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Bond Legacy: Tomorrow Never Dies

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Yes, darling, I’ve found the TV remote, but I still cant find the bastard Sky remote!

The Bond franchise had been many things over the years, but one it had suddenly and almost unexpectedly become after the success of Goldeneye was a guaranteed money maker. But, like a small American child slapped in too much make up and thrust uncomfortably into a beauty pageant and a series of commercials, Bond’s new parent decided to use their favourite offspring to try to boost their upcoming stock offering. MGM wanted Bond, and it wanted it quick; in the Sixties, churning out a Bond film a year was never an issue, but the requirement for more extensive post-production, and the lack of Fleming heritage to be able to call on, gave the second Pierce Brosnan Bond a somewhat troubled birth.

The difficulty of that gestation and the rush to get the film onto screens is right up there on screen for all to see. The opening sequence, self contained and with just a little set-up for the rest of the film, is a cracker and up there with the best pre-credits sequences of the whole series. It’s after another of Daniel Kleinman’s superb title sequences that things start to go rapidly downhill. The main problem with Goldeneye seems to have gotten even worse, with both Brosnan and the film itself unsure of the tone they need to pitch, and instead both end up veering more wildly between brutality and banality. The cheeky one liners which Moore tossed off feel ever more cheesy and uncomfortable emerging from Brosnan’s mouth, while the way in which everyone from Teri Hatcher’s weak Bond girl to a bunch of British soliders are casually slaughtered feels more Dalton era than anything else. Thanks to the unevenness of tone and the short development window, Tomorrow Never Dies never feels fully formed, but there are enough enjoyable moments to make it a modest success.

While legacies are becoming ever more thin on the ground in the rather stagnant Brosnan era, there’s still some fun to be had, not least from the Spot The Famous Face drinking game. If you can spot Julian “I wrote Downton Abbey” Fellowes as a minister, take a sip; the likes of Julian Rhind-Tutt and Hugh Bonneville in the navy also deserve a brief swig, but spotting Gerard Butler in a blink-and-miss-him scene on the boat deserves at least a mouthful and if you pick out Alex Reid outside Carver’s party as a German policeman, then finish your drink immediately. Spotting all of those famous faces might not make TND more enjoyable, but hopefully the strong drink will, and if not then Vincent Schiavelli’s entirely over-the-top henchman should still provide a few chuckles.

Alex Reid? Is he the Insania one or the other one?

All this, though, is a distraction from the real business here, which is whether or not Tomorrow Never Dies has had a lasting effect on either the Bond movies themselves or action films in general. While the law of diminishing returns is definitely kicking in, Tomorrow Never Dies does mark a couple of key moments in the franchise.

1. You’re on your own now, 007

Tomorrow Never Dies is the first film in the entire series to take only the recurring characters: M, Q, Moneypenny, raging innuendo, etc. from Fleming’s novels or backstory. Admittedly we’d already reached the thin end of the wedge, as Licence To Kill was falling back on the short stories for ideas as well as the novels, and Goldeneye was simply the name of Fleming’s house, but Tomorrow Never Dies marked the first time that the films had to exist beyond what Fleming had provided, to prove that they really could stand on their own two feet.

Key to that is the idea that the legacy has provided, a framework to which it should be possible to stitch any appropriate story and turn it into a Bond film. Tomorrow Never Dies does that, but in a way that’s part of its problem: occasionally sticking too slavishly to a formula almost as a cinematic comfort blanket. It will be a few films yet before the Bond producers feel confident enough to start letting the series truly off the reins, but certain elements, for better or worse, will always be a part of Bond; hopefully, that in turn means that Bond will outlive all of us.

2. A man with a score to settle

A musical score in this case; after the catastrophe of the Goldeneye score from Eric Serra – which I still firmly believe is not only a fantastic score in its own right but also the worst Bond score ever, apart from the one bit he didn’t write – the producers were looking for someone to replicate the musical success of John Barry, who had scored eleven of the previous seventeen Bonds. Those which weren’t Barry scores, from the likes of George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch and Michael Kamen, had met with decidedly mixed success, so it needed someone who could not only write well for the blockbuster, but also understood the musical needs and heritage of Bond.

