.

After a nifty aerial pursuit Bond grapples with the pilot and takes his parachute. As the pilot spins away screaming Bond clips his new chute into place, at which point Jaws shows up. Before our huge friend with the metal teeth can take a bite out of Bond’s ankle 007 pulls his rip cord and his parachute pulls him away.

Jaws pulls his own ripcord, wrenching it out of the backpack without opening the chute. He flounders around for a while. Tries flapping his arms (hey I guess I’d be pretty desperate too) before finally plummeting onto a circus big top, his fall presumably further arrested by the acrobats’ netting.

This is an annoying one. In parts it’s very good, but some bits seem far too familiar. Jaws again makes for an impressive foe but his appearance here seems contrived.

Watching them almost back to back it’s far too easy to see the similarities between this and the sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me. I appreciate that originally they were produced with the intention that there would be some time between them, and likely no one thought that someday a smart Alec would be able to pop a shiny disc in and watch them whenever he liked. But I can and I am and so I can’t ignore the repeat of certain tropes.

The sequence begins with the theft of a large bit of technology, previously it was a submarine, this time it’s a space shuttle. M is informed at which point he demands to know where Bond is. One double-entendre later and Bond is shown to be engaged in the seduction of a beautiful woman who turns out to be working for the other side. A fight for survival ensues and 007 survives due to the possession of a parachute.

Don’t get me wrong, familiarity can breed contempt but it’s also one of the major reasons behind the franchise’s success, it’s just that this one seems a little too on the nose in comparison to the last one.

It’s also a trifle illogical. As is often the case the villains opt for an overly contrived method of killing Bond. Surely it would just be easier to shoot him and dump his body out of the plane rather than wrecking the controls and parachuting out yourself? You can’t even argue that they feared decompressing the plane given that the pilot blithely blasts away at the controls. Which brings us on to the matter of Jaws. Firstly where the heck was he hiding? It’s not a big plane, was he just crouched in the loo all this time? And why was he hiding anyway once the pilot and stewardess revealed their true colours? Who hires a prominent hitman just as backup without him actually providing backup until it’s too late? Jaws is great, it just feels a tad contrived to say the least.

Irrespective of the logic of the situation, what cannot be faulted is that, yet again, the stunt work is magnificent. The aerial filming is fantastic and the stuntmen themselves do a great job. If anything this is almost better than The Spy Who Loved Me, because the back projection work is more adept, so you really believe that both Roger and Richard Kiel are there during the close-ups. The battle for the parachute is nicely done, and the death of the pilot—however well-deserved—is wonderfully horrible. The only thing that lets this down is how woeful Jaws’ stunt double looks, he’s about half the size of Richard Kiel and just sticking some tinfoil in his mouth isn’t enough to remotely convince.

It probably wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t focus on him floundering about so much. I know some people have an issue with him even surviving the fall but frankly I don’t watch Bond for its gritty, realistic portrayal of espionage (or physics for that matter) so that doesn’t bother me as much.

In conclusion whatever the merits of this sequence are, they’re let down by the contrivances around them. The difference between this and, say, Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me, is that it’s hard to see how they could be improved, whereas here it should have been better. Taken on its own most of the aerial work would make this a true classic, sadly as a whole its less than the sum of its parts so I’m going to be mean spirited and only give this 7/10

 

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Duration approx. 5:42

Relevance to the film: Absolutely none.

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Gone but never forgotten

 

Our first shot is of an English country graveyard, and the grave of Teresa Bond (complete with year of death as 1969). Her husband James stands by the graveside with flowers. A vicar appears, running over to advise that Mr Bond’s office will be sending a helicopter to pick him up. “It must be an emergency,” he suggests. “It usually is,” replies 007.

A Bell 206, complete with Universal Export decals, duly arrives and Bond climbs on board. Soon after take-off however, as they pass over London, the pilot is electrocuted. However the helicopter doesn’t crash, instead a voice advises Bond that he’s now flying remote control air.

As the strangely familiar bald headed man with the white cat (I just can’t put my finger on where I’ve seen him before?) taunts Bond by flying the chopper closer and closer to derelict buildings, 007 clambers on the outside of the helicopter and, after a few close calls, makes it into the pilot’s seat, dumping the unfortunate former occupant into the process.

