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The Great 007 DVD-athon

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Directed by: 
Guy Hamilton

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz

Starring:
Roger Moore (James Bond); Christopher Lee (Francisco Scaramanga); Britt Ekland (Mary Goodnight);
Maud Adams (Andrea Anders); Hervé Villechaize (Nick Nack); Clifton James (J. W. Pepper);
Richard Loo (Hai Fat); Soon-Taik Oh (Lieutenant Hip); Marne Maitland (Lazar);
Bernard Lee (M); Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny); Desmond Llewelyn (Q);
Marc Lawrence (Rodney); Sonny Caldinez (Kra) and Carmen du Sautoy (Saida)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 117 mins; Colour; Released: December 19 1974

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So, what is ‘The Great 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

The Man With The Golden Gun is the ninth in the Eon Bond film series, adapted from the twelfth and final Ian Fleming novel (1965). Filmed on location in Hong Kong, Thailand and at Pinewood Studios, it sees the world-number-one Government-backed assassin seemingly being targeted by the world-number-one private assassin, which means – with such an obvious target on his back – 007’s taken off his assignment to unearth a macguffin that could solve the global ‘energy crisis’ in favour of tracking down his would-be assailant; yet could this mission actually end up resurrecting his previous one…?

In my previous Bondathon, I ranked TMWTGG 21st out of the then 23 official Bond filmsand commented that “perhaps the 007 movie locomotive running out of steam just before it hit double figures, this effort, unlike Scaramanga’s ridiculous car-plane, just never really gets off the ground”.

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Watched: 12/11/16 and 20/11/16

Refreshments: Phuyuck Champagne (not really, just a cup of coffee)

Nibbles: Peanuts and a Dairy Milk

1.13: Triple nipple!

1.42: Hey look, it’s Marc Lawrence from DAF (and numerous Hollywood gangster movies in which he didn’t look 100 years-old). Is he supposed to be playing the same hood character as he did in Diamonds? Bond fans have speculated on this – and less – at length. I kid you not.

1.45: What they haven’t discussed at length is the fact his character’s called ‘Rodney’. Yes, Rodney. Check the credits at the end. Do you think the guy who typed out the cast list for the credits came up with it because it tickled him? I have a sneaking suspicion.

1.47: “Nick Nack! Tabasco!”

2.35: Call me crazy, but I do wonder why the world’s number one assassin is paying another assassin – presumably for a job? Odd.

3.20: Nice all-in-one training togs Franny’s sporting there. So very ’70s.

4.19: Nick Nack; such a little rascal.

2.52: Al Capone and his mannequin mates. Like stepping into The Untouchables for a few seconds there.

2.55: Strange how a seasoned pro like Rodders should be so disoriented and unnerved by the equivalent of an upmarket ghost train.

7.57: It’s James Bond! Oh no it’s not. James Bond’s no dummy. Ba-dum-ch.

10.21: Never been the biggest fan of Lulu’s title song, must admit. And Maurice Binder’s titles are, for once, a little tired and unimaginative.

10.32: “Chief of Staff”. The first appearance in the Eon series of M’s second-in-command, Bill Tanner. Bond’s best friend in the Fleming books, actually; far from it here and not really in any of the other movies either.

11.42: “I mean, sir, who would pay a million dollars to have me killed?” / “Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors; the list is endless”. To be fair, more than anyone else in this film, M seems to fancy the idea of having Bond bumped off.

14.21: Not sure if it’s intended, but the cut from Moneypenny closing the door connecting her office with M’s – and the millisecond focus on the door’s red leather with the bronze studs – to the close-up of the golden bullet in Saida’s belly button surrounded by her flesh is a nice bit of editing.

15.25: Beirut, eh? Bond rarely visits the Middle East. Didn’t here either, of course. It’s so obviously all Pinewood.

16.23: “The bullet went through him” / “And through his back and ended up… there?” (Bond motions at Saida’s belly button). WTF, Bond? Haha, of course, it didn’t. Old-school sitcom humour, folks.

16.38: Sexy sax time. Even John Barry’s got time for sexy sax time.

17.32: “You really do have a magnificent abdomen”

17.45: Watch out Mr Camerman; the last thing you want is to get spotted in the reflection of a mirror when someone bumps into it in a fight. Ah… whoops!

19.08: There’s actually blood dripping from 007’s mouth as a result of that skirmish. When would we see that again with the Sir Rog Bond? (Answer: never)

20.41: The pounding that brick wall takes from that gun sort of sums up how angry everyone in MI6 appears to be in this movie.

21.10: Here we are then, a watershed moment in the history of Eon’s Bond – the very first time Rog wears a safari suit.

22.54: I like Lazar. Surprising such an in demand, specialist gun maker would appear to be so poor, though.

23.12: “I’m now aiming precisely at your groin – so speak or forever hold your piece”. Classic.

26.37: “Where are you going?” / “I need some information”. Get in line, Britt; Maud was the first super-hot Swede to show up in this movie and pique Bond’s interest. Would he do that to you? Yes, he bloody well would.

27.14: “Oh, a surprise! Heeheeheehee!” Easily pleased hotel porter there.

31.53: First a bloodied mouth and now twisting arms and slapping about women. The experiment in making the Moore Bond a bully to women when he ‘needs’ to be (in the manner of how Connery’s Bond sometimes was) really doesn’t work. Quite right they dropped it for subsequent adventures. Moore acting cruel just does look and feel cruel – and not heroic.

31.55: “Bottom’s up”. Subtle as a sledgehammer this film.

33.09: Scaramanga ‘improving his eye’, ladies and gentlemen.

33.37: Gotta love the Bond and Nick Nack gag of straightening their respective ties in respective cameras/ TV sets according to their differing heights.

34.04: So Scaramanga got his rocks off, got off his junk and got across town to his hiding place in less than a minute? Now that’s bloody fast work!

36.50: ‘Feel the nib of my pen, er, I mean, the barrel of my gun on your lip, b****!’ Freaky dude that Scaramanga, isn’t he?

41.56: “Oh, I admit, it’s a little kinky”

44.13: Ha, that has to be the crappest fake nipple I’ve ever seen. Granted, I haven’t seen many (or even any), but still.

44.25: “Excuse me, Chew Mee” / “Byeeeeee!”

45.57: “He even invited me to dinner. He must have found me quite titillating!” There goes the nipple!

47.05: Goodnight storming off there at the sight of Bond getting in a car with a pair of schoolgirls in the back. Hmm. Not quite sure what to make of that ‘funny moment’ in today’s day and age really.

49.02: Bond twisting the knot on that sumo(?) chap’s loincloth – and its sound effect and the musical touch from Barry there – is pure Carry On.

52.01: Why did those two kids – presumably martial arts students at the school – fight to the death? Makes no sense at all. Presumably just to unnerve Bond, as a far as the film’s concerned.

53.22: “Chula! Chula! Chula!” Ah, Chula. The Johnny Lawrence of TMWTGG.

54.28: Everybody was kung fu fighting back in ’74. Roger Moore; not so much.

55.42: Yeah, Bond being saved by a pair of karate-kicking schoolgirls has to be one of the series’ real low-points…

58.10: … And pushing the ‘20,000 baht boy’ in the river is another. Oh dear.

58.40: Oh joy; it’s J. W. Pepper back for a second helping.

59.08: “Oh look, J. W., I just gotta have me one of those cute, little elephants” / “Elephants? We’re Democrats, Mabel”. You know, Pepper would definitely be a Trump supporter nowadays. In fact, he’d probably be throwing ‘pointy heads in puh-jamas’ and ‘brown water hogs’ out of Trump rallies.

1.02.43: “Mr Fat has just resigned. I’m the new Chairman of the Board. He always did like that mausoleum. Put him in it”. Speaking of The ‘Donald’, Scaramanga channelling his inner Trump there.

1.03.15: “Phuyuck?!” / “’74 sir”. TMWTGG in a nutshell?

1.05.40: “James, I thought this would never happen” / What made you change your mind?” / “I’m weak”. Goodnight’s predominant motivation is to get shagged by Bond; pretty much all the time, as she’s ‘amusingly’ foiled at every turn. No wonder the Eon writers decided female leads should be feminists from Spy onwards – Goodnight’s characterisation isn’t far from the nadir of the Bond Girl.

1.08.52: Andrea, on the other hand, is arguably that rare thing – the Bond Girl as a tragic, trapped woman. Quite Fleming-eque and a character type that pops up in the movies now and again (cf. Jill Masterson and Severine in Skyfall). The character here works well because Maud Adams’ performance ain’t bad at all.

1.10.45: Pity Scaramanga doesn’t press Andrea on what the double feature was: “Oh, erm… it was From Russia With Love and Goldfinger” / “Much better than this s*** then” / “Yes!”

1.12.02: Back in the days kickboxing was exotic. How times have changed.

1.12.52: Poor old Andrea. Like I said, definitely one of this flick’s better characters.

1.13.59: “A difficult shot but most gratifying” / “Well, we all get our jollies one way or another”

1.17.05: Ha, look how satisfied Scaramanga is with himself at pushing a woman into his car boot so smoothly and easily. Maybe he thinks he’s found Andrea’s ‘replacement’ already? (Of course, were Bond not to turn up on his island later on, he would have done, but I digress…)

1.18.20: Why is Pepper looking to buy a car while on holiday in Bangkok?

1.21.14: The series debut of Rémy Julienne’s trademark 180°-skidded-turn there.

1.23.30: The spiral car jump is quite brilliant, of course, but also obviously undermined by the slide-whistle sound effect and the fact it comes amidst all of Pepper’s irritating nonsense.

1.26.26: Meanwhile, Scaramanga’s flying car is preposterous, but a nice gambit.

1.27.21: Goodnight opening and closing the car boot may seem like an unnecessary, albeit funny moment, but actually explains why contact between her and Bond is totally lost – she  drops and loses the walkie-talkie as she opens the boot.

1.27.23: Haha, having been given Bond’s incredulous report, Bernard Lee’s face is a picture. He’s wearing quite a natty tie for M too.

1.31.16: You can’t knock Phuket and its ‘James Bond Island’. It’s beauty really is spectacular.

1.34.01: “All built by Hai Fat’s construction company, no doubt” / “Somehow I seem to have inherited it from him” That’s because you shot him dead and put him in his mausoleum, you f*****. What selective memories the criminally insane have.

1.34.06: Ah yes, Kra; ‘Maintenance and Security’. Presumably picked up by Eon on a ’70s porn film set.

1.37.07: Ha, Scaramanga’s gigantic laser. For the man who has everything. Except a big penis.

1.38.17: “I like a girl in a bikini – no concealed weapons”. Undoubtedly the best line in the movie. One of my favourites in the entire series, in fact.

1.41.39: Kra eyeing up the bikini-clad Goodnight – yeah, they definitely got him from porn casting.

1.42.18: Scaramanga disappears before the end of Nick Nack’s countdown for the duel. Of course he does; bloody cheat.

1.43.25: Back to the fun house then. Both sequences bookend the film in a nice manner, I suppose it’s fair to say.

1.47.38: Effective how the disappearance of Bond together with Barry’s tension-building music, the assortment of shifting shots and Scaramanga’s face full of doubt and indecision switches everything; that is, Bond turns from the hunted into the hunted. The Bond-Scaramanga duel’s definitely this film at its best.

1.47.38: Look, Ma, a full hand! (On the Roger Moore mannequin)

1.50.33: Scaramanga ‘flat on his coup de grace’… Goodnight’s posterior pushing the ‘Master Overide’ button… the Bottoms Up club… Golden Gun’s full of arse jokes. And tit jokes. Tits and ass. It’s basically what the entire movie boils down to.

1.51.22: Bond really boned up on the Solex and how all its sundry equipment would work, didn’t he?

1.53.58: Our hero looks back at the island from the safety of the junk: “Another villain’s HQ blowing itself to kingdom come – must be another successful mission completed then!”

1.56.58: Daft it may be (again), but the Bond-Nick Nack scrap is fun. Although why Goodnight cowers in the corner is anyone’s guess when you think about it. The little feller against Bond *and* her would surely be a different proposition. Yup, poor Britt Ekland’s nothing more than a willing shag target and damsel-in-distress – and comic klutz, of course. No wonder she seemed far from fond of her brush with Bond for some time afterwards.

1.57.52: Where on earth did M get the phone number for Scaramanga’s junk? Makes no sense whatsoever, haha!

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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The Bond fan consensus is it’s a miss-step making Moore’s Bond heavy-handed in Golden Gun (following his pitch-perfect debut in LALD) and, yes; I’m afraid it is. But it’s less the actor’s fault – he’s game for all the role asks of him – than that of the writers and director, whom were still experimenting with this (relatively new) 007. Bond’s cruelty towards Andrea and near misogyny shown Goodnight feels uncomfortable from Rog. That said, he’s otherwise solid and many of the movie’s best funnies (and does it need some!) come courtesy of him, not least his quality interplay with Scaramanga and Nick Nack.

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Oh dear! The Bond peeps flirted with making 007’s main squeeze ditsy (if beautiful) comic relief in DAF, but here they go the whole hog with Mary Goodnight. Sure, she’s played by Britt Ekland, one of the ’70s’ favourite on-screen sex-pots, but at her best a fairly capable actress; this stuff’s beneath her – and Eon’s Bond. Much better’s the other main girl; in fact, Maud Adams’ tragic Andrea’s a bit of a revelation. And better still is the curious, nay crazy combo of Scaramanga and Nick Nack; the former a villain Lee was born to play, the latter a funny, evil little bugger. Together, they’re simply 007 at its absurdist best.

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There’s no excuse for it; there really isn’t. No Bond film should be so embarrassing when it comes to action sequences. When the two most memorable ‘high-octane’ moments are a ground-breaking barrel-roll car jump ruined by a comedy sound effect and Bond being upstaged by a couple of kung-fu-fighting schoolgirls as they best a bunch of goons, you know you’re in trouble. Yes, there’s also a speedboat chase and scraps between Bond and some Beirut hoods, sumo wrestlers in Hai Fat’s garden and Nick Nack at the end, but all played for laughs, they’re about as thrilling as Goodnight’s a competent MI6 agent.

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Given, for much of its running time, this is what you might call a ‘comedic’ Bond film, the fact so many of its funnies, at best, fall flat or, at worst, are cringeworthy, too often a viewing becomes something of an endurance. Examples include Bond’s encounter with the sumo guards in Hai Fat’s garden (like poor Carry On) and practically every second J. W. Pepper’s on-screen (pretty much flat-out racist this time round). Golden Gun’s at its funniest when at its wittiest, which coincides with scenes that build to something being at stake; Bond’s punnery with Lazar and at the dinner table with Scaramanga.

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Fair dos, old Trip Nip and Nick Nack aren’t the only good things about Golden Gun, there’s also the Thai island locale with its giant phallic rock, doubling for Scaramanga’s HQ hideaway. However, that’s really where the aspiration ends, looks-wise. I mean, something’s wrong surely when 007 rolls up in Hong Kong yet this exotic super city comes off as drab – maybe because it’s presented as a colonial outpost of an energy-sapped ’70s Britain in decay. And it’s fair to point out that, while the villain’s fun house is, well, fun, its small-scale feel and absurdity make it underwhelming for an Eon Bond climax.

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It should be a cause for celebration (although the previous adventure, LALD, hardly struggled with composer George Martin), but the return of John Barry to the Bond fold underwhelms; has to be said. In some ways, though, this may be a little unfair, given the extraordinarily high standards the movie-music-master set for the series and himself in the ’60s, while Golden Gun’s far from the most inspiring foundation on which to build a film score, lets face it. And, frankly, there’s little wrong with this Eon adventure’s soundtrack; it does the job fine, but really it isn’t very memorable and offers little that’s new.

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Aside from its villainous duo, their exotic hideout and the climactic confrontation, this is a Bond film whose every element is lacklustre. Frankly, to watch Golden Gun feels as much like sitting through a mediocre ’70s Hammer flick as it does a ’60s Eon effort. The fact the driving force behind the movies, the iconic Broccoli-Saltzman partnership, had reached breaking point by this time surely has a lot to do with it. As well as the fact Golden Gun was rushed into production straight after LALD’s release. Rightly so, a big rethink would take place before Broccoli (on his own) brought 007 back to the big screen.

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  1. Bond and Scaramanga face off – leaving the latter flat on his coup de grâce
  2. Our man interrogates/ threatens Lazar – his rifle aim being the crotch of the matter
  3. Scaramanga’s Thai hideaway lives up its retconned ‘James Bond Island’ moniker

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Directed by: 
Guy Hamilton

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Tom Mankiewicz

Starring:
Roger Moore (James Bond); Yaphet Kotto (Dr Kananga/ Mr Big); Jane Seymour (Solitaire);
Clifton James (Sheriff J. W. Pepper); David Hedison (Felix Leiter); Gloria Hendry (Rosie Carver);
Julius W. Harris (Tee Hee); Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi); Quarrel Jr. (Roy Stewart);
Bernard Lee (M); Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny); Earl Jolly Brown (Whisper);
Lon Satton (Strutter); Tommy Lane (Adam); Arnold Williams (Cab Driver);
Madeleine Smith (Agent Caruso); Michael Ebbin (Dambala) and Ruth Kempf (Mrs Bell)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 117 mins; Colour; Released: June 27 1973

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So, what is ‘The Great 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

Live And Let Die is the eighth in the Eon Bond film series, adapted from the second Ian Fleming novel (1954). Filmed on location in New York City, New Orleans, the Lousiana Bayou, Jamaica and at Pinewood Studios, it marks the debut of Roger Moore as 007, the world’s least secret secret-agent, in a mission that sees our man on the trail of a ‘two-bit Caribbean diplomat’ and the head honcho of America’s black criminal underworld as he investigates the mysterious murders of three of his fellow agents – could his two targets be somehow connected…?

In my previous Bondathon, I ranked LALD 9th out of the then 23 official Bond films, claiming that “thanks to one or two narrative and character mis-steps, Sir Rog’s 007 debut isn’t a perfect film, but it’s surely one of the best recalled Bond films”.

