The Forgotten 007

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There are basically two news stories that get written about James Bond movies. It’s a cycle.

The first one usually has some sort of headline like, IS IT TIME TO RETIRE JAMES BOND? or IS 007 GETTING STALE? and complains that the formula is worn out, we’re all sick of James Bond and his sexist antics, and it’s time action-adventure moved on.

The other one is a joyously excited, JAMES BOND IS BACK! ONE OF CINEMA’S TIME-HONORED HEROES PROVES AS FRESH AS EVER! And it’s usually a celebration of the fact that, damn, this franchise is still going after twenty thirty forty fifty years!

The more knowledgable Bond aficionados can tell you which story got written about which movie. And most of us will tell you that these two varieties of puff piece don’t have a lot to do with a film’s individual merits. At this point, it doesn’t matter. James Bond isn’t just a franchise any more. He is a cultural artifact, something we all feel a sense of ownership about. Same as Star Wars or Star Trek or Superman, we all know pretty much what James Bond should be. We all know it when we see it.

The funny thing is, no two fans probably agree what that is, but it doesn’t matter. We all know. James Bond has a lot of cultural baggage. So when the series does one of its periodic reboots, it is always a remarkable risk. But they soldier on, and at this point it’s just a given that the series will continue.

But never in a vacuum. There’s always the culture around the series. You could never do a movie like Octopussy today, with Roger Moore’s seduction of Maud Adams that’s bordering on assault. (Seriously, she is pushing him away and saying no, no. But he just ignores it and kisses her roughly anyway, and seconds later she gives in. It’s THISCLOSE to out-and-out rape.)

All of which leads me to the time that the surrounding culture and other external factors conspired to bury one of the more promising interludes in the long history of the James Bond franchise.

Come back with me to the mid-1980s, when it was getting painfully obvious that Moore’s 007 was getting tired. The Broccoli studios had exhausted the original Ian Fleming novels and were working their way through adapting the short stories. Moore had already done “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico” in For Your Eyes Only, and “Octopussy” and “The Property of a Lady” in Octopussy. “From A View To A Kill” was A View To A Kill, and after that even this last Fleming cupboard was looking bare. The Bond-Is-Over articles were getting written a lot again.

So in 1986, almost-rapey leering grandpa Roger Moore was out. It was clearly time for something new. There was a lot of publicity about Remington Steele‘s Pierce Brosnan taking over the role, but they ended up going with a different actor instead. Some guy named Timothy Dalton would star in The Living Daylights.

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And they picked one of the better short stories to base it on. (I’m so thrilled Moore didn’t get this one. He couldn’t have sold it, even though the movie was originally written for him.)

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This took as its jumping-off point one of the last Bond shorts Fleming wrote, “The Living Daylights.” And it WAS really short, hardly more than a vignette. It was originally printed in the London Sunday Times color supplement in 1962 as “Berlin Escape,” and then appeared posthumously in Octopussy and The Living Daylights in 1966.

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Skipping over the pre-credits scene in Gibraltar, the first few minutes of the movie basically is Fleming’s short story, from the detailing of Bond’s assignment by Saunders right up to where Bond says, “Probably scared the living daylights out of her.” That’s where the original concludes.

I was overjoyed. As most of my friends can tell you, I am a Fleming purist. My image of James Bond is a blend of Fleming’s prose, the pounding jazz scores of John Barry, and the illustrations on the paperback editions of Bond that were current when I discovered the books.

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(That would be Frank McCarthy’s covers for the Bantam editions circa 1973 or thereabouts. I tried to find out his name for something like thirty years before I finally found it. He was one of the artists that really influenced my own sense of design. But when I was first teaching myself to draw and for years afterward, to me he was just “The Bond guy at Bantam.”)

Smirky Roger Moore, especially the leathery leering senior citizen he had become by A View To A Kill, was just not my idea of James Bond at all. So when Dalton arrived, and he talked and moved the way Fleming wrote him in the books, and he even looked a bit like my mental picture of 007 as depicted by Mr. McCarthy, I was sold.

It helped that The Living Daylights had more of an emotional core to it than many of its predecessors, the script was one of the smartest spy-vs.-counterspy stories the series had ever attempted, and the action was really well-done. (The choreography of the kitchen fight in the safe-house is just a thing of beauty.) John Barry was back on the score, too– his final one for the series, as it turned out– and he really rocked it.

It was a revelation. For the first time in what felt like forever, once again James Bond was a genuinely dangerous guy… and was genuinely in danger for a large part of the story. Even better, there was honest emotion coming from Dalton’s agent 007. The bits with Saunders at the amusement park and the subsequent murder, especially, and also Dalton showed real feeling for his female co-star, Maryam d’Abo; she seemed to actually mean something more to Bond than another notch on his bedpost, and in turn Dalton’s Bond seemed like a decent guy that Kara Milovy would plausibly fall for.

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I wasn’t the only one that thought so. Dalton as the new Bond was very well-received, the film was generally well-reviewed, and a lot of Bond-is-BACK! press happened. The only real shortcoming was, as far as I was concerned, that the villains weren’t quite Bond-sized. Certainly the henchman, Necros, was a physical adversary that challenged Bond on a level not seen since Oddjob in Goldfinger, but he was working for buffoons. Joe Don Baker as an egotistical arms dealer, especially, just felt like a minor workout for James Bond, not a major bad guy at all, and the ending is a little anticlimactic after the amazing mid-air showdown with Necros.

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But the movie was smart, it was exciting, it was fun, and it felt like a real adventure and not some sort of sniggering parody. And anyway, it was James Bond, he wasn’t going anywhere. I figured they’d have four or five more movies to get it worked out. They were back on track with my kind of 007 again, which was the important part. Now that the series was actually about a dangerous secret agent again, we’d surely get a Goldfinger or Blofeld-sized villain for him to battle. I settled in happily, sure that the next one would be as good or better.

In early 1989 there were rumblings about how the new James Bond film, Licence Revoked, was going to be one of the most groundbreaking stories about Bond anyone had ever attempted. Darker, edgier, taking full advantage of the vastly more talented actor that now owned the role.

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Then there were more rumblings, trouble at test screenings, people didn’t understand the title, an ad campaign canceled. Licence to Kill showed up in theaters in July of 1989.

Let me refresh your memory about the blockbuster summer of 1989. That same month, the competing first-run releases were Batman, Star Trek V, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, and Ghostbusters II fighting it out for the adventure-lover’s franchise dollar. Against all those, Bond got buried. Even When Harry Met Sally clobbered it.

Worse, legal troubles enveloped the Bond rights soon after and it was a long six years before anyone could even consider making another James Bond movie. So the Dalton-era James Bond was over almost before it started. By the time Eon Productions had it all sorted out and was ready to get back in business, Dalton had moved on and it was Pierce Brosnan’s turn (really this time.) Licence to Kill ended up being the answer to the trivia question “poorest box-office performer of the 007 series.”

