Licence To Kill

On to the second and the more vexing of the Dalton 007 flicks, he’s got a License To Kill oh wait no it’s been revoked how could that have happened they’ve usually been pretty lenient before,

The Opening

It’s literal hi-jinks as James Bond and his good CIA buddy Felix Leiter are on their way to Felix’s wedding on the Florida Keys. On the way, though, they’re waylaid by the DEA who have found out that big bad drug lord Sanchez is in the area and want Leiter to help out, while Bond comes along for the ride.

After the obligatory shootout, they nab Sanchez trying to escape the area in a light aircraft by tying it up to the Coast Guard’s chopper. Yeah, that’s three different agencies involved. Anyway, job done, they manage to get the church in time by parachute. Cue opening credits.

The Titles

You know what? I’m tired of describing these – I think I even stopped trying in earnest about half a dozen films back. I love the style as it puts you in the headspace for the film to come, like the Star Wars crawl, but it’s basically gone along the same ideas – even the same typeface – for ages.

The Soundtrack

The title song is performed by the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, bringing back the torch song after the new wave phase, and Patti LaBelle doing “If I Asked You Too” over the end credits. Michael Kamen was brought in to do the main score as Barry was otherwise detained, and being a very experienced soundtrack composer by this time, does a pretty good fist of it.

The Locations

Besides revisiting the tip of Florida and the Bahamas for what seems like the umpteenth time, the crux of the action takes off to what’s referred to as “Isthmus City”, somewhat of a proxy for Panama in General Noriega’s time, although the actual filming takes place in Mexico.

Notably, the only part set in the Old Dart is Moneypenny surreptitiously arranging to send some support to Bond, who is effectively on the lam.

The Genre

Firstly, I should point out that this is one of those Bond films that foregoes just being “Bond” and runs with a popular prevailing trend in the wider world of popcorn cinema; to wit – drug trafficking thrillers. Things like Tango & Cash starring Kurt Russell, Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson, and Tequila Sunrise starring Kurt Russell and Mel Gibson.

Not that Bond tackling a kingpin is entirely new territory for the series, of course, recalling Live And Let Die. What puts the distinctly late 80s tone on proceedings is the revenge part.

That Got Dark Quickly

You see, we pick things back up after the wedding at the reception, everyone having a lovely time, Felix Leiter (David Hedison, the first actor to reprise the role in the series, with his last time being 16 years prior) and Della give James an engraved lighter as a gift to the best man, eventually Bond leaves the party to go to his next assignment.

Meanwhile, not far away, Sanchez, being used to throwing stacks of cash to bend cops if bullets aren’t practicable – “silver or lead” as it goes – promises to throws a stack more at CIA guy Killifer who is supposed to be bringing him in, but rather succumbs to the bribe and allows Sanchez to escape.

Sanchez promptly has his goons go to Leiter’s place to carry out the reprisal – one of the goons being Dario, played by Benicio Del Toro in an early role. They do brutal things to Leiter with a shark and arguably worse to his bride. Bond is just about to leave at the airport when he gets wind that a drug lord has escaped – he assumes the worst, and finds the assumption to be correct upon returning to the Leiters’ residence, with Felix missing a few extremities and his wife… yeah, it’s brutal.

The Vendetta

Having experienced something similar himself (see OHMSS) and then seeing it done to his best mate, Bond goes bugfuck insane, albeit in as coolly professional a manner as one can do when embarking on a vendetta. M gets wind of this, arrives in the Keys and orders Bond back to work, Bond is having none of it and offers his resignation, as is usual in such circumstances, M gives him two weeks leave but – this time – revokes his licence to kill, Bond is having none of that either, and escapes. He’s gone rogue. *extremely deep and gravelly voice* He’s a loose cannon! He’s a maverick! He’s on a mission of payback!

First thing Bond does on his private investigation is check out the marine research centre, owned by one Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), who uses it as a front for his boat to traffick drugs and money back and forth for Sanchez. Bond checks out the boat and the operation and Sanchez’s girlfriend Lupe Fiasco – I mean Lamora – (Talisa Soto) and then pinches a stack of cash just for the hell of it.

He also hooks up with Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) in the Bahamas, the last survivor on Leiter’s list of contacts. Dario also turns up to the meeting, a bar fight ensues, yada yada yada, let’s just cut to the chase and go to Isthmus City.

The Squeeze

While Bond was probably as monogamous as he’d ever been in the previous film, this time around he’s bouncing between Lamora – who more or less tells Bond as much as she knows about what Sanchez is up to, since Sanchez whips her – and Bouvier – who is a very capable pilot and fortunately isn’t the kind to shut up because that’s what expected of her.

The Operation

Where basically Sanchez has bought the whole country, the bank, the casino, the cops and everything with even El Presidente having to answer to him. Bond uses the cash he stole from Sanchez to set up an account in Sanchez’s bank (sneaky!) and uses it as collateral to go to the casino, roll some highs, and get himself a meeting with Sanchez (who presumably didn’t recognise him from the arrest earlier).

Sanchez takes a bit of convincing but buys Bond’s “I’m an ex-British agent” schtick – because technically it’s true. Bond even manages to drop Krest in the poo by claiming Krest has been siphoning money for himself, and then cashing out some of Sanchez’s in the decompression chamber of Krest’s yacht for when Sanchez inspects it. For his apparent disloyalty Krest himself gets locked in the chamber, and, well, the results are pretty gruesome/weird.

Q turns up, not really caring that 007 is “on leave”, and drops some gadgets on him. Bond tries to make use of these to snipe Sanchez as he’s negotiating with some prospective partners from the East, but the operation doesn’t quite work out, and indeed Bond finds himself having to deal with … ninjas? From the HKPD? Yes, he’s stumbled onto their operation to take Sanchez out, but before they can sort of their differences, Sanchez’s guys turn up and kill the Hong Kong cops, Bond awakes in Sanchez’s compound and plays the situation to get further into Sanchez’s confidences, and pretty soon he gets to see the actual operation himself.

Although it’d be fair to say that Sanchez doesn’t ever completely trust him, as he outlines the cunning plan – dissolve the cocaine into petroleum, ship the product out in tankers, and then extract it later. It’s all hidden underneath some kooky charismatic temple run by Prof. Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton) who plays a oily televangelist charlatan for some cult temple.

Anyway, as its Bond’s turn to get executed, all hell breaks looks as the facility begins to explode, all of Sanchez’s flunkies get checked off – Dario ends up dying in what looks like a meat grinder, the head of security is impaled by a forklift, the nerdy accountant gets shot for bugging Sanchez about the externalities. Finally, after what is a pretty cool pursuit sequence involving several petrol tankers and Bouvier buzzing around in a plane, finally Bond sets Sanchez aflame with Leiter’s lighter.

After a quick shot to Leiter recovering from his injuries telling Bond that his bosses have forgiven his trespass, Bond chills out with Q at a party, fobbing Lupe off onto El Presidente – who apparently isn’t too bothered by the demise of his country’s biggest industries, drug trafficking and charlatan worship – and choosing to hang out with Bouvier instead.

The Production

This was a weeeeird one. The last time I watched it I was a bit underwhelmed by it, maybe because I was comparing it to The Living Daylights, but on this reviewing, eh, it’s not so bad. Still pretty brutal though. Also, that recurring thing with shark scenes in the Bond films is still pretty tedious – although this time around at least it had a point.

After LTK, the rights to 007 got into a legal minefield, delaying the next Bond film for six years, after a period they’d been churned out every second year for over a decade. As a result, this would be Timothy Dalton’s last Bond film, and I reckon it was a shame we didn’t see at least one more out of him, just to see what he could do with the character next.

As for the two we’ve have, they’re what I would call solid – credible plots, plenty of action, minimum cheese. If Roger Moore had remained the archetype of the filmic Bond for his successors, there mightn’t have been much point to the Austin Powers films. The Bond of Dalton is considerably more gritty and hardboiled, but also not afraid of vulnerability, which you never really got from Connery, to mark that difference. Once Pierce Brosnan was finally able to take up the role, he could take a bit from both while putting his own stamp on the character.

The hiatus probably wasn’t a bad thing, to give things a breather, though. The real world was changing, with the Cold War was winding up – hence the War on Drugs backdrop instead – so the world of Bond needed to change too. What we end up with next is a pretty good film that deals with that new world, also reclaiming some of the fantasism of the peak of the Moore years. That is for next time, though.


At times an ugly film, but aside from that, fortunately it doesn’t meander off the path too far. 007 plays a dangerous game and it’s quite fascinating to watch him slowly pull apart Sanchez’s network, even when he’s has to improvise. And of course one thing it does is flesh out a little more of the Bond backstory, giving Leiter something to do other than be Bond’s American friend who sorts out the paperwork. In this case, Leiter must suffer.

The continuity of a series that was already well into its third decade is getting particularly wonky. One way of trying to explain it is James Bond is a Time Lord (nb: Skyfall spoilers) which is an absolutely bonkers theory that I love, in the process tying together two of the most enduring characters in British popular genre. The theory’s driven into overdrive by Dalton later appearing as Rassilon in the Doctor Who revival, which is why I’m mentioning it here, but that’s where I’ll leave it.

As we leave Dalton’s Bond to brood moodily, I’m giving it 16 out of 20 electric eels.

The Living Daylights

And thus we begin the short but sweet stint of Timothy Dalton as 007, as he punches out The Living Daylights.

