11 November 2007

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1973-1975)

1973 - Live and Let Die - Bond clashes with the seventies because he’s so progressive. He is? Yes.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is Roger Moore, Bond as a hotshot Cary Grant, less refined and more topical humor oriented, escaping harrowing situations not with a dark comic spin but with lightfooted wackiness. Moore’s got the look and he’s got the demeanor, but not so much the attitude, and therein lies my biggest complaint with this outing: did I accidentally walk into a Howard Hawks picture?

Owning a kind of Superfly/The Enforcer tone, 007 smirks his way through a simple mystery involving a kingpin and his pointlessly psychic assistant. Great action set pieces contained within, one with a double-decker bus, another with a grounded plane, a third with a bunch of speed boats and comic-relief police cars, and there’s even an escape from crocodiles. You certainly cannot fault any of the action.

For what you can… I’m not too sure. What is clear is that forcing the tone of the film to reflect the era doesn’t work. Bond is so out of place in this environment that it seems like sheer goodwill that he is allowed to survive. The producers were concerned that his suave elegance no longer interested a peace-loving antiVietnam-war audience, who wanted more of bluntly violent Dirty Harry-style justice and meandering plotless road trips. They didn’t consider that perhaps, maybe, the reason why Bond was sloping is because the material was missing some of the intelligence of earlier entries.

Heheh, “Butter-claw,” the first funny Bond quip since Thunderball’s “You can’t win them all.” Guy Hamilton does good here. It is clear to me that style isn’t his strength. He is much better at atmosphere. Is it just me, or is voodoo never adventurey? It can be scary or disturbing, not ‘boy this is fun.’

Yapphet Kotto as Kananga is a wonderful villain, second only to Blofeld. Bond’s confrontation with him at the climax stands at even height to the best Bond films. It gets undeniably cool towards the end. If only the rest of it were as interesting as these final scenes. Did that man ‘splode? Very much so.

I would have preferred a better debut for Moore, at the very least it’s a step in the right direction.

“Trouble!” (5.5/10)
d. Guy Hamilton

1974 - The Man with the Golden Gun - A return to the well, sorta. Gone is the prevalent 70’s tone and back is the dreamlike whimsy. Course, the problem is that the story could have been compressed to about an hour. Well, okay, more than just one problem: terrible opening theme, a stupid midget sidekick, Moore smacking women around and grabbing sumo ass, which is not my idea of spy coolness. That sort of thing is sure to send some corpses spinning.

Scaramanga’s obsession on dueling with Bond is the focus, but it is so overwrought that by the time it finally happens, it’s more of a relief that at least we don’t have to sit through any more setup. Christopher Lee's catlike also fails to interest.

It’s no cat-and-mouse game if there isn’t a mystery at work. We know why Scaramanga’s bad within the opening scene; he kills people by boring them to death in a stupid funhouse. After that, the progression is pretty simple: Bond figures something out, cut to a shot of Scaramanga looking pleased, Bond figures something else out, cut to another shot of Scaramanga being a puppeteer again. This gets tedious very, very quickly.

In spite of its numerous shortcomings, it does has its moments. The solar power implementation is neat, and Goodnight and Bond have great chemistry, probably the only thing that did fully immerse me in the film. I cared about those two kids getting together, even if it is painfully inevitable.

The Man with the Golden Gun ultimately saves itself from being terrible, barely, and I suppose that means that it is only a waste of time and nothing worse.

"I like a girl in a bikini. No concealed weapons." (5.0/10)
d. Guy Hamilton