Monday, 18 July 2011

Roger Moore 007 James Bond 1973-1985

Most have seen a James Bond film, most have a favourite James Bond actor, rule of thumb used to be a nostalgic whoever you grew up with was regarded your best.

While Roger Moore is best known for his UNICEF work, The Saint, The Persuaders and James Bond, for the record my favourite Moore film is The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970). It's about a man who has an accident to find he has a less unsavoury doppelgänger or is it just a case of a split personality. Oddly, similar to Moore’s Bond - on one hand you have the tough spy and on the other a tongue and cheek persona, (excluding Brosnan’s Die Another Day) Bond actors have been consistent in there outings, however, Moore’s have been grounded to outlandish. Maybe this is a testament to Rogers abilities as an actor and flexibility, and/or an acceptance of the material.

Here are a few thoughts on Rogers finest and lets say middle-of-the-road outings as Ian Flemings (with a raised eyebrow) Bond, James Bond.

Live and Let Die (1973)

007 is sent on a mission to stop a heroin drug baron Kananga and smack dealer Mr.Big but after a chance encounter he also finds himself in a race against time to rescue a young and beautiful tarot card reader.

Albeit Roger Moore's first outing he's slips right into the role of James Bond effortlessly, in retrospect it a shame they omitted to some of Bond's earlier trademarks, there's no Martini, no hat and no cigarettes. Felix Leiter appears and has a few one liners. As a side note the same actor (David Hedison) would return in Licence to Kill (1989) which incidentally shares many themes with Live and Let Die.

There are many stand out scenes notably Bond using crocodiles as stepping stones, his home briefing by M, the train fight with metal armed henchman and boat chase with Moore clearly visible in the action in a few places. Yaphet Kotto's Kananga is one of the more grounded villains (possibly inspired by real life Gangsters "Nicky" Barnes and certainly Frank Lucas) and gives an emotional underrated performance. Jane Seymour is sufficient as Solitaire but hasn't the screen presence of previous Bond girls, coming across weak in places, something that her older self would have execute with ease.

There's a handful of memorable supporting characters, Baron Samedi, Tee Hee and Sheriff J.W. Pepper who has some genuinely humorous lines (and is much less annoying here than in 1974's follow up The Man with the Golden Gun).

George Martin's score replicates the traditional theme tunes while incorporating Wings original music from the title theme song adding to the atmosphere. It's packed with stunts and action synonymous with the James Bond films. Live and Let Die even with it's voodoo shenanigans and baddie lair is one of the grittier, evenly paced and rounded of the instalments.

The real locations, plausible drug cartel story line and Moore's Bond give it lasting appeal. Recommended.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

James Bond is sent to retrieve the Solex Agitator device— which pits him against expert assassin Scaramanga also known as the Man with the Golden Gun.

Amongst the usual clichés synonymous with Bond, director Guy Hamilton delivers some interesting visuals and great moments usually between Scaramanga played wonderfully reserved and refined by Christopher Lee and Roger Moore's comfortable looking 007, these few scenes touch on what they stand for, and give the characters deeper meaning. However, Writer Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz move away from the grit of Live and Let Die, and give at times a caricature version of Connery outings, this feels as cartoonie as Diamonds are Forever and Golden Gun feels as if it's taking a step back.

While lustre at times with great Asian locations, it also feels cheap and not fully realised, the 'fun house', karate scenes for example, possible due to the off screen problems plaguing the franchise at the time. This coupled with an anti-climatic showdown and conclusions on conclusion leaves you unfulfilled. That said, there's lots to like, ground breaking stunts, including an amazing 360 degree car spin over a broken bridge that executed so perfect it almost looks like a miniature, which it isn't. The famous stunt is sadly cheapened by an added sound effect. There's a fitting score, a fast paced boat chase (where Roger Moore is clearly visible) fantastic aeriel shots and of course the wordplay between Bond and Scaramanga.

M, Q and MoneyPenny are present, there's fewer gadgets. Britt Ekland as Agent Mary Goodnight is at her peak and notable is Hervé Villechaize as memorable Nick Nack, Scaramanga's manservant and accomplice.
Nevertheless, Maud Adams steals the show as the ill-fated Bond Girl and Scaramanga's mistress who perfectly draws you in emotionally.

