007 in 23: Assignment #011- Moonraker

ASSIGNMENT #011: Moonraker (1979)

In 1977 when The Spy Who Loved Me was released, it stated that James Bond would return in For Your Eye Only, which was quickly put aside for a later date thanks to going with Moonraker as their next film. Why? Because a little science fiction film released changed everything. What was that film?

Yes, Star Wars. I guess I picked a good day to watch this film and make this review dated since Disney just bought Lucasfilm and everything it practically own, including Star Wars. Moonraker was made to cash in on the new craze that is space opera action. As much as I love Star Wars, I will blame it for making the second worst film of the franchise. Of course, plot first, then review later.

The Moonraker space shuttle, owned by Drax Industries, is hijacked and it is up for James Bond to go investigate. As he heads via plane to Drax Industries, Jaws appears to attack Bond, but Bond steals a parachute and escapes saving. Jaws, on the other hand, lands on a circus tent and survives because that’s how he rolls. Bond heads to Drax Industries shuttle-manufacturing area to meet Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), his henchman, Chang (Toshiro Suga) and eventually Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles). Bond is nearly killed in a centrifuge chamber by G-forces, but escapes. Bond finds blueprints of a glass vial in Venice thanks to Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery), ends another taking of his life, and Dufour is killed by Drax for failing. Bond catches up with Goodhead, only to engage in a canal chase with Jaws at the helm, and ends with Bond driving a gondola hovercraft, providing one of the stupidest things I’ve seen in my life. Bond learns that the glass vials contain nerve gas and gets in a fight with Chang, kills him, and goes on to find that Drax is moving his operation to Rio de Janerio. Goodhead is revealed to be a CIA agent spying on Drax and this film turns into Spy Who Loved Me 2.0. 

They head to Rio for Bond where Jaws, once more, to attack Bond and Goodhead in a cable car and Jaws get screwed over, only to survives because that is still how Jaws rolls. Jaws falls (for some reason) for a young girl named Dolly who saves him. Q informs Bond that the nerve gas is from a rare orchid which Bond goes to find in the Amazon jungle. He engages in yet another chase with Jaws on the Amazon river ending in Jaws giving the most hilarious ‘Oh Crap’ face in the series as head ends down a waterfall. Bond then follows a strange girl which leads him to Drax’s new facility, only to get, you guessed it, caught in a trap. He is a regular April O’Neil at this point. Bond is taken to Drax and see that six Moonraker shuttles, one which Bond and Goodhead steal, headed to a secret space station Drax owns, which is pretty odd consider it would be quite hard to hide a giant space station. Drax reveals his plan to destroy the human race on Earth by launching a deadly toxin throughout as he has taken who he deemed as the perfect men and women on board to create a master race making Drax essentially Space Hitler. Bond uses this to get Jaws and Dolly to go on the good side and it works incredibly well to his advantage as Jaws takes out to of Drax henchmen. As Drax launches the toxin globes to Earth, Bond manages to jam them to destroy them as space marines come an engage in the shameless Star Wars rip off action scene. Bond beats Drax, escapes with Goodhead to Earth thanks to Jaws, and how do you think it ends with old fashioned boning…IN SPAAAACE!

This movie sucked in every since of the word. The action is dull, the set pieces are dull, it is just a dull movie. It was a chore to sit through and I lost interest a good half hour into the film because I just didn’t care. The film was done better in the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me, as this is essentially the same film with space instead of the ocean, a worst actress playing the female agent, a retread of the same villain type played still by a great actor, but is just done all poorly. I hated this film and was miserable watching it, with the exception of Jaws. Jaws saves this film doing the opposite of what J.W. Pepper in Man with Golden Gun by saving an entire film, but that alone isn’t enough. Sadly, Jaws is out of the film series for good, but not the video game series if you play the classic multiplayer (more on that in GoldenEye).

As theme songs go by Shirley Bassey, this isn’t her best effort, but even her best effort is good enough. It nearly makes up for the film and is gorgeous as hell to listen to.

Moonraker shoots for the moon, but winds up in the sun to burn up due to being the dullest film and second worst film in the franchise, right after Diamonds are Forever.

Assignment Status: 1.75 out of 5

Next time, Bond goes on a mission that takes him into dealing with an old rival and a woman seeking revengence (revenge with a vengence) for the murder of her parents. Time to go back to Earth in an assignment for Bond’s eye only.