The bald headed man doesn’t think this will make any difference, but he hasn’t counted on Bond spotting the wires leading to the controls. He pulls them free and suddenly remote control air becomes Bond air.

The erstwhile assassin kicks his wheelchair into gear and tries to make a run (roll?) for it, his cat can see which way the winds blowing however and scarpers. Within moments Bond has scooped up his wheelchair and carries Blofeld (let’s stop pratting about it’s Erst Stavro Blofeld, we all know that!) into the air.

The former head of SPECTRE pleads for his life, but today of all days 007 isn’t in a forgiving mood and he drops him to his death down a tall industrial chimney.

That’s for Tracy!

Before I critique this let’s start with one point. Lazenby wasn’t allowed to get revenge for Tracy, and Connery frankly didn’t seem that bothered about getting revenge for his dead wife, and so it is left to Roger Moore to do what should have been done years ago, if only by proxy.

Because although it clearly is Blofeld, he’s never namechecked as such due to legal shenanigans involving Kevin McClory; an issue that wouldn’t be fully sorted out for over thirty years, leading to the return of Blofeld in the film Spectre in 2015.

But we all know it was him, so well done Roger.

After the world ending, ultra-fantastical two films that preceded this one, the decision was made with For Your Eyes Only to dial back the fantastic and make a grittier spy thriller, and the pre-title sequence reflects this. There’s no hijacked nuclear submarines, no stolen space shuttles, and there are no double-entendres.

Moore is given a rare chance to act and does a good job of looking genuinely mournful over Tracy’s grave, and his “It usually is,” in reply to the vicar shows a rare hint of disdain from this 007 for his job the likes of which we’re more used to seeing from Dalton or Craig. After the previous two pre-title sequences in many ways this one is a breath of fresh air, and you can’t deny it’s tonally very different to the previous two films. This doesn’t mean it’s better, because it’s not really, but each Bond film should be distinctive from the last in my opinion.

Unfortunately what’s good is counterbalanced up by the bad. Reference to Tracy, Bond’s hint of melancholia, the return of (shush don’t tell) Blofeld and some neat helicopter related stunt work are all good, but the flipside of having a lower key sequence is that it all feels very parochial. The quaint English churchyard and the derelict industrial landscape make it feel more televisual, more like an episode of The New Avengers or The Professionals than Bond.

Before I grade this one, I need to mention Blofeld’s line “I’ll buy you a delicatessen, in stainless steel!” which may well be one of the most surreal moment in the whole franchise. Apparently it’s a particular kind of bribe offered by the Mafia, but frankly even knowing that it sounds ridiculous.

In conclusion whilst this is a nice change from the norm, and it’s always good to see Tracy referenced, it all feels a little too low key for a Bond film. 6/10

 

Octopussy (1983)

Duration approx. 6:41

Relevance to the film: Absolutely none.

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Angry scenes when the director insists Roger Moore’s stunt double handles the romantic scenes

 

We’re somewhere that can best be described as ‘Latin’ and a polo tournament is in full swing near a military airbase. An exotic young woman is watching the polo and trying not to be hit on by some unsavoury military types. Bond arrives driving a Range Rover pulling a horse box, and we can clearly see the rear end of a horse poking out of the back.

Bond quickly reverses his jacket and his flat cap (James Bond should never wear a flat cap!) and he’s now dressed like the soldiers. The woman who’d been watching the polo is now revealed as a fellow agent. She gives 007 an ID badge identifying him as an officer named Toro, prompting Bond to remark that it all sounds like bull to him. Bond is concerned about increased security, the woman advises that the flight timetable has been moved up.

She plasters a fake moustache on Bond’s top lip and then he’s off, waltzing past security, pausing only to upbraid one of the guards for looking a little sloppy (which is something only fake army officers do!). Bond enters a hanger and, after knocking out a hapless mechanic with a judo chop worthy of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, he plants a bomb inside the nosecone of a fighter plane. At which point the real Colonel Toro and a bunch of guards turn up.

