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We start in a cemetery. Bond is delivering roses to the grave of Tracy, the late Mrs. Bond. The gravestone reads as follows:

Beloved wife of
We have all the time in the World

A priest flags down Bond to tell him that his office has called and they are sending a helicopter. As Bond gets on the helicopter, he sees the priest giving (I think) the hand jive for last rites.

Cut to Blofeld’s cat! Which is in the lap of Blofeld!

We haven’t seen Blofeld since his presumed death in “Diamonds are Forever.” He is not in great shape. He’s in a neck brace and motorized wheelchair, hairless again. His face is once again obscured to the viewer, as it was in his early appearances.

Blofeld has a complicated electronic console on his wheelchair, one that contains a live feed to Bond’s helicopter. He presses a button on it that electrocutes Bond’s pilot. The copter goes into a tail spin as Blofeld speaks over speakers installed in the helicopter, taunting Bond.

Blofeld uses his console to remotely control the helicopter. He starts toying with Bond, batting the helicopter around like a cat with a mouse. Bond, meanwhile, climbs to the outside of the helicopter, dangling precariously as he tries to reach the cockpit.

The helicopter is flying over a rock quarry or somesuch. This is where Blofeld is located. He wants to watch Bond die. Unfortunately for him, Bond regains control of the helicpoter, and flies toward Blofeld. He spears the wheelchair with the landing struts of the helicopter and lifts Blofeld into the air.

Instantly, Blofeld adopts a pleading tone. “We can do a deal! I can buy you a delicatessen! In stainless steel!” Bond laughingly dumps Blofeld into a large smokestack. This presumably kills him one and for all.

The opening credits is the standard guns and naked ladies one expects from these things, but oddly the performer of the title song, Sheena Easton, is visible onscreen, singing. I like this approach. I think it gives it a “we’re putting on a show” vibe that I can get behind.

After the credits, the film follows a shifty man onto what appears to be a large fishing boat. However, it turns out there is a hidden door inside this boat, leading to some British Naval Intelligence shit, complete with nuclear capability.

The crew of the fishing boat, which seems to be a real fishing boat, with fishermen perhaps unaware that there is a secret military outpost inside their vessel, catch a sea mine in their net, apparently at random. This blows up the boat.

We do not cut to M’s office, instead we cut to the Minister of Defence, who we have seen have a minor role in past films, being briefed on this explosion.

We then cut to Gogol, M’s Russian opposite, who we have also seen in multiple prior films, also being informed of the incident. He’s contacted “their friend in Greece.”

James Bond movies are largely standalone affairs, but fifteen minutes in and there have been a ton of call backs to the history of the franchise. Perhaps this is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate after the scifi excess of “Moonraker.”

We now watch as a beautiful woman flies by sea plane to meet her parents who are on a boat and own a parrot. However, their reunion is cut tragically short because the pilot who brought her to the boat, arcs back around and uses the hidden machine guns on his plane to lay her parents to waste.

The camera zooms in on the woman, as grief hardens into resolve. For a moment it feels like I’m watching a real movie, albeit a melodramatic one.

Now we have Moneypenny in the office. Not unattractive by any means, but years past the age range of women that Bond views as sexual beings. She opens up a filing cabinet to reveal an over-the-top Q Branch super-vanity. She is applying lipstick in a mirror when through the mirror she sees a hat fly through the air onto the hat rack. It is 1981.

Bond appears and the two of them flirt in a way that they haven’t for a number of years. It is almost sweet, except we’ve seen Moneypenny pine over this piece of garbage while 20 years have gone by, so “sweet” isn’t exactly right.

M is on holiday, so Bond is briefed by other stodgy white guys in suits, including the Minister of Defence. During the briefing Bond learns that the boat that sunk is outside the Albanian Coast and that if the ATAC missile system that was onboard were to fall into the wrong hands, all of Britain’s missiles would be under the command of those wrong hands.

The murdered parents with the parrot were trying to salvage the wreck for Britain. Their assassin is one Hector Gonzales of Cuba. Melina is their daughter.

Bond is to track down Gonzales in Madrid. He arrives, driving an absurd-looking Lotus. He sneaks onto an estate during a party. Gonzales is there, meeting with some sort of money man, but before anything can happen, Bond gets caught, almost immediately. As he is being dragged away by guards, Gonzales is shot fatally by what appears to be a dart.

In the confusion of that assassination, Bond bucks his guards and escapes. He exits the grounds, using a parasol as a parachute. He runs from the guards as a terrible Bill Conti score blares in the background.

He runs into Melina, who is wielding a crossbow and shoots one of his pursuers. Now they both flee together toward Bond’s car.

Some of the baddies approach Bond’s garish Lotus first. There is a closeup of a window decal stating “Burglar Protected.” A goon tries to smash the window of the car and the whole car explodes.

Bond and Melina keep running, getting in her car, an ancient yellow Citroën . The joke is supposed to be that her car is so much less cool than his, but, boy, has 40 years reversed that gag.

The bad guys pursue them into a village. At one point in the chase, the Citroën flips over but a few villagers help right the car. More car chase ensues. It’s genuinely good, not played (much) for laughs. This chase is probably the best that James Bond has been since “Live or Let Die”.

Bond and Melina get away and catch their breath in a hotel room. Bond, who has just recently murdered the killer of his wife, tries to talk Melina out of a path of vengeance. She ain’t having it. She still has revenge left to do. As she explains to Bond, she’s half-Greek, and like “Electra, Greek women always avenger their loved ones.”

Bond returns to England to report his failure. The Minister advises him to try the “Identigraph.”

And so Bond visits Q Branch. As he walks through the section, there are the now-standard silly spy gadget gags. For the first time, Q Branch is now staffed co-ed.

The Identigraph has it’s own room within Q Branch. Bond lists off a series of descriptions of the guy who he saw pay off Gonzales to Q, as if he were a sketch artist. Q produces a computer-generated image that doesn’t really look anything like the guy. Q uses that image to produce a positive ID on the fellow. Bond is looking for Emile Leopold Locque , an enforcer in the Brussels underworld.

Bond takes a new Lotus (or possibly a reconstituted one?) to Cortina, Italy, where Locque was last seen. He arrives at his hotel and steams up the bathroom to find a message written on the mirror: “Tofana 10 AM”. It’s silly and heightened, but it almost feels like real spycraft. Wait, do I actually like this movie?

Bond meets his contact, Luigi. Luigi introduces Bond to another contact, Aris Kristatos, who is the sports manager for Bibi, an ice skater with Olympic aspirations. Bond also meets Bibi and her coach, Mrs. Brink.

He learns from Kristatos, that Locque is an operative of an organization called the White Dove, and that their leader is a man named Columbo, also known as the Dove, and is reported to be an all around bad dude.

Bond then spots Melina buying a new crossbow. She is then beset by murderous Bikers. Bond helps her avoid her attackers.

He asks what she is doing in Cortina. She claims Bond had sent her a telegram to meet him there. Bond asks her to not kill Columbo before he can interrogate him.

Bond gets back to his hotel to find Bibi, who’s full name is Bibi Dahl, waiting for him, naked. For some unknowable reason she is eager to sleep with him, but he rebuffs her advances. Let me repeat that: James Bond refuses sex from an attractive young woman. Is Moore feeling his 54 years of age?

Bond goes skiing with Bibi. She wants to watch her friend Erich, a German biathlete, perform. He’s a crack shot and very dour.

Bond skis away from the athletes, only to be shot at by Erich. Bond evades the gunfire but the Dove himself starts chasing Bond.

There is a lot of skiing and chasing and shooting. Motorcycles and a bobsled are added to the mix at some point. The action is chaotic, but fun and well done. I think this movie might be actually be good.

The plot gets too hard to parse for a while. Bond is attacked by hockey players. Luigi is found dead, clutching the dove pin that is the symbol of the White Dove. Bond plays some Baccarat long enough to humiliate some random schmoe. A bunch of conversations and lies and counterlies.

Eventually, Bond sleeps with a slightly more age appropriate woman, a companion of the Dove. She ends up dead, and he ends up a prisoner of the Dove.

The Dove, Columbo, tells Bond that he is not exactly the villain Bond believes him to be. He claims that he is a simple smuggler, but Locque is a Russian double agent. Bond and Columbo seem to get along well. Columbo likes to eat pistachios.

To prove his story, Columbo takes Bond with him to a shootout against… the real bad guys? It’s really kind of hard to follow. The action that follows is solid, but the plot has gotten progressively incomprehensible.

Also, after the filmmakers took the time to set up Melina as a second lead at the beginning of the film, she has barely been in the movie since. Bond now catches up with her, as well as her father’s parrot. He and she enter a submersible, diving to retrace her father’s steps. They find the boat. Inside, they find the ATAC missile system.

Bond begins the process of removing it, when they are attacked by a bad guy in an armored diving suit with claw arms. Bond blows him up and they retreat to the submersible.

Naturally, they then get attacked by a larger submersible. They get away, but Kristatos is waiting for them on her boat. The bad guys take the ATAC, and then, instead of shooting the good guys, they tie the two of them together and drag them in water behind them at high speeds.

This, of course, fails to kill them, and Bond severs the rope and frees them. It all falls disappointingly flat after the successful action of the rest of the film.

Fortunately, the parrot tells Bond and Melina where to go next. Kristatos has taken the ATAC to a Monastery on a mountain.

Columbo and his men help Bond and Melina assault the fortress. I think he does this simply because he likes Bond?

Bond climbs up the side of the mountain, gets to the top, is kicked off of it by a good and is caught by his safety harness. He then has to climb back up the safety rope quickly while the goon tries to dislodge it. It’s pretty great.

Bond and company sneak through the compound while Kristatos waits for Gogol himself. In the ensuing fracas, Melina is denied her revenge when Columbo kills Kristatos.

Gogol arrives. Not recognizing Bond, he asks him for the ATAC. Bond tosses it off of the mountain, and Gogol departs.

Bond and Melina make out on her boat. Bond gets radioed from his watch, now an analog/digital hybrid. Bond sticks the watch in the birdcage and the two humans fuck on the boat while Margaret Thatcher calls to congratulate Bond, unaware that she is actually talking to a Parrot.

What an odd film. So much better than the last few, the action is played straight and is well shot. Although, the plot is largely incomprehensible, I appreciate that the filmmakers are taking things somewhat seriously. The stakes are not insignificant, but are drastically lower than the last several. Perhaps most notably, this is the first Bond movie where the main threat is actually the Soviets.

There are several very odd notes in the film. The Bibi stuff is bewilderingly out of place, and without insider baseball knowledge, the Blofeld cold open is even more bizarre. And no two ways about it, Moore is too old to be playing an action hero.

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The film starts with a British-staffed plane, transporting a space shuttle named “Moonraker” across the Atlantic. There are hijackers aboard! White guys in brown leather jackets have snuck onto the shuttle. They take off in the shuttle, exploding the plane in the process.

Meanwhile, Bond is on a private jet getting cozy with a stewardess. Suddenly, the stewardess pulls a gun on Bond. The pilot enters the cabin, wearing a parachute and also brandishing a gun.

Bond and the pilot brawl. In the chaos of the fight, the door to the plane is opened. Bond tosses the pilot out of the plane. A second later, motherfuckin’ Jaws from the previous film appears from nowhere, shoving Bond out of the plane.

Bond, freefalling without a parachute angles his dive toward the pilot, and catches him. They fight in the air, and Bond manages to wrench the parachute off of the pilot. The pilot flies off at an angle while Bond attaches the chute.

But Jaws is right above him, having dove out of the plane with a chute of his own! He grapples Bond, tries to bite him. Bond pulls his rip cord, and breaks off from Jaws as his parachute deploys.

It’s a spectacular set piece. One that is then ruined when Jaws’ parachute fails to deploy, causing him to desperately angle his fall so that he lands on a circus tent, breaking his fall and saving his life. It’s a terrible comedy beat, almost as ruinous as the slide-whistle in “The Man With the Golden Gun.”

After the opening Credits, Bond meets with M, Q, and the Minister of Defence. America is mad because the lost shuttle was in British care, so they want Bond to investigate. Before Bond leaves for California, Q gives him a wrist-mounted dart gun.

Corinne Dufour, a beautiful lady helicopter pilot flies Bond into the compound of a wealthy industrialist named Hugo Drax, the manufacturer of the Moonraker. Drax has a giant campus with a giant mansion in the center, which had been shipped stone-by-stone from France. He is developing his own space program.

