James Bond is a world-recognised trademark character for far-flung thrills, wild, improbable stunts, battles with maniacal but charismatic villains, and passionate love with sizzlingly sexy females. Conceived by author Ian Fleming in 1954 for the thriller, Casino Royale, Bond was the perfect foil for the Communist antagonists of the Cold War, a man who enjoys his independence, who gladly condescends to the gratifications of smoke, drink, gambling, and sex, yet is infallibly loyal to Queen and country. The Bond in Fleming's books is introspective, daring, and revels in perilous adventure, yet is not given to the one-liners, puns, and generally glib banter associated with his movie persona, nor to reliance on elaborate, futuristic gadgets also characteristic of the film Bond.
Fleming's first Bond novel, Casino Royale, was so instantly successful that it was adapted by the American television series, Climax!, into a tense, 55-minute, live-television event in 1954, starring Barry Nelson as an American Bond, Jimmy Bond, card player extraordinaire, assigned by his own Stateside spy agency, in conjunction with the British Secret Service, to foil a ruthless French Communist played by Peter Lorre by defeating him in a high-stakes game of baccarat.
In every other aspect, the Casino Royale that unfolded on Climax! was faithful to Fleming's book, and the total absence of car chases, explosions, or "steamy sex" scenes demonstrates how different Fleming's original conception of Bond is from the Agent 007 who has seduced ravishing ladies, driven cars of fantastically lethal dexterity, and combated criminals with grandiose and deadly aims, often involving world domination, in the longest running series of full-length movies in film history.
In 1962, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to turn the then superstar of the spy novel genre into a film personality, and, with Fleming's endorsement, they obtained the financial backing of United Artists for a taut, 110-minute-long spy thriller adapted from Fleming's Dr. No, shot mostly in scenic Jamaica. Indeed, the locale was the main visual attraction of the film, aside from the obvious sex appeal of Bond and his women. Dr. No is in many ways like the Casino Royale shown on Climax!, relying more on tension than on extensive violence, outlandish stunts, or explosions, as attempts on Bond's life are made by such unspectacular yet nerve-wracking means as a spider, a rendezvous with a treacherous woman, and a group of thugs with a sniper's rifle, and building to a climax as Bond investigates a mysterious island controlled by Dr. No, a devious scientist with steel hands, who is unseen for most of the film, yet exudes menace throughout. Bond acts to stop No's scheme to topple an American rocket launch.
Played by a then-unknown Scottish actor named Sean Connery, Bond is justifiably suspicious to the extent of paranoia because his reputation has preceded him on his arrival in Jamaica, and the opposition is determined to kill him. His occasional wisecracks are lacking in wit.
There is only one car chase in Dr. No, and it is nowhere as extravagant or as tongue-in-cheek as the chases in subsequent films. There are some explosions at the film's finale, when the atomic reactor at No's island base reaches a critical point of instability as effected by Bond, who escapes in the usual nick of time with his girl. There is no huge, climactic battle between the forces of good and evil so common to later Bond flicks. The decisive fight is a personal, one-on-one fisticuffs between Bond and Dr. No.
Dr. No was not expected to spawn a long line of Bond sequels. Ursula Andress, who played the heroine, Honey Ryder, stated that she regarded the film as a B-grade thriller that was fun to do and amply paid her and her co-stars, but was not expected by anyone involved to be a major "hit". A "hit" it was! And Broccoli and Saltzman immediately produced a second motion picture and then a third over the course of two years! Fleming died in 1964, but his creation lived on, for three decades- and counting.
The James Bond films produced by Broccoli and Saltzman and later by Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, are easily distinguishable from their imitators by the stylish opening graphic scene in which one of a number of horizontally moving circles enlarges and gains a psychedelic, pinwheel-tunnel border, and in the circle, James Bond walks to the centre from the right side and suddenly fires his gun toward the camera. Immediately, a blotch of red, representing the gushing blood of Bond's victim, pours down the entire screen. Aside from Dr. No, every Broccoli-produced Bond film has a pre-credit sequence in which Bond is usually shown casually finishing a mission, destroying the enemy's stash, being chased by and escaping and/or killing his foe or foes. In Goldfinger, he electrocutes a Mexican drug smuggler after successfully detonating the smuggler's entire supply of heroin. In Diamonds Are Forever, he believes that he has killed the genuine SPECTRE boss, Blofeld, by submerging him in hot lava. And in Moonraker, he survives being pushed, parachute-less, from an aeroplane in flight by stealing the parachute of one of his attackers in mid-air!
Main titles of all of the Broccoli Bond films, those financed and distributed by United Artists and produced by Broccoli's company, Eon Films, usually consist of silhouetted sexy girls, dream-like backgrounds, and Bond nonchalantly removing all obstacles that cross his path, and are nearly always accompanied by a vocal song performed by a popular music artist of the time. Shirley Bassey sang the songs for Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker, Nancy Sinatra provided "the number" for You Only Live Twice, Sheena Easton sang the lyrics to For Your Eyes Only's opening credit sequence, and Duran Duran performed A View to a Kill. Instrumental variations of the song for each film are heard through the film in which the particular song was used.
Much of the credit for the enduring appeal of the James Bond series of multi-million-dollar-grossing movies can be given to the second and third films, From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964), considered by many to be the definitive Bond pictures, almost flawless in their mixing of tension, intrigue, thrilling and hilarious chases and stunts, breathtaking cinematography of exotic places, sexy girls, and extravagant yet believable "heavies". These films star Connery at the height of his appeal, his virile, pain-and-death-defying charms winning the adoration of ladies and envy of men. Bond is shown cavorting with the sexiest possible women and is pitted against politely ruthless foes that were never equalled in any of the later entries in the movie series, try though producer Broccoli did to match their charismatic villainy. A woman with a lethal shoe, the woman's hire, a convicted murderer escaped from prison who kills as casually as he would turn off a light, a cat-stroking criminal mastermind with an unseen face, a portly, fair-haired, gold-smuggler plotting to irradiate Fort Knox, punishing his secretary's betrayal by painting her entirely in gold, and threatening to castrate Bond with a laser beam to stop the British agent's meddling, and, most cogently, a henchman with a decapitating bowler hat! These two films are considered to be the Bond adventures that, "had it all."
