Guest Post: Skyfall (2012)

For fifty years now, 007 has entertained us with his antics, action and not just a little bit of skirt-wrangling. Skyfall sees Daniel Craig take on the role of Bond for the third time and promises to deliver another hefty dose of explosions, breath-taking locations, strong Bond-trademarked musical scores, suspense and crazy villains. All the reasons we keep coming back for more!

But did the much anticipated (and much delayed) Bond number 23 live up to my high expectations? Read on to find out.

Read more of this post

There’s something I’d like you to get off your chest (1971)

Sean Connery is back and BlogalongaBond wouldn’t miss it for the world. What’s that you say? A moon buggy?

James Bond (Sean Connery) is back, that Australian business all but forgotten as he finally mudbaths Ernst Blofeld (Charles Gray) and finds himself unenthusiastically hunting diamond smugglers. Usurping the identity of one Peter Franks, Bond infiltrates the smuggling ring via Frank’s contact Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). Forced to kill the real Frank when his cover is under threat of being compromised, Bond switches IDs so that it appears MI6 is onto them, spurring Case to reveal the diamonds’ location and follow Bond to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile Blofeld, still alive and quickly running out of doppelgänger, dispatches henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd to systematically kill the remaining smugglers so that he might accumulate enough diamond to power his laser. Having faffed around with the diamonds for an unnecessary length of time, the prize lost in a wave of convolutions, Bond finally infiltrates a research laboratory owned by Willard Whyte – the apparent destination of the stolen diamonds – and discovers Blofeld to be behind this latest madcap scheme.

Like a dolled up elephant accessing the many slot machines peppering this episode of Bond, United Artists have successfully matched Goldfinger‘s director Guy Hamilton with returning star Sean Connery, claiming a box office jackpot following the comparatively underwhelming On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After the reasonably straight-faced exploits of George Lazeby’s Bond, Diamonds Are Forever marks a return to the dafter days of Connery, where assassins kill by scorpion and secret agents survive by grand theft moon buggy.

Taking a cat’s eye into the opening titles, adorned with the welcomingly familiar dulcet tones of  Shirley Bassey, it becomes immediately clear that we’re back in the studio’s comfort zone after a somewhat costly misfire. The safety net of an ensemble is not quite complete, however, as Ernst Blofeld Mark VIII (or something) soon proves with his apparently contractual actor-plant. This has an unfortunate impact on dramatics, as this mini-trilogy of films is brought to a close by different actors than those who started it. The chemistry is off, a fact that is confounded further by the fact that Connery doesn’t appear to have watched the previous instalment at all. Hey, wrinkles, he kind of killed your wife.

Clearly attempting to lighten the tone after Lois Maxwell’s Miss Moneypenny dared to emote at the end of the previous film, the filmmakers introduce hand-holding henchman Mr. Wint and his partner Mr. Kidd to skip, finish one another’s sentences and generally beggar belief – relatively more successfully, it must be said, than Blofeld the 3rd. The Darwin antagonist award goes to Bambi and Thumper, however, a pair of  gymnast bodyguards who turn the tables on an increasingly middle-aged Bond, bringing him to his knees for a change with a kick in the double o’s.

My biggest problem with Diamonds Are Forever, like the rest of the series to date, was how needlessly complicated it all was. Despite the fact that the film follows a pretty strict formula, the intricacies of the plot still manage to allude me as I sit down to pen my opening synopsis. There’s some stuff about a stuffed carnival prize, some gratuitous gambling and a truly baffling scene involving cassette tapes. Maybe it’s just late, but with so many characters dying before I can reasonably determine their role in the narrative, my enjoyment never really progresses beyond the most superficial of levels.

Decidedly camp, consistently mad and suddenly trite, Diamonds Are Forever is undoubtedly a step backwards for a franchise in desperate need for a new lease of life. That said, I must admit I absolutely loved it. Maybe it’s the current cinematic climate, but my intolerance for filmic flamboyance is not as tried as my complete aversion to anything needlessly dark and depressing. Leaving the cross-dressing aside for a moment, however, the film boasts the franchise’s most engaging car chase to date, a slew of intentionally funny-one liners and a lift-set skirmish that is very almost visceral – tongue very firmly in cheek as it should be.