(NB: Before I proceed, for another take on the film, do check out Eamon Hamilton’s <a href=””> Send My Regards To Dalton</a>.)

The Opening

Bond and a bunch of his double-oh mates are sent on a training drill to assault a facility on the Rock of Gibraltar. Unfortunately, one of the mates is playing for keeps, bumping off another agent, before 007 realises that shit has indeed gotten real, and heads off to deal with the double-agent assassin himself. Having neutralised the threat, he drops in on someone’s boat to recuperate in a manner befitting him.

The Titles

The continuity is retained in the inimitable Maurice Binder style. Likewise, a-ha are put on duty to score the opening song – it’s not miles away from “A View To a Kill”, but probably their only song most people might recall apart from that one with the comic book video.

The Soundtrack

This is John Barry’s last score for the series, and in truth it’s a pretty good one, delineating the “new” Bond with added synth and percussion during the action scenes. The Pretenders also get a couple of contributions in, particularly on “If There Was a Man” over the end titles with Chrissy Hynde proving that had the producers gone for a more conventional lead song, they’d fit right in.

The Locations

Exotic and varied, as it should be. After the opening at Gibraltar, the film is set in Bratislava to Vienna; Tangier in Morocco, and the wilds of Afghanistan (actually, Morocco again).


Timothy Dalton is a breath of fresh air, and in other circumstances (i.e. no Thunderball remake) he might’ve been given the gig a couple of years earlier – but then he would’ve had to deal with scripts of Octopussy and A View To A Kill that were tailored more to Moore’s style. (Then, his turn as Prince Barin in the Flash Gordon movie might’ve been evidence he could hack that anyway.)

Obviously comparisons are bound to be made with his predecessors, but my view he brought a slight return to the harder edge of Connery’s portrayal, although not totally unsympathetic, which perhaps touches on the better part of Lazenby’s very short run. As a slightly younger guy, he could more credibly do the action shit that was looking damned weird with Moore doing it.

Nevertheless, there was some big boots to fill in Roger’s wake, but I feel Dalton slipped into them like he’d worn them for years. It probably helped that he was a bit of a Fleming obsessive and was keen to have the films resemble that old school style, in the vein of From Russia From Love.

The Hook

The plot, accordingly, is more down-to-earth but still high-stakes Cold War thriller, with Bond being specifically assigned to help a Russian KGB general Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) defect to the West from Bratislava during a concert. In the process of doing so, he spies a sniper, but sees that she’s the beautiful cellist performing in the concert, so rather than going boom-headshot, the old dog deigns to just knock her gun off target. He’d have to follow that lead later after he successfully smuggles Koskov out of Czechoslovakia through an oil pipeline.

(For a while I thought Koskov was played by Falco, and was somewhat disappointed when I found out the truth.)

Koskov fills in Bond and pals at the safehouse on the hot info that General Pushkin has revived “Smiert Spionom” – Death to Spies – which happened to be on the tag left on the agent killed at Gibraltar. Soon after this debriefing Koskov is abducted by some goons. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

Bond is set on the trail of Pushkin in Tangier and naturally decides hit up Bratislava first for the hot cellist, Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) – all part of the investigation, of course. As it turns out, Kara is Koskov’s girlfriend (and why she was sent to snipe her boyfriend does becomes clearer later) so decides to accompany Bond to find Koskov.

Bond confers with his MI6 colleague Saunders who’s found financial links between Pushkin and crazy American arms dealer, compiler of “biggest badasses in military history” listicles and Warhammer enthusiast Brad Whitaker. Soon after the rendezvous, Saunders gets splatted in a particularly awful way, as orchestrated by the henchman Necros, whose M.O. is strangling people with headphone cords and leaving Smiert Spionom calling cards. Hey, every henchman has to have their gimmick.

(By the way, Necros was played by Andreas Wisniewski, who also played henchmen in Die Hard and Mission Impossible films. Talk about getting typecast!)

With nothing left to do in Bratislava, Bond moves on quickly, escaping from Czechoslovakia with Milovy in a hotted up and tricked out Aston Martin that is cool af, but needs more durable tyres. After a brief stop over in Vienna, they make their way to Tangier, where Bond catches up with Pushkin.

The Line

As it turns out, Pushkin isn’t the one behind “Smersh” – more or less, he’s after Koskov for siphoning funds in the guise of phony arms deals – with Whitaker of course – and he and Bond figure out that Koskov has manipulated Bond into killing Pushkin to get him out of the way, so his death needs to be staged so Koskov and Whitaker do whatever it is they’re going to do next.

I think I read somewhere that there’d been an idea to cast Sean Connery as Pushkin, but perhaps for the better, as that might’ve been too much of a mindfuck for a film with a new Bond. Instead, we have the extremely capable John Rhys-Davies, who cops the same “Scottish pretending to be Russian” accent as Connery puts on in The Hunt for Red October.

Anyway, the fake death fools Koskov enough, but for all of that, when Bond returns to his hotel room, he’s drugged by Milovy at Koskov’s behest, and, oh, he wakes up on a plane headed to Afghanistan.

The Farce

In the year 2016, if you tried to pitch an idea for a film where the Great White Hope teams up with a bunch of Afghani jihadis to fuck up some shit, you’d probably get laughed out of the lift. But in the late 80s, the plight of the plucky resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was very in vogue, with Rambo III also getting in on this game a year later, even ending with the timeless dedication “Dedicated to the brave Mujaheddin fighters”.

The Sinker

James Bond’s intervention is slightly less bloody than John Rambo’s, but first he has to escape from the Soviet base along with Milovy (whom he has forgiven her for spiking his drink, about the same time Milovy gets dumped by her boyfriend) – as they do so, they also liberate one of the natives.

Later, it turns out the “native” is Kamran Shah (Art Malik), leader of the local resistance militia and apparently an alumnus of the Oxford Revue, who vouches for Bond and Milovy when they stumble on his mates waiting outside the base.

To keep the resistance ticking along, they have tonnes of opium to trade with the Soviets – actually, Koskov, who intends to on-sell the opium for a stupid profit and then buy the materiel from Whitaker, keeping the difference.

At the site of the deal, Bond suggests fucking shit up, Kamran is all “hell, why not”, so Bond plants a bomb on the cargo plane amongst the opium, but gets spotted by Koskov and Necros in the process. Milovy ends up dragging the mujahuddin into a full-blown Terence Young style battle on the airbase while Bond takes off with all the drugs in the plane, soon being accompanied by Milovy and Necros.

Bond gives Milovy a crash course in flying the thing while he goes and hangs out the back with Necros, who suddenly has to leave. Then Bond remembers the bomb – he deactivates it just in time but soon notices that his new mates are on the run from some Soviet tanks, so he makes use of it to blow up the bridge behind the mujahuddin as the tanks roll over it. Happy ending!

The Denouement

Actually, it’s a Bond film, so it needs a proper 007 happy ending. And also the two lead villains aren’t dead yet, so let’s deal with that.

Bond storms Whitaker’s pad in Tangier, Whitaker demonstrates of some of his products but after a tête-à-tête he gets squashed by one of his war hero statues. Walks in Pushkin, walks in Koskov, Pushkin arrests Koskov, whom presumably gets to break rocks in Siberia or something.

Finally, we advance to Kira Milovy’s grand debut as a soloist in Paris, and while everyone is milling around after the performance, old mate Gogol (who’s been shunted to the diplomatic core) promises the now-defected Milovy permission to visit Russia any time, and Kamran and his mates also rock up straight from Afghanistan. More innocent times in 1987.

Milovy excuses herself to the dressing room, where we finally get the 007 happy ending.

The Production

This became a crucial point in the series; while being very much in keeping with the general 007 vibe, the opportunity was taken to get rid of some of the cruft that had accumulated around the films. It strikes a good balance between continuity – John Glen getting to lead the direction for the fourth film and just now hitting his stride – and revitalising it.

The most common criticism about Dalton’s portrayal in comparison with other actors’ seems to be the relative lack of humour, but I don’t know if that’s such a terrible thing. Dalton does get to deliver a few corny one-liners, just to keep the tradition alive, but thankfully they are made spare and effective. Instead, we have a Bond which is hard but not callous, disciplined but flexible.

We do get another film from Dalton, where his Bond gets even harder – and even a bit callous – as I recall and will revisit very shortly. I do think that is a shame that we didn’t get another couple more out of him, though, but that was hardly Dalton’s fault, as I gather. If anything, the pause in production gave some time to reassess the idea of Bond after the end of the Cold War.


As for this instalment, As far as I can recall I did see this one in the cinema – often I skipped over the films when they came out but the idea of a new Bond was pretty exciting at the time. I continue to regard it with a fair amount of affection, subsequent geopolitical developments aside. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to type Czechoslovakia as one word. Also hard to tell how much longer Gibraltar will remain in the UK, as well.

While it’s a steely portrayal, and the plot is occasionally threadbare, it also provides a good balance of intrigue and spectacle. And really, it’s probably the most fun I’ve had rewatching these films since Moonraker (which, I know, is completely the opposite in tone) and realigns a franchise that was in serious trouble of succumbing to cheese poisoning.

As such, I’m giving it 17 out of 20 luftballons.

A View To A Kill

After that little diversion off to the side, it’s time to return to the Old Firm as the tyranny of Roger Moore’s smirk comes to an end. We bring you the fabulous A View To A Kill!

