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A View to a Kill (1985)
Dalton was badly needed here
A View to a Kill marks the end of Moore's run in the role and in some ways, the film is a tribute to Moore's previous outings before the series would reinvent itself in the next film. However, many like to label this film as the very worst and while others find it to be an entertaining, if flawed film. I belong in the latter group, the film most definitely has it's number of flaws, clichés, and the like for sure but this is a far better film than Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die.
A View to a Kill is far from perfect but it manages to be entertaining nonetheless. People's (valid) criticisms seem to go like this - Moore was far too old in the role at this point, the plot was basically a rehash of Goldfinger, Stacy Sutton is one of the worst Bond girls of all time, the Beach Boys song in the pre-title sequence and the overall tired feel by cast and crew alike. While I wouldn't necessarily defend these criticisms, the film has it's good points like any Bond film. Firstly, we get a perfectly cast villain in Christopher Walken and is an awesome villain. Secondly, Barry's score is great as always when he's on board and the title song by Duran Duran is simply one of the best Bond songs of all time.
Tanya Roberts is horribly miscast as the Bond girl here. She serves no real purpose in the film other than eye candy, and she brings more attention to just how old Roger Moore looked in the film and gave their relationship a very creepy side to it as she was young enough to be Moore's daughter. It just makes it harder for us to believe that younger women would fall for a man of Roger Moore's age and someone like Maud Adams would have been believable but with someone around Tanya Roberts' age, it just doesn't work.
Story-wise, the film could and should have been better. By 1985, were Maibaum and Wilson really out of ideas where they *had* to recycle the plot from Goldfinger? A View to a Kill recycles many scenes from that film one way or the other. Firstly, Bond sees the villain initially when said-villain is involved in a cheating scam. While Goldfinger was cheating at a rather mundane game of cards, Zorin is introduced with a horse racing scam. Secondly, we have a similar sequence to when Goldfinger outlines his plans to the group of hoods which he ends up gassing them immediately afterwards. In A View to a Kill, Zorin outlines his plan to a group of businessmen on an airship and disposes of the lone dissenter (the Solo of this film) down some retracting steps into the cold waters of San Francisco Bay below.
Despite all of this, the film manages to be entertaining throughout. However, with a much better script and with Dalton in the role, the film would rank higher in the subconscious of the public and fans alike.
A fun entry to the series
After the serious and down-to-earth approach in For Your Eyes Only and with the rivaling non-Eon produced Bond film Never Say Never Again being released, the producers this time round decide to inject some of the comic elements of past Roger Moore outings. The result was Octopussy, a film that works on many fronts. The main thing that makes the film work is striking that middle-ground between the For Your Eyes Only approach of realistic villains and a plausible plot and the comical jokes and over-the-top elements of previous films.
It is clear that by his 6th outing, Moore's age has caught up with him but this doesn't stop him (this time, anyway) from playing Bond as well as he had ever played him. Moore keeps Bond somewhat serious again, and it pays off. There is definitely more humour in Octopussy than in For Your Eyes Only, but it is placed in more appropriate spots and is kept within the framework of a serious Bond film. The villains this time round are Steven Berkoff as General Orlov and Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan and both villains could feasibly exist in the world, unlike a Jaws character. Maud Adams returns to the series and doesn't disappoint as the title character.
Another thing that this film succeeds in are locations. India featuring as the prime location for much of this film works very much to it's advantage. Furthermore, the other major location used is West Germany - it's a nice fitting location for a storyline heavily involved with the cold war, moreso than the other films in the series. The film also features one of Barry's greatest Bond scores and the song, All Time High is a solid yet unfortunately underrated Bond song.
However, some of the things that this film has gone down in Bond history are pretty much for the wrong reasons. Firstly and perhaps most infamously also, we have Bond dressing up in a clown suit. Secondly, the Tarzan yell during the jungle chase is better off left unsaid.
An exceptionally great Bond film
After the phenomenal success of Goldfinger and with Bond mania in full swing, the producers try to follow up the previous film's success with Thunderball. Fortunately, the film is a thunderous entry in the series and surpasses the previous film in almost every way.