Bond exchanges brief pleasantries with Drax, who plays at being cultured, but instantly comes off as a dull creep. Bond is sent to meet with a lady scientist named Dr. Holly Goodhead. With the addition of this character to the canon, somehow “Pussy Galore” has been beat as the laziest suggestive name in the franchise.

Goodhead shows Bond some astronaut stuff and straps him in a centrifuge before being called away. After she leaves, at Drax’s command, his specifically-Asian manservant, Chang spins Bond faster and faster, having disabled the kill switch for the centrifuge. As Bond approaches fatal speeds, he uses a wrist dart to disable the machine. For some reason, politeness, I suppose, this is treated as a mechanical mishap and not as an obvious homicide attempt.

These proceedings are all more or less fine enough, but Goodhead is dull. Chang is dull. And Michael Lonsdale as Drax is easily the villain with the least charm, spark, or personality the series has had to date.

Corinne has a bit of personality, but Roger Moore has aged to the point where her role as the woman who sleeps with him and shares all of her boss’s secrets after falling for the charms of James Bond is fully implausible, boring and irritating. Which is not to say that it was a welcome archetype when Bond was younger and hotter. It’s just dumber now.

At any rate, having served her plot function, Corinne can now be murdered by Chang in an unpleasant extended scene where she is set upon by dogs.

Bond, having photographed some blueprints is ready to leave, but not before Drax attempts to have him killed in a pheasant hunting “accident”. Bond just shoots would be attacker and takes off as if nothing ever happened. All Drax’s attempts to have Bond murdered are doing are red flagging himself as a bad guy.

Bond now travels to Venice on a very thin lead. He ends up visiting a glass museum and runs into Dr. Goodhead. He keeps trying to ingratiate himself with her and she keeps rebuffing him. This should be endearing, but the character is just so flat.

Later, Bond is lounging on a gondola when he gets beset by a knife-throwing assassin. The assassin kills the gondolier but misses Bond. Bond throws the knife that missed back at the assassin, killing him in a cartoonish manner that is not worth describing. Seems like using the dart gun would have been easier.

It appears that this is no ordinary gondola, as Bond pulls out controls for motorized operation. He begins piloting the gondola as if it were a speedboat, now pursued by gun-toting assailants in actual speedboats. There is a chase through the canals, played not for suspense, but for what one would technically call comedy.

After a few action beats, a second speedboat, this one with Jaw onboard joins the chase. However, Bond’s gondola is a spy gondola and he is able to transform it into a hovercraft, leaving the canals for the streets, and escaping his pursuers. This causes numerous doubletakes, including one by a pigeon.

The whole sequence seems to be aiming for the knowing goofiness of “Live and Let Die” but it painfully misses the mark. After getting increasingly dumb over the last few installments, the pigeon doubletake appears the be the moment where all pretense of the filmmakers respecting their own film making is abandoned. The Bond franchise seems to now primarily exist to lampoon itself, but not in a fun, smart “Scream” way.

After the chase, Bond is… somewhere? He has somehow found a secret lab. I suppose it is possible that I missed some minor clue, something that explained how he got here, but it feels like the film has abandoned the notion of having a plot that is at all legible. The lab is very sci-fi.

Bond’s meddling leaves a vial in an unfortunate location, which a pair of scientists accidentally knock over. Safe behind glass, Bond watches the contents of that vial fill the room with a smoke that instantly kills the scientist.

Bond sneaks back out, with another vial, and is attacked by Chang, now in fencing gear, wielding a bamboo sword. Bond ducks back into the glass museum. (Maybe the lab and the glass museum and the glass manufacturers are all part of the same glass consortium, but this is not made clear.)

Bond picks up a one-of-a-kind sword with a glass hilt from a display. The two fight with swords, smashing countless racks of rare glass.

I’ve always hated when adventure stories have fights in museums. I hate seeing supposed rare artifacts destroyed in the course of these shenanigans. This sequence, meanwhile, is reveling in smashing as much as possible. They smash it all, before Bond eventually kills Chang, again, in a way that is thuddingly played for unlanded laughs.

Bond then goes to see Dr. Goodhead at her lavish hotel room. He knowingly paws through her personal items, revealing several spy gadgets. It turns out that Dr. Goodhead is working for the CIA, and so the two decide to pool their resources. Which means that Dr. Goodhead is now willing to have sex with Bond. It just seems like work.

M and the Minister of Defence arrive in Venice, and Bond takes them to the location of the lab. Only, when he does, there is no lab at the location, but instead a large, ornate office. It is a room that it would be flatly impossible to put in the place of the lab. I don’t think I can underline enough just how impossible it would be to make this switch with anything short of magic, holodecks, or teleportation. In its own way, this breaks the plausibility of the movie just as badly as the pigeon. Drax is in the office.

Due to embarrassing the Minister in this fashion, Bond is taken off of the case, but wink-wink, will continue working on it. Bond will head to Rio, following a lead I did not catch.

With Chang dead, Drax makes a phone call and hires Jaws as a replacement. I’d really like to know who exactly he called to make this hire.

When Bond arrives in Rio, Manuela is waiting in his hotel room. She is an attractive young woman that gives him local color and sex. No clear indication is given about who she actually is. These movies have simply hit the point where Bond merely has to appear in a location and there will be a beautiful woman 25 years his junior ready to give him exposition and ready to sleep with him. There is no longer even a pretense of seduction. It is gross straight male fantasy at its absolute laziest.

After they sleep together, Jaws attacks them, dressed as a clown, but a crowd of parties sweeps Jaws away in their revelry. It’s even dumber and shittier than it sounds.

The next day, Jaws disables a gondola containing Bond and Goodhead by chewing through a steel cable. Gondola, as in cable car, not like the boats. (This movie covers the gamut of gondolas across the world.) Jaws and Bond fight on top of the gondola. It is unclear why Bond doesn’t use his dart gun to shoot Jaws. Instead, he wraps a chain over one of the gondola’s non-chewed cables, and uses it to slide down the cable, escaping Jaws.

Jaws meanwhile crashes his gondola into a building. As he pulls himself out of the rubble, a buxom, innocent young woman approaches and frees him from the rubble. She does not say anything but smiles at him demurely. He smiles back as the fucking Romeo & Juliet Overture plays on the soundtrack. Without a word, the two walk off, hand in hand.

Bond and Goodhead have some more adventures together, both getting captured by fake paramedics but they soon escape, with no help from Bond’s dart gun. Afterward they are separated. Later, Bond dresses like a vaquero for no readily explored reason.

He meets up with Moneypenny, M and Q, who have all temporarily relocated to a Rio monastery, like they did with the Egypt tombs last picture. Q branch is there, testing out straight-up laser rifles. Meanwhile, the fact that Moneypenny has aged out of flirting with Bond remains a bummer, despite the paradoxical fact that the notion of any human being wanting to flirt with Bond is also a giant bummer.

Q has found that the vial Bond had stolen contains a poison made from a rare orchid found in the region. The toxin is extremely lethal to humans, but harmless to flora and non-human fauna.

Bond takes a spy boat up the river, toward the source of this rare orchid, and has a boat battle along the way. Jaws ends up chasing Bond, as the boating continues, but Bond leads the chase over a waterfall. Bond hang-glides to safety while Jaws goes over the falls.

Bond then seems to randomly stumble into a villain lair populated by a large number of beautiful women several recognizable as associates of Hugo Drax. They are all wearing what appears to be “sexy astronaut” costumes from the Halloween store. Jaws is also there, somehow, despite having just gone over a waterfall because this movie appears to follow Looney Tunes rules.

It is, of course, Drax’s lair. He escorts Bond through the space, showing off his supervillain space command. This movie has been dreadful, but the base looks great. It’s quite an impressive set, a bigger, grander version of the volcano lair in “You Only Live Twice.” Bond is tossed into a room with Goodhead, directly below a rocket. Drax refuses to just have them shot, insisting they have a fun death. He wants them to burn to death when the rocket launches.

But Bond still has his stupid digital watch, complete with an explosive charge. He uses it to blow a hole in a large vent that he and Goodhead escape through.

Bond and Goodhead then sneak their way through the base and secretly commandeer a space shuttle, one of six in Drax’s fleet all taking off right now. Bond and Goodhead discover that the shuttle is full of what appear to be mating pairs of hot young humans. The shuttle is on a preprogrammed flight, able to take them to… Drax’s secret space station!

The six Moonrakers all dock at the secret cloaked space station. All the folk disembark, including Jaws with his new lady love.

Drax intends to use his toxin to kill all remaining human life on Earth, while the people now on the space station begin a new utopian society. It’s the exact same plot as the last movie, only upside down. This isn’t any sort of clever mirroring, it’s just lazy repetition.

Bond and Goodhead disable the radar jammer, making the station visible to Earth. Once they do, the U.S. send a shuttle to investigate, but Drax has lasers.

Bond and Goodhead are captured again and are about to be shoved out of an airlock, but Bond plants the seeds of doubt in Jaws that he and his lady will not make the cut in this new society, eugenically speaking. This causes Jaws to rebel.

At this point, all hell breaks loose. The station stops rotating, disrupting the artificial gravity. Drax sends a bunch of Astronaut troops outside of the station to meet the American Astronaut warriors, who have left their own shuttle. An exterior laser battle ensues. Eventually the spies help the Americans onboard, leading to an interior laser battle.

In the chaos, Drax tries to escape. Bond pursues, but Drax gets the drop on him with a laser pistol. Bond shoots him with the dart gun. Then he tosses Drax out of an airlock.

But things are not okay over yet. Drax had already launched three orbs containing the toxin toward Earth, enough to kill millions. Naturally, Bond and Goodhead hop into a Moonraker, armed with a laser canon. However, the docking release is jammed!

Jaws and his lady are left the lone living people remaining on the decaying space station. They are just happy to be together. They share some champaign. Jaws, having been mute up to this point, toasts the two of them. “We’ll, here’s to us.” Then they help the spies break free of the space station. Then the space station explodes.

Bond and Goodhead shoot down the toxin spheres. There is a vague line of dialog suggesting that Jaws and his lady survived somehow.

Then Bond and Goodhead fuck on the space shuttle.

This is the strangest Bond thus far. I don’t believe in “so bad, it’s good,” but this movie is “so strange, it’s compelling, despite being terrible.” Where do they go from here? Having sent Bond to space, the pendulum has to start swinging the other way, right?

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Ahem. Where was I?

We start on a Russian-crewed submarine. Something happens, although it is not entirely clear what that something is, although it is ominous. Later, officials are notified that the ship has vanished.

Word is given to Moscow. It seems that James Bond’s Eastern Counterpart, Agent Triple X is to be put on the case. We seemingly cut to Triple X in bed with a pretty lady, but it is a fakeout. Triple X is the lady not the fella! Has egalitarianism come to this franchise at last? It seems unlikely.

Bond is at a Ski Lodge with a pretty lady, when he gets a message via a printout from his goddamn digital watch: Orders to return to base. Britain has also lost a sub. Apparently this is a remake of “You Only Live Twice.”

Bond leaves his pretty lady, but is immediately set upon by ski assassins, dispatched by the young lady whose company he had been enjoying. He uses a gun in his ski pole to put some distance between the assassins, enough to ski off of a mountain and parachute to safety, all while wearing a bright yellow snowsuit. The parachute is a Union Jack. The specifics are stupid, but the stunt is impressive.

This movie continues to show Triple X to be the mirror image of Bond. She gets the Russian equivalent of a briefing scene with M, whereupon she is dispatched to investigate the missing Russian sub. She is also informed of the death of her lover, a fellow agent. It isn’t explicit, but it is clear enough that her lover was the skier that Bond iced.

Bond meets not with M but with some navy fellas at some Navy place. Q is there. They discuss what they know about the sinking subs. Someone in Cairo claims that they know the secret of how the subs are being sunk.

The guy who can sink subs is revealed to be some generic white guy in the by-now generic bond villain vein. His name is Stromberg and he refuses to shake hands. He’s got a funky underwater base that looks like the Hall of Doom and a pair of henchmen. A large fella, and an even larger fella named Jaws, who has metal teeth and is mute.