As undeniably interesting as the stories were, as appealingly as the villains were portrayed, no doubt the key to the success of these films was Connery himself. After Goldfinger, Connery was the face of James Bond, and Bond was synonymous with everything that 1960s audiences craved in entertainment. Played by Connery, considered by women as the sexiest man alive, Bond had become a super-man, and in the next two films, Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967), his exploits and narrow escapes were wilder, more outrageous, more thrilling. Chased by enemy agents onto a balcony and donning a jet pack to fly away, trapped in a shark-filled pool with only his wits to deflect the greedy choppers of the carnivores, participating as a central combatant in a harpoon gun battle in the shark-infested waters off of Nassau, flying a helicopter assembled from out of a series of briefcases and by himself eradicating a multi-helicopter enemy attack force, and joining an army of Ninjas in an assault on the antagonist's Far East volcano base, Bond was in every way the personification of every man's yen for swashbuckling, modern adventure.
A recurring antagonist of the Connery years was a criminal organisation called SPECTRE (Special Executive For Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), led by the cold and pitiless, cat-stroking Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and responsible, through Dr. No, for the American rocket toppling plot of Dr. No, for the scheme to use Bond and a defecting Russian cypher clerk to steal a Soviet coding machine in From Russia With Love, for the atom bomb ransom plan in Thunderball, and for attempting to trigger World War III in You Only Live Twice. SPECTRE operatives are referred to by numbers, and Blofeld is Number One. Failure is punishable by death, and SPECTRE specialises in executions by a venomous spike in a killer's shoe, attack on the road by a missile-firing motorcycle, or seduction and murder by devious women, the most notorious being the red-heads Fiona Volpe in Thunderball and Helga Brandt in You Only Live Twice. But neither is successful in killing Bond, and both in their failure meet their doom, with Blofeld personally dispatching Brandt by dropping her into a pool full of piranhas. Blofeld's face is not shown until You Only Live Twice, and then it changes from film to film as different actors were cast in the role.
By the fifth film, You Only Live Twice (1967), the Bond phenomenon had peaked, and parodies of it were everywhere, on television and in other spy genre films. At least three episodes of The Flintstones were spoofs of the James Bond movie formula. In one, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble meet a mysterious woman named Madame Yes and become the pawns in her crusade against an evil scientist named Dr. Sinister, who is intent on world domination. No harm becomes of her, but Fred and Barney are embroiled in the machinations of the scientist, involving their capture and transport to an island with a base inside a volcano, just like SPECTRE's in You Only Live Twice, to be questioned under threat of death by a fall into a bottomless pit! In another episode, a criminal organisation lead by a maniac called Stonefinger, whose index pinky is literally hard as bedrock, mistakes Barney for a scientist with a top-secret chemical, and abducts Fred and Barney for tortuous interrogation only stoppable by the intervention of their magical alien friend, Gazoo. And in yet another episode, Fred and Barney are deputised by a suave television detective surrounded by a bevy of beauties and whose investigations into a murder only place Fred in the line of enemy fire. The 1966 Road Runner cartoon, "Sugar and Spies", utilised the then-famous Bond device of a spy car, complete with machine gun headlights and an ejector seat, for Wile E. Coyote to pursue the speedy Road Runner. A Woody Allen-produced spoof of the Bond series, titled What's Up, Tiger Lilly?, spared no gag in its "ribbing" of the by-then well-known conventions of the genre.
Columbia Pictures' Casino Royale (1968), produced with the rights to Ian Fleming's original novel, rights that Broccoli's company for some reason never acquired, did not attempt to play the drama at the French casino seriously, but instead thrust many top-name actors onto the screen in an unintelligible parody of everything that was becoming cliche in the spy thriller genre. David Niven, best known as Sir Charles Litton, alias the Phantom, in Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther (1963), played Sir James Bond, a doddering, stuttering, piano-playing, retired agent who, in contrast to Connery's Bond, was proudly celibate because, "A good spy is a pure spy." As the British Secret Service was low on personnel and Connery's Bond was missing, Niven's Bond came out of retirement and decided to throw at the enemy, SMERSH, the Russian Secret Service, all of the James Bonds that he could find. Peter Sellers (yes, Peter Sellers!) became a Bond. And Woody Allen, too. Woody Allen's Bond is revealed to be the less-than-genius, devious leader of SMERSH forces, with an apocalyptic scheme to render every man in the world short, like he is. Orson Welles played SMERSH operative Le Chiffre in an incoherent part. The climax of the film was the most raucous silliness ever filmed. It must be seen to believed! Picture American cowboys and Indians, Keystone Kops, and two seals joining the many James Bonds in a politely violent fist-fight with enemy spies in a French casino about to be blown sky-high when an explosive swallowed by a burping Woody Allen detonates, and this does not half envision the ridiculousness of Casino Royale's finale.
The tradition of spoofs has continued into the nineties with Spy Hard (1996), starring Leslie Nielsen in an extension of his Police Squad! "bumbling cop" persona into the field of international intrigue, and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), starring Mike Myers as a cryogenically preserved relic from the 1960s, a free-loving secret agent, revived in the 1990s to combat his nemesis, Dr. Evil, who resembles Donald Pleasence's Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.
Television series of the late 1960s, The Saint (with James-Bond-to-be Roger Moore), Mission: Impossible, and The Avengers, undeniably were influenced by the Bond phenomenon. In one episode of The Avengers entitled "The Hidden Tiger", John Steed (Patrick Macnee, who, in homage to his famous role in this television series, played Sir Godfrey Tibbitt in the 1985 Bond film, A View to a Kill) is tied by villains to a chair and surrounded by cats whose latent aggressive impulses are about to be violently released by a mechanical device. Steed's investigative partner and salvation, Mrs. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), arrives in the usual nick of time to free him and says, in reference to the cats all over the place, "pussies galore," a direct reference to the heroine in Goldfinger, who helped Bond to defeat the villain of that motion picture. This was an inside-joke for the television show's production team also, in that the actress, Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, was Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)'s predecessor as John Steed's female sidekick before she starred to world acclaim in Goldfinger and was replaced on The Avengers by Rigg. Furthermore, Rigg, after finishing her stint on The Avengers, herself starred as one of Bond's ladies, indeed Bond's most feisty, sophisticated, and self-reliant female to that date (1969), the woman who married him, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), in production order Broccoli and Saltzman Bond film number six.