Step forward David Arnold, who had not only enjoyed blockbuster success and acclaim for his work on Roland Emmerich films such as Stargate and Independence Day, but had also put together a Bond album of cover versions called Shaken And Stirred, featuring everything from Pulp’s cover of All Time High to a Propellerheads version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Arnold scored every movie through to Quantum Of Solace, bowing out for Skyfall due to an unfortunate clash with his Olympic commitments, but in the five films he’s scored he managed to successfully mix the traditional Bond theme orchestral sound with his own music and innovation, even including his own motif  (known as “Suspense” in four of his five films).

His work on Tomorrow Never Dies guaranteed him a decade of work on the series, doing just what Barry did so well, including in this case taking k.d. lang’s version of his own song Surrender and weaving its themes through the rest of the music, as well as another collaboration with Propellerheads on the music for the garage car chase. Here’s hoping that we’ve not seen the last of Arnold and Bond working together.

Next time: The World Is Not Enough, apparently. Well, that’s gratitude for you.

Previous Bond legacy posts: Dr No / From Russia With Love / Goldfinger / Thunderball / You Only Live Twice / On Her Majesty’s Secret Service / Diamonds Are Forever / Live And Let Die / The Man With The Golden Gun / The Spy Who Loved Me / Moonraker / For Your Eyes Only / Octopussy / A View To A Kill / The Living Daylights / Licence To Kill / Goldeneye

Clicky here for The BlogalongaBond collective, courtesy of The Incredible Suit.

Bond Legacy: Goldeneye

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When ay where ah kid, this were all fields, as far as the eye could see…

So ended the world’s greatest game of pass the parcel. After much to-ing and fro-ing between them, and with the various shenanigans and machinations of the past six years behind them, the baton finally passed from Timothy Dalton – who was first considered as early as 1969 – to someone who’d been in the frame since the early Eighties, and whose chance looked resolutely to have gone when he had to drop out before The Living Daylights. Maybe that sense of relief is what explains the shit-eating grin that Bond wears at random moments in Goldeneye…

Yes, Pierce Brosnan was the fifth man to inherit the on screen mantle of Britain, nay the world’s, greatest not-that-good-at-being-secret secret agent. His performance in Goldeneye, in the best Bond Legacy tradition, seemed to call on something from each of his predecessors in the role; he had the stern insistence of a man with an English accent who wasn’t actually British (Lazenby), the effortless sophistication and grace that make him look good in a dinner jacket, but also the belief he could handle himself in a fight (Connery), the hard-edged distance of a man that’s seen a lot of suffering (Dalton) and a louche theatricality with a one-liner that made him seem almost dangerously cheesy (Moore, although that maybe does a little disservice to old Rog).

For some reason, when attempting to capture what made the quintessential Bond film, Martin Campbell and the Broccolis made what everyone thought the stereotype of a Bond film was, rather than replicating an actual Bond film. Consequently the style and the stunts are all there, but so are the worst extremes of Seventies Bond, and there’s a moment with Bond and Wade in Cuba when their aside to camera feels closer to the music hall than it does to a classic Bond film. However, audiences lapped it up and this new Bond, serious one minute and leering the next, would largely provide the template for the Brosnan era, for better and for worse.

Goldeneye is without doubt the best of that era, thanks to a number of key elements. Sean Bean’s creepy smoothness as Trevelyan gave this new, modern Bond the ideal mirror in which to view himself, and their fight late on has a crunching physicality to it, a no-holds-barred approach that would also come to categorise the Bonds that followed. Isabella Scorupco might have been a Polish model turned singer turned actress, but she was still able to act rings around many Bond girls that had gone before her, and Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp (also a former model) camped it up delightfully; if you don’t enjoy her delivery of the line “He’s going to derail the train!” then you maybe need a little more joy in your life. But the key elements were the revitalisation of Martin Campbell’s direction and the knowing script that just about managed to avoid tipping over into self-parody. Just.

Thankfully, just like the sixteen films that preceded it, Goldeneye still has something to offer in dictating the path of what is to come.

