Posts Tagged ‘James Bond’

Sir Roger Moore

Posted: June 11, 2017 in James Bond
Tags:

4ed58d4b712f226481f857d07994efa8

There’s something I hoped I’d never see, even though I knew it was an absolute inevitability. We have finally lost a Bond. Sir Roger Moore, the third man to officially play the part, passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 89.

I know some feel it churlish to feel grief for the death of someone you’ve never met, especially someone who reached a ripe old age—a good innings as the saying goes—and yet it did hit me hard. I read something last year that tried to make sense of why we feel grief when celebrities die and the notion struck a chord with me. For many of us the people we see in films or on television, or even whose music we listen to, are constants in our lives, like a lighthouse we drive by every day, or a favourite building we pass on the way to work, and it’s always jarring when something you’ve grown accustomed to isn’t there anymore. When the light goes down or that building’s demolished.

I knew Roger Moore wasn’t going to be around forever, and yet there was a curious familiarity about the man, a sense that he was an impermeable facet of our world; as if he’d always been here and always would.

His age helped. That so many of his contemporaries passed away long before him only added to this façade of immortality. Sometimes I felt sorry for him, it must be sad to live so long and see so many friends and colleagues suddenly vanish from your world.

I won’t ramble on for ages about what I thought of him as Bond, my feelings are captured here in a blog I wrote a couple of years ago and they haven’t really changed. He was underrated as 007, and that’s a crime. I re-watched Live and Let Die not long after he passed away and it really is impressive how comfortable he is in the role right from the get go. There’s a lightness to his performance that feels natural, compare him to Lazenby who often seemed like a rabbit in headlights.

Of course it helps that even back in 1973 Sir Roger was a veteran. After some initial modelling and TV work he was signed by MGM to a seven year contract, and as such was in Hollywood during the the decline of the studio system. He wasn’t a success there and MGM released him after just two years.

It was after this that he found success on television, and Roger soon became a bona fide star of the small screen. Initially in the tv show Ivanhoe but—after some stints in American western shows—he took on the role that really made his name: Simon Templar; The Saint.

rog1

He played the character created by Leslie Charteris for six seasons and over a hundred episodes, and if it wasn’t for a certain other role it’s possible The Saint would have always been what he was best known for but, after a couple of films and The Persuaders tv show which he co-starred with Tony Curtis, he was offered the part of Bond.

I haven’t watched nearly enough episodes of The Saint, an omission I plan to correct as soon as I find a tv channel showing it (and I also need to watch The Man Who Haunted Himself, widely regarded as Roger’s best acting role). For me though Sir Roger Moore is Bond, but it isn’t only Bond I love him for. During his tenure he made many other films, and amongst them are The Wild Geese, which I always cite as my second favourite war movie, and The Cannonball Run. Two polar opposite roles.

roger-moore-wild-geese-705838

As Shawn Fynn in The Wild Geese, he channels the light hearted, boyish bravado that served him well as Templar and Bond, yet with a slightly harder edge. In contrast in The Cannonball Run he was Seymour Goldfarb, a millionaire heir who so idolised Roger Moore that he had surgery to look like him! Never let it be said that Roger Moore ever hesitated to take the piss out of himself. Just one more reason to mourn his death.

By all accounts he was a joy to work with, professional and not at all up himself—I’ve read various reports that suggest he ate and drank with the crew on every film he was in, and there’s also this joyous anecdote that’s been doing the rounds since his death.

Finally we shouldn’t underestimate his charitable work with UNICEF, he’d been impressed by Audrey Hepburn’s work with the charity and he became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 1991. He also did good work on behalf of PETA.

At the end of the day he likely wasn’t perfect, he was a human being after all and no one is without flaws, but it does strike me that, as human beings go, the world might be a slightly better place if we were all a bit more like Sir Roger Moore.

Farewell Sir, you’re gone but you’ll never be forgotten!

viet1

1997_tomorrow_never_di_030

With the announcement that Michelle Yeoh is going to play a recurring part in the new Trek series, Discovery, it got me thinking. Yeoh was, of course, a Bond girl, starring as Wai Lin opposite Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, so I started to wonder who else counts as both a Bond and a Trek alumni?  The below isn’t intended to be a definitive list, but these were the ones that immediately sprang to mind. Feel free to add any I’ve missed in the comments!

**Warning there are a few spoilers for Bond and Trek here**

Of course, Yeoh might have been the main Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, but she wasn’t the only one because starring as the doomed Paris Carver was Terri Hatcher, best known for Lois and Clark and Desperate Housewives but, earlier in her career, someone who popped up in the dreadful second season Next Gen episode The Outrageous Okona.

hat.jpg

As most everyone knows Paris Carver comes to a sticky end courtesy of Dr “I could shoot you from Stuttgart” Kaufman, a wonderful turn from talented character actor Vincent Schiavelli (also seen in Ghost, The X-Files and a ton of other stuff). Before he was a villainous doctor with a side-line in celebrity overdoses, however, he was an automated salesman in the The Arsenal of Freedom, a season one episode of TNG.

vin

 

 

 

 

 

fam

 

Of course, neither Yeoh or Hatcher were the first Bond girls to have done Trek, because Goldeneye’s thigh-squeezingly good henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, Famke Janssen, also did Next Gen, playing an alien who romances Jean Luc Picard in what was only the former model’s second acting role; season five’s Perfect Mate.

law

Clockwise from top left: With Connery, hunting Scaramanga, in prosthetics and finally showing up in the holosuite!

When it comes to who’s done the most Bond and Trek, the clear winner must be Marc Lawrence, renowned character actor who played a lot of Mafia gangster roles. He starred in both Diamonds are Forever and The Man with the Golden Gun on the Bond side of things, and in Trek he featured in the Next Generation 3rd season episode The Vengeance Factor, plus the hugely enjoyable DS9 7th season  episode Badda Bing Badda Ba as, you guessed it, a gangster!

 

 

The award for ‘ouch that’s a coincidence’ goes to another renowned character actor, Anthony Zerbe. He starred in Star Trek Insurrection in 1998 as Admiral Dougherty who comes to a sticky end courtesy of a face stretching machine, which is interesting given that almost a decade earlier in Licence to Kill he played Milton Krest who was killed in a decompression tank, a process that saw his face stretching yet again! Talk about typecasting!

zerbe

 

push.jpg

 

John Rhys-Davies (best known for the Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones franchises) played charming Russian General Pushkin who, despite being KGB was an ally of 007 in 1987’s The Living Daylights. Flash forward ten years and he had a recurring role in Star Trek Voyager as a holographic recreation of Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Of course, not all Russian generals Bond encounters are so friendly. In 1983’s Octopussy General Orlov, played by the irascible Steven Berkoff, wanted to start World War Three. He went on to appear in the Deep Space Nine 5th season episode Business as Usual as a duplicitous arms dealer.orl

Like I said this isn’t supposed to be a definitive list, and I’ll be amazed if there weren’t others, but what’s clear is that Michelle Yeoh isn’t remotely the first person to cross the aisle between these two venerable franchises.

Of course we’ve never had a Bond himself do Trek, but you never know, if Daniel Craig hangs up his PPK and Tom Hardy gets the job this could change!

b88985d898c5097360cbc3ad35bde50bccb20305

 

 

Trigger Mortis

Posted: August 10, 2016 in Book reviews, James Bond
Tags: ,

By Anthony Horowitz

9781409159148

It’s 1957, the dawn of the space race and just a few weeks after the events of Goldfinger. James Bond has returned to London with Pussy Galore in tow. He isn’t sure about their burgeoning relationship, and so when M assigns him a new mission Bond is grateful to get some space. He’s to take part in a motor race at the infamous Nürburgring track in Germany. MI6 fear SMERSH have plans to assassinate a famous British racing driver and it’s up to Bond to stop them. First he’ll need some coaching from a lady racing driver in handling the Maserati 250, and in preparing for the Nürburgring track which isn’t forgiving of novices.

Before Bond can get to Germany events with Pussy will reach a head, but even after he takes part in the race this will prove only the start of the adventure. Whilst observing the Russian team he will see a notable SMERSH general in conversation with a Korean businessman named Jai Seung Sin, whose name has been Americanised to Jason Sin. In investigating Jason Sin Bond will be led to America, to a rocket base and eventually to a diabolical scheme that threatens to cause huge destruction in New York. He’ll also meet a young woman named Jeopardy Lane, and he’ll discover just how cold, ruthless and evil Jason Sin is.

 

And so Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider young adult spy thrillers, as well as the man behind Foyle’s War on ITV, becomes the latest novelist to take on the mantle of Fleming. Horowitz’s novel might be the most Fleming like not to have been authored by Fleming, in part because a few hundred lines of text, and certain story elements came courtesy of an aborted TV show Fleming himself had been working on. Horowitz explains at the end roughly where Fleming’s prose kicks in, suffice to say that it’s nigh on impossible to see the join, which is testament to Horowitz’s aping of Fleming.

This is also a novel that feels more like Fleming due to its setting. This is, apparently, the first Bond novel to sit in the 1950s since Kingsley Amis wrote Colonel Sun. This also allows Horowitz to follow on immediately after a Fleming novel, and to bring back an iconic Bond girl, although to be honest this doesn’t really go anywhere, and one can’t help feeling that the involvement of Pussy was just for publicity’s sake, and perhaps even to add to some padding—but I’ll get on to the plot later.