The Opening

Perhaps trying to recapture the ice magic of The Spy Who Loved Me‘s prelude, we come across Bond trying to retrieve some stuff in the Siberian tundra from a body, which we learn later is another Double-0 agent. It’s a microchip! But soon the Russkies are upon 007 as well, and he needs to flee. After getting his skis shot out from under him, he blows up a pursuing snowbuggy and improvises a snowboard. And “California Girls” starts playing. Gnarly. Anyway he finally reaches his submersible escape vessel, where he gets all nice and cosy with the pilot.

The Titles and Soundtrack

Yeah, Duran Duran are all over this like a rash. Actually, it’s not such a bad song, and fits the film in the end, probably due to John Barry putting it into some kind of order for the band. As far as the main score goes, the OHMSS theme also gets another welcome workout in parts. The imagery itself is very dark and moody and conforms very much to the Moore-era template.

The Locations

The whole MI6 massive gather at Ascot for the horse races to glare at Max Zorin, not to make him uncomfortable or anything like that, but then most of the action focuses around the sights in and around Paris and San Francisco.

The Mastermind

We’re finally back to having a properly nutso lead villain. Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken, is a billionaire industrialist who’s also a completely psychotic product of eugenic tomfoolery, and while being mentored by the KGB, has turned his back on Mother Russia to indulge in such bourgeois pleasures as horse racing.

At his side, ladies and gentlemen, Miss Grace Jones, playing May Day, who is apparently almost as nutso as Zorin. She also has a couple of assistants in Jenny Flex and Pan Ho (Alison Doody and Papillon Soo Soo) whom job is to be glamourous and presumably deadly, although Ms Day is a hard act to follow.

Completing his retinue is Scarpine, who is, yes, nutso as well. And Grandpa Nutso, who is apparently the whole reason for Zorin being a freak. He also enjoys breeding thoroughbreds and doping them to the gills so they bug out after crossing the finish line, so you know, basically there’s a whole entourage of weirdos hanging out with Zorin.

The Plot

Anyway, Zorin, while getting a foothold in the microprocessor market, wants to corner the market by, well, wiping out Silicon Valley. I can get behind that. The plan is to trigger the faultlines on either side of valley, causing a double earthquake, sinking the valley into the bay and drowning lots of techbros. To do that, he’s making use of a whole lot of old mines and oil drilling operations, including those of a company once owned by the family of…

The Squeeze

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), who’d inherited a bunch of oil rigs or whatever, but with Zorin taking over much of the company shares, she’s pretty much being squeezed out forcibly. However, as Bond stumbles across her and they nut out what Zorin is actually up to, they’re well on the way to foiling the plan. I don’t think it’s much of a shock that she’s who Bond ends up with, although he also gets to shag May Day, and Pola Ivanova, a KGB spy who was also on Zorin’s case, and his squidgy submarine pilot right at the start of the movie.

So I think that’s four during this adventure? At least equal with his record so far.

The Allies

There’s Achille Aubergine, the French connection who puts Bond closer to the trail. He gets killed by May Day.

Sir Godfrey Tibbett, also of MI6, assists Bond in figuring out what’s going down at Zorin’s horse stud outside Paris, as he plays the ruse of being Bond’s manservant. He gets killed by May Day.

Chuck Lee, of the CIA, helps Bond out a bit in San Francisco as the case progresses. He gets killed by May Day.

The Farce

Actually, while the movie is pretty much standard Moore-era cheese, there’s nothing really awful about it. It was pretty weird skimming some of the contemporary reviews with someone complaining about the dumb police chase, like that was anything particularly new. In fact it seems de riguer for Bond films set in America to have some dumb police chase, and at least the SFPD chief wasn’t as terrible as the Louisiana sheriff guy.

The Badass

Another thing that seemed to cause complaint was May Day’s apparent face turn at the end. Look, I don’t know about you, but if my psychotic boyfriend decided he was going to drown me and all of my pals, I wouldn’t take it lightly. Yes, May Day killed a bunch of folks, but at the end of the day she sacrificed herself to saved Silicon Valley, so I think we can give that a pass. “She wasn’t all bad”.

At least the turn wasn’t all corny like Jaws’.

The End

Even after the plot is foiled, Zorin and the crew (what’s left of it) snatch Sutton and Bond rather implausibly grabs one of the mooring lines, getting the blimp tangled up in the Golden Gate Bridge and of course Bond and Zorin have a big dumb fight and Zorin falls down, although Scarpine and Grandpa Nutso are still in the blimp. Grandpa gets some dynamite with the intent of chucking it at Bond but drops it, blowing himself and Scarpine up.

Finally, Bond and Sutton gets some time to themselves, at least until Q uses a Tandy version of K-9 to perve on them. Exit Roger Moore, who did indeed roger more.

The Production

Moore’s last film, dare I say it about three films too long (quite probably even by his own admission) when the credibility disappeared, but on the other hand, the casting of Walken and Jones is at least out there enough (I note David Bowie and Sting was also mooted, Bowie would’ve been so out-there the whole movie would’ve collapsed, and as for esteemed Gordon Sumner, well, if you’ve ever watched the Dune movie – yeah), possibly the best mastermind-henchman pairing since Scaramanga and Nick Nack, but as Golden Gun demonstrated, not even a charismatic rogue’s gallery can help if the film loses direction midway through, as seems to happen after Bond arrives in San Fran, although at least it does get going again once Bond and Sutton turn up at the mine and we find out exactly how bonkers Zorin really is.

It’s also the last appearance of Lois Maxwell in the role of Moneypenny, as the final link with the cast of Dr. No. Front office chat will never be so awkward.


Given the uneven quality of the series, particularly for the 80s films, AVTAK sits quite solidly in the realm of “ehhh, that wasn’t terrible, I’ve seen worse”. Of the seven films in Roger Moore’s stint, it’s certainly the most seventh.

Maybe not in quality – it’s not a stinker by any means. The thing is, while I’m getting a pretty clear idea of the best 2-3 of each era, this ain’t amongst it, it’s sitting in that very watchable but not terribly brilliant niche. Like all Bond films, if this comes up on telly when a bunch of people are watching it at the same time, it’d be fun to snark about on socmed.

Pretty good bad guys, pretty good evil plot, maybe it just gets a bit lost in the middle.

As such, I’m giving it 15 out of 20 killer butterfly lures.

Never Say Never Again

Anyway, onto Never Say Never Again. An interesting exercise in how much you can flog the Bond brand and still have it pass.

This one isn’t in the comprehensive Bond box that I’ve been working my way through, and it’s not exactly easy to find on disc elsewhere, but anyway, I ponied up to watch a stream, legit. The damn thing is going to be in my Youtube account forever. In case you haven’t guessed, Never Say Never Again isn’t an Eon Productions movie, it’s sort of non-canon, but it sort of isn’t.

The provenance comes down to this:
– Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham co-wrote a screenplay with Ian Fleming sometime in the 50s with the intent to make a TV movie or something. The movie didn’t come into fruition then, so:
– Fleming turned the basic premise into a Bond novel under his own name in 1961, titled Thunderball
– McClory sued him for plagiarism and eventually they settled in 1963
– By this time Broccoli and Saltzman had begun producing 007 films for real; they agreed with McClory that they could adapt the novel for the fourth film, which came out in late 1965
– Part of the deal was that McClory, while still essentially controlling the film rights to the story, was not to make another film based on Thunderball for ten years.

Despite the embargo, Kevin McClory was keen enough to do a remake that he brought Sean Connery into the development process, though not necessarily to play the lead role again. Of course, as it turned out, he ended up putting on the toupee again for one more go around, and in fact, the “rebel” 007 film would not have worked with anyone but the guy who defined the role in the first place.

It seems that McClory also came up with the SPECTRE organisation and Blofeld and the cat, so it’s probably for that reason they haven’t featured as the peak enemy since Diamonds Are Forever until the most recent movie, err, Spectre. But they appear here, like everything else, a little off-beam from what we’ve come to expect.

So, as in Thunderball, a guy called Largo orchestrates a plot to steal a warhead on behind of SPECTRE for extortion purposes while Bond starts the film being ordered to a health spa and inadvertently stumbles onto an aspect of the plot.

And of course, like Thunderball, the climax of Never Say Never Again is a dumb underwater fight scene, although thankfully it isn’t as protracted.

At least there has been an effort to not just make the same movie scene for scene. Certain plot sequences have been streamlined, like the warhead heist, and the action goes to a few places other than the Bahamas, such Nice in France, and the coast of Ethiopia.

Firstly, the return of the master. Unlike the Eon films of the time, Connery has Bond acting his age – more or less – but slips into the role like a pair of comfortable old slippers.

Klaus Maria Brandauer plays Largo as pretty much a completely different person to the Largo from Thunderball, aside from his love of yachts. (Not so much the name – “Flying Saucer” doesn’t have the same vibe as “Disco Volante”). Maybe not quite as heavy handed in demeanour – although he still flies off the handle when provoked – more like a techbro whose mastered most (but not all) of those neurolinguistic programming manuals. Generally it’s an interesting, nuanced role, but even given his outbursts of temper, he seems a little too laidback for the crazed megalomaniacs of SPECTRE.

