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Bond-o-philia May 22, 2011

Posted by Jeff in Uncategorized.
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I must admit here that I’ve been reading “off the menu,” a book not on the Hugo list. I just finished a book by Grant Callin, A Lion on Tharthee, which is a follow-up to his novel Saturnalia. I read Saturnalia some time ago; it was a light entertaining read, with a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like theme: An alien artifact is discovered on one of Saturn’s moons, which turns out to be a clue pointing to another artifact deep in Saturn’s atmosphere, which turns out to be yet another clue pointing to an alien spacecraft parked in a cometary orbit somewhere out in the Oort Cloud, said spacecraft being transportation to the alien homeworld.

While prowling the stacks, I saw Callin’s name and grabbed the book, not knowing and not really caring what the book was about. Such is the power of good work where I find it, whether on the pages, on film, or on vinyl (well, CD, now.) Where Saturnalia ended with the unraveling of the final clues and the locating of the alien spacecraft, A Lion on Tharthee revolved around the preparation for and the voyage to the alien homeworld, where they meet a most interesting species. The main character in both novels is Kurious Whitedimple, a former archaeology professor turned hot pilot and space adventurer. I know, I know, very Indiana Jones, but Callin writes some very good characters and he has a solid background in the hard sciences so he knows what he’s talking about. Of particular note is his detailed knowledge of the Saturnian system, vividly portrayed in his first novel Saturnalia. In this latest novel, when he meets what later turns out to be his love interest, a biological sciences professor named Kari Nunguesser, he observes, “You have a ridiculous name, Dr. Nunguesser.” Ha! As if he’s one to talk.

Anyways, a recent stream-of-consciousness led me to James Bond and all his works: music, movies, actors, characters. Call me juvenile, but I absolutely adore the entire James Bond phenomenon; at one point I had every single one of the movies, and someday will again. I even once owned a replica of the famous James Bond gun, the Walther PPK. (A real working handgun, not a fake or a model.) Each movie is somewhat of a reflection of the time in which it was made.  Consider the 1962 Dr. No, where Bond is slapping women around, or the leisure suit with bell-bottom slacks of the disco-era For Your Eyes Only. I decided to Rate The Bonds; mainly to see what you all think. You’re invited to critique (politely, please!), add or subtract, or give your own lists.

Actors

  1. Sean Connery. Forever and always, the One True Bond. Interestingly, when Ian Fleming first screened Mr. Connery in Dr. No, he was said to have exclaimed, “Dreadful, simply dreadful.”
  2. Pierce Brosnan. After Roger Moore’s exit, I hoped that he would be chosen, but his contractual obligations prevented that. When he did finally get there, it was everything I expected. Tough, urbane, sophisticated, gritty. And my favorite chase scene in all the Bonds, the opening sequence boat chase in The World Is Not Enough.
  3. Roger Moore. Perhaps the most firmly entrenched of all the Bonds, he certainly spent more time in the role than any other, and defined a generation’s concept of James Bond.
  4. George Lazenby. While he only made one Bond movie, I think he was an excellent successor to Connery, even if he was a “Strine.” When approached to do another Bond movie, he declined, saying that he didn’t think the Bond franchise had much of a future. Pete Best, anybody?
  5. Daniel Craig. I’ve only seen Casino Royale, but I like what I see; a return to Ian Fleming’s original concept of Bond, a heartless cold-blooded operator, not someone you’d like to hang out with, unless he had your back. Owner of one of the most unique chase scenes, the footrace through the construction zone. Excellent stuntwork, there.
  6. Timothy Dalton. Whatever. A place-holder, until Brosnan arrived on the scene.

Movies

I’m not going to try to list them all here, just hit a few highlights. Favorite is not synonymous with best. Which am I listing? You decide.

  1. From Russia With Love. Filmed in the thick of the Cold War, this may be the only Bond film that doesn’t feature a megalomaniac bent on taking over the entire world for his own evil purposes. Based on the theft of a coding machine from the Russians, you could imagine that this kind of thing actually occurred in the early and mid-Sixties.
  2. Goldfinger. How could you not love this movie? With Pussy Galore, the iconic Aston Martin DB6, and perhaps the greatest line delivered by a villain in all of Bond-dom: “I suppose you expect me to talk now?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
  3. You Only Live Twice. A serious, wistful movie, made even more so by the superb musical score, full of Oriental mystique.
  4. Diamonds Are Forever. Precious gems, Las Vegas, a stunning redhead, and a moon buggy chase. And the great Shirley Bassey with the title song. Campy, yes, but so much fun.
  5. Dr. No. I have to throw this one in here because it’s the first one, and we meet the supremely young Sean Connery uttering the immortal introduction, “Bond. James Bond.”
  6. For Your Eyes Only. This one and the next one are separated by only a few microns. I list this one first because of the beautiful Carole Bouquet and the brilliant theme song by Sheena Easton.
  7. The Spy Who Loved Me. This one and the one before are, in my opinion, the two best Roger Moore Bond films. By this time Moore had firmly established his interpretation of James Bond, with the witty quips, the double entendres, and his invincibility at seducing any woman he laid his eyes upon.
  8. Die Another Day. A side of Bond I had not seen before, with his own people shunning him, and he must prove both to himself and to his organization that he remains trustworthy.

Villains

  1. Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond’s perennial nemesis, he appears in no fewer than six movies.
  2. Auric Goldfinger. This is a bad man, in it for nobody but himself. Not to mention the greatest bad-guy line ever, see above.
  3. Jaws. A human wrecking ball, destructive and indestructible. Emerges from any calamity, calmy brushing off his jacket and straightening his tie.

Title Music

These first three are easy.

  1. Diamonds Are Forever.
  2. Moonraker.
  3. Goldfinger. The only performer to be selected for more than one Bond title song, Shirley Bassey has three. What an amazing voice she has, powerful and effortless.
  4. For Your Eyes Only. Sheena Easton is the only performer to be seen in the opening credits singing the title song. A beautiful song by a beautiful lady.
  5. Nobody Does it Better. By Carly Simon, another performer with a powerful effortless performance.
  6. The World is Not Enough. A sweeping, orchestral theme, full of grandeur, by a band named – Garbage.
  7. Goldeneye. Sung by Tina Turner, it has something which seems to have gone away in later Bond themes – the inclusion of the James Bond  four-note leitmotif.
  8. Live and Let Die. This song, by Paul McCartney, was so popular that it got regular play on the rock stations at the time.

I think I could make another list or two, but I’ll stop here. I look forward to reading your input.

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