1. No relic of the Cold War after all

The one doubt in everyone’s mind was whether, in a world without Russian enemies and with high-powered American action movies, Bond was still really needed. The relative failure of Licence To Kill in America and a few other territories had, somewhat unjustly, caused speculation as to if Bond could still cut it. In terms of box office and adjusting for inflation, Goldeneye took nearly twice the total of its predecessor and more than any Bond film since Moonraker, and Goldeneye really showed, for the first time, that Bond could move with the times. Sure, the franchise had often made reference to the latest fad or fashion and tried to hang on the coat-tails of the other big movies of the time, but the Nineties showed how Bond could still thrive in a world without the Iron Curtain. (We’ll gloss over the fact that half of the film is still set in

2. Campbell’s soup-er when it comes to reboots

Martin Campbell had made his name with the TV adaptation of Edge Of Darkness, and he proved key in bringing Bond back to the big screen. So key, in fact, that when Bond returned after another four year hiatus and producers were again looking to put a fresh spin on proceedings, Campbell returned and once again proved his ability to keep enough familiar elements while injecting a shot of individuality and freshness. He’s now in his early sixties, so he should still have enough good years left in him when Michael Fassbender, Andrew Garfield and Will Poulter line up for their reboots in the next twenty years. (Especially when everyone says how much the Poulter years are a return to form after that Garfield fiasco.)

3. Kleinman’s the man, but Serra’s an error

I’ve wrapped the last two lessons together, but they are both salient warnings to anyone attempting to make a Bond film in the future. Daniel Kleinman takes the work of the likes of Robert Brownjohn and Maurice Binder and makes it fresh and exciting, capturing the feeling of its predecessors but still managing to take the opening titles forward. Consequently he continued to get the gig right up until Quantum of Solace. Eric Serra was also hired to write the score, and has produced some fantastic work for Luc Besson’s movies, especially the prior year’s Leon. His work on Goldeneye is similarly great, with the sweeping string accompaniments for Bond’s Caribbean detour evoking just the right mood. Trouble is, the score as a whole is categorically wrong for a Bond film; so wrong that the producers had to bring in John Altman – who, fact fans, also arranged Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life for Life Of Brian – to Bond up the tank chase in St. Petersburg. Consequently David Arnold, to the relief of everyone everywhere, got the gig for the next five films. The moral of the story is, feel free to have a little play with the key elements, but if Bond Legacy has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t mess with the fundamentals.

Next time: The irony of a film about a media mogul gone mad whose title is based on a misprint. It’s Tomorrow Never Lies Dies.

For more Bond related japes and in-depth analysis, visit BlogalongaBond.

Bond Legacy: Licence To Kill

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Bond could barely contain his embarrassment when he realised he’d picked up the joke shop “BANG!” gun by mistake. As long as he didn’t have to fire it…

It’s over, before it had barely begun. One of the greatest tragedies of the whole of the Bond series is Timothy Dalton’s restricted contribution, cut off as he was in his prime after just two films. There were a number of factors that conspired to put paid to Tim and his time drinking martinis, not least the failure of Licence to Kill to find an audience. Marketing wrangles and rights issues put paid to a new film with anyone for the best part of four years, and by the time that was sorted the legacy of Mr Dalton amounted to just two films. Licence To Kill may have had the most significant impact of any Bond film from what has followed, but in terms of the revolution it so craved it can best be described as a work in progress.

Licence To Kill is a film caught almost fatally between two stools. Sat proudly on one is the Daltmeister, pushing his Bond closer to Ian Fleming’s creation than anyone on screen before him, and probably since. Dalton’s Bond ranges closer to anti-hero than ever, set on his personal quest of vengeance and so driven by loyalty he’s prepared to abandon his employers and some of his peripheral principles to get the means to deliver the required end. On the other stoll, with wobbly legs and an unfortunate case of woodworm, is the film’s reluctance to let go of some of the hoarier staples of the series. The most obvious case in point is Q’s arrival, which does its best to derail all the good work done earlier and the number of times that Bond insists Q go home, only for Q to promptly ignore him and then stand conspicuously on the road side before slinging expensive gadgets into a hedge becomes a great embarrassment.

It doesn’t help that Licence To Kill comes over as the most overtly American Bond ever made; it may just be a coincidence that Bond’s only made one further brief trip to the US in Casino Royale since. With a selection of North American locations, a soundtrack from Die Hard / Lethal Weapon composer Michael Kamen and even the brief scene with M moved outdoors, the feeling is of an American action movie, with too much of the distinctiveness to the Bond films lost in the mix. It served to render Tim’s performance an interesting footnote in the annals of Bond, rather than the more overt game changer it could have been, and one which could have seen Dalton truly making the role his own.

It didn’t help that some of the casting choices weren’t great; while Davi and Del Toro do great work on the bad guy side, much of the rest leaves a little to be desired and in keeping with much of the rest of the series, neither Bond girl is an especially great actress. There’s also some rough editing in the action sequences – such as the tanker chase, which leaves the henchman with the bazooka looking particularly inept after Bond takes several seconds to put the tanker on two wheels before he promptly and skillfully shoots underneath it -which if tightened up could have elevated them to true greatness.