Thunderball is a thunderous, epic film. Here, in his fourth on-screen adventure, SPECTRE has stolen two atomic warheads and 007 is sent to recover the bombs and prevent the organization from using the warheads on a British or American city. Furthermore, the film is the first truly epic film in the series and sets a prototype for which all following large scale, epic films will model themselves after. Lastly, the film manages to strike a balance between the formula established by Goldfinger while remaining true to Fleming at the same time. And SPECTRE's nuclear weapons heist scheme is still relevant today with the terrorist climate that we are in.
The film is full of energy; Connery gives his last truly great performance in the role before getting tired of the character in the next two films he starred in, John Barry's slick and exotic score and Tom Jones's fantastic title song, two wonderful girls in Luciana Paluzzi and Claudine Auger and the menacing villains in Blofeld and his eye-patched no. 2, Emilio Largo. Furthermore, the direction and the screenplay are all top-notch and while the editing in the film's climax could do with some work, the climax is one of the most exciting in the series.
As a sort of side-topic, I find it interesting that this was originally set to be the first film but legal entanglements (Fleming turned the original story into a book without giving credit to Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham) stopped this from happening so the producers went with Dr. No.
Simply put, Thunderball is an exceptionally great Bond film and is one of Connery's finest.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
A step in the right direction for the series
After making his debut in Live and Let Die, Roger Moore returns for his second outing. For lack of a better term, this film is simply light years ahead of it's two predecessors and then some. However, the film doesn't quite cross into that classic Bond territory that we all know and love. Lastly, the film is also Saltzman's last Bond film to be attached as producer before selling his share to United Artists.
The film is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, the film has the best casting ever with Christopher Lee as Scaramanga and secondly, the whole cat and mouse idea between him and Bond, eventually leading to a duel between the two. The trouble is that the film adds a Solex Agitor plot in addition to the assassin vs. assassin plot and both are too loosely connected. The film would have been better without the Solex Agitor plot and played out like the novel - the cat and mouse game between Bond and Scaramanga. Furthermore, the Bond girl Brit Ekland is wasted by saying or doing stupid things and really fitting the bill of the bimbo Bond girl.
Roger Moore's performance in this film is one of his better ones, second only to For Your Eyes Only. Furthermore, he is more believable as Bond since he is more ruthless and human-like in this film, unlike some of his other Bond films (not his fault really, his scripts often had him as a wise-cracking, superhero-type agent). Plus the script has him use harsher methods of achieving his objectives, namely smacking Maud Adams around and getting information at gun point. Lastly, he still looks youthful at this point, before his age caught up with him and losing any credibility in the role due to staying longer than he should have.
Lee's Scaramanga is one of the better villains, if for casting alone. However, the trouble is the way the character is written; at the start of the film we learn that Bond is his next target but as the film goes on, he turns into something of a anti-villain. For example, when he and Bond meet, he says something along the lines of "I've got nothing against you" so therefore taking away the whole point of the story. However, it isn't all bad though, I found the Scaramanga of the film an improvement over the Scaramanga of the novel. In the novel, he's merely a gangster with a lucky shot.
Simply put, The Man with the Golden Gun is the bridge between two horrible films and Moore's most definitive Bond film.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The definitive Roger Moore Bond
After two films and three years since his last outing, Roger Moore returns for his third Bond film. After two absolutely horrible films and one border-line film, The Spy Who Loved Me is the first truly classic Bond film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969.
The Spy Who Loved Me is Roger Moore's most definitive Bond film, even though it isn't my favourite of the lot that he starred in. Everything works here, from the submarine lotus and the henchman Jaws to the classic pre-title sequence of Bond falling off a cliff with the Union Jack on a parachute and Moore coming into his own after two films. Furthermore, the film embraces the epic scope of Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty's Secret Service that was surely lacking in the last three films. Lastly, the climax of a shootout with Bond and a private army raiding the villain's lair returns in this film.
After two films, Moore finally comes into his own and shows that you don't have to be Sean Connery to be a good Bond (though Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service does a creditable job also). The film is noteworthy for it's villains. Jürgens's Stromberg is one of the best villains of the Moore era and gives a great performance of the aqua-loving villain. However, the film belongs to Richard Kiel as the 7' 2" henchman Jaws.
A somewhat minor but important issue I have to pick with the film. At the Oscars for 1977, this film is the only one in the series to get a nomination for best original score. Many of the Barry scores, particularly On Her Majesty's Secret Service, were very much in deserving a nomination whereas this film is the only one of the lot to actually receive said nomination. I know this has more to do with the series as a whole, but I feel that I should mention it as many of the Barry scores were fantastic and were deserving of a nomination.