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Watched: 16/10/16 and 30/10/16

Refreshments: Coffee and orange juice

Nibbles: Peanuts, a Dairy Milk and Jaffa Cakes

0.40: Traditional gunbarrel opening; far from traditional version of The Bond Theme – exit John Barry; enter funk!

1.53: After all these viewings of Live And Let Die over the years, I’m still not actually sure what it is that kills that charlie at the UN. Is he supposed to be electrocuted through his headphones? Or is he killed by a really high-pitched ray gun-like noise? Weird if it’s the latter; I mean, has anyone actually ever died from that?

3.29: Incredibly cool and nifty gadget that coffin with the flip-open-and-close bottom. Can’t think off the top of my head when else you’d use one apart from to pick up a recently dispatched corpse off the street during a jazz funeral-cum-execution, though.

7.30: Paul McCartney and Wings absolutely kill it with that rocking title tune – as does Maurice Binder with his skulls-and-flames-filled titles.

7.35: The name’s Moore, Roger Moore.

7.36: Which is just what Madeleine Smith’s Agent Caruso wants from him, it seems (suitable entrance from our man Rog then).

7.37: Ha, I love that click-for-the-red-LED-time watch. Tried to buy one years back. But got swizzled by the guy who ran the website ‘selling’ them. There’s a lesson there – don’t try and buy a cool watch only James Bond’s cool enough to wear. Or something.

7.54: “Not married by any chance, are you?”

9.23: “Is that all it does?” Something tells me Bernard Lee’s M wouldn’t be enamoured with today’s British coffee culture.

10.48: No Q this film (boo!) but Bond’s ‘new’ watch with its hyper-magnetic capabilities (and its dial that turns red when activated) is one of the all-time, all-time great Bond film gadgets.

12.00: “Sheer magnetism, darling”. I do so love that scene. A novel variation on the M/ Bond briefing and Bond/ Moneypenny flirtation scenes. A terrific introduction for Moore’s 007. And I’ve always adored that LALD version of his apartment – where the bed’s the focal point of the entire flat.

12.13: “A man comes…” Fnarrr! Nah, the intro of the voodoo cards trope here with the Pan Am flight screened on Solitaire’s table is stylishly done.

13.26: “Hello, Felix! How are you?” Ah, David Hedison’s Felix. The genuine Felix Leiter.

14.20: Death by poisoned dart fired from a car’s wing mirror. Obviously.

16.44: Mmm, Jane Seymour. Hands up who else likes how she ‘takes a letter’ there?

17.42: “Something in heads?” / “Just browsing, thank you”

19.19: You won’t find as many platform shoes in the whole of the rest of series as there are in that shot as Bond ducks down behind the pimpmobile and watches Kananga, Solitaire and his ‘goon squad’ getting into their motor.

19.55: “He’s tailing”. And so starts the awesome, witty sequence of Bond’s progress through the oh-so black Harlem.

20.30: “Well, you just keep on the tail of that jukebox and there’s an extra 20 in it for you” / “Hey man, for 20 bucks, I’ll take you to a Ku-Klux Klan cook-out!” Don’t let anybody tell you Sir Rog can’t talk jive.

21.07: “Can’t miss him – it’s like following a cue-ball!”

21.33: “He’s headin’ on in!” Love the way the loquacious, loveable cab driver turns out to be in Mr Big’s employ.

22.02: “First booth’ll do”

23.58: That’s one hell of strong hook (for an arm) Tee Hee’s got there. Bending the barrel of Bond’s Walther like it’s rubber? Maybe it’s made of platinum.

25.19: “Now, promise you’ll stay right there… I shan’t be long”. Haha, Rog so being Rog as he’s manhandled out of Mr Big’s HQ. The whole Harlem sequence where he’s portrayed as the white ‘fool’ out of his depth in Harlem’s underworld is a great set-up for what’s to come.

26.03: That bit when 007 swings on the fire escape steps and crashes his feet into the goon’s chest has to be one of the coolest moments in all Bond. Pure class.

27.45: Ah, Baron Samedi. Dancer Geoffrey Holder (who played him) choreographed this eccentric and vaguely sexual dance routine – and others in the movie – by the way.

32.10: Poor old, Whisper. Sounds like he has permanent laryngitis. Quite frankly, it’s hard to dislike any of the baddies in this movie. They’re all cracking eccentrics you’d love to meet in a bar. On their nights off, obviously.

33.10: That spray-on-aftershave/ cigar combo makes for one hell of a mongoose stand-in, has to be said.

34.10: Ooh, I could crush a grape!

34.59: Rosie Carver; the first black Bond Girl of note. Shame she’s not a better character.

36.24: “Well, it’s just a hat, darling. Belonging to a small-headed man of limited means who lost a fight with a chicken”

41.17: Oh, Solitaire. She just can’t face the inevitability that she and Bond are going to hook-up. It’s pretty obvious; I mean, she doesn’t even need to pick ‘The Lovers’ from the deck – his code-number’s on the back of every one of her cards.

43.56: Those spyin’ and shootin’ scarecrows Kananga’s got spread about San Monique are cool as hell.

46.53: A perfect disposal of a baddie guard and a perfect landing of his hand-glider from Bond there. But of course.

47.09: So ‘Milk Tray Man’ how Rog takes off his scarf, removes his wind-chill-trouser-covers and reverses his jacket. Love it.

49.10: Such a cad. It’s all for Queen and Country, though. Or, more specifically, to find out what Kananga’s really up to.

50.50: “Darling, I have a slight confession to make. Now, try not to be too upset. The deck was stacked slightly in my favour”

52.33: “Is there time before we leave for Lesson Number Three?” / “Absolutely. There’s no sense in going off half-cocked”. One of the all-time greatest lines in all Bondom, ladies and gentlemen.

53.32: First the scarecrows, now Samedi with his flute-cum-walkie-talkie. Kananga and co. have some cracking gadgets.

57.45: Apparently, TfL – or whatever it was called back in the day – gave Roger Moore bus driving lessons so he could get behind the wheel of the double-decker in this sequence. How much of the actual stunt driving he did, though, is a good question, I’d imagine.

58.59: “All change; end of the line”. Priceless.

1.01.06: Hooray, the Cab Driver again! Not sure anyone else could get away with calling Bond ‘Jim’ – and greeting him with a “What’s happenin’, baby?”.

1.02.07: Curious that Solitaire should be p*ssed off rather than scared at them being captured – and so angry with Bond she tries to strike him with her bag. Presumably she’s worked out he was using her as bait to get pulled back into Big/ Kananga’s operation. Far from chivalrous for much of this movie is our hero.

1.03.29: “Leroy, slow down! Slow down!” / “Do what the man says!”

1.03.49: Pretty sure Mrs Bell’s ‘Holy sh*t’ is the first instance of proper swearing in a Bond film. Wouldn’t have got that in the ’60s.

1.04.21: One assumes Mr Bleeker isn’t aware the entire staff of the airport that hosts his aeroplane flying school is under the employ of the one country’s biggest criminal kingpins.

1.04.28: “Yes, Mr Bleeker; yes… I’m aware you can’t just glue the wings back on”

1.05.46: Lon Satton’s assassination. Something to make a *song* and dance about. I thank you.

1.07.56: And that’s the first – and, so far, I believe the only – instance when a Bond film’s title song has been actually performed in the film. To Bond as well, no less. A nice, playful fourth-wall-break – just like the tarot cards with ‘007’ printed on their backs.

1.08.36: That swivel chair with the wrist restraints is another top baddies’ gadget.

1.14.22: A nice take on the old Fleming-esque ‘torture Bond by the villain’ scene that one, I’ve always thought.

1.16.15: His striking of Solitaire there always reminds me that, for all his articulacy and dignity, Kananga really is a very cruel, dirty piece of work.

1.17.17: Always cackling away to himself; Tee Hee really enjoys his work, doesn’t he?

1.19.20: Albert the crocodile is to Tee Hee what Tick Tock was to Captain Hook. I mean, Lord knows how many times I’ve seen this movie and that’s never occurred to me before.

1.21.31: Bond’s escape from the ravenous crocs is a terrific stunt and the stuff of iconoclasm, of course, but frankly, the whole ‘feeding time’ sequence is bloody marvellous.

1.23.00: Ah, 007 jumps in his boat. And so it begins…

1.26.29: I suppose the trade off with Sheriff Pepper’s treatment of the black baddies is that, ultimately, the joke’s on him. It’s a thin line, though. A thin blue line, you might say.

1.26.40: “Boy, where you been all your life? That’s wonnadem noo car boats”

1.32.01: It’s epic, classic, dynamic and funny, but the speedboat chase also features some great cinematography, only fair to say…

1.34.54: … And it has a cracking climax.

1.37.04: Bond and Quarrel Jr. rowing their dinghy out to San Monique has echoes of Fleming’s novel to it. Somewhat muffled echoes, but still.

1.42.30: Always liked how Bond’s first strike with the sword in chopping down Solitaire’s binds coincides with the first explosion in the poppy fields.

1.42.39: The second rising of Samedi…

1.43.17 … Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?

1.44.45: Not enough Bond films have subterranean cave lairs in them.

1.45.16: “Keep the change”

1.46.02: Poor old, Whisper (again). Can’t a man take a break without being made to look a plonker by your boss firing a shark-gun loaded with a compressed air pellet at the sofa you’re sitting on?

1.46.49: “Relax, he must’ve got tied up somewhere”

1.49.27: Yeah, in retrospect, Kananga really shouldn’t have given back Bond his watch-cum-über-magnet-cum-buzzsaw half-an-hour earlier.

1.50.24: Pop goes the Kananga!

1.52.34: To be fair, you’d think Tee Hee would look to take over the remnants of his deceased boss’s underworld empire rather than going after Bond in (presumably) an act of revenge in the denouement. But then the world of the Bond films often has a marvellously skewiff logic.

1.55.30: And, after Bond had his wicked way with her one last time, Solitaire lived happily ever after – because her guardian angel Baron Samedi was driving the train. Well, that’s how I like to interpret that closing shot. Probably.

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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It may seem strange to think it but, although an undeniable era of the ‘classic’ Eon Bond, the late ’60s/ early ’70s was tumultuous; LALD was the third consecutive film with a different lead actor. Casting the oh-so fittingly monikered Roger Moore was a masterstroke for the series, though, and this movie – his light comedic yet libidinous gent provides a grounding amidst the crazy stunts, colourful characters, cartoonish villain-reveals and voodoo goings-on. And, speaking of the latter, his tarot card-associated journey from ‘fool’ to ‘lover’ to hero is an artily esoteric way to establish him as the new 007.

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Given she possesses second sight for the film’s first half, you might expect Solitaire to be less passive, but bear in mind this is 1973 and LALD’s all about proving Rog’s Bond credentials. To make up for a lack of feminist drive, Jane Seymour’s a gloriously beautiful woman with a wonderful wardrobe. Actually, the movie’s considerable rogues’ gallery is just as well attired; the latex-faced Mr Big especially, while his alter ego Dr Kananga’s an appealing sophisticate with an unappetising cruel streak (an interesting villain). Best of all, henchmen Tee Hee and Samedi are the stuff of 007 legend; Rosie Carver far less so.

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In contrast to the previous Eon escapade, LALD pulls out far more stops when it comes to the action, only fair to say. The grandstand thrills are to be had in the terrific 12-minute speedboat chase, of course, which always ticks the boxes for me and, while the climactic Bond-Kananga/ Bond-Tee Hee confrontations may err on the silly side, they’re still satisfying. And it’s hard to find fault with 007’s dabbling in hang-gliding, double-decker bus-driving and, of course, crocodile-jumping. Don’t doubt it, a fair degree of the movie’s classic iconography comes courtesy of its unforgettable stunts.

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In retaining screenwriting duties following DAF, Tom Mankiewicz peppers this effort – as he did that one – with a more than average welter of one-liners and witticisms and – again – a crazy coterie of colourful baddies resulting in some fine (unintended?) laughs. Less successful peppering, though, comes in the form of the unbridled racism of Sheriff Pepper – to say he’s un-PC’s putting it mildly. Still, LALD’s one of light(ish) Bond film success stories; most of all because of Rog’s delightful debut and its pitch-perfect handing by director Hamilton against the amusingly unlikely Blaxpoitation-esque backdrop.

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Nowhere does LALD make hay of its Blaxpoitation influence more  than in its use of gritty, contemporary US locations. Chief among these is NYC’s Harlem, of course, notably during the ‘following a cue ball’ sequence as Bond makes his way to Mr Big’s ‘Fillet of Soul’ restaurant (see above), but the Louisiana Bayou-set sequences are also oozing with appealing atmos. Less memorable are the Jamaican locales; feeling a little old hat following their use in DN. And fair dos, production design-wise, The ’Die may lack a stand-out set, but bold, vibrant colours abound everywhere, not least reds of all shades.

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Strange it may be, but the series’ first film not to feature the brilliance of John Barry does indeed get 10 points in this category. Why? Because Beatles producer par excellence George Martin’s experimentation in (sort of) marrying the Barry ‘Bond sound’ with funk is a runaway-train success. It states its intent with the awesomely Harlem-cool rendition of the Bond Theme and thoroughly wins you over with the orchestral-backed histrionics that soundtrack the speedboat chase. And that’s to say nothing of the most rocking title tune Eon ever commissioned, from Martin’s old mucker Macca. It should’ve won an Oscar.

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By turns drop-dead cool and urgent, by others hopelessly of its time and daft as a dozen Diamonds Are Forevers; the Moore-debuting Eon effort may be some way from the greatest, but it’s one of the most memorable – a dynamite concoction of the thrilling, colourful, funny and eminently entertaining. It’s the high watermark of the Hamilton/ Mankiewicz era that gave us barely-conceivable comedy-actioners bursting with pseudo-cartoon baddies and acidic wit, as well as just-beneath-the-surface narrative smarts. When you’ve got a job to do, you’ve got to do it well – The ’Die definitely does that. And more.

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  1. Tee Hee tells Bond about his old pal Albert and the latter jumps the crocs
  2. 007 smartly blows up his chief pursuer’s vessel at the speedboat chase’s climax
  3. Kananga and Mr Big are proved to be one and the same and Bond almost loses his little pinky
  4. Bond saves Solitaire and himself via his watch-cum-buzzsaw and forces Kananga to go pop
  5. Blighty’s finest raids San Monique, blows up the poppy fields and clashes swords with Samedi
  6. The vengeful Tee Hee loses the denouement bout thanks to a ‘disarming’ 007
  7. Rog’s Bond goes all cool ‘action man’ as he swings on a fire escape, crashing his feet into a baddie
  8. Our hang-gliding hero kicks a goon off the cliff, lands perfectly and suits up before meeting Solitaire

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Directed by: 
Guy Hamilton

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz

Starring:
Sean Connery (James Bond); Jill St. John (Tiffany Case); Charles Gray (Blofeld);
Lana Wood (Plenty O’Toole); Jimmy Dean (Willard Whyte); Norman Burton (Felix Leiter);
Bruce Glover (Mr Wint); Putter Smith (Mr Kidd); Joseph Furst (Professor Dr Metz);
Bernard Lee (M); Desmond Llewelyn (Q); Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny);
Bruce Cabot (Saxby); Donna Garrett (Bambi); Trina Parks (Thumper); Leonard Barr (Shady Tree);
David Bauer (Morton Slumber); Marc Lawrence (Slumber Inc. hood); Joe Robinson (Peter Franks);
Laurence Naismith (Sir Donald Munger) and Ed Bishop (Klaus Hergesheimer)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 115 mins; Colour; Released: December 14 1971

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So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

Diamonds Are Forever is the seventh in the Eon Bond film series, adapted from the fourth Ian Fleming novel (1956). Filmed on location in Amsterdam, Las Vegas, the Nevada Desert and at Pinewood Studios, it sees the return – for one last time – of Sean Connery to the series as Blighty’s finest, James Bond. Plot-wise, our hero is at first on master-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s trail, but then switches his attention to discovering why a worldwide diamond smuggling ‘pipeline’ is being jeopardised, his investigation eventually taking him to Sin City itself, Las Vegas, where it transpires he might just rendezvous with his age-old adversary…

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked DAF 19th out of the then 23 official Bond films, concluding it “has its moments, but perhaps not enough to make up for its loose plot, underwhelming climax and overall lack of quality and substance”.

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Watched: 1/10/16 and 8/10/16

Refreshments: Coffee and orange juice

Nibbles: Peanuts, a Dairy Milk and – Alan Partridge’s favourite – Toblerone

0.58: How that Japanese(?) dude manages to say ‘Cairo!’ without moving his lips has always impressed me. In the words of Paul Daniels, that’s magic! Or just bad dubbing.

1.23: Hang on, that’s not George Lazenby! What happened to George Lazenby? Har-de-har-har.

1.29: I’ve also always been intrigued by how Sean Connery’s voice suddenly drops, like, a thousand octaves there. Could it be they’d been using someone else imitating Connery’s voice for the past minute? (He asked sarcastically)

1.41: “Yes, there’s something I’d like you to get off your chest”

2.00: Blofeld’s (yet another Blofeld, that is) plastic surgeon has some really cracking sideburns. It’s like a two-hour-long gallery of sideburns is Diamonds Are Forever.

2.57: Death by mud bath. A hangover from Fleming’s original novel, don’cha know. Sort of.

3.06: Water pistol!

3.51: Mouse-trap!

4.37: Weird that Blofeld’s plastic surgery theatre doesn’t just have a mud bath in it but an actual hot-mud-spring thing in the corner. Hmm. Always loved that segue into the classy, top title sequence, though, with the trademark white kitty (wearing the diamond collar) caterwauling and Bond glancing at it. Suggests all’s not well…

7.17: Diamonds Are Forever (the title theme) truly is one of the series’ best. A real Bassey belter.

8.11: I bloody love Sir Donald Munger. Not only because he’s played by the incomparable Laurence Naismith, but also because he’s called Sir Donald Munger.

8.19: “You’ve been on holiday, I believe. Relaxing, I hope?” / “Oh, hardly relaxing, but most satisfying”. And that’s the last – and only – reference we get to Tracy (Bond’s wife killed off in the previous film OHMSS, whom he presumably was avenging pre-titles). Even when he meets up with Blofeld proper later on (who actually killed her), Bond doesn’t bother to mention what went down. No question, with Connery’s casting and DAF’s totally different style and tone, Eon tried to bury OHMSS entirely. For better or worse.