The hell of it is, Licence to Kill is actually a really cool movie. It could have reinvigorated James Bond the way Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale did a couple of decades later if not for all its mishaps with timing and lawsuits and so on. It was way ahead of its time.

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The screenwriters, Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson, tried a lot of really brave things considering how reluctant studios usually are to fiddle with a successful property. Dalton’s arrival and The Living Daylights had clearly energized everyone and even though this was the same production crew responsible for Roger Moore’s considerably sillier Bond movies, you get the sense that they were going to by God kick ass this time out and try all sorts of things they’d been wanting to do with a Bond story for years. In its structure, the script almost feels like it’s ticking the boxes on a bucket list.

Let’s run them down….

It’s a personal story. James Bond is not assigned to go get this villain, as is usual. He’s only involved at all because he’s on the scene to see his old friend Felix get married. And then, when the evil drug lord Sanchez takes his revenge on Felix…

Bond goes rogue. This was a big damn deal. Never happened in the books, never in the movies. Totally new territory. For you younger types who’ve seen Daniel Craig do it for four movies in a row, it probably seems like old hat. But back then it was unheard-of.

A revenge plot and payoff. The way James Bond systematically schemes to destroy the drug kingpin Sanchez and his entire network, and even lets himself be outed as a rogue British agent in order to do it, is pretty amazing when you think about it. That’s just not a typical James Bond story. And the eventual payoff is a cascading series of fuck-yeah-you-GO moments that are remarkable in the way they escalate. Robert Davi really sells the rage as things go more and more wrong, and when Sanchez gets his, it’s extra-satisfying.

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Those are the big ones. But there were lots of little things as well. for example…

The Bond girls meet…. and hate each other. This is such a silly thing but it just delights me. This particular plot point is for all of us who wondered for years– how does James Bond’s success with women never backfire on him? The girl he just dumped never shows up at a party where he’s with a new one? No ex ever arrives at a diplomatic shindig to blow his cover and slap him? And so on. Well, it happens here. AWK-ward. But fun.

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Q gets to go rogue too. The little mini-rebellion at MI6 was another fun piece of business that was unprecedented at the time. And it was a way to let us have some fun with Q and gadgets in the traditional sense, just to remind us we’re still in a Bond movie.

It’s hilariously nasty. We are used to death and mayhem being dismissed with a quip… but it’s usually from Bond himself. However, in this movie we get not only one of my favorite Fleming villain lines (“He disagreed with something that ate him,” the aforementioned bit from Live and Let Die) but when asked about the blood all over his stolen cash, Robert Davi as Sanchez just snarls, “Launder it.” I love that.

It’s not a perfect Bond movie by any means, but it IS a criminally underrated one. In my perfect alternate world, Dalton got to make five or six James Bond movies, with the same back-to-basics sensibility that we’ve seen with the more current Daniel Craig ones (but better-plotted. Don’t get me started on that…)

But since we only got the two with Dalton– the closest any actor’s ever gotten to the guy Fleming actually described in his novels– and they are often unfairly dismissed by Bond fans, I thought it was worth pointing out all the good things about them. Especially since someone specifically asked.

Back next week with something cool.

53 Comments

  1. John Trumbull

    I remember being disappointed by License to Kill when I first saw it. I really wanted to like it, but I ended up enjoying it more in concept than in execution. I love the idea of Bond going rogue on a personal mission, finally fulfilling the promise seen in films like Goldfinger, but in execution it feels more like a long Miami Vice episode than anything. And it loses a lot of bite when Bond is just forgiven and goes back to his job at the end of the movie, suffering no consequences whatsoever.

    But maybe it’s time I gave it another chance. I do really like Dalton in the role, and feel he got shafted by circumstances more than anything else. The Living Daylights is still a favorite.

  2. Le Messor

    “the competing first-run releases were Batman, Star Trek V, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, and Ghostbusters II ”

    I’m pretty sure I saw all of those (including The Living Daylights) in the cinema that year.

    Sounds like a good movie year. No 1984*, but a good year.

    * The year, not the movie or the book.

    1. Because he IS Simon Templar. That’s who Leslie Charteris described. Moore as the Saint is just about as pitch-perfect as you can get. Even better than George Sanders in the 1940s films when Charteris was actually writing them.

      I love the Saint novels– the real ones, that is, up to around VENDETTA FOR THE SAINT when Charteris started handing them off to ghosts– almost as much as Fleming’s Bond books. I’m sure it was his Saint work that got Moore the Bond gig. But they’re not really the same at all.

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        Greatly agree on that and something I have uttered over the years. The Saint is a great series and makes good use of Moore and his sense of humor. I was neevr able to buy him as a deadly serious secret agent, no matter how much I love his early Bonds; but, he was totally believable as a thief/troubleshooter. With all of his winking in the Bond films, I kept expecting a halo to appear above his head.

  3. Edo Bosnar

    Not nearly as much of a Bond fan as I used to be, but I definitely agree about Timothy Dalton: he’s definitely the guy who has the look and demeanor of the character in Fleming’s stories, and he really should have had a few more movies with the role. (In fact, to me, the Bond films pretty much ended after Dalton – I’ve never even watched – not all the way through, anyway – the Brosnan and Craig films.)

    Even though Roger Moore is the first Bond I ever saw, I think saying he was unsuited for the role is an understatement – in most of the his Bond outings, he comes across as almost clownish and also, as you noted, kind of creepy in the later ones. The only one starring Moore that I like is Live and Let Die, and that’s more because of the other actors and other stuff going on around in that movie (esp. the elements of the Blaxploitation movies that got thrown into the mix).

  4. frasersherman

    Resounding disagreement on License to Kill. Turning Bond into a generic action hero in the Dirty Harry mode was a bad idea. I don’t think of it as a Bond film as much as “some guy who has the same name as 007.” That’s not what I go to see Bond for.
    And the truck doing wheelies might have worked in a Moore film. It’s ludicrous here.

