9.30.2006

Words About Bond: Part II

My reviews(with spoilers) of the various James Bond films continue:

* * *


Words About Bond, 1-3

4Goldfinger
Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Auric Goldfinger
Henchman: Oddjob
Bond Girls: Pussy Galore, Jill Masterson

Arguably one of the more famous of the Connery films, Goldfinger was the first film in the series that I saw. I don't recall seeing it through initially; though it aired on broadcast television, it ran well past my bedtime and my mom decided the subject matter was inappropriate for a child. The film contains a great many images that even the casual viewer might associate with the character. Bond sheds a wetsuit in the opening sequence, clad in a perfectly dry white tuxedo. After defeating an assailant by tossing him in a bathtub along with a lamp, he quips, “Shocking.” When he first crosses paths with the film's title adversary, he seduces Goldfinger's girlfriend, Jill Masterson. He's subsequently knocked unconscious by Oddjob, Goldfinger's large Asian bodyguard, known for tossing a deadly bowler hat with a razor sharp steel brim. Bond awakens to find Masterson dead, covered head to toe in gold paint. As a personal aside, this was the point I was sent to bed the first time I watched the movie.

007's investigation of the criminal now takes a personal turn, and it should be noted that Jill is the first Bond girl to perish in the series. Eventually, he makes his way to Goldfinger's lair, where he is captured and restrained. In the most memorable scene, once lampooned on The Simpsons, Bond is tied to a table as a laser makes it's way toward him. “Do you expect me to talk?” he asks, slightly unnerved as the bisecting beam nears his crotch. “No Mr. Bond! I expect you to DIE!”

Of course, he talks his way out of this predicament, and soon meets Goldfinger's pilot, Pussy Galore. “I must be dreaming...” is Bond's wry response to meeting the girl with the most risqué name in the franchise. Eventually, he foils Goldfinger's attempt to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox, in a final showdown with Oddjob. When the henchman tosses his hat and tries to pry it loose from the metal bars it wedges in, Bond dives and touches a high voltage cable to the metal, once more electrocuting someone. Of course, in charming Galore he got her to betray Goldfinger, and when he returns for revenge on the both of them, a struggle on a small plane results in Goldfinger being sucked out the window, and Bond ending up on an island with the girl.

5Thunderball
Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Emilio Largo
Henchman: Fiona Volpe
Bond Girl: Domino

Connery's fourth outing as the British secret agent finds him once again utilizing cutting edge technology, escaping his enemies in the beginning of the film with a jetpack, the ‘60s' Bell Rocket Belt, similar to one seen on an episode of Gilligan's Island. These never caught on in practical military applications, as the duration of the flight was only a few seconds and the backpack got dangerously hot. Years later, the stuntman who executed the actual flight in the film laughs when watching Connery land and toss the thing in his trunk, pointing out how hot it would be at that point. The jetpack, along with other famous gadgets from the series, shows up in Die Another Day, 16 movies and 4 official Bonds later.

Bond is sent by M to recuperate at a spa following his initial mission. While in a stretching device, a villain cranks up the pressure to eliminate him, because he saw something suspicious. He passes out, and is saved by a nurse who previously rejected his advances. He uses her concern over what she thinks was her mistake as a bargaining chip: his silence in exchange for her submission. In most cases, the fantasy that is James Bond entails women swooning and coming to his bed willingly. This particular scene seems to be a darker aspect of the character, and one I'm glad was eventually discarded.

With Bond distracted, a man who had facial reconstruction performed at the clinic successfully escapes to impersonate a NATO agent, and steal a plane carrying two nuclear warheads. The man he replaced is found dead in the clinic by Bond, and turns out to be the brother of the main villain's female companion. Bond meets up with the pair in a casino, a recurring setting in the films. The villain, Emilio Largo, is in fact the second-in-command of the SPECTRE organization headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who has yet to appear as more than a pair of hands or a lap with a white cat, but will play a larger role as the series progresses. Just as Doctor Evil in the Austen Powers movies spoofs Blofeld, so does Number 2 spoof Largo, complete with his eyepatch.

One scene finds Bond in Largo's pool, which connects to a second, shark-filled pool. Earlier in the film Largo had eliminated a lackey for his failure by tossing him to the sharks. With Bond in the water, trapped by a grating, he lifts the gate and lets the sharks in. Connery was never supposed to be exposed to the actual sharks, with a trainer in the second pool at all times, but one slipped past the trainer. In the scene where Bond's eyes widen as a shark swims past him in the tunnel connecting the two pools, the fear we see is real.

Both Bond and Connery escape the sharks, of course, and Bond defeats Largo's assassin Fiona Volpe when, while dancing with her, he turns so her own agents shoot her instead of Bond. He sets her down at a nearby table, telling the people that “She's just dead.” It’s not his best pun. Bond tells Largo's woman, Domino, the truth about her brother, and the film's climax features a major underwater battle between SPECTRE and U.S. Navy seals sent by Bond's U.S. ally Felix Leiter. Largo's boat splits in two, and he escapes on the front half with one of the warheads. Bond pursues, and during their struggle it is Domino who fires a harpoon, killing Largo. As the Navy retrieves them from the ocean, Bond once again gets the girl.

6You Only Live Twice
Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence)

The fifth in the official series would finally introduce viewers and Bond to Blofeld, and would be Connery's last consecutive time playing Bond. Bond appears to die early in the film, in the bed of a Chinese consort. When she leaves, the bed flips up into the wall as assassins rush in and spray machine gun fire. Later, Bond is given a burial at sea, where his body is retrieved and he is revealed to be alive and well with a breathing device.

This may be the weakest of the Connery Bond films. While Thunderball was average in comparison to its predecessors, elements of You Only Live Twice strain credibility. In agitating the cold war between the U.S. and Russia, SPECTRE uses a rocket that literally swallows other rockets in space, so each country believes the other responsible for the loss of their men and ships. Bond's death is faked to allow him freedom in investigating this situation, and calls for him to travel to Japan and change his appearance to Japanese. Connery's eyes are taped back as he's fitted with a black wig, and he gets some ninja training as well. I'm not sure how politically correct that was in 1967, but my main concern is the plausibility. Of course, trademark accent and all, later in his career Connery would portray a Russian submarine commander, so it wouldn't be the last time belief had to be sustained.

Eventually, after a fake wedding and some other trivial events, Bond infiltrates a SPECTRE base concealed inside a volcano. It's one of the more impressive lairs in the series and one of the better points of the film. Inside, he comes face to scarred face with Blofeld for the first time. The villain wastes time sharing his plans, Bond manages to escape and open the volcano's blast doors, allowing ninja's to invade, and a battle ensues as Blofeld flees. This is the first film in which the main villain escapes, as Bond and his ninja allies have other concerns. He prevents the theft of another spacecraft, ensuring that the cold war will not become a hot one. While in this film Blofeld is the standard antagonist, he takes on a more significant role by the end of the next one....

* * *


This concludes the second installment in this series, but Words About Bond will return!

Labels:

5 Comments:

Blogger cube said...

Bond, Bond, Bond! When are you going to say something relevant about Trek?

9/30/2006 11:30 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

I'll see if I can work in a reference when I get to Moonraker. :)

10/01/2006 10:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Have you read the original Goldfinger novel by Fleming?

10/11/2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Haven't read any of the books yet; just caught up on the movies. Should I? Probably the first few at some point, anyway...

10/11/2006 10:48 PM  
Anonymous The Koi Man said...

Great actor. His movies are awesome and they are my all time favorite. Highlander, Entrapment, Indiana Jones, you name it. He plays well in every movie.

2/16/2009 12:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home