9.16: This almost satiric ‘show-and-tell’ approach to explaining to us the diamond smuggling ‘pipeline’ over the next few minutes really is nice filmmaking (quite stylistic for a Bond movie, in fact). It’s definitely this movie at its best.

10.10: Enter Wint and Kidd. And their awesome leitmotif.

13.59: “We do function in your absence, Commander”. And then the look to the heavens. Bernard Lee’s a real treat in this one. He simply can’t stand Bond, haha.

15.23: Ah, the British Rail hovercraft to the Continent – whatever happened to that? If Jeremy Corbyn ever gets into Number 10, we’ll all have to pressgang him into bringing it back as he renationalises the railways.

17.47: “Providing the collars and cuffs match”. Classic.

20.17: “Oh, an obvious little notion. Thought it might come in handy”. Yep, Q supplies Bond with exactly the gadget he’ll need on his assignment (in this case, peel-offable fingerprints identical to those of the real diamond smuggler). A recurring theme through the series that one’ll prove. He must have second sight must Q.

20.48: The old ‘pretend-your-snogging-a-beautiful-woman’ ruse. Would become a staple in playgrounds up and down the land for decades to come.

23.15: Cracking fight in a confined space, that punch-up in the lift (elevator) there. I remember the days it was considered too violent/ threatening – the shots with the shard of glass – so it was edited on UK TV.

23.54: “My God, you’ve just killed James Bond!” Nice gag, of course; but a too self-referential? Not in Diamonds Are Forever World, it seems.

26.00: “Well, well, well; Felix Leiter, you old fraud” This is supposed to be the moment when we all go ‘Oh yeah, it’s Bond’s CIA pal, Felix!’. Only none of us do because this Felix looks and sounds absolutely nothing like any of the other Felixes. Ah well, who needs continuity?

27.15: Ha, Marc Lawrence’s hood’s rather marvellous. Not sure why he and his clan of goons are in a Bond film, but hey.

27.38: “I got a brudder”. Nice cameo from Bernard Bresslaw there.

29:34: “Ashes to ashes” / “Dust to dust” Ice to ice. They do seem to get the diamonds out of the body remarkably quickly, don’t they?

31.04: Ha, the twirly button-pressing of Mr Kidd’s forefinger there has always tickled me.

35.57: Ah, Lana Wood. And her norks. Wonder why they cast her?

37.14: “Say, you played this game before!” / “Just once” Haha.

38.33: “Good evening” DAF has its faults (ahem, quite a few), but the way Connery delivers that line as he switches on the lamp and the hoods switch on the rest of the lamps is too cool for school.

39.17: … As is Connery’s elbowing Marc Lawrence in the stomach and face following Plenty’s drop out the window (“Exceptionally fine shot” / “I didn’t know there was a pool down there”).

39.48: “Fulsome friend” Haha, not sure I’d ever heard that before.

40.23: “Peter, I’m very impressed. There’s much more to you than I expected”. Yes, Connery is carrying a bit of a paunch, let’s be honest.

42.03: Circus, Circus. This whole sequence doesn’t feel weird for a Bond film at all. No; not at all.

45.20: “Who’s she, your mother?” / “Blow up your pants!”

46.50: The ‘Zambora, strangest girl ever born to live’ scene has to be one of the strangest bits ever included in a Bond movie (“God forbid, sumzing should go wrong over here!”). It’s like 007 at the fun fair. But without the Dodgems; worst luck.

51.22: Professor Dr Metz!

52.03: Years and years ago when I was merely a young ’un, I always found myself confounded by why Tiffany referred to the hapless gas station attendant as ‘Curly’ when his hair can only be described as anything but.

54.54: Here he is. Finally. The real hero of DAF – Ed Bishop’s Klaus Hergesheimer from G Section. He’s so awesome he should have been the star of a spin-off series of films. You know, in which he somehow – sort of anti-hero-like – managed to resolve weird and wonderful criminal schemes while having no idea what the hell’s going on.

54.56: To be fair, I often feel a bit like I’m trying to do that while watching this movie.

55.53: Hmm, I wonder what A, B, C, D, E and F Section do for the operation?

57.07: “What is this? Amateur night?” Well, whatever it is, it’s arguably DAF at its most bizarre. Which is saying something. Of course, the moon set is a gag, in that it’s a reference to the commonly held conspiracy theory that the moon landings were all hoaxes or, at least, mocked-up (here, done so at tycoon Willard Whyte’s space exploration HQ).

59.59: The moon buggy – especially with those flailing arms – is ridiculous. Those moon trikes are still damn cool, though.

1.01.11: “Just relax. I have a friend named Felix who can fix anything” / “Is he married?”. When it came to dialogue, Tom Mankiewicz certainly earnt his corn on DAF.

1.04.58: One of the great Bond car chases, that one. No question. Love spotting all the Vegas tourists standing on the sidewalk watching the filming. And the small town sheriff made by Bond to look a total fool. Interesting idea. I wonder whether they’ll ever revisit that…?

1.05.41: “Relaxsh, darling, I’m on top of the shituation”. Pity Tiffany’s wearing a nipple pasty there, let’s be honest.

1.06.09: Gaudy it may be (like, well, everything in DAF), but The Whyte House bridal suite really is a terrific set. Ken Adam’s on top of the situation too.

1.06.38: Reassuring to learn Hamilton’s right out there, outside the door, isn’t it?

1.10.07: Bond’s escape/ ascent to the Starlight Suite on the top floor of The Whyte House, followed by him cavorting about with his piton gun and its ropes and, finally, his landing on the crapper is definitely my favourite bit in this movie. A marvellous sequence – imaginative, irreverent, a little bit scary (for those of a vertigo-afflicted disposition) and, in the end, wryly funny.

1.10.35: Look how many video screens and telephones and how much booze there is in that loo. How much time does Blofeld spend in there? Does he suffer from IBS or something?

1.13.50: “Right idea, Mr Bond” / “But wrong pussy”. Timeless Bond film line that one.

1.14.55: There are moments when DAF comes together and flies – like in many a Bond movie, I guess. And that Bond-meets-Blofeld(s) scene is the best example. Perfect from start to finish with some tip-top dialogue, another gorgeous Ken Adam set (his best this movie) and some great Blofeld’s cat action.

1.16.06: Here comes the Bat Cave opening… wait for it… wait for it…

1.16.15: … Up periscope, er, I mean, cactus!

1.17. 04: I always enjoy Wint and Kidd’s Beavis and Butthead-like cackle.

1.19.18: After all these years and all my viewings of this movie, I’m still yet to work out what the cockamamie machine’s actually supposed to do in that tunnel.

1.19.40: “Thank you very much. I was just out walking my rat and I seem to have lost my way”

1.21.08: Blofeld’s cat’s so evil – do you think what he’s eating there is the fake Blofeld’s cat we just saw? I wouldn’t put it past him.

1.21.34: Fat, bright pink ties are the way forward, folks. Or at least there were in the Nevada Desert back in ’71.

1.22.09: Not a Ken Adam design, this one. It’s a real house. A hell of a house.

1.24.56: Strange 007 only manages to best Bambi and Thumper as he’s being almost drowned by them. Still, fun fight, I guess. And a strike for feminism in Bond? Well, sort of perhaps.

1.25.52: Willard Whyte’s on the can. Of course he is. There’s a lot of toilet humour in this movie, isn’t there? Says a lot really.

1.26.31: “Bert Saxby?! Tell him, he’s fired!” Shades of Donald Trump (and his idiocy) there.

1.27.26: Mr Q enjoying himself out of the office for once – and circumventing his MI6 expenses account. Clever man.

1.28.06: *Sigh* The notorious Blofeld in drag moment. Above all else, it’s so bizarre. As soon as it’s over, you find yourself wondering whether it actually happened. No matter how many times you see it.

1.29.08: Shane Rimmer getting the hairdryer treatment there. No wonder he quit WW Techtronics and became a submarine captain.

1.32.01: From what I hear, that missile blowing up is probably still the most exciting thing ever to happen in North Dakota.

1.33.50: “Baja?! I haven’t got anything in Baja!” Gotta love Jimmy Dean. Willard Whyte’s basically a cartoon character, but he’s good fun.

1.35.17: Blofeld’s minions this time out with their blue jumpsuits and orange boots and helmets (featuring that lightning flash) really do look daft as hell. It’s a bit like a baseball team uniform.

1.36.03: Silly as anything, but Bond’s water-balloon-thingameejig’s a fun gambit. It actually moved its way across the surface like that by someone peddling a bike of some description inside.

1.36.22: “Good morning, gentlemen. The ACME Pollution Inspection. We’re cleaning up the world. We thought this was a suitable starting point”. Best line in the film?

1.37.39: “I do so hate martial music”. Ladies and gentlemen, Blofeld and I have something in common. Actually two things; I’m rather fond of cats.

1.39.08: Evidently, Blowers thinks as little goes on in Kansas as I’ve been led to believe does in North Dakota.

1.40.10: “You’ve suddenly become tiresome, Mr Bond”. As if that’s something new for the head of SPECTRE.

1.40.14: “Ten minutes encahnting”. That bloke possesses the greatest countdown voice ever. Bar none.

1.42.12: “Come on, Bahnd, get the heell off dat rig!”

1.43.48: Good guys in helicopters attacking a sitting duck of an oil rig. Greenpeace must love the climax to DAF.

1.46.18: Ah, the Bath-o-sub. And it’s called a Bath-o-sub because, er, sitting in it is a bit like sitting in a bath? You can also use it in a bath? It was made in Bath? Who knows.

1.48.42: Yeah, there really is no excuse for how Tiffany ‘escapes’ the rig.

1.49.04: Of all the ways for Blofeld (Mark #1) to bow out of the series, that one’s, well, a bit sh*t , let’s be honest. Mind you, so’s setting a Bond film climax on an oil rig.

1.49.20: … But Bond gets full marks for his perfect dive there.

1.51.09: Bombe Surprise. “Mmm, that looks delicious. What’s in it?” Take a wild guess, Tiffany.

1.53.19: A fitting send off for Wint and Kidd, certainly.

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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$1 million! No, not how much Dr No’s lair cost, but how much Connery was paid to return as 007. Back then, this was an astronomical payday for an actor, so was it worth it? Well, the Big Tam seems more engaged than he was last time out (YOLT), appears to enjoy the script’s wit and dialogue and seems not to mind the fun had at his expense (rattling about in a moon buggy, landing on the can and being thrown about by Bambi and Thumper). Yet there’s not the zest of his early years and the good living of those since have taken its toll on his waistline. Still, it’s a solid curtain call in Eon’s Bond from Eon’s original Bond.

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Bringing back Blofeld for a final fling’s appealing (after all, Bond should be out for revenge following OHMSS), yet radically altering the villain’s appearance, personality, voice et al with Charles Gray’s casting’s odd to say the least. That said, Gray makes hay in the role. Elsewhere, the allegiance-leaping and sass of Tiffany Case isn’t bad at all (Jill St. John’s a fine comic actress) but her ditziness pathetic, while Plenty’s eye-candy; eye-poppingly so, mind. More successful, though, are Wint and Kidd – their homosexuality may be played as exotically freakish (it’s the early ’70s), but they’re classic henchmen.

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To pay it its dues, DAF does feature a terrific fight scene (the claustrophobic tussle between Bond and Franks in the Amsterdam elevator, which ends with the fantastic use of a fire extinguisher) and a cracking car chase through the streets of a night-time Vegas, but that’s pretty much it. Contrasted with the bouts the athletic Lazenby’s thrown into in OHMSS, this movie generally backs away from putting Bond in non-comic pugnacious situations – because of Connery’s portlier appearance? Possibly. Plus, of course, there’s the oil rig action climax, which looks a bit cheap and feels tired and unimaginative.

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Among Bond fans, DAF tends to be a divisive film and that’s down to two things fundamentally – first, more than anything else it’s a comedy and, second, at times its humour’s swingeingly sardonic, while at other times undeniably wacky and just plain weird. That’s not to say it’s not funny, though; indeed, for me it’s easily one of the wittiest of the Eon canon with a number of great zingers. There’s also that fine ‘pipeline’ sequence and the legend that’s Klaus Hergesheimer, of course. But does it get just too daft (for instance, suggesting Bond’s become world-famous and Blofeld escaping in drag)? Yes, afraid so, folks.

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Blimey, only five points in this category for a Bond film whose sets were designed by the late, great Ken Adam? Well, yes, but this score’s not a black mark against the production design genius himself. His ‘money shot’ sets (the Starlight Suite penthouse, The Whyte House bridal suite and Metz’s lab at WW Techtronics) are all well up to the mark, although maybe not among his very best work, but elsewhere the blend of gaudy style (the Vegas casinos and costumes) and sleazy, dull visuals (Circus, Circus and the Baja oil rig) reinforce a tone more reminiscent of a dissolute Columbo episode than, say, a Goldfinger.

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Fear not admirers of Plenty O’Toole’s assets and gushers for Charles Gray’s Blofeld, there is one attribute where, for me, DAF kills it. Yup, for the third Bond flick running, John Barry delivers an absolute knock-out score. Embracing the nifty but naff glitz and glamour of Vegas, his themes and melodies perfectly reflect the flick’s setting; even stylishly and lightly mocking it (check out the instrumental version of the title tune used as casino-like background muzak in certain scenes). As noted, the title tune itself marks another series high for the Bassey/ Barry combo, while Wint and Kidd’s leitmotif’s the stuff of dreams.

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Maybe I’ve seen it too many times, but on this viewing it struck me there’s actually a sophistication to DAF (its sassy dialogue’s often Billy Wilder-esque and its narrative’s slyly smart – the smuggling pipeline and the fact it’s implicit rather than explicit Wint and Kidd are working on Blofeld’s orders). So much so there’s a good film here trying to get out. And yet, the side’s let down by the patent flaws (the humour gets so weird and daft it might as well be Bond parody, the villain and Bond Girl become ridiculous and the ending’s pants). Decades on then, it’s hard not to conclude that, quality wise, DAF’s the first 007 misfire.

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  1. 007 rides the lift to the top of The Whyte House, has fun with his piton and lands on the can
  2. Bond and the Blofelds face-off in the penthouse, but the former chooses the wrong pussy
  3. The Slumber Inc. hoods sneak up on Bond in his hotel room, yet he sees them off in style
  4. Mr Kidd faces a fiery end while Mr Wint leaves with his tails between his legs

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Directed by: 
Peter Hunt

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum

Starring:
George Lazenby (James Bond); Diana Rigg (Tracy); Telly Savalas (Blofeld);
Gabriele Ferzetti (Draco); Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt); Bernard Lee (M);
Angela Scoular (Ruby); Catherine von Schell (Nancy); George Baker (Sir Hilary Bray);
Bernard Horsfall (Campbell); Desmond Llewelyn (Q); Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny);
Yuri Borienko (Grunther); Virginia North (Olympe) and Ingrit Back, Mona Chong,
Julie Ege, Jenny Hanley, Anouska Hempel, Sylvana Henriques, Joanna Lumley,
Helena Ronee, Dani Sheridan and Zara (Blofeld’s ‘Angels of Death’)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 136 mins; Colour; Released: December 18 1969

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So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the sixth in the Eon Bond film series, adapted from the 10th Ian Fleming novel (1963). Filmed on location in the Swiss Alps, London and Portugal (mostly standing in for the French Riviera) and at Pinewood Studios, it’s the second consecutive 007 adventure directed by a first-timer (Peter Hunt) and the first to feature a new lead actor (George Lazenby). The plot picks up on Bond’s search for SPECTRE head honcho Blofeld, following the latter’s escape from defeat and doom at the end of the previous movie YOLT; yet, on his travels, 007 runs into an intriguing, irresistible beauty, whose family connections could prove the key to finding Blowers and who herself might just unlock our hero’s heart…

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked OHMSS joint first out of the then 23 official Bond films, noting it’s “one of the greats (if not the greatest?) of the series … it has everything you could ever want in a Bond film – and more”.

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Watched: 28/8/16 and 3/9/16

Refreshments: Yes, vodka – why spoil the habit of a Bondathon?

Nibbles: a Dairy Milk and a Wispa

0.40: The momentary freeze of the opening white spot across the black screen, so the words ‘Harry Saltzman & Albert R. Broccoli present’ can appear, and that to-die-for, ominously Moogy synth from John Barry rather suggests this may be a Bond film unlike any other.

0.46: Cameo alert! It’s director Peter Hunt ‘doing a Michael G. Wilson’.

0.57: Ah, Q and his radioactive lint and miniaturisation stuff. M couldn’t give a $%*&. Clearly Q didn’t get the memo this isn’t a Bond movie with gadgets.

2.40: I spy with my little, er, peeler Mrs Peel.

3.23: As he jumps out of the Aston Martin and we get a first glimpse of our first new Bond (after Connery), notice too he throws his hat off. I might be wrong, but this may be the last time any 007 wears a hat just for the sake of wearing one. Ever. Yes, that’s right, ever!

3.25: Love the arty, unexpectedly fast-expanding shots in this pre-title sequence. Adds some real dynamism and style to the visuals.

6.14: Quality and pretty brutal opening skirmish that. This new Bond can certainly handle himself. Great sound effects.

6.45: Ah, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the theme); boldly, the last instrumental ever to play over a Bond movie’s opening titles. And it’s an absolute stonker.

7.07: Poor old George Lazenby doesn’t get his name before the film’s title because he’s not yet a star. Ian Fleming does, though. ’Cause he, like, created James Bond and stuff.

9.18: Lazers’ fetching white suit with a pink shirt isn’t the only sign Eon have finally embraced the free-wheeling ’60s, given they – for the first time – confirmed the fact naked women have nipples via the silhouetted lovelies in Maurice Binder’s (yet again) ace titles. The times they are a-changin’.