  5. Jeff Nettleton

    I agree that Dalton was the closest to Fleming’s Bond (which was deliberate, on Dalton’s part); but, I also felt that he got the worst villains, and he only had two (depending on how you count Jeroen Krabbe). Dalton did a fantastic job; but, I felt he was undercut in the script: by the weak villain in Living Daylights, and by an inappropriate villain in Living Daylights. I could accept a more monogamous Bond in LD, especially as Dalton and d’Abo play it. They have the chemistry to pull it off. The music was a pleasant change from the recent past, where disco elements ruined For Your Eyes Only (after Disco was dead and buried) . I liked the new M (well, still relatively new to the role) and Moneypenny, though she didn’t quite have the same spark that Lois Maxwell had (who did?). It was the villains and the ever take-over of the story for pointless stunts. Stuntwork was always a part of these things and often gave some of the best visual impact. However, more and more they became something that happened for the sake of being a spectacular stunt, which the plot had to work around, rather than something built up in the plot. It had gotten bad in Moore’s films and Dalton didn’t escape it. LD keeps it in better check; but, it was one of the elements I hated about License to Kill. Still, the villains were what undercut Dalton. Joe Don Bake wasn’t threatening. Three boyscouts with a penknife could have taken out that guy. Krabbe’s Russian general was far more interesting and Krabbe could have easily played a nasty, delightful villain, instead of his more comical turn. Just look at Paul Verhooven’s The 4th Man, to see what a nasty piece of work he could play (and some of his role in Soldier of Orange). He could have been so much more. License to Kill just felt off, in every way. I like Dalton in it and I like the idea at the center; but, hate Robert Davi. He’s a terrible, one-note actor. He’s too much of a caricature of a drug lord. Add to the fact that Bond against a drug lord is like sending the SAS to take out a jaywalker. It should have been over in 5 minutes. In pro wrestling terms it is Lou Thesz taking on the ring announcer. The fact that he had as much trouble as he did just felt wrong. And it wasn’t that this drug lord was surrounded by ex-KGB or something similar; just a psycho hitman (well played by Benicio del Toro) and a third-rate mercenary. It’s hardly Goldfinger or Bloefeld.

    I was massively disappointed at the theater. I’ve watched it since and like more of it; but still don’t find it to be a good film. I think it telegraphed a lot of problems for the series to come, certainly in the Brosnan years: too many stunts for no good reason, weak villains, and cobbled together plots, and bad casting in key roles. The villains are the worst offenders and have been up through Craig. They seem so beneath Bond. Dalton got an arms dealer and a drug lord. Hardly 00 opponents. Brosnan got one good one, a rogue 00, then got Robert Maxwell/Charles Foster Kane, a bland Robert Carlisle and crazed Sophie Marceau (who was good, but should have been allowed to be the central villain, without the misdirection at the beginning) and just pure awful in Die Another Day.

    I’ve heard you talk about how good Dalton would have been in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which I agree; but, I think Dalton was right that he was too young, at the time. He would have had great chemistry with Diana Rigg, though.

    I do want to add that Broccoli didn’t entirely pass on Brosnan. NBC held him up. Remington Steele was cancelled and Brosnan was free and had pretty much been cast. Seeing the publicity around it, NBC exercised their option and held him to his contract, reviving the tv series. Brosnan was forced to bow out. Broccoli saved public face by saying he didn’t want the film franchise associated with a tv series (which is a total crock, as he went to the Avengers well quite happily, on multiple occasions) and then turned to Dalton. I think Brosnan was fine, as far as age went, though he was that much better when Goldeneye came around. I just wish he had gotten better scripts.

    1. M-Wolverine

      I think the bad guys in TWINE are one of the pluses of that movie. Some bland action sequences, underwhelming finale, and one of the worst Bond girls ever are bigger problems. Realizing Renard is the henchman, the Oddjob, and Elektra is the main villain, the first female one, helps. And she’s not a villain in a “I’m just like a man” way, but uses her smarts, her feminine wiles, and the fact that men don’t have much smarts around her feminine wiles was a great turn. But then I kind of love Jonathan Pryce in everything so what do I know.

      I will agree that taking the guy who was Remington Steele after taking the guy who was The Saint is no big deal, but RS days Brosnan was a bit slight and pretty for Bond, and the few years added some world weary age and heft to his face and made him seem a bit more formidable. So while I’d rather not have had the court induced break and have gotten more Dalton films, the break did help Pierce out in the role.

    2. John Trumbull

      Brosnan is one of those actors who gets more interesting as he gets older. During his REMINGTON STEELE days, he was sort of blandly handsome. Now, he’s got some more years and life experience under his belt, and he’s much more intriguing as a result.

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        See, I found The Long Good Friday belayed that sentiment. He has no dialogue; but, he cuts an imposing and deadly figure. Same with The Fourth Protocol, which came out around the same timeframe as License to Kill (couple of years earlier). I think he would have surprised a few critics, then, if he had been able to take the role.

        One thing I think is true, the loss of his wife, Cassandra Harris (Countess Lisl, in For Your Eyes Only) , did a lot to mature him, in many ways.

  6. M-Wolverine

    I can tell you’re a real Bond aficionado, because you know your stuff and I agree with almost all of this. Living Daylights is one of my favorite Bond films, love Dalton, it has the right Bond tone, with a bit of European air to it, one of my favorite Bond girls, and great sequences. (The Astin Martin is finally back!) And I agree about the bad guys. Good henchman, but otherwise the film’s weakness. (That they bring Joe Don Baker back later as a jokey character illustrates that well).

    The only thing I’d add (which might just have been for brevity) is that Brosnan was actually offered the role, but they renewed Remington Steele for one more year and they wouldn’t let him out of his contract or do both, so he couldn’t do it. Dalton had actually tested when Moore took over, but everyone agreed he was too young then.

    I always enjoy my re-viewing Licence to Kill, even if it’s not my favorite. I think it’s one of those like Live and Let Die that really is hurt by the trend of a Bond movie really reflecting and aping what was popular at that time (whether it be exploitation, or Star Wars, or whatever) in that it had a bit of a generic action movie of the time background. The non-Barry score does not help that at all, since it was basically a Lethal Weapon score. Also, outside of Goldfinger, the movies never seem as Bond exotic when placed a lot in the US. And as pointed out above, for the “dark” movie it ends on an oddly happy note. I don’t have a problem with them not doing it like the recent ones and having him not end up with the girl, but smiling and laughing crippled and widower Felix at the end is kind of messed up.

    However, it DOES have crippled Felix, and taken from the great bit in the original Fleming novel. Actually, Live and Let Die may be the best novel, and lots of it that was not used in the move ended up in other movies. Like the coral sequence in For Your Eyes Only. And I had never thought of it till you pointed it out, but the Bond girls meeting IS a great bit. As was Q’s defense, and the reaction he gets for it. The problem is Talisa Soto was never a very good actress, but particularly bad back then at the beginning of her career. I mean, she was ridiculously gorgeous by even Bond girl standards, but had a hard time selling the pathos.