Bond is escorted to a truck to be taken away, presumably for interrogation. Luckily for him his companion has nabbed his Range Rover and drives along beside the truck, distracting the guards in the back by showing off her thighs. This gives Bond time to pull the ripcords on their parachutes and they’re wrenched into the sky. Bond hops into the Range Rover then uses one of the guards’ rifles to shoot up the truck.

With reinforcements on the way Bond tells his companion that he’ll see her in Miami, then disconnects the horsebox, leaving her to drive away. The back end of the horse swivels up (it was fake, who knew?) and Bond emerges in a tiny jet plane which he uses to escape the oncoming vehicles.

The nearby airbase launches a missile, but after some nifty aerobatics 007 flies through the hanger, with the missile still in pursuit, and the missile does Bond’s job for him by totalling the hanger.

With his plane almost out of fuel Bond just manages to make it over the border where he pulls up alongside a gas station that looks like it’s in Hazard County or somewhere, and tells the bemused attendant to “fill her up”.

This is another odd one. Another nice change of pace, although when you find yourself asking questions instead of just enjoying the action that probably says something.

Question number one is, where the heck is Bond? It’s clearly Central or South America judging by the Hispanic flavour to it all. Coming just a year after the Falkland’s War, and given the polo, it’s easy to imagine this is supposed to be Argentina, or some faux equivalent. Except Bond manages to get to America, so it seems, despite having next to no fuel, and by crossing a physical border. Which seems to suggest that maybe he’s actually in Mexico? MI6 despatching 007 to blow up an Argentinian warplane I can buy, but Mexico? It could be Cuba but there’s that physical border, plus the whole polo stuff doesn’t seem very communist!

The other question is, why the hell are those men wearing parachutes? Seriously what parachute regiment insists their men wear their chutes at all times…I mean is it some kind of health and safety thing in case they accidentally fall off a cliff? It’s all very convenient to allow Bond to outwit them.

By the end of these blogs I think I need to tot up just how many times parachutes have played a vital part in a pre-title sequence. I make it three so far, and just off the top of my head can think of at least two more to come! Did the Bond producers have some kind of sponsorship deal with Barny’s Parachute Rental or something?

But I digress. Back to Octopussy! The franchise has a habit of showcasing nifty technology, often of the kind put together by some British eccentric in his garage; think the jet pack in Thunderball or the mini-copter in You Only Live Twice, and the tiny Acrostar is the latest gadget to be added to the list.

The aerial work is nicely done, and the notion of Bond using his enemy’s own missile against them is a good one. After the televisual sequence in For Your Eyes Only this is a nice step up in scale, it’s fun but essentially a trifle hollow. I’m somewhere between two stools on this but I’m going to tack towards the downward end of the scale. 6/10

 

A View to a Kill (1985)

Duration approx. 5:28

Relevance to the film: The microchip Bond retrieves begins the investigation into Zorin.

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They’re just taking the piste by this point

 

We’re somewhere inside the Arctic Circle, and a Russian helicopter is scanning the icy wastes. Down on the ground 007 (who for once has forgone the bright yellow ski suit) digs up a frozen body and retrieves from it a necklace, inside of which is a microchip (futuristic!). Unfortunately despite being camouflaged for once he’s spotted by Soviet troops and a chase ensues on skis down the mountainside.

Losing one of his skis Bond uses a grappling hook to pull the driver from a snowmobile. His new ride doesn’t last long however as he’s flung from its saddle just before it explodes. Handily it’s front ski survives and 007 uses it as a snowboard to surf downhill—to the strains of California Girls, although it isn’t even the Beach Boys singing it—before surfing across a lake, leaving the hapless Russkies following to take a dip.

Pinned down by automatic weapons fire from the helicopter Bond fires a flare into the cabin of the chopper and in the ensuring chaos the helicopter crashes into the mountainside.

In the distance the hatch of a submarine disguised as an ice floe pops up to display a Union flag. Bond gets inside and we discover a beautiful woman young enough to be Bond’s daughter. She sets a course for home and then Bond impresses her with some caviar and Vodka he picked up (I doubt M sent you to go shopping, Bond!). She goes to get some glasses at which point 007 hits the engines, causing her to tumble onto the double bed handily built into the back of the sub. “Oh, Commander Bond,” she sighs. “Call me James,” says Bond, increasing to smug factor five. “It’s a long way to Alaska.” And he starts unzipping her ski suit.