But Connery was tiring of the role. He felt that the film series was becoming dependent on gadgetry and outlandish stunts and was drifting from intrigue, tension, and characterisation. Bond to him was becoming a one-dimensional, gadget-powered super-hero. And he did not want to be typecast as the spy with a one-liner in every breath, a sexy girl in every bed, and a fantastic, lethal-accessory-fitted vehicle in every garage, crate, or briefcase. After You Only Live Twice, Connery departed Eon Films to star in serious, dramatic roles. But the Bond franchise, now the most successful in movie history, had to continue. The helping hand of CIA agent Felix Leiter had changed actors. So, why not the character of Bond? If an equally virile and versatile actor could be cast to play Agent 007, the producers felt that the Bond films could continue into the 1970s.
Australian male model George Lazenby was chosen to play the second James Bond in Eon Films' series. The changeover was intended to be quite like that on the BBC television series, Doctor Who, in which the change of actor in the title role has always been coincident with the change in appearance by the alien hero, a physical regeneration at a time of "death", with the old body, poisoned or shattered or "worn out", replaced by an entirely new one, played by a different actor. In the Bond movie series, the change in appearance in the lead role was to be achieved by the comparably banal means of plastic surgery, supposedly so that Bond could pursue his arch-enemy, Blofeld, without being recognised. Scenes of Bond "going under the knife" and "coming out" as Lazenby were reported to have been slated for filming and then abandoned because the producers, uncertain about Lazenby, decided that they did not want to rule out a return by Connery to the Bond persona in a later film. Thus, Bond's new look went unexplained in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Viewers were expected to accept that Lazenby was Bond, unchanged from Connery's incarnation, only played by another actor, though there was a tongue-in-cheek reference to his predecessor in Lazenby's quip that, "This never happened to the other fella," referring to Diana Rigg's Tracy Draco character managing to escape from him immediately before the main title sequence of the film.
So, story-wise, Bond still looks the same. However, when Bond impersonates a famous genealogist and meets Blofeld, who is claiming to be a French Count, Blofeld does not recognise him, even though the Connery Bond had been un-helmeted to confront Donald Pleasence's Blofeld in You Only Live Twice! Blofeld was also played by a different actor in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Pleasence was reportedly not menacing enough, and his replacement was Telly Savalas, who gave to Blofeld ice-cold, ruthless energy. After all, who could picture Pleasence leading the SPECTRE army in a ski chase of Bond down a mountain?
On Her Majesty's Secret Service did not fare well in theatres or with critics. Audiences did not know who Lazenby was, and critics labelled him a wooden Connery pretender with a charisma factor of zero. It is true that many of his lines were dubbed. The glorious Swiss locales, the thrilling ski chases, the awesome effects, including a real avalanche, the fact that it was more faithful to Fleming's original writing than any Bond film to date, the almost non-stop action in the last hour, Louis Armstrong's touching song, the ironic "We Have All the Time in the World", and the heart-wrenching ending as Bond's wedding day ends in tragedy, ought to have won the film tremendous acclaim, not the rebuffs of fans and scorn of critics. But in time, opinion on the film changed. Lazenby was not as ineffectual as Bond as the critics claimed. He humanised Bond by causing him to appear vulnerable, losing a baccarat game, being facially cut in a fight, looking antsy while searching a lawyer's office with the lawyer due to return in an hour, showing fear while trying to lose his murderous pursuers in a crowd of Alpine Christmas revellers, and crying over the body of his murdered bride. The gadgets that had come to characterise the Bond series were removed in this film, allowing for a return to the mystery and tension of the first two films, and Bond's physique and ingenuity were tested to the limit, with no hardware to make his narrow escapes any easier. Diana Rigg was brilliant as the emotionally vulnerable yet dynamic Tracy, and Savalas portrayed a Bond villain nearly on par with Gert Frobe's marvellous Goldfinger. Many Bond enthusiasts believe that this was the best Bond film in terms of story and supporting elements, even if Connery seemed to be sorely missing, even if disharmony surrounded Lazenby on the film set.
The bottom line, as always, was the dollar. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was a disappointing film financially, and if the Bond movie series was to continue, Lazenby would have to be dropped and another, more recognisable and versatile actor be cast in the role. For the time being, however, the series needed Connery to revive its appeal, and United Artists urged Connery to return one last time as 007, by offering a substantial sum of money and promising to Connery the tour-de-force "final fling" that he wanted.
The 1971 film, Diamonds Are Forever (1971), essentially Bond in Las Vegas, was in every way the ultimate Bond adventure, with as many chases, beautiful girls, witty one-liners, and black-comedic fates for characters as possible in 2 hours of film, and it has a story, however improbable. Such were the efforts of Broccoli and Saltzman to produce a film that would remind viewers of what they had experienced more than 4 years earlier, when Connery's Bond was at the pinnacle of popularity. "We're back to what good movies are all about," said the announcer in the film's preview trailer. Connery, in the pre-credit sequence alone, ruthlessly "tracks down" Blofeld in one minute of film time and dispatches what he thinks is the real Blofeld into hot lava. Jill St. John was fun in dialogue as well as incredibly sexy as Tiffany Case, and the new Blofeld, Charles Gray, who played one of Blofeld's victims, a British operative named Henderson in You Only Live Twice, portrayed the recurring "heavy" with charm three times over, as Blofeld has used plastic surgery on willing associates to create duplicates of himself. Coming after the intensity and tragedy of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever sparkled with light-hearted wit, villains as interesting in their killing methods as in their strange sexual preference or dress style, and Bond infiltrating a top-secret electronics research facility and impersonating a technician with mock humility, then demolishing a squad of police cruisers in a chase through the streets and parking lots of Las Vegas. The final battle, an assault by helicopters upon Blofeld's ocean oil rig base, was original, as was Bond's delight at commandeering a crane and bashing Blofeld's bathosub against the side of the oil rig. Diamonds Are Forever was truly an excellent "send-off" for Connery's Bond.