    I’ll make a quick defense of Moore. While he was probably the worst Bond (yes, even with Lazenby*) he was probably the Bond we needed for the series to succeed at that time. The stories were already getting wilder at Connery’s end, and again, reflecting the times, what is basically a government assassin** was not going to fly in the anti-government/the man 70’s where Bond would be more the bad guy. Today we are ok with morally gray heroes, where Bond can be as much bad guy as good guy. But back then if the series was going to survive he needed to be a bit of a superhero. Then we don’t take it all as seriously. When given some serious material in For Your Eyes Only he does a pretty good job with it straight. Then yeah, he got old fast (people don’t realize he’s actually older than Sean Connery by 3 years), and turns what would be a pretty good remake of Goldfinger in A View to a Kill into something a bit awkward. But he maybe wasn’t the Bond we wanted at the time, but he was the Bond we needed at the time (if we still wanted to be watching bond movies to this day and not thinking about them as the better series than In Like Flint).

    *Don’t get me started on how On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (also an underrated Bond flick) would be the greatest of all time by far if they had gotten Connery to do that movie, rather than the tepid Diamonds are Forever.

    **He’s an assassin. He’s not a secret agent. It’s ok if everyone knows his name, he’s not usually going undercover, really. He’s going in to check out and provoke a really bad guy and his scheme, and then eliminate the problem. A spy goes in and gets details and gets out. He has a License to Kill.

  7. Filament

    Thank you for the scans, M-Wolverine! As a kid, I always had a Bond or Doc Savage paperback shoved in my back pocket, whether I had already finished reading it or not. It was nice that my mom and dad indulged with the money to buy them. I always had one in the back pocket until the next shopping trip into town when I could buy the next.

    I wish I still had the Bantam Doc Savages. Some of those I took pretty good care of. I always thought that it was the same artist that did all the covers, and am now reading that there was more than one. Interesting.

    1. M-Wolverine

      Just to be clear, even if it was anyway, those weren’t my scans, just ones I found on the Internet that were the same as the editions I had.

      Or more accurately, inherited from my mother. And I’ll add having parents that didn’t mind having a risqué book read by a kid that may have been on the young side, but encouraged reading and didn’t shield us from the adult things in life. Thanks Mom!

  8. fit2print

    Hi Greg,

    Given that you seem to be accepting “challenges” from readers — in this case it’s more of a polite suggestion — I’d love to hear… well, read… your thoughts on the enduring influence of The Twilight Zone.

    Though there’s little doubt the show has inspired moviemakers…. see this list among others:

    http://flavorwire.com/317756/9-movies-that-stole-their-plots-from-the-twilight-zone

    … I don’t recall reading anything much about TZ and its influence on comics (beyond references to the Gold Key title from back in the day, I mean). I don’t suppose you’d call it a trend, but I’ve read a few graphic novels with a distinct TZ vibe in recent years, most notably Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo, Pierre Oscar Levy’s Sandcastle and Koren Shadmi’s Abaddon, Have you come across many others/

    No pressure obviously — clearly you’ve got more than enough interesting ideas to keep the column chugging along– but it does seem a timely discussion topic, given that Dynamite recently issued a couple of new TZ collections (Twilight Zone / The Shadow & Twilight Zone:: Shadows & Substance).

    Just something to consider…

    –R

    P.S. As I’ve never been much of a superhero fan, I was glad to discover that you and the “other Greg” had set up shop here after your “CBRexit”. It’s good not to have to wade through all the latest X-Men and Avengers “news” to get to what I consider the good stuff. I owe you both a debt of thanks for recommending scores of titles over the years that I’d probably never have come across otherwise. Long live the Atomic Junk Shop

  9. Mark.Rouleau

    Me and my big mouth! I don’t even particularly care for Bond, although I did enjoy the movies as a teenager (go figure!). I guess I gotta pick my “ferinstances” more carefully.

    Interesting how much hate Roger Moore seems to get,, especially given the current popularity of Batman ’66 …

    1. Alaric

      The old Batman tv show may have been campy and silly, but Adam West still managed to put more personality and characterization into the role than Moore generally managed with Bond. And I say that as a big Roger Moore (as Simon Templar) fan.

    2. Jeff Nettleton

      I like Moore through Spy Who Loved Me, hate Moonraker, Like him in For Your Eyes Only (except the opening, mostly enjoy Octopussy (the jokes are flat; but, Louis Jordan and the girls make up for it) and that’s it. He seemed to be phoning it in more and more after the first few films. He always kept saying he was done, then would renege, after getting another truckload of money; but, I think his enthusiasm was gone after Spy. Thing is, he’s older than Connery, so he started the role older. I didn’t mind the lighter tone; just the lack of story as it went on (FYEO was a nice change of pace). By contrast, he is excellent in the movie Ffolkes, and actually plays a real character, not Roger Moore as a mercenary, like in The Wild Geese or a bland British agent in The Sea Wolves, or an unbelievably bad Austrian officer in Escape to Athena (though that is in the “so bad it’s good” category). He is way out of his league in The Wild Geese.

      1. Hal

        Ach, The Wild Geese. Atrocious. Half the cast was probably pickled in alcohol as well! Oh, and the final scene (as I recall) between Harris and the child… Eeps!
        Ffolkes a.k.a. North Sea Hijack to we limeys, a guilty pleasure to be sure. Anthony Perkins twitching away like a good ‘un while Roger Moore hammed it up enjoyably. Moore was a deal less wooden in that, and I say that with a fondness for his smarmy charm and amusing puns in Live and Let Die, TMWTGG, The Spy Who Loved Me.
        Your mention of Escape To Athena and reminder of Moore’s role in it had me smiling and laughing inwardly. Fantastic(ally bad) stuff!