Firstly as I’ve said Horowitz’s take on Fleming is top drawer. Horowitz writes a story that feels like Fleming, without having to rely on the mimicking of all too familiar tropes, ala Sebastian Faulks’ effort. The period setting negates any of the technical issues that plagued Jeffery Deaver’s present day take on the character (where Bond had an app for everything), and Horowitz’s 007 feels more at home in 1950s’ Germany and America than William Boyd’s did in 1970s’ Africa. In some ways Horowitz’s prose is a little too close to Fleming, in particular in how he writes the female and non-white characters; Horowitz walks a fine line but just about manages to write like Fleming without quite falling foul of mid twentieth century casual racism and sexism.

The plot, once we get there, is interesting, even if it does feel a little by the numbers, and it’s aided by Jason Sin who’s a nasty piece of work. Still the problem is how long it takes to get there. The first section of the book which involves Bond training to be a racing driver, whilst also resolving the Pussy Galore storyline, feels largely extraneous, and Horowitz loses points for replaying an iconic murder technique so blatantly.  Once the race at Nürburgring is out of the way the book picks up pace, and it’s nice to see Bond playing detective as he follows Sin’s trail. Jeopardy Lane is far from just being a damsel in distress, and saves Bond’s bacon several times, yet she still never quite manages to stand out from the Bond girl crowd, and her name seems a little too on the nose, much like the book’s pulpish title, one can’t help thinking Fleming might have come up with something a little better.

It’s a good book though, with a slightly too familiar plot outweighed by Horowitz’s way with prose, his portrayal of Bond as someone not quite as bad as the villains, and for subjecting Bond to something I don’t think we’ve ever seen before which, given it’s a fear of my own, worked a little too well.

Not perfect but for my money the best of the four most recent Bond entries. Given they’ve yet to reuse an author I wonder who we’ll get next?

maxresdefault

And so here we are, the final part of my review of Bond pre-title sequence. Parts one and two are still available.

Four men have been Bond; Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton, but now it’s time for two more men to take up the mantle, but how will there pre-title sequences measure up?

We shall see…

And once again, at the risk of staring the bleeding obvious, these reviews will include spoilers!

 

Goldeneye (1995)

Duration approx. 9:29

Relevance to the film: Plenty, it introduces us to Colonel Ourumov and the duplicitous 006.

goldeneye

You know, James, I think Winter might be coming.

A man dressed in black combat gear runs along the top of a very high dam. He reaches the midway point and clips one end of a coil of rope to the wall, the other he attaches to his ankle. He stands on the edge of the wall, pauses a moment, then takes a swan dive off the dam.

He bungee jumps down some distance. When he reaches the end of his tether he draws a grappling gun and, before he can be hauled back up again, he fires a piton into the roof of a building below and reels himself in. The caption indicates this is a chemical weapons facility inside the Soviet Union.

He uses a laser to cut a way in, so far all we see is his steely gaze. Inside the building we focus on a bathroom. One man leaves whilst another sits in a cubicle and begins to read the paper. The man in black is in the crawlspace above and silently lifts the ventilation shaft cover. Down below the man on the toilet suddenly senses something, he peers round his newspaper and finds a man hanging upside down in front of him. “Sorry,” says Bond. “I forgot to knock,” and then punches the hapless Russian out.

Silenced pistol in hand Bond exits the bathroom and makes his way to a storage room. Inside he is suddenly accosted by a shadowy man with a gun speaking Russian. Bond assures the man he is alone, and the man steps out of the shadow. Suddenly it appears he’s as English as 007, and we quickly learn he is in fact 006.

The two double O agents work their way through the facility. Along the way 006 shoots a scientist. Finally they break into a large area full of huge chemical tanks and pile upon pile of smaller containers for the chemical weapons to be transferred into. Bond suggests it’s too easy, and when 006 tries to relock the door alarms sound proving 007 correct.

The two men split up to plant explosives against the tanks. A couple of guards break in and 006 coldly despatches them, now he and Bond each have a Kalashnikov. Further troops arrive, led by Colonel Ourumov. They force their way inside and a gun battle ensues. When a second door is blown open Bond calls out to 006, but gets no response. When he looks out he finds his comrade on his knees, surrounded by armed Russians, with Ourumov holding a gun to his head. The Colonel demands Bond comes out. 007 complies but not before resetting the timers for 3 minutes instead of six. As he goes to surrender himself Ourumov shoots 006.

Bond dashes back into cover. Grabbing a wheeled metal cage full of smaller tanks he uses it as cover to get across the loading bay. Ourumov orders his men not to shoot, lest they pierce the gas canisters. One man is nervous enough to loose a burst of gunfire at Bond however, and the Russian blithely shoots him.

When Bond can go no further Ourumov thinks he’s trapped, but Bond has a plan, he starts the conveyer belt running and dives onto it, shooting the bolts holding rack upon rack of empty barrels in place above. He’s on his way out while the Russians find themselves under a metallic avalanche!

The conveyer drops Bond outside. There’s a clifftop runway and a light aircraft is preparing to take-off. With more armed guards coming, and with armed motorcycles in pursuit, Bond races after the plane. He gets in and struggles with the pilot, causing both of them to fall out. The pilot is hit by one of the pursing motorbikes, and its rider is thrown off.

Grabbing up the bike Bond races after the pilotless plane.  Ourumov and his men are outside now. They watch in disbelief as the plane careens off the runway and starts dropping towards the bottom of the mountain range, but rather than stopping Bond drives off the cliff edge as well! He dives down and gets into the plane, gaining control before it crashes, and as he flies over the Soviet facility it explodes as his charges go off.

 

And so, after the longest gap between Bond films, 007 is back with yet another new face and, it would seem, a new attitude. There was a lot of talk, prior to Goldeneye, as to whether James Bond had had his day; could he compete against the modern brand of high octane action films such as True Lies. Goldeneye would prove that Bond was very much still in the game, in fact even the pre-title sequence proves that there’s nothing Arnie and co could do that 007 couldn’t match. This was also the first Bond film since the end of the Cold War, which again had led some to wonder whether Bond could go on.

Replete with action aplenty, pithy comments and amazing stunts, this is a truly great opening section that lays much of the groundwork for the film that follows, and also gives up perhaps one of the better insights we’ll get into how a new actor will play Bond.

It’s clear from the off that Brosnan will tread a line between the two men who preceded him, marrying the grit of Dalton with the flippancy of Moore. Whether you think he’s a better Bond than either of them (and I don’t, though I like him a lot) you can’t deny that he knows how to make an entrance.

The dam bungee jump is ostentatious to say the least (I like to imagine 006 just wandered in dressed as a milkman or something) but our first proper glimpse of the new Bond sees him upside down, and he gets to make a pithy comment before any action commences.

The 00 Agents infiltration of the base is wonderfully done, and Sean Beam compliments Brosnan effortlessly. As a slight aside you have to remember this was a pre-internet age, so I actually didn’t realise Trevelyan was the bad guy until he appears in the statue graveyard. Perhaps I was naïve, but I can’t imagine such a twist working as well today.

The scene inside the factory is tense, especially once 006 has been “shot” and Bond’s method of escape is, of course ludicrous, but believably so.

If there is a problem it’s with the plane sequence, but as I’ve said before I don’t watch Bond films for the accurate portrayal of physics. You do have to wonder at 006’s plan as well, was he always planning on betraying Bond, and if so why not just shoot him the first time he sees him? Or did 006 turn after Ourumov only pretended to shoot him? Who knows? Do questions like this mar my enjoyment? Not really. Few Bond pre-title sequences have married humour and action so well, and this is perhaps the best debut sequence a Bond ever got…but we shall have to see about that. Anyway 10/10 for me.

 

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Duration approx. 8:35

Relevance to the film: We catch our first sight of Henry Gupta and, perhaps more importantly, the missing GPS encoder.

tomorrow-never-dies

Just doing his job

There’s a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border, but have no fear because it’s being observed. A camera is sweeping the area and transmitting back to MI6 where M is watching, along with her chief of Staff Charles Robinson, British naval Admiral Roebuck and a Russian general.

Robinson catalogues some nasty sounding weapons, before identifying a Japanese terrorist and an American anarchist named Henry Gupta, who seems to have an American GPS encoder. The Russian general is reluctant to commit his troops so Admiral Roebuck orders a naval strike, even though M says her man isn’t finished yet. The HMS Chester launches a cruise missile and Roebuck orders M to get her man out of there. (You’ll never guess who her man is!)

Robinson orders White Knight out but he’s having none of it and all becomes clear when a jeep moves from in front of a plane revealing nuclear torpedoes. Roebuck tries to abort the cruise missile but it’s out of range (which is a trifle worrying given Chester only launched it 30 seconds ago) and so now the worry is that, even if it doesn’t detonate the nukes, it will spread radiation.

Meanwhile back at the arms bazaar a guard is trying to light a fag, someone helpfully gives him a light, then punches him out (mixed signals there). “Filthy habit,” quips Bond before knocking a second guard out and taking his gun.

Bond throws a grenade and by the time it explodes, taking out a pile of oil drums, he’s hanging onto the back of a truck. He leaves another grenade fixed to the truck and jumps off before it can explode. Meanwhile the whole arms bazaar is, well, up in arms. Everyone’s shooting though they’re not sure what at. Bond makes it to the plane and knocks out the co-pilot before taking the front seat. He uses the plane’s cannons and rockets to create more chaos then takes off, narrowly avoiding hitting a second fighter that takes off in pursuit.

Before he can worry about another plane, however, 007 had danger closer at hand, the co-pilot has regained consciousness and tries to throttle him with some wire. As he battles to keep from being choked, Bond has to fly the plane using only his knees, performing some unconventional manoeuvres to avoid enemy missiles.