Broccoli and Saltzman acted quickly to hire a new actor to portray the indomitable British agent, and this time they would hire a proven celebrity in a debonair, man-of-action role: Sean Connery's friend and star of the long-running 1960s television series, The Saint, Roger Moore.
Moore was suave, unflappable, smooth as glass, but lacked the physical intensity and virility of Connery. His attempts to replicate the Connery Bond's at times sadistic nature were evident in the first two films as he places a gun to Rosie Carver's head in Live and Let Die and demands a confession of her treachery and slaps Andrea Anders' face in The Man With the Golden Gun to demand Scaramanga's whereabouts. This particular violent streak was dropped by the third Moore Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Moore's Bond was a jack-of-all-puns lover. He allowed the "bad girls" to redeem themselves or die in the afoul schemes of the male megalomaniacs, and was a dispassionate killer at a distance of his madman foes.
Critics lamented the slide of the Bond series into a parody of its original self, by its reliance upon villains and henchmen (e.g. a killer with steel teeth: "His name's Jaws. He kills people.") that were ridiculous and only interesting in their comical expressions at times of failure, the racist epithets of a redneck sheriff, J. W. Pepper (Clifton James), gadgets and stunts played entirely for laughs, and villains whose aims of world domination had become cliche and were portrayed in an over-the-top manner, most notably Christopher Walken's chuckling killer, Max Zorin, in A View to a Kill.
This slide into camp is believed to have begun with Moore's first Bond film, Live and Let Die (1973). Moore's dandy Bond would acknowledge the ludicrousness of the events around him by raising an eyebrow, smiling on one side of his mouth, and nodding diagonally. Nothing phased him. The producers even resorted to having animals do double-takes or run away in shock on seeing Bond emerge from a body of water by transforming a gondola into a hovercraft, or by changing his car into a submarine and then converting it back into a car.
However, if viewed without comparison to the Connery films, Moore's Bond escapades are entertaining and stylish action flicks. Live and Let Die is wonderfully fast-paced, with prolonged car and motorboat chases, Bond being trapped (but not for long) in an alligator pen and demolishing an airport, a wedding ceremony, and a double-decker bus, and Yaphet Kotto's drug lord/politician villain, Dr. Kananga, arranging to kill his enemies in the midst of a Mardi Gras-like celebration, in which fake mourners for the murdered victim change instantly into revellers in a parade. Jane Seymour portrayed the vulnerable seer, Miss Solitaire, and her love scenes with Bond sizzled with energy. However, this film's bizarre mix of the surreal and the supernatural with Harlem street culture and Caribbean lore renders it remote and unengaging at times, and its final showdown between Bond and Kananga is anti-climactic. The best part, the motorboat chase, comes earlier.
Saltzman parted company with Broccoli after The Man With the Golden Gun in 1974, possibly the most disappointing film of the series, with virtually no climactic, spectacular battle between Bond's allies and the villain's minions and not any physical contact between Bond and his assassin antagonist. Bond kills Scaramanga in a one-on-one duel by imitating a waxworks statue of himself in Scaramanga's carnival-like shooting gallery and surprising Scaramanga with a bullet to the heart.
Moore's next two outings as the smooth super-spy were The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). These are good films because of their ambitious production values and quick pacing, though Bond is little more than a "tired punster", globetrotting and seducing all ladies in his sight and engaging with banal repartee the villains and his heroines. Moonraker was clearly made in the midst of the Star Wars craze with the intent of "cashing in" on the public's appetite for spatial special effects, and it stretched contemporary reality way too far, with an orbiting space station, complete with artificial gravity and radar-jamming equipment, phials of nerve gas in sufficient quantities to eradicate all human life on Earth and released from the space station by an evil industrialist "bent on" repopulating the Earth with perfect humans, and a laser gun battle between the opposing forces, Bond's versus the villain's. The decision to produce Moonraker must have happened sometime in 1978, because the "James Bond Will Return" tag at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 stated that For Your Eyes Only would be Bond's next film, not Moonraker.
For Your Eyes Only (1981) was an attempt to return the Bond series to the international intrigue and suspense in Europe for which From Russia With Love had been so successful, and veer away from the lavish ludicrousness of Moonraker. But From Russia With Love had Connery at his prime. For Your Eyes Only had an ageing Moore, who, for better or worse, had become known as the extravagant Bond of the gadget-filled, far-out and campy film, not as a subtle sleuth who could navigate through the Greek underworld as is supposed to be done by Bond in For Your Eyes Only. From Russia With Love had charismatic villains epitomising the fear of the opposition in the Cold War. By the early 1980s, the Cold War had become a bore. There was also a renewed effort to play Moore's Bond like Connery's "hard-edged" spy, kicking an assassin's car off a cliff. But this anti-heroic Bond no longer seemed convincing when played by Moore. For Your Eyes Only succeeds nevertheless, because it manages to use many Bond conventions (the car and ski chase, the underwater confrontation, the exotic locales) in a tautly plotted story, and reaches a hair-raising climax without need of flashy battles between opposing armies, by having Bond scaling a mountain, with a killer gradually dislodging Bond's tether links.
Bond's poker-faced boss, M, had been played by Bernard Lee in every Bond adventure in the Eon Films series since Dr. No. Lee died in 1981 and was too ill before his death to appear in For Your Eyes Only. So, in For Your Eyes Only, M is "on leave", and Bond must report to the Chief of Staff, M's superior, and to the Minister of Defence. From Octopussy (1983) to Licence to Kill (1989), M was played by Robert Brown, to be replaced by a lady (Judi Dench) in Goldeneye (1995).
