Tales from the Crypt: "Deadline" (1991)
The only thing of interest here is the out-of-nowhere expressionist set in the framing scenes. (5/10)
d. Walter Hill
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
1964 - Goldfinger - Right out of the gate, director Guy Hamilton shows us that he isn’t quite as talented as director Terence Young. Thin plot isn’t something that can look like it was shot on MGM’s backlot, which this entry looks consistency like it does (with such liberal use of projection screen cutaways, it’s no wonder green screen is as widely used as it is today; why even go to locations anymore). Look at it in the wrong way and it all falls apart, and I guess I’m looking at it the wrong way. Who’s idea was it to frame an opposite angle of Goldfinger in a way that makes it look like Bond can see him from the binoculars? Honestly, that’s insane.
1962 - Dr. No - You’re a filmmaker and you’re told to grab the audience at the offset with a good opening, and since you’re Terence Young and you’re awesome, you take that to mean making kickass opening credits. So you call up Maurice Binder and let him work the magic. The result: you, yeah you, wait until those weird 50’s sci-fi noises finally stop and then it’s time for ROCKING, a loud orchestral climax followed by flashing colors and an early Romanek iPod commercial. Sweet.
We’re off to a great start for a series that is more or less in the experimental stages, in a film which sets about breaking rules in the action genre, the spy genre, and the noir genre. Combining old Hollywood shooting style with a hip, exuberant editing style. A story that while told in a meaty adult tone, is pure candy at the core.
There is an inherent quickness; Bond accomplishes goals almost faster than the camera can catch him, quipping at times when it is most damaging to those in proximity and only expounding on the plot when another character needs to hear it. Not much handholding going on until the title villain’s speech towards the end, and by then, it’s like, fifteen minutes before the fadeout.
Connery truly was born to play this role. Every action looks calculated and professional, even when he is caught off guard by kinky dames playing golf in his hotel room. And does he sidestep danger? Hell no, he meets it foolishly head on, making sure he sleeps with Miss Taro first before he turns her in, what any good OO agent would do.
So okay, enjoyable as it is, I’m finding it hard to accurately explain how I feel about this film; it’s a miracle that it works, that it was pulled off at all. It’s got bulls-eyed style supplemented with confident camerawork, brutal killings, and appropriate humor, enough to balance it all out and distract from how ridiculously thin and dreamlike this stuff is. Did Bond just fight a tarantula? Yes. Yes he did.
Honey Ryder’s iconic introduction is the most unnecessary moment in the film, but it’s a marvelous addition to the rich tapestry. By the time all motives are revealed and the showdown above the radioactive isotope finally occurs, it doesn’t even matter that Dr. No Hands is obviously not Chinese. It is an inexplicably good ride.
Oh, and Felix Leiter, now properly named, is yet again, a badass.
“You’ll be sorry! You’ll all be sorry, you rats!” (6.5/10)
d. Terence Young
George and Matt going commando and raiding a secret government facility, kidnapping their experiment and destroying first their weapon and then their entire building is pushing things a tad too far. (6/10)
d. Kenneth Johnson
1954 - Climax!: "Casino Royale" - Certainly gets the series started with a couple of bangs, and gets me all geared up for some suave spy action.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of this, but it ends up being surprisingly watchable, like they adapted the most exciting part of the novel and sewed in the necessary information. "Climax!" Oh, I get it.
It’s fairly well-executed for a live broadcast, full of atmosphere and neat set design. It looks like a casino, it feels like a casino. However, the restraints do bring it down in the long run, as a large portion of Act II is spent playing a suspense-less Baccarat game and running back and forth across the same locations. And what can Bond do to someone holding a cane-gun to his back but flail wildly backwards? I’ll have to remember that one.
Disregarding wardrobe, Eisenhower hairstyle and lack of absolute suave confidence, Barry Nelson’s performance was adequate. I can only imagine how audiences were reacting to this first portrayal of 007, especially if they were oblivious to the novels. Within the context of the rest of the series, it might seem like blasphemy to see James Bond acting like an insecure Rock Hudson, his character constantly referred to as "Jimmy." At times his performance goes a bit too far, getting all tv-frantic and overacty. Act III is the shining point, where his obvious vulnerability works for the hot water the character is in, pitted against the always frightening Peter Lorre.
It’s a bit of a shame, but Clarence Leiter steals the show, fooling henchmen left and right, flawlessly wearing his cover while protecting 007’s interests and being an all around badass. He’ll do what he damn well pleases, he will.
Most of the common elements are present: intrigue, listening devices, mysterious dames, supervillain on high, double crosses, torture to the edge of madness… There is no sex but to tell you the truth, I didn’t miss it. Hell, I even got a small kick out of what looks like tv’s most unconvincing Baccarat dealer ever.
Worth a view for those curious to see another version that is better than 1967’s spoof.
"My cane is in your back, but it is a gun, not a cane, and can blow the base of your spine without a sound." (5.5/10)
d. William H. Brown
Happy Birthday. 45 years since the release of the first official entry in the James Bond film series. This calls for consecutive viewing, it does. The way I figure, if it’s good enough for TBS to marathon once a year, it has to be good enough for me, right? Right.
This will be useful, since I have trouble recalling the details of some of the earlier films in the series. Outside of my overall rating, events, characters and plot points bleed together, and I’m not entirely certain what happens in Octopussy; it's quite possible that I have never seen it.
Atonement of this inexcusable laziness consists of purchasing all four volumes of the James Bond series, as well as the separately packaged 21st film, viewing unofficial entries, and resolving not only to watch everything in order but to follow up every film with the corresponding extras on the discs (yes, that includes full-length commentary). I expect to be the nerdy Pai Mei of Bond films after this is all over. If not, I will at least stop getting Bond wrong.
Afterwards, I can tally my intellect with the Bond Scene-It DVD mini-game included in Volumes 1 and 2. It’s the only way I can reconcile the spending of so much money. Second most profitable franchise indeed.
Nobody does it better, eh? Well, we'll see about that.
Being that the aliens were responsible for awe-inspiring visuals and the humans were responsible for irritating me to no end with their constant unnecessary bitching, I would have offered the CG terrestrials some penicillin. (6/10)
d. Steven Spielberg
"a total, unadulterated maniac"