Post thumbnail

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.

Post thumbnail

“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.

Post thumbnail

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.

Post thumbnail

This is the big one, the most beloved of the James Bond movies, the one that is universally referenced as the quintessence of James Bond. This one has a lot to live up to. The film starts with a famous cold open wherein Bond sneaks into a compound by snorkeling in, then removing his wet suit to reveal a tuxedo. What always seems left out in the many many cultural references to this scene, is the part where Bond has a fake duck strapped to his head as he surfaces.

Tuxedoed and de-ducked, Bond sets some explosives to a timer before entering a cabaret. As the explosives go off, he makes small talk with his contact, unfazed by the destruction on the outside. He is cool as can be.

He then returns to his hotel for some “unfinished business.” There is a beautiful woman waiting for him. They embrace and she asks him about his holstered gun. He comments that he wears it due to his inferiority complex. Before they can explore this psychoanalysis in more depth, an attacker that the woman has let in comes at Bond. He uses the lady as a human shield, then kills the dude. He makes a dumb quip as he exits.

Aside from the duck, it is a great opening.

Okay, let’s talk about the credits. These movies all have very stylized opening credits featuring faceless undulating women and guns. This was pretty dull in the last two films, but in Goldfinger, the design is quite striking. The women-as-set-dressing are gold against black with footage of the film projected onto their bodies. It is weird but striking, paired with an absolutely amazing theme song. The titular “Goldfinger”, composed by John Barry and performed by Shirley Bassey is bold, vaguely menacing, sexyish, and very weird. In other words, perfect for a James Bond film.

After the credits, Bond is chillin’ in Miami Beach with a girl named Dink when he is met by Felix Leiter, a minor character from the first film who is now played by a totally different actor. Bond dismisses Dink with a slap of her ass because there is “man talk” to be had. Bond is a creep.

During the man talk they reminisce about that time they investigated Dr. No before Leiter gets down to business. Leiter tells Bond that M is back in London wants Bond to Investigate a man named Auric Goldfinger, a rich guy who is currently at Bond’s hotel, hustling gin rummy, poolside. I think this is a coincidence?

Rather than merely investigating, Bond gets proactive and fucks with Goldfinger’s con. Bond effortlessly seduces Goldfinger’s accomplice, Jill Masterson away from Goldfinger and via radio blackmails the hustler into throwing his rummy game. Goldfinger complies, but he breaks his scorekeeping pencil in outrage!

Later, Bond and Jill banter and diss the Beatles. “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” In the midst of this, Bond is suckerchopped by a shadowy brute with a bowler hat.

When he wakes, he discovers that Jill has been murdered by being painted gold. A death that is as horrific as it is weird as it is nonsensical.

Returning to the office with a signature hat toss, Bond and Moneypenny flirt and unlike the previous two films, it seems a little unbalanced, as if Moneypenny is chasing Bond. Before it had seemed like banter between equals. Lame.

After the Moneypenny stuff, M briefs Bond. MI6 has tasked Bond with investigating Goldfinger because… er, he has a lot of gold bullion? It’s a dull, exposition-laden scene, but not much is actually made clear about what makes this guy worthy of an investigation. I’m left very confused about how gold trading actually works.

Having seen Moneypenny and M, Bond now visits Q, no longer just a guy handing Bond a Briefcase, but now the head of big fun R&D gadget center, full of cute visual gags. Bond is begrudgingly given an Aston Martin that is as tricked out as it is iconic. As Q shows bond the car’s features, along with some other gadgets, he bitches about how Bond always breaks his equipment. All in all, it has been quite the evolution from receiving a less-womanly gun in Dr. No to ejector seats a mere two films later.

Now that he is flirted, briefed and equipped, Bond is ready to begin his investigation. To start with,, Bond arranges to have a chance meeting with Goldfinger on a golf course. Goldfinger’s caddy is named Oddjob, a mute Korean brute wearing a bowler hat.

Bond tries to lure Goldfinger into some sort of gold deal but when Goldfinger starts cheating at golf, the espionage stuff takes a backseat as Bond has to outcheat the cheater. The film spends several minutes on these golfing antics. First rummy, now golf. It is all so weirdly petty and low stakes.

As Bond and Goldfinger settle their bets, Goldfinger menaces Bond by having Oddjob decapitate a statue with a flung hat. It’s a perplexing gimmick. Was this as goofy to 60′s audiences as it seems today? Was it scary? Oddjob is right on the knife’s edge, balanced between cool and stupid.

