Amph 60+ Years of James Bond 007

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ender Sai, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 7
    Yes, yes, yes, I MUST catch up here! My reviews on the ones I've missed coming soon.
    Havac likes this.
  2. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    [IMG]

    The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

    Behind the scenes

    The Man with the Golden Gun was the last one-year-turnaround film of the series, bringing back Guy Hamilton yet again and putting both Mankiewicz and Maibaum on the script -- Maibaum rewriting Mankiewicz's script after Hamilton was unhappy with it. It's another adaptation that varied significantly from the book, revising the nature of the villain's plot, his background, and the location of the story. The Solex Agitator was added to line up with the then-current energy crisis, and the change of setting allowed the introduction of a martial-arts element as kung fu flicks were growing in popularity.

    Christopher Lee, Ian Fleming's cousin, was cast as the villain, Scaramanga. Fleming had earlier offered him Dr. No, but Wiseman was cast first. Scaramanga was rewritten to serve more directly as a villainous equal to Bond, a cultured and charming assassin-for-hire, though Hamilton actually didn't go as far in the final product as Mankiewicz's original script did. Ridiculously gorgeous Swedes Britt Ekland and Maud Adams were cast as the two main Bond girls.

    This was the first film to feature a computer-modeled stunt, the famous spiral car jump. Life was a lot different back when you had to do your stunts for real. The stunt wasn't developed for the film; it was part of a car show that the producers saw. They then got the rights to the stunt and the stunt driver to agree to do it for the film as part of the car chase brought to you by AMC -- American Motors Company provided all the cars.

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    Harry Saltzman, the man who had originally bought the movie rights to Bond before partnering with Cubby Broccoli to bring the movies to the screen, was in serious financial trouble around this time due to a series of bad ventures and other financial pressures. In 1975, he sold his half of Danjaq, EON's holding company, to United Artists and thus left the Bond series behind. The Man with the Golden Gun is thus Saltzman's last Bond film.

    Plot

    The film opens by introducing Scaramanga, a hired assassin with a golden gun who lives on a private island with his girlfriend Andrea Anders and his servant Nick Nack, as he hunts down a gangster brought to the island to test his skills. In London, Bond is called in to learn that MI6 received a golden bullet -- Scaramanga's trademark -- with "007" on it, suggesting that Scaramanga is targeting him. Bond is taken off his mission to find the missing scientist responsible for creating the Solex Agitator, a solar power device, and sets off without official authorization to track down Scaramanga.

    Bond recovers a golden bullet Scaramanga used to kill 002 and is able to trace it to a Macau underworld gunsmith. He then catches on to Anders as she makes a pickup, follows her to Hong Kong, and interrogates her about where he can find Scaramanga. As 007 goes to the club Anders gave him, Scaramanga fulfills his mission, assassinating Doctor Gibson, the missing Solex inventor, and stealing the Solex. MI6 agent Lieutenant Hip then takes Bond to M in a hidden base aboard the wreck of the Queen Elizabeth, where 007 is assigned to investigate Hai Fat, a Thai tycoon suspected of having Gibson killed. Bond poses as Scaramanga, but Hai Fat has actually seen Scaramanga, thus leading to Bond's capture. Bond escapes, as he always does, and Scaramanga kills Hai Fat and takes control of his business empire.

    Anders visits Bond and admits that she sent the bullet to MI6 in order to lure Bond into killing Scaramanga for her, and she offers to give him the Solex in exchange for freeing her from the assassin. Bond shows up to the meet, only to find that Scaramanga has already killed her. Bond is able to get the Solex to his assistant, Mary Goodnight, but Goodnight is caught spying on Scaramanga and thrown in his trunk.

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    Bond follows a tracker on Goodnight to Scaramanga's island, where the killer catches him and shows him around his house, powered by the Solex Agitator, and admits that he plans to make a fortune by selling the device along with lasers powered by it. Scaramanga sees Bond as a great challenge, and offers to duel him. Scaramanga hunts Bond through his funhouse killing ground, but Bond gets the jump on him and kills him. He then escapes with Goodnight just before Goodnight accidentally destroys the island, only to have to subdue Nick Nack aboard Scaramanga's junk.

    The film ends with James Bond stuffing a midget into a suitcase, hanging the midget in a net, and then forcing M to listen to him have sex with Goodnight.

    Bond himself

    Moore steps up significantly here after his fairly listless turn in LALD. He gets to show some real emotion in a few scenes, and we see a great deal of cold, ruthless, self-centered Bond. Moore doesn't play them as well as Connery, Dalton, or Craig would, but there are actually some real standout Bond moments throughout the film.

    He's not quite menacing in his interrogation of Lazar – Moore never plays Bond dark enough to show a real edge -- but he's casually threatening, which is a step down but it works. He's not so much murderous as indifferent to Lazar's life. His arm-twisting interrogation of Anders is great – Moore didn't want to do the scene, because he's a softie who doesn't get it, just like he didn't want to knock the kid into the water during the boat chase, also a solid all-business Bond moment – showing Bond as a killer who's here to get what he wants, not to make everybody feel good.

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    The all-business indifference as Bond and Scaramanga meet for the first time and share a conversation in the middle of the stands, over the body of their shared sexual partner, is also a highlight for the film. Maybe the most callous is the sequence in which Bond is about to have sex with Goodnight, who's mad about him, basically because he's bored, then hides her under the covers when a prior conquest comes in, accepts her offer to essentially sell herself to him for protection and arranges a sexual liaison while practically sitting on top of Goodnight, then stuffs Goodnight into a tiny closet where she has to stand and listen to Bond have sex with another woman until she falls asleep. Bond only bothers to take her out of the closet when he wakes up in the morning, and sends her off as if nothing happened. It's an incredibly selfish, awful scene, made only more impressive by the fact that he still, after this display, somehow manages to sleep with Goodnight before the film is over.

