Sunday, November 8, 2015

53 years of James Bond - - a look back (Part 1)

In honor of the 25th James Bond film, Spectre - which opened last month in the United Kingdom and this weekend across North America/Hawaii - here is a look back of the other 24 films over the past 53 years.  Part 1 will cover Dr. No through The Man with the Golden Gun

Dr. No (1962)
The Good: First film starring Sean Connery, Lois Maxwell (as Ms. Moneypenny) and Bernard Lee (as Bond's boss, M), that catchy Monty Norman 007 theme song, exotic Jamaica locales, Ursula Andress in that killer suit

The Bad: Film is dated compared to more recent 007 entries, no Q gadgets and car although Bond is introduced by his Walter PPK gun issued by Major Boothroyd (who is actually Q - - played by Peter Burton in his only 007 film appearance), Dr. No does not appear until about the last 40 minutes of the 1:50 long film.

Gerber's take: A solid opening film which Connery is in control of his debut role. Jack Lord, Joseph Wiseman, John Kitzmiller (as Quarrel) and Ms. Andress provide great supporting cast. Best scene: Connery telling Professor Dent that he has had his "six" (shots) before finishing him off.   Grade B+

Fun fact: Most of the Jamaica scenes were filmed when Jamaica was under British control - - prior to seceding as an independent county on August 4th, 1962

From Russia With Love (1963)

The Good: Strong plot line, first film to introduce Q branch (Desmond L and those gadgets which would become a hallmark for most of the Bond films, great train fight sequence. Excellent supporting cast of Robert Shaw.and Pedro Armendariz. First film of Desmond Llewelyn who plays Major Boothroyd, aka Q (he would go on to appear in a total of 17 Bond films over 36 years)

The bad: Amendariz died while filming, Bond does not have his own car yet, the plot introduction is a bit long before Bond first appears

Gerber's take: Great film with Connery wearing a hat more often in this film than his other entries. Robert Shaw is menacing as Red Grant.and the fight sequence aboard the Orient Express is unmatched to this day.  Grade A

Fun fact: As Bond, Kerim Bay (Armendariz) and Tatinia Romanova are boarding the Orient Express train after recovering the Lektor device, take a really close look at who first spots them. It's Krilencu who is seated at a table - - but he was killed earlier in the film by Bond and Bay's sniper rilfe (in retaliation for Krilencu's attack on Bay's gypsy settlement) while trying to escape through the "mouth" of a Bob Hope movie ad. You would really have to use pause and slo-mo to see this continuity goof.

Goldfinger (1964)

The Good: By many people, this is the quienssiential 007 entry, a really great plot with two of the best villians, Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and Oddjob (Harold Sakata) , Bond's clever escape from being sliced in half by Goldfinger's laser beam, Bond's first car, the Aston Martin DBV, Shirley Bassey's title song, the many one-liners and catchphrases throughout the film. First film to use an army of people to infiltrate a location where the enemy is hiding or attacking at the end of the film, - - (this would be a common sight for most of the future Bond films). And Pussy Galore,(Honor Blackman) of course.

The Bad: The film is too short to really enjoy it. Gert Frobe's voice was dubbed

Gerber's take: As much as I find Goldfinger to be a rich and invigorating viewing experience, it is actually number 2 on my list. Still, the many scenes where Bond matches wits with Goldfinger in face to face conversations highlight the powerful aspects of this film. Grade A+
Fun facts: #1) Look for a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant when Felix Leiter tracks Bond at Goldfinger's estate in Kentucky - - its when Goldfinger orders Oddjob to kill Mr/ Solo (one of the gangsters who does not want any part of Goldfinger's scheme to raid Fort Knox). #2 The name Auric Goldfinger is derived from Au in the first name - - Au is the symbol for gold in the Periodic Table of Elements and is number 79.

Thunderball (1965)
The good: Spectacular underwater sequences, strong plot, Connery still in top form, great action sequences, the jet-pack Bond uses in the pre-credits sequence

The bad: Longest film to date at 2:12, underwater sequences can be tiresome to watch for some people, overlong plot development, Emily Largo (Adolfo Celi) does not have the sinister acting like Red Grant or Goldfinger, the Aston Martin makes a brief appearance in the pre-credits sequence and is garaged for the rest of the film

Gerber's tale: I'm sorry, I feel this is the best Bond film because when you look at the detail of the underwater sequences it is amazing to watch humans instead of CGI play out their roles in several sequences. Connery is still fun to watch with his one-liners and relaxed attitude. Grade A+

Fun fact: Thunderball remains the highest grossing (adjusted for inflation) Bond film of all time at over $600 million.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

The Good: Plot involving outer space, Donald Pleasance as Blofeld, great Far East locales and action sequences, including Little Nellie, the personal autogyro with a lot of firepower.