  10. Hal

    Although I certainly agree about The Living Daylights being a return to form (and the best Bond movie since For Your Eyes Only, although Octopussy has its moments and I like the smoochy theme song All Time High – yes, I do! – as well as Moore-Bond’s hilariously cheeky/offensive “curry” one-liner, so awful!), I think that License To Kill is half pretty good/half incredibly mediocre and unBond. It really *is* obviously Bond-goes-Miami Vice – as noted above – while tonally all over the place. The lighter scenes with Desmond Llewellyn are some of the most likeable in the film but the “hilarious nastiness” sometimes topples over into *genuine* nastiness (the Craig Bonds suffer from this too with Agent Field’s unnecessary death in Quantum of Solace and the eye-gouging in Spectre being especially egregious. As an aside to the aside, the Bond movies have an obsession with restaging the deaths of women, the murders of Jill and Teresa have been obsessively replicated in a way that wasn’t true of the Fleming novels, presumably it is to underline how eeevillll the villains are but it comes across as unthinking and perversely voyeuristic, an unconsidered tic that is pretty repulsive. There is certainly *one* Fleming novel that *does* suffer from this:Goldfinger which kills off not only Jill but her sister as well. In fact Tilly’s coded lesbianism makes this even worse, especially as Bond “turns” another lesbian character at the end of the novel and the movie (Pussy Galore)), the implication that Leiter’s wife was not “just” murdered but also raped is sickening, it’s one if the moments from the film that is *too much*. On the whole, LTK feels like a movie that isn’t sure of itself and in trying to compete with the more overtly violent features of the time loses its own Bondian identity; I *like* elements of it – Dalton, very sexy Carey Lowell, Zerbe the Great, Q, some of the more convoluted aspects, chunks of dialogue – but there’s rather too much of the generic violent drugs/revenge thriller to satisfy, not to mention that John Glen’s uninspired direction tends to flatten things out which was a problem with the Eighties Bond movies as a whole, although FYEO and TLD manage to overcome this for the most part; one-timer Peter Hunt did a much better job with OHMSS, arguably the *best* Bond movie.
    Your observation of the “no means yes” scene in Octopussy has some validity – if one takes the scene as reflective of real-life rather than as what it is a ridiculous and unpleasant trope that had thankfully been dispatched to the dustbin of melodrama history – but as a Bond purist you would have to take into account the far more offensive and disgusting references to rape in Fleming’s original novels, not only do we have Bond referring to the *ugh* “sweet tang of rape” in interior monologue but one of the best novels, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, has a repulsive *cluster* of references toward it. Fleming had some extremely warped and pathetic ideas it seems and I think it somewhat dubious to neglect to mention that such things exist in the novels whilst talking about “rapey” Moore-Bond. (This is only partially related but some of the ugliest aspects of screen Bond occur with the Blessed Connery in the tuxedo. The Connery-Bond can be quite bestial – and then there’s the scene in the otherwise enjoyable camp nonsense of Diamonds Are Forever in which he wraps a woman’s bikini around her neck! Ach, that stands alongside the scene in which Moore-Bond threatens to break Andrea’s arm in The Man With The Golden Gun – one of those scenes it is worth mentioning meant to bring to mind the brutish callousness of Connery-Bond something dropped by the highly entertaining Spy Who Loved Me – as a disturbing low point of the series). Moore was looking the worse for wear in his later Bonds, what with his mahogany-stained facelifted fizzog et al and A View To A Kill stands forlornly as one of the worst Bonds (alongside interminable You Only Live Twice and, at points, World Is Not Enough and Quantum Of Solace) but describing his Bond as any more “lecherous” the others seems a stretch – with the exception of Dalton – his irresistability to women is part of the joke, and Moore-Bond did reject the attentions of the delectable Lynn-Holly Johnson in FYEO! It’s also worth noting that although he looked clapped-out by the end of his run, he *wasn’t* an OAP. Ageist! Ha!

    P.S. I have to disagree with the notion – not raised by you, Mr Hatcher! – that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would have been the Best Bond movie if Connery had been Bond. For all that Connery made an excellent Bond in the first three or so of his films I don’t think he would have been particularly convincing with the more romantic or vulnerable aspects. Lazenby was not really an actor but he did a respectable job in OHMSS and the scene in which he is discovered near tears by Teresa whilst being pursued is one of the best and most affecting scenes in the whole series and better than Daniel Craig’s “devastated” scene in Casino Royale despite Craigo being a *real* actor! OHMSS is still possibly the best Bond movie…besides “This never happened to the other fellow!”
    P.P.S. In addition to my digressions above, I recall that John Gardner shared the obsession with killing off female characters in his novels as if a few occurrences in the Flemings had multiplied and colonized his brain. Disturbing! I hate that kind of stuff.

    1. M-Wolverine

      Wow, lots of good conversation fodder in this post.

      1. There have been definite homages to the iconic Jill death, but which ones remind you of Teresa?

      2. Fleming had tons of issues, and was a very playboy upper crust British attitude towards the world. It’s obvious he liked pretty ladies, but really hated women. And I think it’s been pretty well documented he had wife and mother issues.

      3. Connery was quite bad in a lot of the “no means yes” ways that would make us cringe today, so he shouldn’t get off at all, at least in the retro way people look at the various Bonds. But I’ll defend the bikini one. That sequence is him hunting down the person who killed his wife, by any means necessary. They all get on his bad side. It’s really the only really good sequence in a mediocre at best Bond movie.

      4. I’m not going to argue any of your “worst” Bond films, but if it doesn’t include Die Another Day there’s a problem. Moonraker isn’t exactly tops either. And I may now think Spectre is even worse than Quantum of Solace. (Having said that, a Bond movie is like pizza and sex…even when it’s bad it’s pretty good.)

      5.Raised by me. I don’t think it’s even so much that Lazenby acted so badly in the film (though the decision to have him dubbed out by another actor for a big portion of the film is a very strange decision. Though some of it was to make sense of them not recognizing each other after having filmed the movies out of book order, but keeping that movie very true to the book). But beyond Connery being a better actor, I think if he had broken down at the end, after being invulnerable super cool Bond, it would have been more powerful and meant more. The “new guy” doing it takes out a little of the power of the scene. And Connery probably would have been reinvigorated by it because his main objection was the movies were getting away from reality and becoming all about the gadgets, and this was a turn back to more “real” stuff. Instead he gets brought back for a payday in one of the silliest films that he slept walked through.

      Of course, it’s a historical crime that we never got a good resolution to Bond’s revenge on Blofeld, with it falling into camp rather that something serious. Even worse when his arch nemesis really was only great when he was just a hand on a cat. Though OHMSS certainly comes the closest to having a good Blofeld. (Spectre did not redeem our chances).

      Though if it sounds like I’m disagreeing a lot, it’s mostly because everything else you said I basically agree with.

      1. frasersherman

        I just rewatched Die Another Day and I still love it. It gets the balance of revenge and Bond film that License to Kill never did.
        And Donald Pleasance is much more effective than Telly Savalas. I do agree about not getting a good revenge.
        One thing that doesn’t help OHMSS is having Bond posing as the herald in nothing but glasses and a pipe. It’s in the book, yes,but in the films Blofeld’s already seen Bond up close. So it makes no sense.

        1. Hal

          The masquerade in OHMSS indeed made no sense (it’s one of the things that led to the fan theory of “James Bond” being a codename for multiple agents when in reality it was just wonky writing) but the sight of Lazenby in that outfit (the kilt!) whilst being dubbed by George Baker made up for it with its loveable stupidity!
          Donald Pleasance is creepy (what is it with Donalds?!) as Blofeld but I quite like Savalas’s bonhomie concealing nuttiness. Die Another Day? *raises eyebrow like Roger Moore* I enjoyed the swordfight and ol’ Toby was an effective snob monster until the twist! (I knew it was coming but the notion that those two villains are one and the same is more stupid than Jaws’s fall into the circus big top in the Moonraker opening credits!)