While this might mark the end for Connery’s take on the character, the Scotsman certainly goes out with a bang. Very much as bonkers as it is brilliant, however, it is not a movie which will appeal to all. That said, patience is a virtue, and there will be plenty of time for frowns and free running when Daniel Craig (currently 3 years of age) has put toddlerhood behind him. Enjoy the fun factor while it lasts.

Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (1967)


There is a space-rocket gobbling astronauts – both American and Russian alike – and the respective nations are having none of it. With diplomacy failing and the English intermediaries practically sweating starch, our friendly neighbourhood misogynist is dispatched to Japan by a suspicious MI6 searching for answers. With SPECTRE ultimately behind the shuttle-nappings, James Bond must track down local operative Dikko Henderson, assemble Tiger Tanaka’s ninja army and marry pearl diver Kissy Suzuki (for some reason) if he is to infultrate SPECTRE’s volcanic base of operations and expose Blofeld as the mastermind behind the attacks.

I don’t know whether to blame my place in Generation Y, my MTV-warped attention span, or my general lack of intelligence but I have as yet found these early James Bond adventures a might confusing. Killed off in the movie’s pre-title sequence, Bond is soon right as rain and being torpedoed out of a submarine, from which he apparently swims to Japan. From here he meets a steady slew of expendable (and soon expended) characters who point him in a series of directions often for no other purpose by filling out the running time. Henchmen have their henchman, and You Only Live Twice quickly becomes a game of reconstructing the script for yourself.

Why, for example, does Bond need to dress up as a “Japanese man” and marry Tanaka’s student, only to set off on a reconnaissance mission? Why bother faking Bond’s death just to expose him a scattering of scenes later? And, most importantly of all, how does Bond make it to Tokyo so seamlessly having just been fired out of a submarine off the coast of Hong Kong? These questions, and the film’s only real failing can only be aimed at one man, Roald Dahl. While the man might be endlessly talented when it comes to enlarging peaches and making foxes fantastic, his James Bond script is the weakest in the series so far.

Good thing, then, that there is so much else to love. With suspension officially disbelieved, the franchise really has started to blossom. Considering how derivative You Only Live Twice is – the majority of its elements having been recycled from previous instalments; piranhas instead of sharks; faked death instead of dead decoy; pearl diving heroine instead of shell collecting heroine – it is leant a delightful freshness thanks to a welcome change of scenery.

Not only do we finally see Moneypenny out of the office, but on a submarine no less, the film benefits from a more ambitious approach to cinematography. Whether it’s the surprisingly effective aerial battle aboard Q’s modified Little Nellie or the roof top battle with baddy Mr. Osato’s men, You Only Live Twice is perhaps the most exciting James Bond movie to date. This is largely down to a fine tuned array of sound effects which often invoked memories of playing GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64. Punches finally sound painful and gunshots no longer feel staged, there is a polish descending on the franchise which appears to be heralding in a new age for the character. But we’ve not reached Roger Moore quite yet.

Longitude 78 West (1965)

Arriving at that infamously difficult fourth instalment, BlogalongaBond joins Sean Connery as he comes ever closer to facing off with the as yet faceless Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Better than expected, Thunderball thankfully isn’t all wet boxer shorts and malfunctioning orthopaedic machines.

Blofeld (Anthony Dawson), fresh from another pussy pampering session, has decided to get real – radiating the world’s gold was soo last Thursday – and steal a nuke. Acquiring the identity of a NATO pilot and gassing the rest of his crew, a sergically altered Angelo Palazzi (Paul Stassino) steals an armed aircraft and drops it into the sea, only to be killed off by SPECTRE agent Number 2 (Adolfo Celi). James Bond (Sean Connery), at a health spa after sufferring an injury on his last assignment, witnesses the dead pilot’s body being moved in between assassination attempts. Later recruited to find the missing bomb, Bond recognises the pilot, who was seen boarding the jet, as the corpse from the spa and sets off to the Bahamas in pursuit.

However much I’ve enjoyed the Bond series to date, witnessing the character grow from his humble beginnings into a shameless cheesefest that values invisible cars over logic and character, since the start of this blogalongafranchise I have nevertheless experienced somewhat of a detachment with the material encountered to date. Maybe it’s the fact that I leaving the exercise until the last night of every month, or perhaps I have simply reached THAT age where you are supposed to fall asleep during films, but the ridiculous plotting and character overload of these early instalments has consistently left me playing catch up. Boasting a room full of look-a-like evil-doers (though one of them is handily wearing a patch), a veritable smorgasbord of sexual conquests (willing or otherwise), and using identity theft as one of its primary plot points, Thunderball almost proved too much for my sleep-deprived and caffeine ridden attention span. Thank God I watched it again.