Next Mission: For Your Eyes Only

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007 in 23: Assignment #010- The Spy Who Loved Me

ASSIGNMENT #010: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

As British and Soviets submarines suddenly disappear, James Bond 007 is called to investigate, all while he is busy escaping Soviet agents in a ski chase in Austria, killing one, and jumping off a cliff to fly with a Union Jack parachute guiding him to safety. Bond finds out about a submarine tracking system that has hit the black market in Eygpy. Bond goes to investigate when he bumps into Soviet KGB agent Anya Amasova (Barbara, codenamed Triple XXX (and thankfully does not look like Vin Diesel) and must team up thanks to an alliance form by the British and Soviets. As they investigate in Eygpt looking for a microfilm explaining the system, they come across the metal teeth giant assassin named Jaws (Richard Kiel), an henchman of scientist and shipping tycoon Stromberg (Curd Jurgens) who has ties to the theft of the tracking system. Stromberg is obsessed with the ocean to the point that he has a hideout in the middle of it called Atlantis. Bond and Anya start to travel by train, but are attacked by Jaws. Bond, of course, fights Jaws, tosses him out, and earns the heart of Anya. They visit Stromberg’s base to discover his super tanker Liparus, to which Bond and Anya engage in a car chase with Jaws back to seek vengence. The car chase quickly ends when Bond, in his new Lotus Espirit provided by Q (Desmond Llewelyn), takes it off the cliff and into the water to reveal it is also a submarine vehicle. They take advantage of this to further investigate Stromberg’s facilities as they find out the super tanker Stromberg owns has never ported. The mission almost rears its ugly head when Anya finds out Bond killed her lover, the agent from the teaser, in Austria and promises to kill Bond after the mission is officially over.

As the agents go to a makeshift headquarters on a American submarine, they decide to go deeper into Atlantis and find that Stromberg does indeed have the tracking device for his Liparus super tanker to obtain the submarines that have disappeared. He plans to use nuclear missile aboard the subs to attack both Russia and the United States and escalate into a World War III to build an underwater civilization. They leave and Bond saves the captured crew from the submarines captured into a full scale battle against Stromberg’s super tanker workers. As the submarines are taken out to sea by Stromberg, Bond arranges the subs to attack one another instead of the cities, succeeding, and causing the biggest and somehow not as destructive as it should be mushroom cloud. Everyone escapes the Liparus successfully as it sinks to the bottom on in a blaze. Bond heads to Atlantis to kill Stromberg, defeat Jaws by tossing him into a shark pit, saves Anya, and destroy Atlantis once again. They escape in a escape pod (no crap) where Anya pulls a gun on Bond as he prepares the champagne. Anya fires…popping the champagne and forgives Bond as they make sweet music and are seen by their superiors when they are recovered, but close the blinds for privacy. Luckily, Jaws survives to live on swimming towards the sunset to get his revenge on Bond.

This was a fun one and I mean it with the deepest admiration for it. Roger Moore considers this his best and it is not hard to see why. It combines the elements that made the Connery films great from a story standpoint, all the fun and excitement of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the comedic moments that the first two Roger Moore Bond films tried to introduce and adds it to the mix with better results. Roger Moore is great, ‘nough said. Barbara Bach as Anya is quite good and a fine addition to the series as an agent who is just as smart and brilliant as Bond and the perfect woman to be alongside him. Curd Jurgens as Stromberg is a strong presence with what he is given, seems to know what he wants, will stop at nothing to get it, and might be a favorite of mine. Richard Kiel as Jaws…I love this character, I really do. He may be quiet, he may be a menace  but he might be a gentle giant if you knew him, but will still kill you regardless. The fact that he keeps coming back, kills a shark just by biting him to death, and lives to tell the tale is worth enough praise in himself.

The action is stellar from the car chase ro the opening teaser to the climax battle. It is a step up from the first two Moore film in every way by not being forgettable or destroyed by one character at the helm. The car chase is the true highlight with a thrilling chase by the ocean side as you wait for the car to jump off the cliff and enter the ocean to escape, but are greeted by near misses and gun fights. I loved it. The only complaint of the film is how it drags immediately after the climax for a good ten minutes. Usually this would be minor, but it stops the film completely and it takes you out of it, but once the submarines get out, it becomes all good again.

The theme song ‘Nobody Does It Better’ by Carly Simon is gorgeous and stunning. Carly Simon, one of the greatest voices in existence, doing a Bond song is the equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter. A magnificent love song and beautiful. One of my favorites. The Spy Who Loved Me is the best of Moore’s time and brings back the excitement of Bond that was missing from the past three films with top notch action, great performances, a plot that isn’t overdone, and blending comedic moments without ruining the action.