    How it fits into the series

    As a time capsule of the Moore era, this does a pretty good job. It tries intermittently to be serious and call back to the Bond of Fleming and Connery's early movies, but it constantly undermines itself by losing its way in a festival of mediocre camp. Moore tries some in the role, but he's not really interested in playing a dark, murderous Bond and he's happier being a safely-cool fantasy superspy. It's pretty much the Moore run in a nutshell, and as such there's nothing particularly remarkable about it.

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    As far as the series run, it's mostly notable as the last film co-produced by Saltzman, the film that finally brought Sir Christopher Lee into the franchise, and the first film with Maud Adams, the only major Bond girl to return to the series in a different role. Eunice Gayson played Sylvia Trench twice, a much smaller role, and several actresses with smaller parts would appear in different roles throughout the early Connery years, but nothing quite on the order of Maud Adams returning nine years later as the titular Octopussy. Also, this was the last film directed by Guy Hamilton, who started with Goldfinger and then directed three much less distinguished installments in a row. That total makes him the second-most-prolific Bond director, behind John Glen. Hamilton is still alive and kicking today, at ninety years old.

    Review

    I'm going to go against the trend and say that this isn't the bottom of the barrel. It's not by any means a great film. But for stretches, it's a competent thriller, which is more than you can say of some of Moore's other films, Moore seems to actually be trying a little, Bond gets to be a colder and less jokey figure, and Lee is a solid Scaramanga.

    There are still a lot of complaints. The decision to use the Solex Agitator McGuffin was a mistake – when you've got a great opposite number for Bond in Scaramanga, with Christopher Lee doing a great job providing a dark mirror image assassin, focus on that, focus on Bond having to deal with the greatest killer he's ever faced, rather than having the assassin decide he wants to become a solar energy magnate. Though that's not the worst aspect of Scaramanga – his idiotic funhouse is. What an incredibly stupid set. It sucks all the menace out of Scaramanga's faceoffs – it just becomes a hunt of an opponent stuck inside a stupid screwball set, rather than two equals meeting on a level playing field.

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    Dumb gags like Bond swallowing the bullet while he's attacked by thugs – we never even learn who they are or why they're attacking him; it's just assumed that Bond will always be attacked by random thugs when he does things – are one thing; I can tolerate those to a degree. But why, oh, why, do we get the stupidest "humor" element of the entire Bond series again? Why has J.W. Pepper returned? Why is it funny that he insults Asians? Why is he taking a car for a test drive while vacationing on another continent? Why is his commentary supposed to make this car chase better? The car chase is really the film in miniature – it's actually pretty good, a solidly choreographed, well-shot car chase featuring great stunt drivers, even if the AMC Hornet is a crappy car, and it culminates in a genuinely stupendous corkscrew jump, but it's completely undermined by campy garbage, with Pepper stuck next to Bond for the whole thing and a goddamned slide whistle dubbed in over the jump, because apparently impressive stunts are best accompanied by comedy sound effects. It ultimately ends with Scaramanga escaping in a carplane, because it would seem he keeps a set of car wings in a random barn for just such an occasion. Ugh. Anytime anyone tells you that a Bond movie was okay, but what it really needed was a car that transforms into something, ban them from watching Bond movies ever again.

    The intro is in the same pattern. It's a great setup, revealing Scaramanga's island and showing us what seems to be Nick Nack setting up his master for murder, before we realize that it's the assassin being lured into Scaramanga's trap for training purposes. That's all lost when we go into the idiotic funhouse, at which point it stops functioning as a challenge designed to keep Scaramanga's skills sharp, and just turns him into a predator hunting this hapless, distracted patsy. The challenge disappears, and so does the appeal of the scene.

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    The finale of the movie is sort of the same; it starts pretty solid, with Bond and Scaramanga going through a tour of Scaramanga's beautiful private island retreat, and a sort of comradely sense between the two that, briefly, they're two professionals at the top of their profession meeting for the first time. There isn't the sense of underlying menace, of oncoming murder underneath an empty front of gentlemanly indulgence – Scaramanga's legitimately pleased that Bond is there and he'll get to have a duel that challenges him, but that's all for later. Over dinner, Scaramanga points out their similarities and differences in a scene that's blunt, but gets at what's most interesting about these characters. Unfortunately, Bond and Scaramanga agree to a duel, which is a great setup, but again, Scaramanga abandons a genuine challenge of skill in order to play hunter inside his dumbass funhouse. A great concept is abandoned in favor of the stupid funhouse, which is itself edited down hard, leaving it minimally coherent and anticlimactic. Then Goodnight gets to act like a bimbo, accidentally blow up the base by knocking out Rapey McForehead, and nearly kill Bond with her ass. This leads into a grand ending, in which the leftover henchman we're now apparently always going to be subjected to is Nick Nack, and we close the film by Bond having an extraordinarily difficult time corralling an unarmed midget who shoves him in the ass while he's looking under a couch. 007, Licence to Kill, struggling to lock a midget in a suitcase. That's what I want from my spy thrillers.

    There is some good to be said for the film. It has great scenery well shot, which is always nice. I'm especially fond of the sequence of Bond flying in to Scaramanga's island, with some remarkable low-level flying on display in a gorgeous setting. The MI6 headquarters in the wreck of the Queen Elizabeth are a great idea, and they look awesome and distinctive.

    The film actually functions pretty credibly as a thriller between the credits (ugh, terrible song) and the asinine martial arts sequence where Bond is captured by slapstick sumo wrestlers after grabbing one's ass and tweaking his nuts before being knocked out by Nick Nack in a loincloth so that he can suddenly wake up in the middle of a kung fu movie, then get bailed out by Hip and two schoolgirls who for some reason are still riding around looking for dangerous gangsters with him. It then works again for a stretch, until the car chase falls apart. When it's working, it actually shows a Moore who appears to be trying as Bond, putting on a credible cold front, showing a little real emotion and acting, and having a few classic Bondian moments, as I went over in the section on Bond.