His introductory scene has a decent switcheroo where it looks like he is dismissing his moll so that he can murder the scientists who made his submarine-sinker, but instead, he murders the moll, via trap door in an elevator, dropping her into a shark tank. It’s a decent throwback to when Blofeld would keep SPECTRE agents guessing about who he held accountable. Stromberg killed her because he thinks she leaked information about his plans. But then he murders the scientists too! He blows up their helicopter! Just in case he was wrong, and they were the leakers.

Bond goes to Egypt. He rides on a camel while wearing desert robes for no apparent reason other than to allow the soundtrack to play a snatch of the theme to Lawrence of Arabia while he does. He meets up with an old friend, a Brit ex-pat local. He points Bond in the right direction, before offering to let Bond stay the night. Bond is about to decline, when his buddy summons a young woman for Bond to have sex with. Bond agrees to stay. I really should stop being surprised and dismayed by the way this series fully treats women as objects

Bond goes to meet his new contact, Fekkesh, the guy who claims they know the secret of the sinking subs. He is absent, but Stromberg’s large henchman, named Sandor, is there, ready to ambush Bond. They fight, until Bond has Sandor at his mercy, dangling off of a roof. Sandor tells Bond where to find Fekkesh. Bond then drops Sandor off of the roof. The cruelty of the murder would have seemed perfectly natural had Connery done it, but coming from Moore, it feels strange and off. These are no longer those kind of movies.

Bond, Triple X, Fekkesh, and Jaws all convene at the Pyramids of Giza, where a strange late night tourist show is underway. The tourist presentation can be heard playing over an extended, dull game of cat and mouse between the various players. It’s a very strange choice.

Jaws shows himself capable of biting a chain in half with his metal teeth. He then bites Fekkesh to death. But Bond finds the body of Fekkesh, and grabs a datebook off of him and beats up some fellas that I think work with Jaws? Triple X just takes it all in.

Later, the two spies meet again at the club that Bond had found in the datebook. Each spy shows off how much they know about each other, including their signature drinks. It is as if “shaken, not stirred” had become a catchphrase so that years later it could be referenced in this film. The respective showing off is playful, until Triple X mentions Tracy, Bond’s dead wife, which he does not appreciate, shutting down the conversation.

It turns out that the owner of the club has the microfilm. The spies start a bidding war over it, but before either can come to terms, Jaws lures the owner away to a private telephone. Jaws quickly bites him to death and takes the microfilm.

After playing catch up, Bond and Double X both sneak onto Jaws’ escape van, but as they banter in the back, Jaws is listening to everything they say. He takes them back to the pyramids, where begins a new game of cat and mouse.
Bond and Jaws scuffle. Bond is no match at all for the 7-foot two brute one-on-one. While the boys wrassle, Triple X gets the drop on Jaws with a gun and takes the microfilm from him at gunpoint. Jaws kicks the gun out of her hand in a very telegraphed action, and she and Bond both retreat to the van they came in. Jaws jumps onto the van, and starts ripping it apart with his bare hands, but the spies escape.

As rivals, one expects sexy, clever banter between our two leads (and unusually, Triple X almost does feel like a co-lead) but instead we get petty squabbling. The van dies and they must walk through the desert back to civilization. The theme to “Lawrence of Arabia” swells on the soundtrack. As a rule, it is a bad idea to reference a great movie in your shitty movie. It does you no favors.

On a boat back to Cairo, Bond secretly examines the microfilm. When it seems like Bond and Triple X are going to fuck on a boat an hour too early, she uses a cigarette filled with knockout gas to sucker Bond and abscond with the microfilm.

MI6 has apparently set up shop inside of the great pyramids. M, Q, and Moneypenny are all there, as is M’s Russian opposite number and Triple X. This operation has become a joint venture between Russia and Britain. Before the briefing we get a Q Section gadget scene, Egypt-style, with attack hookahs and ejector pillows.

The microfilm doesn’t have the full plans to the sub-sinker but Bond and X find a clue that points them to Sardinia. They head there as partners, taking a train together. Bond is confused when he cannot seduce X.
Before Bond can solve this puzzle, Jaws reveals himself to be on the train. He tries to bite X when she is alone, but Bond hears the altercation and jumps in.

The fight plays like a lame cartoon parody of the train fight in “From Russia With Love.” Bond electrocutes Jaws through his teeth and tosses him out of the train through a window. Jaws pulls himself up and walks away. Back on the train, after this particular near-death experience, X is finally ready to sleep with Bond.

Later, after they arrive in Sardinia, Q delivers to Bond a car that just oozes poorly-dated modernity. The question of how Q got there first, when they were all coming from the same location and Bond and X left straight away by train, is not explored.

Bond and X arrange a meeting with Stromberg. They pose as a marine biologist and his wife, respectively. Bond checks out the man’s aquarium, which includes a human corpse. Stromberg tests Bond’s fish knowledge. Bond seems to pass. Stromberg really likes fish. At this point, lots of Bond’s adversaries have had sharks, piranha and other killer marine life. But Stromberg has a deeper affinity. He wants to life in an underwater city.

Jaws, although dumped from the train, has already caught up, and in Stromberg’s lair. He confirms the true identities of the two spies to Stromberg, who instructs his men to kill them as soon as they leave.

And so, Bond and X are attacked by a motorcyclist who tries to kill them with a rocket propelled sidecar. It is evaded, and the motorcyclist goes off of a cliff.

Jaws chases them in a car. He also ends up going off a cliff, however he, unlike most goons who drive off of a cliff in a 70’s action film walks away uninjured.

A female agent of Stromberg chases them with a machine gun equipped helicopter. Bond’s new fancy car goes off of a pier. Turns out the car can turn into a submarine, complete with a sea-air missile which blows the helicopter out of the sky.

At this point, scuba divers with underwater rocket launchers attack the sub/car. Bond prevails with his own missiles and mines and smokescreens. It’s an audacious sequence, but the filmmaking isn’t up to the promise of the larger-than-life material.

Later, Bond and Triple X are making chitchat when Bond accidentally reveals that he murdered her boyfriend. Occupational hazard and all that. She vows to kill Bond after this mission is complete.

They travel to a British sub where the commander trips over the fact that Triple X is a woman. She gives him a “we’re all soldiers” line, which would maybe be a bit more empowering if the film didn’t then spend time ogling at the lady in the shower, complete with light nippleage.

Soon, their sub suffers a power failure that forces them to surface. Waiting for them is Stromberg’s special giant tanker designed to open and scoop up de-powered submarines. Having captured a new one, it now houses three. If it wasn’t clear before, this film is basically just underwater “You Only Live Twice.”

We thought that the cool Hall of Doom base was the villain’s lair, but this tanker, staffed with hundreds of henchmen in red jumpsuits, complete with monorail, is the real Ken Adam deal. The logo on their uniform is that of a fish.

Stromberg has Bond and X brought to him. With his new collection of submarines, he now has a nuclear arsenal, and he intends to blow up the civilized world. No ransom, just Armageddon. He wants to destroy the surface and live in an underwater utopia of his creation.

He’ll leave Bond to die but intends to take X to his new Atlantis, presumably because of sexism. He departs with her via speedboat. As soon as they are gone, Bond frees himself and helps the combined captured submarine crews mount an insurrection. It’s a huge battle throughout the base. Again, just like “You Only Live Twice.”

Back at his sea lab, underneath the water, Stromberg has dressed Triple X in sex clothes and has her tressed up. It’s been a while since I mentioned it: These movies are gross.

Meanwhile, Bond and company try to seize control of the tanker and start defusing nukes. There’s actually a really cute trick at this point. Bond sneaks through the base and as he does, the classic James Bond theme is playing. He kills power to their electronics, and the exact moment that he does so the theme cuts out. It’s a weird gag, but it has more style than these movies usually do.

The remaining crew escape in the American sub. The American’s orders are to blow up the sea lab, but X is onboard, so Bond asks for an hour to mount a rescue. He then goes charging in on a jet ski.

Bond enters the lab, avoids the death traps, and makes his way to Stromberg, shooting him dead. He searches for X, only to run into Jaws one last time. They fight yet again. Bond shoots him in the teeth. The bullet ricochets off of them. Bond finally defeats Jaws by grabbing him by the mouth with an electromagnet and dropping him into a shark tank.
Even after that, Jaws bites the shark to death, in a bit of meta-commentary.

The hour runs out and the Americans torpedo the base.

Bond frees X and they make it to a posh escape pod, complete with chilling champaign. X pulls a gun on Bond. The mission is over. Ultimately, she decides she’s rather screw James Bond than kill him. Sigh.

Jaws swims away.

This movie had potential. Jaws aside, they jettisoned a lot of the awkward campiness and played things largely straight. The idea of Bond’s female Russian equal is a great one, sadly wasted by a lack of spark between the leads and by a third act that required the girl to be rescued. Still by managing to be mediocre and to not be outright terrible, this ends up being one of the better bonds.

Scaramanga! Scaramanga!

The film starts with a sharply dressed Herve Villechaize serving champagne to a three-nippled Christopher Lee at the beach. The manservant is playing a complicated game. He has secretly brought a man to their house, seemingly to kill the three-nippled man, who we learn is named Scaramanga.

This would-be assassin attempts to ambush Scaramanga but this house is not what it seems to be. It is no mere beachside mansion, it is nothing less than a funhouse of death! Finding himself beset by garish deathtraps, the intruder is freaked out. Meanwhile, Scaramanga searches the maze for a weapon.

Nick Nack, the manservant, is running a deadly game. Through the funhouse he is able to toy with both Scaramanga and the intruder. In the end, Scaramanga is the victor. But this wasn’t a betrayal. Apparently, he arranges these little contests to keep him sharp. He celebrates his victory by shooting a wax statue of James Bond.

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The opening credits are super boring but the music is good. Lulu sings to an odd brassy theme.

In M’s office, Bond rattles off a dossier’s worth of info on Scaramanga. He was raised in a circus as a trick shot. He is a first class assassin. He kills each of his victims with a single shot. He charges one million dollars per kill. He carries a golden gun that fires golden bullets. He has three nipples.

M informs Bond that MI6 has received a golden bullet with “007” engraved onto it and that they believe that this means Scaramanga will attempt to kill Bond. For this reason, Bond is being pulled off of his current assignment.
Sadly, Moneypenny is reduced to a mere cameo.

Bond is rather put out and takes it upon himself to track Scaramanga himself so that he can get back to his job. This involves some seduction, some fighting, and some light comedy before Bond gets his hands on a bullet used to murder one of Scaramanga’s previous victims.

Bond visits Q, who steers him toward the chap who crafted the golden bullet, a man in Macau named Lazar.
I really like this next bit. Lazar, an expert in exotic weaponcraft shows off his workshop to Bond. It is a procedural scene with a hint of the exotic. Lazar is an affable craftsman who takes pride in his work. Unfortunately, Bond bullies him until he gives up what he knows about Scaramanga.

Bond meets up with Mary Goodnight, a young woman who apparently has history with Bond. She is smitten, but Bond treats her like garbage. She provides him with local intel.

Bond begins tailing a woman for unclear reasons. He breaks into her hotel room, entering the bathroom as she takes a shower. However, she emerges from the shower with a pistol.

She doesn’t want any of what Bond is selling, but he disarms her and slaps her around until she tells him what she knows about Scaramanga. Her name is Anders and she works for Scaramanga and is his sometimes lover. She advises Bond to visit the Bottoms Up Club.

This movie started strong but as it has gone on it has been too 70’s brown, too dull, too leering, too thuggish. It is all around unpleasant.

At the Bottoms Up Club, Scaramanga is lying in wait, but instead of killing Bond, he kills some other guy right in front of him. Before he can figure out what is going on, Bond is ushered away by a Hong Kong official named Hip to a totally sweet secret base in the wreckage of a partially sunken ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth.

M is there, as is Q, and he explains to Bond that the dude that was killed at the club was a solar energy expert who had recently created a breakthrough in solar cell technology.

Later, Bond uses a fake third nipple to pose as Scaramanga in an attempt to trick a Hai Fat, a Thai gangster, into admitting culpability in arranging the murder. It doesn’t work, and after Bond leaves, we learn that Fat was already entertaining Scaramanga and knows exactly who Bond is.

Hai Fat’s plan to dispatch Bond is to invite Bond to dinner, as a pretense to attack him with Sumo Wrestlers. Bond defeats one Sumo by giving him an extreme wedgie but he is knocked out by Nick Nack.