          1. M-Wolverine

            Yeah, that was the cost of being true to the books after the movies rearranged the books. In the books Thunderball takes place, and they have never met, and then in OHMSS they play the cat and mouse game. And you’re not even sure it is Blofeld, because the guy looks different in all three books he’s in, because he undergoes extensive plastic surgery and other things to hide his identity. Then they finally meet for their last showdown in You Only Live Twice, in a very different story than the movie, other than Japan and Kissy. So it makes sense in the books. It doesn’t make sense when the one movie follows the book and the other doesn’t very much at all.

          2. Hal

            Well, exactly. They didn’t pay much attention to the nuances and YOLT was altered beyond recognition as it transformed from the concluding part of a trilogy to the second. Oh, and we missed out on bonkos Blofeld/Shatterhand. Darn!

          3. M-Wolverine

            I’m kinda amazed with how they cannibalized the books and put different parts under different titles that they never decided to recreate huge chunks of YOLT in another movie, because there’s that whole Shatterhand bit that’s never really been used by any of the films.

            Of course, if they hadn’t tanked Spectre so bad they could have done a OHMSS remake, and then done the basic plot of YOLT’s book, and if they really wanted to grim dark Craig have the movie end the same way and the next one open up like how TMWTGG did.

      2. Hal

        Hello, M-Wolverine,

        Thanks for your great response, sorry I’ve taken so long to reply, I was otherwise occupied and then when I saw your reply and was halfway thru responding I accidentally deleted what I’d written with a slip of the hand. Argh! Less James Bond more Maxwell Smart!

        II. I was thinking less of direct homages here (such as QoS) than I was jumbling all the instances of horrible female deaths into one. Although the only other demise in the series that is meant to have the same weight as Teresa’s is Vesper Lynd’s there are as you say scads of dispatchings; at least the deaths of Andrea in TMWTGG, Countess Liesl in FYEO, Paris Carver (played by a piece of wood fashioned into the likeness of Teri Hatcher), the lady on the beach – whose name I have forgotten, alas – in Casino Royale, Agent Fields in QoS, and Berenice Marlohe character in Skyfall (the last two of which at least are examples of an unpleasant trope revisited one too many times and belaboring an obvious point in repetitive and horrific fashion) gives Bond some pause as they are often his fault at least partly.
        II. Yep! He was married to a hdeous snob who belittled him at every turn which might count as just deserts! (The psychosexual underpinnings of the viler aspects of Fleming’s work are pretty murky…)
        III. I know what you mean but feel that the reason the bikini scene is there is as a piece of incredibly dubious titillation, I can’t really imagine the ultracamp Charles Gray Blofeld having much to do with pulchritudinous young women! Diamonds Are Forever is, I think, camply entertaining good crap! “Baja? We don’t have anything in Baja!”
        IV. Bwahahaha! Die Another Day has a *lot* wrong with it (Halle Berry, Madsen, the invisible car, the terrible CGI, the waste of a strong opening, the Madonna theme “song” and cameo, the awful ending) but there’s bits and pieces I like despite the execution being…lacking. Oh, and Moonraker? Half a good movie (I even *like* some of the dumb things!), half a garbagey one. Oddly, this lightest of Bond movies has the most disgusting female murder of all in which the lovely Corinne Dufour is ripped apart by dogs…off-screen but still… And Bond doesn’t even learn about it, he didn’t even bother to ensure her safety. God-awful. Talk about tonal inconsistency and unconsidered writing. *THAT* is the worse thing about Moonraker, no contest!
        V. Interesting take, M-W. I don’t really agree but you almost convince me! One thing worth bearing in mind, Connery made such a fuss about what he felt was the deterioration in the previous 007 movies but he *approved* of Diamonds Are Forever’s tone – go figure! Not to mention that Never Say Never Again was hardly gritty!
        I do quite like the Savalas Blofeld although that character wasn’t very Blofeld-like so… Also, altho’ the Pleasance Blofeld has the iconic look his best moment is when he peeks at Bond from behind a goon, hilarious! Not exactly the most imposing of introductions, alas! As for the Spectre Blofeld *toilet flushes*
        Altho’ Spectre has its moments (and the humor is just right) it was very disappointing, the ridiculously unnecessary links between Bond and ol’ Ernst were a ghastly mistake while the super-brief appearance of Monica Bellucci was an insult to a fine and awesomely sexy actress, she should have been the female lead not the child (altho’ the scene with Ms Bellucci in lingerie was enough to cause spontaneous combustion. *Ahem*).

        Thank you again for your response, M-W, I very much enjoyed it!

        1. M-Wolverine

          Oh, never expect someone to live online to reply. It’s only the cool system that even lets us know to check. And I think we’ve all been there with the great, long message going bye-bye. So you’re saying you missed it by THAT much?

          Certainly women suffer not so great fates in Bond’s world but I think it stands out because they’re women. But actually it’s a primary Bond archetype. Bond, Bond girl, Villian, hench man, and victim. A good number of the later are women, but a lot of them are men. They just don’t resonate as much. In the first two movies they’re actually men. Quarrel and Karim Bey. In fact, in the two Dalton movies in question they’re guys; Saunders and Felix. But sensibilities make Felix’s wife bother us, but seeing Felix eaten alive by sharks not so bad.

          I enjoy all the Bond films. Even DAF. It’s just the beginning is a continuation of the previous movie. And the rest is Circus Circus.

          DAD’s biggest problems are CGI instead of stunts, tonal roller coaster, and the WTF of Korean villain becoming posh English. Graves would have been a fine bad guy on his own. And for all the complaints of the dark parts towards women, no one seems to complain about the extended on screen torture of Bond. That may be the darkest moment in the series, because the guy who can get out of anything can’t, for two years or whatever it was. Then flips wildly to camp trying to be a tribute to the whole series at once.

          Moonraker is a bunch of great Bond scenes thrown together in no coherent way. The Dufour demise is so disturbing because she’s so damn likable. She actually should have been the lead Bond Girl. (A whole other thread: which secondary Bond Girls are better than the main).

          And Connery approving DAF had more to do with with them making him the highest paid actor to date with a $1 million payday. (A big chunk he gave to charity in his defense, IIRC). NSNA was the “I haven’t yet gotten old enough to get the good Untouchable roles, so who wants to give me a movie and a payday? Oh, and FU Broccoli.”)

          The problem with Pleasance is like 4 feet tall. Not a physical match for Bond whatsoever, and as you say, not intimidating. Sac alas can’t pull off the physical and ego, though his gravitas is lacking. Less said about Gray the better. But as I said he was never more intimidating than as a deep voice stroking a cat and executing failed Spectre agents. And the step brother tie in was maybe the worst idea in the history of Bond. (Though making his supposedly serious love interest in that movie with whom he has no chemistry young enough to be his child was also a major fail. After the success of Eva Green it really fell flat)

          And yes, this is what I miss about CSBG comments.

