Reviewing Three Classic James Bond Films

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched three classic James Bond Films on Netflix. It’s important to note that with any James Bond film, you need to engage in a suspension of disbelief. The films are as much fantasy as reality. Mike Myers and the Austin Powers trilogy‚ made millions in pointing out some of the hilariously bad plot holes in the classic Bond movies. Still, I still find it fun to suspend my own disbelief and enjoy two hours of adventure from a bygone era every once in a while. Here are my thoughts on the three classic Bond films that I recently watched.

Goldfinger

1964
Director – Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and Gert Fröbe

goldfingerThe summit of Sean Connery’s tenure as James Bond, this was my favourite of the three films that I watched. Connery is clearly in a groove. This was his third Bond installment and we find an actor completely at ease, bringing the character to life with his own unique twist that will never be reproduced. (“You’re a woman of many parts, Poosy”) It’s also in this film that Bond gets his trick car, the Aston Martin, and begins the tradition of his witty banter with Q, which would become a hallmark of Bond films going forward.

A 38 year-old Honor Blackman plays Pussy Galore, quite possibly‚ the most famous Bond girl of all-time. Gert Fröbe was masterful as Goldfinger, but it’s worth noting that his voice was dubbed over by a voice actor, Michael Collins. This is also the film of Oddjob, portrayed by Harold Sakata. Despite not uttering a single line, Oddjob was one of the Bond franchise’s most enduring villains. The Soundtrack for the movie, developed by John Barry is timeless and sounds incredibly fresh.

This is also the film that features a couple of notorious scenes that would never, ever be made today. The infamous “Man Talk moment and a scene in a barn where Bond and Galore finally get together. The comment section of the YouTube video is littered with angry comments describing Bond as a sexual predator.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable Bond entry. If you’re looking for one film to get started on classic James Bond,‚ Goldfinger is the one I recommend. It’s the complete package, bringing both the character and the overall franchise into focus. The plot and acting are both strong enough to carry the film’s good standing into the 21st century.

Live and Let Die

1973
Director – Guy Hamilton
Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour

liveandletdiebdcap4_originalThis Bond film came recommended to me (not naming names!). After watching it, I was thoroughly disappointed. This is Roger Moore’s first appearance as Bond and overall he provides a satisfying rendition of the character. Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) was the Bond Girl of the film, a tarot card reading fortune teller named Solitaire. Unfortunately for Solitaire, her powers are tied to her virginity, which she eventually loses to Bond after the cards foretold their predictable union.

Live and Let Die borrows heavily from blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Bond himself ends up in the seedy black neighbourhoods of 1970s New York City, chasing down the drug‚ lord‚ villains. (“Y’all take this honkey out and WASTE HIM! NOW!”) This plants the film firmly in that era, making it more of a period piece,‚ removing‚ the cross-generational appeal that other James Bond films possess.

My biggest problem with the film is the plot. To me, it felt like Bond was aboard a ride in an amusement park, where he’s transported from one location to another, to see a new site and solve a new problem. Even if you suspend your disbelief, his journey asks too much from the viewer. Some of the deaths and special effects are particularly poor. Bond ends up killing the villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big by making him explode like a balloon.

The boat chase scene is one of the more legendary chases in the Bond catalogue. Unfortunately, even that is brought down by the inclusion of the over the top Sheriff JW Pepper, a local, small town buffoon. I think Pepper’s inclusion is meant to satirize the racist cops of the 1970s, but his inclusion takes away more from the chase scene than it contributes and considerably dates the film.

The most memorable scene may be Bond’s escape from the crocodiles.

While this film is important because it’s the first entry to feature Roger Moore, it doesn’t deliver much else. Enjoy the famous theme song by Paul McCartney, skip the movie.

For Your Eyes Only

1981
Director: John Glen
Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol

For_Your_Eyes_OnlyFor Your Eyes Only sees the Bond Franchise enter the 1980s with gusto. This is Roger Moore’s fifth appearance as Bond and while his age does show at some points, this entry was much better than Live and Let Die. The film opens with the death of “Blofeld the Dr. Evil-like villain from prior Bond installments. This bit is unrelated to the plot of For Your Eyes Only, but is nevertheless an enjoyable six minutes, showcasing the Bond franchise at its best.

The stunts in For Your Eyes Only were well done. This film features another classic chase scene, this time with Bond on skis in the Italian Alps where he begins by flying off an Olympic ski jump, then going downhill at breakneck speeds, before ending up on a bobsleigh track. Later‚ in a daring test of nerves, we watch the secret agent‚ climb up the side of a cliff‚ to reach a private sanctuary and confront his nemesis.

The underwater scenes featuring Bond and Carole Bouquet (one of the better looking Bond Girls, in my opinion) are particularly‚ well done. The production value is strong for 1981. I thought that these scenes have held up quite nicely over time.

Roger Moore’s age does pose a bit of a problem in this film or maybe it‚ provides‚ wisdom, depending on your viewpoint. Midway through the film, Bond is introduced to the nubile young figure skater Bibi Dahl (played by Lynn-Holly Johnson), who sneaks into his hotel room and climbs into his bed, naked. In un-Bondlike fashion, the leading man shows restraint and assumes the role of fatherly figure, choosing to protect the young blonde, rather than plunder her.

This is also the Bond movie where 007‚ takes on three evil hockey players in a hilariously bad on-ice fight scene.

Overall this was an enjoyable Bond film. Despite some of its weaker moments, I found myself surfing YouTube the following day to rewatch some of my favourite scenes. There’s a very Bond sense of humour throughout the film, from his disposal of Blofeld to a special appearance by “Margaret Thatcher” and her husband at‚ the end of the film. I would watch it again.

I would like to get through the rest of the Roger Moore films. My understanding is that Moonraker was a particularly strong film, but I’ve yet to see it. Netflix is hit and miss‚ when it comes to the old Bond flicks. According to this article, Goldfinger is about to be purged from the their library.

What did you think of these three films? Do you agree with my reviews? Which classic James Bond films do you recommend? Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

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2 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t call any Bond with Moore classic. Goldfinger is o.k. except for the fact the Bond is nonchalantly incompetent. He gets two women killed carelessly.

    1. Bond leaving a trail of collateral damage seems to be a common theme in many of the films. Even in the Casino Royale reboot, every girl Daniel Craig gets involved with ends up dead (Eva Green, Caterina Murino).

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