Nick Nack is about to kill the unconscious Bond with a trident, but before he can, Hai Fat plays the “not in my home” card.

When Bond wakes up, he finds himself the prisoner of an evil Kung Fu academy. He beats up a couple of students before Hip, his Hong Kong helper arrives, bringing with him some Karate Master nieces to help bust out Bond.

After some light Kung Fu, Bond parts ways with his Asian friends, and ends up escaping via boat. This leads to a weak boat chase.

In the middle of this boat chase, who wanders in but J. W. Pepper, the redneck sheriff from the previous film. Pepper is on vacation, and inexplicably is here to shout ugly racist things. Last time around, his presence felt like an attempt to make the film seem less racist by comparison, this time it appears the filmmakers just though it would be funny if there was a guy who shouted racist things.


This “comedy” ruins the already flat pace of the boat chase. During the chase Bond finds the time to cruelly toss a child into a river for his own amusement. Needless to say, he escapes his captors.

Scaramanga has become Hai Fat’s junior partner for dubious reasons. He now murders Fat and assumes total control of his criminal enterprise. It is a very unconvincing coup.

Bond reunites with Goodnight and the two spend a quiet moment together. Bond finally deigns to make a crude pass at her who rebuffs him, not wanting to be one of his passing fancies. Except, in the very next scene, Goodnight has changed her mind and comes to bed with him. However, before things heat up, Anders arrives. Bond hides Goodnight in the closet.

Anders claims that it was her plan to get Bond on Scaramanga’s trail, that it was her only way to be free of him. She tells Bond that she’ll pay any price if he’ll stop Scaramanga, that he can sleep with her too, if he likes. He takes her up on her offer, with Goodnight still in the closet. It’s gross and cruel at the same time.

Afterward, he arranges to meet Anders at a boxing match, where she will give him a macguffin known as a “Solex Agitator”. When Bond arrives, he sits next to her, but she is dead. After he realizes this, Scaramanga sits down next to him.

Scaramanga tells Bond a story about how he avenged the death of his one and only friend, a circus elephant. Christopher Lee as Scaramanga is flat. Unmenacing. Uninteresting. I do not care for the plight of this elephant.
Meanwhile, through a complex series of handoffs, Goodnight ends up at the fight with the Solex Agitator, but she ends up being tossed in the boot of Scaramanga’s car.

Bond gives chase, commandeering the rental car of J. W. Pepper, with the Sheriff in the passenger seat providing running commentary. Pepper dampens what is an otherwise solid chase scene. The chase contains an amazing stunt that is totally ruined by an astonishingly ill-considered use of a slide-whistle. It is maybe the worst piece of Foley work I’ve ever heard.

Scaramanga escapes by strapping wings and an jet engine onto his car. He takes off with Goodnight still in his boot. Bond follows Goodnight’s tracker into China, eventually landing on Scaramanga’s island.

Scaramanga is happy to find Bond has followed him. He has decided that they are two of a kind. He shows off his evil lair to Bond. He has henchmen and solar apparatuses.

Scaramanga’s evil plan is to, er, sell clean efficient solar energy to the highest bidder. It is pretty altruistic as far as evil plans go. Oh, also he can use his solar stuff to turn the rays of the sun into a heat cannon.

Scaramanga, like Dr. No before him, gives Bond the “we are the same” speech. But instead of wanting to recruit Bond, Scaramanga wants a duel.

Roger Moore Bond doesn’t really seem like the soulless murder machine that Connery was. Moore’s Bond is a creep and a rapist but he doesn’t have Connery’s barely-contained fury. Moore’s Bond treats everything with bemused, haughty detachment. He doesn’t seem at all like the opposite side of Scaramanga’s coin.

Scaramanga lures Bond into his funhouse of death. There are mirrors and death traps and wax models. Bond kills Scaramanga by posing as a wax dummy of himself.

Meanwhile, Goodnight kills one of Scaramanga’s henchmen who was trying to rape her by throwing him into solar machinery. Then she accidentally turns on a solar laser with her butt. The net result of her actions is the destruction of Scaramanga’s compound.

Bond and Goodnight escape in a Chinese junk with the Solex. But as they try to have sex in a boat they are attacked by a knife-wielding Nick Nack. This is not treated as a real threat, just a mean-spirited excuse for Bond to stick a little person in a steamer trunk.

Then Bond and Goodnight fuck on a boat. The End.

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The beginning of the Roger Moore era begins here. Roger Moore doesn’t have the greatest reputation as a Bond but he seems to have his fans. They sure did make a bunch of these movies with him, I would hope for good reason. Almost anything would be a welcome change after the last Connery.

The film starts with a series of assassinations. During a session of the United Nations, a white guy is killed by killer audio feedback. In the Caribbean, a white guy has been tied to a post and killed by a snake bite. And in New Orleans, a white spy is not-at-all-subtly staking out a club called Fillet of Soul when a funeral procession passes, “Who’s funeral is it?” he asks a bystander.

“Yours.” Stab, shove in casket. Continue procession. Cue credit sequence.

The theme music this time is by Paul McCartney and Wings. The song is exotic and brassy and perfect for a Bond film. It’s a great song worthy of a former Beatle. Of course, one cannot help but remember that Bond in “Goldfinger” made a point of taking a pot shot at the Beatles, quipping that they should only be listened to while wearing earmuffs.
The title sequence itself is delightfully sinister. It includes the perquisite naked ladies but has a fire and skulls motif that gives the whole affair a black magic tone. It is a little unusual for James Bond but it is cool.

Our first glimpse of Moore comes as M and Moneypenny visit Bond at home. He is in bed with a young woman when they arrive. He is wearing a digital watch. I know these were exciting and cutting edge at the time. Bond should never be seen wearing a digital watch. Bond should always be stylish never fashionable. I don’t know why I care about this, but I do. I have become a person-who-has-opinions-about-James-Bond.

The tone of this sequence is one of light comedy, nicely masking the exposition. James hides the girl in a coat closet from M. Moneypenny finds the girl and helps Bond hide her. It’ s a dumb farce scene but goddamn if Lois Maxwell doesn’t give it some gravity. This is the first time she’s actually been face-to-face with Bond’s womanizing and you can see it kill her inside, even as she helps Bond with a smile and a wink.

M exposits that the three men killed in the pre-credits were all agents of British Intelligence: Dawes, Hamilton, and Baines. Bond rather liked Baines. They shared the same bootmaker. Bond is being sent to investigate their deaths.
Stupid digital wristwatch aside, Moore as Bond looks a lot more respectable and gentlemanly than Bond has in the past few films. That is not to say that he actually is respectable or a gentleman. As soon as M finishes briefing him and departs, Bond uses his new magnetic wristwatch to unzip the closet girl’s dress. It all seems consensual, and it is sexy in a fun, playful way as opposed to the normal Bond sex creepiness.

Bond’s assignment is to investigate Kananga, a dictator ruling San Monique, a small fictional Caribbean nation. Kananga is played by Yaphet Koto with playful menace. He is currently visiting the United Nations in New York, so that is Bond’s first stop.

In New York Bond liases with yet another new Felix Leiter. This one, played by David Hedison, is a minor revelation. There’s a chemistry between him and Bond that has always been absent before. He comes across as Bond’s American best friend, which I think is supposed to be the point of the character, but has never quite landed up until now.
Before Bond can begin his investigation, someone driving what is described by Leiter as a “white pimpmobile” tries to assasinate Bond. This man shoots Bond’s driver in the head, leaving the car to crash. Bond manages to avoid serious injury and with the help of Felix, traces the car’s owner to a store dealing in voodoo paraphernalia.

Bond finds the pimpmobile parked near the voodoo store, and so he tails it by taxi. However, it turns out that Bond’s taxi driver is part of a chain of seemingly ordinary Black people throughout the city that are all tracking Bond’s movements. It seems as if every Black person in New York is part of a monolithic criminal conspiracy and all their attention is now focused on James Bond.

Bond arrives in Harlem, and enters a Fillet of Soul, the chain restaurant being staked out at the start of the film. He gets seated at a booth that is placed along a wall. This booth swivels, fireplace-secret-door-style, into a hidden lair. Once in the lair he is informed by Tee Hee Johnson, a tall, imposing man with a mechanical vise for a hand, that he is to be introduced to Mr. Big.

While waiting for Mr. Big, Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful young tarot reader, played by Jane Seymore, who is utterly confident in her ability to divine the fortune from her tarot cards. Bond flirts with her briefly before Mr. Big sweeps in and tells his men to waste the honky. Bond smugly asks whether “waste” is a good thing.

Bond is taken out back to be wasted, but he is saved by a Black CIA agent, thus establishing that, in fact, not all Black people are evil.

Bond now heads to San Monique. As he arrives, he passes Baron Samedi, a voodoo performer in facepaint and top hat, touted as “The man who cannot die”. Samedi puts on an exuberant and slightly sinister show.

This film has moved at a breakneck clip for a Bond film up until this point, but now things slow down enough to make room for some spy shit as Bond sweeps his room for bugs. A deadly snake is slipped into his room and his champagne is left for him by a large man who only speaks in a whisper. This is the assassin driver of the white pimpmobile.

After finding and dispatching the snake, Bond meets in his hotel room Rosie Carver, another Black CIA agent who as part of her cover is posing as “Mrs. Bond.” She is a rookie field agent standing in sharp contrast to Bond’s years of experience. This subtly sells the idea that Moore-As-Bond is a veteran like the character, not a rookie like the actor.
Bond just sort of assumes that Carver will sleep with him. She rebufs his advances and then immediately gets frightened by a hat. It is then implied that she sleeps with Bond.

They meet up with Quarrel Junior. Remember Quarrel? James Bond’s other Black friend? The guy in Dr. No who couldn’t tell the difference between a tank and a dragon who got killed with a flamethrower? Apparently he had a son who serves the exact same narrative purpose as his father.

Bond and Rosie hire Quarrel Jr. to take them to Katanga’s Island base. As they approach, Katanga asks Solitaire to give a reading about how this encounter will play out. The card she reads is “The Lovers” but she tells Katanga that what she sees is “Death.”

Katanga believes that Solitaire has the power but it is implied that deflowering her would depower her. This film is treating her divination as being a real power, which is odd. All of a sudden there exists magic within the world of James Bond. This wholly alters the tone of the proceedings. Even more than “You Only Live Twice”, this film abandons being an espionage thriller, transcending that limited genre, and creating something weirder and more interesting.

It turns out that Rosie is an agent of Katanga, attempting to set up Bond. Bond sees through her act which naturally does not stop him from sleeping with her in the jungle before confronting her regarding her duplicity. However, she is killed by one of Katanga’s traps before she can tell Bond what she knows.

To perform reconnaissance on Katanga, Bond hang glides while smoking a cigar, pulled along by Quarrel’s boat. When he is ready to make his move, he lands, tearing off his pants to reveal a second pair of pants, while reversing his jacket so that he can be properly dressed for the occasion. It is sublimely ridiculous.

Bond makes his way into Katanga’s compound, where he finds Solitaire. He coerces her into sleeping with him. He tells her that the cards say that they must. What he does not tell her is that he has replaced her deck of cards with a deck that contains nothing but copies of “The Lovers”.

After they make love, Solitaire is stunned and appalled at what she has done. She no longer has the power now that she is devirginated. Her whole life has been destroyed. Bond uses this vulnerability to press her for information about Katanga.

Having had her life destroyed, Solitaire seems to have no real choice but to stick with Bond as he escapes the compound. Two fairly fun chase scenes later, Bond escapes San Monique but cannot quite hold onto Solitare, who gets captured. This is a setback for Bond who had, in obtaining the boss’s girl, gained a useful bargaining chip.

Some time afterward, Bond and Felix end up at the New Orleans Filet of Soul. Bond asks to be seated closer to the stage to avoid a secret door booth. He is obliged and they are front and center to watch a woman singing “Live and Let Die”, the film’s theme song.

Despite avoiding the booth, this table is also part of a secret passage, dropping Bond into a lower level when Felix leaves to make a phone call.

Bond is clamped to a chair and interrogated by Mr. Big. The gangster wants to know if Bond has slept with Solitaire. He learns the truth and in the course of the scene, reveals a secret of his own: Mr. Big is Katanga in disguise! I feel foolish admitting it, but I genuinely didn’t see that coming!