The second plane has to take some evasive action as well to avoid hitting a mountain and for a moment the pilot has lost sight of Bond, probably because Bond is now underneath him. With no other option 007 manages to hit the ejector seat for the co-pilot and he’s fired into the air, right into the back seat of the plane above. Needless to say this isn’t healthy and the plane explodes.

“Back seat driver,” says Bond (as you would) before checking in with MI6 and asking M where the admiral would like the nukes dropping off.

And so after a big gap between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye the franchise reverts to the more familiar two year spacing and Brosnan returns with a pre-title sequence that ups the action quotient even more, and probably contains more explosions per minute than any other sequence before it!

It’s a fab little action film helped in no small part by a great score from David Arnold that places the 007 theme front and centre. At first Bond is merely an observer, his mission was just to get a camera into place, enabling those back home to make the decisions. In an era before the concept of drone strikes, and with even TV guided missiles not being that widely touted, there’s some intriguing foreshadowing going on here (especially given this could be Afghanistan for all we know).

There’s some lovely interplay between M and Roebuck (made all the sweeter for those who watched Dench and Geoffrey Palmer play lovers for many years in the sitcom As Time Goes By) and it’s clear that the Admiral has little time for spooks. This isn’t about Bond as a blunt instrument, or even as a precision scalpel, this is about the military use of shock and awe, irrespective of the outcome (again strangely prescient).

We don’t even see Bond for several minutes but, as with Goldeneye, Brosnan makes an entrance by punching something then joking about it. His one man army charge into the heart of the bazaar is nicely done, and, to an extent, believable given the chaos he creates. The fighter planes are a nice touch (though even now it annoys me that the filmmakers don’t get their weapons remotely right, and aren’t those nuclear torpedoes just fuel tanks?) and it isn’t the first time Bond’s flown a jet—heck the man flew a space shuttle once don’t forget.

The aerial scenes are nicely done, although the superimposed explosion of the missiles is a bit shoddy, and I suppose an ejector seat punching through the bottom of another plane might cause it to explode. It’s action packed and funny, and as with Goldeneye the slightly longer running time gives Bond a little more room to breathe, allowing Brosnan to be both ruthless and witty, and frankly Roebuck and M’s interchange is worth the price of admission alone. “What’s Bond doing?” “His job!”

I suppose It’s a bit of shame that in just one film M has become so fond of 007, but her (and Colin Salmon’s) involvement only adds to this sequence. Overall it’s very, very good…and yet…watching it this time I couldn’t help noticing just how many explosions there were, and it’s an odd quibble to have, but I do wonder sometimes if Bond shouldn’t quite ever be so action orientated? At the end of the day he’s a spy, an assassin, a finely honed killing machine, but maybe not a one man army. I’m being picky I know, but this does do enough for me to mark this down a smidgen. 9/10

 

The World is Not Enough (1999)

Duration approx. 13:16

Relevance to the film: The murder of Robert King and the attack on MI6 pretty much set up the film, and we also get Bond injuring his shoulder, an injury referenced throughout the film.

world-boat

What the hell was Q planning to fish for in this?

In Bilbao Bond visits a Swiss banker to retrieve money that was paid for a stolen report. 007 has to hand over his gun yet still seems bullish when he demands to know who had stolen the report. The banker says he couldn’t possibly reveal that information and advises that Bond should consider himself fortunate to walk out of there alive. Bond suggests he was about to say the same thing. The banker advises that Bond’s position isn’t strong, he is unarmed and there are several armed guards in the room.

Luckily Bond has some hidden assets, namely a stun grenade built into his gun which he triggers by pressing a button on his glasses. He knocks out several guards and shoots another, then holds the banker at gunpoint, demanding to know who stole the report. Before the banker can give the person up he is killed by a throwing knife, courtesy of his secretary. Bond goes after her but the police are already heading up the stairs. He locks the door and prepares to abseil out of the window, fastening one end of the ties from the blinds to an unconscious guard and the other to himself. Before he can make his escape one of the guards recovers and grabs a gun. He has 007 bang to rights but before he can kill Bond he is shot by a sniper. Bond throws himself out of the window. The guard he’s tied to tries to hold onto a table but the leg comes away in his hand and Bond touches down before walking away unharmed.

And cue…oh no, wait there’s more…

Back at MI6 Bond briefly flirts with Moneypenny before going in to see M, who has her old friend Robert King with her. It was King who’d bought the stolen report, and King’s money that Bond had retrieved. King heads off to reclaim his money, leaving Bond and M to enjoy a drink together. When Bond picks up some ice cubes however he notices a chemical reaction on his fingers and realises that the money is booby-trapped. He goes after King but is too late, King’s lapel pin detonates the money, killing him and blowing a hole in the side of the building.

Bond looks out of the hole and spots a speedboat on the Thames. The occupant has a gun and tries to kill Bond but he spots the laser sight and ducks out of the way just in time. Thwarted the assassin—who also happens to be the secretary from Bilbao—makes her escape.

She’s reckoned without an oh-so convenient Q boat that Bond uses to pursue her. As he chases her down the Thames she uses a heavy machine gun and then a grenade launcher to try and take Bond out, but the little Q boat is too agile and he stays on her tail, at one point smashing the machine gun from the back of the boat. When she makes it under a rapidly descending bridge Bond makes the little boat dive under water in order to make it under the bridge, and when he’s cut off from following her he takes a diversion by using the boat’s jet engines to leave the water and scrape his way along a road, before smashing though a restaurant and back onto the Thames close to the Millennium Dome and just in time to catch up with the assassin.

Bond launches torpedoes and the assassin beaches her boat and leaps from it just before they hit. Commandeering a hot air balloon she rises into the sky, but Bond isn’t about to give up, he leaps from the Q boat and grabs hold of one of the ropes dangling from the basket. The assassin tries to shoot him but when police helicopters show up she knows the game is up. Bond tries to convince her to give up, and says he can protect her. “Not from him,” she says and shoots the balloon’s fuel tanks. Bond falls clear as the balloon explodes. He hits the dome and rolls down it, only stopping himself by slamming painfully into some ropes.

Ok now cue music.

It’s interesting given that the pre-title sequences to Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies were the longest in the series before this point, yet in TWINE (Sorry I’m not going to keep typing that title out) we have a sequence that’s half as long again as either of them!

I’ll be honest, TWINE isn’t a particular favourite film of mine, I had issues with it from the first time I saw it and many of those issues started in the pre-title sequence. But I’ll come on to these later. What’s surprising is that this time I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. There’s some nice stuff going on here, it’s just a very atypical pre-title sequence because it almost feels like two stuck together with a small framing scene linking them, and so you don’t get that crescendo leading into the titles, or rather you do, but only after another rise and fall before it.

I do wonder if, originally, the sequence wasn’t supposed to end with Bond walking over the bridge in Bilbao? Maybe the producers felt that was a trifle tame. It’s a shame if this was the case as I actually think the Bilbao scenes are nicely handled. There’s some biting dialogue about Swiss bankers, Bond is amusing yet coldly ruthless and we even have him on the verge of dying until rescued by that mysterious sniper. Really I don’t see why it couldn’t end there.

But by adding in the London bits it becomes a very long pre-title sequence, and matters aren’t helped by the fact that we have to get the scenes with Bond, Moneypenny, M and Q which slow things down they’re fine scenes, and it’s always nice to see Brosnan and Samantha Bond bantering, but not in the bloody pre-title sequence!

We then get the chase down the Thames, which is where I have further problems. First off let’s talk about what’s good. The little Q boat is fab, following on from such iconic vehicles as the Acrostar and Little Nellie, and the location shooting is good. For a series about a British secret agent Bond has actually spent little time in the UK, so it’s nice to see him on home turf for a change. The chase does go on a bit though, and do we really need to see him adjusting his tie underwater? It’s just a call-back to a much cooler moment in Goldeneye on the tank really. I’m not sure about the logic of featuring the clamper guys from a fly on the wall documentary series that was on telly at the time—although I guess the fact they’re clampers means it’s fun seeing them drenched even if you don’t know they’re famous clampers—and in addition the bits where Bond leaves the water to drive along the road seems a trifle silly (I know, I know, it’s Bond) especially when he seems able to steer!

Really though my problems come from the logic of the situation. You’re Renard, and you’ve come up with an ingenious (and exceptionally convoluted) plan to kill Robert King, to effectively have King kill himself. Now I can see that if you’ve gone to that much trouble you might want a backup plan, but really; a beautiful woman sitting on an obviously heavily armed boat anchored right next to MI6 headquarters and NO ONE notices? Suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite for being a Bond fan but I’ve always found this ridiculous and exceptionally contrived, especially once you factor in how handy it is that Q has a little boat he was working on nearby.

As a final point there’s Cigar Girl’s suicide. I often find the logic of situations whereby a character kills themselves because they’re so afraid of the villain a trifle counterintuitive. Oh sure I get that a quick death might be preferable to prolonged torture but there’s no indication that Renard would have the ability to retrieve Cigar Girl, and it’s especially ridiculous when we subsequently get to see that Renard, whilst dangerous, is hardly some kind of Machiavellian mastermind so when Bond says he could keep her safe, I actually think there’s a fair chance he could.

