22 Bond Films Later…

On the 50th anniversary of James Bond, I celebrated by watching Dr. No for the first time. Seized by the unexpected desire to watch all 22 official Eon Bond Productions by the U.S. release of Skyfall, I set out to do just that. And lo and behold, I accomplished my mission. Honestly, my previous experience with Connery/Moore was limited to holiday marathons on television, which meant they all blurred together and left no lasting impression. So, it was a great to finally commit to the full experience, and in true blogger form, I have some observations.

The Women

How to approach this integral part of the Bond franchise? Well, I went with number of different women Bond sleeps with in a given film, not necessarily how many times he sleeps with someone. Certain lucky girls get multiple encounters, after all. And of course the films rely heavily on innuendo in some cases, so Bond being Bond, I counted those in most cases…although I really had to extrapolate on the data presented. In any case, the average number of women per film: 3. They ranged from 1-4 with 2 being second most prevalent. Impressive: an implied threesome in From Russia with Love and an underwater hookup in Thunderball. Also, before Bond descended into formula, one girl had the distinct privilege to be reoccurring paramour: Sylvia (Eunice Gayson) appears in Dr. No and From Russia with Love.

Bond Girls In Focus

Honey Ryder in Dr. No

 Honey leaves huge shoes to fill in terms of what a Bond girl could bring to the table. In typical fashion, she joins the action halfway through the film by just showing up and actually having direct relation to a plot point, but that’s fine. No, she has the gumption to show horror at the fact that Bond sometimes, just kind of, murders people. I concede in this case it was necessary, but she still asks “why?” and sometimes it is nice to actually reflect on the implications of our action movies. But I also like the fact that when she was a young girl she killed her rapist with a black widow spider. Can’t argue with the “why” of that.

Domino Derval in Thunderball

Domino is unknowingly the mistress of the guy that was responsible for the death of her brother. Disclaimer: Thunderball is one of my least favorite Bond installments and for the most part, Domino didn’t display much prowess in the Bond girl department. But when she finally gets a clue as to the plot that got her brother killed, she gets the satisfaction of killing her lover. And I thought that was a powerful moment, given the fact that most people like to see Bond directly save the day.

Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill

You might say, hey, you feel special kinship because you share the same name. But you would be wrong gentle audience, because I liked Stacey before I knew her name. Educated in earth science and looking after her father’s legacy, she was already standing up to Christopher Walken’s character before Bond entered the picture. I also like her cat. I also appreciate the fact that, as an everyday rich girl, she takes a lot of initiative at the end to stop the baddies.

Pam Bouvier in Licence to Kill

A former Army pilot and current CIA informant, Pam is on Benicio del Toro’s hit list. However, Bond swoops in, charms her and needs a pilot. However, it soon becomes clear to her that Bond is also charmed by Talisa Soto. And, unlike the other scores of women he sleeps with, she actually gets outraged about it. Which while a common human emotion, isn’t usually on display in these films. And best of all, the romantic tension comes to a head at the very end and Bond is forced to make a choice.

Top 10 Recognizable Faces

1. Robert Shaw: Years before he was Quint, he’s still awesome. (From Russia with Love)

2. Donald Pleasence: I like his take on Blofeld, or maybe I just really like Austin Powers films. (You Only Live Twice)

3. Christopher Lee: It is just sort of weird to seem in an action-y kind of role, as opposed to creepy…(The Man with the Golden Gun)

4. Christopher Walken: A Hyper-Intelligent Nazi Experiment with Christopher Walken mannerisms…yes please! (A View to a Kill)

5. John Terry: You might just identify him as “Jack’s Dad” from Lost, but I really enjoy seeing John Terry pop up in random ’80s films. (The Living Daylights)

6. Benicio del Toro: So young! (Licence to Kill)

7. Everett McGill: This guy…he is always evil. Silver Bullet! But he’s a nice guy on Twin Peaks. (Licence to Kill)

8. Sean Bean: This is the quintessential role that can explain Sean Bean’s reputation to anyone uninitiated. First few minutes, he dies. Already typically Bean. But then, you might notice his name pop up right after Pierce Brosnan. He’s revealed to be primary antagonist. Another Bean signature. And then still dies at the end. SEAN BEANNNN in a nutshell. (Goldeneye)

9. Alan Cumming: He’s a true chameleon. (Goldeneye)

10. Vincent Schiavelli: This guy was literally the only tolerable part of Tomorrow Never Dies, in my viewing experience. Uncle Enyos on Buffy! Teaching positions in both Better Off Dead and Fast Times at Ridgemont High!

The Icky Business of Political Correctness

Horrible writing for women (especially in Roger Moore years) isn’t the only cringe-inducing treatment of “others” in the series. “Gypsy” stereotypes are in full view during From Russia with Love. All of Live and Let Die has issues, like, being on the lookout for a “white pimp-mobile.” See also, the use of “ghetto blaster” in The Living Daylights. Perhaps the most egregious line is from Octopussy, while Bond is in India: “that should keep you in curry for a few weeks.” In India, the camera shots also include a snake charmer and a scene of men walking on hot coals.

But what about the women issue? It’s terrible. Even Connery pushes a girl in the face and dismisses something as “man talk” in Goldfinger. The Man with the Golden Gun features some nice woman-slapping and a promise from Bond to Goodnight that “your turn will come, I promise.” In The Spy Who Loved Me, Agent Triple X not only can’t drive a truck but Bond gets to exasperatedly say “women drivers!!” Original. Also, a “compliment” in Moonraker? “I keep forgetting you are more than just a beautiful woman.” Can’t say I was pleased with Bond ripping off a woman’s clothes to create a distraction in The Living Daylights either.