After golf, Bond tails Goldfinger for a dull stretch, but eventually we get to have one of my favorite kinds of scenes. Were we see a character spying on another character, only to zoom back to reveal a third party watching the watchers. The third party in this case is Tilly Masterson, sister of Jill, the painted girl.

Bond and Tilly team up and they get swept up in a decent chase, letting Bond show off all his car’s new tricks. The scene is ultimately disappointing however, as all the tricks avail to nothing. Bond still gets caught and Tilly gets hatted to death.

When Bond comes to, he is in a gorgeous Ken Adam set, tied to a table with a laser pointed at him. This is 1964, so lasers were cutting edge and exotic. Everyone knows this scene, right?

“Do you expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” It’s a great line reading. There’s a reason it is famous.

But immediately after that great moment, it all falls apart. Bond talks Goldfinger out of killing him using the thinnest of all possible bluffs.
Bond has overheard the phrase “Operation Grand Slam” used by Goldfinger. He tells Goldfinger that he knows all about Grand Slam, without giving any evidence that this is true. He further tells Goldfinger that if he were to die, another agent, 008 would be assigned to take over the investigation and that furthermore, 008 knows all about Grand Slam. This is dumb. His argument wouldn’t make sense even if it was factually accurate. Nonetheless, instead of killing Bond or interrogating him, Goldfinger decides to keep him prisoner and knocks him unconscious.

Bond wakes up in a plane. He is now in the custody of a woman pilot named Pussy Galore, a name so childishly dumb, even Bond smirks when he hears it.

Galore rebuffs Bond’s attempts at charm, something no woman has ever done before in these films. She rightfully gets angry at his suggestion that she was hired for her looks. Galore is the captain of Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a company of lady pilots. Bond, who is used to solving all of his problems by sleeping with beautiful women, keeps trying to find an in with Galore, but she is confident and under no illusions about the company that she keeps. She is cooler than Bond and she’s a hell of a lot more likeable than him. I want to watch a spy movie starring her.

When they land, Goldfinger takes Bond to his compound in Kentucky, where he will be kept prisoner, nevermind why. Bond is thrown in a dungeon, and then Goldfinger assembles a large conference of gangsters into a giant transforming supervillain lair. Goldfinger explains to these criminals his plan to rob Ft. Knox.

Meanwhile, Bond escapes from his cell by winning a game of peekaboo. He hides underneath Goldfinger’s scale model of Fort Knox and eavesdrops on the plan before immediately being recaptured by Galore.

After Goldfinger explains his master plan, he gasses all the mobsters to death. In his giant super complex room created for the sole purpose of illustrating the details of a plan to people who don’t need to know them because they will be murdered. Also, the plan was a lie. No part of that sequence actually makes any sense at all.

Before being tossed back in a cell, Bond slips a message to Leiter and also a tracker into the pocket of the one gangster not being murdered in the murder room. He doesn’t want in on Goldfinger’s phony plan, so he’s taking his gold and going home. This threatens to actually advance the story, but instead Oddjob uses a car crusher to crush the car that contains the note, the tracker, the gangster, and a million dollars worth of gold.

Now that all of that murder is out of the way, Goldfinger and Bond have a chat over mint juleps while Bond works out Goldfinger’s real plan, which is to use an atom bomb to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox, thus skyrocketing the value of his own gold. Bond seems pretty impressed by Goldfinger’s ingenuity.

Shortly afterward, Bond forcibly rapes Pussy Galore.

Really, he does. Bond is used to every woman he meets wanting to sleep with him. He meets one that doesn’t, and so he forces himself upon her first chance he gets. It is abhorrent, but the film plays it as if it is sexy.

The next day Goldfinger executes his plan. The Flying Circus gasses all the stationed troops around Knox and Goldfinger’s men break in. Goldfinger brings Bond along for some vague framejob reason. They open the vault, handcuff Bond to the bomb, and set the timer. It is at this point that all the gassed troops reveal that they had only been playing possum because they had been tipped off by Galore, who has switched sides after succumbing to the power of Bond’s sexing.

There is a big gun battle that Bond misses, because he is handcuffed to a bomb.

Bond gets free, ducks a bowler hat and hurls a gold bar at Oddjob’s chest. Smiling, dude just shrugs it off, judo chops an iron bar in half, tosses Bond around, but is tricked into being fatally electrocuted. Bond makes a dumb joke to nobody.