The femme fatale is SPECTRE goon Fatima Blush, played by Barbara Carrera, whom sets up lackey and US pilot Jack Petachi (Gavan O’Herlihy) with the President’s eyeball (or something like that) to authorise the swapping of live warheads into the cruise missiles that Largo’s crew will collect after their launch. After the deed is done she has Petachi killed. There’s the same amount of verve as Volpe in Thunderball, but also with a hint of mirth as well. This is a lady who enjoys her work.

Kim Basinger plays the main squeeze, Domino Petachi (yep, the pilot’s brother) who starts out as Largo’s mistress. Well, it sure would be awkward if she found out Largo had her brother killed, wouldn’t it? So, yeah, Bond comes along, beats Largo in a game of Risk*, and charms the pants off Domino. And of course he lets her find out Largo had her brother killed, with predictable consequences.

(* – If I was including a Farce section in this wrap, the nutty video game sequence would be it.)

Even the regular side roles have been reworked. Notably, Q has been written as a completely different person to Major Boothroyd with a completely different outlook; Alec McCowen’s “Algy” seems to appreciate Bond putting his equipment under stress. While his appearance is brief, he probably also gets the best line of the movie.

Edward Fox’s M is a nervous micromanager and is probably the most annoying character in the film. Give us some slightly peeved gravitas, please. Bernie Casey as Felix Leiter, as usual, still does the mopping up, getting Bond out of the odd fix, and writing up the paperwork.

Also, Rowan Atkinson turns up in the Bahamas for some reason.

The production generally looks good, though, there are parts where it outshines Octopussy at times, but like Thunderball it comes to a dull, water-slapping end.

The beginning is OK, though. Because the movie couldn’t have the traditional gunbarrel to dramatic cold open to title sequence, they quite sensibly get right into it with Bond hacking and slashing through a bunch of foes in what is revealed as a training exercise. The title song fits the formula well, but after that, the soundtrack might as well be non-existent. Well, there’s not a lot you can do when you can’t bring in the dependable Monty Norman/John Barry motifs.

The Wrap

While I think Never Say Never Again stands up better than some of the mainline films, indeed I think it gives Sean Connery a more fitting final instalment than Diamonds Are Forever.

The damned problem with it is that it never reaches the giddy heights of the best of 007, even when sometimes the giddy heights are implausible at best. It is a well-worked but run-of-the-mill rehash of an older run-of-the-mill film. I felt it was worthwhile having another look during this ridiculous whole-of-series viewing, but it cruises along in second gear for most of the film (barring the motorbike pursuit scene, perhaps) and at the end it’s a case of “is that it?”

To quote myself on Thunderball a few weeks back:

“Bizarrely, I think the 1983 remake of the story, Never Say Never Again, may have been a better film, although the underwater climax in that one was also a bit crap.”

What is it about saying things we later regret? I mean, the underwater climax is still crap, but a better film otherwise? Hmm. I have a feeling I might need to ignore some of these scores when ranking them all at the end, but since I gave that 15, I’d better give this the same mark. 15 out of 20 jazz ballet moves.


It’s time to revisit the dubious charms of Octopussy. Halfway there!

The Opening

Bond, ever the imperialist running dog, causes havoc somewhere in Central America, buzzing around in some kind of collapsible jet, and luring a heatseeking missile to blow up a hangar for some reason. None of this is adequately explained, although some guy who looks like the dictator from the Tropico games seems to be running the place.

The Titles

Pretty much in the usual Binder style, although this includes some laser projections on the nekkid ladies.

The Soundtrack

John Barry is back in action, trying to make of what happened to the piano the locum destroyed in For Your Eyes Only, and eventually deciding to stick to what he does best. There is a bit of ethnic forgery going on, for instance during the elephant hunt. The opening song, “All Time High”, with words by Tim Rice and sung by Rita Coolidge is perfectly serviceable but marks the end for torch songs for now.

The Locations

After the opening in Banana Republic and then the Old Dart for the setup, most of the action takes place in two main theatres, Rajasthan in India and the wilds of what was the frontier between East and West Germany. I think it’s kind of weird the 007 films haven’t seen much these places so far, particularly with Germany was where you’d set more than a few Cold War thrillers. Just not enough ski slopes, I guess.

The McGuffin

Another British agent, 009, dressed as Pennywise escapes from a circus somewhere in the Ost, pursued by two knife wielding freaks called Mischka and Grischka; while they mortally wound him, he manages to crawl to the British ambassador’s doorstep with an bejewelled golden egg in his hand, where he carks it. What’s it all about?

The Mastermind

Actually, there’s sort of two guys driving the plot this time around.

I’ll start with General Orlov. Played with lurid bellicosity by Steven Berkoff, Orlov first appears at a meeting with the other Soviet generals including Gogol, and Orlov is basically all “we have all the tanks! why can’t we just invade the rest of Europe!” and Gogol just sighs.

And then we don’t see Orlov again until some time later in the film when we’re all “who is this guy? Oh right, the crazy Russian general”.

In effect the main antagonist is the exiled Afghani prince Kamal Khan, played by the European Louis Jourdan, and his hook is, I dunno, smuggling I guess. As it turns out the game is that Orlov is having fake replicas made of all the Soviet treasures (like the Faberge egg) and smuggling the real shit out, with Kamal as the fence. Anyway, they’re in cahoots, and they’re up to something.

The Henchmen

We have about three metric tonnes of creepy guys hanging around the film. Most notably, Kamal’s bodyguard Gobinda, played by storied Indian actor Kabir Bedi. Gobinda is pretty much all business, no gimmicks and is well’ard.

Nevertheless, the gimmick goons aren’t far away, as I mentioned there’s Mischka and Grischka and their steak knives, as well as some proper thugs, one of whom has a highly implausible contraption consisting of a couple of circular saw blades on a chain. Wonder if you can pick those up at Bunnings.

The Squeeze

Octopussy is the first film to be named after the “squeeze”, played by Maud Adams making her return to the series as a completely different character after playing Scaramanga’s ill-fated mistress in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Octopussy has a lot more agency though; a smuggler like her father (who’d been brought to heel some years earlier by Bond himself) but also trying to go legit through enterprises like, well, circuses. In addition, she’s set up a refuge for the Octopus Cult in the midst of India where she takes in lost girls with names like, err, Gwendoline and Midge, encouraging them to be badass enterpreneurs and circus performers. Cool!

It’s pretty much All-Girl Island, but when Bond turns up, Octopussy makes an exception.

There’s a but, though.

Octopussy is all tied up with Kamal’s smuggling operation, since it’s “her” circus that operates as a front for the trafficking, as it’s allowed to cross the Iron Curtain with impunity, as apparently when stationed in West Germany, there’s nothing US airmen enjoy more than a circus.

She is kept out of the loop in one very important respect, though. Kamal and Orlov ain’t just smuggling jewels.

The Plot

Yes, Orlov and Kamal decide to do a switcheroo, and instead of hiding the jewels in the human cannon (can I mention at this juncture what a goddamn preening showboat the Human Cannonball guy is? Yeah. OK.) they’ve put a nuclear device in and set it to go off at the US base.

Orlov’s dangerous idea is to cause a nuclear incident in the West that’ll be blamed on a faulty US warhead, the NATO countries will decide to disarm unilaterally, so the Soviets can walk right in, sit right down, and let their hair hang down or something.

Basically speaking, Orlov is setting U.S. up the bomb so all their base are belong to Russia.

(I’m sorry.)

Bond manages to figure out that something’s going on, since there was a handy flyer for the gig at Karl-Marx-Stadt (it’s now Chemnitz again) while on Octopussy Island, so he makes his way there, overhears all he needs to know, and sets off in pursuit of the circus train which has pulled up its pegs and already on its way to “Feldstadt”.

Orlov himself ends up being shot up by his own men at the border crossing as they think he’s defecting. Gogol walks up to him and says “you idiot” or words to that effect.

Bond catches up with the train and of course has to fight EVERYONE on it and eventually falls off somewhere in the countryside, meaning he has to find another ride to the show. So he steals one and for his troubles, he’s pursued by the Polizei to the circus site, which has already set up and is primed to go off with a bang.

The Farce

Yes! You knew it was coming to this!

Bond has basically chained dozens of German johnnyhoppers to a US military base, so he has a hell of a time making it into the Big Top before the Big Pop because of all the interference from cops and air force guys. After leading everyone a merry dance he sneaks into the circus ring disguised as a clown, tries to convince the air force bigwigs that there’s a bomb, and everyone just laughs at him because LOL funny clown.

He finally defuses the thing, happy ending, etc.

The Last Bit

Well, no, they still have to clean up Kamal and Gobinda, because they weren’t hanging around and are already back in India. Octopussy and her acrobats infiltrate Kamal’s fort, soon enough Bond turns up in a bloody Union Jack balloon with Q (who actually gets to do a lot more stuff this time around), and whatever, after some mucking around on a plane Kamal and Gobinda are dead and Octopussy and Bond are doing what usually happens at the end of a 007 movie.

The Production

Of course I’m running out of new things to say about the production side of things, the movies were being churned out every second year by this stage, so at this point while the producers would try to push the envelope in every movie, there’s an increasing sense of a well oiled machine in action.

The Other Fellow

Now, of course, Moore had pretty much had his fill of Bond after the last one, and as far as the portrayal of the character goes, a fifty-something secret agent doing stupid things was stretching credibility a bit too far. Bond, having made it to this age, could well be excused if he was just going to take the government pension and flop out in Nassau playing baccarat, drinking martinis, and being a dirty old man.