9.58: I’ve always loved the fact Bond’s room at this hotel has a second – slightly tasteless – yellow bed on the balcony. What on earth does he need another one for? And why’s it on the balcony? For a swingers’ party? Blimey, let’s not go too far Eon; this isn’t Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

10.05: That day-passing-to-night shot with the hotel’s neon casino sign reflected backwards on the swimming pool’s rippling surface is easily one of the greatest shots in all Bondom.

10.50: Another rich old woman at the casino table. We’ve stepped into Agatha Christie again.

11.48: That’s some dress, Ms Rigg.

12.30: Agatha Christie loved Bond’s act of chivalry there in bailing out Tracy – even if Tracy didn’t.

14.44: That ‘gatecrashing’ fight really was crash, bang and wallop. Great stuff.

15.37: Another top shot as, in the extreme foreground, Tracy helps herself to Bond’s pistol from the holster he’s just left there, but he’s not surprised because, of course, standing in front of the mirror he’s been able to see all that’s happened behind him. Some fine filmmaking there.

18.12: Turns out that balcony bed came in handy then.

19.17: The costuming for the Bond films really has changed since YOLT – nobody in that film would have been seen dead in beigey-brown and orange. Both Bond and his main kidnapper are decked out in that colour palette.

20.13: Ah yes, the midget janitor whistling a couple of notes of the Goldfinger theme. He’s also supposed to augur the coming of Nick Nack in three movies’ time. All right, not really. I can’t back that up.

20.44: I so love that echoey-thuddy, expanding-shot-and-jump-cutting editing as Bond attacks the goons, then the seguing into him bursting through the door and the camera pulling back as he’s about to throw the knife. Real ‘New Wave’-inspired stuff. Marvellous.

21.17: Draco. He’s a cool cat, isn’t he? And, miraculously, his disability’s all cleared up since Once Upon a Time in the West. Ba-dum-ch.

21.44: For what it’s worth, in Fleming’s novel (which, in most respects, this movie’s very close to), this scene takes place in the trailer of a juggernaut rather than an ornate office/ parlour. Just as atmospheric, though. No, really.

26.34: “But sir, Blofeld’s something of a must with me” Haha, love how Bond phrases that line.

28.15: Lots of touches in these M/ Moneypenny scenes to encourage the audience to feel the jump from Connery to Lazenby’s seamless  (even if they’re as subtle as a sledgehammer), but really the idea and effort – after so many changes of actor over the years – seems rather quaint now really.

29.56: Mmm… Tracy in her riding get-up.

34.45: Yes, it’s a love-song montage. In a Bond film. And what a glorious love song. And, again, some glorious cinematography.

35.53: “Just keep my Martini cool”. Another line I’ve always loved.

39.23: “Whatever happens, there will be no regrets”. And that’s quite a poignant line from Tracy when you think about it.

39.44: Q’s ingenious safe-cracker-cum-photocopier does its magic while Bond takes a breather and checks out the month’s Playboy centrefold. It’s hard work being a ‘00’.

41.53: Hmm, wonder whether he’ll be showing that centrefold he’s half-inched to Tracy? (“Hey, honey, look what I just stole from the lawyer’s office!”) Probably not.

42.16: Always felt that M’s country digs are a little too grand to be called ‘Quarterdeck’ really – more Chequers than a captain’s cabin – but whatever.

43.03: Isn’t it about time M knew that Bond’s expertise extends to everything. ABSOLUTELY everything. Including lepidoptery.

43.10: Nah, M, that’s not going to stop Bond chasing Blofeld’s tail – there’s no good trying to mothball ‘Operation Bedlam’. Mothball. Geddit? Mothball?

44.16: Higgins may be doing an excellent job in tracing Bond’s family tree, but I’m surprised Sir Hilary hasn’t insisted he get a haircut. It may be 1969, but this is the Royal College of Arms.

45.43: Hooray, the Swiss Alps in the winter! A Bond location-and-a-half! I bloody love that cut to the whistling train packed full of après-ski expectant tourists.

46.07: Uh-oh, it’s Irma Bunt. The German equivalent of a Hattie Jacques matron. And then some.

46.43: And Teutonic heavy Gunther too, of course. Played by sometime wrestler and Bond-film-friendly stuntman Yuri Borienko – the stuntman, incidentally, whose nose Lazenby supposedly broke during his mock-fight audition for the Bond role. The moment that got him the gig, so legend has it.

47.37: I also love Bond’s MI6 mate (Campbell) tailing Bunt’s sleigh in that Herbie-like white VW Beetle with the skis on the back. So late-’60s cool. Like so much of OHMSS.

48.42: “Now up into ze Alps”. Stunning photography. Accompanied by a stunning John Barry theme too.

50.15: ‘Ze hayfever’ really is a terribly allergy (I can attest to that). Shame the Count wasn’t allowed to carry on and find a cure really.

50.36: “Not ground… izce!”

51.05: Ah, Piz Gloria atop the Schilthorn. A fantastic Bond villain’s lair – and remarkably similar to its description in Fleming’s novel, given it was actually built before the movie’s making.

51.30: “The Count does his work for ze sake of mankind”. Cobblers.

52.22: Wait a tick, the Count’s a baldy in a grey Nehru jacket and he’s stroking a white Persian pussycat! It couldn’t be? No…!

53.47: Bond’s prison-cell-like room in Piz Gloria looks better than my house.

55.10: That ‘traditional’ Scottish get-up complete with kilt and flouncey shirt-front really is something. Wonder what he keeps in his sporran?

55.16: Doooooo-doo-deee-doo! Duh-doo-dee-doo-dee-doo! Bond’s just died and gone to heaven. The real Sir Hilary’s in Normandy doing some brass-rubbing. Schoolboy error.

56.08: “Wot will yer drink, sir?” Always tickles me that one of Blofeld’s Piz Gloria guards is a Cockney.

58.48: There’s a real Arthur Miller/ Marilyn Monroe thing going on between ‘Sir Hilary’ and the girls, isn’t there?

58.56: Blimey, Sir Hilary has four gold balls! Again, the real Sir Hilary’s in Normandy. Doing brass-rubbings. Idiot.

59.30: “Iz anysing ze matter, Sir Hilary?” For sure, this section of the film’s the first time the Bond movies ‘go Carry On’, but it does it wonderfully well.

1.00.44: I’d never before properly clocked that framed print on the way to the Count’s office – a big red spot on a white square background. Is it supposed to denote the Japanese flag? And thus a reference to where the soon-to-be-introduced baddie based himself last time around (in YOLT)? I wonder…

1.01.17: Again, Blofeld (for, yes, it is he – and not Kojak; just looks and sounds like him) has the coolest of offices.

1.03.20: Incidentally, for those a little confused as to why neither Bond nor Blofeld bother to acknowledge they recognise one another in that first meeting this film (given they first met one movie ago in YOLT), they’re not playing some illogical, elaborate cat-and-mouse game – although they both really know who the other is. No, the answer lies in the fact that, as mentioned above, OHMSS was intended as a pretty straight adaptation of the source novel – in which neither character had met the other before. Make of that what you will.

1.04.30: There’s only so much genealogying any man can do. Especially if he’s got the horn.

1.05.14: That’s an ingenious use of a rubber. Ah, into the sporran it goes.

1.05.58: Phowar! Ruby Bartlett from Lancashire, Morecambe Bay actually, really is a bit of crumpet.

1.06.13: “Call me… Hilly”

1.06.53: Talking of rubbers in sporrans, I think he must hide condoms in there too.

1.07.52: The whole in-bed-with-Ruby sequence is another classic, if surreal Bond movie moment – it’s like Corrie meets The Prisoner.

1.09.25: “It is me, yes?” Who could say no to Catherine Schell, honestly?

1.11.55: “Sair Hilary!”

1.15.32: That disorientating, fading-in-and-out of the angel atop the Christmas tree and Bond’s face as the latter comes round really is to die for.

1.15.43: “Merry Christmas, 007”. And now, suddenly the Carry On stuff’s over, 007’s got his own (admittedly Antipodean-ish) voice again and we’re back into a traditional Bond movie. Love it.

1.18.50: Blofeld’s scheme is as barmy as ever, of course, but there’s something of a nice nuance to it, this time. Plus, its reveal in that scene is exquisitely done. Savalas aces it.

1.19.15: Yes, Bond’s MI6 underling really drew the short straw on this jaunt to Switzerland, didn’t he?

1.20.07: That pull-back shot away from Bond to reveal he’s been incarcerated in the cable car’s wheel room has to be one of the greatest shots in the series. Not just because it beautifully reveals his surroundings, but because it’s allowed to run for several seconds, enabling us to witness him start to investigate them. Beautiful filmmaking.

1.20.22: Prezentz! That Count’s such a lovely feller.

1.22.04: Who needs gadgets from Q when you can rip out the insides of your trouser pockets and use them as gloves?

1.24.41: How to catch a cable car, Bond-style.

1.26.35: You know, were I to listen to an echoey Telly Savalas voice at that point between wakefulness and sleep, I’m sure it could hypnotise me to do anything too.

1.27.55: Ah, that old entice-the-guard-into-a-punch-in-the-face-by-not-getting-out-of-the-just-arrived-lift routine. Works every time.

1.29.13: Still love the fact Bond actually wishes someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in a movie – and in a very Bondian way too.

1.29.25: The opening bars of the OHMSS theme as 007 clicks on his skis. So ominous. So cool. Such a great action sequence beckons…

1.29.59: Yet again Blofeld abandons his moggy as he has bigger fish to fry. And yet again that bigger fish is Bond. That cat really must hate 007 by now.

1.30.22: It’s Kojak on skis, ladies and gentlemen. And he’s wearing some very funky goggles. Actually, everyone’s wearing funky goggles.

1.32.09: Two skis are for kids.

1.32.23: “Idiot!”

1.33.45: Strangulation by ski. Not a particularly nice way to go. Even for a SPECTRE goon.

1.35.07: The punch-up in the bell workshop’s genius. You can just imagine the Eon meeting: “So how are we going to distinguish this fight scene?” / “Erm… how about setting it in a bell workshop?” / “Why?” / “It’ll be really, really, really noisy”.

1.36.00: Ah, Bond’s sheepskin jacket over his ski togs. For some reason, that’s a really cool look. Maybe because it’s Lazenby wearing it. He’d look good in a sack of potatoes. Without the potatoes still in it, of course. That’d just be silly.

1.37.00: Bond’s desperate attempt to escape from Bunt and co. is so effective, especially as he bounces into the giant polar bear-suited charlie and the flash goes off. But most of all because it’s counterpointed by the so chipper Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? Fine filmmaking again.

1.37.53: And then it segues into maybe my favourite shot in any Bond film – really: Bond sat down, hunched over as he tries to hide and he – and we – look up to discover a pair of oh-so comely legs in ski-suit-tights, panning up most unexpectedly to the lovely, lovely Tracy. “James…?” Blissful.

1.38.49: And the Bond Girl is 007’s saviour. A nice switch. And pretty much why Bond falls in love with her. Which happens right now, folks.

1.39.33: “Thank you, Tracy. You’ve got sharp eyes and beautiful… earlobes”

1.43.40: The car chase concluding in the stock car race is tops, obviously, but I’ve always found it funny there’s a stock car rally randomly taking place in an Alpine ski resort on Christmas Eve night.

1.48.29: The barn scene really is one of the strongest in the whole 24-film history of the series. Certainly the most romantic and so emotionally resonant. And pitch-perfect playing by Lazenby and Rigg. Plus, it’s marvellously topped off by Bond’s horniness getting the better of him.

1.49.25: The cinematography in this sequence really is stunning. Those white, white slopes. Oh, my.

1.52.47: An avalanche as a bad trip. Yep, it’s definitely 1969.

1.52.57: “A grave deep enough I think to prevent even 007 from walking”. Cracking line.

1.53.32: Bond goes New Wave again. That shot of a Tracy being pulled from the snow being repeated as a reflection in the window, as Bond remembers it, to ease us from the break of the Alpine action to M’s downbeat office scene back in Blighty is awesome.

1.55.15: One of the greatest of all M/ Bond scenes, that one. “A very curious thing, snobbery”. Indeed, M; indeed.

1.55.30: Yup, M turns him down, so Bond calls in the cavalry – specifically, this movie’s unique rival to MI6, Draco’s very handy army of rogues.

1.55.44: If anyone were still unconvinced of the quality of Michael Reed’s cinematography (how could they be by now?), then this shot of Draco’s trio of choppers near-silhouetted against the Alpine sunrise would surely do the trick. Outstanding. And beautiful.

1.55.50: And Barry’s score at this point, plus the perfect pacing before the raid begins, ramps up the tension expertly towards the finale.

1.56.40: Blowers trying to romance (an, admittedly, totally uninterested) Tracy. This Blofeld’s really unlike any other.

1.59.03: Draco’s handling – and put down – of the Zurich Air charlies is so cool. So Italian. And so cool. Even Marcello Mastroianni couldn’t have topped that.

1.59.59: Tracy and Blofeld’s witty repartee here was delivered by writer Simon Raven, I believe; hence why he gets an ‘additional dialogue’ credit in the titles (and Tracy’s words as she looks out on the dawn are actually some amended lines from James Elroy Flecker’s 1922 play Hassan: The Story of Hassan of Baghdad and How he Came to Make the Golden Journey to Samarkand). So there.

2.00.00: Anyway, enough poetry… who wants to see stuff get blown up?

2.01.31: It may not be original, but you can’t knock The Bond Theme soundtracking a Bond film climax.

2.02.15: Lazers’ 007 sliding front-first across the ice, firing his machine gun. Surely one of the coolest sights in any Bond movie?

2.02.28: Be honest, as soon as you saw them (like, about an hour ago), you just knew some goon was going to end up speared on those comb-like spikes next to the door, didn’t you?

2.02.30: And, for what it’s worth, Grunther really had no chance up against Tracy.

2.03.08: Flamethrower!

2.04.01: Those girls… Jeez, they’re spread all over the world! In the novel, they were only spread throughout the UK (Blofeld’s aim in the book was only to cripple the British economy, not the whole world’s) – OHMSS the movie may be pretty faithful to Fleming, but as always with Eon, the movie ups the stakes.

2.05.11: Not giving a %&* whether Bond gets out alive and knocking out his own daughter – bloody hell, Draco really doesn’t mess about when he’s at work, does he?

2.05.47: Bye bye, Piz Gloria. Maybe you should have been something less dangerous – like a restaurant. Ba-dum-ch.

2.06.12: Get set for OHMSS’ action climax part two… bobsleds!

2.07.45: Gotta love Blofeld’s cackle.

2.08.50: Bond’s helmet against the side of the bobsled run really does make a brilliant noise.

2.09.38: According to second unit director John Glen, it took them forever to shoot that tiny bit with the St. Bernard dog because he was rather old and knackered; although adorable. To be fair, he doesn’t look the youngest pup on screen.

2.10.10: Bond gets hitched. For real.

2.10.35: You know, given M, Q, Moneypenny and all of Draco’s hoods are there, I’ve always wondered why Felix Leiter isn’t. Shouldn’t he be 007’s best man? Maybe he couldn’t get leave from Langley.

2.10.49: The ‘November ’64 bullion job’ that M and Draco chummily start to chat about refers to the raid of Fort Knox in Goldfinger – but that of the novel, not the film. In GF the movie, nobody stole anything from Fort Knox (that wasn’t even part of the plan), but they did in GF the book. Another way in which this movie’s very faithful to OHMSS the novel. And, again, where it ignores Eon film continuity, for better or worse.

2.11.10: Q being lovably avuncular there.

2.12.00: That Bond and Moneypenny moment is poignant every single time. Something of a bittersweet foretaste for what’ll come too…

2.12.20: See, even Bond’s hats are supplied by Q. Apparently.

2.13.29: Indubitably!

2.14.50: Surely, surely anyone would find that ending moving. For me, have to admit, it really is perfect. Beautifully filmed, played and edited. Really hits me with a punch, even after all these years and all these repeat viewings. Such an emotionally satisfying but downbeat (and very late ’60s/ ’70s) way to finish a movie.

2.15.05: … And then Majesty’s’ version of The Bond Theme kicks-in (with that ominous Moog synth sound) to remind you that this has been a Bond movie. And Bond will return. Awesome stuff.

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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Ah, the ill-starred George Lazenby; the man destined to star just once as 007 – and long considered Majesty’s’ weak link. Well, it’s time to put that lie to bed. Refreshingly full of beans and with a youthful can-do-attitude to the Bond way of life, but importantly vulnerable too, his 007 isn’t actually a surprising marrying man here (unlike, say, Connery’s would be). Yes, he lucked out playing opposite Rigg, Savalas and Lee, his performance may have been smartly edited together and he wobbles now and then, but Lazers makes for a fine leading man considering the larrikin had never properly acted before.

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Is Tracy the best ever Bond Girl? Maybe. With such wit and so many wits, such self-reliance and bravery, such good looks and (in the end) bad luck and, well, such Diana Rigg-ness, how could 007 not fall for her? Another Bond icon gets a somewhat odd makeover here in the shape of Noo Wawk-accented Telly Savalas’s baldy action-man Blofeld (a little too left-field to be brilliant?), while Ilse Steppat’s Irma Bunt is the stuff of public schoolkids’ nightmares. Lest we forget, there’s all those ‘Angels of Death’ too; their transfer from book to screen works very well, especially Angela Scoular’s Lancashire hotpot Ruby.

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Like FRWL before it, much of Majesty’s’ success could be said to be down to it getting right the balance of an engaging thrills-and-spills-packed narrative with lashings of classic action. The stand-out sequences are obviously the tensely built-up and explosive raid on Piz Gloria/ bobsled chase and the groundbreaking ski chase down the Alp. But mention too ought to go the various scraps in which our man Bond’s involved throughout – all of them fast, furious, kinetic and a little more violent than we’ve seen in a while (Lazenby’s casting being a boon here). Even the inexplicable stock-car chase is a winner.

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It’s often said OHMSS acts as some sort of bridge between the Connery and Moore Eon eras and there may be something in that. Certainly the mid-section in which Bond seems to try and bang anything in a miniskirt is saucier and less filtered than anything else in the series thus far and yet, everywhere else, the humour in Majesty’s’ relies on old-school ’60s Bond film wit – the sardonic byplay between Bond and Tracy, Draco and Blofeld is cracking stuff. The impressive thing, actually, is that the movie pretty seamlessly (and unusually so for a 007 flick) moves between these two comic styles. No mean feat.