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    Goodnight is an unfortunate dumb blonde stereotype, but Anders is at least a serious, wounded character who comes to a tragic end as a result of Bond's involvement. Q gets some solid scenes after being left out of Live and Let Die, and M also has some good interaction with Bond – his response to Bond's asking who would want to kill him is great: "Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors, the list is endless!" I'm not a fan of the bit where he keeps chewing out Bond for a death he had nothing to do with, though – "M is mad at Bond because that's what he does" is a pretty lame trope. Hip isn't badly played, but he doesn't get to do enough to be a particularly notable ally, and just kind of disappears from the movie after he drives off without Bond in the middle of an action sequence so that we can get a boat chase for no reason.

    The standout character of the film is Scaramanga. He's a dark mirror image of Bond, an assassin who has abandoned work for the USSR in favor of making a fortune as a private contract killer. He's dark, rugged, sophisticated, smooth, and has his own array of gadgets (though, honestly, the golden gun is kind of dumb-looking). Lee has a calm, even-keeled surface that makes him seem even more dangerous. There's a ton of potential for this character, but as I said, that potential unfortunately isn't fully tapped by a script that diverts him into an energy tycoon role rather than cat-and-mouse with Bond. Nick Nack is an odd touch as his henchman. On one hand, it's good for keeping the focus on Scaramanga as a solo villain; he doesn't need a muscle henchman, just a lackey to help set up Bond, and I like how weird and offbeat it is. On the other hand, at times it gets a little too weird, and we don't need it played for comedy. As far as midget sidekicks go, though, it's surprisingly not-awful.

    What we have is a film that, for significant stretches, flat-out works and shows off Roger Moore close to his best as Bond. The problem is that it fails to live up to the potential of its premise, and has significant stretches where it doesn't work and descends into awful camp, stupidity, and self-sabotage. I'm giving it credit for not being a total disaster – it comes close to being a decent entry. But it keeps undercutting itself and as a result doesn't get there. But for all that it does have going with it, in comparison with some of the other Bond films, it doesn't deserve a reputation as bad as the one it has.

    Rankings
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    3. Dr. No
    4. Goldfinger
    5. Thunderball
    6. You Only Live Twice
    7. The Man with the Golden Gun
    8. Diamonds Are Forever
    9. Live and Let Die
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    Questions for discussion
    1. I'm actually curious about the questions -- when I include questions, you guys seem to tend to gear your responses toward the questions pretty heavily, and there's maybe not as many left-field comments. Do you like having some questions to get you started, or would you prefer a freer discussion format?
    2. How do you like the gadget side of Bond seen in the film? We've got some of the more notable gadgets in the car-plane and the golden gun, but they both belong to the villain.
    3. Christopher Lee and the character of Scaramanga -- did you like the performance and/or the character? Did the film use them effectively?
    4. I've personally sorted this film close to the top of the "bad" pile -- not a good Bond film, but closer than most of the lesser films. Do you disagree on the quality, and why?
    Last edited by Havac, Apr 2, 2013
  3. darthcaedus1138 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2007
    star 5
    TMWTGG
    1. Discussion questions work fine, and people can just ramble from there methinks.

    2. Gadgets were done the best in FRWL. Every 007 film should try to live up to that, and the Moore era is largely a complete sidestep away from FRWL. Gadgets included. They just get more ridiculous as they go on, when FRWL's was very pragmatic and believable.

    3. I liked...the idea of the character? Ultimately I don't think there's a whole lot there, Lee does his best though and he makes for a decent villain.

    4. Whenever I started to enjoy the movie, and get used to Moore, there'd be something that took me so out of it that I started to loose interest in the movie. When JW Pepper came back into it, I seriously considered turning it off, and the slide whistle ruined a perfectly good stunt.

    LALD:
    1. Roger Moore as Bond: how does this performance stack up, against Moore's other performances and against Connery's and Lazenby's? How does it stack up? Mostly it doesn't. I'm not a big fan of Lazenby, but even he does a better job of it than this jokey, somewhat actiony Bond. As you said, he's not really a character anymore, he's just a suit going through what the execs think people might want to see.

    2. The opening of the Moore era is as good a time as any to give your general opinions on his run -- how was Moore in general? Overall, patently terrible. It doesn't help at all that Moore took the job the same age as Connery was when he left it. As the movies go on, you can visually see Moore getting older, more tired, and eventually less and less of him as the stuntman replaces him for a good chunk of the movie. Anyone who honestly likes Moore either loves camp or has a childhood bias.

    3. LALD and race: how bad is it? Havac, all black people know each other, so this is pretty realistic. :p No it's terrible.

    4. Anyone want to defend this thing, or at least part(s) of it? Nope.

    5. How does the song stand up to other theme tunes?
    It's one of the best.
    Last edited by darthcaedus1138, Apr 2, 2013
  4. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    This movie was an improvement over the last two Bond films, but that's not really saying all that much. Christopher Lee was the best thing about the film, and it has a catchy theme song. It also consists of idiotic sight gags. The sound effect used for the stunt during the chase scene is horrific. Oh, and it's pretty clear by this film that Roger Moore hates running.
  5. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    Enter the Bond!

    I agree with Havac. I also disagree with this movie being as bad as fans make it to be, although my reasons are probably quite irrational (this was the only Bond VHS I had when I was a kid, meaning I've watched TMWTGG more often than any other Bond). I'm a big fan of the beautiful scenery, Christopher Lee's Scaramanga is fantastic, and the golden gun is a great prop, over the top without being campy. There's much to dislike, admittedly, but Scaramanga and his third nipple (Bond villains and physical deformities!) are enough of an attraction to make this movie a slight improment over the previous two.