So, some nice stuff but it’s too long, tonally too uneven, and far too illogical for me. 7/10

 

Die Another Day (2002)

Duration approx. 12:23

Relevance to the film: We meet Colonel Moon, the villain of the piece, although he’ll look very different the next time we see him. We meet Zao and witness the explosion that will give him his sparkling personality, and we get hints that there may be a mole within MI6. Finally we see Bond captured and witness the beginning of his torture/captivity.

zao_and_moon

Rare footage of the N Korean version of Zoolander

We open on the North Korean shoreline, and three darkened figures are using the surging tidal waters to surf onto the beach (presumably to avoid detection but it seems a ridiculous and convoluted way to infiltrate enemy territory).

After sneaking ashore the three men remove their masks to revel Bond and two Korean agents. Bond is dressed in civilian clothing but his comrades wear the uniform of North Korean soldiers. Moving inland one of the men cuts the power to a beacon, in its place Bond substitutes one of his own. High above a North Korean helicopter carrying a western civilian changes course towards the new beacon. When it lands the man on-board is surprised to find Bond, dressed exactly like him (which must have taken some planning) he takes the man’s briefcase away from him at gunpoint, then takes his sunglasses for good measure (fun fact, Van Buren’s sunnies are in fact Brosnan’s own!)  Once aboard the helicopter Bond opens the briefcase to reveal a cache of diamonds. He plants C4 explosives under the tray of diamonds.

Meanwhile at the headquarters of Colonel Moon, the aforementioned officer is exercising by kicking seven bells out of a punch bag. When he’s done he orders it opened to reveal an unfortunate North Korean, who apparently had been Moon’s anger therapist!

The helicopter lands and Bond is greeted by Moons associate Zao, who surreptitiously takes a photo of Bond. Moon arrives and asks to see the diamonds. Bond asks to see the weapons and a groups of hovercraft arrive, Moon explains that he’s hiding the weapons in the Demilitarised Zone, and that his hovercraft float over the mines there (point of fact apparently this wouldn’t work but, you know, Bond film!). Bond hands over the diamonds.

Zao calls Moon over and advises that Van Buren is actually Bond. Moon feigns friendliness and shows off his new tank-buster rifle to Bond, then uses it to destroy the helicopter and, presumably, kill Bond’s associates. At that moment his father, the General, calls on the radio and advises he’s arriving shortly. Moon orders the hovercraft to return to the DMZ, and orders Bond killed.

007 is shoved to one side but before he can be shot he detonates the C4, creating a diversion that he uses to commandeer one of the hovercraft. He heads after Moon who is on the main craft and a chase ensues that sees Bond take out two smaller hovercraft before finding himself mano a mano with Moon atop the biggest hovercraft. Moon tries to shoot Bond but 007 uses a bullet proof vest to avoid death, then dives out of the way when Moon uses a flamethrower. Finally Bond makes it to the controls and throttles the hovercraft to maximum, the giant fan engine sucks Moon to it and Bond then leaps to safety before the hovercraft, and Moon, go off the edge of a cliff.

Bond survives by hanging onto a bell, when he drops to the ground he can’t resist a “saved by the bell” joke, but the amusement ends soon after when the General and his men turn up, Bond is taken away and we see the beginning of his 14 months of torture…

 

This one posed a bit of a dilemma. I usually cut a pre-title sequence off when the sequence ends and the titles begin, but technically this one kinda carries on through the titles as we see Bond’s incarceration. There may be an argument for it being the longest pre-title sequence in history but really I think it ends when the music starts.

So, after the long winded and all over the place sequence from TWINE we’re back on familiar territory this time (albeit with the twist at the end). Bond’s on a mission infiltrating enemy territory when, as so often happens, things go tits up.

I said in my review of AVTAK that Bond and surfing don’t quite go together, and whilst the sequence here does at least appear to feature real surfing (unlike Brosnan’s CGI surfnotsotastic bit later) it still seems a trifle odd. I think there are certain things that Bond shouldn’t do; roller skate for example, or wear a tracksuit(if you’re my friend Kay) and surfing just doesn’t seem like something Bond would be good out, let’s face it he’s about as far away from the surfer dude as one could imagine.

England substitutes ok for North Korea (I imagine) and the switch with the helicopter is well handled, even if the fact Bond is dressed exactly like Van Buren is actually a little jarring. Moon has a nice introduction, and much as I love Toby Stephens as Graves it is a shame we don’t see more of Will Yun Lee who does a good job here in a short space of time. We see Moon be ruthless, yet also charming and, when he realises his dad’s on the way in, segue into naughty schoolboy mode! Rick Yune is also good as Zao.

Once he’s outed as a British agent there’s a nice scene, just before he’s about to be shot, where 007 scans the vicinity, clearly weighing up his options before he blows the briefcase. The resultant chaos and hovercraft chase are deftly handled and exciting. But…

It feels a little too much like Tomorrow Never Dies lite, and the same concerns I expressed there are magnified a little. Explosions are no substitute for drama, and this is probably more tense when Bond and Moon are just talking, and once it’s down to Bond’s hovercraft and Moon’s the chase gets a little stale as Moon just uses one gun after another (which seems far too similar to cigar girl in the TWINE boat chase).

The eventual fight atop the hovercraft is good though, there’s excellent use of the Bond theme when 007 gets the upper hand, and Brosnan does at least have the decency to look slightly embarrassed when making the saved by the bell joke, which just makes the moment even cooler, and you can’t ignore the originality of having a pre-title sequence where Bond gets captured.

There’s the usual plot holes (how the hell does Moon survive that fall? What was Bond’s extraction plan and who did he expect to get with the bomb given that the plan was clearly to detonate it after he’d departed) but there always are. It has its flaws, and it feels a little repetitious of previous Brosnan sequences, but there’s still enough good stuff here that it just sneaks an 8/10 from me.

 

Casino Royale (2006)

Duration approx. 3:04

Relevance to the film: None, aside from showing that Bond is a brand new 00 agent.

 

Casino-Royale-0009

Ere, Mavis, there’s something wrong with the colour on this DVD!

Night time in Prague and a man arrives at a deserted office building. He takes the lift and heads to his office. When he enters however he notices that his safe is open. A voice from the other side of the room advises that whilst M doesn’t mind him earning some money on the side she’d rather it wasn’t selling secrets.

The man, Dryden the Czech Section Chief, seems unperturbed. He turns and we see the owner of the voice, James Bond, who Dryden doesn’t seem remotely scared of. He sits down, opening his desk drawer to reveal a gun, and advises that if M was that concerned she’d have sent a 00. He’s seen Bond’s file, which shows no kills and it takes…

“Two,” says Bond. Flashback to a brutal fight between Bond and another man in a bathroom.

Back in the present Dryden pulls his gun. He says it’s a pity because he barely got to know Bond. He pulls the trigger and the gun clicks empty. Bond holds up the magazine. “At least I know where you keep your gun,” he advises. Dryden asks how his contact died. “Not well,” says Bond.

We flashback again to the fight in the bathroom which hasn’t got any less brutal as the two men smash through cubicle walls and destroy basins and mirrors with their guns and various body parts. Eventually Bond shoves the other man’s head under water in a basin until he stops struggling. He eventually lets go and stands back, contemplating what he’s just done.

“Made you feel it did he?” says Dryden. “You needn’t worry, the second is…”

Bond shoots him.

“Yes, considerably,” he says nonchalantly.

And we flash back to the bathroom for the final time. Bond picks up his gun, at which point the other man suddenly springs up with his own gun. Bond turns on his heels and shoots, we see him through a gun barrel and then blood drips down the picture. James Bond is now a 00 agent.

Where to start? With the arrival of a new Bond came a new, gritty ethos. No gadgets, no puns, no bad guys with hollowed out volcanos. It was, in hindsight, a risky strategy. For all that Die Another Day had been derided it had done well at the box-office. So it was essential that this film hit the ground running.

And boy does it ever.

Almost everything about this pre-title sequence is at odds with what we’ve seen before. There’s no gun barrel at the start, it’s in black and white, Bond isn’t even a 00 agent yet, and yet for all of this it’s a return to the kind of pre-title sequence we haven’t seen for a while; it’s short, it’s brutal and it’s quite intimate. There’s something altogether 1960s about it.

The choice to film in grainy black and white helps make it evocative, as does the shooting style, lots of skewed angles, it’s like nowt you’ve seen before and yet it is clearly a Bond pre-title sequence. The fight is probably one of the most brutal in the franchise, and showcases Daniel Craig’s animalistic physicality to the fore. The scenes with Dryden are even more personal and highlight how cold blooded Craig’s Bond can be. Killing a man in the heat of a fight is one thing, coolly popping him mid conversation is quite another, note the brief glimpse of a family photo as Dryden falls. This isn’t some moustache twiling villain, this is a man with a wife and children.

Bond’s “Considerably” is, let’s be honest, as amusing as any “Shocking” “Saved by the bell” or “What a helpful chap” but it’s gallows humour perfectly tailored to Craig (how I wish Dalton had been as well served).

And then there’s the piste de resistance, the guy in the bathroom not being dead, and Bond turning and shooting him through the gun barrel with the shift to colour as the blood drips down. Stylish, original, brutal, calculating and darkly amusing. 10/10

 

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Duration approx. 3:30

Relevance to the film: A fair bit. Following straight on from Casino Royale it sees Bond delivering Mr White to his MI6 colleagues.

22-quantum-of-solace-aston-martin

Good job there’s no Q in this film. He would not be happy!

On a mountainous road in Italy an Aston Martin is being pursued by two Alfa Romeos full of men with automatic weapons. The Aston is, of course, being driven by Bond. Driving through a tunnel he has his driver’s side door ripped off by an out of control lorry. Coming out of the tunnel he maneuverers between two other lorries. One of the perusing cars deftly follows but the other crashes headfirst into one of the lorries.