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No Ken Adam this time around, folks; instead it’s relative realist production design from Syd Cain – yet his cable-car wheel room set’s to die for. All the same, why OHMSS scores big here is because of the supreme cinematography of Michael Reed. Combining with director Peter Hunt, he gives this 007 opus a look that’s all sumptuous sunsets, Alpine vistas, Mediterranean neon and stylish ‘New Wavey’ flecks of light, unexpected camera angles and psychedelic shot-cutting for punch-ups and earthquakes. Thanks too to the Swinging ’60s fashions, the series arguably wouldn’t look this good again in 40 years.

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Yet another facet in which Majesty’s outdoes itself. In fact, this score (the series’ best?) is so diverse in melodies and styles, its themes could be split up and perfectly adequately spread across three separate movies. Obviously, the memorable stand-outs are Sachmo’s wonderful We Have All The Time In The World love theme (perfect as mid-movie ballad and as poignant instrumental) and the orchestral title-cum-action theme. But the martial cue as 007 arrives at Blofeld’s HQ, the tension-building one as he later revvs up to raid said HQ and the blaring, saucy Piz Gloria-bonking brass tune are all awesome too.

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I’ve been in love with OHMSS for 20 years now, ever since I first properly watched it (shamefully, years after many other Bond films of yore). And that’s a moot point because this Eon epic, overlooked for decades, packs so much of a Lazenby-like punch – in pretty much every way a 007 movie should. Beyond all the action, humour, style, music and FRWL-style narrative drive and ebullient sense of cinematic adventure, though, there’s that all too rare element too (at least in the world of 007) – romance. Which, come the end, gives you potent poignant, tragic feels. Can any other Bond film truly top all that?

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  1. 007 fires at the Piz Gloria goons – sliding along the ice on his front
  2. Bond escapes via cable car and is chased down an Alp – partially – on one ski
  3. James opens his heart, proposes to Tracy – and then initiates a shag
  4. Our man gets hold of the Swiss lawyer’s documents and snags a Playboy
  5. Bond sprints from the phone box and Bunt’s bullets and into Tracy’s Cougar
  6. 007 breaks into Draco’s office and expertly throws his knife at the ‘14th’
  7. Bond beds Ruby and Nancy – suggesting they call him ‘Hilly’
  8. Sir Hilary reverts to Bond and listens sardonically to Blofeld’s plan

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Directed by: 
Lewis Gilbert

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Roald Dahl

Starring:
Sean Connery (James Bond); Akiko Wakbayahi (Aki); Tetsurō Tamba (Tiger Tanaka);
Mie Hama (Kissy Suzuki); Teru Shimada (Mr Osato); Karin Dor (Helga Brandt);
Donald Pleasence (Ernst Stavro Blofeld); Bernard Lee (M); Desmond Llewelyn (Q);
Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny); Charles Gray (Henderson); Tsai Chin (Ling);
Burt Kwouk (SPECTRE #3) and Ronald Rich (Hans, Blofeld’s Bodyguard)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 112 mins; Colour; Released: June 13 1967

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So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

You Only Live Twice is the fifth in the Eon Bond film series, adapted from the 11th novel written by Ian Fleming featuring his literary espionage hero (1964). It was filmed in Tokyo and on several islands in Japan, as well as in Hong Kong and at Pinewood Studios in England. Helmed by series first-timer Lewis Gilbert, an acclaimed director known for British war films and neo-realist dramas like the classic Alfie (1966), it maybe surprisingly ups the ante in the fantastical and epic stakes; its plot seeing the sabotaging of a US space mission mid-flight forcing the UK – off the back of ensuring a nervy détente between the US and the USSR; the former suspecting the latter – to send top agent 007 to South East Asia and find whatever it was that half-inched the space craft, having semmingly come down in the Sea of Japan…

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked YOLT eighth of the then 23 official Bond films, claiming “if there’s one thing this film’s all about then it’s spectacle – and it deals that in spades. It surely takes a hard heart not to be entertained by Twice – and more than twice at that”.

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Watched: 15/5/16

Refreshments: Siamese (no wait, actually Belarussian) vodka

Nibbles: Peanuts, a Dairy Milk and other chocolates

0.38: Oh, how I love You Only Live Twice’s pre-title sequence – not least the opening with the sabotaged US moon launch. The fading of the gunbarrel’s ‘white spot’ and it opening out into the vulnerable little space craft, with the ominous notes of the John Barry’s music gets me. Every. Single. Time.

1.38: “Cap Com, this is Chris. I’m out. Everything looks OK” Don’t speak too soon, Chris…

1.48: Hey look, it’s Ed Bishop in Hawaii wearing a Hawaii-friendly, casual shirt. Here’s a thought, do you think he’s supposed to be Klaus Hergesheimer, working for NASA before he gets a job in the private sector for Willard Whyte in time for Diamonds Are Forever?

1.50: That’s not a serious question, by the way. Even though it makes sense. A little worryingly.

2.42: “The front is opening up!” Oh, %8&£!

3.14: “My lifeline, it’s cu…!” I did tell you, Chris.

3.27: And sitting behind Klaus, here’s Commander Carter. On detachment from the US Navy, presumably. What’s the matter, audience member, never seen a naval submarine captain in a Hawaiian space-tracking-station before?

3.40: Ah, lovely little scene with the Americans and the Russkies meeting at a neutral venue (a bit like an FA Cup semi-final). Nowadays they’d just do it via conference call – and spend the entire scene working out who’s talking to whom over a crappy, echoey connection.

4.41: “In fact, our man in Hong Kong is working on it now…” That Foreign Office charlie’s arguably even suaver than Bond. Like a Hollywood version of Dad’s Army’s Sergeant Wilson.

5.06: Hands-up, who doesn’t love the ‘uhh-ahh’ noise Connery makes as he adjusts himself in bed just after Ling gets up and declares “Darling, I get you very best duck”? Actually, hands-up who doesn’t love the line “Darling, I give you very best duck”?

5.38: Makes such a cool, funky noise as it’s pulled back down, that bed.

5.47: Ah, yes, humble Hong Kong army charlies know exactly who Bond is – and can identify him immediately. ’Cause, like, they’ve seen him at the flicks.

5.48: There you go – the YOLT pre-title sequence teaching the Skyfall pre-title sequence all it knows…

8.23: That’s one hell of a title song, think it’s only fair to say. Cracking titles too from Maurice Binder, of course. (Note how prominent – how near the end – Ken Adam’s name was in them; something to look out for as we go along…)

9.27: The recovery of Bond(’s body) to M’s sub really is marvellous. Again, soundtracked beautifully by Barry’s score.

11.39: Indeed, a pleasingly novel – if a little daft – variation of the M debrief/ Moneypenny flirtation sequence having it set on a submarine.

12.42: So cool how Bond burns up Henderson’s address there. So very cool.

13.37: Let’s face it; Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny never looked sexier than when dressed in her naval fatigues here and telling Bond she ‘loves him’. Funny they gave her a naval rank, though, when you think about it (edit: actually Second Officer in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, which was integrated into the regular Navy in 1993; her rank is equivalent to Lieutenant – yes, I looked it up, so shoot me).

16.49: Ah, Aki… ah me, Aki. She’s so lovely.

21.01: Henderson: useful contact; lousy cocktail mixer. Bond being courteous there, of course. In Fleming’s book, mind, Henderson’s a bigger character – in every sense of the word; he’s a somewhat boorish if cultured Australian. Sort of the antithesis of Charles Gray.

22.44: Gotta admire Henderson’s bumping off. And Bond’s ruse to find out who’s behind it.

23.30: “Good evening”. One of the best fights in all Bondom. Short, for sure, but so sweet – with them chucking the furniture at each other and 007 knocking out his foe so simply and ironically at the end.

25.20: Ah, the safe-cracking scene. During pre-training for the 1966 World Cup, the soon-to-be victorious England squad (yes, Bobby Moore et al) had a day out at Pinewood Studios and watched the filming of this scene. As true as I sit here. Typing this.

28.09: To this day, I still want to have a go on Tiger Tanaka’s slide. Just like I want to have a go on the slides in those subterranean tunnels in The Goonies.

29.27: He’s a cool, yet sarky sort Tanaka, isn’t he? One of the top Bond allies for me.

32.27: “Rule number two: men always come first; women come second” Whenever we watched YOLT at home, my dad always exclaimed ‘Quite right too!’ after that. Ah, dad jokes.

34.38: All things considered, Bond doesn’t have to try very hard to lay Aki, does he?

35.56: Nice touch having the entire office repaired and tidied up within mere hours. Right down to the little statue. Now that’s Japanese efficiency for you.

41.44: Yes, the helicopter with the giant magnet picking up the goons’ car is silly as hell, but it’s funny. Although Aki does seem to forget how to steer a car in the midst of it all.

42.30: The Kobe Docks sequence is YOLT at its very coolest. Mostly thanks to the unbeatable combo of Barry’s music and Freddie Young’s cinematography.

44.19: That aerial tracking shot of Bond being pursued across the roof by the harbour charlies– to the tune of the title theme’s blaring brass – is one of the most glorious of the entire series.

44.54: And, after all the effort of that fine escape, the irony of Bond being so easily knocked out and captured is delicious.

47.35: “Oh, the things I do for England” Left-over line from Thunderball that one, don’cha know.

48.30: Judo chop!

50.09: Cracking khaki army shorts on ‘Little Nellie’s dad’ there.

50.36: That jump-cut-construction of Little Nellie’s nicely done, for sure.

51.19: I love the way the little thing’s better armed than a battle ship, haha.

52.05: A welcome return of the 007 theme there…

53.36: …which rightly gives way to the James Bond Theme when the real action begins.

56.00: Haha, how I bloody love those air-to-air missiles fizzing back towards the final SPECTRE helicopter and blowing it to smithereens to the tune of the Bond Theme climax. Bloody awesome editing – and a bloody awesome Bond action sequence. Top marks.

56.10: Bond-san’s incredibly cool as he reports back to base, though. Just another afternoon at the office for him, I guess.

57.37: Those damned амерѝка̄нскӣ!

59.30: Hang on, that hollowed-out volcano doesn’t look very амерѝка̄нскӣ…

1.00.25: Ah, the silly Pentagon bods watching their TV screens like they’re taking a Media Studies exam. Or something. I love those silly Pentagon bods.

1.01.43: Jeez Louise, what a set that is.

1.02.00: Yippee! It’s Blofeld and his white cat behind the whole scheme!

1.03.30: Hooray! A monorail! You really can’t say no to captured cosmonauts riding a monorail.

1.04.49: Blofeld’s volcano-living-quarters is the one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

1.05.51: It’s just occurred to me why that bit at the end of every Apprentice episode when the hapless goons face ‘Sir Alan’ is so familiar – it’s a blatant rip-off of this scene where the bickering Osato and Brandt face Blofeld. I think we can all agree The Apprentice would be much improved if the useless twonks who get fired end up falling through a triggered bridge into a pool full of hungry piranhas.

1.06.00: “Kill Bond! Now!”

1.07.23: Ninjas!

1.08.57: “All rocket guns!”

1.10.15: I love the way in the operation theatre/ beauty parlour, Aki’s assistants (‘the plumbing’ in Tiger Tanaka’s house) are still all unnecessarily wearing bikinis and nothing else – not even any footwear. Imagine how cold their feet must be.

1.13.04: Ah, Aki… sleep peacefully, sweet Aki.

1.13.20: Call me a sop or just horny for her, but Aki’s death still gets me.

1.14.49: Critics of YOLT might well point to the ‘needless’ indulgence of the relatively slow wedding scene, but I really enjoy it – adds yet more (traditional) Japanese flavour and colour to the movie. And John Barry’s music is exquisite. Especially when the strings kick-in as Kissy looks up and Bond – and we – discover his ‘wife’ definitely won’t have a ‘face like a pig’.

1.21.05: Freddie Young’s photography of Kissy’s island is quite ridiculously gorgeous. Again, Barry’s score doesn’t hurt a jot.

1.23.36: Always loved that shot of Connery kissing, er, Kissy. Half his mind on sex; the other on the job, as he keeps his eye open and observes the approaching chopper. What a pro.

1.27.09: Bond must have been bloody hot all day with those ninja togs on underneath his fisherman get-up. Didn’t let it show, though, did he? What a pro.

1.27.46: The power of suction, ladies and gentlemen. Quite extraordinary suction, when you think about it.

1.29.52: Nice moving shot (from Bond’s P.O.V. hiding on the monorail car) of the volcano set – just to prove how enormous and thorough a set it is.

1.31.48: I have wondered before now how come Kissy’s not utterly exhausted from all her day’s mountain-climbing, Olympic-level swimming and helicopter-dodging to run about the volcano with Tiger and the ninjas come the climax. Thank goodness M’s sub pops up at the end so she doesn’t have to be shagged by Bond on top of it all!

1.33.55: So close yet so far… never mind, Bond, you’ll get into space in 12 years’ time. And that time it’ll be via space shuttle so not a suicide mission.

1.35.42: Not much tops that Blofeld reveal, let’s be honest.

1.37.58: And more ninjas! Hundreds of ’em!

1.38.50: Damn, those crater guns!

1.40.08: “I shall look forward personally to exterminating you, Mr Bond!” Donald Pleasence really is a treat.

1.42.11: Hats off to that ninja who chooses to fight off the SPECTRE dudes with his sword. Kills about 27 of them all in one go.

1.43.26: Bye bye, Osato (Thank you, ‘Sir Alan’). And Blofeld’s cat too – where does the furry thing bugger off to?

1.43.56: Those ninja snipers are cool as %8&£.

1.45.15: Bond taking out that guard on the staircase with a ninja-star really is the sh*t.

1.46.20: … as is the scrap with – and the demise of – Hans (“Bon appétit”).

1.47.53: SPECTRE Handbook Rule #137: If all else fails, destroy the evidence.

1.48.35: Yes, most Bond films end in the villain’s HQ blowing up; this one ends in a volcanic eruption. You can’t say fairer than that, surely?

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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Any Bond fan worth their salt knows – and will probably tell you – that, by this stage in the series’ proceedings, Connery was fed up, but don’t let anyone convince you he’d given up. Yes, his turn in Twice could hardly be described as electrifying, he’s carrying a few too many pounds perhaps and he has to endure that rather dodgy ’Japanese fisherman’ makeover, but he still delivers the physical stuff, the witticisms and, for the most part, looks as cool as 007 as he ever did. Connery’s Bond himself may not be the best thing about this movie, but this movie would surely be much the poorer without Connery’s Bond.

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I won’t hear a word against YOLT’s big-time baddie and major Bond Girls. Why? Well, on chief villain duties this time is the big-time baddie; SPECTRE #1 himself. And, although many 007 die-hards prefer other Blofeld incarnations, Donald Pleasence’s scar-sporting-baldy’s undoubtedly my top of the Ernsts – witty, eerily menacing and cast-iron iconic. Throw into the mix Akiko Wakabayashi’s lovely Aki and Mie Hama’s gorgeously spunky Kissy and you’re on to a winner. It’s a shame then Blowers’ underlings aren’t in the same league; Mr Osato a dull straw-man bad guy and Helga Brandt a poor man’s Fiona Volpe.

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Early Bonds were arguably espionage thrillers first; action adventures second. That maxim probably first properly reversed with this movie. Action’s a big deal in Twice. Not least the climactic volcano-set battle between Blofeld’s minion army and Tiger’s ninja squad – all Lewis Gilbert’s 007 films would conclude in such fashion, but this epic climax must have come as a pleasant surprise to YOLT’s original audience! The air-bound scrap between Little Nellie and the choppers is just as good – in fact, it’s Bond action at its best. The fight in Osato’s office is tops too; the car chase and plane crash-land-escape less so, mind.

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You know, YOLT’s rarely talked up for its comedic moments, but the witty byplay between Bond and his friends and foes is very much up to the mark. Plus, thanks to its screenwriter, macabre and children’s fiction bestseller Roald Dahl, its line in dark humour’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Take Blofeld’s outlandish punishment-of-death for the hapless Helga by having her cross a trick-bridge over a piranha pool. Or plucking a chasing car off the road with a giant magnet beneath a helicopter, then dropping said car in the ocean. Or having Henderson silently bumped off in mid-sentence. A real tale of the unexpected.

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This flick may be the late, great Ken Adam’s piece de resistance. Its budget was 10 times that of DN’s – released just five years earlier – and there’s a good chance much of that budget went on its sets. Not least, of course, the choice of so many of YOLT’s money-shots (and, instead of Connery, its real star), the extraordinary hollowed-out volcano base. Check out as well the mid-Century modern-on-acid fest that’s Tigers office (above) and Blofeld’s beautiful living quarters with that piranha-pool-bridge. And let’s not forget too Freddie Young’s bogglingly gorgeous cinematography of the idyllic-looking Japanese islands.

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Make no mistake, Eon’s go-to composer John Barry came of age with this movie. Had the Oscars not sniffily ignored Bond music back in the ’60s, Twice’s score wouldn’t just have been nommed, it may well have won. The reason is that this time out Barry brilliantly combines the ‘Bond sound’ he’d established over the four previous films (all jazz-inflected beats and bombast) with cool Oriental-style cues and luscious melodies driven by irresistible strings. Pretty much all the movie’s best bits (e.g. the Kobe Docks roof chase; Bond almost becoming an astronaut) are soundtracked by John Barry at his very finest.

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All right, You Only Live Twice may not be among the greats of the Eon canon, but certainly contains its fair share of classic elements. Chief among them, of course, is its ebullient battle royale of a finale making full use of the staggering hollowed-out volcano set. Indeed, that along with its irresistible cool Japanese vibe and the most memorable (and imitated) of all Blofeld interpretations – whose first appearance of any kind being delayed until the last third always delights me (top marks there, Roald Dahl) – more than makes up for its plot holes, loose editing slips and a Connery on cruise-control.