One Liners and Double Entendres

Bond is also famous for his cheeky send offs to villains. Some of them are groan-inducing cheesy, but a few are quite good. And he isn’t the only one who has a sense of humor in the Bondverse.

“Say, what is this? A merry-go-round?” — one guy’s objection to Goldfinger’s rotating floor.

“He’s playing his golden harp.” — Bond’s answer to the location of Goldfinger.

“I think he got the point.” — Bond, moments after harpooning a guy in Thunderball.

“Wrong pussy.” — Bond, after targeting the wrong Blofeld cat in Diamonds are Forever.

“An ice palace can be such a treacherous place.” — Graves in Die Another Day. The ridiculousness of this line makes it hilarious, even if Graves was being serious.

WORST: “He had a lot of guts.” — Bond after a ski pursuer gets shredded. Come on, you don’t know if he figuratively had a lot of guts, only literally! Actually I think all of Lazenby’s were horrid and just not timed well.

I will admit to sometimes being scandalized by the double entendres being employed in these films. It isn’t necessarily the subject matter, but the fact that any human being would ever say some of these things to begin with, especially in a wide variety of situations. And this is more of an indication that I am always on the look out for “that’s what she said” moments so much so that my mind is definitely in the gutter, but sometimes I wasn’t sure if something even was a double entendre, but this is Bond, so I usually assumed the intent was there. At least in Octopussy a woman takes Bond off guard with one: “I need refilling..” “Huh?? Oh…” (as he realizes she meant champagne). But I was never more scandalized than when Q, in Moonraker, says “I think he’s attempting re-entry.” Q!!!

Variations on One Martini

I think a good argument can be made that Bollinger is Bond’s actual preferred drink of choice because it seems to appear way more frequently, and with little alteration (except maybe to vintage). But writers like to get creative, especially when it comes to the Bond martini mythology. They alternate speaker, location, and even phrasing to introduce Bond’s signature drink. By my count they appear in fourteen Bond films. Here are some favorites:

“Vodka, rather shaken” — Bond, A View to a Kill

“Would you get me a medium dry martini, SHAKEN, not stirred?” — Bond, Licence to Kill

“Lucky I asked for it shaken” — Bond, on turbulent plane in Die Another Day

But the most rewarding usage, and my favorite, happens in Casino Royale. If you had to describe the formative Bond that we get in Casino Royale, all you need is this sequence:

Bond: Vodka martini.

Bartender: Shaken or stirred?

Bond: Like I give a damn.

The Curious Case of Felix Leiter

While there are many missed opportunities to be observed in the franchise, one that boggles my mind is the revolving door of actors that play Bond’s CIA friend, Felix Leiter. In nine movies, only two actors play the role twice. It’s no surprise that the role needs to be recast from time to time, but they made the odd choice or foregoing any basic description of Leiter. He could be young, old, skinny, fat. Whoever was available I guess. And in the pre-reboot days, the one guy to play him twice, David Hedison, did not even appear in consecutive films! He stars in Roger Moore’s first (Live and Let Die) and Timothy Dalton’s second (Licence to Kill). Why was he cast again, at the age of sixty-one, when his character was not only getting married but the main driver of narrative action, is beyond my reasoning. Especially after John Terry is wasted in the role in the previous installment? (Still bitter). The other actor, Jeffrey Wright, who appears twice is an absolute necessity — since Quantum of Solace is a direct continuation of the Casino Royale timeline. But I hope that if they use Leiter in future Daniel Craig movies they can also get Jeffrey Wright.

Other Tidbits

Creatures: what are you most likely to see in a Bond film? The answer should always be SHARK. Pet sharks, wild sharks, sharks everywhere! Thunderball, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, Licence to Kill. Also a lot of shark cruelty. with the worst example being what I dub “Jaws biting ‘Jaws'”in The Spy Who Loved Me. Poor sharky. You’ve also got a spider in Dr. No, piranha in You Only Live Twice, and snakes in Live and Let Die, Moonraker (poor python!), and Octopussy.

Space: Satellites! Rockets! Space Stations! Bond’s got ’em all! Dr. No, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker, Goldeneye, and Die Another Day all feature some sort of space related narrative.

Casinos: Now I know that casinos are a great place to stage spy scenes but I had no just how prevalent they would be, so much so that I actually might be missing some of the films in this list: Dr. No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, Licence to Kill, Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough, and of course, Casino Royale.

Locales: Where does the Bond franchise love to visit? The Bahamas (in particularly Nassau), Italy (in particular Venice), and as an extension of its numerous South American action scenes, Florida. Miami is constantly mentioned, and an actual target for attack in Thunderball.

CAT CONTINUITY

Now, an issue close to my heart. Forget the fact that arch-villain Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE, is played by numerous actors who never resembled each other. No, consider his feline companion. For something that he seemed really attached to, that cat was left in the lurch at the conclusion of every film! So how did it magically return, always? You Only Live Twice: cat is left in imploding volcano. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: cat disappears as Blofeld’s research facility is destroyed in the Alps. Diamonds Are Forever: multiples of the same cat, and yet one of them is meant to be THE cat. Blofeld attempts to escape in a mini-sub, sans cat. Finally, the cat appears in the opening of For Your Eyes Only, proving that it had escaped yet again. I hope other people are just as concerned as I am about how impressive the nine lives of this cat prove to be.

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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