Ekland's character Goodnight possibly sums up The Man With the Golden gun -looks great, tries too hard and comes across clumsy at times. Still there's nothing better than a film with two James Bonds even if one is a waxwork. And a villain more charming and dangerous than Bond himself.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

A megalomaniac named Stromberg plans to destroy the world and create a new civilisation. British Mi6 agent James Bond teams up with a Russian agent Anya Amasova to stop him.

Quintsessential Bond that encapsulates adventure, fantasy and excitement. A strong score, cast and storyline help Roger Moore's 1977 outing sidestep other Bond shadows with a fine script that feels more suited for Moore's gentleman killer spy.

Barbara Bach while distant (possibly due to her steely character Anya) is a fine Bond girl addition who is given more purpose and motivation. Strongburg is played perfectly by Curd Jürgens who portrays the ultimate antagonist.

The locations are interesting, acting as a fitting background, the Egypt segments are particularly atmospheric and well filmed, veteran director Lewis Gilbert deserves credit for crafting such a lavish 007 adventure to the screen. As expected Ken Adams sets are superb, the effects, miniatures and stunts are outstanding, notably the Pre title ski jump. Maurice Binder's titillating titles are a highlight coupled with the wonderful theme tune.

Debatably Spy has the best James Bond score (composed by Marvin Hamlisch) to complement the action and emotion. The sound design is bold at times, fitting and also not afraid to be silent. With Bond girls galore, celebrated series characters are all present- KGB Head, M, Q and Miss Moneypenny. All are reliable as ever putting in great performances and Jaws has his debut.

While not the most serious or hard hitting in the franchise, this instalment is the most fulfilling and entertaining. It's a captivating experience with a wide audience appeal catering for young and old.

Its a spectacle, sharks, gadgets, underwater cars and hideouts, submarines, helicopters, henchmen with metal teeth and a fight on a train, it's Moore's Bond at his most balanced and best.

Extraordinary, a must see.

Moonraker (1979)

With loads of Bond girls Roger Moore returns with a tongue and cheek James Bond that is even more so prevalent in this entry.

Lead and strong Bond girl Lois Chiles as Dr. Holly Goodhead is more than sufficient and Michael Lonsdale's Hugo Drax is perfect. Calm, charming and debatably one of the best Bond bad guys.

The stunts are fantastic but the stunt doubles are usually so unlike the leads it takes you out of the moment particularly in Moonrakers case. There's excellent sets, a great Barry score but the film has too many comedy moments and although the first half is not bad as soon as Bond goes into space it loses it's way and the great special effects are wasted due to its outlandish laser beam driven ending that feels removed from what 007 is all about. This coupled with too many unsubtle nods to other movies hampers its enjoyment which is a shame for such a successful franchise.

It's fun fast food Bond that overall fails to mix two genres and just cashes in on what was hot at the time. In this case science fiction and cash in it did, surprisingly becoming a smash hit in 1979.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War spy games. Bond is looking for a missile command system known as the ATAC aided by a Greek out for revenge.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Despite Moonraker's (1979) success it was a Bond and Buck Rogers mash up, thankfully For your Eyes Only is a more serious instalment. An elaborate villainous lair is not missed, that said, this entry is less extraordinary compared to the rounded and highly enjoyable Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

James Bond is once again played by Roger Moore, the opening scene closes a chapter on his wife's death setting a serious tone for Moore's performance and the rest of the movie. There's less gadgets and while the steelier Bond is welcomed with the ending subtle and poignant, Bond girl Carole Bouquet (once the 'face' of Chanel) is less than stirring, mainly due to her lack of dialogue.

Bond bad guy Kristatos played by Indiana Jones and Star Wars actor Julian Glover is bland and forgettable, lacking weight especially when compared to other serious Bond outing villains like Kananga and Licence to Kill's Sanchez or more recently Dominic Greene to name a few. Luckily co-star Topol as Columbo is there to inject life on to the screen with Lynn-Holly Johnson albeit a little annoying as Bibi. Both are good fun and Charles Dance show's up as a henchman.

There's plenty of on location filming giving For your Eyes Only a more realistic feel and while the lavish sets have been played down here, customary with 007 there's some fantastic practical stunts. The ski chase, motor bike action, cliff scaling and so on.

The beach fight and chase is exciting, reminiscent of O.H.M.S.S opening. Cassandra Harris and Moore's performances in their scenes particularly stand out. Even though Bill Conti's score is uneven, at times pure genius and other 80's rubbish tech-no pop, John Glen's directing, Maibaum and Wilson's writing ensure that this entry is more spy action thriller.