Assignment Status: 4.5 out of 5

Next time, James Bond heads to space. What more do you need? Possibly a sentence I never thought I would write. This is going to hurt.

Next Mission: Moonraker

 

007 in 23: Assignment #009- The Man with the Golden Gun

ASSIGNMENT #009: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

James Bond is called in by M as a golden bullet surfaces at MI6 displaying James Bond’s code ‘007’. It is thought to be from famed assassin and proud third nipple person, Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher ‘Dracula’ Lee), who is in possession of a golden gun he uses to intimidate his enemies. Despite this, M sends bond out on a mission to find a scientist named Gibson helping to resolve the energy crisis with solar energy, but Bond decides to find Scaramanga on his own. Bond sets out on his mission and meets Scaramanga’s mistress, Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), in Hong Kong. Bond follows her to the Bottoms Up Club, the location of Scaramanga’s next assassination target, Gibson. With Gibson dead, Scaramanga’s henchmidget (a phrase I never though I type) Knick Knack (Herve Villechaize) steals a competent of Gibson’s solar plant known as the Solex agitator. Bond, ready to nabbed him, is taken away by Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Tek Oh) to meet with M and Q in a secret headquarters located within the wreck of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, which is what the stereotypical vision of a clown college will look like. M tells bond that to focus on getting the agitator back and kill Scaramanga while doing so.

Bond heads to Bangkok to meet an entrepreneur named Hai Fat (Richard Loo), who may be in connection with the murder of Gibson. As Bond poses as Scaramanga, it is quickly ruined because Scaramanga, one jump ahead of the lawman, is already there. Bond gets captured, surpassing Fleischer Studios’ Lois Lane’s record number of captures, and placed in Fat’s dojo engaging in poorly done martial arts action. He escapes and is reunited with his assistant from earlier, Mary Goodnight (Brit Ekland). Fat is killed by Scarmanga and takes his place as chairman and takes the Solex. Anders returns as Bond is about to get busy with Goodnight to reveal she sent the bullet to Bond to kill Scaramanga once and for all and promises to hand over the Solex at a boxing match the next day. At the boxing match, Anders is killed and Bond has a chat with Scaramanga and see the Solex on the floor. Bond grabs, hands it to Hip, and delivers it to Goodnight. Goodnight is capture trying to place a homing device in Scaramanga’s vehicle. Bond gets wind off this, steals a showroom car that has the return of the resident Scrappy-Doo of the series, Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Bond and Pepper go on to chase Scaramanga with Pepper who can’t shut his trap throughout, destroying the chase’s excitement. Scaramanga escapes in a flying car and J.w. Pepper is arrested by Thai Police and there was much rejoicing by the Bond fandom.

Bond takes a seaplane to Scaramanga’s island hideout, where Scaramanga introduces himself to Bond, has Goodnight present with him, presents his newly acquired solar plant, and his high powered laser that uses the power of the Sun to destroy and uses Bond plane as its first target. Sacaramanga challenges Bond to a duel without glove slapping him and Bond shoots first, only to find Scaramanga has vanished and entered his funhouse shooting gallery. Bond enters to find Scaramanga posing as a mannequin of himself and surprises Scaramanga by simply shooting and killing him. Goodnight acciddently disrupts the solar plant’s balance by tossing a henchman in liquid helium like an extra ingredient in soup. Bond gets the Solex just in time as the facility blows up and Goodnight and Bond escape on a Chinese Junk. While getting settled, Knick Knack appears to kill Bond, but Bond quickly packs him up and a suitcase and tosses him out. The rest is history.

It is easy to see why this is declared one of the worst Bond films, but it is not all that terrible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awful, but it does have some elements that save it. Roger Moore as Bond for a second time is much better than his first time since you can see him finally getting the swing of things and really letting loose by having a ball. Christopher Lee as Scaramanga is quite intimidating and unexpected since Scaramanga goes back in forth from being a man you just want to have a beer with to a man who you want to run away from. Christopher Lee is usually always phenomenal in any film and this proves to be no exception. Muad Adams as Andrea Anders is a great addition and plays the role quite well, but still lacks in certain areas due to her lack of screen time. Brit Ekland, on the other hand, is not that great, but it isn’t because of her performance, but how her role was written. You can tell the writers wanted to make a strong female, but failed and is quite awful. All she did was knock out one guy and even that screwed something up. If you want a good performance out of her, see 1973’s  The Wicker Man, released a year before this feature and also has Christopher Lee as an even creepier man who lives on an island. Herve Villechaize looks like he was having the time of his life because he preforms Knick Knack charismatic but deadly child who just happens to be in a man’s body.