1983 saw an unprecedented release of two rival Bond pictures in the same summer, with Connery's Bond returning for one, and Moore resuming his Bond role in the other. Kevin McClory (no relation to this writer), who co-wrote the original Thunderball novel with Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham, had acquired the film rights to the book subsequent to Eon Films' 1965 production of Thunderball. With Warner Brothers' backing, he persuaded Sean Connery to reprise his Bond, despite Connery having said, "Never again," after Diamonds Are Forever.
Produced outside of the domain of Eon Films and therefore not usually regarded as part of the Bond series proper, Never Say Never Again was a tribute to Connery's version of the Bond persona, a remake of Thunderball in all but name, reusing the atom bomb ransom plot, with SPECTRE (even though Moore's Bond had eliminated Blofeld once and for all by dropping him into a gas works incinerator at the start of For Your Eyes Only) stealing two nuclear warheads and demanding payment for revealing the location of their hiding place. The instigator of the scheme, Blofeld's right-hand, named Largo as the same character had been called in Thunderball, is volatile and menacing as played by Klaus Maria Brandauer, and Max Von Sydow is an excellent Blofeld. Kim Basinger as Domino, another repeat character from Thunderball, is as interesting to look at as Claudine Auger's version in the original, as are her scenes with Connery. Connery seemed to step into the role as though he had never left it, his age never really depreciating his credibility as a virile action hero. But the film is bland, lacking all of the trademarks of the recognised Bond film franchise: no opening gunshot, no stylish title sequence, no James Bond music during action scenes, no Desmond Llewelyn as Q (Bond's disapproving yet dedicated gadget provider). It had very little spectacle in its climax, although there was plenty of action in the events leading to it.
Octopussy, released in the same year with Roger Moore as Bond, seems a superior film, though it also revolves around the rehashed menace of a stolen nuclear bomb. Its East Indian and Eastern Europe locations serve as fascinating backdrop to the schemes of slithery, fanatical villains, a jewel-smuggling Afghan prince and a renegade Russian General with a plan to detonate a Soviet bomb smuggled into an American Air Force base in West Germany while a circus is "in town", with everyone expected to think that the bomb was a Western Alliance bomb detonated accidentally. It is a complicated but exciting plot. The murder of a clown-costumed British agent and the mystery of a jewelled egg whose fake facsimile, intended to replace the real thing in the Kremlin Art Gallery, ties the jewel-smuggling prince and his lovely accomplice, named Octopussy, to the crazed Russian, whose nuclear plot is not known to the film's title character.
Octopussy represents a continued effort, starting with the preceding film, For Your Eyes Only, to return the Bond movie series to the Cold War intrigue and suspense of the Connery years, but resorting somewhat to the flamboyant campiness of Moore's first Bond pictures, with such silliness as Bond, chasing the circus train that is carrying the bomb, running his car over spikes that deflate the tires, and then driving the disabled vehicle onto the railway tracks, where its metal tire rings lock onto the tracks, turning Bond's pursuit car into an automobile-locomotive; a personal submersible that looks like an alligator; and a fountain pen that spits acid ("Wonderful for poison pen letters," jokes Bond). The film climaxes with no seconds to spare as Bond deactivates the bomb, then overstays its welcome with a second climax as Octopussy goes to confront her accomplice who did not tell her about the bomb, and Bond must rescue her when she is abducted on an aeroplane.
By now (1983), the Bond film series had used every Ian Fleming book save for some short stories, and the next two films were adaptations of those. Not that it really mattered that unadapted Fleming novels were becoming scarce, because from The Spy Who Loved Me onward, aside from titles and character names, the Bond films bore no relation to the original novels upon which they were supposed to have been based. And Fleming's wish that The Spy Who Loved Me never be produced as a movie evidently was totally ignored by Eon Films. Both the screenplays for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker were written almost "from scratch" by Christopher Wood, who published novelised adaptations of the two films under the same titles, so that Fleming's original books were superseded in the marketplace by Wood's versions. Fleming purists lament the film Bond and his flamboyant, gadget-powered stuntman image and feel that Fleming must be spinning in his grave!
A View to a Kill (1985) (Fleming's original story was entitled "From a View to a Kill"), Moore's final film as Bond, showed him looking his years, which seriously hampered its credibility (yes, even the dubious credibility of a post-Connery Bond film). Bond's seducing a seismologist, played by Charlie's Angels' Tanya Roberts, young enough to be his daughter, and managing, with his 50-plus-years-old heart, to cling onto the mooring rope of a dirigible for a flight over San Francisco to a thrilling duel with the villain atop the Golden Gate Bridge, just do not seem kosher. A View to a Kill tried to "swipe" without anyone noticing, the plot of Superman (1978), involving a criminal mastermind's plan to trigger "the Big One" in southern California for his own personal gain, in this case a monopoly on computer microchip technology.
However, the cast is stellar! Patrick Macnee has an all-too-brief role as Bond's ill-fated helper, Christopher Walken is the horse race-cheat, steroid-spawned malefactor, Max Zorin, and Grace Jones is the one-of-a-kind masculine woman, May Day, who dominates Bond in bed and casually kills Zorin's enemies and Bond's allies, yet redeems herself by helping Bond to neutralise a bomb and stop a massive earthquake. A View to a Kill is a fun film to watch, if one overlooks the aforementioned credibility problem in Moore and the overuse of sadism, in particular Zorin's mass slaughter of his own workers, of which Moore has expressed disapproval and regret.
But A View to a Kill fared poorly in relation to the previous Moore Bond films, both financially and critically, and Moore decided, after the violent excesses of A View to a Kill- and knowing that his age was not in synchronisation with the physical action of the Bond character, not to reprise the role in the next film, The Living Daylights. And thus, producer Broccoli and his assistants began an intensive search for a younger actor of some celebrity profile to play Bond. Pierce Brosnan, of the mid-1980s television "hit", Remington Steele, was widely considered to be the top contender, but NBC, the U.S. television network that produced and broadcasted Brosnan's television show, would not release Brosnan from his contract, despite the fact that it had plans to cancel Remington Steele as a weekly offering in 1987, and production of The Living Daylights as a summer, 1987 film could not be delayed. Shakespearian actor Timothy Dalton, known to action film audiences as Prince Barin in Flash Gordon (1980), became James Bond, and Broccoli said in interviews that Dalton was who he wanted when the search for Moore's successor had started, and that Brosnan was never the front-runner. Reportedly, Broccoli felt that Brosnan, in his Remington Steele persona with which he was identified by most audiences, lacked the cynical toughness that was wanted for the new Agent 007. Evidently, this opinion changed in 1993, when Broccoli and United Artists signed Brosnan to replace Dalton as Bond.
