The Rest of the Bonds

While instant Netflix is a goldmine if you like Connery or Moore as Bond, you are completely out of luck if you prefer Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan. Also missing is the screwball 60s comedy Casino Royale. Still there are a few more Bonds for me to cover.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby takes over the role of Agent 007 for what many consider to be the finest Bond film ever made. Bond tracks archnemesis Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas) to a mountaintop retreat where he’s training an army of beautiful but lethal women. Along the way, Bond falls for Italian contessa Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg) — and marries her in order to get closer to Blofeld. Meanwhile, he locates Blofeld in the Alps and embarks on a classic ski chase.

This one is better than many give it credit. Unfortunately what sinks it is the casting. George Lazenby is a cipher as Bond and shows little charisma and Telly Savalas makes the worst of the Blofelds. Diana Rigg is quite good as Tracy Draco and is thankfully treated as more than the arm candy that some of the Bond girls end up as.

The Living Daylights (1987) – Rated PG

Timothy Dalton makes his suave and lethal debut as superagent James Bond in this turbo-charged action-adventure. This time, Bond’s charged with protecting a Soviet general (Jeroen Krabbe) from a beautiful sniper (Maryam d’Abo). But after being used as a pawn in a fake defector scheme, Agent 007 must trek across the world to find the escaped general and stop a terrifying weapons conspiracy that may be linked to the Soviet military high command.

Licence to Kill (1989) – Rated PG-13

James Bond (Timothy Dalton) resigns from the Secret Service after a friend in the CIA (along with his new wife) is brutally murdered by drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). With a score to settle, Bond partners up with pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and Sanchez’s mistress (Talisa Soto). While avoiding the British government, Bond races across land, air and water in a whirlwind of action and suspense.

Timothy Dalton was not bad as Bond. He jettisoned the tongue-in-cheek approach of Roger Moore to bring back some of the Bond toughness but I am afraid that he comes across as the successor to George Lazenby. They tried him a couple times and then rebooted with Pierce Brosnan.

Casino Royale (1954)

Having gambled away a vast sum of his country’s funds, a diabolical Soviet spy (Peter Lorre) tries to recoup his losses through a high-stakes game of baccarat, but secret agent James Bond (Barry Nelson) enters the competition to foil him in this 1954 teleplay. Intended as a pilot for a weekly TV series that never materialized, this first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel finds 007 portrayed as an American.

Casino Royale (1954 – not the 1967 comedy or the 2006 reboot) is quite an oddity. It showcases many of the limitations of 1950s television. I’ve always enjoyed Peter Lorre from his scary debut as the serial killer in “M” up through his humorous AIP turns in The Raven and Comedy of Terrors (both 1963) but this is not one of his best roles.

There is not much to recommend this film except as the first appearance of James Bond and that it is less than an hour long. Still if you are curious, instant Netflix offers it up.

 

My Name is Moore, Roger Moore

While the Connery Bond selection was disappointing (initially – then they added the three best ones), the Moore one is heartening. My two favorite Roger Moore – James Bond films are available on instant Netflix (Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun) as well as The Spy who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill.

Live and Let Die (1973) – Rated PG

Roger Moore steps in as the suave, sophisticated Agent 007 in this eighth Bond installment. Bonds investigation of the murders of three fellow agents in New York soon puts him on the trail of Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), a Harlem crime boss plotting a globally threatening scheme involving tons of self-produced heroin. Jane Seymour plays Mr. Big’s Tarot card reader, the beautiful Solitaire, whose loyalties are quickly cultivated by the charming Bond.

Live and Let Die is the first and easily the best of the Roger Moore Bonds. The story is a bit problematic as the hero and main damsel in distress are white Anglo-Saxons and the villains are ummm well not so much but strangely I didn’t find that offensive so much as silly – “Watch as a white man infiltrates Harlem!” and it works as an adjunct to the then current Blaxploitation era.

If you can get past that then there is quite a bit of fun to be had here. The villains are fun (particularly Yaphet Kotto and Geoffrey Holder) and, frankly, more interesting than Bond. Our main damsel is played by a gorgeous 22-year-old Jane Seymour. The locations are interesting as are the situations – basically the operative word for this movie is fun.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) – Rated PG

Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), the world’s deadliest assassin, has set his sights set on 007 (Roger Moore). James Bond has a license to kill, but Scaramanga isn’t playing by anyone’s rules as the cat-and-mouse game of death takes the two from the Far East to Scaramanga’s island lair.

First let me state that yes I understand that this is not a good movie. Yes Herve Villechaize is tremendously annoying. Yes the martial arts subplot is quaint and lamely attempting to cash in on the then-popular Bruce Lee craze. Yes J.W. Pepper (from Live and Let Die) makes a very unwelcome appearance here. Still with all that I have a huge soft spot for Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, Britt Ekland is quite cute and Roger Moore is still a little charming.

The Spy who Loved Me (1977) – Rated PG

This one is pretty good and is better than The Man with the Golden Gun though I like it less.

Moonraker (1979) – Rated PG

I really like the opening gag of having Bond jump out of a plane without a parachute to steal someone else’s in mid-air. After that though the rest of the film flips back and forth between aping the success of The Spy who Loved Me (even to the extent of having Richard Kiel return as Jaws), amping up the gadgetry and playing Bond for cheap laughs.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Rated PG

Taking a few pointers from the failures of Moonraker, Bond has almost no gadgets in this film and the one-liners are toned way down. Not only that but Bond encounters a woman who is quite willing to sleep with him and he turns her down.

Octopussy (1983) – Rated PG

See Moonraker above.

A View to a Kill (1985) – Rated PG

How can you go wrong with Christopher Walken as a villain? Well let us just say they did – after this they attempted to reboot the franchise with Timothy Dalton as Bond.