Bond James Bond


It snowed! We got about 5 inches of snow and early this morning, despite my fearsome hangover, I took the dogs out for a run in it. It was fun! We took a shortcut home and fell down a lot! I saw a deer! The dogs ran everywhere! And then they slept all afternoon and that was nice too. I should have done the same.

However! This post has nothing to do with snow. This post is about JAMES BOND because I have decided to watch all the Bond movies in order. I was going to live blog them but that didn’t work out well: it’s hard to type on the tablet, it plays hell with my knitting (I can’t watch movies without knitting) and I end up just writing things like Wow and OMG and Fuck, male gaze much? So! Here is a post about the first two movies. It may be edited to add something about the third movie, which I’m probably going to watch tonight.

I grew up with James Bond. Didn’t we all? The movies were on TV and occasionally we even went to the theatre to see them. I am beginning to remember that we went to a lot of movies when I was a kid. My younger brother and I were talking about this and we think our parents dropped us off at the movie theater rather more frequently than might be considered kosher nowadays. But it was the 70s and they were pretty much the opposite of helicopter parents – submarine parents, perhaps? You rarely saw them unless they surfaced for a mission? Anyway, I got a lot of early exposure to James Bond and I’m fine with that. As we grew older, they were on TV and then, for a while in the early 00s, they always ran Bond marathons during the holidays, and we would all settle in and watch obsessive amounts of James Bond. So, as you can see, I like James Bond movies. I have philistine taste in movies anyway: Roger Moore is the James Bond of my childhood and I’m even okay with that. Explosions! Villains! It’s all good! But I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen them all and now, now with your help, gentle reader, I’m going to remedy that.

Turns out, I hadn’t seen them all. I watched Dr. No and then From Russia With Love last week and I don’t think I had ever seen either of them all the way through or maybe even at all. From Russia With Love was completely unfamiliar, but parts of Dr. No rang a few distant bells. Dr. No, it turns out, is a really a pretty damn good movie. From Russia With Love, not so much. Anyway, there are possible spoilers from here on in if that sort of thing bothers you. If there can be spoilers for movies that are older than I am when I ain’t no spring chicken. I have a theory that all the Bond movies are going to follow the same plot, so we will see if I am right. This is off the top of my head, by the way, I didn’t get this from anywhere.

That plot is:
1. Off to an exotic locale|
2. Weird shit is afoot, people getting knocked off. There’s a car chase.
3. Bond doesn’t trust the local spies – they might be corrupt. But he has one (wisecracking, male) friend!
4. Sexy interlude with either the main girl or some subsidiary girl who might well be in the pay of the enemy.
5. Bond’s friend gets offed.
6. A different exotic locale.
7. Villain! Lair! Minions! Doomsday device! Captured! It looks bad!
8. Bond saves the day. Vengeance for the friend!
9. Off into the sunset by water with the main love interest.
10. Villain or possibly subsidiary villain resurfaces! Peril!
11. Villain vanquished, back to floating off with the girl while the credits roll.

Dr. No (1962) is set in the Caribbean. It serves up almost all the Bond tropes right off the bat, which was kind of cool. I guess I thought they evolved over time, but no,  it started off immediately with the cheesy intro with the bullet hole in the titles, looking much cooler done by hand than it does all fancified and digital today. Actually the clothes and the sets and the props and the cars, oh god the cars, are just all kinds of early 60s awesome. I kept pausing it to ogle. There is Bond, being irresistible (it seems that all the women in the early 60s were in a continual state of, basically, heat. Who knew? They can’t control themselves. Perhaps it was the girdles.) flirting with Moneypenny, being pert to M – actually, in this movie, Bond is very subservient to M and the whole relationship feels much more military than iI remember. Anyway, here is Bond, looking sexy (I have had a crush on Sean Connery since, um, I was 12? Or thereabouts?) and there, in due course, was the requisite love interest and the creepy crazy villain with the exotic lair and fully uniformed minions.  It was quite lean, though, and Bond did not have much tech. I was primed for it to be racist but I thought it was mercifully not too bad given its setting and time period. It was also not overwhelmingly brutal or violent -the varied assassinations were pretty straightforward: bam, shot, done. The first love interest is an Asian girl with a totally sweet record player and a funky bungalow who is predictably in the pay of Dr. No; the second is Ursula Andress in that famous bikini. Ursula Andress is the daughter of a marine biologist who was homeschooled all over the world and has no fear or ethical code. Why this has to be spelled out – she explains how she killed a man with a black widow spider just as a sort of aside –  I have no idea. She seems refreshingly independent but then she asks Bond if he has a woman of his own. Which is kinda stalkery and I was left wondering at the end of the movie how he ever got rid of her. Anyway, it’s a pretty good movie. I give it an A-. This is the standard by which we shall judge all 25 remaining movies.

From Russia With Love was much more, hmm, how shall I put this? Broader. Played for laughs. Less serious, less plausible (OK, Dr. No, a crazed Chinese gazillionaire trying to blackmail the USA by destroying moon rockets for, um, who knows, with, um, radioactive beams of radioactivity is not super plausible, but then Donald Trump is going to be president soon so what do I know about the nature of reality?)  and much fuller of dumb subplots. It’s more convoluted and it suffers as a result, but it does see the introduction of Q and some fancy gadgetry in the form of a killer briefcase. It’s also got a lot more gratuitous violence than Dr. No. There is a beautiful Russian spy. There is the evil Russian lady with the poison knives in her shoes! (I remember her! She must be in more movies! Yay! I love her. Her chosen weapon is just so completely feeble; it’s awesome and I laughed out loud at the end when she resurfaced and tried to kick Bond to death in the shins.)

After an intro featuring a Russian training camp where some blond psycho dude is killing people who look like Bond, the real Bond goes off to Istanbul. SPECTRE (the union of supervillains) is trying to play Russia and Britain against each other so someone can seize a Russian decoder, which looks one hell of a lot like a typewriter. OK, sure, whatever, why not keep this one vital thing in Istanbul rather than, oh,  Moscow? Never mind! As the plot progresses, Bond’s friend and sidekick, who is also completely irresistible to all women, although one cannot really see why, takes him through secret tunnels to the Russian embassy where they watch Russians with a periscope. A lot of the second Tomb Raider game was totally stolen from this movie, by the way. Then they go off to a gypsy camp so there can be bellydancing and a girlfight which is solved by Bond getting it on with two gypsy chicks at once. See above, re, state of heat of early 60s women. The gypsy thing is a bit unpleasant – hence my male gaze note. Fortunately it is over soon and makes no sense anyway! There is a cool part where a Russian guy is shot and falls through a movie billboard. Bob Hope! OMG! Then they all get on a train and before you know it blonde Russian spy Tanya (of course it’s Tanya. There are no other Russian girl names.) and James are acting married and all is well except it isn’t. Ugly lingerie! The sidekick is dead, moment of silence. Aha, here is Russian assassin who is clearly up to no good because he orders red wine with his fish. Why James didn’t just off him then I will never know but noooooo. More train travel, more scenery, a helicopter fight, some explosions, a boat chase into Venice and then the aforementioned shin kicking lady. Almost every point of my plot line is hit (there’s no supervillain lair and showdown. There’s a lair and a supervillain, but James never makes it out there) amid a lot of not particularly good jokes. Racial stereotypes, yes pretty much. Sexism, of course, but at least we have a lady villain. I’m going to call it a B-.

And now, I’m going to go get under some blankets and watch Goldfinger. I will let you know how it turns out!


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