In The Living Daylights, Dalton reinvigorated Bond with youthful yet intense, cynical energy as an indomitable globetrotting agent. Gone were Moore's trademark smirk and lighter side. Dalton's Bond was dark, in looks and personality, less flamboyant, more physically aggressive, and, with the AIDS scare, less inclined to "sleep around". The Living Daylights opened to substantial acclaim by audiences and critics, yet in the 1990s, especially after Dalton was replaced by Brosnan, the film has been unfairly pilloried as boring by people second-guessing Dalton's ability as an actor and his suitability to portray a charismatic action hero. But Dalton's Bond was in personality terms quite like Connery's in the first two films of the series and thus conformed to Fleming's original. Dalton himself expressed a fondness for the Fleming books, and his Bond seems to indicate this. Though he does utter an occasional pun, the puns are never meant humorously.
M's secretary, the forever amorous Miss Moneypenny, aged gracefully with Lois Maxwell in the role from Dr. No onward, but Maxwell had to be replaced in The Living Daylights. With Bond now played by the younger Timothy Dalton, in order for the usual flirting between Moneypenny and Bond to be on a believable level, as Moneypenny is supposed to admire Bond as someone of near equal age, a young actress was needed, and Caroline Bliss was adequately cast. Q, however, could be believable at any age. A man who fusses over his gadgets like a dotty professor, can be 25, 50, or 75! Desmond Llewelyn was to play Q in all of Eon Films' Bond entries from From Russia With Love to 1999's The World is Not Enough, though Q is not actually seen in Live and Let Die.
The Living Daylights is a decent Bond film by any standard. The story, as always, stemmed from current events. At that time (1987), the "flap" over an unauthorised sale of arms by the United States to Iran, a sale in which a fanatically patriotic, military maverick named Oliver North was the agent, was on the minds of Americans and their Western allies. So, the villain in The Living Daylights was a rogue American with military pretencions- and no scruples as to who receives his weapons and what methods are used to secure payment. With regard to the dwindling Cold War and more agreeable Soviet leadership, Russian villains in the 1980s' James Bond movies were renegades, and the Russian General who assists the main villain in The Living Daylights is another such. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was also, in 1987, a major international issue. So, the storyline for The Living Daylights incorporated this. The Afghan resistance assists Bond to foil the scheme of his foes to supply high-technology weapons to the Russian forces in Afghanistan by illegal means- because the Soviet government wanted to gracefully "back out" of Afghanistan.
The Living Daylights contains a fantastic car chase in which Bond breaks through the Iron Curtain with his heroine, a cello-player from Czechoslovakia, pursued by the East Bloc's forces. Bond and his girl toboggan down a mountain inside a cello case. And Bond's confrontations with the villains, culminating in both an excellently choreographed desert battle between horse-riding Afghan rebels- assisted by Bond- and the renegade Russian forces and a personal duel between Bond and the American arms dealer in the dealer's showroom of military paraphernalia, are Bond at his best. Alas, Dalton's Bond was not given an equally effective second film, which sealed the fate of his incarnation of the super-spy.
1989's Licence to Kill was released at the same time as the blockbuster, Batman, the successful Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and the fifth film in the Star Trek franchise. So, it had much to compete against, and the increasingly dark and violent style of cinema must have been uppermost in the psyches of Broccoli and company, because there was a decision to turn Bond into an angry maverick amid a backdrop of violence unprecedented in the Bond series. Not even the excesses of A View to a Kill can compare to the overboard sadism and gore of Licence to Kill. The producers were so desperate to conceive a villain that could surpass Goldfinger, Blofeld, and Dr. No in ruthlessness, and also to tap into the increasing fear about the expanding drug trade, that they spawned Franz Sanchez, the Devil incarnate, who orders the heart sliced out of a man with whom his girl is caught sleeping, who explodes one of his cohorts in a pressure tank when he thinks that he has been "double-crossed", and who murders Felix Leiter's bride and feeds Leiter to a shark, leaving Bond's long-time friend de-limbed and close to death. Bond is furious, and the non-committal attitude of his own agency causes him to revolt, to act on his own initiative, to avenge himself upon Sanchez, and Heaven help anybody who tries to stop him. Only the presence of Desmond Llewelyn as Q reminds the viewer that this is a James Bond film. What did Moore's Bond say in For Your Eyes Only about revenge? "Before setting out on revenge, you first dig two graves." That is what Dalton's Bond must have done, because Licence to Kill was his second and last appearance.
Licence to Kill was the last Bond film for many years. It had utilised the last of Fleming's hitherto un-filmed ideas, the criminals' feeding of Leiter to a shark in Fleming's Live and Let Die, and now there was no further Fleming source material to access. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the apparent end to the threat of Soviet aggression, and the elimination years previous of Blofeld and SPECTRE, there seemed to be no convincing antagonists for whom to have Bond combat. Licence to Kill fared very poorly in the judgement of critics and in the box offices. And there were legal battles that had to be fought between Eon Films and United Artists over ownership of the James Bond character. Tabloid newspapers reported in 1992 that Bond would return as a celibate, ponderous detective, still played by Dalton. A year later, however, it was announced that Dalton was to be replaced by Pierce Brosnan to bring Bond into the 1990s.