With the road ahead blocked by traffic Bond takes a detour. The bad guys follow, as does the Italian police. The road Bond’s taken leads to a quarry. AS the bad guys continue to shoot at the Aston, they are in turn fired upon by the police. Unfortunately the Carabinieri are outgunned, their Land Rover is riddled with bullets and crashes.

The men in the Alfa continue to track 007. Drawing level they shoot up the car some more. Bond struggles to reach his own automatic rifle on the passenger seat, but when they come across a mechanical digger in the middle of the road up ahead, both vehicles swerve round it. By the time they clear the digger Bond’s got his gun, he shoots the driver of the other car and it goes off the cliff.

Bond drives to Siena where garage doors open to reveal a long tunnel. Bond parks up at the end and opens the boot of the Aston, revealing a very groggy looking Mr White. “It’s time to get out,” says Bond.

In Moonraker Drax talked about unloved seasons, and there are some Bond pictures that are unloved films, and QoS will be in a lot of people’s lists. Me, I actually kinda like it, in a raw, unfinished kind of way. The initial script of the film was only just finished before the Hollywood writers’ strike, and as a result only Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster were allowed to make any changes to the script which in part accounts for the film’s rough and ready feel, and this feel is evident from the off.

First a little bit of history in the making. QoS isn’t the first film to not begin with the gun barrel sequence, but it is the first film not to feature it at all before the main credits (as Casino Royale just had it at the end of the pre-title sequence). In QoS it won’t be seen until the end of the film, and we will have to wait until 2015 and Spectre before it returns to its rightful place.

It would be wrong of me to say this is a rubbish sequence, it has its moments but over all its poor. For starters the camera work adheres to the Jason Bourne school of keep it shaky, meaning it’s hard at times to see what’s going on. The sequence has grown on me a little with time, but in the cinema I hated it.

The idea of following on immediately from Casino Royale is a novel one (you can argue Diamonds are Forever did this first, but given we had different Bonds and an indeterminate amount of time between the end of OHMSS and Diamonds it’s not clear just how closely it follows on behind.) but we’re never quite sure why Bond is being chased. Were these armed men down the road from Mr White’s villa? Did he manage to get some kind of alert off before Bond snagged him?

The stunt work is good, and the quarry scenes wonderfully grimy, but Bond triumph is less down to skill than sheer luck and there’s always something a little disappointing when the bad guys fire off hundreds of bullets and can’t kill the good guy, yet all he needs are a few to take them down.

The tracking show of Siena is lovely, and the drive down the tunnel quite evocative, but the whole thing ends with a damp squib. Daniel Craig, like Dalton, can be funny, a different kind of humour to Moore or Brosnan to be sure, but give him good material and he can shine, so it’s disappointing that they could come up with nothing better than “It’s time to get out.”

It’s a limp end to a fairly generic sequence. Maybe I’m being too generous but I give this 6/10

Skyfall (2012)

Duration approx. 12:19

Relevance to the film: Introduces Moneypenny, Patrice and the missing disk drive full of NATO agent details and shows Bond shot and presumed killed.

skyfall_featured

Bond was a little annoyed that someone had nabbed his reserved seat

In Istanbul Bond enters an apartment to find the aftermath of a gun battle. At least one man is dead and another MI6 agent is badly wounded. Bond is in contact with MI6 HQ and M asks if the disk is missing. There’s a broken laptop on the table and Bond confirms that its disc drive is missing. He begins rendering medical aid to the downed agent but M insists that he gets after whoever took the disc. Leaving the agent bleeding to death Bond complies.

Out in the street he’s picked up in a Land Rover by another agent, and given it’s hardly a secret anymore I’m going to call her Moneypenny. She advises that whoever took the disc is in an Audi up ahead.

The bad guy, who we’ll eventually learn is Patrice, spots them following and a car chase ensues through the streets of Istanbul. The Land Rover loses both its wing mirrors, and when it pulls up alongside the Audi Bond grabs the wheel and slams the Land Rover into the side of the car, forcing it to crash. Bu this point police motorcyclists are in pursuit.

Patrice emerges from the car firing, and takes down several police officers with his machine pistil before taking a police motorcycle and heading off. Bond jumps on a convenient bike and gives chase. Moneypenny follows in the Land Rover.

When Patrice’s exit is blocked off he takes his bike up a flight of stairs and Bond follows. Eventually they both end up on the roof of the Grand Bazaar—much to Tanner’s amazement back in London. Eventually they get back to ground level. By this point Moneypenny has got ahead of Patrice. As Patrice arrives on a railway bridge he has Moneypenny ahead of him and Bond behind so he dumps he bike and jumps off the bridge onto the roof of a passing train. Whilst Moneypenny tries to shoot him Bond rides his bike into the side of the bridge, catapulting himself onto the train.

Patrice is still armed, and continues to hold Bond off. When 007 runs out of ammo all seems lost, until he notes a mechanical digger being carried on the flatbed. He gets into the cab and turns it round so he can use the scoop as a shield. In the process he knocks off several VW Beetles also being couriered by the train, almost crashing them into Moneypenny who’s driving beside the train.

Bond is hit but presses home his advantage. Patrice has shot through the couplings, and Bond’s part of the train is going to fall away. He uses the scoop to smash through the roof of the passenger carriage up ahead, then clambers across the arm of the digger, using it as a makeshift bridge. He drops into the carriage just as flatbed pulls back, causing the digger to pull away from the train.

Patrice thinks he’s escaped but after the train emerges from a tunnel Bond launches himself at him and the two men struggle atop the moving train.

By this point Moneypenny has run out of road. She has a rifle but no clear shot because Bond and Patrice are too close together. With the train about to enter another tunnel she has time for only one shot, which M insists she takes.

She fires.

Bond is hit and falls from the train and into the surging river below. The train enters the tunnel with Patrice still very much alive atop it. In London M is in shock, she stares out of the window and it starts to rain.

Back in Turkey we watch as Bond’s body is washed downriver…

And Bond “dies” again in a pre-title sequence! To be fair I am minded to let them off this, because it’s a trick they haven’t pulled since the sixties, because this is supposed to be a film celebrating the franchise, and because Bond’s “death” and rebirth is such a central element to the film.

And after two fairly low key and in both cases short sequences we’re back in the territory of a long action packed opener (though still not quite as long as TWINE or DAD). We also come to our second film without the gun barrel featuring anywhere before or during the pre-title sequence. I’m not sure why this decision was made, especially given this was the 50th Anniversary Bond, but the sequence starts well and…well it starts well and just gets better and better.

I watched this one with a little trepidation because, whilst I’ve always liked it, I wondered if it would be too long, too full on and action packed for me watching it for the first time with my critical head on. But if anything that made me enjoy it more.

The idea of Bond being in communication with HQ is something we haven’t seen since Tomorrow Never Dies and this adds a delicious new element to the relationship between Craig’s Bond and Dench’s M. within the space of 12 minutes she orders Bond to leave a fellow agent to die, and then orders Moneypenny to take a shot she knows has as much chance as hitting Bond as hitting Patrice. That both of these orders make logical sense, given what is at stake, does not dent the impact of either and again this is a thread that will run through the film (especially given she also sacrificed Silva for the greater good back in ’97) and I wonder how many other pre-title sequences have resonated so much through the film that followed? OHMSS for sure, but maybe no other.

Daniel Craig is superb, I love his trademark disdain when he chucks his empty PPK away (oi, 007 that’s Government property!) and the fact that he just looks ever so slightly miffed when he takes a hit from a fragment of one of Patrice’s bullets.

Even though they’re not together very long there’s genuine chemistry between him and Naomie Harris as they banter over wing mirrors, and Harris is very good here (so good in fact that I do wonder if she’s wasted as Moneypenny and whether she oughtn’t have been just the Bond girl in this film and that was all, she’d have more impact and she is somewhat wasted in Spectre…but I digress) driving like a demon, blazing away and as dogged in her pursuit as Bond is.

Patrice is a so so villain, he has no lines so we never get any kind of feel for him beyond that he’s a hired killer, I always think it must be a shame for an actor to get that kind of role, but then again you also get to be in a Bond film and if they asked me to be the mute villain in the next pre-title sequence I wouldn’t refuse I can tell you!

Dench is wonderful, Rory Kinnear is wonderful, the stunt work is—as always— excellent, and the effects for the most part nicely done. Some of the superimposition of Craig atop the bike looks slightly dubious but I am being very picky here. Plot wise you have to wonder what’s going on and why Bond and Moneypenny weren’t on hand to defend the oh so secret disk drive, but again I’m being really picky and any flaws don’t stop me giving this 10/10

 

Spectre (2015)

Duration approx. 12.10

Relevance to the film: By killing Sciarra Bond becomes embroiled in Spectre’s scheme. The events in Mexico City will lead 007 to Rome and beyond.

daniel-craig_640x480_41446538809

You would never guess Live and Let Die was Mendes’ fave Bond film…

In Mexico City it is the Day of the Dead and a huge carnival is taking place through the streets. As we watch a man dressed in white, wearing a skeletal mask, walks towards the camera. Suddenly we notice a man and a women off to one side, she in a dress wearing a half face mask, he wearing a suit marked with bones, his face covered by a skeletal mask (but we know who it is). We follow them as they enter a nearby hotel and take the elevator up to the third floor where they enter a room.

They remove their masks (and it’s Bond!) and kiss. The woman drapes herself on the bed, obviously expecting romance, but 007 has other things on his mind. He’s stripped away his costume and now has a gun slung over his shoulder. He tells her he won’t be long and then steps out onto the ledge.