Instead, in 1983, we had two Bond movies that were stretching the character’s credibility in that fashion. Timothy Dalton, amongst others, was emerging into the frame as the next new Bond, but he’d have to wait because putting a first-time Bond up against Sean Connery probably seemed too much of a risk.

I didn’t think this at the time, however. As young kids, brother and I were stupidly into 007 at the time, so TWO NEW BOND FILMS IN THE SAME SUMMER what could be better. I didn’t even know who this Connery guy was, to me Moore was Bond, but when they came out we saw both and we thought they were both amazing. Which shows you how discerning I was.

So of course I will be going over Never Say Never Again next. Obviously it’s not an “official” Eon production, but since Connery puts in a solid performance and there’s interesting things to write about it, I will. Notice I didn’t use this privilege for the first Casino Royale.

But that’s for next time.

I should also mention what else was happening in the film world. For instance, Raiders of the Lost Ark came out the same year as For Your Eyes Only and absolutely slaughtered it in the action-adventure stakes. (I cannot tell you how much the melting face scene freaked the crap out of me, though I got over it.) Temple of Doom, the same again, although I was merely icked by the icky things because I was a leetle bit older. And funnily enough, when Connery got his turn in that series a few years later, his role was suitably mature and this time he didn’t have to wear a wig.


In all honestly I do think it was a step up from For Your Eyes Only, if only a minor one. On the downside, we have some problematic casting, a mild manifestation of the Kipling complex, and too many fucking clowns. On the upside, the Indian scenery makes a nice change, and for some reason the train and car chases around the German countryside pleased me as well. And even with the awkward casting, Adams, Jourdan and Bedi do a good job in their roles. As for Berkoff, well, it’s a performance.

As far as I can remember, this is also the first 007 that actually puts the Cold War front and centre – although it’s always been in the background, it’s been SPECTRE or some rogue weirdo as the main antagonists rather than the USSR per se. At the same time, it also mixes things up with a jewel caper, so we’ve got that interesting combination for a plot. And it’s really weird that I hate the clowns but I didn’t mind so much that last sequence when Octopussy’s troupe is beseiging Kamal’s palace.

Such a strange Bond movie. I don’t like it as much as I did when I was a dumb kid, but I’m still giving it 14 out of 20 face-humping molluscs.

For Your Eyes Only

Nearly halfway! Again, this is another film I hadn’t seen much of – even though some parts seemed familiar, I can only draw a blank when I think of For Your Eyes Only, perhaps because it’s stuck in between two of the more, how shall I put it, “spectacular” instalments.

The Opening

Bond lays some flowers on the grave of his late wife Tracy (see OHMSS) and then gets picked up by a helicopter. The chopper gets hijacked by some bald guy with a fluffy white cat using a remote control, eventually Bond manages to get control of the chopper and manages to throw Definitely Not Blofeld down a smokestack. It’s not a good start.

The Titles

Another Binder sequence, this time it actually features the singer of the title song, Sheena Easton. The song itself is fair enough, it seems kind of familiar as it was a bit of a hit but can’t really be counted as one of the greats.

The Soundtrack

Bill Conti, perhaps best known for his work on the Rocky series, takes over the sounds and certainly puts his own stamp on it. The last couple of movies already moved beyond the Kenton style, but Conti has really put forth some really out-there material here, for instance there is one sequence that sounds like someone is stabbing a piano to death with a sledgehammer.

The Locations

The main venues for the action this time around are the snow resort town of Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy (which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics) and Corfu in Greece, both playing as itself and also pretending to be Spain. All those Mediterranean countries, they can fill in for each other, right?

The McGuffin

After Moonraker even the producers decided they couldn’t over any further over the top, so this time around they dialed things down a bit. So instead of crazy megalomanic trying to take over the world, we’re back to a McGuffin plot. A British surveillance vessel pretending to be a Maltese fishing boat, the St Georges, gets blown up by a naval mine (whether it’s deliberate or not, I wasn’t paying attention, I’m afraid) but all hands go down before the ATAC encryption device can be destroyed, so it’s up to Bond to retrieve it before it gets salvaged and sold off to the Russkies.

The Brits asked some guy, Timothy Havelock or whoever, a marine archaeologist to kind of poke around for the wreck of the St George, but he and his wife get shot up on his boat while they’re carrying out the operation. Their daughter Melina (Carole Bouquet) witnesses the killing and is understandably hella pissed off, so she takes matters into her own hands. Along with a crossbow.

Bond gets the tip that the assassin is one Gonzalez, so while he’s doing his initial reconnaisance at the assassin’s pad in “Spain”, Melina shoots the guy before he can spill the beans, although at least Bond gets enough of a look at the person who was about to pay him off, but they’re both spotted, and as someone has activate the anti-theft device on his sweet Lotus, they have to scarper off in her 2CV. The deux chevaux is a bit slow – and crumply – but they managed to get away.

Not all is lost, though, as Bond recalls enough of his paymaster that he can get to Q and use the stupid identikit thingamy based on a Commodore VIC 20 with a dot-matrix printer to work out who the face belonged to.

The Maste-

No, look, we’re not even at that point yet. Be patient, geez.

The Plot Thickens

Anyway, the face belongs to Emile Locque, an assassin in his own right who apparently hangs out in a Ford Cortina – no, the town of Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy (which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics), so Bond heads there to follow up the lead, since as we know he is fond of a bit of skiing.

There he meets up with his contact Ferrara, who hooks him up with Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover), who tells Bond the guy he wants is Columbo. They were old war buddies but Columbo turned to the dark side and now wears a stupid black cybernetic suit with a cape and everything. He even has a codename – The Dove.

The Mastermind

Yes, it’s all clear now. Columbo hired Locque who hired Gonzalez. Cool. Bond can shoot Columbo and go home for a shaken not stirred martini … ohh, the ATAC.

Wait, I’m Not Sure What Point You’re Up To

To tell you truth, neither do I.

So Where Were We?


The Car?

Cortina D’Ampezzo, the town in northern Italy. It hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics. Please pay attention.

Look, I Only Do Subheadings, This Isn’t In My Job Description

Mi scusi.

The Plot… Is Still Thickening

Bond gets a good eyeball on Locque as he meets with Kristatos, and as it turns out Kristatos has a bit of an entourage, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), an aspiring ice-skater, and her coach. Bibi immediately has the hots for Bond but Bond isn’t that interested because there actually are some fences he won’t jump. However Bibi also has the hots for Erich Kriegler, who is a buff biathlete (skiing and shooting), so she and Bond go and watch the biathlon to watch him ski and shoot.

The Henchman

Yes, Erich Kreigler is a henchman. As it turns out Kreigler and Locque and Young Tywin Lannister and a bunch of others are all in the service of Columbo, and they all want to kill Bond.

Wait, So You’re Saying They’re –

You only do subheadings, OK?

Anyway they have motocross bikes and that Bond leads them on a merry chase down a ski jump, around a bobsleigh run, several chalets, and I assume some downhill courses as well. Since this is Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy (which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics). Eventually Bond escapes them all, goes to bid farewell to Bibi, and comes back to his car (a new Lotus Esprit Turbo, not a Ford Cortina) and finds his contact Ferrara dead. Oh well.

Does The Plot Keep Thickening?

Yeah, Bond decamps for Korfu again at some casino (always a bloody casino, Bond does not simply walk into an RSL club and play the pokies) where he wins some cash off Jabba the Hutt’s rancor keeper at Uno, then he meets up with Kristatos again, who points out Columbo and his mistress, the Contessa Lisl von Schlaf. The mistress has a fight with Columbo so Bond takes the opportunity to accompany her back to her place, where they root, because Bond.

Shouldn’t That Go In “The Squeeze” Section?

Probably, but we’ll wrap that up a bit later.

In the morning they’re out on a walk on a beach when bloody Locque and his mates ambush the couple in their beach buggies and the Countess gets killed. Then a bunch of new guys ambush everyone else with their harpoons. They all have a dove symbol on their wetsuits, and while Locque buggers off, Bond is captured by *sound of piano being thrown off a cliff and crashing onto the rocks below* Columbo, The Dove.

The Ally… Wait, He’s The Ally?

Yes, it’s your classic red herring. As it turns out it’s Kristatos who wants to pinch the ATAC to sell to the Russkies. You see Milos Columbo, he’s an honourable man, he only smuggles gold, diamonds, cigarettes, that sort of thing, but not heroin. Just watch. He’ll show you Kristatos’ drug warehouse where you can catch up with Locque after he blows it up, and then you can tip Locque’s car over a cliff with the toss of a key. Then you’ll know who to trust. It’s Topol! He played Zarkov in the Flash Gordon movie! Yes, trust Columbo.

So Melina’s An Ally Too

Yeah, of course. And also a squeeze, I guess. Anyway, as I mentioned right at the beginning, Melina’s father was a marine archaeologist, so when they find the wreck of the St Georges, basically she has all the shit they need to get the ATAC out of there. Although it’s a challenge, and Kristatos isn’t far behind, so there’s some underwater shenanigans –

Don’t You Hate Underwater Shenanigans?