    1. From Russia with Love
    2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    3. Goldfinger
    4. Dr. No
    5. You Only Live Twice
    6. Thunderball
    7. The Man with the Golden Gun
    8. Diamonds Are Forever
    9. Live and Let Die
    Last edited by JoinTheSchwarz, Apr 2, 2013
  6. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    The beginning and ending are first-rate. It's the middle that drags.
  7. Kenneth Morgan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 27, 1999
    star 4
    I agree with you about Christopher Lee; he's possibly the most underrated Bond villain and he's fine as what's essentially Bond's mirror universe counterpart. However, I completely disagree with you about the theme song. I think it's quite possibly the worst one in the whole series (though John Barry's score is good).
  8. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    Meh, I didn't say it was the best theme song. It's fun to listen to.
  9. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    It looks cool, but it's sort of gimmicky -- it takes him so long to assemble the damn thing to kill Hai Fat that you're left wondering why he doesn't just carry a normal gun. As something he uses to sneak a gun past security, it would be a great gadget, but it just comes off as so gimmicky when it's the only weapon he ever uses -- a one-shot cigarette lighter pistol.

    I do find the decision to emphasize the villain's gadgets over Bond's really interesting, though. It certainly plays up the idea of Scaramanga as the evil version of Bond. Lee does everything he can to sell the concept, but the movie just isn't willing to do enough with it. It's really a big waste of the potential to put Bond up against another killer. I always love it when Bond's opponent isn't some mastermind, but another assassin, someone who can match Bond at his own game. Every time we get that, it's great -- Red Grant, Scaramanga, Trevelyan, Silva -- but we get it so rarely. Casting Lee for this and then underusing the whole character concept is a big lost opportunity.

    How are you defining beginning and ending? The extreme beginning and end -- Scaramanga's introduction pre-credits and the duel with him onward -- both lose me at the funhouse.
  10. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    Yeah that's basically how I remember it too. Last time I saw the film was 2007.
  11. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    One thing I didn't mention that's worth pointing out is the scene where Scaramanga comes back from killing Gibson, finds Anders in bed, and starts stroking her with the golden gun. It's a wonderfully creepy scene, getting across her loathing and fear of him and his dominance, injecting this weird psychosexual element. It connects sex and violence for Scaramanga, shows him treating his gun as an extension of himself in a way that's both revealing and disturbing, and shows the menace that Scaramanga exerts -- even sex, for him, comes with an implied threat. His idea of foreplay is pointing a gun at a woman, caressing her not with his hands but with cold, deadly metal.

    That's a scene that shows that these movies weren't being made by incompetents -- that's some very good writing. They weren't people who had no idea what they were doing. It's just that somehow, for some reason, they lacked the judgment to discern that perhaps contriving a scene where superspy James Bond grabs a sumo wrestler by the asscheeks was not the best possible use of the tremendous storytelling opportunity they had been given.
  12. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    TMWTGG is my favorite Moore entry. It's absurd and sleazy, and bereft of the megabudget bloat that would weigh down the following movies.

    Come to think of it, the first two Moore installments complement each other as nicely as Dr. No and From Russia With Love. They're scaled down. Low-rent. Just a couple of pleasant Saturday afternoon flicks with our host, Sir Roger Moore--the Adam West of Bonds.
  13. soitscometothis Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2003
    star 5
    I haven't watched this one in ages. I like the song - it's cheesy, but fun. Moore is still young enough to play the role, so that's good. And of course Lee is a good presence in any film.

    But apart from that I find it a bit cheap and tacky feeling. I do think it tries hard to be fun, but I really can't say I like Britt Ekland - neither her nor her character appeal to me at all. The jokey element is turned up a notch here from the last film, and Sheriff J.W. Pepper makes an unwelcome return - was he really deemed popular enough with audiences to warrant a second appearance?.

    I still think this film has more charm than Diamonds Are Forever though, and none of it puts me to sleep like the underwater sequences in Thunderball. So yeah, tacky, jokey, and rather lightweight, it's not all bad but it's not a Bond film I'm ever keen to re-watch.
  14. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    This film was released shortly after ENTER THE DRAGON, hence the martial arts displays and such; Scaramanga even has a mirrored
    "funhouse" similar to Han's, although the cheap, 1/8" rough-cut glass panels and live-actors-portraying-mannequin gangsters is less than
    convincing given that it's owner is supposedly wealthy enough to own his own island and shoot bullets made of gold. Perhaps the most
    annoying feature in the film is the god-awful "whoopie whistle" sound effect scored to the AMC bridge jump; imagine the Death Star exploding
    to the sound of a muted trombone playing "wha-wha-whaaaa" and you get the idea.

    That being said, I think this film is underated; it seems to be the "in" movie to trash in Bond circles, despite some of the glaring nonsense and
    ridiculous events portrayed in more recent Bond efforts.
    Last edited by CloneUncleOwen, Apr 5, 2013
  15. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    [IMG]

    The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

    Behind the scenes

    The tenth James Bond film, and the first without Saltzman, The Spy Who Loved Me was a milestone, and Broccoli put it to good use, stepping back from the trend-chasing to make more of a classic Bond film. A long parade of screenwriters took a crack at the script before it eventually settled into the hands of regular writer Richard Maibaum, who worked up something involving Blofeld and SPECTRE, despite the previous legal settlement. McClory heard about that and put an end to it. They couldn't simply adapt the novel, since the novel had been a stylistic departure (and critical flop) following the life of a woman who eventually had a chance encounter with Bond, and Fleming forbid them from adapting the book -- they could only use the title. This made it the first Bond film to completely depart from the corresponding book.