The things that bring the film down are probably what you might expect from bad James Bond films, which means the action and plot is just awful. The kung fu scenes are poorly handled since Roger Moore looks like he has no idea what is going on and the chases are ruined by Sheriff Pepper. I know I did light cursing in previous reviews, but this character is the only one deserving of a great big harsh curse of ‘fuck you’ for single handily destroying an entire film. Not even Jar Jar Binks in Episode I can measure up to what this character did. I’m sure the actor Clifton James is a perfectly fine actor in other films and a nice guy, but in this series, he has none of my respect whatsoever. The plot is terrible because is the basic ‘giant laser, destroy the world’ plot that gets very tiring after a while and it’s boring by now. It is one of my most hated plot devices in film and in a James Bond film, it just brings it down a peg even more.

As for the theme song by Lulu, I have no idea what to say about it really. It’s odd, but catchy, but far from being a true classic like Bassey’s tunes or the instrumental ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. I didn’t really care much for it and it’s pretty low on the list (don’t fret, the worst one doesn’t happen till 2002).

The Man with the Golden Gun is a golden mess with a tired plot, weak action and adventure, but filled with performances that may make it worth a sit, but only once.

Assignment Status: 2.75 out of 5

Next time, Bond must take on a man by the name of Stromberg ready to destroy the world and build a underwater civilization while teaming up with Russian agent Anya Amasova as they fall for one another. Get ready for underwater cars, the debut of Jaws, and a film considered by Roger Moore as his best outing.

Next Mission: The Spy Who Loved Me

007 in 23: Assignment #008- Live and Let Die

ASSIGNMENT #008: Live and Let Die (1973)

With Sean Connery officially done with the franchise declaring “Never again” (only to bite him back when he starred as Bond in the unofficial EON Bond film Never Say Never Again), Roger Moore stepped in to fill in the shoes of Agent 007. Live and Let Die starts Moore’s record breaking seven film run as James Bond in an EON production and introduces the world to what Moore, already well known, could do with Bond.

Agents of MI6 are killed in New York, New Orleans, and San Monique while in a span of 24 hours while investigating San Monique’s dictator Dr. Kananga. James Bond must pick up where they left off by heading to New York to investigate the first murder and to meet up with his old CIA friend Felix Leiter (played by David Hedison, making him fifth actor to portray the role). While in being driven, his driver is shot dead by an unknown gunman in a white pimpmobile (no, I’m not making that up). Bond starts to trace the plates and is lead to a Fillet of Soul restaurant run by notorious Harlem drug lord Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto). He is then taken in and face to face with Mr. Big, meets Big’s go to virgin fortune teller Solitaire (Jane Seymour), and Mr. Big’s right hand…I mean claw hand man, Tee Hee (Julius Harris and winner of second best henchman name). Big demand Tee Hee to kill him, but Bond escapes, gives them a British ass whooping, and heads to San Monique.

Once there he meets a CIA operative named Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), who is revealed as a double agent once on the island Solitaire calls home where Carver is shot dead via voodoo scarecrow by Kananga after revealing herself. Bond lures Solitaire with The Lovers card to eventually deflower her to eliminate her psychic ability (I guess that’s how that works) to stop her from helping Big and Kananga any further. Bond and Solitaire go to New Orleans to investigate when Mr. Big captures them and reveals that he is Kananga in disguise and reveals that he plans to distribute two tons of heorin freely through his restaurant and is exploiting the fears of voodoo the islanders have in order to maintain the poppy field for his drug trade.

Kananga has his henchman Whisper (Early ‘Jolly’ Brown and winner of the best henchman name) take out Bond to give to Tee Hee. Meanwhile, Solitaire is taken to voodoo priest and possible inspiration for Dr. Facilier, Baron Samedi (Tony Award winner Geoffrey Holder) to be sacrificed to the voodoo gods. Tee Hee leaves Bond in the backwoods of local farm to be eaten by crocodiles, but Bond being Bond goes Pitfall Harry and jumps on them at the right moment and burns down the farm. Bond engages in a speedboat chase through the mighty swamps of good ol’ Louisiana with Kanaga’s men in hot pursuit, along with borderline idiotic Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) and the Louisana State Police making this the highlight of the film. Bond heads to San Monique to save Solitaire, defeats Samaldi with Smith and Wesson revolver (Bond with a Smith and Wesson? Why I never!), and escape only to be captured by Kananga and into his shark tank. Bond is having none of this crap and puts a shark pellet in Kananga’s mouth blasting him up like Team Rocket and killing him. Bond and Solitaire think they are safe when on a train, but are attacked by Tee Hee to leave Bond to deliver an asskicking with Love. He tosses Tee Hee and his arm out the train and they are now safe, but with Samedi in front of the train laughing like a maniac, who knows?