We follow his progress as he moves from ledge to ledge, rooftop to rooftop, building to building, until he finds himself atop one building facing a certain room. His gun has a directional microphone attached and so he can hear the conversation going on across the street. Two men are discussing a terrorist attack on a stadium scheduled to occur later. One of the men is the man in white, Sciarra, who Bond was so interested in earlier.

Bond is about to shoot him when the other man notices 007. Bond shoots him first, then another armed thug in an adjoining room. By this point Sciarra has ducked out of sight so Bond shoots the briefcase detonating the explosives inside. As part of the opposing building collapses Bond just gets out of the way before it falls onto his rooftop. As the roof gives way he falls to a lower floor but then has to jump again as more rubble falls. Eventually he drops into a convenient sofa and heads outside.

Sciarra has survived and is now on the street. He and Bond spot each other and Sciarra runs, with Bond in pursuit. The Spectre assassin gets on his phone and requests an evac chopper, telling it to meet him in the square.

As the chopper lands amongst the throng celebrating Day of the Dead, Bond takes out another Spectre henchman before charging onto the helicopter where he begins to fight with both Sciarra and the pilot.

As the helicopter rises up Bond and Sciarra almost fall out, and continue to fight whilst hanging onto the side of the chopper. Below the crowds are screaming in panic as the helicopter performs some very unusual and dangerous manoeuvres up above. Eventually Bond rips the ring from Sciarra’s finger and kicks him out to his death. He manages to dispatch the pilot with equal aplomb and then gets control of the helicopter just in time to stop it plunging into the crowd.

As he flies over the city he examines the ring and notes the octopus logo….

And so we come to the final—for now—Bond pre-title sequence, and it is something of a doozy. I’m not sure if anyone has ever calculated how much each pre-title sequence cost to make, but if they ever do I imagine Spectre’s might rank quite highly, although who knows how much the Mexican Government might have provided in grants given this is a hell of a tourist advertisement!

However much it cost and whoever paid for it is immaterial. What matters is that it looks gorgeous. And then there’s that tracking shot, I’m not sure whether it is a single take but even if it’s not it looks fantastic as we spot Bond at the edge of the screen, then follow him and his lady up to their room, then follow him out onto the ledge.

If anything the small screen makes it look even better, because in the cinema it seemed more obvious that Daniel Craig wasn’t really hopping across rooftops above Mexico City, the sequence always looked good, but it might look even better on the TV.

However gorgeous it all looks however, you have to ask yourself if a film should ever shoot its bolt quite so early, because you could argue nothing in the rest of the film looks this good. You also have to take into account Bond’s flagrant disregard for civilians. I don’t know if he’s ever risked so many lives before now. First there’s him blowing up a building (and who knows how many innocents were inside—one only hopes they were outside at the carnival) and don’t tell me he doesn’t know the briefcase is full of explosives because why else shoot it? But then, even after this, he pursues Sciarra onto the helicopter and then proceeds to have a fight in the chopper as it hovers above a crowd—a huge crowd!—of people. Yes you can argue he saved the lives of everyone who would have been in the stadium later, but you can still see why M will be pissed off. Conceivably Bond could have killed hundreds of innocent people here, and I’m not sure you could point to any other sequence where he’s this reckless.

As a final point I should note that for the first, and perhaps only, time in Daniel Craig’s tenure, we get the gun barrel sequence back in its rightful place at the start of the pre title sequence. Thank goodness!

So in conclusion this sequence looks fantastic. The Day of the Dead setting is gorgeous, Bond’s skeletal mask is damn near iconic, and the cinematography is grand. On the downside is Bond’s recklessness and the fact that, in the end, this boils down to a few blokes having a fight in a helicopter and it does feel a little too similar to Skyfall. Add in how grand in scale it all is, which throws the rest of the film slightly out of whack, and I’m going to be, perhaps, unduly harsh and mark this down, but only by a bit. 9/10

 

And so that’s it. All that’s left to do is add in the last set of films to produce my final rankings! (Note I have rejigged this slightly as I think I messed up the original list!) As I said at the beginning, this is just my view, yours might, and probably will, differ, but it’s certainly been fun to watch them all in sequence, and I promise to update my master list once Bond #25 airs 🙂

 

  1. The Spy Who Loved Me
  2. Casino Royale
  3. Goldeneye
  4. Skyfall
  5. Goldfinger
  6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  7. Tomorrow Never Dies
  8. The Living Daylights
  9. Spectre
  10. The Man with the Golden Gun
  11. Die Another Day
  12. Licence to Kill
  13. Moonraker
  14. The World is Not Enough
  15. You Only Live Twice
  16. Octopussy
  17. For Your Eyes Only
  18. Quantum of Solace
  19. Thunderball
  20. Diamonds are Forever
  21. Dr No
  22. From Russia with Love
  23. A View to a Kill
  24. Live and Let Die

 

 

roger

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.

livlet

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.

gg

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.

spy-who-loved-me

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!

moon

“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.

fyeo grave

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.

31

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.

e999623aa0ab7a6ec33173822aa5cc2b

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.

the_living_daylights_timothy_dalton_opening.jpg

“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.

licencetokill-intro_zpsjxumvqfp

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!

Untitled

connery_daf

The Pre-title sequences is a mainstay of the Bond franchise. A feature of almost every Bond film, a mini-movie (usually) sandwiched between the gun barrel opening and the title track. They’re an initial burst of action before we settle down to the film proper. Often they’re related to the film’s wider plot, but this isn’t always the case. On occasion they don’t even feature 007, but one thing is almost certain; someone dies, or at least appears too…

I’ve always been a big fan of the pre-title sequences, to the point where sometimes, if I have a free five or ten minutes, I might watch one at random. Like I say they’re usually a miniature movie, ideal for when you want a bit of adventure but are pushed for time.

What I’ve always wanted to do was watch them all in sequence, so here we are, a new series of blog postings where I’ll review each pre-title sequence in turn, rate them and finally rank them. I’m going to split them across three blogs. This first one will cover all the Connery films, plus Lazenby’s solo outing. Next I’ll cover Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, and finally I’ll get onto Brosnan and Craig. By the end of the third blog I should have my definitive ranking of the whole lot of them…at least until Bond 25 comes out. Obviously these blogs will contain spoilers!

You may agree with me, you may violently disagree with me, but hopefully you’ll find this little journey of interest. And now, to coin a phrase from The Sound of Music, let’s start at the very beginning…

Dr No (1962)

Duration approx. 2:28

Relevance to the film: The death of Strangways necessitates Bond’s assignment to Jamaica, plus references to Crab Key and Dr No.

3_Blind_Mice

The seem harmless enough

I know what you’re thinking, Dr No doesn’t have a pre-title sequence, and you’d be right. This is the only Bond film not to, but it seems a trifle unfair to exclude one film out of 24, so I’m going to cheat a little. I hope you won’t think it deceitful of me.

You see I think Dr No has a perfectly serviceable pre-title sequence. It’s just not, er, pre the titles. I am of course referring to the initial murder of MI6 agent Strangways and his secretary in Jamaica by a trio of assassins. Imagine if you will, the gun barrel has just ended, only this time instead of us leaping straight into the titles we hear the Caribbean inflected version of Three Blind Mice, and see three blind men walking down the road on their way to a date with death…

I actually think it would work, and you wouldn’t even need to do much editing. It has many of the qualities of a classic pre-title sequence. The trio of assassins with their fake blindness make for a quirky threat, and we then have two British agents horribly murdered even as they try to contact London, and finally we have one of the assassins rooting around in their filing cabinet, pulling out first a file marked Crab Key, and then a second file labelled Dr No….

…and, cue music.

When the titles end we fade back in to London and the other end of the rudely interrupted conversation. I think that works very well, and whilst the lack of 007 is a bit jarring in a pre-title sequence, this is made up for by the initial references to Dr No, and the seemingly innocuous trio who turn out to be quite murderous. So I’m going to award my contrived pre-title sequence a solid 6/10.

 

From Russia with Love (1963) 

Duration approx. 2:30

Relevance to the film: Introduces Red Grant as an adversary.

FRWL-Dinner-Suit.jpg

Few people are aware of the Bond/ Weeping Angles crossover episode

And so onto the second Bond film, and the first pre-title sequence proper. It’s the dead of night and a dinner jacketed Bond is stalked through the garden of a country house by Robert Shaw’s Red Grant. Bond has the edge because he’s armed, but so it seems is Grant, and one garrotting later 007 is dead.

Or rather he isn’t, because lights flare into being and we suddenly realise this is a training exercise for SPECTRE (although we don’t know this at the time) and that the man we thought was Bond is some patsy in an extremely convincing mask.

I imagine that if you were sat there on opening night this would have been quite shocking—Bond’s killed in the first few minutes after all—but hindsight isn’t kind to this particular pre-title sequence. Yes it’s nicely staged for the most part, Connery is actually doing a nice turn as someone other than Bond, and it does show us how lethal Red Grant is (the first but not the last time a villain will turn up in a film before 007) but once you know the twist there’s little else to enjoy here, and it doesn’t even segue into the titles particularly well. Grant’s superior rips the fake Bond’s mask off and they just start walking back towards the house. There’s no explanation as to why Grant is hunting someone disguised as Bond, which is fine, we don’t have to have everything explained, but a pithy “Well done, Grant. Now for the real thing” might have helped somewhat.

So despite this being a top drawer Bond film, I’m giving this bit of it a below par 5/10.