    Meanwhile, the director's chair was also in flux, with Guy Hamilton leaving the series in pre-production for a crack at Superman that didn't pan out. Broccoli approached a young gun named Steven Spielberg, but he was busy with a little flick called Jaws, and he moved on. He eventually settled on Lewis Gilbert, who had directed You Only Live Twice, thus ensuring that every 1960s Bond director except Peter Hunt would get to make multiple Bond films, and that the Bond series would not see a single new director for the entire 1970s. Gilbert brought in Christopher Wood, a novelist who had worked with him previously as a screenwriter, but who had gotten most of his screenwriting appearance adapting his own erotic comedy novels, so we've got a certain sort of pedigree here. Wood reworked the script and then adapted it as a novel, the first novelization of a James Bond film. The delays in production meant that it was three years between TMWTGG and TSWLM, the longest stretch beyond Bond films at the time, but it also meant that the milestone tenth Bond film came out in the series' milestone fifteenth year.

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    The film got its new Bond car through an act of advertising genius. Lotus executives knew that the series was looking for a new car, but also knew that every auto maker out there would be calling EON and begging them to use their car. Lotus decided to make the producers come to them instead, covering all identifying information and parking a Lotus Esprit outside EON's offices over lunch break. Employees gathered around the distinctive-looking car, trying to figure out what it was, only for Lotus's man to walk up and drive off without saying a word. Needless to say, the producers asked around until they found out whose model it was, and they did come to Lotus, asking to use the car.

    After the disappointing performance of The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me was a smash hit, displacing Thunderball as the biggest-grossing Bond film yet. Fifteen years in, the franchise was still going strong financially, and audience enthusiasm for Bond remained high, at least when given a solid film to enjoy.

    Plot

    After a British sub disappears, Bond is sent to investigate an offer to sell the plans to the tracking device used to find and capture the sub. At the same time, the Soviets send Major Anya Amasova, Agent Triple X, on the same mission. Their competitive attempts to recover the microfilm are foiled by Jaws, an assassin working for Karl Stromberg to plug the leak in his operation. They eventually get the microfilm away from him, only to find out it's a useless sample, not the complete plans. A logo protruding from underneath the hastily-photographed plans, however, reveals Stromberg's involvement. The UK and Soviets have realized that they are both being targeted by a third party, and work together to stop Stromberg, assigning 007 and XXX to work together.

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    Bond seduces Amasova after saving her life, and they visit Stromberg's Mediterranean base of operations, only for his henchmen and beautiful assistant to attempt to assassinate them after they leave. Tension is reintroduced to the two secret agents' relationship when Amasova realizes that Bond killed her prior lover on his previous mission, and she vows to kill him after completing this one. They board an American submarine to further spy on Stromberg's undersea headquarters, Atlantis, and confirm that he is the culprit, only for Stromberg's tanker, Liparus, to capture the sub. Stromberg launches the two other subs with his own crews, intending to fire nuclear missiles against the USA and USSR, sparking a nuclear war that will annihilate all life on the planet save those living in Stromberg's undersea colony. It's never quite clear why everyone else needs to die for Stromberg's underwater paradise to thrive.

    After Stromberg returns to Atlantis with Amasova, Bond escapes and breaks out the captured submarine crews. A massive battle rages inside Liparus, as the crews storm the steel-shuttered command center. Bond is finally able to break inside and issue new orders to the submarines, with each targeting the other, before escaping the sinking supertanker in the remaining captured sub. He then heads to Atlantis, guns down Stromberg, drops Jaws into a shark tank, and frees Amasova as the submarine torpedoes Atlantis. Jaws swims away to fight another day, and Amasova forgoes killing Bond in favor of screwing him.

    Bond himself

    Moore is finally given solid material to work with, and the result is a Bond film where Moore gets to play a character rather than a caricature. He's still in high eyebrow-arching form, but it's deployed as part of a package that also involves a genuine relationship with a competent opposite number. We've been told for the past twenty years or so that we're seeing a competent Bond girl who's a real match for Bond for the first time in just about every movie, but this is one of the many worthy action-capable women appearing beforehand, and she gets a real arc in her interaction with Bond. And that lets Moore show some more depth as he plays antagonism, competition, infatuation, and genuine emotion for a Bond girl who has a lot of screen time opposite him.

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    How it fits into the series

    As the tenth Bond film, it seems like there was some pressure on Cubby to return to the roots of the series. The Spy Who Loved Me got away from trend-chasing and genre-aping, and even from pure descent into self-parody (despite the depth of its ripoff of YOLT, which was the movie Gilbert himself had made previously), and back to a sense of slightly more serious globetrotting adventure. It feels a lot more like Goldfinger than any of the films Hamilton himself had made since. It's a welcome throwback, and though it doesn't abandon the Moore trademarks of overt humor and crazy plotting, it finds a way to fit them into a take on the Bond formula that works. Unfortunately, it's not a permanent move -- the smash success of Star Wars in the same year send Broccoli scrabbling once more for another genre cash-in.

    In the big picture, TSWLM is notable for multiple milestones -- as the tenth film, the fifteenth-anniversary film, the first film without Saltzman, the return of Lewis Gilbert to the director's chair and departure of Guy Hamilton, and the return of John Glen as editor. Glen had previously edited OHMSS, and after Gilbert moved on, he would take over directing the series and become the most prolific Bond director of all time, with five installments to his name.

    Review

    This is better than a Roger Moore Bond has any right to be. It's still got the camp touches, it's not perfect, and the plot is not all that much – what isn't ripped off from YOLT is pretty weak. But I'll be damned if it isn't an entertaining, minimally-campy ride that actually demonstrates some ambition to make a quality film and not just formula entertainment, and features Roger Moore acting.

    The plot is relatively undistinguished, but it isn't really problematic. In a rehash of YOLT, a supervillain is capturing USSR and NATO assets in order to provoke a nuclear war, except this time it's nuclear submarines instead of space capsules. It actually does its job better than YOLT – rather than count on unreasonably aggressive superpowers to launch a nuclear war over unverified suspicions, our villain plans to use the captured subs themselves to launch nuclear missiles and begin the exchange. It does fall short in the motivation department – in YOLT, SPECTRE was doing it because China was paying it to wipe out its rival and superior superpowers. Very much a movie sort of plot, but at least it was a sort of extrapolation from serious geopolitics that lent the thing some heft and seriousness as a threat. Here, Karl Stromberg wants to wipe out the rest of the population so he can build utopian sea-cities underwater.