While Goldfinger showed that the series had found its cheesy bone, and while Thunderball suggests that there might still be some fine tuning to be done, I can’t but help feel that Thunderball has earnt itself an unfairly bad rap – often considered as it is to be the first true dud in a frachchise positively riddled with them. While it undoubtedly takes the character’s dubious relationship with reality to the next level – boasting cross-dessing assassins and jetpacks before even the opening song has been sung – hey, at least Sean Connery’s not wearing a plastic duck on his head.

From Tom Jones’ dizzying title song – the final note of which allegedly left the singer navigating a spinning room – to the numerous underwater action sequences that finish the film, Thunderball is easily the most shamelessly entertaining Bond film to date. With a a script-full of one liners and a swimming pool full of sharks, I found myself feeling nostalgic for the days when nuclear fighter-jets could safely land in the ocean and Q performed house visits wearing his favourite Hawaiian shirt. You’d never see a compactable jet-pack in the most contemporary incarnation of the character, and more’s the pity.

That said, Bond doesn’t jump the proverbial (and not-so proverbial) shark without losing his balance on a few occasions. The harmless fun practically propagated by Thunderball does get a little ahead of itself at times. Whether it’s the uncomfortable misogyny of physiotherapist Patricia Fearing’s (Molly Peters) mouth-rape or the unintentional hilarity of Count Lippe’s (Guy Doleman) attempted assassination by spinal traction, Thunderball often lacks the iconic familiarity of its preceding instalments. As Bond stumbles over his cover story in an endearingly half-hearted attempt at keeping his secret identity from Fearing, however, such infamy ceases to matter. This, incredibly, is Bond unadulterated.

All in all then, I couldn’t help but love Thunderball‘s simplicity; set as it is in a world where evil-doers wear eye patches and keep sharks, and in which nuclear threat is still used to attain diamond wealth. If this is the direction the series is taking then count me in. As long as Blofeld has a pussy to stroke, I’ll be there with my best crackers and the biggest cheese knife I can find.

Everything He Touches Turns To Excitement (1964)

Third time’s the charm as James Bond faces off against his latest threat, one catchphrase-spouting Auric Goldfinger. Boasting no fewer than three Bond girls, a razor-hatted henchman and a particularly ridiculous seagull costume, Goldfinger is the Bond film to end all Bond films. At least, it might have been if it hadn’t been so franchise-toppingly awesome.

After foiling Goldfinger’s (Gert Fröbe) attempts to cheat an opponent at cards, and charming the fraud’s female accomplice in the process, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself on the wrong end of one of Oddjob’s infamous karate chops. Waking up to find Jill Masterson’s corspe has been painted gold, and giving our resident evil the hump (we know he’s angry because he snaps his pencil), Bond returns to Britain for new orders, new weapons and a quick game of golf, before taking his pimped our Aston Martin to Switzerland. After meeting Jill’s vengeful sister, and falling contractually captive, Bond is flown to America by pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) where he learns of Goldfinger’s master plan: to irradiate Fort Knox’s gold supply in a bid to increase the value of his own substantial stock. Mwahahaha!

There is so much that is laughable about Goldfinger: James Bond’s “ingenious” seagull-hatted disguise, Goldfinger’s razor-hatted henchman and the very idea that Jill Masterson died from “skin suffocation” proving three particular highlights. After two relatively straight-laced prior instalments, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, it clear that Sean Connery has finally let his chest hair down and that the film-makers are newly versed in the entertaining properties of silly string. For while some may deride the franchise’s ongoing suspension of disbelief, and won’t be happy until the character is Nolanised in Casino Royale, it is in this corn-infused third outing that the series finally finds its feet. Having tested the water with opening-themes, girls and innuendo, EON Productions have finally birthed the definitive James Bond movie.