Simply put, The Spy Who Loved Me is Moore's most definitive Bond film and deserves it's status as a classic film in the series.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Should've been Lazenby's Quantum of Solace
The year is 1971 and after one film, George Lazenby leaves the role and the producers manage to persuade Connery to return for one more film. However, things aren't of a diamond-like quality as the producers had hoped for with Connery on board...
Diamonds are Forever is an absolute trainwreck of epic proportions. This is mainly due to the fact that it isn't the revenge story it should have been and Lazenby should be here, not Connery. Connery's return is simply disappointing. He looks like he aged about 20 years since You Only Live Twice and seemed bored and uninterested and was only there for the money, having been paid a million, the highest paid salary at that time. Furthermore, after a promising start in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, it's simply tragic that Lazenby (and Savalas and Hunt) didn't come back for a second film as he had the potential to be better than Connery if he'd stuck around for more, plus getting closure for the events in the previous film.
While more or less every other Bond film has some energy to it and the cast and crew put in a considerable effort, everything about the film in general is just so goddamn lazy. After the critical aftermath of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the producers decided to play it safe and pretend that the 1969 film didn't exist and generally play it for laughs. With everything that is wrong with this film, the very fact that it wasn't the revenge story it should have been or at least some revenge angle, the film really doesn't deserve to see the light of day in my opinion.
And let's not forget the villains. Firstly, Gray's Blofeld is such a unsinister villain that you don't care whether or not his plan actually succeeds or not. Secondly, Wint and Kidd's homosexuality in the novel was only hinted at and both characters were serious hit men, but here their homosexuality is grossly exaggerated (in comparison to the book) and nothing like their literature counterparts.
The film only follows the book in certain areas, like the meeting in the apartment but is much, much sillier. It would be interesting to see the Spang brothers in a proper adaptation of the novel (of course, with much bigger roles, the Spang brothers are hardly in the novel), plus involving the section concerning the race track. Furthermore, in the novel, Tiffany Case is a frosty well-developed character and *not* the dumb bimbo of the film. Take this piece of dialogue for example:
'Listen, Bond,' said Tiffany Case. 'It'd take more than Crabmeat Ravigotte to get me into bed with a man. In any event, since it's your check, I'm going to have caviar, and what the English call cutlets, and some pink champagne. I don't often date a good-looking Englishman and the dinner's going to live up to the occasion.'
Now, would you find the Tiffany Case of the film say this? The book is one of my favourites in the series but not properly adapting the book is the least of this film's problems.
On the plus side, the film does feature a fantastic song by Shirley Bassey, the film's only redeemable quality.
From Russia with Love (1963)
A strong contender for the best Bond film
After the success of Dr. No, the Bond producers quickly plan a sequel. The question of which of Fleming's novels they would adapt next was decided on From Russia with Love, after when President Kennedy listed the novel among his top ten favourite novels of all time, in a list published in Life Magazine.
After his 007 debut in Dr. No, which put him on the map, Connery returns for his second outing. He seems to be more comfortable in the role the second time, something that seems common amongst the other actors in their second film. His enthusiasm shines through, before getting tired of the silly gadgets and over-the-top plots.
While most of the later films in the series have over-the-top plots and don't bother to escape the formula established by Goldfinger, the storyline to this film is extremely realistic and low-key. No megalomaniac villain seeking world domination, no butler henchmen with bowler hats or giants with metal teeth. Simply put, 007 is sent to pick up a deciphering machine whilst falling into a trap set up by SPECTRE. Furthermore, the film faithfully adapts one of Fleming's best stories whilst changing the villains of the story from SMERSH to SPECTRE and changing the ending plus adding on the boat chase and the helicopter attack at the end. Lastly, the film doesn't get bogged down by the formula as it didn't get established until Goldfinger, the next film.
From Russia with Love is noteworthy for it's suspense. No other film in the series manages to create so much suspense out of it's plot. Take the 15 minutes or so leading up to the train fight, not many other scenes in the series has bettered the acting and the writing here. Lastly, the train fight itself is raw and violent and is still unsurpassed today. Later films like The Spy Who Loved Me have tried to replicate the fight here but have only paled in comparison.
Simply put, From Russia with Love is one of the best Bond films ever and is a great adaptation of a great book.