Well, in Thunderball it sucked. But this time around they fudged a lot of the underwater scenes with movie magic so it’s not quite so terrible. Anyway, Kristatos sends down his goons to fuck with Melina and Bond, eventually they get the ATAC, but when they re-emerge, Kristatos has taken over the Havelocks’ yacht and grabs the ATAC, and then subjects the two to some keelhauling. Which they manage to escape through some clever forward planning, leaving Kristatos to think they’ve fed the sharks –

I Noticed You’re Not Keen On The Sharks Either

Well, every bloody second Bond movie seems to have a shark in it. I don’t hate them, I just think sharks jumped the shark about the time of The Spy Who Loved Me. Also, please stop interrupting me.

The Plot Congeals

Yeah, so Kristatos has made off with the ATAC, but after Bond and Melina return to their boat, the macaw overheard Kristatos saying they were heading off to St Cyril and repeats it, revealing their next move. Apparently there’s a lot of places named St Cyril in Greece, but Columbo knows which one – it’s an old monastery on top of a rock pillar that can only be accessed by basket or by cliff.

Bond, Melina, Columbo and a few of his men gather at the base. Bond draws the short straw and gets to climb the damned thing, after a few close calls with some minion trying to kick his pegs out, he manages to ascend and let the others in. They infiltrate the base with the assistance of Bibi and her coach who are just tired of the whole thing. At the bitter end Melina really really wants to shoot Kristatos with her crossbow but while Bond starts regaling her with the old “revenge is bad” spiel (yeah, we’ll see about that in a few years), Columbo throws a knife into his old mate’s back.

Old Mate Gogol turns up in a chopper direct from Moskau to collect the merchandise, Bond says with a stupid smirk “you can’t have it, comrade”, and hurls the ATAC into the void.

Bond sticks his fists into the air in triumph, the frame freezes, then Kanye West’s “Power” strikes up and plays over the credits while Bond and Melina rut like wild insatiable beasts on the yacht as the sun sets.

C’mon, That’s Not The Real Ending? The Film Was Made In 1981

Because it’s 1981, the real ending has a Margaret Thatcher impersonator talking to a parrot.

Oh Yeah, I Much Prefer The Kanye Ending

I think Kanye could make a fucking fantastic Bond theme. He’s certainly enough of a megalomaniac to be an ’80s Bond villain.

So What Did You Reckon?

Meh. Mediocre. The action scenes were pretty great, actually, and the performance of the players was adequate, and I get that they had to get back to basics, but the plot was all over the place like a mad dog’s vomit. Basically an excuse for more ski and underwater stunts, with a couple of new locations thrown in. But, brrrpt, it’s not gonna make my Top Ten at the end of all this.

I’m giving it 13 pistachio nuts out of 20. I’m allergic to those things, by the way.


Yeeaah, Moonraker. PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW. This one has perhaps the oddest reputation of the series, which is saying a lot, but it’s the late 70s, so it’s time to head out of this world.

The Opening

The UK is borrowing an American space shuttle (let’s face it, they could never build one themselves), but it gets hijacked! Calamity. James Bond gets put onto the case, but on his flight back home he bumps into an old friend, and they both decide to leave the plane early.

The Titles

At this point the Binder sequence is pretty much what you’d expect. Vaguely meaningful silhouettes, etc.

The Soundtrack

Shirley Bassey gets her third title song, but it doesn’t quite stack up to her previous renditions of “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever”. Not her fault, really, the song is a bit crap, especially in the wake of “Nobody Does It Better”.

John Barry returns as the composer after taking time out from The Spy Who Loved Me, but he’s continued the new direction Hamlisch took on that film. It’s a good thing, although we don’t really get into the disco until the reprise of the theme song in the credits.

The Locations

Probably the most variety of all this time; Bond’s first port of call is Drax’s complex in California, then it’s off to Venice again, and in a first, we go to Rio. Eventually the action goes deep into the Amazon, and then of course “space”.

Actually, at least Bond gets to be an astronaut this time, remembering that in You Only Live Twice he missed his chance when Blofeld smelled a rat because Bond insisted on carrying his air-conditioner to the rocket him.

The Squeeze

Thankfully, the idea of Bond’s love interest actually being capable in their own right has continued from the previous film, with CIA agent and astrophysicist Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) being his counterpart this time. While Bond has a lot of fun mansplaining her field of expertise to her, basically, she knows how to fly a space shuttle and he doesn’t, so maybe this time he should shut the hell up and just shoot the poison orbs.

(Yes, we know, the double-entendre name, ha ha.)

Along the way Bond is also assisted by the local help in Rio, who manages to escape being eaten by Jaws, and before that, one of Drax’s employees who takes the fall for Bond stealing Drax’s plans, and does get eaten.

The Mastermind

Hugo Drax is pretty much Evil Elon Musk. OK, there are some of you who might say that Musk is evil anyway, but while he does have an advanced private space program, at least he isn’t intent on purging humanity of all but the most boring examples of the species.

So Drax is a proper supervillain – megalomaniac, intelligent, Nehru jacket, grandiose schemes, loves a portentous declamation. I think Michael Lonsdale pulls it off with aplomb – the fantastic beard helps – but at no stage does he make it look like fun. Even when he’s out on his estate shooting birds (the avian variety) for recreation he’s all business.

The eternal humourlessness is accentuated with a peevishness any time he discovers Bond has managed to escape death, whether it be by enormous rubber snake, rocket blast or centrifuge.

“Mister Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.”

In fact, Drax wishes to provide an amusing death for everyone who doesn’t conform with his body policing, by widely dispersing a nerve toxin extracted from a rare Amazonian orchid. The base of this final operation is a large space station twice the size of the ISS, which remarkably cannot be detected from Earth because of its radar jammer. (Never mind that anyone with a decent telescope could probably spot it and report it to the authorities.)

All up, I think Drax is one of the best Bond villains. But he needs to take more joy in his work like Scaramanga did.

And as for his staff…

The Henchmen

At the start of the movie, Chang (Toshiro Suga) is Drax’s fixer, who is basically another martial arts fool. Amongst Chang’s core competencies are looking creepy, waving a wooden stick around (to be fair Suga is really good at aikido in real life), and turning centrifuge dials with malicious menace.

He comes a buster in Venice, though, so Drax has to call up a labour hire firm for a replacement. Drake or Skilled or whoever send him Jaws (Richard Kiel), who’s been at a loose end since the death of his last employer, and Youtube hasn’t come along yet so he can’t monetise videos of him crushing things with his teeth.

Anyway, Mr Jaws is happy to be back in action, and of course there’s a score to settle. Jaws catches up with Bond and Goodhead in Brazil, and after some shenanigans on cable cars on Sugarloaf Mountain where he uses a cable for dental floss, things go awry and he ends up in a pile of rubble. Where he finds love at first sight, as you do.

Although this might be a welcome development, he still has a job to do, being tasked with the defense of Drax’s grand plan aboard the space station

The Allies

Although when Bond not too subtly has it dawn on Jaws that Drax’s grand plan doesn’t necessarily include him and his pigtailed friend, he pulls a face turn and starts fucking shit up. This turncoat behaviour not going to go down too well with Drake International.

Bond and Goodhead (actually, just Goodhead, Bond is the muscle in this case) manage to disable the space radar jammer, allowing Houston Control to finally “see” the massive space base they should have bloody spotted with their own eyes, NASA very quickly deploy a space shuttle full of space marines for a space battle using space lasers.

There’s no blood for the blood god though, since laser beams have a cauterising effect. Basically it’s *pew pew pew pew pew* for several minutes until Drax and all of his master race are dead.

A few of the death probes had been deployed, so after the fracas Bond and Goodhead have to use a spare shuttle to zap them before they decant their contents. This is achieved after a close call, and with some time up their sleeve they start some zero-g experiments. Unfortunately they left the webcam on so everyone 0n earth could have a good perve, leading Q to drop one of the best lines in the series.

The Gadgets

Getting back to Q, at the start of all this nonsense he provides Bond with a wrist dart gun. This gets Bond out of trouble in the centrifuge, and is also used for the coup de grace on Drax.

The Production

In the wake of Star Wars, everyone wanted to do space movies to cash in, and so we got the Bond space movie. The space sequences are utterly ludicrous from a science point of view – could you imagine watching this on video night with Neil DeGrasse Tyson? He’d be utterly insufferable.

Nevertheless, I am still impressed by the zero-gravity effects work – as far as I know it was done with wires and other “movie magic” but I did think at time that they may have used a vomit comet – although of course they couldn’t have, the stage too vast for that.

I was less than impressed by the boat chase scene in Venice. At its end, Bond pulls his gondola up to the edge of the water, unfurls a hovercraft apron, and then scoots off across the plaza. That’s so bad in itself, but it’s the cuts to the bystanders including the fucking pigeon that pretty much sink the ship.


By this stage, you know that 007 had become kid-friendly movies. I mean, the idea of Jaws becoming a goodie was prompted by letters from children, and it was absolutely true. It certainly didn’t kill the series, but the camp tone for the series that didn’t really lift until Timothy Dalton’s introduction.

Sure, there’s innuendo, but if you’re a kid around the age of 10 or 11 you don’t even see that, and when the hormones kick in, it becomes apparent it’s prety lame anyway.

Also, it occurs to me that out of Moore’s movies so far, only The Spy Who Loved Me feels like it’s been allowed to be a Bond movie in its own right. Live and Let Die cribbed blaxploitation, The Man With The Golden Gun did chop-socky (badly), and of course in Moonraker we have the Obligatory Space Movie With James Bond. I think it gets away with it because Bond In Space isn’t a huge stretch from the high-tech world-in-peril schemes of past films.