All that said, this hard edged Bond still had an influence, not least in starting the debate each time a new film in the series opens about how close to Fleming’s written creation the screen incarnation is, and should be. Without Licence To Kill showing how much it was possible to shake up the formula – even if audiences didn’t warm to it at first – and the legacy on Dalton’s own career has included a selection of deliciously evil bad guys in everything from Hot Fuzz to Doctor Who. So while Licence To Kill isn’t one of my own favourite movies in the series personally, its lasting impact isn’t to be underestimated. Here’s five more reasons that Licence To Kill continues to leave its mark.

1. Licence to come up with brand new titles

There were still others available, from The Hildebrand Rarity to 007 In New York, but having long dispensed with the actual content of Fleming’s novels, it’s mildly ironic that the most noted attempt to return to the character on the page dispensed with a title on the front cover that Fleming himself had created. A brief flirtation with the titles reared up again in the Craig era, but thankfully Quantum Of Solace soon put paid to that. It’s just a shame that Licence Revoked, the original title of choice, got ditched at the last minute, as that would have made more sense in the context of the story.

2. Licence to admit people over 15 only

Bond films, not to mention movies in general, were on the cusp of a new era in the UK, with the new 12 rating just around the corner. Initially, Licence To Kill could barely even dream of that as the first cut submitted to the BBFC would have picked up an 18 rating uncut. The new, colder approach ran the risk of being box office poison, and a number of repeat visits over the next few months, coupled with a realisation that they couldn’t wait for the new rating if they wanted people to actually see the film, left Licence as the first Bond film to pick up anything higher than a PG. The Living Daylights is still to date the last film to pick up that rating, thanks to that 12 / 12A category and a general softening of attitudes in twenty years, and the Bond that followed has become synonymous with the category of mild peril, bloodless violence and a single strong swear word. At least this one was there to show them the way.

3. Licence to release Bond films in winter

It’s a shame that so much was lost in attempting to crack the American market, once in love with Bond in his early days but starting to become an irrelevance. This was the last Bond film to get a summer release in the US, and the crowded marketplace that summer, with Lethal Weapon 2 and When Harry Met Sally opening around the same time and Batman, Honey I Shrunk The Kids and Ghostbusters 2 still monopolising the multiplexes, saw Licence To Kill finish 36th on the US box office list for the year. Since moving to the autumn, no Bond film has finished lower than 14th in a given year and four out six, the first two for both Brosnan and Craig, have been in the top 10 at year end.

4. Licence to have an action scene on a bridge

Where we’re going, we don’t need… oh hang on, we do. We need lots and lots of road.

True Lies? 2 Fast 2 Furious? Mission: Impossible 3? All had an action scene set on Seven Mile Bridge in Florida, and two of them also featured big armoured trucks transporting captives. Bond, as always, showed the way.

5. Licence to grab a plane in mid-air

I’ve already commented previously on Christopher Nolan, and how the finest director working today (who really should do a Bond himself one day, at which point I would probably suffer a fatal geekgasm) has been influenced by his love for Bond films. Anyone who saw The Dark Knight Rises prequel in cinemas late last year won’t have to wonder too hard where Nolan got the idea for a mid-air plane grab from, although anyone’s who’s not seen that yet is in for a treat as Nolan has taken it to another level. Seriously Chris, do make time in the diary for Bond 24 if you can.

Next time: It’s the sexist, misogynist dinosaur, or misogosaurus sex to give him his correct genus. It’s Goldeneye.

For more Bond related japes and in-depth analysis, visit BlogalongaBond.

Bond Legacy: The Living Daylights

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They nearly brought back Roger Moore again? Wow, did I dodge a bullet there or what!

When BlogalongaBond first started, there were two certainties as far as Bond was concerned; that Sean Connery would be held up as the gold standard to which all others would be compared, and that pretty much everyone would have a different favourite Bond. My mother won’t actually watch Bond films any more, so convinced is she that Connery is unimpeachable in the Bond stakes and that anyone else would pale so much by comparison that they wouldn’t even be worth her time. For pretty much everyone else, the grimness of the later Moore years is over, and we come into the modern Bonds. For me and for many others of my generation, Timothy Dalton was the first new Bond in my lifetime. He was also the first new Bond in the sense that my house got its first VCR in 1985, so the Dalton Bonds were the first that I was able to watch in the comfort of my own home about the time that they were released. Thus Timothy will always be the tiniest Bond in my overly literal mind.

