Bond, James Bond

by Alan Rapp on November 11, 2008

in Essays , Theme Week

In 1961 producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman set out to turn one of Ian Fleming‘s James Bond novels into a feature film.  Many were considered; one was chosen.  The list was long and extensive: Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner), David Niven, James Mason, Roger Moore, and Cary Grant.

The role went instead to an unknown stage and television actor – Sean Connery, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Connery would go on to make five Bond films before leaving the role only to be called back after the Lanzenby film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service met with mixed reviews and the actor pulled out of a long term deal, paving the way for Connery to make one more Bond flick before saying goodbye to the character, for the second time, vowing never to play Bond Again.  He would return once more to reprise the role in a remake of a fan favorite Bond film in his final farewell to the Bond franchise Never Say Never Again.

Although others would go on to portray the character spanning the now 20+ Bond films, Connery set the tone and model for the character and franchise.  He’s been hard to follow.  (Of course the fact that he had the best pickings of the Bond novels for his films is an argument fans of other Bond’s often site as an unfair advantage).  The days after Bond were not kind to the actor (see Zardoz) but over the last two decades Connery has reclaimed his career with film roles in Highlander, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Rock (where he plays a Bond-like former British spy), The Hunt for Red October, Entrapment, and won a Best Supporting Actor for The Untouchables.

Dr. No

British SIS officer James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a British agent (Tim Moxon).  There he meets CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), discovers a plot by a terrorist organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) determined to undermine rocket launches of the United States, is given his first Walther PPK – the gun which would serve him so well over the course of the series, meets his first “Bond girl” (Ursula Andress), fights a metal dragon, orders his first martini, and comes face to face with the evil scientist overlord of Crab Key Island, Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).  Many of Bond’s trademarks were begun here, others would be added as the series continued.  For the first film Dr. No is a huge success that would engrave James Bond forever into popular culture.  Most memorable moment – Ursula Andress coming out of the water singing “Underneath the Mango Tree.”


From Russia With Love

The second of the Bond franchise is my favorite (and Connery’s as well, so I’m in good company).  The film is the closest to the Ian Fleming novels.  Following James Bond’s actions on Crab Key Island S.P.E.C.T.R.E. decides to take revenge.  Bond is in his element here as Cold War tensions are high.  O07 is ordered to Turkey to assist in the defection of a beautiful Russian cipher clerk (Daniela Bianchi) and a LEKTOR decoder.  The defection is a trap ordered by a former member of the Soviet military (Lotte Lenya) now working for S.P.E.C.T.R.E.  The trap is sprung on a train where agent Red Grant (Robert Shaw) tries to kill Bond.  The film is notable for the first appearance of Q (Desmond LLewelyn).  It’s also the final appearance of Bond’s gal pal Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) freeing Bond to bed a bevy of beauties in successive films.  And my theory about films with trains being better than films without them proves true yet again.


Goldfinger

“No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”

Bond is sent to America to investigate a gold dealer named Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) who he immediately iritates by humiliating him at a card game and stealing his girl (Shirley Eaton), who is later found murdered and covered in gold paint.  Bond’s investigation uncovers Goldfinger’s plot to break into Fort Knox with the help of his female pilots, led by Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).  A fan favorite, Goldfinger gives us the Aston Martin DB5, the first of the ill-fated Bong girls (Eaton), the famous laser scene, the first of the humorous-sexual names for the female femme-fatales, the prototype for the evil henchman in Oddjob (Harold Sakata), and the first ending of a Bond film (often duplicated) finding Bond and his Bond girl alone together to celebrate his victory, Bond-style.


Thunderball

S.P.E.C.T.R.E. hijacks a pair of nuclear bombs, which they plan to use to hold the world hostage.  The theft includes an agent who submitted to plastic surgery to resemble a Major (Paul Stassino) who will be flying the plane carrying the bombs.  While at health farm, Bond discovers odd events, and the body of the real NATO official, that lead him to uncover the plot.  He travels to Nassau to the dead pilot’s sister (Claudine Auger) who is the mistress of the Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), the number two man of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.  Bond wins the girl’s trust and affection, avoids a deadly femme fatale (Luciana Paluzzi), and, with the help of Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter), finds the bombs and foils the nefarious plot.  Interesting tidbits for fans: Thunderball, with inflation taken into account, is the highest grossing film of the entire series, marks Bond’s only (to date) use of a jet-pack, and his first, though not last, battle with sharks.


You Only Live Twice

In Sean Connery’s first “last” Bond film James Bond dies, or so everyone thinks.  As both American and Soviet spacecraft disappear tensions rise between the two super-powers.  The British Government suspects something suspicious may be going on in Japan.  Undercover, James Bond looks into the situation, and with the help of the leader of the Japanese secret service (Tetsuro Tamba) and his ninja, discovers a hidden S.P.E.C.T.R.E. base inside a volcano.  A battle is fought between the agents of S.P.C.T.R.E. and the ninja (in one of the series’ most memorable action scenes), and Bond comes face to face with the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – Ernst Starvo Blofeld (Donald Pleasence).  The film contains one of Bond’s two marriages, this one to Japanese agent Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), and is the first time Blofeld’s face is seen on camera.


Diamonds are Forever

After George Lazenby’s one-shot run as Bond in His Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery returns for his second “last” Bond film, in what may be the worst Bond movie ever made.  Most of Fleming’s book is thrown away as Bond goes after diamond smugglers and Blofeld (Charles Gray), who has created clones of himself by having agents go through plastic surgery.  After killing more than one wrong Blofeld, Bond uncovers the mastermind’s plot to use the diamonds to build a laser intended to destroy S.P.E.C.T.R.E.‘s enemies from space.  The villains include a pair of odd thugs (Bruce Glover, Putter Smith) and Blofeld’s female bodybuilder guards (Lola Larson, Trina Parks).  This disastrous entry also includes two Bond girls Jill St. John and Lana Wood (as the humorously named “Plenty O’Toole”).  I’d call it forgettable, but it’s so bad it makes Octopussy look like high art.


Never Say Never Again

Not actually part of the Bond series, Never Say Never Again does however mark Connery’s last Bond film.  No, really this time.  I swear!  Unable to get rights to any new Bond film, Connery remade Thunderball.  The film follows the same basic plot with a slight advance in technology (it was made almost 20 years later) casting Kim Basinger as Domino, Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush (the Fiona Volpe role from Thunderball, who is killed with a pen in this version), and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo.  Because the film wasn’t part of the series it does not contain the tradmark gun barrel opening shot, the trademark Bond opening credits, or the famous Bond gadgets.  It’s an interesting flick, but nowhere near as entertaining as the original (why couldn’t they have bought the rights and remade Diamonds are Forever instead?).  Still, it’s one more chance to see Connery as Bond.

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