After killing Oddjob, Bond does not disable the bomb, but he does open the bomb casing, allowing an actual expert to disarm it.
Bond gets on a plane to visit the White House, only to discover that Goldfinger is on board, along with Galore. Goldfinger dies in the ensuing scuffle, the plane crashes, and Bond and Galore parachute to safety, where they fuck in the woods, this time apparently consensually. The end.

I can’t believe I just watched what I watched. This is a movie that is resolved by having the hero rape a villain so that she becomes a good guy causing her to tip off other good guys who save the day. If this is supposed to be the best of the James Bond movies, what the hell will future installments have to offer?

Post thumbnail

The sequel to Dr. No starts with James Bond being hunted and killed by a scary Robert Shaw. Of course, it is not actually James Bond that dies but a double wearing a mask. It appears that Shaw is learning how to hunt and kill the great white natural killing machine that is 007. This opening is little more than a fun way to disorient the audience, but when you think about it, it is one crazy-ass sequence. The notion that SPECTRE not only forces people to be live bait in their training exercises, but that they make these poor bastards wear absurdly realistic masks to create that touch of verisimilitude is dumb in a way that I kind of love.

After the credits, two SPECTRE bigwigs and their unseen cat-stroking leader hatch a scheme to kill James Bond while furthering their own goals. They want revenge for his killing Dr. No in the previous film and they also want a Russian cryptographic device known as a Lektor. Their two-birded, low-stakes scheme hinges on the not-unreasonable supposition that all you need to do in order to catch a James Bond is to dangle a beautiful woman in front of him.

One of these three villains is Rosa Klebb, a former SMERSH spymaster, current SPECTRE #3, and implied lesbian. She has been helicoptered to SPECTRE Island, a henchmen training camp. She is escorted through the island past an array of absurdly evil training exercises, involving more live-dude targets. Eventually, she is presented with Robert Shaw’s character, named Grant. She looks him over, and then punches him once in the gut with brass knuckles. He does not flinch. Satisfied, she gives her approval, and promptly leaves the island, her business concluded. This is one of the greatest scenes of supervillainy I have ever seen.

Klebb then goes to Russia, where she, pretending to still be a high ranking SMERSH agent, commands Tatiana Romanova, a beautiful cipher clerk, to pretend to defect to the West so that she can feed Bond false information. So, we have a Russian defector pretending to have not defected who is forcing a woman to fake-defect but not to the terrorists that the real defector has defected to but rather to the West, ostensibly to help Russia but in actuality to steal from Russia. This is some Cold-ass War right here. Also, Klebb explicitly orders Romanova to sleep with Bond.

18 minutes into the film, we finally get to see James Bond Actual and he is on a picnic date with Sylvia Trench, the baccarat woman from the previous film. First, the bad guys were mad at Bond for what he did in the previous film, now Bond is seen romancing the same woman two films in a row. This movie has a lot of explicit connections to the previous film, something that runs counter to my expectations of how these movies work. I guess this is still a real movie, not yet a full-blown “Bond Movie”. It is kind of strange.

At any rate, we don’t spend much time with Miss Trench before Bond gets called into the office from his car phone. In the office, Bond gets to flirt with Moneypenny after tossing his hat onto a coat rack, and he gets an exposition dump which is essentially redundant, since the SPECTRE schemers have already exposited all this stuff already.

After the exposition, we meet Q, a series mainstay, although in this film, he is just the guy from Q (as in Quartermasters) Branch. He shows Bond a suitcase with hidden compartments and booby traps. Bond is visibly impressed with all these gimmicks. All this trick stuff seems totally novel and cool to him.

Bond flies off to Istanbul, where everything is so very very Cold War. Everywhere Bond goes it is all tails and mistrust and searching for bugs and dummy cars and code phrases. The good guys have installed a goddamned periscope in the Russian consulate for spying because that’s the sort of things good guys do during a Cold War. The movie is drenching us in paranoia, but it is all espionage travelogue. Nothing is actually forwarding the story, let alone the plot.

Eventually, the local station chief takes Bond to a gypsy camp to provide some local color. Bond is super-bored until two women have a vicious, ritual sexyfight over a man. For the first time in the movie, Bond perks up. Murderous sexytime hits his sweet spot.

Before the sexyfight can conclude, a gun battle erupts for reasons that are not particularly clear. During the gun battle, Robert Shaw, lurking in the background, secretly shoots someone about to kill Bond from behind. After the dust has cleared, Bond, with the wisdom of King Solomon solves the sexyfight by sleeping with both women.