 

Goldfinger (1964)

Duration approx. 4:20

Relevance to the film: Nothing apparent, this seems to be an unrelated mission.

goldfinger-54

And that’s why Bond only takes showers

Its night time again and this time we appear to be in Central or South America. A duck swims up to the quayside, only it’s actually the camouflaged snorkel of 007 who clambers out of the water before using a grappling hook to infiltrate what looks like an oil refinery. Within a minute he’s incapacitated a guard and set explosives inside a Ken Adams’ designed villainous lair concealed within a silo.

By the time the explosives go off Bond is looking suave in a white tuxedo in a local bar. He’s advised not to go back to his hotel room, and that there’s a plane out of the country leaving in an hour. Before then he has some unfinished business, which because this is James Bond of course means a woman.

Before he can get very far with the attractive flamenco dancer he’s accosted by a cosh wielding thug. A short fight ensues that’s ended in spectacular fashion when a bathtub full of water meets an electric heater…

I’ll be honest here. I think Goldfinger is slightly overrated, but what you can’t deny is that it was the first iconic Bond film, the one that set the template for so many to follow, and the pre-title sequence is no exception. Hell it’s so iconic James Cameron and Arnie homage it in True Lies 30 odd years later.

It’s amazing to consider how much is packed into less than four and a half minutes. Bond’s duck disguise is amusing, and his infiltration of the heroin distribution centre thrilling, backed as it is by the 007 theme. Slipping off his wetsuit to reveal a Dinner Jacket is the epitome of cool, as is calmly enjoying a cigarette as his explosives detonate. He has time to romance a beautiful woman (or at least start to romance her) even going so far as to self-deprecatingly tell her that he always carries his Walther because he has an inferiority complex. As with many ladies who feature in pre-title sequences however, she’s a wrong-un, but thankfully Bond sees the thug reflected in her eyes and she ends up taking the brunt of his attack. A brutal fight ensues before the thug ends up in the bath, but with Bond’s PPK. Luckily there’s an electric heater in the room (isn’t this supposed to be the Caribbean or somewhere?) and before you know it the thug is dead and Bond gets to deliver an iconic pun. “Shocking, truly shocking.”

Really it’s hard to think what else they could have squeezed in here? It’s fun, thrilling, brutal and, in the end, darkly humorous. The quintessential Bond pre-title sequence, so it has to get 10/10.

 

Thunderball (1965)

Duration approx. 4:05

Relevance to the film: Tangential, Bouvar’s death is referenced by SPECTRE but that’s about it.

Bond_39_Jetpack_(Thunderball)

To infinity and beyond!

Accompanied by a French agent Bond attends the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, a SPECTRE assassin who Bond very much wanted to kill himself, due to Bouvar killing two of his fellow agents. 007 is suspicious when Bouvar’s widow opens the car door herself and follows her back to a château where “she” is revealed as Bouvar. A brutal fight ensues and Bond ensures that Bouvar dies for real.

Armed men arrive so Bond makes a hasty exit via jet pack and his trusty DB5…

I’m not a huge fan of Thunderball, but in fairness the pre-title sequence does have its moments. The JB tease suggesting we’re at Bond’s funeral is a trifle cheeky given it was only two films ago that a film again started with the supposed “death” of Bond, but the joke isn’t overdone at least.

Bond working out that the SPECTRE agent is masquerading as his own widow because “she” doesn’t let someone open a door for her feels a little too resonant with Bond twigging Red Grant wasn’t who he appeared to be because of his taste in wine, but the sight of Bond punching out a grieving widow almost makes up for it (and would decades later inspire an amusing homage in the first –and best— Austin Powers’ film “She’s a man, baby!”) and 007’s fight with Bouvar is quite good.

His escape by jet pack probably looked cool in 1965, but the back projection is really obvious and it seems a ridiculous way to get in and out of the château, especially given how much noise and smoke it creates. We then get Bond’s DB5 suffering a spot of engine trouble necessitating the use of its bullet proof shield and oil cannons, which seems a trifle contrived so, if only for the widow punching and the fight, I’m grudgingly going to give it 6/10

 

 

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Duration approx. 5:20

Relevance to the film: Quite a bit given it starts with SPECTRE stealing an American spaceship.

18ceghv9f682bjpg

It’s behind you…

An American Gemini capsule is orbiting around the Earth. One of the astronauts ventures outside for an EVA, at which point mission control advise that there is an unidentified object on an intercept course with them. Suddenly another spacecraft appears, as the horrified astronaut out in space watches the front of the craft opens up and it proceeds to swallow the Gemini capsule whole. As the jaws of the intruder snap shut they cut the astronaut’s lifeline, leaving him drifting in space…

On Earth we’re privy to a summit meeting, which appears to be conducted inside a radar station somewhere in Alaska or Finland. The Americans claim the Soviets are responsible for the loss of the Gemini, the Russians claim innocence. Luckily the ever diplomatic Brits are on hand to suggest that maybe it wasn’t the USSR after all, because their tracking station thinks the intruder splashed down somewhere in the sea of Japan. Don’t worry, say the British, we have our best man looking into it.

Cut to Hong Kong where 007 is, or course, in bed with a woman. After a spot of casual racism (“why do Chinese girls taste different?”) Bond’s latest conquest flips the bed back into the wall with Bond still inside (maybe she didn’t like being compared to Peking duck, eh James?) and two men burst in with submachine guns and riddle the bed with bullets.

Later the police arrive to confirm Bond’s death. They don’t seem terribly upset about 007’s demise, and console themselves that at least he died on the job.

Yes, that’s right. It’s only the fifth Bond film, and for the third time (remembering that the first film didn’t even have one) the pre-title sequence teases us that Bond is dead. Seriously? I guess it wasn’t that noticeable when you were watching films years apart, but watching the sequences one after another it’s a little jarring.

At least this time it has a point in that it’s a ploy designed to give Bond free reign to investigate once everyone thinks he’s dead. Because of course if you want a man to keep a low profile it helps to plaster his picture all over the newspapers and point out he’s a British naval office…

…but I digress. This is actually quite a good pre-title sequence. Better than I remember. Any pretence at making gritty realistic spy dramas (if there ever was any pretence after From Russia with Love) is jettisoned immediately. We’re in space! The effects aren’t bad given the time, and the approach of the SPECTRE craft is quite eerie, accompanied by John Barry’s wonderful space score, and the death of the unfortunate astronaut is quite grisly. Really this sequence wouldn’t look out of place in an actual science fiction film.

The setting for the summit meeting is wonderful, even if the British seems surprisingly trusting of those dastardly Russians.

And then Connery finally shows up, make some innuendos and gets shot to death (he’s really dead this time, promise!). It’s an interesting scene even if the line about Chinese girls is a little wince inducing. Still, there’s a lot to like here, and at least the reveal that Bond isn’t dead waits until after the titles this time, so for me this sneaks a 7/10

 

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Duration approx. 5.50

Relevance to the film: Bond meets the love of his life, the woman he’ll marry at the end of the film, so yeah, pretty relevant.

On-Her-Majestys-Secret-Service-James-Bond-George-Lazenby-beach

My career can only go up from here!

In the Offices of Universal Exports Q is boring M with the latest in miniaturisation, radioactive fluff! M just wants to know where 007 is, but even Moneypenny has no idea.

Cut to somewhere in Europe where Bond is overtaken by a woman in a sports car. He initially gives chase before relaxing and opting instead to have a fag. A few moments later he comes across the woman’s car and spots her down on the beach. As he watches through the telescopic scope of his rifle, the woman kicks off her shoes and wades out to sea.

Bond immediately drives onto the beach before racing into the sea, preventing the woman from drowning herself. If he was expecting a thankyou he was mistaken, instead two thugs appear. One takes the woman away, the other plans to shoot Bond, until 007 gets the upper hand. After a fight Bond incapacitates the two men, however the woman has nabbed his car, using it to drive up to the road where she switches to her own vehicle and races away, leaving Bond holding her shoes and bemoaning that; “This never happened to the other fellow.”

And so begins the first Bond film without Connery, and also probably the most faithful to a book other than From Russia with Love. It’s clear from the off that the producers are keen to have us believe that this is still a Bond film. The first three people we see are M, Q and Moneypenny, it’s all about the familiar.

Even when Bond does show up we don’t see much of him, his silhouette from behind as he drives, his chin as he lights a cigarette, in fact we probably get a clearer look at Diana Rigg before we see Lazenby. We get a blink and you’ll miss him glimpse as he races from the car, but the first proper look is after he’s rescued Tracy. He looks down, smiles, and introduces himself the way only Bond can.

It’s a curious thing to say, but given this is the longest pre-title sequence to date it’s one of the least jam packed. There’s no infiltration of a drug baron’s lair, no jet packs and no orbital shenanigans, and yet in many ways it’s all the better for it. Playing the 007 theme over the top of the action helps, and is yet another signal that we can relax; this is still a Bond film.

The reveal of Lazenby is nicely done, the audience effectively see him properly the first time Tracy does. The arrival of the two thugs spoils the mood (although let’s be honest, she likely wouldn’t be too happy with him preventing her suicide even before her dad’s goons show up). In hindsight it’s a little odd that one of the men puts a knife to her throat given they’re obviously there to protect her, but I guess you can explain this away by saying the action is for Bond’s benefit rather than an explicit threat against Tracy.

The fight is great, moving as it does in and out of the sea, and its clear Lazenby does a lot of his own stunts, and boy can he throw a punch! There’s some proper haymakers going on there. Bond still gets no thanks though, the beautiful woman is gone and all he’s left with is her shoes, which is a nice Cinderella style touch.

