Postscript: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977) is an intervention in the Bond franchise. Following the modest success of The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton, 1974), this film feels like a carefully orchestrated plot to evoke the golden days of the series. In fact, it is an adaptation, some may even argue a remake, of You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967). The film’s narrative patterns, characters, and plot elements are uncannily similar which provides intriguing insights into the franchise logic producer Albert R. Broccoli put in place after his long-time partner Henry Saltzman sold his stake in Eon Productions. Essentially, he decided it was time to resell an old hit, just packaged differently.

Roger Moore feels more assured as Bond in this film, toning down his attempts at swagger to more fully embrace his more refined persona. While the disco-style score feels fairly out of place by today’s screen standards, it does vividly capture the series’ strategy to tap into timely cultural phenomena. The most stand-out addition to the canon is the character of Jaws, brilliantly portrayed by Richard Kiel, and a source of many nightmares when I was a kid. Nowadays, Kiel’s performance speaks to the campy nature of the Moore era, outlandish and over-the-top, while sometimes thrilling and exciting. Continue reading “Postscript: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)” »

Blog 011: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

In my introductory post, I had mentioned a pamphlet that I used to track down the James Bond film library. This pamphlet featured the covers of every pre-GoldenEye title, and based on the covers alone, it was usually hard to tell what to expect from each movie. Questions that ran through my ten-year-old head (minus the name of the director and year of release, of course): What was going on on the cover of The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton, 1974)? Why is John Travolta on the cover of Licence to Kill (John Glen, 1989)? And who is that actor in The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977)? Continue reading “Blog 011: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)” »

Postscript: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton, 1974) is small-scale Bond. The film runs counter to the logic of the franchise which routinely seeks to up its spectacle in order to consistently grow the appeal of the formula and steer off competition. Roger Moore’s second outing as the iconic MI6 agent did not match the scale of this strategy given its intimate focus on a personal Western-style duel. Pairing Bond with a nemesis of his calibre is a strong and sensible concept given the film’s play with martial arts culture. What has made it the locus of much criticism is its campy engagement overtly outlandish gadgets and scenarios, epitomized by the titular villain’s flying car.

I still value the basic premise of the film, the competition between Bond and Scaramanga, played by screen titan Christopher Lee whose role, unfortunately, is too thin and obscure to ever materialize into a true opponent for Bond. Setting the scene for a confrontation between the two most accomplished gunslingers in the world is a fan-centric construct, but the narrative remains too conceptual throughout the film, while shenanigans and antics take over. Continue reading “Postscript: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)” »

Blog 010: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Going into this rewatch of the James Bond cinematic catalog, there was one movie I was less-than-thrilled to check out again: The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton), for the simple reason I remember not liking it at all as a kid, so much so that I hadn’t seen it since its original 2000 DVD release.

Much to my surprise, though, I rather enjoyed seeing The Man with the Golden Gun this time. Its premise is simple but effective, Bond (Roger Moore) pursues the assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who appears to be targeting 007. Eventually, Bond discovers a plot involving a solar-powered weapon, a concept that played on contemporary energy crisis fears. Continue reading “Blog 010: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)” »

Postscript: Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973) marks the first outing of Roger Moore as the iconic 007 character. Moore’s dry and more refined portrayal of Bond deliberately contrasts Connery’s rugged tough-guy persona which set the franchise on a new path. Building on the genre of blaxploitation, Live and Let Die is a more serious and daring film, designed to tap into gritty realism and timely social issues, at least on the surface. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz played up the comedic elements of the plot in order to highlight Moore’s acting strengths. As a result, the film occasionally struggles in finding an adequate balance between drama and farce. Yet, its insistence on difference from, rather than simple replication of the formula, ultimately registers as its greatest strength.

The film’s pre-credit sequence is particularly notable in this context given that Bond is entirely absent from it. I vividly remember looking for Bond as a kid, feeling disappointed that the film did not offer the series’ signature action-driven spectacle. Today, I appreciate this act of revisionism as a way to build up the introduction of Moore and setting the mood for an espionage crime thriller.    Continue reading “Postscript: Live and Let Die (1973)” »

Blog 009: Live and Let Die (1973)

Following the serious and grounded take on James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969) and the much campier turn in Diamonds Are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971), Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973) takes its influence from the latter and finds Roger Moore as the third actor playing Bond in as many films. This was one of the first Bond movies I ever saw, mostly because my parents had told me this was the first they could remember having seen themselves (my guess is that the hit theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings was a factor). I instantly felt that Live and Let Die was one of the best entries in the series and continue to feel this way. Continue reading “Blog 009: Live and Let Die (1973)” »