But Brosnan's Bond of the 1990s, first appearing in Goldeneye (1995), has been an unremarkable hodge-podge of the characteristics of his predecessors. He has Moore's smirk and enjoyment of puns, Dalton's scowl during times of stress, and a touch of Connery's macho virility, and yet seems a pale imitator of all of them. In an attempt to return, after the "dour seriousness" of Dalton, to the "campiness" of the Moore era, the pre-title sequence of Goldeneye involves Bond's bungee-jump off of a dam in northern Russia and into a top-secret, high-security chemical plant, from which he single-handedly escapes after priming a bomb, by machine-gunning an avalanche of chemical drums onto the Russian soldiers, motorcycling off of a cliff, somehow gaining free-falling entry into an unoccupied aeroplane that has also gone off of the cliff, and managing to achieve control of the aeroplane before it hits bottom of gorge. Critics quite aptly labelled Brosnan's Bond as a wannabe Dean Cain, of television's Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Bond had been a sexual and gadget-powered super-man of a thousand stunts, and now he flies like the popular super-hero. And no apparent wires!
The ludicrousness of Goldeneye persists with yet another renegade Russian General, a defecting, former British agent now a criminal syndicate leader in Russia, a Russian woman who derives sexual gratification by using her legs to collapse the lungs of and thereby suffocate her victims, and the commandeering by these three hoodlums of a satellite that fires a magnetic pulse capable of destroying a manned and computerised global monitoring station in Siberia and three helicopters, one of which crashes into the monitoring station, sparing a lady computer programmer from the explosions and mayhem around her. The three villains intend to use their hijacking of another satellite of this type to obliterate anything on Earth in which a computer is installed, and, naturally, London is the first target as decreed by the British "turncoat".
The remainder of Goldeneye has Bond going to Leningrad to search for the trio of villains and demolishing much of the city by ramming an army tank through brick walls and large statues as he chases the Russian General, who has the lady computer programmer, whom Bond carnally fancies of course, as a hostage. The defector British agent and Bond confront each other several times and exchange rather trite spy banter, like the question asked of Bond, whether all of the vodka martinis and willing women have silenced the screams of all of the men that he has killed. The anticipated climax, with Bond and his girl infiltrating the headquarters of the villains and disabling the dish that controls the satellite, ends in an equally predictable duel between Bond and the "turncoat" atop the dish, with the villain falling nearly 100 feet- and still being alive to witness the collapse of the dish as Bond's pen-bomb, another of Q's bizarre gadgets, triggers a chain-reaction of explosions. Add a gung-ho American agent played by Joe-Don Baker and a Russian computer "nerd" who repeatedly says, "I am invincible!", and this film's cliches are complete. Judi Dench is stilted as the cold-as-ice, new M, but Desmond Llewelyn as the eternally wonderful Q is "on hand" to display his lethal trinkets, which he places next to his submarine sandwich lunch!
Goldeneye pleased many fans, and it admittedly is an entertaining motion picture, probably more so in terms of action than either of Dalton's films. Tina Turner's song for the opening credits is appealing, with obvious reference to Brosnan, who admired Bond since seeing Goldfinger at the age of 9- watching Bond, "from the shadows as a child." And the villains are certainly more charismatic than Sanchez in Licence to Kill. Yet, this writer found the film a flamboyant disappointment, though for the enjoyment of action, it is more watchable than Licence to Kill or The Man With the Golden Gun.
While its competition at box offices included the highest-ever-grossing Titanic, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) fared admirably, and its mid-European and Far Eastern locals together reference the second films of Connery and Moore, which is somewhat fascinating. Also, as a compelling correspondence with a sardonic statement by M in the preceding Bond flick ("Unlike the American government, we prefer not to get our news from CNN."), the villain in Tomorrow Never Dies is a television-radio-newspaper mogul who is prepared to cause catastrophic news to bolster his all-important ratings! Now, that is original, and quite believable in the era of the hundred channel cable television universe!
Tomorrow Never Dies is a romp even faster-paced than Brosnan's initial outing as 007, including a lengthy car chase in a parking garage, during which Bond drives his car with a remote-control device while laying in the car's back seat (onto which he leapt with no moments to spare), and a thrilling evasion of enemy helicopters by Bond and his girl, a highly efficient and judo-adept Chinese agent named Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), aboard a motorcycle- while handcuffed together! Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the sociopath sophisticate, media magnate Elliot Carver, rivalling Goldfinger and Blofeld for his cold, calculating, charismatic evil. Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane of television's Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; yes, the same television show with which Brosnan's first film was compared!) plays the spouse of Carver and an "old fling" of Bond's, which dooms her to early death in this Bond adventure.
Until 1992, Eon Films' James Bond series from Dr. No onward received network television exposure in the United States on the ABC television network. Three, four, or as many as five films were shown per year during the 1980s. As one would expect, ABC cut the films for violence and sexual innuendos or situations- and also for commercial time. The first three entries of the series were most severely reduced. To fit into a two-hour airtime, these movies, at 111, 118, and 108 minutes in length, were heavily excised. The entire pre-credit sequence of Goldfinger was removed, thereby eliminating a hitting of a woman on her head and a criminal's electrocution in a bathtub. Oddjob's death scene was also altered so that the electric shock is not as prolonged. From Russia, With Love's entire gypsy camp segment- including a fight between two women- was eliminated, a scene of Bond checking his assigned hotel room for surveillance "bugs" was deleted, and Bond's aboard-train death-struggle with Grant and many other scenes were shortened. Dr. No lost many brief scenes, and cuts for violence included the reduction of bullets pumped into victims. And each time that these films ran on ABC, they were shorter!
Later films in the series, while not butchered to this extent, underwent some noteworthy censorship. A scene involving a SPECTRE thug falling into a snow-clearing machine and being sliced and diced so that Bond comments, "He had lots of guts," was cut from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Most of the homosexual innuendos in the Wint-Kidd relationship in Diamonds Are Forever were not permitted on television, and nor were such brutalities as Sanchez's various vengeful deeds in Licence to Kill.