Katanga’s villainous plot is elegant in its simplicity: Give a bunch of people in America free heroin.

After Katanga learns the truth about Solitaire, Bond is taken by Tee Hee Johnson to a crocodile farm where heroin in processed. Johnson tells Bond that he loves the crocs despite having lost an arm to one.

Bond is then left alone in the farm on a tiny island surrounded by crocodile-filled swamp. He spies a metal canoe and uses his magno-watch to pull it to him. However, the canoe is firmly tied up! The gimmick has failed.

Moving to plan “B”, Bond instead jumps on the body of one crocodile after another, Pitfall Harry-style, hopping his way to freedom. Then he burns the heroin shack to the ground before taking off on a speedboat and I think I kind of love this movie.

Bond doesn’t make a clean escape. What follows is a truly spectacular car/boat chase that reels in J. W. Pepper, a racist redneck sheriff, blatantly inserted into the film to make the movie itself seem less racist by comparison.
The chase involves boats on rivers, cars on roads, swimming pools, boats jumping over cars, a boats moving on land, a weeding, boat-switching and car-switching, all culminating in a glorious fireball. It is one of the greatest chase scenes I have been fortunate enough to bear witness to.

Bond and Felix jet back to San Monique, I think to burn their poppy fields? Or assassinate Katanga? I’m still not sure why British Intelligence gives a shit about the American drug trade. Fun as this all is, it seems a little small-potatoes for Bond.

At any rate, Bond arrives just as Solitaire is about to be murdered in the voodoo ritual seen at the start of the film, officiated by Baron Samedi. Bond starts shooting people. He seemingly shoots Samedi but what gets shot is apparently a lifelike Samedi mannequin. Bond frees Solitaire, and when Samedi resurfaces he kicks the voodoo man into a coffin full of venomous snakes.

While Bond distracts the bad guys, Leiter and Quarrel blow up some poppy fields. Bond and Solitaire run away from the angry voodoo horde, but end up running straight into Katanga. Having captured Bond at home, Katanga takes pleasure in showing off his wonderful underground lair, complete with monorail and shark tank.

The two prisoners are tied above the shark tank but it isn’t long before Bond uses his watch’s buzzsaw to escape. He quickly turns the tables on Katanga, forcing him to eat a pellet of compressed air, which causes him to gruesomely and cartoonishly explode. It is a bit much.

Having assassinated the leader of a sovereign nation, Bond and Solitaire board a train. Presumably they have left San Monique but it isn’t clear. Aboard the train, Bond teaches Solitaire to play gin rummy.

Tee Hee Johnson boards the train looking to kill Bond. Bond shoves Solitaire into a foldout bed so that the men can trainfight. This is reminiscent of the amazing fight in “From Russian With Love”, but instead of beating the bad guy with savagery, Bond defeats him by disabling his robot arm. He then throws Johnson out of the train.

The danger has passed, but the film cuts away to Baron Samedi, perched on the edge of the train, alive and cackling. The end.

I really enjoyed this film. I feel bad about liking it because whatever other charms it may possess, it is a movie wherein James Bond rapes a woman. It’s a heinous act in an otherwise light film, but eight films into the franchise, I am going into this flick assuming that Bond is a monster and a rapist. Even though the filmmakers do not understand that Bond is a bad guy, I certainly do, and I can enjoy the film as I can enjoy other stories about bad people. That doesn’t excuse the movie and other viewers might have a different experience. Also it is not entirely un-racist.

With that guilty disclaimer out of the way, this is a hell of a movie. It isn’t just enjoyable compared to the previous films in this oftentimes unpleasant franchise, it is is enjoyable in its own right. It creates a goofy, over-the-top, world that James Bond can almost make sense existing within, playful and absurd in largely the right ways.

It only took them eight tries to get the tone right on a James Bond film. This is a good movie following seven ones that were not good. Maybe this first Roger Moore film is the start of something new and exciting.

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The previous film ended with George Lazenby as Bond crying over his dead wife. Lazenby is out and Connery is back in, but that wife-murder seems like an event that needs addressing. And so the film starts with a montage of Bond torturing people in order to find Blofeld. The sequence is played broad, culminating in Bond ripping the bikini top off of a woman and strangling her with it, which is meant to be hilarious, not cruel and ugly. It is clear from the start that Bond-as-Human has been written off as a failed experiment. The filmmakers have returned to Bond-as-hideous-monster. The problem is, the makers of the film seem to be chuckling along with his boys-will-be-boys antics.

While Bond searches, Blofeld is arranging to create a surgically modified doppelganger of himself, a man that appears identical to him in all ways. Of course, Blofeld is now played by Charles Grey, a man with no neck, no facial scar, and plenty of hair, and who previously played a murdered good guy in “You Only Live Twice”. Maybe that guy was secretly a Blofeld doppelganger all along.

Before Blofeld can make his duplicate, Bond arrives and gleefully drowns him in some sludge. Blofeld’s kitty cat cries in distress. And it appears that anticlimatically, that is that. Bond has had his revenge and can move on from the previous film. At no point in this intro sequence is Tracy referenced.

The credits are super weird, prominently featuring Blofeld’s cat and of course diamonds. The song is good, sung by a returning Shirley Bassey, but it sounds weird to my 21st century ear due to the lack of Kanye West. Also, man, we have clearly left the 60’s behind and are now stuck in the 70’s. By which I mean every aspect of this movie looks garish and ugly.

After the credits, we witness a diamond smuggling operation go bad. Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are a pair of bizarre homosexual assassins who have started killing everyone involved in a particular operation. The filmmakers clearly think the notion of gay killers to be a self-evidently hilarious one.

Bond has been tasked to investigate an increase in diamond smuggling which seems pretty penny ante for 007. He is sent to Holland to pose as a smuggler. There, he meets a woman eye-rollingly named Tiffany Case. Somehow that stupid pun name bothers me more than “Pussy Galore” or any of the others.

Bond kills the dude that he is pretending to be while Case watches, and then he swaps the corpse’s wallet for his own. She finds the only piece of ID the man has: James Bond’s Playboy Club membership card. “Oh my God! You just killed James Bond!” James Bond is so famous of an operative, random smugglers in Holland know of him.

Bond’s investigation leads him to Vegas on the same plane as Kidd and Wint. There are all sorts of unfocused, poorly-paced shenanigans that we are given no reason to care about, including a near-miss live cremation and a trip to the circus. At one point, gangsters throw a girl Bond has brought back to his room out of a window so that Case can sleep with him.

Bond’s goals during these antics are completely opaque. He seems to have no plan others than fuck with some random diamond smugglers and fuck some random women and see what happens. One thing that happens is that Bond seems to stumble upon the site where the moon landing was faked, leading to a protracted chase scene with Bond in a stupid-looking moon buggy.

Eventually, Bond concludes that a millionaire named Willard Whyte is the key bad guy, although I honestly cannot follow why. Felix Leiter (yet again recast: this time older and grouchy) has not been convinced that Whyte is a criminal, so Bond sneaks into Whyte’s office at the top of a hotel/casino. Er, or actually he sneaks into Whyte’s ridiculous super-bathroom, complete with telephone, closed-circut television, and computer.

Upon leaving the bathroom, Bond discovers Blofeld, alive and well and still Charles Grey. Actually there are two of them. One is a doppelganger but it is unclear which one is real! Apparently Bond murdered a duplicate earlier?

Blofeld has been posing as Whyte although he looks like what we are apparently asked to believe he as always looked like, despite having access to ridiculously sophisticated face-change technology and despite being the most wanted criminal in the world. Instead he just apparently likes to make lots of copies of himself.

The Blofelds gloat that Bond cannot take action because he would not know which one of the two to kill. Bond responds by kicking Blofeld’s cat and shooting the Blofeld it runs toward in the head. It seems like a clever (albeit cruel) solution but after the the surviving Blofeld draws his gun on Bond a doppelganger cat saunters into the room.
Screenwriting nerds like to talk about “save the cat” moments, which are scenes where the hero performs an action that establishes the noble nature of the hero who might otherwise be unsympathetic to the audience. James Bond goes a different route. The best scene in this movie is the one where the hero kicks a cat as part of gambit that doesn’t even work.

Rather than shoot Bond, Blofeld gasses and delivers him to Kidd and Wint who take his body out to the desert and stick him in a large pipe while he sleeps. Bond survives this because it is not a death trap. It is an inconvenience.
Back in his hotel, Bond uses a Q-supplied voice change device to trick Blofeld via phone into revealing the location of the real Willard Whyte. He turns out to be in his own summer home.

Bond arrives at the summer home to discover Bambi and Thumper, two female killer acrobats who clearly love their job. They kick Bond’s ass right up to the moment where Bond beats them in an act of truly pathetic filmmaking. The acrobats have the upper hand right until the end of the fight when they just sort of relent because Bond needs to win the fight, completely unearned. Bond wins because he is the white imperial alpha male. Bambi and Thumper lose not because they screw up or are outfought, but because the universe in which they reside cannot allow them to live.

Bond finds the real Willard Whyte who is, I guess, a good guy. While he attends to Whyte, Blofeld escapes the casino, dressed in drag for no good reason, while Q uses a gadget to cheat at the slots for no relevant plot reason. This is not a movie concerned with reasons.

One hour and thirty five minutes into this film, the real plot of the movie, which up until now has ostensibly been about diamond smuggling is revealed. Blofeld has used Whyte’s resources and many many smuggled diamonds to construct a diamond-powered orbital death ray, capable of destroying all the world’s nuclear armament. Rather than ransoming the world, Blofeld is opting to auction nuclear supremacy to the highest bidder.

It is worth noting that there has been no reference to SPECTRE in the past two films. Blofeld is now portrayed as a lone mastermind, with resources to be sure, but nothing approaching the scope of the organization he ran for the first five films, with no word of what happened to it. He also has lost his penchant for shooting unexpected people. He’s been reduced to little more than a neckless jerk in a Nehru jacket.

Bond parachutes into Blofeld’s pretty sweet oil rig secret base and immediately surrenders to Blofeld’s men, because most of his endgame plans start with being captured by an enemy who doesn’t want to kill him but instead wants to hang out and gloat. Tiffany Case is lounging on the deck of the oil platform, for no adequately explored reason.

Case, played by Jill St. John, has been a pretty large presence in this film, even though she has no real motivations, no real competencies, and randomly shifting alliances. Despite all of this, St. John is easily the most likeable person in this movie, which perversely makes her seem even more out of place in this bleak, unpleasant film. Her character has negligible effect on the plot and no real reason to be in the film. She exists to wear ugly-but-revealing clothing and have sex with Bond.

On the oil rig, there is a bit of nonsense where Bond and Case both swap out the tape that contains the codes that control the death ray activation codes with a fake, canceling out each other’s efforts. In a real movie, the audience would be led to believe that they had failed to successfully swap them but that there had actually been a double-bluff. But in Diamonds Are Forever, the scheme just flat out fails.

A bunch of helicopters proceed to attack the base. Felix is onboard, so I guess they are CIA? Blofeld tries to escape in what appears to be a tiny submarine, but Bond lifts it with a crane and just starts fucking with the villain like a high school bully, swinging and banging the sub all around. After a bunch of that, he and Case jump off of the rig shortly before the helicopters destroy it and also presumably Blofeld. The bit of business with the tapes was completely unnecessary. All that was needed was to blow up Blofeld’s base with helicopters.

Later, as Bond and Case relax on a cruise ship, the two homosexual killers arrive posing as waiters. Kidd and Wint serve them a meal including a pastry with a bomb inside it, which Wint oh so cleverly calls “la bombe surprise.” Bond recognizes Wint’s terrible aftershave and thus is able to ever so subtly defeat his gay assailants by setting one aflame and literally shoving a bomb up the ass of the other. This is the classy note that the film ends on.

This movie is utter garbage. The plot is incoherent and stupid and the filmmaking is consistently lazy. It is a mean spirited and ugly film that leaves the viewer feeling like they need a bath afterward. Even the set dressing and costuming are unattractive and grungy.

This is Connery’s last canonical Bond appearance and I am ready to see him go. The Bond of this film is a monster again, but he’s no longer the cool ruthless bastard of “Dr. No” or “From Russia With Love” anymore. He’s just a petty bully who gets to be cruel and smirk because the world is built to give him whatever he wants.