          1. Hal

            Would you believe I was dodging an attack by Nick Nack? No, how about Odd Job’s brother, Very Odd Job? That was a terrible joke? Sorry about that, Chief… I mean, M-Wolverine!
            “And yes, this is what I miss about CSBG comments.” C’est vraiment. Civilized conversation and no – or few – nasty jerks (assuming I am correct in not considering myself one…!). Those were the days…

            I think it is because of the sexual component in the LTK murder and that she was so happy. Leiter’s fate is horrific too, his new wife has been violated and murdered while he gets fed to a shark. Even though he survives one can only imagine how shattered his psyche would be; the corresponding scene in the novel Live and Let Die are horrible enough if you think about it but it doesn’t have the sense of horror that is accentuated by Delia’s death (I believe that was her name) in LTK; the whole get married-get raped/murdered or fed to a shark is gruesome and as I’m somewhat sensitive (!) a little too much. You’re certainly right about poor Quarrel (What a way to go! Yikes! The treatment of Quarrel in his last scene is questionable at best, the treatment of his character prior to flambéing that is… Unenlightened times). However, I’d argue that Bey’s death is different to that of most of the women in that he is a professional and his business is death (sounds like the title of a book that Mr Hatcher might like!), he’s a hard if charming man so his death is that of a hard man so it doesn’t have the effect that the death of a woman would have. At least not to me! I think the deaths of women in movies are difficult due to the real world resonances even in a semi-fantastical series such as the Bonds which still has a “realistic gloss”, the more recent movies in particular go for darker cod-realism with the pain more clearly portrayed. No ones going to get painted to death (or at least very few) but death by the methods used or implied in later Bonds… Oddly I don’t have a problem with Teresa’s death, yes it is disturbing and the aftermath is moving but it has no sexual component and there is, I think, a heightened quality, not only that but the effect on Bond is so clear (tho’ clearer in the books) that it is powerful. I am aware that I may not be making much sense! I must admit that even tho’ A View To A Kill is garbage I really feel sorry for old Sir Godfrey – looks a lot like Steed, doesn’t he?! – when he gets dispatched, the same for Bond’s colleagues in FYEO and The Living Daylights – I guess I am a friend to all living things, well, apart from *expletives deleted* of course…
            True. She *should* have been! Exactly right.
            Also true, up to a point. Although it pleased Connery to get the money for Diamonds – and to PO Saltzman and Broccoli, I think he still approved of the script, he does give an amused performance as well. As to NSNA, again you are obviously not a million miles away from the truth there but it’s worth noting that Connery brought in skilled comedy writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to bump up the humor. Of course, Connery hated the shambles behind the scenes on that movie and was none to pleased at the result but a career resurgence was just around the corner. (Connery would find something to moan about in many situations as he likes to be top dog and…to moan! Hah!)
            “4 feet tall…” Hilarious! Cruel but hilarious! I wonder what Jan Werich was like in comparison? Worse, apparently! At least Donald was camply creepy. Yep, the original concealed Blofeld with a memorable voice was hard to beat. I *hated* the Oberhauser connection, so pointless and stupid; that was Modern Screenwriting 101
            and was as dimwitted as it usually is, what next? Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark was Indiana Jones’s cousin? Lex Luthor is Superman’s real dad through spacewarp shenanigans?! What a crock! I don’t know what they thought that added to it, it shrunk everything to a dinky size, it made Blofeld look smaller not bigger and ridiculously petty too (now I know some evil people ARE ridiculously petty but it served to turn Blofeld into nothing more than an arrested adolescent who happened to be the head of a multinational consortium of EVIL!). As to the failure of the female lead casting, you, sir, are bang on the money!
            P.S. Great idea concerning the best secondary Bond women.
            P.P.S. Lazenby Bond was blessed with a few good lines notably the horrendously fantastic bad taste pun “He had a lot of guts!” Ouch!

          2. M-Wolverine

            I thought Odd Job’s brother was Random Task? (Who actually was played by an awful human being in Austin Powers. Yikes, if Bond movies creep you out, don’t wiki that dude).

            And yes, Felix should be shattered…which is why as pointed out before the happy smiling ending makes no sense. I think they miscast Felix by bringing that guy back. Sir Godfrey another great male victim. Pretty much each movie has one traditionally, male or female.

            They had to punch up something In NSNA considering it was just a remake. But it actually works about as well Octopussy did that year. It has early Kim Bassinger, and a couple of great psychotic villains. And the video game battle seems super dated today, but was pretty cool back then. And hey, it had actually one of the better Blofeld’s. He was back to pussy stroking, but Max Von Sydow could have been the best Blofeld if given the chance. You know, as long as they didn’t make him a jealous little brother. (Somewhere screen writers got to the point where everything had to be tied together. Did it happen often before Burton Batman made the Joker the guy who killed his parents? I guess “I am your father!” came before that.) In the books Blofeld was an imposing figure, and almost an ever changing Bond opposite number in an organization for evil.

            But I’ll kill two birds with one post and say that Jill St. John made the ultra dumb Bond girl thing work, because besides being stunning she was also probably the smartest woman to ever play a Bond girl.

            Speaking of, a quick mental list secondary Bond girls more interesting, beautiful, or better acted than the main one- I think it starts with Thunderball where the bad girl is Fiona in more interesting than Domino (which carried on to the bad girl in the NSNA remake), YOLT Aki, MR as discussed before, and the funny Maude Adams conundrum, where she was probably better than the annoying Mary Goodnight, but might have been upset as the title character in Octopussy by Magda. GE Xenia is certainly more memorable, TWINE is a cheat because the secondary Bond Girl is also the head villain (and the main one is soooo awful), and as unbelievable as Halle Berry is, her acting in DAD is pretty painful, and Rosamund Pike is one of the few things that works in that movie. And Spectre has been discussed. There are a couple others where YMMV.

            Wish there was actually more we disagreed about. Then we’d be in the harsh black and white hatred that all Internet discussion are supposed to entail. And Loving It!

          3. frasersherman

            Helga, the Spectre agent in DAF was fun too. I remembered her as just another bad girl turned by Bond. Then I rewatched it and realized she’s reversed the roles—she pretends to turn so she can use Bond for sex, then tries to kill him.

          4. frasersherman

            Connery also got to make The Offense in return for doing DAF. He was supposed to get another movie of his choice too, but it didn’t happen.
            I’d still pick Pleasence over any on-screen Blofeld—I don’t expect him to be a physical match for Bond. Though I agree the voice/cat version was best.
            DAF’s Tiffany Case is surprisingly good for a Connery Bond girl. Not someone’s mistress, has her own goals, and the last line has more to do with her getting rich than sex.