All Bond films are a reflection of their time, but whilst most appear nostalgic, even cool much of the time, sometimes a film just feels terminally dated, and the combination of Roger Moore and the 1980s make A View to a Kill one of the guiltiest of this. Microchips, neon painted girls, Duran Duran, Grace Jones…this is a film at odds with itself, torn between the old and the new. Just contrast the doddery old MI6 lot with the young vital opposition they’re up against, and the pre-title sequence is as guilty of this as the rest of the film.

Let’s start with the good. The location filming is superb, the scenery is just gorgeous, and the chase is nicely done, as always, with exceptional stunt work from those on skis and whoever was on the snowboard (what, you mean it wasn’t Roger Moore?).

Somehow though, even when actually wearing a white snowsuit, its fur lined hood, in concert with his giant 80s sunglasses, make Roger Moore seem less like an ace secret agent than a rich permatanned old guy trying to pull girls half his age on the ski slopes.

The snowboarding looks like a scene out of an extreme sports video, and though I didn’t find California Girls as annoying this time as I expected, its still a little jarring. If the last 50+ years has taught us anything I think it’s that Bond should never surf (see also Die Another Day). I have to ask as well why Bond only seems to be armed with a flare?

Really it’s with the appearance of Bond’s escape vehicle that this pre-title sequence begins to truly plumb the depths. First off is it really as inconspicuous as it appears to be? You’re telling me the Russians aren’t going to notice an ice floe heading away at speed? The Union flag inside the hatch I can live with, even approve of, but the décor inside is a little…odd.

I mean did Q Branch really build a super-secret camouflaged boat and make the interior look like some kind of groovy bachelor pad? It has a double bed, a double bed, Austin Powers pulled that kind of thing as a joke, but here it’s utterly serious.

And then there’s the girl. Now Bond’s attitude to women has always been a trifle 20th Century, and on the whole I don’t mind, Bond’s a single guy and for me he can have consensual relations with as many women as he likes, but there is something exceptionally creepy about the way he drops her onto the bed and just starts undressing her. You can’t shake the feeling that MI6 are now intentionally assigning young woman to go on missions with him for the express purpose of giving him someone to shag. It’s not terrible, but still only rates 5/10 for me.

 

The Living Daylights (1987)

Duration approx. 6.36

Relevance to the film: The murder of the 00 Agent feeds into Koskov and Whitaker’s Smiert Spionom plot.

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“Hello, is that Girls Inc. This is James Bond and I’d like to speak to your supervisor. I distinctly ordered a blonde for this film.”

 

Flying high above Gibraltar M is briefing three 00 agents in the back of a Hercules. This is a training exercise and the 00 Section has been chosen to try infiltrating the radar installation on the island, if they can get past the SAS who will be expecting them.

Our three 00 agents jump from the back of the plane and parachute down to the island. The SAS may be expecting them but it looks like someone else is as well as a mysterious figure in black watches the agents’ descent through binoculars.

One of the men immediately starts repacking his parachute (because you never know, right?). A second agent gets snagged by a tree and by the time he unhooks himself he’s been spotted and ‘shot’ by an SAS soldier. The third 00 Agent has used his grappling hook and is now climbing up the rock face. Unbeknownst to him the mysterious watcher is waiting at the top of the cliff. When a soldier appears and shoots him with a paintball the man turns and shoots the soldier with a real bullet, before he sends a message down to the 00 Agent tied to a karabiner. 004 doesn’t get a chance to read it before the assassin up top has cut through his rope, and the 00 agent falls to his death.

Hearing the scream 007 (who in a shock twist isn’t Roger Moore) investigates. He finds the dead soldier and the cut rope. He then hears gunfire and sets off.

The assassin has killed another soldier and stolen a Land Rover. Bond races after him, shoving another SAS solider out of the way before jumping onto the back of the Land Rover.