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This is a strange beast of a movie, the first proper Bond film without Sean Connery. While today we expect a new Bond every few goes, in 1969 this was a new and scary prospect. Everything had to be reconsidered for this installment.
This film starts with familiar faces. M and Moneypenny are discussing the fact that Bond has gone missing. We then cut to Bond driving, but it is cleverly shot in such a way that we don’t yet see his face. He drives to a beach, where he spots a woman in the scope of a rifle that he keeps in his glove box. The woman is walking into the sea, the most dreamy of suicides.

Bond rushes to stop her. He carries her to the beach, and after reviving her, we at last see his face as he greets the woman. “Good morning. My name is Bond, James Bond.” Before this conversation can go any further, they are beset by three armed men, there for the lady. While Bond beats up the men, the woman runs away to her car, getting the hell out of there. Upon realizing he has been ditched, Bond quips “This never happened to the other fella.”

The whole open is pretty clever about telling us that they know that we know that this is new territory. It is playful, and it shows a self-awareness that I don’t consider typical for the franchise. This is not to say that it entirely works; the seemingly random suicide is confusing when the focus should be on the confusion of what is up with the new guy.

The credits still have the standard gross naked lady silhouettes, but it also presents a montage of characters from the previous films, serving as an insecure reminder that this movie is still part of the larger series. There are no lyrics to the opening score this time. It’s pure John Barry and the John Barry orchestra. I dig the theme, it’s moody and decadent.

After the credits, Bond follows the suicide lady to a hotel and its attached casino. He plays some baccarat, where he finds and assists suicide lady, who is named Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo, “Tracy” to her friends.

The Contessa seems to have a deathwish, which Bond keeps thwarting. First, Bond covers her stake when she purposely loses a bet she cannot pay. Then he fights a dude in her room. After the fight, when he finds her in his room, she draws a gun on him.

Bond is unflapped by this display, after all she is only a woman. He disarms her, and then grills her for information. He slaps her hard when he doesn’t like an answer. “I can be a lot more persuasive than that,” he leers. Yuck. She explains that all she wants to do is sleep with Bond in order to settle her debt to him. Again, yuck.

When Bond wakes up after boning her, she is gone, having left the money she owed him on the nightstand. This does manage to make the sex slightly less creepy.

Twenty minutes into the film and there is no villainous plot, no clear goal for the hero to pursue. When Bond gets held up at gunpoint again, I’m left to wonder what a James Bond movie with no villain would look like. What if the entire film was just a steady, aimless progression of sex, fights, car chases and baccarat without a SPECTRE plot? Would the audience enjoy that? Would James Bond?

At any rate, Bond has been summoned by a European gangster named Draco. This guy is very hospitable as far as kidnappers go. He is also the Contessa’s father, and he has a proposition for Bond.

Draco has decided that he wants Bond to marry Tracy. As he puts it, “What she needs is a man to dominate her. To make love to her enough to make her love him.” Vile as this notion is, as we have seen with Pussy Galore, it is sort of Bond’s specialty.

Bond offers Draco a deal: He will marry Tracy if Draco can provide Bond with the location of Blofeld. Seriously, what the fuck?

Having made his deal, Bond slinks into the office, tossing a hat to remind us that he is James Bond. “Same old James, only more so!” Moneypenny exclaims as he grabs her ass. Bond’s flirting with Moneypenny seems to have turned fully cruel. It has degraded from what began as two-way playful banter, to nothing more than an asshole leading-on a lovestruck fool who could do better.

In M’s office we learn that Bond has spent the past two years trying and failing to find Blofeld, and now he’s being pulled off of the case. Enraged, he resigns. M ignores the resignation and gives Bond two weeks leave with which to find Blofeld.

Draco arranges for Bond and Tracy to re-meet. She is instantly suspicious and correctly assumes that her father has offered information to Bond in exchange for marrying her. She compels her father to provide that information freely to Bond, without obligation, and then she storms off.

Bond chases her, they embrace and have a montage depicting a lengthy courtship. Well, lengthy for Bond. The film has become an actual romance. This is a weird new place for a James Bond film. I don’t believe sociopathic Sean Connery could have ever gone here.

Bond does eventually get to business and follow Draco’s lead. He does some spy shit, although for Lazenby, spy shit seems pretty laid back. Part of spying seems to be sitting around reading Playboy while a machine cracks a safe.

What Bond discovers is confusing. Blofeld wants to con his way into becoming nobility and has been talking to a heraldry expert hoping to sell himself as “Count Bleuchamp.” Bond decides to pose as this heraldry expert, Sir Hillary Bray, to get close to Blofeld.

This ruse gets Bond invited to Blofeld’s non-profit allergy clinic on the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. I’m not an expert in allergy clinics, but I don’t think most of them are on the top of mountains. Or that they are typically full of armed guards. Or that all the bedroom doors only open from the outside. Also, at this particular clinic, all the clients are beautiful young women.

Once Bond arrives, he puts on a kilt. I do not know why. Bond is not cool in this movie. We’ve abandoned the style of the 60’s and entered the hideousness of the 70’s and James Bond in a kilt is the transition point.

Bond, in disguise as Hillary, is comically dull. He plays the character as gay, as unmasculine as possible. It is supposed to be funny, but it seems a strange choice to make the new Bond spend a lot of time being as un-Bondlike as possible.

Bond-as-Hillary eventually gets to meet Blofeld-as-Bleuchamp. Blofeld has also been recast, this time played by with jovial menace by Telly Savalas. Somehow, in the time between last film and this one, Blofeld has lost his wicked facial scar.

The two meet and neither show any sign of recognizing each other, despite having tried to kill each other at the end of the previous film. This almost makes meta-sense, as both men were played by different actors, neither of which look or act anything like the actor currently playing a character pretending not to be that character.

But no, really. Why doesn’t Blofeld recognize Bond? Since the film has gone to lengths to assure us that this is the same world as that of the previous films, it doesn’t make sense. The best way to square this might be the fan notion that this is in fact a different “James Bond.” The idea that “James Bond” is a fake name given to successive agents within the film universe is fairly silly, and clearly nothing the filmmakers ever intended, but it seems to make more sense than what we’ve actually been presented with in this film.

At any rate, later that night, Bond breaks out of his room to bang a couple girls with allergies. So much for his romance with Tracy. By sleeping with these ladies, Bond learns that Blofeld is hypnotizing these women into not having allergies.
Blofeld eventually captures Bond, revealing that while he may not have recognized Bond as being a person that he had previously met and tried to kill, he saw right through his disguise as an expert in heraldry. So he might as well tell Bond his plan.

Blofeld is going to sterilize all life on Earth if a ransom is not paid. He will accomplish this by using hypnotized allergy-cured young women armed with cosmetic kits of death. I’m a guy that likes to use “dumb” as a superlative, and this is amongst the dumbest supervillain plots I have ever witnessed. Unfortunately, there is no panache to the proceedings. There is no sense that this is a sublimely ridiculous thing. It is played dully straight.

Things improve somewhat when the villains chase Bond down the mountain on skis. Bond spends the next 35 minutes of the movie trying to escape from Blofeld, which should be way too long, but actually really works well. First he climbs across a cable car cable, then he skis down the mountain, then he fights his way to a crowd. Attempting to blend in to the crowd, an ice skater abruptly stops in front of him.

It is Tracy! Between the directing and the performance, it genuinely feels wonderful to see her at this moment. This is the first time a James Bond movie has caused me to feel genuine emotion, and I’d like to think it is the same for the character, that this is the first time James Bond has felt an emotion other than bloodlust or horniness.

Tracy gets him to her car, and amazingly, the pursuit continues, now a car chase. She drives like an action hero, driving apparently being the one non-sexual action trope a woman of this time and genre are allowed to do as well as men.
They hide in a barn. Bond declares his love and asks Tracy to marry him. He declares his intent to quit his job because “an agent shouldn’t care about anything but himself.” And he means it.

Lazenby Bond is an actual human being. It is horribly disorienting. Tracy, performed by Diana Rigg of Avengers fame, is great. She completely sells herself as the one woman worthy of Bond’s love. The fatal flaw of this, is that the esteem of James Bond should not hold any value at all. The core of the earlier Bond films has been that Bond is a monstrous sociopath.The producers seem to have decided that if the franchise is going to outlive Connery, they need to explore new dimensions of Bond, flesh him out as a real character. It feels completely wrong, but it is a fascinating misfire.

In the morning, Blofeld and his goons chase Bond and Tracy some more, on skis again. There is a shocking, gruesome death as a henchman is pulped by a snow machine into pink mist, followed by a spectacular avalanche. Bond is left for dead as if he weren’t James Bond, while Tracy is captured by Blofeld.

Blofeld has decided to seduce Tracy for some reason. Probably because she is a countess, right? But that is never spelled out. Meanwhile, the U.N. Has decided to accede to Blofeld’s demands. Bond decides “fuck that” and calls Draco to form up a posse.

Bond and his gangster friends assault the mountain base with a helicopter in a truly great action piece while Tracy murders the hell out of some henchmen. Tracy is the first woman in one of these movies that seems to have the respect of the filmmakers. Which is sad, given that the two most important men in her life traded her like a commodity.
The gang blows up the base, and Draco cold-cocks Tracy so they can escape without Bond. Meanwhile, Bond and Blofeld escape on foot, leading to Bond pursuing his quarry in a bobsled chase that is truly dumb. Blofeld is defeated in a way that appears non-fatal, but Bond seems to assume him dead.

Some time later, Bond and Tracy get married. M, Moneypenny and Q are in attendance. Amidst the festivities there is a moment between Moneypenny and Bond where it is clear that Miss Moneypenny’s heart has been broken. And Bond gets it. All Bond can do is throw his hat at her one last time, and drive off. There is weight and honesty in this scene completely unbefitting of a Bond film. It is oddly affecting.

So Bond and Tracy drive off, bantering like two newlyweds deeply in love, when Blofeld drives by and shoots Tracy dead. In shock, Bond cradles his wife’s lifeless body in his arms and cries. The End.

Holy shit. That’s a hell of an ending, dark, moving, and daringly unsatisfying (and of course a problematic case of refrigerator syndrome). I lkind of love it, and it makes me wish this movie had really gone for it. Against all logic, the love story angle worked, largely through the talent of Rigg. They came close to making a real, grounded James Bond movie. Unfortunately, the whole allergy-hypnotized women plot and other cartoonishness undercut the serious stuff they were doing.

This was Lazenby’s only appearance as Bond. His Bond is not at all cool. He isn’t an unstoppable kill monster. He’s just a guy in a film that tries to be more than it is able to be. This wasn’t a great movie but it tried to do something different with Bond, and I like that, even if it didn’t work at all.

The James Bond movies are famously formulaic. Five films into the series, about to switch Bond actors, it does feel like the patterns have coalesced into a “Bond formula.” Sort of. What is going on in these movies?

The film will start with a weird stylized sequence in black and white, where Bond walks across a room seen through the barrel of a gun. Not the sights of the gun, the barrel. Bond will abruptly pivot and shoot the screen. The screen will turn red as the point-of-view character falls to the ground. There may or may not be a cold open preceding this sequence, but every one of these films has this bit of style.

Directors and writers will be fluid, but the music will be John Barry and the John Barry Orchestra, featuring variations of the James Bond theme created by Monty Norman. The set design will be Ken Adam. The main titles will be Maurice Binder, and yes I have watched so much James Bond that I now know the name of the person who designed the main titles to the James Bond movies, and yes that makes me barf on the inside.

The title credits will be weird. The theme song will be sung by a popular singer and the chorus will directly reference the title of the film, even if that leads to a song that makes me think that the bad guy of one of these movies is named “Thunderball.” Visually, the title will feature stylized imagery of beautiful, over-sexualized women, but each time, Binder will try to display them in a new and novel way. This worked well in “Goldfinger” but has been off-putting in all the others.

What about the plot of a James Bond film? For a franchise with some oddly specific rules, you can’t really pigeonhole a James Bond plot. Bond will uncover and foil a supervillainous scheme, but the specifics of the scheme to be foiled have varied wildly, from simply stealing a codebreaker to starting World War 3. The one constant is that these plots are never the work of a nation, but of a third party, typically SPECTRE. The Chinese and the Russians have been portrayed as enemies to Britain, but never quite direct aggressors.