But it takes a big man to impose himself in a series that was becoming so stale you could practically see the fetid bacterial cultures forming up there on screen. That man, a long time candidate who now seemed in prime position, was Pierce Brosnan. Sadly for Pierce, some scheduling shenanigans at NBC kept him tied to his Remington Steele role for six more episodes, just long enough to rule him out of the Bond timeframe and instead to let someone who’d been thought of even longer as a possible Bond sneak in. Step forward one Timothy Dalton.

Both Dalton and The Living Daylights get a lot of things right that the series had been getting badly wrong. Dalton is belivably stern and occasionally patronising, but in a very satisfying manner, where Moore had lost that sense of quiet authority as age overtook him, and where Dalton’s quips are frothy and entertaining, Moore had become dangerously lecherous and positively leering. The action scenes are also ratcheted up by several levels of intensity, and the set pieces are some of the best in the series since the Seventies. The overall tone is more even and some of the wilder excesses are reined in, making The Living Daylights the most satisfying Bond film since The Spy Who Loved Me.

But enough of that, what we’re concerned with in Bond Legacy is the lasting impact that these films have had on each other and the world at large, and there’s still mean on them bones even fifteen films in.

1. Putting the (re-)boot in

The dinner dress round had gone well, but they were dreading the swimwear parade.

With a new Bond came a change in tone and a leading man as different to his predecessor as Lazenby was to Connery. But this time that change drove a shift in the tone, and it wouldn’t be the first time in the next couple of decades that a change in personnel would drive a change in ethos in the Bond films. The Living Daylights was almost conceived as a prequel, intented as a full reboot of the franchise, but that fresh slate was another twenty years away, and even then it still had Dame Judi Dench sprawled all over it.

But the coming of Dalton, Brosnan and Craig has seen a rethink in style and tone each time, and The Living Daylights was the first to really show that the mould really can be broken, or even thrown away and started with afresh, as long as you keep enough of these legacy elements to ground the audience.

2. Double trouble

There was one change afoot on the musical front as well, as while John Barry was still providing excellent music (and even gets an onscreen cameo this time around), the main public focus as far as music in Bond is concerned has always been the title track. Duran Duran had hit number 1 in the US with A View To A Kill, a first for the series, and that in trun reinforced the need in the producer’s minds to have a big name act to write the theme tune, and indeed sing the theme tune.

So Chrissie Hynde got shuffled to the end credits, and A-ha burbled out The Living Daylights once John Barry had sufficiently Bonded up the backing track. (Hynde can also be heard on the evil milkman’s Walkman, so she didn’t do badly.) But this started a trend of different tracks on the opening and closing credits, with often the composer’s first choice – and consequently the better tune – getting shunted to the end credits, rather than being an accompaniment to the usual parade of scantily clad ladies in fantasy settings that kicks off proceedings.

3. The name’s Aston. Martin Aston. No, wait…

The Grease remake needed a bit of work, but Dalton’s Zuko had a definite edge.

The other notable feature about The Living Daylights is the return of the Aston Martin. James Bond’s vehicle of choice had been a prominent feature in the Sixties, but apart from a blink and you’ll miss it showing in Diamonds Are Forever had been largely absent. Dalton’s debut might have seen a V8 Vantage Volante rather than the earlier DB5 or DBS, but The Living Daylights sees the return of the classic car maker with some tooling about on the ice that was ripped off homaged in Die Another Day. Only two of the Bond films made since this one haven’t featured an Aston of some variety, and for many men, myself included, an Aston Martin would be near the top of the shopping list if our numbers ever came up on the lottery. Ideally one with giant rockets and an ejector seat. (Well, if money’s no object…)

Next time: Somehow I have to break the news gently, that I’m not a huge fan of License To Kill. Gulp.

For more Bond related japes and in-depth analysis, visit BlogalongaBond.

Bond Legacy: A View To A Kill

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No, you can’t take them away from me! Let me just keep the women! Just this one?

Finally, the end of the road, a Bond film for which even Roger Moore thought he was too old. He was, of course, quite right. Let’s not beat about the bush, A View To A Kill is awful.