And then there’s that line, probably the closest Bond has ever got to breaking the fourth wall, and how you feel about this pre-title sequence might come down to how you feel about the ‘other fellow’ line.

Yes it’s a touch obvious, but then a fair few things early on are, and you have to remember that this was a big deal. Nowadays, however people might feel about Dalton replacing Moore, Brosnan replacing Dalton, or Craig replacing Brosnan, they understand that Bond actors change, it’s the nature of the beast. But in 1969 it wasn’t, and so I think we can forgive them for lampshading the issue. Personally I love the line, but then I love OHMSS, and whilst Lazenby wasn’t necessarily the greatest actor in the world, he was the perfect Bond for this film; he’s vulnerable and fallible. He saves a woman’s life, fights off two armed thugs, but he doesn’t get the girl. Given how the film ends that moment is awfully prescient. There isn’t really anything I dislike about this one (ok maybe the overdoing it with the punch sound effects but that’s all) so I’ll go 9/10

 

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Duration approx. 4.02

Relevance to the film: Bond tracks down Blofeld and believes he’s killed him.  It introduces us to the new Blofeld and the concept that he has doubles.

Diamonds-Are-Forever-Herringbone-Tweed-Half-Norfolk-Jacket

Interesting fact. Connery originally auditioned for the role of Mr Wint…

Interior, a Japanese house. Restful music plays before a man is thrown through a paper dividing wall. The man beating the unfortunate victim up demands to know where Blofeld is, and is directed to Cairo.

Cut to a casino where an Egyptian man in a fez is similarly roughed up. He directs Bond to a woman named Marie.

Marie is sunning herself by the pool and seems quite eager to make Bond’s acquaintance when he shows up, until he uses her bikini to start throttling her as he demands, yet again, to know where Ernst Stavro Blofeld is.

At a mystery location a group of doctors are discussing plastic surgery. The latest Blofeld barges in and demands that the procedure is done tonight. Later we witness the doctors lathering a man in mud before leaving him to rest in some kind of larva/mud bath. On the way out they meet another member of the surgical staff coming in and this man is given instructions to keep the temperature to a specific level.

The new arrival is of course 007, but the man in the mud bath is prepared and raises a gun. Bond pulls the cord above the bath and gallons of mud pour down on the man, drowning him. Bond pulls his head out but it isn’t Blofeld.

The head of SPECTRE shows up with two henchman and explains that the man in the mud bath would have looked like him, if Bond had given him a chance.

One of the guards attempts to relieve 007 of his PPK but finds a mini bear trap instead. With him out of the way Bond uses scalpels as throwing knives to defeat the other guard. Blofeld grabs a knife, but he’s no match for Bond, and in moments he’s strapped to a gurney and Bond pushes him into a pool of volcanic mud. “Welcome to hell, Blofeld,” he says just before Blofeld’s cat arrives to meow and show off its lovely diamond choker…

Bond is back, and Connery is back as Bond but this is a curious pre-title sequence. Maybe it’s the fact that this is the first 70s’ Bond film, maybe it’s the fact that Connery returns after someone else was Bond, maybe it’s because he looks a trifle older and, without wanting to be mean, a little heftier, and maybe it’s because there’s yet another new Blofeld, but it feels like there’s been a bit of a sea change in the franchise.

The notion of starting the film with Bond hunting for Blofeld makes perfect sense given how OHMSS ended. Bond should, quite rightly, be out for vengeance, and yet his hunt, and eventual confrontation with Blofeld, lack any emotional weight. Yes beating up a few blokes and strangling a woman shows his determination, but the events are neither brutal nor clinical enough to evoke a man avenging his dead wife. It doesn’t help that Connery is Bond and Charles Gray is now Blofeld, and when they meet there’s very little tension in the air. To be honest it feels like killing Blofeld is just another mission, which is a shame.

The lava/mud surgery setting is a little surreal and I’m not quite sure what it has to do with plastic surgery. Still it’s a little different at least and the notion of Blofeld using plastic surgery explains the physical changes, if not the fact that each Blofeld has had a radically different personality.

The fight is disappointing. It all feels sluggish. Bond’s combat roll is pointless, and the man in the mud bath would seem to have all the time in the world to shoot Bond. Bond despatches Blofeld’s guards with ease and there’s none of the brutality to mirror fights in OHMSS, Thunderball or Goldfinger. Oh, and after finally getting the notion of teasing us that Bond is dead out of their system the producers now switch to making us think Blofeld is!

It’s not terrible, but it is a little pedestrian and this isn’t helped by it having to follow on from the end of OHMSS 6/10

 

So that’s the end of part 1. So far I rank the pre-title sequences thusly, though this of course will change once we get onto parts 2 and 3.

  1. Goldfinger
  2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  3. You Only Live Twice
  4. Thunderball
  5. Diamonds are Forever
  6. Dr No
  7. From Russia with Love

 

Paul Starkey’s review of Pre-title sequences will return when Moore and Dalton drop in!

Clipboard02a

Clipboard01t

This isn’t so much a film review as a theory relating to Spectre, and more specifically the motivations of the main villain. Whether or not you’re read my actual review of Spectre I would urge you not to read on unless you’ve seen the film because, unlike with my reviews which I try to make as spoiler free as I can, this particular posting will be full of spoilers.

Seriously don’t read on if you haven’t seen the film!

Ok, if you’re still here I can assume you’ve either seen the 24th official James Bond film or you just don’t care.

I’ve seen Spectre three times now and frankly I seem to enjoy it a little more each time. Don’t get me wrong I liked it the first time just fine, but I found the villain’s motivations a trifle lame. As quite a few people have said, the fact that Blofeld’s motivation for wanting to kill Bond come down to daddy issues is somewhat poor, especially given that Skyfall gave us a villain with mommy issues.

But what has become increasingly apparent to me is that Blofeld doesn’t really give a damn about 007, other than insofar as Bond is meddling with his plans. By the end of the film I think things have shifted slightly, which I guess has a lot to do with Bond’s exploding Omega halving his eye quotient and providing old Ernst Stavro with a fetching facial scar, but at least initially I’d argue it isn’t about Bond at all.

Oh no, it’s about Madeline Swann.

Think about it. Mr Hinx and his goons travel to Austria and kidnap Madeline from under Bond’s nose. Why? If they’re worried about what she might tell Bond (and as we know she doesn’t know a great deal) why not just take out 007, or why not simply kill her? Yes there are a couple of henchmen who are shadowing Q, but no one seems to be concentrating on Bond which seems a trifle odd.

Fast forward to the train journey where Mr Hinx turns up again and attacks Bond and Madeline whilst they’re at dinner. Now this doesn’t make a whole heap of sense given that Blofeld seems quite keen on Bond and Madeline making it to his secret lair. Unless of course the aim of this attack isn’t to kill both of them, oh no, rather it’s to take Bond out of the picture, leaving Mr Hinx to deliver Madeline to Blofeld.

Now of course Bond, with more than a little help from Madeline, takes care of Mr Hinx and both of them make it to Blofeld’s lair, and what’s one of the first things Blofeld does? Oh sure there’s some verbal sparring with James, but he seems more interested in torturing Madeline with video footage of her father’s death.

Which brings us to Bond strapped to a chair whilst Blofeld tortures him, except…is Blofeld really that interested in hurting Bond, or is hurting Bond just a means to an end? Just look how much agony Madeline is in watching Bond get hurt (and Léa Seydoux sells it wonderfully). And what does Blofeld plan to do? He’s very specific; he wants to destroy the portion of Bond’s brain that enables him to recognise faces, so he won’t recognise her. But as Blofeld says, aren’t all those women interchangeable anyway? Irrespective of what Bond does/doesn’t feel for Madeline, Blofeld at least seems convinced that she’s in love with him. So ask yourself, who will be hurt more by Blofeld’s designated torture, the man who won’t recognise the woman he loves, or the woman who’ll have to look the man she loves in the eye and know he doesn’t have a clue who she is? I’d argue the latter.

But why does Blofeld have such a desire to hurt Madeline? Well I think this is pretty obvious once you link two separate conversations together.

Firstly when they’re on the train Madeline explains why she doesn’t like guns. When she was a child a man came to their house to kill her father, little realising that she was upstairs, or that there was a gun hidden under the sink.

Skip forward ten or fifteen minutes and note the conversation between Blofeld and Madeline.

Blofeld: I first met you when you were a child. I came to your house to see your father.
Madeline: I don’t remember that.
Blofeld: I do

And if you needed more proof just look at the expression on each character’s face during this exchange. So, it seems quite likely that, when she was a child, Madeline shot and wounded Blofeld and he’s held a grudge ever since.

But…but…but! You exasperate, clearly Blofeld had daddy issues and fake brother issues with Bond, and…and…

Well yes, but it seems pretty clear he got past them. He felt his father betrayed him so he killed him. As for 007, well let’s be honest here. Bond hasn’t been in hiding, he’s been in plain sight for years, so if Blofeld has such a hard on about killing him it begs the question, why has he never tried to have him eliminated? The simple answer is that he simply isn’t that bothered until Bond contrives to put himself in Blofeld’s sights. Madeline Swann on the other hand has been in hiding, until Bond conveniently leads Hinx and co right to her door (nice one, James.)

Now this is pure conjecture on my part, so whilst this may have been the writers’ intention, it’s just as possible that I’m twisting the facts to fit my own theory. All I know is that having this idea in mind actually makes Blofeld a better character than if he’s just still dealing with the fact that his daddy wuved little Jamie-Wamie more than him.