The villains have typically been high-ranking SPECTRE operatives, overseen by Ernst Blofeld. Although he’s only been given a face in the most recent film, he has had a presence since “From Russia With Love.” The filmmakers built him up over several films, and he feels suitably large enough to serve as Bond’s Moriarty. He works because, he’s not just a generic mastermind, he has multiple weirdo tics. He forces a white cat to come with him wherever he goes, and he likes to make one person think they are going to be murdered for their failure, only to murder another person instead. He’s done that, like, five times in three films.

The other villains have been weird and grandiose in different ways. Dr. No had no hands. Rosa Klebb was a lesbian with a knife-boot. Goldfinger covered everything he owned and everything that he wished to murder with gold. Largo wore an eyepatch and named his super-yacht the Disco Volante. Some of these guys have proven to be more memorable than others. (Hint: The good ones had movies named after them.)

These bad guys will have sweet Ken Adams sets and from “Goldfinger” onward, the head villain has always had a mute head henchman, although only Oddjob of “Goldfinger” has been memorable in this role.

The villain will not murder James Bond when they have the chance. In three of the films, the villain has played host to James Bond as if he were an honored guest. In “From Russia With Love”, the villain repeatedly saved Bond’s life.
Four of the five movies end with Bond making out with a woman on a boat. Again, this is weirdly specific. After the boat, are the end credits, which all announce that James Bond will return in the following film. I hope this continues through the entire franchise, a fifty year chain of kept promises.

I had been lead to believe that gadgets were a bedrock of James Bond movies. And indeed, James Bond receives some new spy gear in every one of these films. However, despite a couple of scenes where Bond is seen clearly appreciating his new toys, Bond does not really seem like a man who needs complicated or clever ways to murder dudes when a gun or a garotte will do the trick.

I had also formed the impression, before watching these films, that the tricked-out Aston Martin from “Goldfinger” was a series mainstay, basically the Bondmobile. This turns out to not be the case. Bond doesn’t have a spy car in the two following films, although Aki in “You Only Live Twice” has an awesome one.

Bond spends a lot of time in warmer climes. There is a travelogue component to most of these films. Bond’s missions inevitably take him to exotic locales. Or Kentucky. A lot of time will be spent on soaking up local color. Unfortunately, this is really pretty dull in a post-globalization world. The exotic isn’t so exotic any more.

Bond has two catch-phrases. “Shaken, not Stirred.” and “Bond, James Bond.” are two of the most famous three-word phrases in all of pop culture. They are absurdly well-known. Watching these films, I have no idea why. They get said repeatedly, but they have no impact, no resonance. One would think that they would elicit reactons along the lines of “oh, fuck yes he is Bond James Bond! He is going to drink the shit out of that martini fuckers!” but they don’t. They don’t signify much, just a preference for a particular drink, and an ability to give one’s name when prompted.

Bond movies are equal parts sex and violence, and so there will always be lots of beautiful women. (Ostensibly so, at least. Most of them don’t really do it for me, but perhaps I reveal too much.) In any given film, Bond will sleep with several of them, at least one good guy one and one bad guy one, except for “From Russia With Love”, where his only real love interest is neutral. He will seduce them or allow them to seduce him, but there is nothing warm or romantic in any of this. The first four movies all had coercive sex, two of them having Bond outright rape a woman. All the sex in these movies is gross.

Bond does not have friends. Bond is a sociopath incapable of friendship. The closest he gets is his coworkers. In every film, Bond has to be briefed by M, flirted with by Moneypenny, and equipped by Q. There may or may not also be a random American dude in the mix that the audience is told is Felix Leiter. The repeated use of these characters is important. They give the movies an aspect of humanity that Bond himself lacks. I don’t even like M or Q but when they show up, they are a gasp of fresh air, providing warmth in an otherwise icy, cold universe.

Bond is often called a super-spy, and he did show some espionage bona fides in From “Russia With Love” and “You Only Live Twice”, but his forte is not stealth or deception. His strengths are brutality and seduction. In fact, in three of these five films the villain’s plan was undone not by Bond, but by a woman that Bond has seduced to his cause.
Bond is considered to be a hero, but nothing he does in these movies is selfless. Not only does he never has a “save the cat” moment, he never has a moral moment. He is a murderer and a rapist and a petty golf cheat to boot. Arguably his actions serve the greater good, or at least the good of Britain, but we are never given any reason to believe he gives the slightest shit about patriotism or other human beings.

Bond is a sophisticate. He gets his suits from Saville Row and he wears them well. He knows what temperature he likes his Bollinger Champaign and he knows how he likes his drinks mixed. He confidently moves through this world of style and status, having learned all the correct shibboleths. . However, despite these trappings of culture, his true nature is that of a monster who lives only to kill and mate. That animal aspect is always right below the surface, glinting in his eyes.

This man-monster is what I find compelling about the James Bond presented in these first films. The character exists as an argument that beneath all of our sophistication and culture, we are nothing more than ugly beasts. Bond is a black-hearted parody of humanity, a brilliant construction that I think is largely unintentional on the part of all parties involved in creating and presenting the character. If someone were to make a movie that treated Bond like the abomination that he is, it could be a hell of thing.

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“You Only Live Twice” starts in Earth’s orbit, where a NASA space capsule is stolen by some sort of crazy pirate rocket. This rocket of evil is a hell of a thing, designed to open up and snatch up other spacecraft. This first scene is far crazier than anything that has happened in the previous four films, fantastic and sci fi in a a way that the earlier installments were not. It’s pretty ridiculous, but the sort of ridiculous that I can get behind.

Naturally, the U.S. blames the Russians for the loss of the capsule, but the Brits have tracked the rogue rocket to Japan, and so they think that it probably isn’t the Soviets. They inform their U.S. Allies that they have a man on the case.
That man is, of course, James Bond, who we first see in bed with a Chinese woman. After a few seconds of weird, gross sex banter (“Why do Chinese women taste different?”), the woman abruptly slams the bed, which is a fold-out Murphy bed, into the wall, trapping Bond inside. This is the cue for two men with machine guns to run in and shoot the bed with many, many bullets. Bond is declared dead by the paramedics when they arrive. It is a totally jarring start, and an effective one. It also just so happens to be exactly what I wanted to see happen to James Bond after watching Goldfinger and Thunderball.

After the credits, we have Captain Bond’s funeral, a burial at sea. Of course, Bond is not actually dead, and this is all an overly complicated ruse. For some reason, this ruse does not at any point involve a corpse double, and it Bond’s living body that is dumped into the drink.

Bond is smuggled onto a submarine by some divers. Once aboard the sub, Bond springs back into action, ready for some flirting and some exposition. Fortunately, this vessel has a ridiculous shipboard version of M’s inner and outer office, complete with coat rack. M and Moneypenny are both on board, acting as if this was business as usual, the only irregularity being the naval uniforms that they are wearing.

(By the way, Bond was still wearing his hat during the shoot-the-camera intro which makes it seem like the last film’s hat shenanigans were just wasting everyone’s time.)

So, flirting, followed by briefing. The Moneypenny interplay again has an undercurrent of pathetic mooning on her part, which is a shame because Moneypenny clearly can do better than Bond. I like Moneypenny. I’d rather watch movies about her than Bond. Alas.

Bond is sent to Japan to investigate the rogue rocket. As always, there is a bunch of early game spy shit, but this stuff is a cut above what the past films have had to offer. The action is more thrilling and the pacing is tighter. Bond actually seems clever and sneaky, as opposed to his normal odd mix of brutal and cultured. For the first time, a Bond film feels like a story about a superspy, not just a spy movie with some goofy crap added in. In “You Only Live Twice”, the goofy crap is woven into the very fabric of the film. The tone is consistent in a way the previous ones have not been, making for a stronger film.

Soon after he gets to Japan, there is a weird bit where neckless Charles Gray proffers Bond a martini “Stirred, not shaken, that’s right?”, which Bond tells him is perfect. But of course, that is not how James Bond enjoys his vodka martinis. Anyone who knows anything at all about James Bond knows that. Why was this detail wrong? It seems unlikely although not, I suppose, impossible that this was an accident on the part of the filmmakers. Assuming it was an intentional mistake, why make it? My best guess is that it is intended as a deliberate “fuck you” to audience expectations, an attempt to keep the viewer off balance. If so, it had the desired effect.

After Charles Gray is abruptly murdered mid-exposition, Bond ends up liaising with a friendly gangster named Tiger Tanaka, which is a pretty great name. Tanaka has a bunch of cool Ken Adam set dressing, including a trap door leading to a hideout, and a separate hideout on a tricked out private train. It is all pretty awesome.

And then the awesomeness screeches to a halt to make room for the creepy sexism. Tanaka invites Bond to his home, magnanimously commenting “consider my house yours, including all of my possessions.” They are then beset by a gaggle of young women in their underwear, who enthusiastically bathe the men, who smugly make jokes about the their superiority over women. I suddenly remember that I totally hate this Bond asshole.

Over the course of several setpieces, one of Tanaka’s agents, a woman named Aki, sort of promotes herself to be Bond’s de facto partner. I’m sure Bond would not view her that way, what with female inferiority and all, and I’m not sure if the filmmakers would, either, but she’s a cool spy who holds her own alongside Bond and has more utility than I have grown to expect from women in these films. She also has a sweet-ass car. Until Aki, all the other non-furniture women in these movies have been bad guys, and that seems to have been by design. I would like to be able to say that these films are turning a corner, but Aki sleeps with Bond immediately after the creepy bath scene, so that seems premature.

After some more spy shit, there is a truly wonderful fight/chase scene with some beautiful aerial shots and some great stunt work. It isn’t a particularly clever or important scene, but damn, it is pretty to watch. There is some artfulness in Lewis Gilbert’s film direction, unlike his more workmanlike predecessors.

Shortly afterward, Bond searches for the enemy base while piloting a tiny helicopter named “Little Nelly” and all the cool goes down in flames. (I know it is actually an autogyro not a helicopter but what it looks like is a helicopter built for a baby who is a helicopter pilot.) Bond looks just absolutely ridiculous in the thing. Tanaka makes fun of him pretty hard, so I think it is intentionally uncool. More expectation flipping? It is a weird misstep that ruins a helicopter battle, something that should be unruinable.

Meanwhile, in Earth’s orbit, the pirate rocket steals another space capsule, this time a Russian one. The film then follows the space brigands back to what is maybe the coolest looking secret base that I have ever seen, a Ken Adam masterpiece inside a hollowed out volcano. It has a helipad, it has a monorail, it has a piranha moat, and it has a launch pad for crime rockets. It is a glory to behold, staffed with henchmen in color-coded jumpsuits. And while we don’t see the face of the mastermind at the heart of all of this, we do see the cat he is holding. It is a cat that we have seen before. That is to say the role that the cat is playing is one that we have seen before, but they probably used a different cat for each movie. It is the cat belonging to the leader of SPECTRE is the point that I am making.

The mastermind’s plan is to keep stealing U.S. And Russian spacecraft until they start a war with each other. He is trying to start this war because China is paying him $100,000 to do so. I love that SPECTRE is so deep pocketed that at the height of the Space Race they have been able to develop a secret private space program that is more advanced than what either America or Russia have created, and that they use this technology for space crime. It is madness. Beautiful, beautiful madness.

Bond has a rough idea of where this beautiful bad guy base is, but he needs backup to stage an assault. Fortunately, it turns out that Tiger Tanaka runs a school for ninjas. Of course he does. This movie might have horrible sexism and Little Nelly, but ninjas go a long way. Tanaka’s ninjas are modern ninjas, equally adept at using swords and using guns that fire rocket bullets.

It is at this point that Bond, for reasons that aren’t at all clear to me, disguises himself as a Japanese man, in one of the most utterly unconvincing cases of ethnic drag ever to grace the cinema. This movie is full of weird details that baffle. Yellowface Bond begins a crash course in the way of the ninja. Nevermind that they already have like fifty well-trained ninjas.

Apparently SPECTRE have their own ninjas, because one accidentally kills Aki while aiming for Bond with the old poison-down-the-string-from-above-the-bed trick. …Did this story invent the old poison-down-the-string-from-above trick? Aki is almost immediately replaced with a different ally girl named Kissy Suzuki. It is possible that the overall grossness of the sexual politics of these movies has left me oversensitive, but it feels like Aki was killed for daring to be independent and she had to be replaced with someone more docile. Yuck.