What? You want more? Where to start. There are very few moments that A View To A Kill actually feels like a proper Bond film, except when it’s ticking off the occasional past legacy. But Rog is absolutely going through the motions at this point, and he’s going through them slowly and with some difficulty because he’s quite clearly past it. The rest of the cast resembles a freak show that would put Britain’s Got Talent to shame; Christopher Walken is in full on weird mode, but fails at any point to come over as threatening; whoever thought Grace Jones could act needs to be taken out and shot; and poor old Patrick Macnee looks like he’s stumbled in off the set of an entirely different film and is now being kept as Rog’s slave.

(A note on those old legacies, though: while I didn’t list it out originally, pretty much any Bond film with either a large set of henchmen or international investors gets them together and sits them round a table, and the cunning twist here is that the table has been set up in – an airship! What larks. It is the most Bond-like moment in the whole film, so thanks to whichever film did it first. [hurriedly scrambles back to start watching Sean Connery Bonds again])

If any of the action scenes redeemed it, it mightn’t be so bad, but there’s some Paris-based rumblings that are faintly ludicrous at best, and a chase on a fire engine that feels like a deleted scene from Herbie Rides Again rather than a main set piece in a Bond film. Almost no-one involved with the production has fond memories, and we should just be thankful that this finally convinced everyone it was time to put The Amazing Eyebrow out to pasture and get someone younger and better in. Given that much of the talent behind the camera, including the screenwriter and director, came back again next time, quite how they got it so badly wrong here all round when that can’t all be blamed on the practically octogenarian star is a matter that’s probably not worth expending much time contemplating, but is still somewhat strange.

Anyway, despite being as ripe as a six month old pear at the bottom of the fruit bowl, A View To A Kill still managed to show the power of the Bond brand by having a further legacy or four on the rest of the series.

1. It’s all in the game

A View To A Kill holds the distinction of being the first Bond film to be represented by a computer game. The likes of Goldeneye on the N64 were but ten years away at this point, but the fact that the Bond franchise has produced some high quality games and that one all time classic probably couldn’t have been guessed from the amazingly shoddy graphical adventure unfolding on the C64 and other comparable platforms. Still, we’ve all got to start somewhere. There was almost a game for Octopussy, but it was never actually released; the mind can barely grasp what 8-bit innuendos we’ve been denied by that decision.

2. It’s all in the family

Sam Mendes wins the Best Bond Beard competition over Michael G. Wilson. Craig and Broccoli make remarkably little effort.

Speaking of talent in front of and behind the camera, one of the most regular names to appear on Bond films is that of Michael G. Wilson. Having had a hand in writing every Eighties Bond, he’d also acted as an executive producer since Moonraker, but AVTAK marks the first time that Cubby’s stepson stepped up to join the big man as a fellow producer. When Barbara Broccoli then joined him on producing duties from Goldeneye, the family template was set and Wilson and Broccoli continue to steer the direction of the Bond series to this day. He’s also had cameos in a remarkable fourteen films of the series, making him the Stan Lee of the Bond movies. (Is it too late to get Stan? He’s ace. Oh, okay.)

3. Board of Bond?

Despite the stunts being mainly ropey, one of them turned out to become iconic after all, and it’s probably a moment that will send shudders down the spines of most Bond aficionados. Snowboarding, despite having been done for around 20 years, was still a niche sport, attracting no attention outside the hardcore skiing world until an old man’s unconvincing stunt double slid down a hill on a converted ironing board to the accompaniment of The Beach Boys. Thirteen years later, it was an Olympic sport. See, even the worst Bond films can be a force for good.

4. The name’s the thing

And just a final note on a legacy first mentioned in From Russia With Love. The tradition of naming the next Bond film in the end credits went slightly askew last time, when Octopussy predicted the next in the series would be called “From A View To A Kill”. Maybe in a sense of embarrassment at getting the title so shamefully wrong, A View To A Kill simply stated that “James Bond Will Return” and left it at that. Without even realising, the Broccolis had given an early indicator of the uncertain future the Bond films were about to start facing…

Next time: Come on, Tim! It’s The Living Daylights.

For more Bond related japes and in-depth analysis, visit BlogalongaBond.

Bond Legacy: Octopussy

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Excuse me, I actually ordered eight… Never mind.