When it smashes through a checkpoint a soldier with a real gun sprays bullets at the vehicle, starting a fire in the boxes of explosives and ammunition in the back. Meanwhile Bond hangs on for dear life as the assassin tries to shake him off, and manages to avoid being shot when the assassin tries to shoot him through the roof of the Land Rover.

The Land Rover smashes through a tourist area and Bond uses his knife to cut through the roof and clamber inside where he and the assassin grapple with one another even as boxes drop out the back of the Land Rover and explode.

As the two men continue to wrestle for the control of the vehicle it smashes through a wall and off the edge of the cliff. Thankfully because 007 repacked his parachute he can make a hasty exit, leaving the assassin to his fate as the Land Rover explodes.

Down below a bikini clad woman on a luxury yacht is on the phone to her friend bemoaning the poor quality of men on offer, when 007 lands on top of her boat, swings onto the deck and snatches the phone off her. He introduces himself (in the way only 007 can) then advises mission control that he’ll report in one hour. She offers him a drink. “Better make that two,” says Bond.

 

Ah the first pre-title sequence I ever saw on the big screen. Dalton was my first cinematic Bond, which may play some part in why I like him so much, or it could just be because he’s so ruddy awesome. I would like to think that even if I wasn’t a Dalton fan this would be obviously a very good pre-title sequence.

Yes it hinges on a parachute, again, but this might be the instance that makes most sense. 007 parachutes onto Gibraltar and his innate boyscoutedness leads him to spend a few minutes repacking his chute. Frankly it makes more sense than it has previously (or will subsequently).

Again the decision was made not to reveal Dalton too early, which frankly makes little sense unless people were going to the cinema without reading a newspaper or seeing a poster beforehand. Still the reveal as he hears a scream is nicely done.

The fates of the other two 00 Agents are well handled, with 002’s paintball ‘death’ providing a nice spot of humour in what is a fairly gritty sequence. 004’s actual death is nastier, as is the murder of the two soldiers.

There’s a certain raw energy to this sequence lacking for the last few films. It helps that Dalton looks the part, and that he did a fair amount of his own stunts, and it isn’t anywhere near as easy to see the joins where a stuntman has been used as it was with the latter Moore films, and I think you can argue that this is the first truly modern pre-title sequence.

It’s a taut action scene that doesn’t outstay its welcome. The Gibraltar locale is well used and John Barry’s soundtrack complements the action well. Dalton hanging onto the roof of the Land Rover is a great sequence, and once he’s inside the car he proves he’s as handy in an enclosed space as any other 007, as well as becoming the first Bond to add head butting to his violent repertoire.

After he escapes the exploding vehicle we get an amusing, and very Bond, end to the pre-title sequence as he—of course—scores with a beautiful woman. Even here though there’s a change. There’s none of that slightly creepy stuff that’s gone on elsewhere. Here it is the woman who propositions Bond. Of course he doesn’t turn her down, but then he is James Bond. An almost flawless introduction for the new, younger, grittier James Bond. 9/10

 

Licence to Kill (1989)

Duration approx. 7.55

Relevance to the film: Quite a bit. We meet Sanchez, Lupe, Felix’s doomed wife and even snatch a glimpse of Benicio del Toro as Dario.

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James Bond at a wedding? I’m sure this will work out just fine!

 

We open with a US coast guard AWACS plane flying over the Caribbean. They’re tracking a private plane that has deviated from its course to land on a small island. One of the men remarks that “if they hurry they might just catch the bastard.”

Meanwhile in Florida Bond is in a limo with his friends Sharky and Felix Leiter (David Hedison becoming the only man until Jeffrey Wright to play Felix more than once) on their way to Felix’s wedding. They’re stopped by a coastguard helicopter with two armed DEA agents inside who advise that a man called Sanchez is in the Bahamas. Felix goes to join them, telling Bond to let Della know there’s been a delay to the wedding. Bond refuses and insists on going along, leaving Sharky to be the one to relay the bad news.

Meanwhile Sanchez and his men burst into a bedroom where Lupe is in bed with a man. Sanchez’s goons grab the guy and Sanchez asks if he promised her his heart? Then orders his men to give her his heart. The man is dragged away to his off-screen demise, whilst Sanchez puts Lupe over his knee and begins whipping her.