          5. Hal

            “And loving it.” Heh. Subtle… I like it. SCHTARKER!
            OH, YEAH… YEUCH. I remember reading about the Random Task actor a while ago…on Wikipedia! Dear God…
            Oh sorry, I must have rushed writing; I totally agree about the jolly ending to LTK. The Leiter of the books isn’t traumatized but there’s no way the LTK version wouldn’t be. Tonal clashing and there’s the winking fish! (Perhaps they could bring that back for the next Bond movie, or the double-taking drunk tourist or that pigeon from Moonraker!) I still think that there is a qualitative difference between male and female victims and the implications/resonances of their deaths but I realize that your mileage may vary, as they say…
            I was going to mention Max Von Sydow (wasted in The Bores Awaken) but, um, I thought you might disagree! He had presence and an amused mien, quite good. I have a sneaking fondness for NSNA I must admit for certain scenes and bits of dialogue mostly – and I have been known to sing the theme song… Bwahahaha!
            I could make an off-color joke about Blofeld stroking pussies but I won’t… Blofeld embarks on a career of terrorism and extortion because Bond got a bike and he didn’t…
            Jill St John… Mmmm… I mean, yes, I agree. One thing about DAF it has one of the most irritating instances of the one dead woman per film formula, the fate of poor Plenty O’Toole; a cartoonish character who is suffer a horrible death. Ugh.
            Ah, Kristina Wayborn as Magda… She was marvelous, and I love the stunt when she goes out the window so elegantly. Skyfall’s Berenice Marlohe was touching while the other two Bond Women, Dame Judi and Naomie Harris are both very good.

          6. M-Wolverine

            Zis is Kaos…ve don’t do subtle here!

            There’s another list in there of double taking pigeons and such. And the last Star Wars movie is a whole other post. But thanks, now the NSNA theme is going to be stuck in my head all day. But really Brandauer is certifiable, and he’s maybe the least mental bad guy. Barbara Carrera isn’t just sex on screen, she’s delightfully batty evil. It also has one of the best Felix’s in it. And the humor doesn’t under cut it, whether it be Rowan Atkinson or Q’s jokes that were good enough for the main series to steal them years later.

            And I mean the name alone makes Plenty O’Toole a cartoon character. It’s tragic her flotation devices didn’t work. And yes, it’s quite the outfit for the balcony stunt, and quite the little Octopussy. And she needs refilling.

            With the Craig movies it’s so hard to really find a Bond girl in them. The first was much deeper than that. He doesn’t end up with any of them in the next two. You could argue in Skyfall M is the Bond girl in that one. It’s the one he makes the emotional journey with. And they’re all so good. Proto-Moneypenny included. Marlohe fits the Bond girl perfectly, but sadly isn’t there at the end.

          7. Hal

            I must admit to loving this post! I especially found your comments on NSNA hilarious. “Brandauer is certifiable and he’s maybe the least mental bad guy.” Hilarious. As for Ms Carrera : Yes with a big helping of yes cream on top! A sexy mentalist prefiguring Xenia Onnatop by over a decade (although the original version of the character in Thunderball was not bad). She ended up in the dream season on Dallas, silly as she would have had JR’s balls for breakfast and his…tallywhacker for dessert!

  11. Hal

    Oh, and I would like to dedicate this comment to the memory of ROBERT VAUGHN, Star and epitome of kool in one of the great espionage adventure series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; mysterious man in black in The Magnificent Seven and Battle Beyond The Stars; oleaginous untrustworthy politico in Bullitt; corrupt millionaire businessman Ross Webster in the underrated Superman III; charming, suave, septuagenarian grifter in Hustle; and real-life Good Guy. REST IN PEACE, MR VAUGHN/NAPOLEON SOLO (and LEONARD COHEN as well) The World is poorer without you.

  12. Jeff Nettleton

    I just watched Living Daylights again, after reading the column. The central story is good; but, the execution of it still leaves a lot to be desired. Dalton is good and he plays the emotions and scenes well. Tt is a shame we didn’t get more of him, in the series. Robert Davi leaves me cold. It comes across as too much of a caricature and too Miami Vice. There are too many actors who aren’t rising much above a cliche, most of them primarily tv actors, and most of those did better on tv. Maybe it’s John Glen, who can’t get the performances out of them, having honed his craft directing second unit photography, until he got to do the whole film. Maybe its the producers, who want spectacle more than story. Cary Lowell was to inexperienced and is all over the place in her acting. She isn’t helped by a bad wig, to hide her real hair until she enters with a shorter style, emphasizing her beauty. The film starts well; but, loses something when it switches to Isthmus City. It continues to erode until the end truck chase.

    Benicio Toro would have made a better villain; but, he was pretty young. He definitely needed more screen time. The scenes with Q are great and he works well with Lowell. The ninjas were beyond silly. The use of the Hemingway House was a bit much. tourists are going to stay away while British intelligence officers argue and take pot shots? Without the twitchy Florida (at the height of the cocaine wars) aren’t going to descend upon the place en masse? Yeah, it’s Bond; but, still…..Sheriff JW Pepper would have been there, if it was Roger Moore!

    David Heddison is still the best Felix Leiter and Pamela barnes is good too. You feel Bond’s connection, before the violence.

    I still think casting was a problem. Someone like Edward James Olmos would have turned Sanchez into someone interesting. A livelier actor than Don Stroud would have made the mercenary bodyguard more interesting. The young accountant/aide was too caricature; it needed more personality. Talisa Soto barely had emotion. Salma Hayek is someone who would have made that interesting, had she been older, at the time.

    Nope, it’s better than I remember; but still have to put it in the highly flawed category, personally.

    1. Hal

      Weirdly, I was watching an episode of Taxi just around the time I read this and who was in it… Priscilla Barnes!
      Sheriff J.W. Pepper! “Are you some kind o’ doomsday machine, boooyyy?!” “Are you tryin’ t’ tell me theze Mexican fellahs are cookin’ up the devil’s talcum powduh?!” Heh.

  13. John King

    I consider Dalton to be the best movie Bond and think it’s a shame he didn’t get to take on an enemy more worthy of the Bond.

    The kitchen fight in the Living Daylights was exceptional not only for it’s quality but for being a prolonged fight with a minor character fighting the bad guy. Too often such fights tend to end in seconds making the good guys (other than the hero) look incompetent, Here a man with the job of defending a safehouse has enough ability that he could plausibly be assigned such a task.

    One thing puzzling me about the Bond films is the sheer number of references I’ve seen to a film called “Never say die”. It was even an answer in a crossword. Why do so many people seem to believe there is a film with that title? Are they thinking of Never Say Never Again or Tomorow Never Dies or did they just make it up?

    1. M-Wolverine

      I’ve always agreed it’s a great fight scene, but really like your point on the competency of minor characters. Not only more real, and less Storm Trooper eye rolling, but rather than making Bond seem more mundane, it makes him seem more accomplished when he dispatches a bad guy who has shown to be capable of dispatching competent men.

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