    [IMG]

    It's a lousy sort of megalomaniacal supervillain plot – Stromberg's malignant, almost solipsistic narcissism is interesting, desiring to remake the world in his image of paradise, and he's almost sympathetic in his pure love of the sea, but it relies too heavily on the fundamentally goofy idea that this billionaire figure is going to destroy all life on the planet just because he can. It's not like he can't just build a city in the ocean if he wants to; it's never clear why he has to make sure that everybody else is dead. It's the sort of comically overblown idea that only shows up in fiction where supervillains need something appropriately apocalyptic to do and you're running short on ideas – it's not rooted in anything to make it feel grounded or real as a threat. What does save it, to an extent, is the gravity with which the movie approaches it. We find out his plan relatively late, and what we get before it is a bunch of very serious interactions about subs and microfilm and the strategic implications of Soviets getting their hands on submarine tracking technology, held aboard ships and in Navy bases bristling with uniforms and technology. There's such a heavy layering of military gravity throughout, especially early on, that it feels more like The Hunt for Red October than You Only Live Twice, and as silly as the plot may be, the film controls the tone of its delivery so well that it papers over a lot of the problems. It may not be a serious threat, but the film takes it seriously, and that makes a big difference.

    There's one other major problem with the plotting, and that's the finale. The battle aboard the Liparus is pretty great – a large-scale battle is fresh and fun. But it, and the stopping of Stromberg's captured subs (the less said about the awful travel-time nonsense inherent in this stretch of the movie, at least according to the map we're constantly seeing, the better) serves as the real climax. In a metastasized version of the leftover-henchman problem I've kept harping on, we've now got a leftover henchman, a leftover villain, a leftover base, and a leftover captured-Bond-girl plot point. The film resolves this through an almost perfunctory confrontation in which Bond shoots Stromberg in a massive anticlimax, a quick fight with Jaws, and then a swift escape from the torpedoed base with the Bond girl. It makes for a letdown, and a big pacing problem. At least the scene of Bond and Amasova getting caught in bed by their shocked superiors makes a good capper. "Keeping the British end up, sir!"

    But what keeps the film working throughout is the central conceit that Stromberg has driven NATO and the Soviets into cooperation. The Bond films have tended to downplay the Cold War; it's usually SPECTRE playing one side against the other. FRWL suggested that there was something pleasant and desirable in a sort of gentlemanly, friendly stalemate, a game played to maintain a state of equilibrium with a wink at the other guy. Here, we get the fullest development of that as Bond and the Soviet agent Amasova are brought up against each other. Initially, they compete, but once the nature of the threat is realized, it becomes a cooperative endeavor, one that opposite numbers M and Gogol approach with a professional courtesy and even camaraderie. I love the surprise of finding Gogol inside MI6's Egyptian base and learning that the two sides are working in chummy unity.

    [IMG]

    That tension turning into a surprising camaraderie gives Bond a really solid relationship to work with. Bond and Amasova spar at first, rivals who keep coming up against each other in the course of their duties, competing for the microfilm. It makes for a good back-and-forth as they try to one-up each other while building sexual chemistry, and once they, to their surprise, are sent out to work together, that chemistry gets put to work quickly, as they make a good team that still retains that love-hate element. Many of the best moments in the film come out of their pairing – Amasova's manipulation of Bond's horniness to outfox him aboard the boat, Bond's casual mockery of Amasova's driving skills in the middle of Jaws's attack on the van, their competition to show off knowledge of each other that climaxes in Bond's pain at Tracy's death, Bond's "Hwuhhhmmm?" at the end when he's apparently forgotten that she was going to kill him. I also liked the bomb we were given ticking under the relationship – that Bond killed her lover – but the explosion wasn't that satisfying, and didn't amount to much; nor was Amasova's forgiveness of Bond handled well. It's never clear what made her change her mind other than the usual "Bond's penis is magic" nonsense.

    Other elements I liked included the heavy use of Bond's past. There was the reference to his wife's death, but also simple patter about his history of naval service, and the meeting with the sheikh he had gone to Cambridge with. All of that helped flesh Bond out as a character and show him as a real individual with a past, not just a vehicle for one-liners and fistfights.

    I'm also a fan of the sequence at Fekkesh's house. It's a great-looking location, and Bond shows off his secret-agent skills, immediately sensing that something wrong and using the woman's attempts to seduce him against her, pumping her for information, then ending up in a scoreless, hard-punching rooftop fight that culminates in an ice-cold kill of the man he's interrogating.

    I've also got to give props to the Q Branch demonstration sequence in Egypt; it's the most ridiculous, hilariously extensive one yet. It's silly, but I'll give it a thumbs up.

    [IMG]

    In the more mixed department, Jaws is a truly ridiculous character. His nonsensical superstrength steel teeth look ridiculous, and the whole character really ought to be dismissed as a bad gag. But Richard Kiel has a weird sort of offbeat charm in the silent role, and I like the fact that he isn't played down as much as he could be. It would be easy to dismiss him as a big dumb lunk, but Jaws is actually consistently ahead of Bond and Amasova the whole time, always ready for them, frequently outsmarting them. It makes him more threatening and more multidimensional. I'm not a fan of his survival, though – of all the characters to make a recurring villain, they pick the silly villain based entirely around a ridiculous set of dentures? It's not as if Moonraker did the character any good.

