Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Worst of Bond

So it's half a century since 007 appeared on the silver screen.

Fifty years, twenty two films and not a single Oscar. Not a great record really for a British icon. I suspect if the Carry On team had made it through fifty years even they might have won something.

I enjoyed the Bond books. I liked the concise Chandleresque style, the celebration of gluttony and alcoholism and the chance to get inside the mind of the sort of right wing nutter I usually only meet on the Guardian's Comment is Free section.

I even liked John Gardner's books, which started off not knowing if they were a sequel to the books or the films and were at first a pastiche of both before developing a quirky style of their own.

As for the films though? I remember happily watching Goldfinger every Christmas when I was young, I remember thinking From Russia With Love was surprisingly good when I rewatched it recently, I may be the only person in the galaxy who thinks On Her Majesty's Secret Service is good in part because of George Lazanby and not just despite him, I enjoyed the Daniel Craig reboot and thought Skyfall was a very good Judi Dench movie. But the rest of them? So so.

Various nominations for the best of Bond are flying around at the moment, but what about the worst of Bond? Here are my nominations.

Worst Car Chase - Dr No 

You can usually rely on some four wheeled action in a Bond.

Who can forget Goldeneye with Famke Janssen in her attractive Ferrari 355 taking on Pierce Brosnan in his Aston Martin DB5? Or Never Say Never Again with Barbara Carrera in her sexy Renault 5 Turbo being chased by an fifty-something Sean Connery riding a motorbike in a toupe?

But when it all began in Doctor No the budget didn't quite run to that sort of thing. So here we have a rather tragic back projection, with the inevitable tire squeal even though this is a gravel road, cars going over the same bit of road twice and the one that goes over the cliff at the end is not the one that started the chase. But worst of all we have Mr Bond, in his sports car, being menaced by a hearse.

Yes, a hearse.

Oh dear.

Worst Joke - Goldfinger

Connery's Bond was known for his wit. Really though this was just metaphors taken literally, such as, to a man shot by a spear gun, "he got the point". To a man electrocuted in a bath, "shocking" and so on.

Bond was also a bit of a snob then as well. In From Russia With Love he had Robert Shaw, one of the best Bond villains ever, bumped off after he revealed himself to be a SMERSH agent by ordering red wine with fish. Actually a lot of red wines go well with fish, but clearly it's not the done thing in the Secret Service.

In Goldfinger Bond decides to try to combine wit with snobbery when he comes out with "My dear girl there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That's as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs". 

Bond appeared in the movies pretty much the same week the Beatles appeared on the air waves.

Both are sixties icons, but only one is cool.

Worst Fight - You Only Live Twice

Over the years Bond has fought Her Majesty's enemies with a wide variety of weapons; rifles, pistols, machine guns, knives and a sofa.

Yes, a sofa.

Roald Dahls's script for You Only Live Twice, the first film where they ditched Fleming's book entirely, is pretty much the archetypal Bond film. Travel to an exotic location, superpower confrontation, lots of seemingly random violence, some (implied) sex and a showdown with the supervillain in his preposterous secret base. Indeed you can argue they've been remaking the film over and over again for the last 45 years.

Since then nobody has beaten the Nehru suited Donald Pleasance as a Bond baddie, but 007 has at least found more dangerous weapons to use.

Worst Outfit - The Spy Who Loved Me

If the image of Bond in the sixties is Sean Connery in a dinner jacket, for the seventies it has to be Roger Moore in a Safari suit.

Before I go any further though I should add that it is the decade that is at fault here, not Mr Moore, who had been quite dapper himself in the sixties when he played The Saint.

Of all the fashion disasters he was forced to endure though, the prize goes to the yellow ski suit in this film. It even has flares.

The real thing is perhaps not as bad as the Action Man version, and Bond does at least accessorise well with rocket firing ski sticks and the Union Jack parachute, but it is a Grade A seventies fashion crime.

The ski jump is good, I'll admit, and all the more impressive for being done without CGI, but the rest of the film is the familiar story of exotic location, superpower confrontation, lots of seemingly random violence, some (implied) sex and a showdown with the supervillain in his preposterous secret base - in this case a ship.

The Bond franchise itself was tanking by this point and with a ludicrous sub-Star Wars space battle in Moonraker the series really did Jump The Shark. Moore carried on even though he was clearly too old to be seducing anyone without a bus pass, until eventually put out to grass, with his Safari suits, in the nineties.

Worst Car - Tomorrow Never Dies

Bond of course always had the cars. The Aston Martin DB5 with the machine guns is justly famous. The Lotus Esprit submarine justly less famous. I mean, a Lotus that goes underwater? Come on. Most can't even keep out the rain.

However by the nineteen nineties we had a corporate Bond for a corporate age in Pierce Brosman, and guys in suits had realised there was money to be made in product placement. Out went venerable British machines, and in came whoever would pay the most money, in this case BMW.

But which Beamers would he take. The 320is that had recently won the British Touring Car Championship? No. The 'repmobile racer' the M5? Nope.

Instead they went for the 750il, the one that accountants drive.

Whilst it's amusing to think of 007 fuming at side junctions 'cos nobody would let him out, this isn't really the hard living image Ian Fleming did so much to popularise (and practise). This really was Bond plc and the rest of the film is just as dull, nothing but exotic locations, superpower confrontation, lots of seemingly random violence, some (implied) sex and a showdown with the supervillain in his preposterous secret base - in this case a ship.

(If you liked this, why not read my other blog on crime fighting cars of the sixties and seventies.)

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