It is in this section where we finally have a Bond film staple that I thought might be omitted: A slow and dull section of the film that could easily be cut. This is the point in the film where Bond and his newly acquired army on ninjas should assault the volcano, but instead time is killed while Bond and his allies search for the entrance to the bad guy base. The momentum drags to a halt for like ten minutes as Bond and Kissy search for the way in.

Eventually Bond finds the entrance, and sneaks inside using a suction cup ninja suit while Kissy goes back to get the rest of the ninjas. He finds the astro/cosmonauts who had crewed the stolen space capsules, being kept alive by SPECTRE for some unexplored reason. Bond villains have a pathological need to take prisoners.

After freeing the good astronauts, Bond disguises himself as one of the evil astronauts and almost sneaks onto the crime rocket but he is found out by SPECTRE #1, who upon being face to face with Bond finally reveals his face to the audience. And so at long last he is no longer the faceless manipulator of SPECTRE, he is now Ernst Stavro Blofeld, enemy of James Bond. It’s a cool moment, well earned and well executed. Unfortunately, for this 21st century viewer, the moment is undercut by the fact that what he is revealed to look like is Dr. Evil. The filmmakers of this movie could not have anticipated that Austin Powers would ruin their moment, but nonetheless it is hard to take him seriously.

What happens next is a seven-year-old’s greatest dream come true: An epic battle between ninjas and astronauts inside a volcano. It’s a giant spectacle, stupid in the best possible way. In the chaos, Bond frees himself and fights his way to the control room where he arrives just in the nick of time to press the “exploder button” which averts World War III for reasons that aren’t worth exploring here.

Defeated, Blofeld blows up the installation, and now it is his turn to escape in the confusion. The ninjas swim to safety, while the freed cosmo/astronauts as well as all of the henchmen appear to perish. Bond and Kissy make out in a boat, but in one final subversion of expectations, M’s submarine surfaces directly beneath them, so they are unable to fuck. The end.

This movie is a major tonal shift from what comes before. The earlier movies wanted to be cool, but You Only Live Twice is is a movie reveling in its own high weirdness. On this trip, James Bond ends up almost a non-presence. The filmmakers deflate his cool at every opportunity, and the whole affair is too light for his sadism to be allowed to surface. What remains of the character gets some fun action moments but ultimately he seems like the least interesting dude in the volcano.

I can’t really say that a boring hero is better than a detestable one, but I almost liked this movie. It is pretty fun, although deeply marred by a few weird choices and some unfortunate sexual politics. Sadly, after the past few Bond flicks, it comes as a giant breath of fresh lack of rape. I fear I may be grading on a curve, but this is easily the best Bond thus far.

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Thunderball starts with a funeral. The coffin is labeled “JB” but this is a cheap fakeout that is immediately abandoned. Bond is in attendance, and he is lamenting that he did not have the opportunity to kill the deceased himself.

It turns out that he is in luck, because the shrouded widow is the deceased, and is in fact, no lady at all. “I don’t think you should have opened that car door yourself,” Bond smugly suggests after punching the would-be corpse in the face. Bond beats the shit out of the man in drag before strangling him to death with a fireplace poker. He then makes his exit via jetpack.

It’s a baffling start. It’s too weird to take seriously, but too brutal to take lightly. Someone seemed really excited about the prospect of Bond beating a cross-dresser to death. I am not on board.

After the credits is a meeting of the heads of SPECTRE, back after an absence in Goldfinger (unless maybe Goldfinger worked for SPECTRE?). As in “From Russia With Love,” the leader of the group’s face is obscured, but he is identifiable by the cat he strokes. After an obligatory killing of one of the board members reminds us that SPECTRE is villainous, the current #2 agent, an eypatched sophisticate named Largo begins to explain their plan, but the film cuts away to Bond before any actual plot advancement can occur.

Bond is at a spa, on vacation. But intrigue follows him on vacation, and he recognizes a gang tattoo on a dude and starts snooping. Apparently, this fella is a member of a Chinese criminal tong.

After a bit of nosing around, Bond sexually assaults a nurse. She pushes him off of her and straps him to some sort of massage device. Once he’s strapped in, she quips “First time I’ve felt safe all day!” which is her hilarious joke about the fact that Bond has been aggressively pressuring her to sleep with him since his arrival. Ha.

Having secured him to this weird spa machine, she leaves, promising to return in fifteen minutes. After she leaves, an unseen assailant sneaks in and turns the massage crank to full-bore. Bond is nearly, ah, massaged to death. The nurse returns and saves Bond, who expresses his gratitude by threatening to report her to her manager if she does not sleep with him. She succumbs to his blackmail.

In the first two films, every woman who meets Bond wants to sleep with him. In the next two, the world had gotten more complicated. Suddenly there are women who don’t want to sleep with him. Bond’s solution is literally to rape them until they change their mind.

This son of a bitch is the single most contemptible protagonist I think I have ever seen on film. He is a monster in a film made by people who cannot distinguish between sexual assault and being cute. I hate this multiple rapist “hero” and would like to see him meet a violent end. Instead, I’m going to end up watching more than 20 more movies starring him living a charmed life.

Uhg. At any rate, after Bond rapes that girl, there is a very elaborate bit of business involving doublecrosses, murder, body doubles, scuba diving, a femme fatale with very large breasts, and some mediocre film editing. It’s an elaborate bit of SPECTRE skullduggery, both complicated and dull, that results in the theft of two atomic missiles.

By what appears to be total coincidence, part of this scheme just so happens to take place in the spa that Bond is visiting. Bond stumbles upon this plot by accident. He finds a dead body, and ends up fighting some SPECTRE agents without understanding who they are or what they are.

Everything that has happened in this movie so far could be cut. Everything the hero has done has made me hate him. Everything the villains have done have either been unrelated to the actions of the protagonist, or revolving around a really thin coincidence. And none of it has forwarded the plot more than could be accomplished with a line or two of exposition. That’s thirty-nine minutes that the film would be better off without.

Instead, it is almost forty minutes into the film when Bond gets around to flirting with Moneypenny in the office. Now, Bond’s thing in the earlier films has been to toss his hat onto the coat rack as he enters the office. In Thunderball, Bond goes to do this, but the coat rack has been moved, throwing him off balance. Later, when he goes to leave, there is no hat on the rack, which he comments upon before leaving, hatless.

This hat business is weird. I reckon by 1965 it was becoming unfashionable for Bond to wear a hat, but why did the filmmakers feel that they had to write themselves out of the coat rack tradition that they had created? Why not just stop doing it? Even this early in, these movies were becoming tied to their weirdly specific formulas.

In the midst of all this haberdashery, Bond gets called into a meeting so serious that all nine Double 0 agents attend, although we do not see the faces of the other eight. In the briefing, Bond learns that SPECTRE has stolen atomic bombs from a NATO plane and intends to blow up either a U.S. or British city if they are not given one hundred million pounds.

Bond recognizes the pilot of the hijacked plane as being the corpse from his shenanigans the previous night, so Bond heads to Nassau to seduce this pilot’s sister. This nearly makes a sort of sense, as far as James Bond plans go.

Once in the Bahamas, Bond uses his spy training to meet the sister, Domino. She likes him, but has to go join her “guardian,” who turns out to be our eyepatched villain, Largo. That’s right, the sister of the dead guy that Bond found by complete accident turns out to be mistress of the guy who is holding the free world ransom. This is an odd movie. And by “odd” I mean terrible.

Bond’s first move is to hit on the bad guy’s girlfriend. His second move is to introduce himself to the bad guy in such a way that makes absolutely clear to the bad guy who Bond is and what Bond knows. He basically says “Hi, I’m James Bond. I know you work for SPECTRE and I plan on sleeping with your girlfriend.” only he does it through the language of baccarat innuendo. His third move is to hit on Domino some more.

The movie then goes through the spy movie motions. A third Felix Leiter is on hand, this one the coolest so far (admittedly a low bar), coming off as an American version of Bond. I still don’t know why this guy keeps showing up because they never do anything interesting with him. Q is also begrudgingly in the field, giving Bond some gadgets, but they are largely straightforward ones.

Throughout, Largo tries to stay interesting but since he has already executed his plan, he has little to do but fume. He feeds a henchman to a shark, which helps a little, but not much.

Bond does some scuba stuff in a hideous orange-red wetsuit and some white short shorts. He looks less cool then he did when he had a duck strapped to his head in the previous film. There is a lot of underwater scenes in this film, and they are all so boring.

When Bond isn’t swimming he is sneaking and double talking and kidnapping and scouting and fighting and maybe this stuff was compelling fifty years ago, but that was a long time ago and today it isn’t very exciting or dramatic. Still, at at least things are happening and Bond isn’t raping anybody.

There is a remarkable moment during a bit where Bond is sneaking out of Largo’s compound. He climbs onto a roof… and he slips on the incline, and drops his gun. There is no real plot reason for this to happen, it is just a brief instance of fallibility from a character who doesn’t normally do fallible. It’s neat but completely incongruous with the rest of this film.

Maintaining his strategy of not having to do any work whatsoever to find plot points, Bond randomly stumbles upon large-breasted SPECTRE assassin, Fiona Volpe on the side of the road. Volpe is cool. She doesn’t take shit from Largo or anyone else and she has fun toying with Bond.

Eventually, Volpe sleeps with Bond, who has spotted Volpe’s ring, which identifies her as a member of SPECTRE. They probably shouldn’t wear these rings. I’m not sure what she meant to gain by sleeping with him, because she pulls a gun on him shortly thereafter. Maybe she was just curious about what all the fuss was about. Whatever her reason, the carnal act does not endear Bond to her. She mocks him, “But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue… but not this one!” Her point seems to be that the plot of “Goldfinger” was bullshit. I agree, Fiona Volpe.

Soon after, Bond makes a break for it, and Volpe and several of her agents chase him through a wild nighttime parade. In a movie that has been largely worthless so far, it’s a pretty cool sequence. Bond gets shot – grazed? – in the leg, leaving a blood trail for his pursuers to follow as they search for him amongst the wild festivities. It is tense and cool.

Except… the scene culminates with Bond and Volpe dancing with one another as several goons draw closer. One of them takes his shot, but Bond uses Volpe as a human shield. All of which is fine and good, but the bad guys just leave after that. They’ve got him cornered, and he just got their boss killed. Why not take a second shot? It makes no sense.

Tragically, there is more scuba. Scuba is so dull. Scuba means no dialog, slow movement, and just not a lot happening. In theory, you can build a lot of tension in an underwater scene, but they never seem to work for me. Certainly not in this film.
As this film winds toward its conclusion, Bond gets around to informing Domino that her boyfriend murdered her brother. He then sends her onto Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante to search for the bombs. She pretty much immediately gets caught by Largo, who ties her up her with the intent to torture her.

But before he can get to the torture, Bond and the Coast Guard attack Largo’s scuba goons in an underwater battle royal, which by virtue of its underwaterness, may be the dullest battle royal of all time. However, what it lacks in excitement, it makes up for by being very long.

The conflict ends with the Disco Volante’s saucer section separating, as the front of the ship splits off from the rear, becoming a hydrofoil, escaping from the Coast Guard with one of the bombs. Bond is on this section of the ship, as is Domino. She is freed from her bonds by what I believe is a previously unseen member of Largo’s crew, who has had a change of heart apparently. He informs her that he has disabled the atom bomb, so no worries on that point.

Bond fights Largo on the foil but loses! Largo is about to kill Bond but Domino kills Largo instead! Good for her, but it makes Bond a bit useless as a protagonist. Bond asks Domino who the Deus Ex is. She replies “I don’t know, but he helped me.”
Bond and Domino and Other Guy jump off of the ship just as it explodes. Bond and Domino find a life raft. I don’t know what happens to Other Guy. It looks like Bond and Domino are going to fuck in the life raft, but in a surprise twist, they are air-evacuated by a sky hook. The end.

I haven’t loved any of the Bond movies so far, but this is the first one that has been outright terrible. Dull, confusing and unsatisfying, this movie presents a string of bizarre coincidences that pull a monster rapist protagonist from one end of the movie to the other with a lot of scuba diving along the way. I cannot understand why anyone would enjoy this movie on its face. It is so distorted and strange that it almost works as a dark satire of action movies as a genre. Almost.