The Bad: Connery looks old and tired (and gets beaten more often in this film), long sequences, Q's Little Nellie is the only gadget in the film.
Gerber's take: The film relies or a worn out Bond with Connery's one-liner's are now few and far between. The oriental sequences are a nice departure from the plot but some of the fight sequences are pointless against Blofeld's plot to capture space capsules to trigger a war between Russia and the United States. The overall film is still good compared to the Dalton and Bronsan films with a massive set involving an underground launch station below a "volcano".  Grade B+.
Fun fact: Charles Gray is the first non-regular actor to appear in two different Bond films, while playing two different characters (You Only Live Twice as Mr. Henderson and Diamonds are Forever as Blofeld). He is also the first actor to be "killed" off in one film then appear in another (Maude Adams is the first actress to do the same). But Mr. Gray is most famous as The Criminologist/narrator in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

On Her Majestys Secret Service (1969)

The Good: Strong Blofeld (Telly Savalas), a new Bond played by George Lazenby (his only Bond film) great Switzerland locations, tragic ending

The bad: Longest film at 2:20, long drawn out plot, Lazenby lacks the charisma and class of Connery.

Gerber's take: If you really want one redeeming feature of OHMSS, Lazenby can act and he is the only Bond actor who cries. I really think if the film were not as long as it was, it would have been a great film. Lazenby, Savalas, and Diana Rigg are terrific in this film and frankly, it could have been one of the best if 20 minutes of this film were chopped off. Grade A-
Fun fact: The ABC TV broadcast of OHMSS in 1976 was butchered to show that Bond is narrating the story and the first scene in the TV showing was Bond escaping from Piz Gloria (about 80 minutes into the film) while the flashback sequence is actually the pre-credits sequence. If ABC had a hand to kill Lanzeby's reputation as James Bond off, it was this broadcast.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

The Good: Connery comes back for his purported "final" appearance as Bond, Amsterdam and Las Vegas locations, some interesting action sequences including Bond chased in a moon buggy, Bond's revenge against Blofeld for the murder of his newlywed in OHMSS, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd

The bad: The film does not answer how Blofeld escaped from oil platform, com

Gerber's take: Connery looks older and does not have the wit of his earlier films while the film takes a less serious tone. Jill St. John as a 40-something Bond girl does not help. Action sequences balance out the comic relief of this film - - I mean Willard Whyte was played by Jimmy Dean, are you serious?   Grade B-
Fun fact #1: Bruce Cabot played Bert Saxby, Blofeld's casino manager - - nearly 40 years ago he played the man who would bring King Kong to New York in the 1933 classic. Fun fact #2: Since this was Connery's "last" film, the final sequence shot was Bond knocked out by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd then placed in a coffin for cremation. The date of this final scene was on a Friday the 13th (source, IMDB).

Live and Let Die (1973)

The good: Roger Moore's first film, Paul McCartney's title song, great boat chase sequence, ,

The bad: No Q, poor plot (Bond goes after a drug dealer), film follows the height of the 70's blaexploitation film era.

Gerber's take: It's Moore's first film and he takes his "Saint" humor to an enjoyable romp. Yes the plot is thin compared to other Bond films and the ending is lackluster.  But enjoy this romp because you don;t need CGI to make a great boat chase like this film.  Grade B-

Fun fact: The subway entrance shown in this film is on the SW corner of Lenox Ave and 125th Street in New York City and is the downtown side of 125th Street station on the 2/3 lines.. Lenox Ave is now Malcolm X Blvd.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The good: Christopher Lee as a badass villian, a good car flip sequence, Bond targeted for death by a professional assasian. ,
The bad: Dull plot, Britt Elkland one the worst Bond girls, Clifton James returns as that now annoyingly Sgt. Pepper,

Gerber's take: Moore's worst outing (A View to a Kill is not far behind) and the film suffers from a lack of good action sequences - - the training camp was lifted from You Only Live Twice.  Sgt. Pepper's return appearance and Elkland's banal acting sink this movie which is too bad because Christopher Lee and Herve Villechaize were great villians in a so-so story which was directed by Guy Hamilton, his fourth and last Bond film.  Grade D

Part 2 will follow next week,.

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