After the gypsy episode, there is more murdering and counter-murdering, which is a lot duller than it sounds. Eventually, Bond actually furthers his mission and meets Romanova. Within 60 seconds from their meeting, Bond transitions from having his gun drawn on her to making out with her. It’s super creepy, made creepier by the knowledge that she has been ordered to let Bond sleep with her on pain of death.

Meanwhile, Shaw keeps killing people who want to kill Bond because while ultimately, he wants to kill Bond himself, he first needs the fake defector to finish her fake defection so that he can steal the cryptographic device that she is going to help Bond steal.

In a surprisingly brief scene, Bond and Romanova bomb a consulate and steal the device. This seems disappointingly easy and pretty morally questionable. In fact, nothing Bond has done so far this film has seemed at all heroic. From a post-Cold War, post-Women’s Lib vantage point, Bond seems decidedly a villain. Thus far, it has been nothing but murder, terrorism, theft, and quasi-rape.

Once Bond and Romanova have the device, they board a train and dick around with more espionage stuff and more sexytimes. This movie is so slow. The entire film could be edited down to about half an hour without losing anything of import, but the film is weirdly enjoyable. There is something to be said for soaking up this strange bygone Cold War flavor. Or maybe I just like trains.

Ninety minutes in, the movie shifts tone pretty hard when Shaw presents himself as Bond’s contact on the train, having killed the real contact. And with that, the movie actually become very tense and very cool. Shaw has proven himself to the audience to be a ruthless and capable killer, and Bond and Romanova are completely unaware of the danger he presents. It makes for great film, waiting to see how it plays out.

The charade is maintained for several scenes. Bond gets suspicious when Shaw orders red wine with fish, but not suspicious enough. Shaw eventually pulls a gun on Bond and gives a fun, contemptuous bad guy speech.

Shaw’s character is cool, cold and cruel. There are are very few differences between this man and James Bond. One of them is private sector and one is public, and one of them knows what wine to order with fish. I guess that’s supposed to be enough to make us root for Bond.

Things look bad for Bond, but he tricks Shaw into setting off the booby trap on his brief case. It’s an old gag in an old movie but the way that Connery sells the deception makes for a fantastic little moment, one that leads directly into a delightfully savage brawl. Two beasts of men in tight quarters desperately try to kill the other with whatever they can get their hands on. Eventually Bond garrottes Shaw to death in a shockingly violent fashion. It’s a truly great fight.

Unfathomably, there is then fifteen more minutes of Cold War stuff as Bond and Romanova finish their journey to the West. Bond fights a helicopter and engages in a high speed boat chase, both of which should be exciting and cool, but all this stuff seems a let down after the amazing train fight. Doesn’t the movie know it should be over?

It’s almost over. After it appears that the danger has finally passed, Rosa Klebb, the newly promoted #2 in worldwide villainy nearly defeats Bond by sneaking into his hotel room disguised as a maid and swiping the Lektor without a fight. It is hilarious.

However, at the last minute Romanova spots her and after some deliberation chooses Bond over Russia, turning the fake defector into a real defector. Klebb tries to stab Bond with her shoe and Romanova shoots her. This is meant to be seen as a heroic act, but to me, she just comes off as a traitor to her people.

Afterward, Bond and Romanova fuck on a boat. The end.

This is a weird movie. Neither Bond and Romanova show any signs of having morals or values of any sort. Bond likes killing and sex and Savile Row suits and Romanova likes James Bond. The tone veers from dull to goofy to brutal and back with no sense of pace. The whole film is a big mess. Yet for all of its flaws, there is some really interesting stuff in here. I like the goofy villain stuff with Shaw at the beginning. The sliver of the film where Bond and Shaw actually interact with each other is great. And I can’t decided if the amorality of the protagonist is a strength or a weakness. Hell, I truly can’t tell if the amorality is deliberate or not. It is compelling and repellant at once. Maybe this is the appeal of Bond.

Post thumbnail

This is how the Bond of films begins. The first time out this isn’t a “Bond Movie”, it is a spy movie featuring a character named James Bond. When we first meet James Bond – and what an odd thing to do, meet James Bond for the first time – he is playing baccarat for high stakes and flirting with a beautiful woman with a suggestive name. He is then called away on urgent business. This scene does nothing to further the plot but it does show us what this Bond fella does when he isn’t on the clock.