So, the time has come. The time I’ve been dreading since we started BlogalongaBond all those months ago. If I had to pick one film that I thought would be a struggle in coming up with legacies – and I did – then it would have been this one. The name with the biggest innuendo in any Bond film title has a reputation that precedes it of being somewhat of a dog’s dinner of a film, and I didn’t have particularly fond memories of it from my childhood. But, for thirteen months, I’d lived in fear of coming to this, coming up empty handed and for the Bond Legacy dream of every Bond film leaving a mark.

In one sense, I needn’t have worried, for Octopussy does a fairly good job of helping to leave a lasting legacy that no-one likes Roger Moore James Bond films. The likes of The Spy Who Loved Me feel a distant memory whenever it comes to thinking of Roger Moore, as it’s this arse end of his overlong run of films that stick most in the memory nearly thirty years later. By any convention, Octopussy is a fairly desperate film, and it’s actually a relief that there wasn’t a new Bond for this one, as if he’d ended up with similar material it might have killed his career stone dead.

In terms of what actually works here, there’s the opening stunt with the Acrostar, which is part of a fairly efficient opening sequence, and the final plane stunt is also pretty reasonable. Moore’s not really doing anything different here than he has been previously, other than occasionally being even more lecherous than before, but it’s to Octopussy’s shame that his performance and the two book-ending stunts are about the only major positives to take from this one.

But actually, there are just a few tiny morsels to take away that show that even this dated mess has still had an influence on what followed. (That rushing air sound you can hear is me breathing a huge sigh of relief.)

1. The age of enlightenment? Not quite.

As I’ve mentioned before on this journey, Roger was older when he started than Connery was when he finished. 1983 is a significant year in the Bond world for another reason, and it’s mainly the reason that poor old Rog got dragged back for another round of lasciviousness and eyebrow raising. Shir Shean Connereh was 53, but was offered flipping great wodges of cash to make an unofficial Bond based on Thunderball whose title, I must remind you, we can never say. Never one to miss out on some cash himself, Roger was nearly persuaded to appear again in Sean’s film in a climactic scene, but in the end we just got Lord Connery of Sell-Out winking at the camera. Probably for the best, that dirty old winker.

Consequently, maths being what it is Roger was still older in 1983 than Sean was, and Roger had reached the ripe old age of 56 by the time of Octopussy. While he has, again due to maths, continued to get older since, Octopussy was the first time that Rog looked genuinely past it, yet with the application of plenty of soft focus, long range camerawork and unconvincing stuntmen it was possible for a man nearer sixty than fifty to still be an action hero. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 3? 56. Liam Neeson in Taken? 56. Bruce Willis when he started filming Die Hard 5? You guessed it, 56. If it hadn’t been for the desperate lure of lining their pockets with even more cash Roger’s heroic example, none of those would have been possible.

2. Always be careful what’s on the menu when sitting down to dinner in India

Of course, India is a third world country, and rather than the refined delights of foie gras, haggis and black pudding that would grace many fine dining menus in this country, in India all they eat is sheep’s head and monkey’s brains. Such an elegant menu deserved to be rolled out again for special occasions, as it was a year later in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Is it wrong that I’d be prepared to give monkey brains a go?

It’s just a decorative plate, right? RIGHT?

3. Ever wondered why so many people think clowns are scary?

Say my name three times and I’ll come back to make another Bond.

Next time: Old father time decides he’s had enough. It’s A View To A Kill.

For more Bond related japes and in-depth analysis, visit BlogalongaBond.

Bond Legacy: For Your Eyes Only

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When she saw Octopussy, Melina regretted not taking her earlier opportunity to end it all.

Is it really a whole year since we started rewatching Bond films? Twelve months, and a round dozen films, and we now reach the point of no return – less films ahead of us than behind. For many others on this journey, it will actually get easier as generally better perceived Bonds will get their turn and the films will improve after the early Eighties fallow period. For me, each film gets harder, as my theory that each film has a legacy has less time to actually come to pass and each individual legacy becomes that much harder to pin down.

I had consoled myself with the thought that at least there was one more watchable Roger Moore film to come, but I was completely unprepared for the start of For Your Eyes Only. The worst pre-credits sequence of the entire series, it’s laughably bad and makes most of Moonraker look a work of art in comparison. From the decision to bring back Blofeld and then turn him into a pantomime caricature, to the whistle as Bond drops him down a giant chimney (the worst sound effect in the series since The Man With The Golden Gun), it’s a start from which most Bond films would struggle to recover.