But – it is stupid, over-the-top, ridiculous fun. At least some of the lessons learned from The Spy Who Loved Me about keeping the character and plot entertaining, it keeps a steady beat, and even if it is deathly corny and preposterous at times, it is never boring.

As a result, I think it deserves 16 individually crafted hexagonal glass vials out of 20.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Right, onto The Spy Who Loved Me. I remember this with no small amount of affection as being a good one. But in the context of my viewing run, I was very interest in reappraising it to see if it still stacked up against the early ones.

The Opening
There’s a bit going on here, with the best agents from Soviet and British being called into duty, after each power has had a nuclear sub snatched in mysterious circumstances. In Bond’s case, he has to hightail it out of some mountain lodge in Austria with more Russian agents on his tail. Of course he escapes by skiing over a cliff, seemingly to his doom, until he unfurls that parachute.

The Titles
Maurice Binder comes back into form, conjuring up a sequence that even now don’t look dated. And lordy, the song… well, let’s get into that.

The Soundtrack
We have a new composer, Marvin Hamlisch, and he has much to do with the heightened presentation of the film. It starts with a bang by “Nobody Does It Better”, sung by Carly Simon. I don’t think even having some real estate shonks using it in their ads has ruined it for me. Even as we get into the film proper, the score keeps pace with the action – the classic themes are respected, but they’re also get funked up with some new disco arrangements which sound better as the disco stigma has faded. There’s also the sneaky interpolation of the them to Lawrence of Arabia.

The Locations
After the opening in Austria (actually Canada), the first part of the film is based in Egypt; most notably that sequence in Gizeh where everyone is skulking around the Sphinx while a light-and-sound presentation takes place. Phase two happens in Sardinia, where the scenes with the Lotus are set. (Filming was

The Mastermind
Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), like many of Bond’s adversaries before him, is a decently ambitious megalomanic with opulent tastes who loves sharks. In Stromberg’s case, that love of fish extends to the whole of the underwater kingdom, to the point where he’s content to have the terrestrial superpowers wipe each other out. I’m just amused that even though Bond’s foes have mucked around with nuclear technology before, this is really the first time one has actually embraced full-on atomic horror.

Stromberg himself, though, he’s just an old guy with too much money and the most extreme case of “you kids get off my lawn” ever. He can’t even join SPECTRE because a lawsuit means that SPECTRE has effectively left the Eon Productions universe for a few decades.

Stromberg also has the gnarliest supervillain base so far in Atlantis, which looks like where the Octonauts as interpreted by HP Lovecraft would hang out. And yet the interior also looks like something out of Grand Designs.

His big plan is to grab their subs, and use the captured subs to fire off a nuke each at New York City and Moscow, and let MAD doctrine do the rest. Then he can hang out in his cool underwater pad and appreciate the serenity. As for the niggling details, he’s acquired the services of Johannes Albrecht Walzheim-Strauss, or as his friends call him, Jaws. (I may have made that up.)

Jaws is quite a talented fellow who can give the Finnish guy with the hydraulic press videos a run for his money. Like his paymaster, Jaws brings a new level of bad-assery to the series, severing several jugular veins as he goes. His one weakness? Electromagnetism! Of course, there was another Jaws featuring in the cinemas at the time, but the direct evidence is that Jaws the fish wouldn’t be much match for Jaws the human.

The Squeeze
Anya Amasova, or Triple X, (played by Barbara Bach) is by rank and by ability Bond’s opposite number. At first they’re pretty much all business as they both try to procure the sekrit microfilm pertaining to how, but once their higher-ups agree to co-operate, they find it hard not to mix business with pleasure.

As it turns out, the guy Bond killed in the opening was Amasova’s squeeze, and when she eventually works that out, she’s like yeah I’ll have to kill you for that when we’re done with the mission. But in the end she’s doesn’t seem that bothered about it, exhibiting the “easy come, easy go” attitude towards lovers as Bond does, in fact.

The Allies
We also see strange bedfellows in the background politics, as the Anglos and Russkies bury their hatchet for a bit since they’ve both lost a submarine. Which is funny considering the last time some rogue element was stealing everyone’s military equipment they didn’t even think about the possibility of a rogue element. For the first time we also get to see M’s opposite number, General Gogol. He’ll be popping up a bit.

The Americans get involved as well, as their submarine is the third to be gobbled up by Stromberg’s supertanker, the Liparus. This leads to the big battle between the Allied submariners and Stromberg’s goons. Once they break into the command centre on the Liparus, Bond manages to communicate new co-ordinates to Stromberg’s commandeered subs to redivert the warheads so they blow up each other. Hence saving the world.

The Gadgets
Seriously, how can you go past the submersible Lotus Esprit. As kids we actually had a toy model of it which got swooshed around quite a bit. I still think it’s the coolest gadget in the whole series, and even the jokey sequence when it re-emerges on the beach can’t blunt its swag. It’s certainly cooler than the Casio watch that spits out Dymo labels.

(I do understand that the actual production Esprit may have been a bit gutless compared with the old DB5, but that’s not the point.)

The Farce
Actually, I found it hard to identify anything to roll my eyes at – at a stretch, maybe the point when the Lotus re-emerges on the beach and that one guy is doing a double-take at it and his vino. Oh, and when Bond is hamming it up in the passenger seat while Amasova is trying start the van while Jaws is tearing strips off it, yeah, that was a bit corny.

Some might argue that the big battle on the Liparus was a bit drawn out, but I found myself engaged by Bond’s attempt to prepare and deploy the detonator to breach the control centre.

The Production
Lewis Gilbert returns to direct after a gap of several years, his last being You Only Live Twice. There are a few echoes from that, such as the rogue party stealing superpowers’ stuff to try and foment total thermonuclear war, as well as the mass battle scene in the supertanker a la volcano base. The return to high-tech stainless style as seen in Golden Gun is continued here to good effect in the Atlantis.

I don’t think my enjoyment of this particular movie has diminished – in fact, watching some of the others has made this look even sharper as a film that gets pretty much everything right. For the first time the writing for Bond works with Moore’s portrayal. The action kicks along at a good clip, the exposition is clear yet doled out at appropriate moments, the exotica and villainly suitably laid out.

We actually reach this happy state a few more times down the track, but there’s also a few bumps along the way. In the conclusion my last wrap I pondered if this might be the definitive 007 film of this era – well, there’s still quite a bit more Moore to get through, but after this viewing (and having a reasonable idea of what’s to come) I’m pretty confident that it is.

18 out of 20 Union Jack parachutes.

The Man With The Golden Gun

My knowledge of The Man With The Golden Gun is pretty strange, as I usually flick onto broadcasts during the third act, when it seems like it’s a pretty decent Bond film. Having not made myself watch the whole thing, there were some surprises in store – and not all of them were nice.

The Opening
Again focusing on the villain, the open has Scaramanga and his floozy Andrea Anders hanging out on their sekrit island, with Nick Nack as butler. Some gangster dude arrives from somewhere, and Nick Nack invites him in and then heads off a control room, directing a GAME OF DEATH between Scaramanga and gangster guy in a funhouse hall of mirrors. Naturally, Scaramanga wins.

The Titles
While in the classic style, it’s just basically nood women shimmying again. Even the title song is quite pedestrian although Lulu does her best.

The Soundtrack
Even the soundtrack is lacklustre, with some low points, like the slide whistle over the barrel-roll jump, making it sound like the foley guy from Funniest Home Videos was let loose on the mixer.

We might as well muse on some of the rejected suggestions for title song acts; Elton John in his prime (with Bernie Taupin doing the lyrics, not Don Black) might’ve been amazing as a follow up to Wings’ contribution. And of course Alice Cooper actually submitted his own title song, but it was also rejected for some reason. (Maybe Mr Cooper was a bit too out-there for the producers.)

The Locations
We’re back to the East for the first time since You Only Live Twice, with brief sequences in Beirut (in a London studio), Macau, Hong Kong, the second act in Bangkok and surrounds, before finally we reach Bad-ass Villain Island.

The Villain
There is only one thing holding this film together, and that is the pure personal charisma of Christopher Lee as Francesco Scaramanga, the Man With The Third Nipple.

As I write this, it’s nearly a year since Lee’s death, so I think it’s worth reflecting on how awesome he was. Up to the point his acting career was mainly in horror, but before all that, he actually worked as a commando and an intelligence officer as part of his war service. I think badass is perhaps an overused term, but it surely must apply to Christopher Lee.

I’m not sure if he brought any practical insights to Guy Hamilton the way he did to Peter Jackson when describing what noise you’d make if you were stabbed. But anyway, the dining table scene is fantastic (yes, better than Dr. No) and elevates the whole movie since it also gives Moore a chance to stretch

He is assisted in a number of ways by Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) who’s one of the more memorable henchmen throughout the whole series. In the end Nack survives the destruction of the base, escapes on the junk with Bond and Goodnight, and while those two are getting comfortable, he attacks them with a knife and several bottles of Dom Perignon. Nick Nack is sent packing and is given a berth with a more scenic view.