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  1. “Allow me to introduce myself… I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld”
  2. Little Nellie gets a hot reception – but sees off her suitors in style
  3. Blofeld interrogates Osato and Brandt – dropping the latter in the drink (with the piranhas)
  4. 007’s chased across the Kobe Docks roof by the goons
  5. Tiger foils Blofeld’s offing Bond; Uncle Ernst blows up the volcano
  6. Our man in Hong Kong fakes his death and is smuggled aboard M’s sub
  7. Bond takes out a guard with a ninja star and then despatches Hans (“Bon appétit”)

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Directed by: 
Terence Young

Produced by:
Kevin McClory (Executive Producers: Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli)

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins

Starring:
Sean Connery (James Bond); Claudine Auger (Domino); Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo);
Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe); Rik Van Nutter (Felix Leiter); Bernard Lee (M);
Martine Beswick (Paula Caplan); Guy Doleman (Count Lippe); Pat Fearing (Molly Peters);
Paul Stassino (François Derval and Angelo Palazzi); Philip Locke (Vargas);
Desmond Llewelyn (Q); Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny); George Pravda (Kutze)
and Anthony Dawson and Eric Pohlmann (Ernst Stavro Blofeld)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 125 mins; Colour; Released: December 29 1965

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So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

Thunderball is the fourth in the Eon Bond film series, adapted from the eighth novel written by Ian Fleming (1961), itself contentiously adapted from a screen treatment by Fleming, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. It was filmed in and around three locations: French capital Paris, the Bahamian capital Nassau and Pinewood Studios in England. Attempting to marry the lighter, self-mockery of GF with the tighter, more serious thrills of DN and FRWL, it has a plot that sees Bond tracking down a missing NATO Vulcan bomber and its two nuclear missiles, which have been stolen (unbeknownst to him and his superiors) by Emilio Largo, top agent with the SPECTRE criminal organisation. 007 has a lucky lead, however; Largo’s mistress is one Domino Derval, the sister of the NATO captain whom should have been co-piloting the jet, but whom Bond unwittingly caught SPECTRE substituting for a facially-altered underling…

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked TB 14th of the then 23 official Bond films, noting that it “sets the ‘fourth Bond movie mis-step’ trend” and that its “slow tone, crazy editing and boring underwater scenes threaten to sink it”.

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Watched: 14/2/16

Refreshments: White wine – again

Nibbles: Peanuts and a Dairy Milk – er, again

2.24: So, according to Bond (the ’65 model, that is), no woman should open a car door by herself? Presumably not the case if she’s alone and has to get into her own car, though? That would just be silly, Bond, surely?

4.33: The editing (and sped-up film) of the pre-title sequence leaves it all feeling a bit too frantic. Unnecessarily too, really.

4.53: Judging by Maurice Binder’s (as ever) clever opening titles, do you think this might be an aquatic Bond film? Don’t know about you, but I’ve an inkling.

7.13: ‘Produced by Kevin McClory’ (as opposed to Saltzman and Broccoli). Oh, the sh*tstorm he caused.

8.32: Woo-hoo! The SPECTRE meeting in the SPECTRE Meeting Room. And what a set from Sir Ken Adam. Splendiferousness.

9.20: Number 5, who claims SPECTRE’s made £50,000 from its ‘consultation fee for the British Train Robbery’ (nice topical reference that), really does sound rather too clipped, upstanding and… well, British for Blofeld and his cronies, doesn’t he?

9.36: Yeah, Number 9 looks far too smug and, dare I say it, too comfortable in his chair…

10.14: … Told you – frying tonight! Largo stays cool as a cucumber.

11.13: Wait, so Michael Caine’s boss from The Ipcress File’s defected to SPECTRE? No way! Har-de-har-har.

12.10: Bit sassier than she has been before, Moneypenny. Can’t blame her; might as well start teasing Bond given that’s all he ever does to her.

12.56: Why’s The Invisible Man looking in Lippe’s room too?

13.24: Never exit a room without stealing a grape. It’s in the ‘00’ Handbook, don’cha know.

13.55: Mmm, Molly Peters. Easily one of the sexiest women ever to have appeared in a Bond film. Word of warning: don’t google her at work.

15.02: As exercise machines go, ‘The Rack’ at least puts Bond in a physical position he’s familiar with.

18.35: Ah, Volpe the Voluptuous. Talk about a firecracker.

18:54: Derval: $&*”! That’s me!

21.40: I always think this bit feels a bit like an RAF promotional film (until the jet’s sabotaged, of course). Maybe just me.

24.19: Wouldn’t it be great if, when Bond’s finished unravelling Angelo’s bandages, there wasn’t a head there – Sh*t! It really is The Invisible Man!

24.50: If in doubt, always hit the fire alarm.

27.01: You know, it’s just occurred to me. What are the chances an alternative name for that ‘gamma gas’ is ‘Delta 9’ – and SPECTRE bought it a year or two ago from Goldfinger?

31.09: Angelo’s not going to be getting the ‘rest’ of his money then.

35.58: “Keep in touch, James; any time, any place”/ “Another time, another place” Read: “Sorry, love, I’m never going to see you again” (Actually that line was meant to be a bit of an in-joke, as one of Connery’s early movies had been called Another Time, Another Place)

37.14: I wouldn’t want to tell Fiona her business (who would, given she’s just blown up one of her colleagues), but that’s a real waste of a beautiful motorbike.

37.50: “Well, now that we’re all here” Bernard Lee’s line and Connery’s reaction – funniest moment in the movie.

39.40: You do have to kind of wonder why the map of the Vulcan’s range was behind that painting. I mean, has it always been behind there in the eventuality a Vulcan jet might get stolen one day? How long has it been behind there? I jest, of course, but I think you see my point.

42.35: Giant turtle to Domino: ‘I’m not a bleeding taxi, you know!’

44.08: Haha, I love Paula’s sexy cynicism. Has Bond already had his evil way with her or has she got a good cad-o-meter? Either way, within just a few hours she seems to have learnt what he’s all about. She’s more fun than Domino, to my mind.

47.37: I love how there’s always an elderly heiress at a casino table in the ’60s Bond films. Like they’ve just walked out of an Agatha Christie adaptation.

48.15: “Yes I thought I saw a spectre at your shoulder”/ “What do you mean?” Largo’s not very fast on the uptake, is he?

48.48: “You wish to put the evil eye on me, eh? We have a way of dealing with that where I come from!” SPECTRE can take the hood out of the Mafia (and give him an eyepatch), but you can’t take the Mafia out of the hood.

53.15: Ah, the old Dictaphone-hidden-in-a-book routine. A fantastic surveillance device – unless the intruder in your room gets bored and decides to read a book…

55.23: Evidently Felix has had another visit to the plastic surgeon. Wonder whether it was the same one who worked on Angelo Palazzi?

59.00: Some good, solid light relief from Q there. The Q scene – never fails.

1.04.09: Oh, look; it’s Fiona driving the first car that Bond hails. That’s a narrative coincidence, isn’t it?

1.05.34: 100-0 mph in one second there, as Fiona pulls up outside the hotel. Always makes me chuckle. She must be able to move down through the gears at light-speed and the car’s breaks must be Teflon-coated.

1.08.23: Nice sandals, Bond.

1.09.31: The dance Bond and Largo perform around one another – that they don’t know what the other’s up to – is more than a little ridiculous really. Given it goes on for the whole of the film’s middle third.

1.09.45: “Of course, Vargas does not drink; does not smoke; does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?” Judging by the look of him there, he likes to wear sunglasses at a cock-eyed angle.

1.10.45: Largo really loves sharks, doesn’t he? Do you reckon he watches shark porn like Chandler in Friends?

1.15.08: Poor old, Paula. She didn’t deserve that.

1.18.12: Bond: “Tell Felix Paula’s dead”/ Pinder: “OK” Pinder not giving a $&*” about Paula’s death is always tittersome.

1.19.07: The SPECTRE people really are fixated on Bond’s bathroom, aren’t they?

1.21.45: “My dear, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening I did for King and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure, do you?” Er, well, yes actually, 007. That’s exactly what she thinks. What everybody thinks.

1.27.53: Bond orchestrating – and the act of – the shooting of Fiona is top stuff, for sure. Then there’s the classic kiss-off line: ‘Do you mind if my friend sits this one out, she’s just dead’.

1.28.01: It’s not perfect, but the segment of the film from Bond discovering Fiona in his bathtub right through to her death is TB at its best. Mostly because of the presence of Fiona. The movie misses her after her demise.

1.33.50: “I hope we didn’t frighten the fish” Bond obviously forgetting there that fish, like, mate underwater.

1.34.23: Gotta love Bond biting into Domino’s foot to remove the egg-spine poison – a slightly surreal but wonderful moment lifted directly from Fleming, by the way (cf. the chapter ‘How to Eat a Girl’).

1.35.32: Give her her dues, Claudine Auger’s good in this scene as Domino faces up to her brother’s death. Connery looks like he couldn’t really care less, though; Bond’s so aloof, especially as he slips his shades on.

1.36.50: “I think he got the point” Still a classic line.

1.43.51: That’s torn it! Bond’s trapped in the underwater Bat-Cave!

1.44.53: Domino to Largo: ‘Don’t worry, that’s not a Geiger counter for tracking the atomic bombs, it’s just my camera-shaped vibrator’

1.49.26: Here comes the cavalry!

1.50.14: It all gets a bit frantic underwater in a minute , so let’s get it clear – Largo and his SPECTRE dudes are the bad guys in black; Bond and the US Marines are the good guys in orange. Or they’re the Dutch National Scuba Diving Team. One or the other.

1.59.59: Charlies on the Disco Volante’s jettisoned cocoon: ‘Son of a b*tch! They’ve left us behind – we’re $&*”-ed!’

2.01.01: Ha, there’s a guy bringing up champagne to the hydrofoil’s bridge – while it’s escaping at high-speed! (That’s before Bond clobbers him, of course)

2.01.53: Bond decks everybody (everybody!) – and with all the furniture – as the hydrofoil flies along at 2,000 mph.

2.02.30: Bit silly Bond and Domino’s ‘escape’ from the rubber dinghy, I’ve always thought – what if the pilot doesn’t notice them straggling along behind the plane…?

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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With the terrific opening troika of adventures behind us, we’ve now reached ‘Bondmania’ (the circus that surrounded TB) and, in terms of the Bond on offer here, it shows. For the movie’s first half, the Big Tam delivers the familiar big hits (sarcasm; sexy seduction; sardonic sparring with colleagues), but once we get to the Bahamas and Bond’s put on the back foot by Fiona or pushing buttons on gadgets to find the bombs or scuba diving every 10 minutes, he’s a more functional than essential figure, with few witty or noteworthy lines. Connery still looks great with real screen presence, but it’s not the full Connery.

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Many Bond fans seem to love TB (fair dos, it almost always looks good), but for me, that’s one of the problems – what’s beneath the surface that’s so good? That can be perfectly applied to the supporting cast and their characters. Domino’s a beautiful thing and a semi-tragic heroine, but are we really left caring about her much? Also, Largo makes for a striking figure, but he’s, well, rather dull. There’s many other gorgeous girls (but, aside from Paula, they’re little more than that) and SPECTRE peeps (who aren’t that memorable); the one exception is Fiona, who’s easily the movie’s most interesting, strongest character.

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In the past, I’ve been particularly critical of the sequence the whole film pivots around, the underwater battle between Largo’s Disco Volante dudes and Bond and the American frogmen, but must admit, this viewing it washed over me more pleasantly. Not only did it strike me the groundbreaking Bahamian Ocean-set photography really is impressive but the choreography deserves credit too – there’s nice detail in the individual skirmishes. Elsewhere, the action’s less successful. The climactic 007-Largo scrap is pants and the opening Bond-Bouvar fight ruined by inexplicable, heavy-handed sped-up-film editing.

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More consistently funny in its first half than its second, the movie delivers some satisfying laughs in the Shrublands scenes as Bond and the foxy Nurse Fearing flirt and spar, the MI6 HQ sequence where 007 and M antagonise each other, the Q scene (consolidating itself as an Eon tenet after its debut in GF) and, the best bit in TB, the SPECTRE meeting, where Blofeld fires/ fries a greedy employee – playful irony Bond-film-style at its best there. When we make the jump to the Bahamas, though, the funnies dry up somewhat; that said, Bond pretending he can’t use a gun and Fiona in the bath are top stuff.

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Revered for its visuals among those who revel in it, TB’s never really struck me as that impressive in the style stakes. All right, it’s no slouch; its Bahamian setting lending old-school glamour and its filming in Panavision may aid the impression it feels ‘bigger’ than some Bonds. Yet, aside from his pitch-perfect, grand but angularly stark SPECTRE meeting set, Ken Adam’s contributions aren’t enormously memorable (Largo’s yacht splitting in two may be a bit too gimmicky) and the overall boldness of the colour palette arguably feels as gaudy as it does sophisticated. Still, it’s hard to fault Fiona’s wardrobe.

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There’s nothing wrong with Barry’s score; it does the job admirably. But without much of the subtlety and wit of his fine efforts for FRWL and GF, it feels too often here that he’s relying – or falling back – on repeat downbeat snippets of the TB theme or blaring trumpet- and even bongo-dominated bombast. Fair dos, a movie’s score is to a large extent a reflection of what’s going on on-screen, of course. And the Bond-Domino moments are fittingly soundtracked by the moody theme from rejected title song Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Yet Tom Jones’ replacement tune for the titles has never really done it for me, sad to say.

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It had to come at some point and, for this series, it’s the fourth flick – TB’s the first Bond film that, instead of being a really good movie throughout, features a number of really good moments. Yes, it often looks opulent and is packed with cool gadgets, but is also bloated hokum with narrative inconsistencies, mis-steps (too much sped-up film) and loose touches you just don’t get in the best 007 escapades. And yet it deserves true kudos for its groundbreaking underwater action sequences and enormous fiscal success, ensuring Bond would be more than just an early to mid-’60s box-office boffo flash in the pan.

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  1. SPECTRE meets for the first time – a sizzling experience
  2. Bond dances with Fiona – leaving her ‘just dead’
  3. 007 demonstrates ‘how to eat a girl’
  4. Fiona scrubs up in the tub
  5. Vargas ‘gets the point’
  6. The briefing of Bond and all the other ‘00’s

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Directed by: 
Guy Hamilton

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn

Starring:
Sean Connery (James Bond); Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore); Gert Fröbe (Auric Goldfinger);
Shirley Eaton (Jill Masterson); Tania Mallet (Tilly Masterson); Harold Sakata (Oddjob);
Bernard Lee (M); Cec Linder (Felix Leiter); Martin Benson (Mr Solo);
Desmond Llewelyn (Q); Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny); Richard Vernon (Smithers);
Burt Kwouk (Mr Ling); Nadja Regin (Bonita) and Margaret Nolan (Dink)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 105 mins; Colour; Released: September 18 1964

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So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

The third in the Eon Bond film series, Goldfinger was adapted from the seventh novel written by Ian Fleming (1959) and filmed in the Swiss Alps, Kentucky and Miami in the United States and in and around Pinewood Studios in England. With a noticeably lighter tone than preceding adventures, GF sees Bond track a gold-loving tycoon suspected of not just smuggling out of the country a worrying amount of the UK’s gold reserve but also painting-to-death (in, yes, gold) his mistress. The trail takes our hero to his target’s Swiss HQ where he hears of ‘Operation Grand Slam’, the full ramifications of which only become clear when he’s transported as a prisoner to a stud farm-cum-lair in Kentucky – very near the US gold depository, Fort Knox…

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked GF joint 6th of the then 23 official Bond films and claimed that it’s “an absolute, bona fide classic of the series – and properly set the formula that every subsequent one has variously adhered to and divulged from”.

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Watched: 7/2/16

Refreshments: Gold (all right, French white) wine

Nibbles: A bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and peanuts

1.50: John Barry’s accompaniment to Bond breaking into the baddies’ lair (fantastic set from Ken Adam, needless to say) is so perfect – those stifled flares of brass, saxophone and harp.

2.25: I’ve never worn a wetsuit before, but if ever I do I can guarantee I’ll have a white tuxedo on underneath. And a seagull on my head.

2.39: “Yeeee-ahooo!”

3.56: Nadja Regin really has very reflective eyes, doesn’t she?

4.45: “Shocking, positively shocking” might just be the ultimate post-killing-a-bad-guy Bond pun.

5.05: Connery’s name before the film’s title – about time.

6.15: I’ve just realised (and never really thought about it before) – GF’s titles actually preview what’s coming in the film, don’t they? Nice work, Robert Brownjohn. Although Maurice Binder would never have done that.

6.35: Apropos my previous statement, Bond being chased by the helicopter and slipping over there’s from the climax of FRWL. Not so nice work, Robert Brownjohn? Hmm.

8.33: Miami Beach in the early ’60s looks bloody awesome.

8.39: Ah, Dink. Wait a tick, wasn’t she covered all over in gold paint a moment ago? Har-de-har-har.

9.00: Slapping women’s backsides and referring to the opposite sex as ‘the opposition’ – we haven’t exactly moved on very far from the prejudice of DN really. Although Pussy’s yet to come. Er, sorry, I mean Pussy Galore’s yet to come…

9.13: Yes, here it is… is it a pale blue bathing suit made of towel? Or is it a pale blue towel strangely shaped like a bathing suit? Whatever it is, Connery pulls it off and still looks as masculine as, well… Sean Connery.

9.31: Nice walk-on music there, Goldfinger. Gert Fröbe in the role he was born to play.

10.32: Back projection heaven, folks.

11.02: Haha, I love that hotel maid. Surely there’s no way a hotel maid would actually be that innocent and unknowing?

11.34: Combined with Shirley Eaton lying face-down on the balcony sun-lounger, that ‘Bond, James Bond’ introduction is undoubtedly one of the greatest of the series.

13.20: Even the pencil Goldfinger breaks in half is gold!

13.55: Sexy sax to take us into a love scene. Pretty raunchy sax, actually.

15.16: Needless to say, Bond’s quip about The Beatles and earmuffs is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sometimes I like to think that’s why Oddjob judo-chops him in the neck.