This is the most exciting of the three instalments reviewed so far, perfectly balancing the expository and action scenes in a consistent and exhilarating pattern. While the scuffle aboard the Orient Express in From Russia With Love might have been the more influential, Goldfinger packs so many set pieces into its running time that it appears comprised solely from cult moments. Heck, an entire intallation is levelled before the title sequence has even started. Goldfinger disbands with the trending slow start and throws Sean Connery straight into the thick of it, while two Bond girls are offed before the half way point, adding to the break-neck pace (to begin with, at least) of this instalment, the first in the series to be free of the Cold War’s shadow. Frenetic, well paced and occasionally breath-taking, by the time Bond finally averts disaster you’ll have clawed the armrests beyond recognition.

So, what of those Bond girls? With Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet and Honor Blackman filling out the quota as Jill and Tilly Masterson and Pussy Galore, Goldfinger is a veritable constellation of James Bond’s sexual conquests. Of the three, it is probably Tilly Masterton who is most short-changed, deprived as she is of a gold sheen or euphamistic cult status. Nevertheless, I found that it was Tania Mallet who made this biggest impression, both in her vengeful introduction and the suddenness of her death at the hat of Oddjob. That said, Blackman is an absolute pleasure as the franchise’s oldest Bond girl, her Pussy Galore a stern force to be reckoned with, particularly in comparison to Gert Fröbe’s relatively relaxed and eerily understated villain, Auric Goldfinger.

It is with Goldfinger‘s villainy that its superiority most marked. Dr. No may have had metal hands, and Red Grant might have been handy with a line of garrote wire, but Oddjob has a marble statue-proof razor hat and Goldfinger has a laser with your balls written all over it. As Goldfinger and his favourite caddy-come-contract killer covort in broad daylight, making little attempt at avoiding attention, it is clear that it is not just the filmmakers that have found their confidence, but the franchise’s villains to – paving the way for the flamboyance of the series’ later antagonists. It is Goldfinger, after all, which contains the aforementioned laser scene, in which Bond’s crown jewels are threatened by a searing beam of light slowly eating it’s way through the table upon which he is restrained. With dialogue almost as famous as the scene itself, Goldfinger has a transcendent familiarity to it, whether you have seen it before or not.

Cheesy, thrilling and recognisably Bond, Goldfinger is undoubtedly the definitive 007 movie. The formula honed and set, all that remains is for a little exaggeration in the sound-mixing department and we’ll finally have fights that sound as good as they look.

James Bond is Back (1963)

We are now one month in and late as ever. With only 21 months to go until the release of Bond 23 shit is about to get real. With one supervillain lamenting his lack of hands and a brand spanking new mission to Turkey, From Russia With Love cranks the action up a notch with…a game of chess?

Strangled to death within the opening minutes, James Bond gets a second lease of life when the corpse is revealed to be that of a ‘live target’ forced to wear a Sean Connery mask so that SPECTRE can train its newest recruits. Revealed to be on a punting holiday with Sylvia Trench, Bond is quickly ordered to Istanbul to acquire a decoding machine. Assisted by a Soviet cypher clerk and a station chief, Bond must complete his mission while evading an assassin dispatched in order to avenge Dr. No’s death at 007’s hands.

Having struck Goldmember with Dr. No, there is an air of confidence about From Russia With Love that marks it out from its somewhat inconsistent predecessor. Gone are the dancing dots, replaced by a group of belly dancing women interrupting the projection of the film’s opening credits. Remixed with the traditional theme, the late John Barry’s “James Bond is Back” (which re-entered the U.K. charts for a further thirteen weeks when renamed “From Russia With Love”) immediately preceeds the film’s cold open.

Again opting to play it slow, From Russia With Love wastes all of the time in the world before finally re-introducting James Bond’s burgeoning libido. We meet Red Grant’s garrote wire wielding assassin, Tatiana Romanova’s unsuspecting pawn and Blofeld’s cat before Bond even bothers to get dressed, the plot simmering along nicely before 007 must worry himself with guns, henchmen and cat-fighting gypsies. The plot, as it stands, is relentlessly linear and continues Dr. No‘s introduction of franchise tropes to be later lampooned by Austin Powers. Who knew Frau Farbissina could ever be so menacing?