Yet, more in line with my expectations, FYEO pulls it off. Generally reverting to a more serious and realistic tone than Moonraker – apart from the should-be-laughable-but-it-actually-made-me-weep-tiny-tears Margaret Thatcher scene at the end – Roger Moore is once again on top form and just about belies his increasing age, for probably the last time in the series, thanks to extensive use of soft focus and lens vaseline (sadly, by the time of Octopussy, even that won’t be enough). There’s also a sensible distribution of Bond girls, and James sensibly draws the line at the shouty one with pigtails young enough to be his daughter.

It’s also one of the more MacGuffin based Bonds, with the ATAC machine offering a tangible distraction for both sides to get their hands on. It also sees a shifting in Anglo-Russian relations (those of you playing the Bond Legacy drinking game, take a swig now) with General Gogol firmly on the other side, rather than hovering shadily in the middle. There’s some decent, rather than spectacular, action sequences and it all slips down fairly easily, although it might be a little forgettable a couple of hours after you’ve watched it.

Thankfully there’s still a few legacies to be had, before it’s all destined to go horribly wrong next month.

1. Car chases can be as effective without the gadgets

Bond wasn't convinced at the hire car company's idea of an "upgrade".

There might have been a variety of different cars or styles of driving over the past twenty years of Bond films, but generally Bond has been seen in quality motors, and even when he hasn’t – for example, The Man With The Golden Gun – the stunt has been spectacular enough or the rest of the driving mundane enough for it not to matter. But for the first time in the Bond series here, James is forced to make the best of a bad job, and works wonders with his Citroen 2CV, taking it off road even after Melina has managed to roll it trying to take a simple right turn. Women drivers, eh…

I’m sure Jason Bourne would like to think his various escapades in clapped out old bangers were showing a new or innovative side, a world away from the fast car sheen of the James Bond films, but Bond has proved here he can slum it with the best of them. One thing though; I’d have a word with Q about that ridiculously over-zealous anti-theft device if I were you, James.

2. The regeneration game

Bond visiting his wife's grave for the first time in over a decade finally gave Blofeld his window of opportunity...

While the characters have always had the same names, the Bond series had never made it as explicitly clear about the continuity of the character as it does here. So Roger Moore’s Bond is definitely the same Bond as George Lazenby’s Bond, even though they look different. Well, either that, or they both happen to have a wife called Teresa who died in 1969. Which, presuming that both films took place in the current year, is twelve years ago. Unless this isn’t actually 1981, or the whole opening is some form of psychotic episode on Bond’s part, driven to twelve years of grief over the death of his wife.

Anyway, the films would make further allusions to the fact that Bond had lost a loved one in tragic circumstances, right up as far as The World Is Not Enough, so assuming Bond was the same age as Tracy in the films (which he almost certainly wasn’t), and that film is also contemporary, Pierce Brosnan would have been playing a character well into his fifties, for which he was looking remarkably good. Inspiring the hard men of the world, Jack Bauer (born 1966) would have been well into his fifties by the end of 24 if season 1 of that show was contemporary and the gaps between seasons were correct, and if John McClane was 31 or older in Die Hard – quite likely as he’d been a cop for 11 years at that point – it would put him into his sixth decade by the time of Die Hard 4.0, and certainly well past 50 by the time of the upcoming A Good Day To Die Hard. (And you thought Skyfall was a rubbish title.)

This, of course, was unceremoniously pissed all over when Daniel Craig turned up, rebooted the continuity but M looked exactly the same as she did for the last Bond, even though she was a different M – or had a sex change and lost a lot of weight – than the M that didn’t appear in For Your Eyes Only, because he’d sadly died. Unless this is all still George Lazenby having an extended psychotic episode; on reflection, that might be easier to believe…

3. And Connery begat Moore, and Moore begat Brosnan

"No, I'M Spartacus!"

Speaking of Brosnan, the last legacy of this particular film was that it featured Cassandra Harris as Countess Lisl von Schlaf. Cassandra was also know as Mrs Pierce Brosnan, and hubby and Cubby met on set, whereupon Broccoli declared, “…if he can act… he’s my guy.” Fourteen years later, by which time Cubby was too infirm to work in any serious capacity on the series, he finally got his man. While it was Cassandra’s wish that her husband get the Bond job, sadly she died of cancer in 1991 and never saw him slip on the tux. Hopefully she would have been proud. Of Goldeneye, at least.

Next time: Go go Gadget innuendo. It’s Octopussy.