Before last week I had never seen a single James Bond movie before. Not a one. I knew the cliches of the series (one-liners, Bond sleeping with everything that wears a skirt, goofy spy plots) and even had some iconic moments in my mind (the woman who died of being painted gold, for instance), but beyond that knew nothing of the series. Being the film-buff I am, however, I’ve always viewed this as a major blind spot in my film viewing experience. So a friend offered to let me borrow his Bond blu-rays and watch through the whole series.
To be honest, there are just far too many movies to tackle in individual posts, but there are also too many to do a single write up for the whole series. Thus, I have decided to tackle it the best way I can think: Bond-by-Bond. So I will watch the films in order and write about them in order. This puts the films starring Sean Connery (and George Lazenby) up first, of course.
Dr. No 4/10 (1962, dir. Terence Young)
At best a B or C movie pretending to be an A movie. Some films can pull this off, but it just doesn’t work here. I’m honestly a bit surprised the franchise had legs after this one, because it’s just not a very good movie. Connery is very wooden in the role and the plot makes very little sense. Just not a fan.
From Russia With Love 8/10 (1963, dir. Terence Young)
Such a huge turn around from the first film. I imagine this movie alone is part of the reason Bond has had legs going forward. This is just a good spy movie and Connery is quite a bit more comfortable in this film than in his first appearance. The production value, writing, and stylistic traits are all much better in this film. Really good movie.
Goldfinger 8/10 (1964, dir. Guy Hamilton)
This movie, while not as good as From Russia, is probably my favorite of the Connery films. It’s just a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself as serious as its predecessor which makes for an exciting thrill ride. Much of the Bond mythology is in place by this time and so the filmmakers play around with it in very entertaining ways. This is also probably what was most in mind when I started this trip through Bondtopia. The woman painted gold, the silly nuclear-themed plots. Yup, basically what I was looking for.
Thunderball 7/10 (1965, dir. Terence Young)
Connery’s Bond is far less likable in this movie, but it serves the material well. Him throwing his “date” in front of an attacker is probably the best and most shocking moment in the film. The less likable Bond makes a lot more sense given the mythology of the series. It’s odd, but I wish Connery was this much of a jerk in the previous films. Unfortunately this movie just isn’t as good in terms of fun, story, or technical aspects as the previous two films. I can’t even remember what it’s about.
You Only Live Twice 2/10 (1967, dir. Lewis Gilbert)
Yuck. Just horrible. If you’ve read this blog very long then you know I love Japanese films and culture, but this movie is just gross. The story is dumb, the setting is wasted, and it’s just not very much fun. Well, I suppose all of the spies attacking the base at the end is fun to watch, but the rest of the movie is just so dumb and horrible. Connery looks like he is having a miserable time. Awful.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 6/10 (1969, dir. Peter R. Hunt)
George Lazenby is an admirable Bond, I think, and it’s a shame he didn’t like the role and pissed off the producers, because I think his movies, with some refinement, would have ended up being much better than any of the Connery films. While he isn’t as good as Connery at his best, his performance is good enough that I think he would have been great with time. Really, my only complaint is Bond getting married and then it just being done away with. It felt cheap and tacked on.
Diamonds Are Forever 3/10 (1971, dir. Guy Hamilton)
Ugh. Connery looks old, miserable, and bored. Watching him steal a “moon rover” and having a chase across the desert with men on tiny mopeds is one of the most miserable experiences of my movie-watching life. It’s just so stupid. Not to mention the Bond girls are incredibly annoying, which just overall harms the movie It’s just silly and not fun. It’s not quite as dreadful as You Only Live Twice, but it’s still pretty bad.
I’m not really a Bond fan as of yet. I really liked some of the movies (From Russia With Love and Goldfinger), but overall just found the films boring and uninteresting. I’m somewhat excited to investigate the rest of the series going forward, but I hope that I find the future films more fun than these. Either way, the Bond series is such a huge blindspot in my film-viewing that I feel compelled to watch them. Stay tuned around here and I’ll write some more posts as I go through the rest of the series!