Throwing Q into the mix, James Bond’s universe is finally taking shape as the gadgets unfold; a throwing knife and exploding briefcase keep this sequel more technologically advanced than the original’s ingenious use of hair, while our Bong girl and villain enjoy a more effective screen presence. That said, while pretty, Tatiana Romanova makes nowhere near as lasting an impression as the previous film’s bikini-clad Honey Ryder – largely as victim to the beautifully merciful act of suppression.

However, while the restraint is welcome in an age of car chases and free running, From Russia With Love really is distractingly slow, particularly in the light of the movie’s newly amped up set pieces. There’s a considerable number of action sequences, whether Bond vs. Grant, Bond vs. Helicopter or Bond vs. Poisoned Shoe Spike, but the film still seems to lag impossibly far behind the second act’s Orient Express. It’s just all so stoic, call me new fashioned but isn’t it about time we had some light hearted cheese and a death ray from space?

Although confident, menacing and endlessly promising, the James Bond franchise hasn’t quite yet reached completion. With Blofeld officially teased and Eunice Gayson’s steady-ish squeeze Sylvia Trench finally sent packing, I have a feeling that the best is still yet to come.

We Have No Need of a Doctor (1962)

With 22 months to go until the release of Bond 23, there is just enough time to set ourselves (under The Incredible Suit‘s direction) the mission quite possible of watching one Bond movie per month until the next instalment’s 2012 release. Nevertheless arriving late to the party, may I present my take on Bond’s big screen genesis: Dr. No.

Following the assassination of Britsh Intelligence officer John Strangways in Jamaica by the Three Blind Mice, James Bond (Sean Connery) is called out of a card game in London and briefed for his mission: investigate his fellow field agent’s disappearance and what it might have to do with his cooperation with the CIA. Armed with his (to become) trademark Walther PPK, Bond sets about finding receipts, killing spiders and getting captured – his investigations leading him to Crab Key where he acquaints himself with Honey Ryder’s (Ursula Andress) bikini and Dr. No’s (Joseph Wiseman) importantly metal hands.

Opening with a somewhat psychedelic series of retro spots which quickly give way to the iconic gun-barrel opening, this is James Bond but not necessarily as you remember him. As a series of thoroughly unsexy silhouettes dance across the screen to the Jamaican chimes of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires’ Kingston Calypso, the deja-vu is welcomingly tempered with an unexpected dose of novelty. I, after all, am more familiar with the invisible car than Bond’s humbler beginnings, this BlogalongaBond giving me the opportunity revisit the character’s early days – before his eventual campness earns him a friendly neighbourhood rebooting.

Born from Ian Fleming’s imagination a Scot, the character of James Bond – a fictional spy who has by now surrendered to regeneration almost as often as Doctor Who –  was won by 30 year old Sean Connery for Dr. No, one of the most faithful adaptations in the series (sans giant squid, unfortunately). While familiarly witty, suave and Lynx (deodorant, not wildcat) incarnate, there is a reason Connery is often considered the best Bond. Armed with only a gun, a distinctive taste in Martini and enough chest hair to clog Niagara Falls, it is disarming to note just how resourceful James Bond was prior to Q’s ongoing departure from reality. Who needs a submersible Lotus Esprit when you have talcum powder and a strand of your own hair? Connery proves that you don’t have to be ‘reimagined’ as Bourne to ooze gravitas and believability, you just need a brain.

While Dr. No may sport the definitive Bond, however, it leaves considerable room for improvement where the primary love interest and villain are concerned. Not introducing the featured Bondgirl or resident evil until approximately 1 hour in, Dr. No is all build up with little pay off. Although making more of an impression in such stilted screen time than Halle Berry managed in an entire movie, Ursula Andress isn’t even sloppy seconds but threadbare thirds. As for the titular Dr. No, the deformed mastermind is about as nefarious as a villainous Thunderbirds puppet – failing to make as lasting impression as Mike Myer’s lampoon-stealing spoof.

Dr. No is nevertheless enjoyable as it makes full use of its franchise-low budget to set the scene for future greatness. The James Bond theme is arrestingly prominent after two features of having been unceremoniously relegated to the end credits, the gun barrel opening is brutally primitive and Bond enjoys a deliciously self-aware introduction – suitably iconic and with wondrous hindsight. Mistakenly titled We Have No Need of a Doctor in Japan courtesy of a wayward question mark, Dr. No ultimately cements Bond, James Bond’s pop-cultural status beautifully.

Roll on From Russia With Love.