In retrospect, despite being a relatively less inspiring Bond credit must go to For your Eyes Only for simply bringing the series back to earth and on track.

Octopussy (1983)

Bond is assigned to follow a general movements who is stealing jewels and relics from the Russian government. This leads him to uncover a plot that threatens to use a nuclear weapon.

With a great ominous opening, 009 dressed as a circus clown being hunted by twin knife-throwers Mischka and Grischka to a forgettable assault on a palace it's a mixed bag instalment. Although the theme 'All Time High' is sung wonderfully by Rita Coolidge it's also very forgettable in the context of the film. The usually John Barry score features prominently and at times his classic theme is used for parody moments breaking that '4th wall'.

Maud Adams returns after her memorable ill-fated role in The Man with the Golden Gun as Octopussy a sort of hybrid of Pussyglore with her merry band of female accomplices', again she proves that she is a first rate actress but is underutilised here. Louis Jourdan plays Kamal Khan and is probably one of the best Bond villains, elegant, calm collected and menacing, his performance seems out of place as he carries a lot of weight. His efforts are marred due to this humour injected outing which includes a gorilla outfit and more '4th wall' bashing with Tarzan yells, tennis match head movement/reactions. Actor playwright Steven Berkoff makes the perfect Soviet general Orlov and Kabir Bedi deserves a mention as Gobinda Khan's bodyguard.

Q gets a larger role but Moneypenny's screen time is limited. As the film progresses Moore appears to look more lost in the proceedings. The three writers give an intricate plot that is sadly cheapened, laced throughout with gadgets of gadget sake and director John Glen sells out at times reverting to Lewis Gilbert Moonraker's absurdity. While Moonraker was half serious with the second half outlandish, Octopussy differs from scene to scene. It begins as weighty serious adventure (like For your eyes only) but then has everything from the kitchen sink thrown in possibly to compete with rival Bond Film Never Say Never Again.

Synonymous with the series there's fantastic locations, in this case wonderfully filmed India, practical stunts notably the train fight and a few great moments involving Faberge eggs.

I have a soft spot for Octopussy (as a youngster it was my favourite) and while it's a lot of fun it never commits to one thematic tone. Overall, it's like an Octopus tentacles going in all different directions.

A View to a Kill (1985)

A horse-racing scam leads 007 to a mad industrialist who plans to destroy California's Silicon Valley.

Taking part of the title of an Ian Fleming story 'From A View to a Kill' (a title that would make more sense with the 'From'). Fittingly Moore leaves on the 7th of his 007 outings as James Bond, and by A View to a Kill he had become an endearing, jovial, embarrassing uncle that you can't help but love. That said, amongst the humour and incredible Morecambe and Wise rapport with Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, Moore gives some weight to his performance displaying genuine concern at times. Despite his age he's clearly putting every effort into his final Bond with tension filled scenes between him and Zorin.

Oscar winner Christopher Walken gives a fitting cold and intimidating performance as Max Zorin. While arguably not the best Bond villain he is one of the more interesting, being a product of Nazi experimentation during World War II given extraordinarily intelligence but is also psychopathic. As a side note, should David Bowie had been cast the antagonist instead, who knows if it would have changed the dynamics or
enjoyment the film.

Grace Jones plays Zorin's sidekick/lover Mayday and is menacing at times with great screen presence. There are several scenes especially Zorin's meeting with his associates that echo Bonds gone-by which make the film feel tired rather than paying homage. The supporting cast are all adequate and by this time aged Q and Moneypenny can't put a foot wrong. In addition, pre-fame faces pop up - Alison Doody (Indiana Jonesn and the Last Crusade) and Dolph Lundgren.

John Glen direction is again sufficient although Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson's gives us some cringe worthy scenes and dialogue. That aside there's plenty of fine moments including the 'Snowboard' opening, rock salt shootout, burning building escape, Eiffel Tower chase and jump followed by car stunts through Paris. The finale on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is a highlight (despite some now dated effects) and the mine sets are superb. One of the better theme tunes and score comes from John Barry respectably and '80s hit makers Duran Duran.

Although tired, it's a fun filled adventure that admirably closes Moore's stint as 007 James Bond. Perfect holiday viewing.

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