Albert R. Broccoli died in 1996, months after the release of Goldeneye. His original co-producer, Harry Saltzman, died two years earlier. The James Bond films continue under the production of Broccoli's stepson, Michael G. Wilson, who was Broccoli's co-producer from Moonraker onward. But the overriding question is, should they continue? Ian Fleming's novels have all been adapted. Bond is, to quote Judi Dench's M in Goldeneye, "...a sexist misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War..." As undeniably wonderful as the Bond films were in their original heyday, the Bond in the most recent films has seemed out of place. More to the point, even if Bond were 30 in Dr. No in 1962, he would by 1997 be 65 and eligible for retirement, or at the very least an old man incapable of such wild stunts as a free-fall commandeering of an aeroplane, or a jump to grab hold of the landing gear of a helicopter in mid-air.
1999's Bond film, again with Brosnan as Agent 007, was The World is Not Enough. An incoherent storyline, with uninspired villains for some reason desiring, at any cost, control of the energy industry in Turkey, and Bond prancing from one ostentatious and wildly improbable stunt to another while uttering unsophisticated double-entendres (e.g. "One, last screw."), amounted to further evidence that the James Bond film franchise is tired and should mercifully be retired. Ace Bond script-writer Richard Maibaum died in 1991, and his successors have been mostly unable to engender anything resembling his story success. When the enemies discharge hundreds of machine gun bullets at a running Bond and consistently miss target, when Bond needs the intervention of a Russian enemy-turned-ally to free him from a death chair, when Bond is alternately playing Superman, Six Million Dollar Man, and Man From Atlantis, and when the villainess stupidly declines to grab her dropped gun and fire it at Bond and instead chooses to climb a winding stairwell to lead her pursuer (Bond) to confront and kill her at stairs top, it is rather clear indication that James Bond ought to already have resigned his licence to kill, for he does not have quality writers anymore.
Climax!- "Casino Royale" (1954) Barry Nelson (Jimmy Bond), Linda Christian (Valerie Mathis), Peter Lorre (Le Chiffre), Michael Pate (Clarence Leiter). Dr. No (1962) Sean Connery (James Bond), Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder), Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No), Jack Lord (Felix Leiter), John Kitzmiller (Quarrel). From Russia With Love (1963) Sean Connery (James Bond), Daniela Bianchi (Tatiana Romanova), Lotte Lenya (Rosa Klebb), Robert Shaw (Red Grant), Pedro Armendariz (Kerim Bey). Goldfinger (1964) Sean Connery (James Bond), Gert Frobe (Auric Goldfinger), Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Harold Sakata (Oddjob), Shirley Eaton (Jill Masterson). Thunderball (1965) Sean Connery (James Bond), Claudine Auger (Domino Largo), Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo), Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe), Guy Doleman (Count Lippe). You Only Live Twice (1967) Sean Connery (James Bond), Akiko Wakabayashi (Aki), Mie Hama (Kissy Suzuki), Donald Pleasence (Blofeld), Tetsuro Tamba (Tiger Tanaka), Teru Shimada (Osato), Karin Dor (Helga Brandt). Casino Royale (1968) David Niven (Sir James Bond), Woody Allen (Jimmy Bond), Peter Sellers (Evelyn Tremble), Orson Welles (Le Chiffre), Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd). On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Tracy Draco), Telly Savalas (Blofeld), Gabriele Ferzetti (Marc-Ange Draco), Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt). Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Sean Connery (James Bond), Jill St. John (Tiffany Case), Charles Gray (Blofeld), Lana Wood (Plenty O'Toole), Bruce Cabot (Albert Saxby), Bruce Glover (Mr. Wint), Putter Smith (Mr. Kidd), Jimmy Dean (Willard Whyte). Live and Let Die (1973) Roger Moore (James Bond), Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big), Jane Seymour (Solitaire), Clifton James (Sheriff J. W. Pepper), Julius Harris (Tee Hee). The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) Roger Moore (James Bond), Christopher Lee (Francisco Scaramanga), Britt Ekland (Mary Goodnight), Maud Adams (Andrea Anders), Herve Villechaize (Nick Nack). The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Roger Moore (James Bond), Barbara Bach (Major Anya Amasova), Curt Jurgens (Karl Stromberg), Richard Kiel (Jaws), Caroline Munro (Naomi). Moonraker (1979) Roger Moore (James Bond), Lois Chiles (Dr. Holly Goodhead), Michael Lonsdale (Hugo Drax), Richard Kiel (Jaws), Corinne Clery (Corinne Dufour). For Your Eyes Only (1981) Roger Moore (James Bond), Carole Bouquet (Melina Havelock), Topol (Milos Colombo), Lynn-Holly Johnson (Bibi Dahl), Julian Glover (Ari Kristatos). Octopussy (1983) Roger Moore (James Bond), Maud Adams (Octopussy), Louis Jourdan (Kamal Khan), Kristina Wayborn (Magda), Kabir Bedi (Gobinda), Steven Berkoff (General Orlov). Never Say Never Again (1983) Sean Connery (James Bond), Kim Basinger (Domino Petachi), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Maximillian Largo), Barbara Carrera (Fatima Blush), Max Von Sydow (Blofeld). A View to a Kill (1985) Roger Moore (James Bond), Christopher Walken (Max Zorin), Tanya Roberts (Stacey Sutton), Grace Jones (May Day), Patrick Macnee (Sir Godfrey Tibbett). The Living Daylights (1987) Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Maryam d'Abo (Kara Milovy), Jeroen Krabbe (General Georgi Koskov), Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker). Licence to Kill (1989) Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Carey Lowell (Pam Bouvier), Robert Davi (Franz Sanchez), Talisa Soto (Lupe Lamora), Anthony Zerbe (Milton Krest), Wayne Newton (Professor Joe Butcher). Goldeneye (1995) Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sean Bean (Alec Trevelyan), Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Siminova), Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp), Joe Don Baker (Jack Wade), Judi Dench (M), Gottfried John (General Ourumov). Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Jonathan Pryce (Elliot Carver), Michelle Yeoh (Wai Lin), Teri Hatcher (Paris Carver). The World is Not Enough (1999) Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra King), Denise Richards (Dr. Christmas Jones), Robert Carlyle (Renard). Die Another Day (2002) Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Halle Berry (Jinx), Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves), Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost), Rick Yune (Zao), Judi Dench (M), John Cleese (Q), Michael Madsen (Damian Falco).