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
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
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
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.
Finally, a true turning point in our series of reflections on the James Bond films, and my sixth attempt to prove the influence of Bond on not only his other subsequent films but also the larger world of film. For this month, such a shift in the world and such a unique entry in the series it feels that I need a similarly unique entry to outline the legacy of this month’s Bondage. So I’ve written a poem, which is completely unique and in no way almost exactly like something I did just last month for the general blog.Sean Connery’s Bonds had reached number five, But felt his career was taking a dive, So he left the series, and here in his place, A man with the same name – but what of that face? He’d been in commercials, he hailed from Australia, He told Cubby Broccoli, “I’ll never fail ya,” He wore a Rolex and knocked out a wrestler, They hoped he’d bring energy worthy of Tesla. Many more changes were also impending But not from the book; especially the ending. To set our Bond series on such a new course, They actually stayed quite close to the source. However the casting saw more than one swap out And maybe the makers were guilty of cop out; Some of their casting was frankly quite callous, Replacing that Pleasance with Telly Savalas? But our premier legacy for this fifth of sequels Shows that the movies can all remain equals Or even be better, their impact is lasting – And not much, it seems, is down to the casting. For this film has shown that the reboot’s a winner, And while some would claim it to be a dog’s dinner, The strength of the concept is clearly the key here, And viewers still wanted to regularly be here. Legacy two is in some way related, For even as earlier Bonds become dated, They all link together, as one single story, Although some connections are just a tad hoary, But clearly we must take this as all one account, Even as fresh inconsistencies mount, This new Bond has trappings of that other fellow, But when he meets Blofeld they’re surely too mellow? Sworn enemies surely would not be forgotten? Some of this plotting’s a little bit rotten. It all makes uneven this odd Blofeld triple, But thankfully these changes couldn’t quite cripple The series. Now sadly ol’ Lazenby wouldn’t Be back for another, or he just couldn’t Deal with the stresses of filling those shoes. (It’s also a problem for some Doctor Whos.) As well as reboots and Bond continuity, Other small legacies come as gratuity. Legacy three’s a peculiar notion For this is the first Bond to feature slow motion And also the flashback, enabling the story For much grander notions and narrative glory. (And contrary to those who’re appalled by the fact, The fourth wall’s not broken, it remains quite intact Through pre-credits dealings, so please do not judge Based on misconceptions; but yes, it’s a fudge And you could be forgiven for misunderstanding This film from the year of Apollo’s moon landing.) Legacy four’s also small and bizarre For John Barry used an electric guitar To enliven the soundtrack, and some synthesiser, So the music was great; like a blue pill from Pfizer Had been handed out to all soundtrack players And the music throughout had so many layers Thanks to Barry, Hal David, and old Louis Armstrong Which links to the legacy that’s taken so long To come to fruition. Yes, it’s love feelings That only the Craig Bonds have had such deep dealings With, and of course they are both so true To this film’s first legacy – and actually, the first two! The fact that Bond’s love life can be so forlorn Has clear implications for Bauer and Bourne – The life of a spy must be totally selfish And dealings with women all casual and elfish. One more Bond legacy this month I offer To add to the bulging heredit’ry coffer That Bond has bequeathed us from six films of great means, This one inspired the Inception snow scenes. So film number six, and six legacies here But question why this film is not held as dear As some of the other Bonds already produced. I think that you’ve by now most likely deduced That it had nothing to do with Diana Rigg Replacing the girl with the face like a pig; Yes, Bond’s shoddy casting made this film lack So next time we’re getting Sean Connery back.
Next month: Bonds come and go, but Diamonds Are Forever. (See what I did there?)