9.24.2006

Words About Bond

In 1952, writer Ian Fleming created the British secret agent James Bond. The character's gone on to appear in over 20 films in the last half-century, and inspire or influence countless other movies and television series. As a child, I was only able to catch bits and pieces on television, as my mom felt there were too many “dirty women” in those pictures. Now that I've nearly caught up on all of the world's longest-running series, it's interesting to note that most are PG or PG-13, and tame by today's standards. Over the next few weeks I'll provide short reviews of these films, leading up to the November release of the most recent adventure, Casino Royale. There will be spoilers, so skip ahead as needed.

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1Casino Royale
Bond: Barry Nelson
Villain: Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre)
Many changes were made to the original novel when it was adapted for an episode of the television series Climax!, including making Bond an American. I was able to catch this classic first appearance of the character on camera when it was included on the DVD for 1967's Casino Royale(more on that jumbled spoof later). The basic premise of the agent infiltrating a casino to catch the villain remains intact as does his name. There are no gadgets here, only a henchman with a knife concealed in an umbrella. His daring escape is made from a bathtub, where he and the show's female lead are tied up and, in true Bond fashion, left unattended to formulate an escape.

2Dr. No
Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman)
Henchmen: Three Blind Mice
Bond Girl: Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress)
Dr. No is the first film in the official series, and the debut of Connery in perhaps his most famous role. He quickly established Bond's fighting acumen and keen wit. Ursula Andress appears as the first Bond girl, emerging from the sea in a bikini on the villain's island that Bond has just infiltrated. Startled to see anyone, she asks if he too is looking for shells as she is. “No,” he replies with a wry grin, “I'm just looking.” Though Dr. No's lair is somewhat dated by today's standards, as are the radiation suits he and his underlings wear in their nuclear laboratory, it establishes the tradition of the official series of the final confrontation at the villain's lair. It's also the first time we see the trademark opening gun barrel sequence. To introduce the character, a scene is borrowed from Casino Royale, placing Bond at a card table, not for the last time in the series. When asked her name, the woman across from the still off-camera Connery replies, “Trench. Sylvia Trench. And you?” The camera finally shows Connery as the theme music plays and he introduces himself: “Bond. James Bond.”

Other firsts include the introduction of Bond's boss M(Bernard Lee), M's secretary Miss Moneypenny(Lois Maxwell), weapons supplier Q(Peter Burton), and CIA agent Felix Leiter(Jack Lord). Lee would portray M for 12 films, while Maxwell's Moneypenny would appear in 14. This would be the only time Lord would portray Leiter, and with one exception that character has always been played by a different actor every time he appeared. In Dr. No, Q does little more than replace Bond's gun, supplying him with a Walther PPK for the first time. Burton would not return to the role.

3From Russia With Love
Bond: Sean Connery
Villain(s): Rosa Klebb, Ernst Stavro Blofeld(off-camera)
Henchman: ”Red” Grant(Robert Shaw)
Bond Girl: Tatiana Romanova(Daniela Bianchi)
Connery's second outing as Bond is the first of appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Llewelyn supplied Bond with gadgets in 17 films in the official series. In this film, Bond must escort a Tatiana Romanova, a beautiful Russian defector, through Turkey onboard a train. Romanova's defection is originally a ruse to trap Bond so the evil organization SPECTRE can get revenge for the loss of their agent Dr. No, but she ends up falling in love with Bond instead. Bond gets some help in Turkey from Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Armendariz who discovered he had terminal cancer during filming but finished his final role before committing suicide. His son would later appear in another Bond film, Licence to Kill.

Bond “dies” before the movie even begins, as SPECTRE agent “Red” Grant hunts down and kills a man in a Connery mask. Despite this training, when he impersonates a British agent on the train to gain the real Bond's trust, he fails to defeat the genuine article. Bond and Romanova succeed in their journey, only to have Romanova's boss Klebb show up to finish him herself. Romanova's betrayal allows them to get the best of the villainess and, as always, Bond gets the girl. Be sure to also look for a brief appearance by Eunice Gayson at the beginning of the film as she briefly reprises her role as Sylvia Trench, the only time a Bond girl returns in a sequel.

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That's all we have time for today. Look for future installments of Words About Bond in the near future!

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5 Comments:

Blogger Wendy said...

I can honestly say that I have never seen even a minute of a James Bond movie. I've just never been interested in seeing them.

9/24/2006 7:50 PM  
Blogger Lorna said...

When i lived in Québec city, where there were few places selling English language books, my friends and I would drive to the Montreal airport to buy the new Ian Fleming book the week it came out. The books were always less cheesy than the movies, but looking back, they all have that bright orange Kraft look to me.

9/24/2006 9:35 PM  
Blogger Otis said...

Wendy, that is just sick.

MCF, nice synopsis. I think I've seen all but three. There always seems to be one fabulous stunt scene in the later movies.

9/24/2006 11:38 PM  
Blogger Nehring said...

You can stop reviewing with Dr. No. There are no other James Bond films. The rest are just decades of trash.

9/29/2006 11:47 PM  
Blogger Nehring said...

Wait...hold that comment.

I forgot.

Tomorrow Never Dies has Michelle Yeoh.

Okay, there's Dr. No. and that one.

I beg your pardon.

9/29/2006 11:49 PM  

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