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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jarret's Frank Film Forum (FFF) -- A Review of James Bond Films

October 10, 2009: The letters have been pouring in requesting more film reviews by yours truly (meaning me). A child of alcoholism, I'm always looking for ways to be liked, so I'm happy to accommodate my loyal readers -- the three of you -- and offer another offering of my utterly valueless opinions. (See, now that's the dysfunction talking!)

In an effort to form my own son's opinions and set him straight on the road to manhood -- straight manhood, mind you, not the gay kind -- over the summer I introduced him to every James Bond movie in the official series. We even watched the George Lazenby one ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service") which sucked like Telly Savalas's singing, and every Roger Moore (I think there are 17; he played Bond well into his 80's.). Being something of an authority on Bond -- I've read each Ian Fleming story at least three times and can even play the Monty Norman theme on guitar -- I thought I'd offer a concise appraisal of the catalogue.

To begin, I'd have to name "Thunderball" as the quintessential Bond film, firing on all cylinders, save its awful title track by Tom Jones. Sean Connery is at the top of his game and still has enough hair to dominate the role. It's consummate kitsch in technicolor, and also a very full adventure with lots of glib lines. (Of course, none could beat the last line of "From Russia, With Love," when Bond, after having nearly been booted to death by Klebb's poison shoe, remarks, "She's had her kicks!")

That said, I have to give the nod to Pierce Brosnan as the best Bond. He hit a mixture of suave control and formidable action-film athleticism that can't be matched. I understand that Connery is still the consummate father of the film role (and I'll always love his Bond), but Brosnan really took it to another, higher level. I'm sorry he only made the four films. Moore does an adequate job, but overall he's too self-conscious and continually falls back on a vaguely unsympathetic sarcasm he clearly lifted from Cary Grant (who was never unsympathetic to viewers). Timothy Dalton wasn't as bad as everyone says, but ultimately he had very bad hair, and sometimes that's enough to put someone on the Black List. Daniel Craig's dour brutality is an interesting take, but even by the books' standard, he's much too taciturn. (I love his two movies, but somehow I don't completely consider them Bond films in the pure sense.)

Among other films, "Dr. No" is a personal favorite. I guess I remain something of a closet racist, but it just cracks me up when Quarrel rolls his eyes in primitive fear. I also love "Live and Let Die" (the first film I ever saw, as a 6-year old at a drive-in in Florida; I was mesmerized!) "Diamonds Are Forever" was much better than I remembered, as were several of the Moore films. The heroine in "For Your Eyes Only" is probably my favorite -- a lovely Carole Bouquet who plays a believable strong ally. Olga Kurylenko may be the most gorgeous, even with that mammoth scar on her back in "Quantum of Solace." Halle Berry, of course, remains a goddess, but I found her a bit annoying in "Die Another Day" and kept hoping she'd get an arrow through her back.

Among the villains, nobody was better than the great Geoffrey Holder as "Live and Let Die's" Baron Samedi. Grace Jones is certainly among the worst in "A View to a Kill." The best theme song is undoubtedly "The Man with the Golden Gun" sung by the great Lulu. (Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" is a close second.) Sheena Easton's awful "For Your Eyes Only" is a Bond embarassment, and the producer that sanctioned that shameful ballad should have his groin distended without anaesthesia.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that James Bond movies rock, even the crummy ones (excepting "Secret Service," which would have been 10 times better if it had merely consisted of two straight hours of Lazenby taking a bath in pudding).

One technical note is that Fleming's Bond would have never handed M the disrespect he regularly does in recent movies. The real M would have pierced Bond's testicles with a marrow spoon and left to dine at Blades. I'm not sure what my point is, but it's late and I have to end these reviews somewhere!


  1. Your breadth of knowledge regarding Bond is astonishing and your patience for Roger Moore is even more so...i am a die hard Connery fan, whereas Moore sends me running out of the room.

    But really, no mention of Miss Moneypenny? Perhaps you will do a full post regarding the woman behind Bond...she outdid all the others, except for Honey Rider, who was his soulmate, i think.

    Finally, I will say this Jarret, I think you are the one to open The Bond Museum...with weekly films, exploding artifacts, and some sort of horrific rollercoaster ride that will thrill patrons before it deposits them into an olympic sized pool, where they can float around and drink martinis.

  2. So, here's a confession: I've never seen a Bond film. I've started to see a Bond film (but only if Mr Connery is in it), several Bond films, in fact, but somehow, I've wandered away before the end of the opening credits. I've seen the clips: the white bikini and the guy with the teeth. And a cat? Is there a cat? I think Judith Dench appears somewhere near the end of the 20th century. But I've just never seen one, not only not in its entirety, but not I think, in any version at all. Don't get me wrong: I've been present at Bond films, but somehow simultaneously elsewhere. I think it might be like being colour blind, or tone deaf - I know it's there, in fact, it's right in front of me, but I can't see it, or hear it.
    Is this the end of our friendship?

  3. Good lord! Can I edit that to say Judi Dench? I'm sure for a fact I didn't type Judith. Is there an automatic spell check for esteemed English actresses who have acquired a Damehood, and if so, did it purposely override my spelling?
    Judi Judi Judi Dench. Sheesh. (Next thing I know my computer is going to start playing Bond films on a continous loop)

  4. Oh, and the Godfather? Nope. Not one of those either....
    (This isn't a boast, but the way, but I think once one begins a confessional, it's best to see it all the way through)

  5. I think Miss Glee needs to be the first visitor to the Bond Museum!

  6. Well yes! But only if you can guarantee the swimming pool and maritinis. (And please, call me Mordant..)

  7. Mordant, as a future trustee of the James Bond museum, i will insist that the swimming pool and the martinis will be at available at all times during your visit!