For various reasons, I haven’t been feeling so well lately. And when I feel like shit I like to take it out on bad movies. So I am very glad to be reviewing a Bond film I honestly despise, considered by some people to be The Worst James Bond Movie Ever Made. Of course, things would be pretty boring if it weren’t also acclaimed by almost-as-many people as the quintessential representation of everything this series is, was, or should be. It’s the Bond movie parents think they can safely pass down to their children…especially if their children have a pre-existing interest in sci-fi films, like some of us.
Because of that, it’s the first James Bond movie a lot of people (who aren’t me) see, forever coloring their expectations of the franchise. I’ll admit I’m predisposed to enjoy some of the elements you Normals may find the most ludicrous. But even for me, Moonraker goes right off the rails, abandoning any pretensions of being a spy-fi thriller made for people with functioning brains. In that, and one more area, it is the quintessential Bond movie: things start off well, but get steadily worse as they go on…and this movie does go on. At length. So at least it’s in good company, eh? Continue reading Moonraker (1979)→
“Art from adversity” is a tired cliche at this point, casually bandied about by all manner of creative arts professionals and self-appointed self-help gurus. If those people every wanted a Bond movie to back them up, they could do a lot worse than The Spy Who Loved Me. Nothing went right with this and it still manages to be the best Bond film in eight long years…that must’ve seemed even longer the first time around. No one sacrificed any first born children or danced in circles until the rain came: they simply struck a balance. Spy gets a lot of fan points by following the Bond Formula more faithfully than either of its Moore Era predecessors…but it also racks up a lot of my points ignoring that Formula wherever it sees fit (until the end of course…but we’ll get there).
This is not so inconceivable as you’ve been led to believe. What else are Goldfingerand On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but elaborate permutations of Dr. No? Those three films trace a clear trajectory, pulling the spy-fi genre from its Noir/Thriller roots towards the supervillain-stomping grounds usually occupied by comic book superheroes. The Spy Who Loved Me continues into territory broad enough for the new landscape of Big, Dumb Summer Movies already taking shape in the late 70s. Continue reading The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)→
And now we get to talk about Sequelitis. You’d expect the fifth Bond movie to bear some resemblance to its predecessors, but You Only Live Twice can’t seem to help calling attention to its heritage. Personally, I blame Roald Dahl. He should’ve turned this project down from the start. He and Ian Fleming were apparently good friends in real life, but their writing styles couldn’t be further from each other if you placed them on opposites sides of the cosmos. Dahl hated the novel that shares this film’s title and, twenty-one years after the film premiered, flat-out admitted to Starlog magazine “I didn’t know what the hell Bond was going to do.” Producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman answered by giving him The Formula, whole and (more or less) complete by 1966, at the latest.
As Dahl defined The Formula would go on to define this series:
“Bond has three women through the film: If I remember rightly, the first gets killed, the second gets killed and the third gets a fond embrace during the closing sequence. And that’s the formula. They found it’s cast-iron. So, you have to kill two of them off after he has screwed them a few times. And there is great emphasis on funny gadgets and love-making.”
With this information, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory became the author what is essentially Dr. No 2: In Japan. You can tell how many people actually bother to read Dahl’s work by whether or not they call this film “silly.” Sorry, Charlie, but compared to The Chocolate Factory (published the same year as this film’s eponymous novel) and especially compared to The GlassElevator, this is Roald Dahl phoning it in after he’s taken a fist-full of horse tranquilizers. And he still managed to create one of the most influential films of the series, large portions of which have become fertile ground for parody, satire and knowing reference. So I come not to bury this fifth Bond film, but to lament what could have been…and argue that, as “silly” as things get in this picture, they could’ve stood to get a whole lot “sillier.” There might be more to recommend. Continue reading You Only Live Twice (1967)→