There’s the plot that has something to do with using solar power to corner the energy market – timely, because of the energy crisis in the early 70s, but having a particular resonance today, even though the technology is now common as muck, thank god – but that’s more of a McGuffin. Ostensibly, Hai Fat (Richard Loo) is employing Scaramanga to kill the inventor of the “solex” and steal the device, to complete his battle station or whatever, but essentially Scaramanga’s motive is that he enjoys killing people. The big paydays that come with it only add to the fun. Psychopath, yes, megalomaniac, not so much.

There’s basically one scalp he really really wants, though, and it’s James Bond. When Bond finally turns up they have that nice dinner conversation and then do the funhouse thing again. Naturally, Bond wins.

The Squeeze
Generally the Bond’s female sidekicks have a degree of moxie and agency beyond being something for Bond to root. In contrast Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) seems mostly useless. There is the bit where she precipitates the destruction of the base by throwing its sole employee into one of the helium vats, but I think this is one case where MI6 would’ve preferred the base intact.

There’s also Scaramanga’s mistress, Andrea Adams (Maud Adams) who is a bit more useful, although as the sacrificial lamb her exit is both chilling and yet underwhelming. Adams appears again in the series as the titular character in Octopussy, so to go along with the thirty different people that have played Felix Leiter or Blofeld, we have the same actor playing different key roles.

The Gadgets
They’re mostly in Scaramanga’s employ – there’s the cool looking solar power base (still cool even today), the car that attaches to a plane (why not just get a normal plane?) and of course the Golden Gun.

And for the service of his mission, what does Bond have Q make him? A decoy nipple. Yup.

The Farce
There’s a bit to unpack here.

The martial arts gimmick replaces the blaxploitation/voodoo gimmick here, and but it’s just doesn’t have any snap. After a clumsy attempt to infiltrate Hai Fat’s compound in Bangkok, Bond is knocked out cold and taken to a martial arts school, where he is matched against a couple of the acolytes. Bond has had ninja training, remember, so he gives it a red hot go, but decides that discretion probably is the better part of valour, and anyway it turns out two teenage girls do a far better job of fending off the dojo than Bond.

And then there’s the return of the redneck sheriff from Live And Let Die. Why? Comic relief? I know the ’70s Bond movies are the last place to look for gravitas, but c’mon, people, at least preserve some dignity in your global superspy fantasies.

The Production
When you have a location as distinctive as Khao Phing Kan it makes setting the scene for a villain base a bit easier, and the accoutrements like the storage vat thing and the control doohickey whatchamacallit. So that’s good. It looks a bit cheap when it starts to fall apart but then you can go “wow this is just like Dr. No! Classic!”

The barrel roll jump should’ve been impressive but, well, as I said above about the overlaid sound effect and that bloody sheriff character. Gravitas, eh.

Like I said, Lee’s performance holds this together. I think it’s better than Diamonds Are Forever by dint of a great villain, more interesting locations, and a proper final act, but on the whole it doesn’t quite gel as well as the best 007 films.

At least I do know that it gets better from here on, the next one arguably being the definitive 007 film of the Moore era. Can’t wait to get my jaws into that one.

As for this go-around, it’s 13 wooden elephants out of 20.

Live And Let Die

Finally, we enter the Roger Moore period, for better or for worse. His first gig, Live and Let Die is a pretty weird one too, with a some tweaks from the established formula, but already with firm indications of the tone the series will be taking with Moore as 007.

The Opening

Bond’s reveal is held back for after the titles as we see a sequence of three other British agents getting bumped off in a manner of bizarre ways.

The Titles

Arguably Maurice Binder’s best opening sequence yet, with voodoo imagery, a really good song (which I’ll get to shortly), HELVETICA that shimmers in and out in a pleasing manner. Yeah, you get it, I love Bond movie titles.

The Soundtrack

With John Barry doing other things, Paul McCartney (and Wings) gets the tap on the shoulder for the title song, which Paul co-wrote with wife Linda, and it’s a good’un. Not even Guns’n’Roses could ruin it a couple of decades down the track. The song gets another rendition by B. J. Arnau during the film proper. As for the main score, another Beatles producer George Martin is on duty, and makes a good fist of working the classic themes and the McCartneys’ title tune into the action.

The Locations

Mostly set in New York, New Orleans and its surrounding bayous, as well as the fictional Caribbean nation of San Monique (when I do the map at the end of this I’ll put the dot between Jamaica and Haiti). While the US locations still can’t help but looking prosaic if not downright tacky, the backwaters of Louisiana don’t seem quite as mundane as Kentucky (Goldfinger) or Las Vegas (Diamonds Are Forever).

The New Fellow

The first look here he’s immediately wrapped up in some Italian attache in his own place, before being rudely disturbed by M, whom he distracts with an espresso machine while his guest can get some clothes on.

There’s one word that immediately comes to mind, and that’s suaaaaave. Moore’s portrayal of Bond is as more of a lover than a fighter, although he is still capable enough of the latter. Whether it’s appropriate to bring the age thing in, well, Moore was even a bit older than Connery, so while he looks youthful enough in his mid-40s, by the time he got to the end of his run you’d think a successful agent would’ve hung up his Walther by then.

And by the way, he is still a prodigious sex pest, perhaps even more so…

The Mastermind

The villain du jour is Mr Big/Dr Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the Prime Minister of San Monique who also doubles as a heroin kingpin with a chain of restaurants across the US serving as his distribution points. His cunning plan is to dump so much heroin into the States for free through these outlets that it bankrupts his opposition and then he can raise the prices clean up – so, essentially, the Coles-Woolworths strategy.

He has an impressive rogues gallery of henchmen working for him, such as Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris), who runs a farm with crocodiles AND alligators, and a creepy prosthetic arm which he acquired after his livestock got a little unruly. There’s also Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) who’s got all the moves, enjoys a good laugh, dabbles in voodoo, and is a bit of a herpetologist as well.
Rounding out the lieutenants is Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown) who, erm, whispers.

There’s no denying that this is pretty much a blaxploitation movie, that just so happens to have an overly mannered British gentleman in it as the fish out of water. Even so, Kananga and Tee Hee are played straight, with the acting much more dignified than the villains were able to muster in Diamonds Are Forever.

The Squeeze

Jane Seymour plays her first big break, Solitaire, with far more substance than whatever was going on with Tiffany Case last time ’round. Having said that, the role is suitably ludicrous as befits the film. Solitaire starts out as a psychic working for Kananga, being able to reliably foretell the future through the tarot. In which case; with this unique talent, why the hell doesn’t Kananga just go hogwild at the racetrack with Solitaire’s tips instead of dumping horse everywhere?

But anyway Bond turns up in San Monique, stacks the deck so it says they’re definitely going to do it, and so they do, and it turns out Solitaire can’t read the tarot anymore because she’s no longer a virgin. Tres awks. Kananga is particularly aggrieved probably more because he wanted to be the one to deflower her than the loss of her prognostication skills.

Notably, this also marks Bond’s first (but definitely not the last) inter-racial liaison, as prior to tracking down Solitaire, he also picks up Rosie Carver, ostensibly working for CIA but doubling for Kananga as well. Alas, she becomes the sacrificial lamb before she can cough up any intel.

The Allies

Regular Bond ally Felix Leiter pops up again, in the form of David Hedison. As Leiter usually does, he gets to do all the fixing, writes up all the paperwork, and again letting the British guy wreak havoc as he conducts his investigation on foreign soil. I should mention that it has been incredibly confusing having a different guy for Leiter every time he appears. Hedison does play the role again in a later role – much later.

There’s also another return of a sort, with Quarrel Junior, the son of Quarrel from Dr No, running the boat at San Monique. I dunno, assuming that Junior was left fatherless as a result of Bond’s earlier mission, I’m not sure I’d be so cooperative in his shoes, but at least he gets to survive this adventure.

The Farce

Not so much allies as the comic relief, the Louisiana cops turn up, with Sheriff J W Pepper played as a good ol’ boy by Clifton James. I should cringe at the boat chase segment as a canonical example of what’s bad about the Moore movies. But if I’m going to be honest, I thought it was fairly well done. Anyway, I know already that there are better bad examples ahead.

What I couldn’t really get past is Kananga’s demise, where he gets blown up. It’s bad. Probably they thought they had to do something with the shark dart, but the production up to that point is pretty solid, and then bam, it’s amateur hour all of a sudden.

And the whole blaxploitation thing? Well, it’s problematic, but the actors playing the role gave pretty good performances.

The Gadgets

There’s nothing like a good tool that gets you out of a tight spot, or even into one, and Bond finds all manner of applications for his electromagnetic watch. Besides that, this film is pretty low-key in its gadget use, as Q doesn’t even appear this time around, and the only other time Bond gets any hi-tech kit out is tracing bugs around his hotel room on San Monique.

The Production

Things just seemed to be a bit slicker this time around, putting aside some of the cheap effects mentioned above. There’s no doubt Moore brings a slightly different tone to the character, and the script was written to work in his relative strengths. As Guy Hamilton’s third go as director, it’s definitely a return to form after the scatterbrained Diamonds Are Forever, restoring his record.


I reckoned this was a pretty solid, if rather unique instalment in the 007 series, and sets up Roger Moore’s run in the lead role, still the longest to date – and at least at this stage he doesn’t look unfeasibly old to still be doing fieldwork. All the other players range from capable to charismatic, particularly Yaphet Kotto as the enterprising entrepreneur who ends up being crushed by The Man for being the wrong colour.

I reckon it’s nice solid 16 out of 20 gris-gris.