Meanwhile back in Florida Della and her grumpy father are advised by Sharky to go round the block again as they wait for Felix.

The helicopter lands near to Sanchez’s plane but Sanchez has anticipated this and leaps from the jeep and into the buses. Felix and the DEA agents engage in a gun battle with Sanchez’s goons and, despite Felix telling him to just observe, Bond gets in on the action, shooting the jeep and causing it to crash. As the goons run off he briefly speaks with Lupe who refuses his offer of help.

Suddenly an engine revs up and Sanchez takes off in a light aircraft he had stashed out of sight. Bond and co pile back into the helicopter but Felix says Sanchez will be back inside Cuban airspace before they can stop him. Bond disagrees, he straps on a parachute before grabbing the helicopter’s winch and saying “Let’s go fishing.”

Felix winches Bond down until he lands on the tail of Sanchez’s plane. The drugs lord is helpless to do anything as Bond loops the winch cable around the tail, allowing the helicopter to take the strain, leaving Sanchez trapped.

Bond and Felix then make the greatest wedding entrance ever by parachuting down to the church. As they’re led into the church, Bond clutching his top hat complete with bullet hole, several of the bridesmaids grab the parachutes of Bond and Felix as if they were bridal trains.

 

This pre-title sequence really has only one flaw, unfortunately that flaw runs through the whole sequence and it comes down to this; This is a pre-title sequence that is tonally at odds with itself.

Bond often walks a darkly humorous line, why else does 007 feel the need to quip after mercilessly killing yet another henchman, but the contrast seems more extreme in this sequence. Let us not forget that this was the first (and so far only) 15 certificate Bond film, it is also one of a handful of films to feature a Bond villain torn from the pages of the newspapers. Yes Sanchez’s fake televangelist set up is ridiculous, but he is most assuredly not. This is no Drax, no Goldfinger. The trouble comes in marrying that kind of villain with familiar Bond tropes which, as we see here, isn’t always easy.

And so we have a man having his heart cut out (off screen admittedly but you do hear him scream) and we have a woman whipped (nice reference to The Hildebrand Rarity notwithstanding). We have a fairly gritty gun battle and actors like Davi and del Toro at their scary best.

And then we have some ridiculous humour at Sharkey’s expense, the grumpy father of the bride saying he knew this was a mistake (oh if only he know how much of a mistake) and then we have Bond and Leiter parachuting into the wedding (yes parachutes, again!) and then having their chutes picked up like they were the trains of wedding dresses.

Don’t get me wrong, individually these elements are good, it’s just that they jar a little when combined.

Now you could argue that Felix’s joy is supposed to be short lived, and this feeds into Bond’s need for vengeance, it’s just that, for me, I’d have toned down either the violence or the silliness.

Other than that the locales provide something a little different, and you can’t argue that going fishing for a plane isn’t quite an original set up, as is their unique wedding entrance, so it isn’t that I don’t think this is a good pre-title sequence, I just don’t think it’s a great one. 7/10

 

So that’s the end of part 2, we’re two thirds of the way through my review now and so far the rankings look like this:

  1. The Spy Who Loved Me
  2. Goldfinger
  3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  4. The Living Daylights
  5. The Man with the Golden Gun
  6. Licence to Kill
  7. Moonraker
  8. Octopussy
  9. For Your Eyes Only
  10. You Only Live Twice
  11. Thunderball
  12. Diamonds are Forever
  13. Dr No
  14. From Russia with Love
  15. A View to a Kill
  16. Live and Let Die

All this can change however, because there’s eight pre-title sequences still to review, and two new 007s, so join me next time when Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig visit the bathroom!

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Comments
  1. Here we profoundly disagree. For your Eyes Only has the most pointless pre-title sequence of all, it’s just dreadful. My least favourite of the whole series, I find it utterly cringeworthy! And I quite like Live & Let Die too. Though I am with you on enjoying the fun Bond films as much as the gritty ones; gotta love a bit of Roj.

  2. starkers70 says:

    Oh yes Roger Moore is a legend!

  3. […] so here we are, the final part of my review of Bond pre-title sequence. Parts one and two are still […]

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