15.33: Oddjob’s leitmotif is so awesome. As are the shots of him knocking out Bond (with his silhouette) fading out and into the shots of Bond coming round – and, of course, leading into the discovery of Jill…

17.16: The break from the bedroom scene with the gold-painted, dead Jill to the incredulous M admonishing Bond in London (“Gold? All over?”) always get me. Top, top stuff. Barry’s score again is a big contributor.

19.16: “Moneypenny, won’t you ever believe me?” Moneypenny thinks: “No, of course not; you’re a womanising b*stard”.

19.25: Smithers from the Bank of England. Great stuff; I love Smithers.

20.32: M smelling the brandy (for ‘an overdose of Bombois’) makes that brilliant line of Bond’s (and M’s reply: “Colonel Smithers is giving the lecture, 007”) doubly funny.

21.42: There’s nothing quite so smile-worthy as a smug-looking Bernard Lee-M.

21.55: The first proper Q in the first proper Q scene! This is the stuff; right here.

22.19: That beautiful sliding shot to introduce the glistening Aston Martin DB5. Yeah, product placement’s a phenomenon only of the modern Bond movies – yeah, right.

29.22: You know, even without the golf connection, there’s something of the Donald Trump about Auric Goldfinger. Thinking on it, that’s a Youtube mash-up waiting to happen.

31.25: Oddjob decapitating the hapless Venus de Milo-like statue (whatever did it do to him?) is the ultimate henchman-showing-off-his-preferred-manner-of-killing-by-way-of-warning. Although, of course, in Fleming’s novel the equivalent is Oddjob killing a cat. Because he likes to eat them for his dinner. I kid you not.

32.55: Technically, you can see where I live on that map on the Aston Martin’s homer screen. True story.

33.13: The Swiss Alps, ladies and gentlemen. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait five years until On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for snow.

34.07: “Discipline, 007. Discipline” Think it’s fair to say I’d have the same problem with Tania Mallet.

36.06: The DB5’s tyre slashers are so cool. It’s all about the double spinning motion with that sound effect.

38.33: Connery’s would-be-innocent-cad routine’s so marvellous.

40.31: Look, it’s Cato!

42.20: “Quick, get in the car!” Here we go…

44.42: Aw, poor Tilly. Oddjob, she’s not a statue, you know – it’s not like you can do that to actual people!

46.30 And… alley-oop! That’s how you use an ejector seat.

46.48: Never trust a kindly old lady – you never know when she’ll transform into a gun-toting hag.

48.22: Another magnificent (and eerie) spy-fi set-up and set, enhanced by those low synthy tones. Why’s Bond tied to that table? What’s going to happen to him?

49.44: Technically, it’s not gold, you know, Goldfinger; it’s a beam of light you’re pointing at. Having said that, though, you’re the one with the f*ck-off big laser, so who am I to argue?

50.38: “If I fail to report, 008 replaces me!” Poor old, 008; he still hasn’t got to do that, has he?

51.50: “You are quite right, Mr Bond. You are worth more to me alive” Golders saves Bond from being killed by being cut in half by a laser only then to have him shot (dead?). Quality wry humour; that’s GF all over.

54.05: Pussy’s immune to Bond’s charm (at least to start with) because she’s supposed to be a lesbian, of course (“I’m strictly the outdoors type”). As was Tilly in the novel. Which may explain one or two things about both characters. Basically, it’s all spelt out a great deal more in Fleming than in the movie.

54.30: Bloody Bond. He gets far better treatment when a prisoner on a flight than I’ve experienced on any flight I’ve been on – and paid for the experience.

54.58: Sydney checking out a glamour mag there – ’cause that’s exactly what you want your co-pilot doing mid-flight.

57.11: Always found it curious M’s looking at a book from his bookcase when Moneypenny puts him through to Felix. What book do you think it was? ‘101 Ways To Improve How You Order About Spies’? Actually, why does a 20th Century spymaster need a bookcase in his office in the first place?

57.31: Felix also seems to be based in an office across the lawn from The White House. Call me crazy but, you know, I’m pretty sure that’s not where the CIA hangs out…

1.00.17: Sexy sax again. This time for sexy pilots with pointy tits. Nice.

1.00.35: Ah, Auric Stud. In Kentucky. With twangly-guitar music. Not exactly one of the classic Bond film ‘locations’.

1.00.55: Having said that, 007 pointing out that Auric’s horse is ‘certainly better bred than its owner’ must be the best put-down in Bond history.

1.01.40: The look on Bond’s face, suggesting he can’t believe Goldfinger’s had the effrontery to finally put him in a cell, always tickles me.

1.01.54: Nice cameo from The Colonel there. Felix just can’t resist those bargain buckets.

1.02.37: Hmm, the American underworld gangsters that Goldfinger’s in cahoots with – the characters that were added to the script at the eleventh hour by an 11-year-old, presumably.

1.03.16: “Or 10 millions tomorrow”/ “Did you say 10 million” (Goldfinger thinks: “No, I said 10 millions”).

1.07.07: The way Bond escapes his cell is pretty ingenious. If pretty stupid on the guard’s part.

1.10.03: Clever, clever 007 trying to get the message to the CIA by wrapping it around the homer and giving it (unwittingly) to Solo (“Happy landings, old boy”). Shame it doesn’t work.

1.13.31: The ‘pressing engagement’ sequence with Oddjob, Solo, Felix, his lackey, the homing signal and the car-crusher is sodding brilliant. And, eventually, morbidly funny.

1.21.00: Goldfinger’s plan is ridiculous but, as Bond points out, ingenious (and irons out the plot-hole in the novel; where the villain actually attempts to impossibly steal gold from Fort Knox). Ironic that ‘economic chaos in the West’ is the last thing that today’s China would want, of course.

1.24.32: ‘Rockabye Baby’ (Pussy and her Flying Circus’s spreading of the fake nerve gas so the troops aren’t wiped out prior to Goldfinger storming Fort Knox) underwhelms me again, sad to say. Comes off rather flat and not particularly thrilling. Bit of a problem as it’s crucial to the climax. Barry’s music is peerless throughout, mind.

1.30.28: Bond thinks: “Not that bloody emasculating laser again!”

1.31.29: You have to admit, Ken Adam’s Fort Knox set is convincing. No wonder, on the movie’s original release, Americans were genuinely convinced – and concerned – the US Government had actually allowed the Bond people to film there.

1.33.31: Goldfinger looks enviously at all the gold – ah well, he’s got enough of his own.

1.33.40: Bond’s handcuffed to an atomic bomb. Sh*t…

1.38.35: Bye, bye, Oddjob. It was fun.

1.41.03: Bond: note to self – must learn how to defuse a nuclear bomb for later adventures…

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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Compared to those in DN and FRWL, Connery’s turn in GF’s often overlooked. But it shouldn’t be – it’s one of the greatest Bond actor performances. Far from overshadowed by all those gadgets on his DB5 and the movie’s more outrageous moments, this 007’s the perfect compliment to them, delivering the centre of conceivability, logic and subtlety that (for this stage of the series) this fantastical flick requires. And yet, the most obvious aspect of Bond this time out is his irresistible wit and sardonic delivery. For some reason, Connery isn’t often rated for his talent for light-comedy – in GF it’s in fantastic full evidence.

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As far as bad-guy one-twos go, it gets no better than evil tycoon Goldfinger and his would-be indestructible brick-sh*thouse manservant Oddjob. Olympic wrestler Sakata’s perfect as the henchman, as is Frobe as his master; his villain’s affable-as-hell (rare for Bond baddies) but equally ruthless and sadistic – yet special mention should go to the man behind his voice, Michael Collins. Conversely, GF’s girls aren’t in the same class. Pussy’s a fine foil for Connery’s quips but, for all her protests, a fantasy figure turned by Bond too easily, while the Mastersons beautiful but thinly sketched.

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For such an acclaimed and popular Bond film, it’s rarely noted that its action isn’t really up to much of the rest of the series. Fair dos, the emphasis this time out’s on lightening the series tone and it’s still the 007 era when characterisation’s king and plot (however daft it may be here) all-important. Plus, there’s no question that vehicular chase around Goldfinger’s Swiss factory buildings allowing the DB5 to show-off all its marvellous wares (including that ejector seat) is the stuff of Bond lore. Elsewhere, though, it’s slim pickings really, not least Bond and Oddjob’s climactic but disappointing Fort Knox scrap.

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More than anything, GF’s a comedy. And it’s properly funny; smart-funny. Why? Because it sends up the Bond film itself. Nothing’s beyond its pseudo-satiric eye: the orotund villain (shamelessly sucked out of an aeroplane window); the showpiece car chase (injected with an ejector seat and a nice old lady firing a machine gun); Bond’s boss (shown up by lack of brandy knowledge) and, most of all, the hero himself (shown up for his brandy knowledge, near-tortured-to-death not for intel but for the sake of it and unable to switch off a bomb, which further mocks him by stopping on his code-number). Now that’s funny.

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After FRWL’s semi-neo-realism, GF brings back that fantasy of DN – and pushes it further. And it’s all thanks to the return of production designer Ken Adam. The best of his sets this time out aren’t just fantastical but beautiful – the cavernous cathedral of gold that’s Fort Knox, the (plot-wise silly?) stud farm playroom, the pre-title sequence baddie’s lair and, of course, the so sleek, so cool laser table room (above). But let’s not overlook the costumes, not least Bond’s white tux and iconic grey suit. The sour note’s in the locations, though – the Swiss mountains (lovely, but no snow) and a back-projected Miami.

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In the last review, I claimed FRWL’s score deserved more credit even though it was GF’s that – in album form – knocked The Beatles off #1, but there’s a reason why the latter did that: it’s the first great Bond soundtrack. With its incredibly iconic title tune for Shirley Bassey (whose career it made) and its outstanding use of that theme, throwing in flaring, blaring brass, thrilling strings and orchestral bombast to underscore the moments of excitement, it’s faultless. Not least because it also perfectly accompanies – and reinforces – the subtler moments of drama (e.g. Bond’s discovery of the dead Jill).

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Arguably the most iconic of all Bond films (the DB5, the white tuxedo, the golden girl, the greatest villain-henchman double act and the laser of all lasers), GF’s usually at its best when at its funniest. And often it’s marvellously acerbic; the meta jokes keep ticking just like Auric’s atomic bomb. Blessed with a plethora of great moments (as well as a handful of supreme sequences – the end of the car chase into the laser table scene into Bond meeting Pussy is an irresistible troika), it rarely puts a foot wrong, but the fact it does – ‘Rockabye Baby’ being just plain dull, sorry – makes it more 18- than 24-carat for me.

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  1. Bond on the laser-table
  2. Jill gets a gold makeover
  3. Goldfinger’s goon gets ejected from the DB5
  4. A white tuxedo (and a red carnation) under a wet-suit
  5. 007 visits Q – for the first time
  6. Auric’s sucked out of the aeroplane window
  7. Oddjob blows his fuse
  8. Bond introduces himself to the black lingerie-clad Jill
  9. “Shocking, positively shocking”

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Directed by: 
Terence Young

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum and Johanna Harwood

Starring:
Sean Connery (James Bond); Daniela Bianchi (Tatiana Romanova); Pedro Armendariz (Kerim Bey);
Lotte Lenya (Rosa Klebb); Robert Shaw (Donald ‘Red’ Grant); Bernard Lee (M);
Vladek Sheybal (Kronsteen); Walter Gotell (Morzeny); Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench);
Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny); Desmond Llewelyn (Major Boothroyd);
Nadja Regin (Kerim’s Mistress); Aliza Gur (Vida); Martine Beswick (Zora)
and Anthony Dawson/ Eric Pohlmann (Ernst Stavro Blofeld)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 110 mins; Colour; Released: October 11 1963

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review_template_pre-film

So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

From Russia With Love was the second Eon effort, based on Ian Fleming’s fifth novel of the same name (1957), of which it’s a generally pretty faithful adaptation. Its exterior shooting took place in and around Istanbul where, plot-wise, 007 is sent to meet a beautiful Russian cypher clerk, whom has contacted the British, claiming to have fallen in love with our hero via his photograph. If he comes to meet her and helps her defect, she’ll throw in a Lektor decoding machine. Even though Bond’s boss M smells a rat, he sends his man off to Turkey, not realising that it’s a hugely dangerous – and, for MI6, compromising – trap into which the agent’s stepping, masterminded not by the Soviets, but sinister criminal orgnisation SPECTRE… out for revenge following the demise of Dr No.

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked FRWL 4th of the then 23 official Bond films, noting that “with a terrific script that stays true to Fleming, canny direction and excellent casting and performances, [it’s] a triumph of a Bond film”.

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Watched: 17/1/16

Refreshments: Red (sadly not Russian red) wine

Nibbles: Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and peanuts

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1.40: Bam! And then a slow, quivering, uneasy few notes of The James Bond Theme – the first, fabulous sign John Barry’s ‘Bond Sound’ is going to kick-off with this movie.

2.25: Wait a tick, he’s killed James Bond!

2.53: Wait a tick, that’s not James Bond!

3.02: Ah, the first Bond film pre-title sequence – and it’s a doozy, all right.

4.17: Robert Brownjohn – not Maurice Binder – designed FRWL’s titles; they’re certainly funky, with the actual neon titles projected on to the belly dancer’s body at groovy angles.

6.02: Kronsteen. Gotta love Kronsteen. Now, just by looking at him, do you think he’s going to be a goodie or a baddie? Be honest now.

6.41: The debut of the SPECTRE octopus logo, ladies and gentleman. On, er, a paper coaster.

7.30: “My congratulations, sir. A brilliant coup!” I love that line. Who doesn’t love that line?

8.07: Blofeld and his white pussycat. Following Dr No’s tease in the previous movie, we get to see both at last. As well as Blofeld’s tank of Siamese fighting fish. The clever fish is just like SPECTRE apparently. Like, obviously.

8.52: Klebb takes the p*ss out of Kronsteen’s non-villainous past-time of playing chess. Banter.

11.13: Mmm, Grant’s masseuse. You know, I noticed this in Dr No; if you were an attractive woman and appearing in a very early Bond film, it appears it was a requirement you had big tits. I mean, I’m not complaining, but Broccoli and Saltzman really seemed to have a thing for ze ’ealthy chest, didn’t they?

12.19: SPECTRE Island training camp – doesn’t get any cooler than this, folks!

17.05: After briefing Tatiana in the novel, Klebb then attempts to seduce her while wearing a flimsy nightgown and an overabundance of make-up. I imagine the filmmakers suspected the early ’60s Bond movie audience wasn’t quite ready for that scene.

18.00: The good old Bentley – the first James Bond car.

20.23: You know, I’d never noticed that giant green safe at the back of M’s office before. Wonder what he keeps in it? Brandy? Whisky? His Razzle collection?

20.43: Hooray! In comes Q – or, rather, the ‘Equipment Officer’, as he’s referred to here – and his ‘smart-looking piece of luggage’. Bloody smart, in fact.

23.55: Gold sovereigns in briefcases for potential bribing and code-phrases between contacts. FRWL really is old-school espionage fiction, isn’t it.

28.48: Bond checks out his hotel room to the tune of the Bond Theme. Maybe it’s playing in his head? Seriously, though, it’s so cool a piece of music, it even makes bug-detecting an aspirational activity.

32.23: Not exactly the bang Kerim and his secretary/ mistress were expecting…

33.27: Grand sewers indeed – Kerim: “The Emperor Konstantin built it as a reservoir 1,600 years ago”/ Bond: “Really?” Haha, Bond couldn’t give a sh*t.

34.54: Up periscope!

37.20: Ah, the sojourn with Kerim’s ‘gypsy friends’ – has to be said, in FRWL one classic Bond sequence really does segue into the next.

38.13: “Ah, raki – filthy stuff!” No arguments there, Kerim.

39.14: Bond and co. do some ‘navel gazing’…

40.40: “Sank you! Sank you! Ha-ha-ha!” I love the gypsy camp leader. He’s clearly a right shifty, old b*stard.

42.37: Womens’ gypsy camp wrestling – better than Big Daddy vs. Giant Haystacks any day.

42.42: And John Barry’s 007 theme makes its debut…

44.18: Quality how Grant keeps on popping up to keep an eye on – and save the life of – Bond. Ensures he’s not off-screen for a vast stretch until the train in the last third. Clever screenwriting that.

46.54: So who did Bond choose out of Vida and Zora (the movie rather modestly doesn’t inform us)? I’ve always wondered, haha.

51.53: “I think my mouth is too big” It’s not as big as Anita Ekberg’s, Tania. Har-har-har.

51.36: Klebb has a ringside seat for the sexy time. Urgh. Bit envious though, to be fair.

1.00.14: “Oh, once when I was with M in Tokyo we had an interesting experience…” M and Moneypenny’s reactions? Priceless.

1.00.45: The blending of the Lektor-recording in Istanbul to the scene in M’s office and back to Bond reading M’s cable back in Istanbul is class. Pure class. Lovely cinematic storytelling.

1.04.30: The blowing up of the Russian Consulate and the stealing of the Lektor and escape to the train really is bloody marvellous stuff. Not least because it’s backed by the 007 theme.

1.10.47: If Connery’s Bond were ever to marry someone, it would so be Tania, let’s be honest.

1.12.42: Alas; bye, bye, Kerim. You were so much fun.

1.17.42: As it knows we’ve got it by now, FRWL doesn’t bother to have us listen to the MI6 agent codeword-exchange every time; just gives us the ambient train and platform noise over the top, making it seem doubly covert and cool. Smart and grown-up filmmaking, right there.

1.18.47: Enter Captain Nash. Bond’s, like, who’s this? The plot thickens…

1.21.44: Red Chianti with grilled sole? Big mistake!

1.23.15: Of course, FRWL’s always cooking with gas – but when Bond and Grant are alone in the compartment together from this point on, right through to and including the fight, it’s pretty much cooking with rocket fuel.

1.27.33: The ultimate villains’ plan reveal in a Bond film? Robert Shaw’s sodding brilliant in this scene.

1.31.52: Grant hoisted with his own petard – yeah, that was a pretty brutal scrap, old man. Love how Bond relaxes afterwards by coolly and calmly tidying up.

