Blog 006: You Only Live Twice (1967)

As M (Bernard Lee) tells James Bond (Sean Connery) in You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967), “This is the big one.” To this day, this remains one of my favorite 007 movies and my favorite of the Connery era. I distinctly remember renting a VHS copy in fifth grade and enjoying it immensely. Not only are there non-stop action set pieces, and not only does the climax take place in a hollowed-out volcano lair, but this is the Bond movie that demonstrated exactly what Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Jay Roach, 1997) was spoofing. Continue reading “Blog 006: You Only Live Twice (1967)” »

Postscript: Thunderball (1965)

The jetpack. It is what Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965) is most famous for. Bond straps on the rocket-powered device during the pre-credits sequence. Like many Bond stunts, this one is real. Conceptually, it is spectacular. Cinematically, it lacks vigor. It feels ill-conceived. It feels ill-framed. And it feels oddly powerless. It is telling that Thunderball is frequently reduced to this scene. The remainder of the movie does not offer a lot of memorable moments. Rewatching Thunderball, I came to realize that it is long, way too long. The plot is meandering and it does not have enough filler action scenes. Notwithstanding its big-budget grandeur (the Ken Adam sets rank among the most impressive in the series), the movie does not distinguish itself within the crowded action genre and the overall Bond franchise. Continue reading “Postscript: Thunderball (1965)” »

Blog 005: Thunderball (1965)

I can’t believe how much I used to like the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965). The extensive listing of extras (especially the then-ubiquitous “collectible” booklet) made it the first “classic” Bond film I acquired on DVD after Tomorrow Never Dies (Roger Spottiswoode, 1997), and it was also the first 007 soundtrack I purchased when they were remastered and rereleased in 2003. Watching it for this review, I found the movie incredibly boring and the music equally boring. At least I fared better in my viewing than my girlfriend, who struggled to make it to the end. Continue reading “Blog 005: Thunderball (1965)” »

Postscript: Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964) is classic Bond. It is rightfully considered one of the best entries in the franchise. Its timelessness mainly derives from its status as the Bond prototype. Goldfinger is formula. It is fan scripture. As such, it runs like clockwork. Bond scholars and fans see it as the engine that fuels the year-long franchise. From the brilliant pre-credits to Shirley Bassey’s song to the explosive finale at Fort Knox, Goldfinger programs the Bond code to the most minute detail – perfectly illustrated in the close-up of the final bomb counter 0:07. This is franchise style at its best, programmed for the fan. Continue reading “Postscript: Goldfinger (1964)” »

Blog 004: Goldfinger (1964)

Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964) remains the Platonic ideal of the original James Bond films (from Dr. No [Terence Young, 1962) through Die Another Day [Lee Tamahori, 2002] before the series rebooted with Casino Royale [Martin Campbell, 2006]). It might not be my favorite installment, but it refines the elements from the first two films to such an extent that it presented a template that many of its successors would follow.

Compared to that of From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963), Goldfinger’s plot is quite simple and was one that I understood easily as a kid. Bond (Sean Connery) must stop Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), whose ties to SPECTRE are suggested through his ring that bears the organization’s octopus logo, from radiating the gold supply at Fort Knox. Continue reading “Blog 004: Goldfinger (1964)” »

Postscript: From Russia with Love (1963)

From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963) is a more suspenseful and aggressive movie than Dr. No. Its plot is more complex and convoluted. It plays with the convention, rather than cementing it. And, yet, it ranks as one of the best entries in the overall series. It is a cool and suave spy thriller, self-deprecating at times, reassured in every scene. While it does not yet have the grandeur of some of the future movies, especially in terms of location shots, its scale is ambitious and appropriate. Connery, I dare say, has never been better. His performance expertly captures Ian Fleming’s spirit of Bond, while filling every frame with a dash of ironic confidence that grounds the film. This balance of human depth and pulp storytelling carries through the entire movie. It is a roller coaster ride at a small-town fair, incredibly fun, yet edgy and intimidating. Continue reading “Postscript: From Russia with Love (1963)” »