28 October 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1967)

1967 - Casino Royale - Detroit Free Press’s blurb ‘A spoof to end all spy spoofs!’ on the DVD cover is a bit misleading. Spoof implies that there is some humor to be found here. There isn’t. Trust me there isn’t. In fact, the only part of it that I find truthful is that it salts the earth in the ‘let’s make fun of spy movies’ garden, at least until the ZAZ crew makes it big.

A Russian character at the beginning of the film says, while surrounded by hungry lions, “I did not come here to be devoured by symbols of monarchy!” which by my account should make me laugh. Changing every 00 agent to 007 to protect the agency, as well as the MI-6 training program consisting of femme fatale resistance should be laugh-worthy. Figure out why they’re not and you’ve figured out what makes Casino Royale so insultingly terrible. With the exception of Woody Allen’s performance, there’s the feeling of ‘funny on paper, not funny here.’

A bunch of time, money, energy etc. could have been saved by not filming the worthless introductory dialogue and the destruction of Bond’s mansion. It also would have shaved ten minutes off the run time. We don’t even see McTarry die, so there isn’t even a need for Bond’s visit to his widow. That’s another half hour shaved off right there, no suffering through the unfunniest series of skits I’ve ever seen in my life (Scottish rituals sure is wacky take that Scotland). Where was the editor during this? Did one even exist?

Magic tricks, Orson Welles? Really? Fine, whatever, thanks for the contribution.

The actor playing (the real) Bond doesn’t help in the slightest. The stammering, a “joke” I guess, was a terrible idea. Why wasn’t this caught at the offset? And John Huston directed the first two chapters? Sheesh, someone was on drugs. I wish I was.

The conclusion I have come to is that the viewer should be the editor: skip watching the film entirely, bringing the runtime down to a nice, sexy 0:00. Never have I seen such a criminal misuse of a lucrative franchise, a studio budget, and a talented cast. A note to super villains: next time you capture 007, make him watch this. It is torture to the edge of madness.

“I have a very low threshold of death. My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.” (2.5/10)
d. John Huston, Ken Hughes, Val Guest, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath

1967 - You Only Live Twice - Heheh, “Bond rises in the East.” I get it.

So let me get this straight… Bond pretends to be a corpse for as long as it takes for his burial at sea to be arranged in order to allow his overly planned fake death? Fair enough, but the sea-faring motif was perfectly executed in Thunderball. You’ll need something to make it seem fresh… Japan! Of course! Shoot Bond out of a torpedo bay until he arrives in Tokyo! No he can’t use the bloody door, just do it! Sigh, I miss Terence Young already. He certainly wouldn’t have stood for this approximation of the Bond universe. Who the hell does this Gilbert guy think he is, anyhow?

Connery still owns the attitude, but either it has outgrown him or he has outgrown it. Apparently two years is enough time to make him look too old for this. Probably why he decided to “retire” from playing the role; he won’t even go down a slide (28 sec) anymore! It is a bit understandable, considering what transpires in this film, i.e. mostly insipid bullshit. Evidence suggests that Connery is only believable as Bond when Young is directing (unless Irvine Kershner pulls through).

You Only Live Twice has an all right line going for a bit, wasting no time introducing several allies and staging a fight scene and an escape sequence. Sure, Japan’s equivalent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service is made to be quite the cuckold when Bond points out that all they need to do is ENLARGE THE PICTURE in order to generate some leads, but it’s fine… for a bit.

No, it’s slow to realizing that the film is going to be a low point in the series. The real killer is when they turn Bond Asian and suspension of disbelief takes a well-placed ninja knife to the spine. No point in doing the disguise at all, really, as assassins seem to have no trouble recognizing him. Bond stumbles across the secret volcano base completely by accident afterwards, and the disguise inexplicably disappears.

Where Thunderball was a wonderfully believable dream, this installment is a shock back to illogical reality. The villains decide that shooting at Bond right outside of one of their buildings in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses would be a good way to get rid of him. Not the most ingenious of plots. Neither is kidnapping both Russian and American astronauts in order to… you know what, I’m not even sure. Play both sides, I guess. World domination, whatever. Go hunt Michael Myers, Pleasance, you aren’t helping.

I have been foolish in thinking that I knew what thin was. Lesson learned. Thin is interrupting a torture scene to get implied sex out of the way before Bond is once again attempted to be done away with in a less-than-totally-diabolical fashion. Thin is forcing a wife on him so his sexy sidekick can be killed with no one noticing.

It’s barely anything beyond one stupid scene after another. Ninja Training School, bird-no-make-nest-in-bare-tree my ass. I wondered where the sharp gradient into pitiable action set-piece territory would occur. Here it is: elegant Bond in the throes of death.

“Mr. Osato believes in a healthy chest.” (4.5/10)
d. Lewis Gilbert