    Stromberg is also a mixed character. Curd Jürgens has a pretty good arrogant presence, and I like the classical art and music motif surrounding him, but his plan is ridiculous, and the movie doesn't do enough with him. His messianic underwater revivalism, and the incredible loner self-absorption going along with that are ridiculous in the way they're deployed, but they're so, so interesting as characterization, and Jürgens plays them really well. I really wish they'd found a better way to use the character, because he's got a lot going for him.

    [IMG]

    Also mixed is the pre-credits sequence. The introduction of Agent XXX is great, with the reveal that it's the woman and the setup of a rivalry with Bond. Seeing Bond finally respond to the call of duty immediately (and patriotically – "England needs me!") rather than dawdle in bed is good, the skiing is solid, and the parachute stunt is great. But goofy elements like Bond's volume-defying tickertape watch, surely the dumbest gadget yet, and his ketchup-and-mustard outfit undercut it a little. The score undercuts it a lot.

    We're moving into the straight negatives now: the score is the worst. Barry couldn't score this one, and Marvin Hamlisch's disco-nightmare score is so, so seventies and so, so repugnant. Ugh.

    [IMG]

    I'm also not a fan of the Lotus Esprit. It has the boxy, simplistic lines of a child's toy, not a gentleman's sports car. It's a wedge on wheels, and the bland white paint job doesn't do it any further favors. Hideous. And the transforming-car bit doesn't do much for me. The attempt to get an action sequence out of it is terribly misguided, too. Underwater action didn't work in Thunderball, and it sure doesn't work in the halfassed form seen here.

    I also wish they'd stop trying to remake the Red Grant train fight. We get it, it was great. You're not recapturing the magic by sticking frigging Jaws and Tee Hee in there. Also, what the hell train is Bond taking from Egypt to Sardinia?

    Overall, though it has negatives, the film overcomes them through a strong performance from Moore; a great central relationship between Bond and his Bond girl; and a serious tone that elevates the material, restrains the cheese, and puts the focus on character and the thriller storyline rather than camp formula for its own sake. It's exactly the sort of refocus to the early Connery style that the series needed, though unfortunately Moore couldn't get away from the cheap genre ripoffs for long.


    Rankings
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    3. Dr. No
    4. The Spy Who Loved Me
    5. Goldfinger
    6. Thunderball
    7. You Only Live Twice
    8. The Man with the Golden Gun
    9. Diamonds Are Forever
    10. Live and Let Die
    Questions for discussion
    1. You'll see that I've placed this fourth overall in the series, above even Goldfinger. Have I overrated TSWLM, or is it really that good?
    2. I understand that my take on the Esprit is against the general trend -- who wants to take on my assessment of our latest Bond car?
    3. How does Triple X rate as a Bond girl?
    4. Many hold this as Moore's best Bond film. Is this the best of the Moore run? Is this his best performance in the role?
    5. Jaws. Dumb concept or classic henchman?
    Last edited by Havac, Apr 8, 2013
    JoinTheSchwarz likes this.
  16. TryWhistlingThis Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 9, 2012
    star 3
    Hey everyone, just been really busy with Uni and work so i'm lacking on my following of this thread.But, it is absolutely my intention to catch up.





    You Only Live Twice


    Just finished watching this one then. I remember liking this one quite a bit when a saw it. The locations and characters seemed fresh for a 007 film, the production had yet again stepped up a notch, and there were some pretty well orchestrated action scenes. While a fair bit of this still stands strong in my current viewing of the film, some of it has worn off on my a little. One thing I do remember enjoying was the political correctness of it all. Connery's opening line just sets the picture for the shameless cultural attitudes that prevailed the western mentality at the time. But, at the same time I think it would be a mistake to label it as the quintessential attitude. Rather, I think the film has a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement, even then, of the ludicrous antics that were rife at the time.

    The pre-credits sequence makes for a promising introduction, though it's never quite explained how 007 survives what should have been a fatal shooting, albeit the bleeding. Though I guess the mattress some how could have been padded since it was staged. What I really enjoyed about this film is in the way that 007 is just straight into the mission. It's less about the initiation of the mission and more about the urgency of the moment. This is why I felt that the first half of the film works the strongest because we see Bond needing to think the fastest and the smartest that he ever has. The methodical sleuthing that we saw in From Russia With Love and Goldfinger takes a backseat which is a welcome change. Although I did like the slower pacing of the first two films, by the time Goldfinger came around, it was unclear why so much time was invested in certain dialogue. This is pretty much where You Only Live Twice starts to falter; the second half.

    There are various scenes and sequences which are needlessly padded out. I mainly refer to the capturing of the Russian rocket because as it dragged on, it did little to reveal anything more about the villain or the motives. It essentially came across as a demonstration of the models made for the film. Even some of the action sequences, though very rarely, suffered from this. I refer to the mini-helicopter chase where only minutes after the briefing with Q, 007 manages to use all of the gadgets assigned to him. During a phase like this ,the film feels as though it is simply going through the motions because we've first been lectured on how it works followed by the demonstration. We've essentially sat through the scene twice. On the other hand, the hand to hand combat was amongst some of the best seen in the Connery era. I especially refer to one of the early scenes where he first arrives at the chemicals factory disguised as the Japanese hitman. I also love the final battle scene in the end.

    Performance wise, this film does feel like the downward spiral of the Connery era. As an actor, he looks and sounds tired because his line delivery on double entendres and various puns sound blandly read as compared to the wink and tease he'd inject to his line delivery so effortlessly. Then, there's the awkward disguise a Japanese male needs no explanation.

    Overall this wasn't a bad film. There's some impressive sets, some good combat and stunt work plus the theme song is amongst one of my favourite Bond themes. But, the film in the second half does suffer from some pacing issues when compared to what made the first half of the film so great. But, in defence of You Only Live Twice, the story quite nicely comes full circle in the end. Despite some occasional but forgivable plot holes (wearing a hat and mouth guard to disguise himself as a Japanese hitman), it's a fairly enjoyable Bond movie. But, it is certainly the beginning of the end for Bond.