1.34.07: “’Scuse me” Smack! Haha. Nobody decks a man like Sean Connery does.

1.36.35: A bit reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps? That’s because this sequence was filmed in the Scottish Highlands, don’cha know.

1.37.37: Bond the crack-shot. With an aim that precise, he’d crush all comers at the Olympics; it’d be the worst competition ever.

1.38.55: A naff cap’n’s cap with a Saville Row suit? Not the best look, Bond.

1.40.00: “Three men were found dead on the train at Trieste – one of them was Grant. What have you to say Number Five?” How about, ‘I’m @#”-ed!’?

1.42.28: “You’re trapped, Mr Bond. You’re trapped. You cannot escape” Oh, really?

1.44.44: Yeah, clearly they didn’t teach a ‘speedboat pursuit’ course at SPECTRE Island…

1.48.57: So do you think Tania ever made it to London, or did Bond (after having had his wicked way with her one last time) just left her in Venice – and with the bill to foot for that boat ride…?

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The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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What’s so good about Connery in FRWL is his restraint. Later Bond thesping would pivot a good deal around delivering innuendos, looking good/ hard in suits and, yes, raising eyebrows, but while he does all that here it’s to less of an extent, as this Bond turn’s mostly about understatement and nuance. And that’s arguably all the more impressive because he’s reacting to events rather than driving them in FRWL; willfully stepping into the baddies’ trap and only understanding his predicament until it’s almost too late when his smarts, brawn, sass and cool come to the fore – and win the day.

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Never would there be a better welter of SPECTRE characters in a Bond movie than here – the rather repulsive Klebb with her poisoned toecaps; the enigmatic Blofeld; the arrogance-is-his-Achilles’-heel Kronsteen and the twisted, pugnacious and incredibly able Red Grant (Robert Shaw’s every bit as terrific as Connery). Even Morzeny’s good value in his black leather jacket. Must admit, I’ve never rated Tatiana enormously before, yet this time understood the appeal – although I still think she seems more Italian than Russian. The rest of the girls are window dressing, but the wrestling gypsy pair are good fun.

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Like its immediate predecessor Dr No, this second 007 adventure doesn’t rely on action set-pieces to keep the Bond bandwagon going (to its credit, admittedly) and that’s in spite of it possessing perhaps the greatest one-on-one fight in the entire series as Bond and Grant battle it out to the death on the train. Daubed in ethereal blue light, it’s hard, visceral and properly pacy – pretty hardcore, you might say, for an ‘A’ (‘PG’) movie in the early ’60s. The gypsy camp battle and speedboat-set semi-finale don’t at all come close. But Bond fleeing from the SPECTRE chopper and eventually shooting it down is top stuff.

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All hail Ali Kerim Bey. Pretty much the greatest of all Bond allies, Armendariz’s pitch-perfect take on MI6’s Turkish section chief makes for a wonderful, warm, witty double act with Connery’s wry hero – so much so, its like wouldn’t really be seen in the series again. So sad that Armendariz was in great pain throughout filming and died shortly afterwards; it doesn’t show at all. Elsewhere, the vague absurdity of Bond and Tania’s coming together is nicely played for laughs, while M and Moneypenny’s reaction to overhearing 007 tell of his and his boss’s presumed saucy encounter with Tokyo geishas is priceless.

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As much as Istanbul’s a fine exotic locale, its not the capture of this city that’s the most eye-pleasing thing about FRWL – indeed, in this viewing I noticed just how often the iconic Hagia Sophia basilica is featured in the distance, which isn’t really necessary; actually, it feels a bit like an over-reliance. No, the quality in FRWL’s look is most derived from Ted Moore’s outstanding cinematography. There are entire sequences that are deliciously filmed, such as Bond and Tania’s rendezvous at the basilica, Kerim killing Krilencu and especially Grant’s – posing as Nash – meeting Bond (see shot above).

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The soundtrack to Goldfinger tends to get a lot of love from fans – no surprise, it did knock The Beatles off the #1 spot in the album charts – but FRWL’s music shouldn’t be overlooked. For it’s here that John Barry’s oh-so distinctive ‘Bond Sound’ can be first heard; listen to all those zithery strings building tension and those brilliant stings underlining exciting bits. Matt Munro’s title theme doesn’t play over the opening titles (as every other one would), but it’s a decent tune and, along with the Bond Theme, a wurlitzer version fits those titles fine. Plus, there’s a debut for the marvellous martial action theme 007.

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With its finely executed plot of attempted entrapment and train- and boat-bound chase and would-be assassination, FWRL stands tall among the Bond movies – and is so good it might be said to transcend the series itself. The Eon adventures would rarely get the blend of captivating thrills, blood-pumping spills, espionage intrigue, touches of wry humour and unforgettable sequences this right again. A standard bearer for the Eon entertainment factory’s output then; its sophisticated approach to the Bond movie has been used as a blueprint to re-launch the series on at least four separate occasions – so far.

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  1. Grant explains it all; the penny drops for Bond
  2. Kerim shoots Krilencu out of Anita Ekberg’s mouth
  3. Klebb’s killer-toecaps almost do-in 007
  4. A stroll through SPECTRE Island training camp
  5. Blofeld’s SPECTRE tête-à-têtes aboard his Adriatic-moored yacht
  6. Red wine with fish – whoops!
  7. Kronsteen’s summoned and wraps up his chess match in seconds
  8. Bond and Kerim spy on the Ruskies via periscope
  9. 007 shoots down a helicopter by hitting a bloke inside with one shot
  10. Bond lets loose his boat’s fuel barrels then fires at them to set the SPECTRE boats ablaze

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Directed by: 
Terence Young

Produced by:
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Screenplay by:
Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather

Starring:
Sean Connery (James Bond); Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder); Josesph Wiseman (Dr No);
Jack Lord (Felix Leiter); Bernard Lee (M); Anthony Dawson (Professor Dent);
John Kitzmuller (Quarrel); Zena Marshall (Miss Taro);
Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench) and Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny)

Certificate: PG; UK/ USA; 105 mins; Colour; Released: October 5 1962

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review_template_pre-film

So, what is ‘The Great 2016 007 DVD-athon’? Well, it’s a marathon viewing over several months of the entire Eon series of James Bond films in chronological order. Why? Why the hell or not. All right, this sort of thing has been done before – not least in the shape of this terrific attempt and three or so years ago on this very blog – but with the DVD release of Spectre (2015) coming up, it seemed a fitting time (read: excuse) to re-watch every official 007 escapade and clog up this nook of the Internet with one’s thoughts on each and every one of them. Again. A blog is nothing if not (self-) indulgent, right?

Dr No was released all of 53 and a bit years ago and, as the very first of the Eon 007 adventures, is the only possible place to start any Bondathon worth its salt. Principally filmed in Jamaica and an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s sixth Bond novel of the same name (1958), its plot concerns a genius scientist attempting to sabotage the United States’ progress in the space race (and, therefore, its effectiveness in the Cold War) by sending US space rockets off-course via satellite beam-derived fiddling – aka ‘toppling’. James Bond, Blighty’s finest, gets on the case when the villain’s file and that of the island on which his HQ resides (Crab Key) go missing at British Intelligence’s Jamaica office.

In my Bondathon of three years ago, I ranked Dr No 11th of the then 23 official Bond films, noting that “essentially [it’s] a detective story set in the colourful Caribbean and with an explosive ending [and] it’s one of the tightest, simplest and … most effective entries in the series”.

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Watched: 31/12/15 – 1/1/16

Refreshments: Two glasses of Chilean red wine

Nibbles: A bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk

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0.07 (Yes, 0.07!): Those groovy beeps always surprise me. So’60s futuristic and sci-fi-y.

0.17: … And then the very first gunbarrel and the James Bond Theme over the first ever titles. What an opening for a Bond film. So pure. So cool.

0.58: Connery’s name not before of the film’s title. Feels odd.

2.05: The Bond film titles may be in genesis, but Maurice Binder’s work’s still awesome.

3.08: The opening scene of the first Bond film starts with a card game and gambling – even if Bond’s not in it. Nice.

5.20: The killing in Jamaica to the MI6(/7?) Communications room to the chap ordered to meet Bond at the Le Cercle casino. Beautiful storytelling. And easily one of the greatest sequences in the entire series. Not even adapted from Fleming!

7.39: Bond’s introduction – better than sex?

8.35: “Tell me, Miss Trench, do you play any other games? I mean, besides chemin de fer?” Ladies and gentlemen, James Bond’s first innuendo. Thousands more to come. As it were.

9.00: Nobody hands over a business card like James Bond.

12.00: M’s alternative line: “You’re not the Major Boothroyd I ordered!”

14.07: “Ciao”. That’s the way to exit a room, all right.

14.46: “There, now you’ve made me miss it”. That’s the way to enter a room, all right.

15.25: Eunice Gayson’s eyebrows are crazy. Roger Moore crazy. Ludicrously sexy too, though.

20.28: Bond wins his first fight without even taking his hat off!

23.43: Mmm, first vodka Martini. Although, those are some really high-waisted trousers Connery’s wearing there.

24.28: Who needs gadgets when you’ve got talcum powder and a full head of hair?

28.11: Quarrel. Legend.

29.07: “Book ’em, Dano!”

37.47: Ken Adam enters… The bit when Dr No gets really gets interesting. That eerie cell set. That disembodied voice. That tarantula in that cage.

42.15: Is that a big hairy spider or just chest hair?

42.36: Whack! Whack! Whack-Whack-Whack! John Barry’s orchestra really goes for it in time with that slipper, doesn’t it? (In the novel, Bond’s sick at that point; in the movie, Connery merely feels his stomach and goes into the bathroom as we fade-out – this ain’t a Craig Bond film).

46.09: The street-smart Quarrel getting his ‘navigational directions’ from his nose, his ears, his instincts? Less legendary. As is him being spooked by tales of dragons. It’s the early ’60s, I guess.

49.41: Miss Taro opens the door – !@#”! He’s still alive!

56.22: “That’s a Smith and Wesson and you’ve had your six” – very film noir. Although I don’t recall any of Bogie’s detective heroes killing anyone in cold blood. Bond the assassin – just like Craig’s – right here.

58.41: Bond and Quarrel row into Crab Key – and Dr No goes all Swallows and Amazons. Gotta love this almost minimalist section until the Dragon turns up.

59.51: Botticelli’s Venus. In a bikini, sadly…

1.00.17: … And then Connery starts singing. Erm? Have we stepped back into Darby O’Gill and the Little People?

1.02.10: “You promise you won’t steal my shells”/ “I promise”. Don’t worry, Honey; Bond clearly couldn’t give more of a crap about your shells.

1.04.04: Quarrel: Holy !@#”! That crab’s scarier than the baddies’ boat with the machine gun!

1.04.40: “Listen, both of you, there’s no such thing as drrrragans” – Connery schools his students.

1.05.16: “Fetch my shoes”. And then the look back at Quarrel. Cringe…

1.07.06: Who needs gadgets when you’ve got reeds to breathe through? Clever, clever, 007.

1.11.13: Honey’s character development – Ursula Andress looks terrific and ain’t bad at all, but credit to Nikki van der Zyl’s voice-over for sure.

1.12.28: Yeah, that doesn’t look much like a dragon, let’s be honest.

1.13.29: Quarrel’s demise really is grisly!

1.17.30: Bond goes spy-fi for the first time here – Ken Adam’s ace subterranean rocky walled-tunnel daubed in pink light and giant bronzed submarine-like door.

1.17.45: Ah, Sister Rose and Sister Lily. Love it. The soft treatment – a ‘mink-lined prison’. Disorientating for Bond and Honey – and for the audience too.

1.20.34: Enter Dr No. Sort of. Those steel hands! Who is this feller?

1.23.40: Dr No’s living quarters – now, that’s what you call a set!

1.27.18: “I prefer the ’53 myself”. A reference to Casino Royale’s year of publication perhaps? (à la the casino chip number in 2006’s Casino Royale?).

1.27.54: “I’m a member of SPECTRE”/ “SPECTRE?”/ “SPECTRE”. And so it begins…

1.30.10: Ken Adam ‘triangulates’ his set design to make even a prison cell look cool.

1.33.25: Bond in the tunnel – to be fair, it did look like he needed a shower.

1.35.02: More cracking spy-fi – those radiation suits look like something out of a ’50s space B-movie. But still very cool. The funky, synthy soundtrack at this point adds to the atmos enormously too.

1.36.54: “Fuel elements? Fuel elements? Where’s Chang…? Chang! What are you doing there? Get on the gantry!”. Dr No’s anger and Bond’s mimed response always makes me titter. Gives the impression Chang’s always b*ggering about.

1.40.24: Cracking death for Dr No.

1.41.33: “Where’s the girl I came in with?”/ “I dunno”. Connery knocks him out – that’s how you deal with goons who don’t give you the answer you want!

1.41.52: Appealingly elaborate, if pointless, torture-to-death for Honey there.

1.42.47: And the villain’s lair goes boom! I’ve the oddest feeling we’ll be seeing that again in the series…

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review_template_post-film

The small print: each film is reviewed and rated in sections – seven of them: ‘Blighty’s finest’ (James Bond himself); ‘Crims, crumpets, strumpets and thump-its‘ (villains, Bond Girls and henchmen); ‘Crash, bang and wallop’ (action); ‘Sean Punnery or Roger Moore the merrier?’ (humour); ‘Cool look or Phuyuck?’ (design and look); ‘Musical magic or soundtrack tragic?’ (music) and ‘Quality-ometer’ (overall quality). Each film starts with a standard score for each section (‘007’ – seven points), from which it either gains points (e.g. +1, +2 or +3), loses points (-1, -2 or -3) or stays on the standard score of seven points. Additionally, each film will gain further points at the end of the review for particularly memorable, nay iconic Bond film elements – ‘Bond bonus points’, which will boost its total score. Finally, check the very bottom of the review to see where the film lies in the DVD-athon’s rankings.

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In his first starring role of considerable note, it’s impressive how well Connery steps up to the plate – he displays unmistakeable confidence as Dr No’s lead, as well as a big dollop of thesp talent. To watch him here is to watch an actor becoming a movie star; plain and simple. His Bond too is arguably the most like Fleming’s until Craig would earn his ‘00’ stripes 44 years later; nuanced, conceivable, ruthlessly efficient, oozing machismo and, yes, sex. This Bond isn’t so much a lady-killer but an assassin with a killer smile. He’s tall, dark, terribly handsome, capable as hell and very dangerous. In short, almost perfect.

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It’s hard to fault Joseph Wiseman’s big-bad; despite relatively little screen-time, he’s a hell of a baddie, emitting intelligent evil, menace and cruelty – he sets the standard for all the villains to come. Even more iconic is Ursula Andress as Honey, of course; if Dr No made Connery, it (and her white bikini) did exactly the same for her. Yet, she’s not quite as compelling or invested a character as she might be. Conversely, as the lesser ‘good girl’ and ‘bad girl’ respectively, Trench and Taro are excellent but, despite his terrific death, Professor Dent’s far from a shark, more a wet fish.

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From a Bond film formula perspective, action is Dr No’s weak point. The most satisfying bit is when Bond’s gorgeous Sunbeam Alpine rental’s pursued by goons in a hearse along Jamaica’s winding hill roads, only for the latter to explode into flames and end up at the bottom of a mountain. But why does it actually explode? There’s also Bond’s first ever fight with a baddie, who’s posing as a Government House-employed driver, but he basically just beats him up, and 007 and Quarrel shooting at Dr No’s rather pants dragon-tank. Not to forget too the superb sequence of our man escaping his cell in the villain’s HQ and enduring an arduous time in ventilation shafts, but that’s more a torture sequence really.

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Humour in this film’s derived from wit and usually understated. But that’s far from a bad thing. From 007’s quips-following-killings (“Don’t let him get away”/ “I think they were on their way to a funeral”) to Bond and Sylvia’s sexual innuendo-fuelled encounter in his flat to the former’s pause when Honey asks him if he has ‘a woman of his own’,  it’s good stuff. Less belly laughs; more satisfying chuckle-inducers.

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While Dr No’s far from the most aspirational-by-look Bond film (Jamaica of the early ’60s offers something of a rustic, nay impoverished beauty that’s very appealing if you’re into early post-colonialism; certainly if you’re a fan of Fleming), it does however give us our first glimpse of what set designer extraordinaire Ken Adam could and would go on to do. The above cell/ waiting room in Dr No’s base is the best example – mid-modernist minimalism meets eerily-angled gigantism (note the use of shadow created thanks to fantastic film lighting). The shape of things to come – if you’ll excuse the pun.

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The basis for a spat that persists to this day, the first Bond movie’s music gets two up-ticks thanks to its introduction and prominent use (straight off the bat over Maurice Binder’s starkly dynamic opening titles) of the iconic James Bond Theme. It was derived and originally penned by Monty Norman, based on a tune he’d created for a quickly forgotten stage musical. Yet its brilliance is down to John Barry’s re-arrangement, reliant on brass, a bit of jazz and a rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. The rest of Dr No’s sound – dependent on Norman’s use of Caribbean-esque themes – is far less memorable.

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More than just the Bond film in genesis, Dr No is a strong, compelling, entertaining movie in its own right. No question. Yes, it lays the groundwork for the escapades to come (the incredibly appealing if enigmatic hero; sexy main heroine; OTT nemesis; lesser good and bad girls; exotic setting; ‘PG’-sex and explosive ending), but it takes the absolute best from the Fleming source novel and, although toning down some of its fantasy, introduces an irresistible spy-fi vibe in the last third. A good brew then, blending film noir and fantastical technology into an otherwise fairly straight espionage thriller.

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  1. 007’s introduction (‘Bond, James Bond’)
  2. Honey Ryder emerging from the sea
  3. Bond shooting Dent
  4. The James Bond Theme over the opening credits
  5. The ‘Strangways radio in Jamaica-British Intelligence communications room in London-finding Bond at the casino’ sequence
  6. 007 and No verbally spar over dinner
  7. Ken Adam’s first spy-fi-Bond film set
  8. Bond catches Sylvia playing golf in his apartment, leading to a whole new ball-game

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