Connery Redux

Woohoo! Yesterday I posted that the four lesser Connery Bond films are available on instant Netflix and *surprise!* today the three best Connery Bond films became available on instant play – in HD no less! I look forward to rewatching these classics some time in the next week or so.

Dr. No (1962) – Rated PG

On a mission in Jamaica, suave Agent 007 (Sean Connery) — in the first of the James Bond films — finds mad scientist Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) plotting to derail the U.S. space program and take over the world.

While not the first Bond adaptation, Dr. No is the first of the official MGM adaptations and thus the first of the Sean Connery Bonds. I rank this one third of the Connery Bonds. The pluses to this film are the portrayal of Bond as ruthless (something the series gradually steers away from until Casino Royale brought the series back on track), the performance of Connery who is front and center for much of the film, and the lack of distracting gadgets.

Goldfinger (1964) – Rated PG

The third installment in the 007 series — which racked up an Oscar for its sound effects — finds uberspy James Bond trying to thwart baddie Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his elaborate gambit to corner the gold market by contaminating Fort Knox.

“Do you expect me to talk?” – “No Mr. Bond I expect you to die!”

Considered by many to be the height of the Bond series, Goldfinger is a fun romp with several memorable villains, signature gadgets that do not overwhelm the story, and an interesting, if implausible, plot.

From Russia with Love (1963) – Rated PG

Bond is back — and so are the bullets, beauties and bad guys! You’ll be shaken and stirred by Sean Connery’s second outing as 007, which has him paying the price for his previous adventure when SPECTRE seeks revenge for the death of Dr. No.

This is my absolute favorite Bond film. Being the second film, the rough edges of Dr. No have been polished out but the gadgets have yet to overwhelm the series. The plot is thankfully not about a megalomaniac trying to take over and/or destroy the world but is instead about the intrigue between British intelligence (and their allies), the Russians (and their allies), and SPECTRE.

Although quite dated, it features one of the first realistic fist fights put on film. Much of it takes place on a train which is a personal favorite of mine and the beginning takes place in (and under) Istanbul which I had the joy of visiting some years back. Pedro Armendariz gives a wonderful performance as Ali Kerim Bey in spite of being terminally ill with cancer during the filming.

My Name is Connery, Sean Connery

Instant Netflix has an absolute plethora of James Bond films currently available. Sean Connery has always been my favorite Bond (though Daniel Craig is a close second). Wonderfully four of the Connery Bond films are on instant play. Not so wonderful – Connery made seven Bond films and his three best (From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Dr. No) are the ones that are not available. Back on the wonderful side – these films are available in HD (if you have the bandwidth).

Thunderball (1965) – Rated PG

Terrorist mastermind Emilio Largo hijacks two nuclear weapons and has his sights set on a blackmail payday of global proportions — unless James Bond (Sean Connery) can stop him!

Thunderball is the fourth best Connery Bond film. Yes it is dated but Bond is tough and this is not embarrassing like the other three are. This is the last Connery Bond to even attempt to adapt the book. The downside to this is that not only is it dated but it is slow-moving in comparison to the other Bonds.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

After American and Soviet spaceships disappear, the two countries trade blame for the incidents. As the nations edge toward war, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself in the middle of another international mystery. After staging his own death, Agent 007, with Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba) and the beautiful Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), discovers that the leader (Donald Pleasence) of the SPECTRE crime organization orchestrated the events.

This one is a real split decision. Connery begins to phone in his Bond beginning with this installment but the supporting cast is quite good, especially Donald Pleasance who makes the best Blofeld. The Bond series is often misogynistic but this one also takes a bit of a dip into racism. The sets are wonderful and the action sequences are fun.

Diamonds are Forever (1971) – Rated PG

When he discovers that his evil nemesis, Blofeld (Charles Gray), is stockpiling the world’s supply of diamonds to use in a deadly laser satellite, secret agent James Bond (Sean Connery) sets out to stop the madman, with the help of beautiful smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John).

I have a soft spot for this film. This was the first movie I ever remember seeing in a theater. I even remember having Necco wafers as my candy. Still this one is embarrassing, fun but embarrassing. I cannot watch Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint without wincing from the homophobia on display.

This was also the first of the Bonds to devolve into self-parody. It provides a bit of a segue into the Roger Moore era where nothing is taken seriously. Connery once again phones it in and pretty much everyone else plays it over the top. Oddly Charles Gray who played Henderson in You Only Live Twice returns here as Blofeld.

Never Say Never Again (1983) – Rated PG

Sean Connery makes his final appearance as Agent 007 in this action classic. When two atomic warheads are hijacked by the evil SPECTRE organization, James Bond jumps into a frantic race to save the world from nuclear terrorists. With Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Blofeld (Max von Sydow) and Fatima (Barbara Carrera) bent on destroying the world, Bond is never far from death in director Irvin Kershner’s Golden Globe-nominated spy flick.

I love Connery but here he is starting to show his age as a 53-year-old Bond. This film resulted from some bizarre legal rights regarding Thunderball. This is not part of the official MGM Bond canon and is essentially a remake of Thunderball. Unfortunately, as with Diamonds, the supporting performances are over the top. Barbara Carrera is a lot of fun as bad girl Fatima Blush.

Steven Seagal was the martial arts instructor and look for the debut of Rowan Atkinson as Nigel Small-Fawcett. Sadly this barely even feels like a Bond film since M, Q, and Moneypenny are played by different people and the music seems out of place.