    3.5 out of 5


    RANKING


    1. From Russia With Love

    2. Thunderball

    3. Goldfinger

    4. Dr. No

    5. You Only Live Twice
    Last edited by TryWhistlingThis, Apr 8, 2013
  17. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Dec 12, 2006
    star 5
    I loved the score! Not because it was actually good, but for the sheer ridiculousness of the disco thumping during Bond's ski and parachute escape.
  18. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    I should probably start writing my reviews in advance, for I have no time to dwell on it now. Gah. I'll give a short review and try to answer Havac's questions, though, and add a shout out to Carly Simon's beautiful theme.

    1. You'll see that I've placed this fourth overall in the series, above even Goldfinger. Have I overrated TSWLM, or is it really that good?
    It's one of the best Moore films, that's obvious, and it's head above the worst of Connery's. I still like Goldfinger better. The finale is way too off for me to consider this movie better than Goldfinger.

    2. I understand that my take on the Esprit is against the general trend -- who wants to take on my assessment of our latest Bond car?
    I don't like the car either. I like the underwater transformation, though, if only because one of my first contacts with Bondsplotation was through the Italian spoof James Tont and that silly movie featured an underwater-capable car. :p The whole beach sequence is stupid, though.

    3. How does Triple X rate as a Bond girl?
    Few Bond girls work as characters. There, I said it. Amasova is slightly better than the past installments, but she's still reduced into a purring kitty as soon as Bond winks, forgetting all about her revenge plot-line (conveniently just in time for the movie to end!). You can portray Bond as a seductor without portraying his conquests as, uh, special people. Please.

    4. Many hold this as Moore's best Bond film. Is this the best of the Moore run? Is this his best performance in the role?
    I'm a big fan of For Your Eyes Only, and I think that's the superior film. We'll get to it soon. This might be Moore's best performance, I agree.

    5. Jaws. Dumb concept or classic henchman?
    Jaws is extremely silly and campy, but I find he works because he's portrayed as an unrelent menace. He's scary, and he's an opponent Bond can't defeat with just a couple of punches and one-liners. Moonraker would totally ruin him.


    1. From Russia with Love
    2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    3. Goldfinger
    4. Dr. No
    5. The Spy Who Loved Me
    6. You Only Live Twice
    7. Thunderball
    8. The Man with the Golden Gun
    9. Diamonds Are Forever
    10. Live and Let Die
    Debo likes this.
  19. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I wouldn't dislike the transforming car as much if "wacky gadget car" didn't become the go-to must-have for the crowd disappointed at the de-Mooreification of the franchise. "Yeah, it was okay, but what Casino Royale really needed was an invisible carplane with buzzsaw tires and refrigerated cupholders!" I like the transformation scene, and as far as over-the-top gadgets go, at least it's cool, but transformer cars was really not the direction the franchise needed to go. As is, I hold all its later imitators against it.

    Obviously, all the Bond girls need to be rated on a curve, but for the franchise's standard, I like Amasova as someone who's actually competent out in the field and can be a thorn in Bond's side. She gets neutered by Bond's magical, mind-control penis undermining the whole conflict brewing between them, but before that she's a step above your average Bond girl from the era. Any time Bond is able to have some kind of a semblance of a relationship with the Bond girl, with human interaction rather than "Oh, you're a woman and I'm James Bond so we'll be sleeping together now," that puts it ahead of the pack.

    I'm also a FYEO backer. I definitely think it's superior to TSWLM, and in terms of Moore's performance, I think he gets to do more and better acting there, though TSWLM is a better showcase of him in his arch element.

    I think you've hit on what makes Jaws work. He's a ridiculous idea, a henchman based around gimmick dentures. Yet Kiel has presence onscreen and the writing really serves the character, showing him as a silent, unstoppable murderer who's always a step ahead of Bond. His kill technique, biting through his victim's spine, is so, so cheesy and gimmicky, but holy crap does it work -- it's staged as the horrifying, intimate, unforgettable act of sadism it is. An excellent example of execution elevating an element.
    JoinTheSchwarz likes this.
  20. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    I'm glad Amasova didn't become Gogol's lover in subsequent movies, as originally planned. That would've turned an above-average Bond girl into mere sexy wallpaper.
  21. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I love Pimpin' Gogol, but Amasova being his sexual plaything wouldn't have done the character any favors at all.
  22. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    This movie has the worst example of Bond's Magical Penis ever, and it's not Amasova: Felicca, the girl that sacrifices herself to Sandor while yelling "NNNOOOOO" mere seconds after having met 007. Now that's charisma.
  23. Kenneth Morgan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 27, 1999
    star 4
    What, no mention of Caroline Munro by anyone?
  24. yankee8255 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    While I was convalescing at home last week, I caught a few minutes of "The Persuaders!", which instantly had me thinking of this thread: Roger Moore fights crime by essentially doing little more than raising his eyebrows. The show is rather highhly regarded in Germany, if only American audiences had warmed to it as well we might have been spared the Moore Bond years (thought that raises the question of who would have taken Connery's place instead).

    As for the current entry, TSWLM is about as good as Moore's Bond gets, though I would rank FYEO just ahead of it, as the latter has a bit harder edge to it, maybe due to the lack of Jaws. Havac, on question #5, he certainly has his appeal as a henchman, and the filmmakers do a good job of skirting the line with his character here, as opposed to making him an out and out cartoon character in Moonraker.
  25. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    She's a babe. Mentioned!

    I was actually surprised by her treatment within the movie -- the villain has a gorgeous henchwoman, and she's only used for a quick bit of flirting, and then appears in a helicopter so Bond can identify her, and then she dies. She doesn't even get the chance to do much of anything, let alone get seduced by Bond. I guess it's a good play against expectations, but it certainly does feel like the character was underused.