We move on to the office, where he flirts with his boss’s secretary Miss Moneypenny before being briefed by M, his boss. Some spy dude was murdered in Jamaica and Bond is being sent to investigate. But before he leaves, M makes fun of his favorite gun and tells him he has to use a different one because the one he likes is for pussies. Bond is heartbroken. He really liked his Beretta.

Bond arrives in Jamaica where he proceeds to do generic spy stuff: putting hairs over doors, fighting enemy agents, conducting interrogations, that sort of thing. It is all a bit dull.

Eventually, he meets up with CIA agent Felix Leiter and local ally Quarrel. They do more spy stuff. Not Super Spy stuff. It is all very procedural. Bond is exceedingly confident and cultured and every woman he meets is pointedly attracted to him, except for a black freelance spy that he and his new friends lightly torture for information.

The bad guys try to kill him by putting a tarantula in his bed, which is a bit silly.

Fifty minutes into what has been a fairly dull film, and there is finally a scene that provides me with a glimmering of understanding as to the appeal of James Bond. Some assassins try to run Bond off the road. When he realizes what is going on, he starts grinning evilly as he outmaneuvers them before running them off of the road leading to a fireball of death. He then cracks a dumb joke. This is something I can latch onto. This is a man who is only happy when he is killing. Is that who Bond is supposed to be? It isn’t heroic or likable but it is potentially interesting.

The next scene is also interesting. He visits a lady spy who, after discovering that he isn’t dead, tries to seduce him in order to stall him until more assassins can arrive. Bond knows this is her plan but he sleeps with her anyways because he’s got time to kill while he waits for the next assassin. The scene is tense, cruel and a little gross.

When the assassin arrives, Bond disarms him and ultimately shoots him in cold blood. In three scenes, this film has become defined by sadism and it is pretty great.

Bond and Quarrel finally head out to the island where the bad guy lives. Quarrel, a black man, doesn’t want to come to the island because he is an ignorant islander who believes that there is a dragon on the island. Not a great look. Upon arriving, Bond meets Honey Ryder, a beachcomber in an iconic bikini who has come to the villain’s island looking for shells.

This island portion of the film has shifted gears from a spy procedural to a Jonny Quest-lite adventure with plodding pacing. Along the way, for no real reason, Ryder tells the story of her being raped and the revenge she got on her rapist. Oh and also, she suspects that Dr. No killed her father. At no point in the film is there any follow up on this point.

Eventually, they find the so-called dragon. It is revealed to be an armored tractor painted to look like a dragon. Quarrel is killed by it while Bond and Ryder are captured and taken to a crazy supervillain bunker where they are to be “guests”.

The villain invites them to dinner. As they head to meet their captor, Bond reassures Ryder by telling her “Of course I’m scared too.” This is, of course, a perfectly sane thing to say, but it flies in the face of everything I had believed James Bond to be. Also, the movie has been boooring since they came to the island.

They finally meet the eponymous Dr. No. A deadly calm madman with robot arms, a hilarious aquarium, and famous stolen art. As they talk, his backstory unfurls. He is a half-German, half-Chinese former treasurer of the Chinese Tongs and an expert in radiation.

At this point Bond suggests that No let the girl go. No agrees, sending her away to be raped. “I’m sure the guards will amuse her.” No quips.

No goes on to reveal that the existence of a cabal of supercriminals known as SPECTRE (The SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion.), of which he is a member. It is on their behalf that he plans to disrupt American rocket missions with his atomic-powered radio beam, which will in some way further SPECTRE’s plans of global conquest.
No thinks he sees a common spirit in Bond (Probably because they both love to murder people?) but Bond is unimpressed. “World Domination. Same old dream,” Bond dryly murmurs. A fantastic line in an a movie that has been utterly uninteresting for the past 40 minutes.

No realizes that he has misread Bond, but doesn’t kill him for some reason, instead putting him in a prison cell with a giant ventilation shaft. Bond escapes his cell, stops No’s plans, kills No, and sets up a chain reaction that will eventually blow up the base, all without creating an ounce of drama or suspense.

Bond finds Ryder chained in rising water with her pants removed. They escape and fuck in a boat. Credits roll.

That was the first film in the most enduring film franchise of all time. A slightly weird, mostly dull cold war spy movie starring a very sophisticated Scotsman with sadistic tendencies. At the time it was a bolt out of the blue, but 50 years on it is hard to see why. There are a few moments of brilliance but all in all, it is dull and weird and gross. It isn’t an obvious candiate to become one of the largest cultural phenomenons of all time.