This was an interesting film to say nonetheless. It was not the best Bond film or even the worse, it was just all around okay, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some highlights and performances worth noting. To me, this is a fantastic introduction to Moore’s take on Bond, a suave pretty boy with intelligence, charm, and sophisticated ideals, but will deliver when he is needed in fight. Moore tends to not be as rough or aggressive as Connery, but judging by the upcoming films he is in and how ridiculous they get, he doesn’t really need to be. I like Roger Moore as Bond and he is great, even if he isn’t the best of the series. Jane Seymour is also fantastic as well and after having to sit through the unbelievable one note performance of Jill St. John, it is a godsend. I actually love Jane Seymour as an actress in her other works and she is beyond gorgeous, even to this day. My favorite Bond girl alongside Titiana Romanova and Teresa di Vicenzo. Yaphet Kotto as Kananga is just awesome, plain and simple. He plays the part of a villain with ease, and after the reveal, he becomes even more a threat with great intimidation in his performance. The henchman of Kananga, though small roles, perform like the best of the Bond henchman can with ease, with Geoffrey Holder’s Baron stealing the show. The speedboat and airport chases are a true highlight of the film, filled with action and are never boring. The plot isgood straying away from the world domination plot and making it more of a smaller scheme on a grand scale.

The only complaint about this film would be the pacing and one performance in particular. It seems very slow at certain parts, but not to the point where it stops the feature entirely, just a minor pace problem. Clifton James performance as Sheriff Pepper is godawful, giving Diamonds are Forever flashbacks. Luckily, he isn’t in it that long, but he did almost destroy the boat chase scene with his terrible reactions to Bond’s destruction. One other thing I like to address is the majority of the cast being African-American and if this film is racist or not. For me, I don’t think this film is racist in the slightest and despite its depiction of voodoo, it never really offends. I didn’t feel bother and I didn’t feel like anything stood out. The majority of black actors is mostly to captilize of the blaxpoiltation craze that was happening at the time thanks to films like Shaft, Sweet Sweatback’s Badasssss Song, and Coffy and later paid homage to in the hilarious Black Dynamite. I do enjoy how much it feels like a blaxpoiltation flick and hits all the right notes.

Live and Let Die may not be the perfect Bond film or the perfect thriller, but with some great performances and classic Bond tropes, it still provides enough joy to at give a quick introduction to the new direction of the franchise.

As for the theme song, I may be completely bias since I adore Paul McCartney’s work from Beatles to Wings to his solo stuff, ‘Live and Let Die’ remains my favorite Bond theme of all time. I love it and it’s epic in scope, starting with lighthearted intro leading to a dramatic chord to the almost manic fast paced echos strings and piano like war broke out to the sweet and merry swells of the buildup and all over again. I can listen to this over and over again. I love it to death.

Assignment Status: 3.5 out of 5

Next time, Bond must stop a device that can use the power of the sun, all while facing Christopher Lee and his golden gun. Get ready for third nipples, kung fu, tiny men, gun fights, and the 1973 energy crisis of Britain.

Next Mission: The Man with The Golden Gun

007 in 23: Assignment #007- Diamonds Are Forever

ASSIGNMENT #007: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

I’m going to forgo the writing the entire plot of this film and just link to Wikipedia’s plot description. Just for this film alone because this is the film that almost made me stop this 007 in 23 completely. Why not type out the plot description? This tripe is not even worth wasting space to detail the plot. I’m going to get very unprofessional in this article, so you have been warned because this is one of the worst films I have seen.

Okay, fine, a very quick plot synopsis Blofeld is back with duplicates of himself with Connery back as Bond. He is searching for diamonds Blofeld needs to create a high power laser above the world to destroy the world and gain supremacy  Along the way, every trope you love about James Bond gets destroyed and broken in front of your damn eyes. Everything about this film is just wrong. The plot, the side characters, the chases, the action, the bloodly Bond Girls. Thunderball, while boring and a mess in itself, didn’t do this much damage to the series. Where do I even begin? I’ll start with the characters.

Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, played ever so poorly and miscasted by Bruce Glover and Putter Smith, are terrible. Tommy Wiseau in The Room has more emotion and intimidation in a single frame than any of these two ever had in their life and all while being a horrific stereotypes of homosexuals. Their mannerisms and delivery is one to rival half the cast of Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne. Even when they try to seem the least bit interesting, one of them has to ruin the moment with a stupid smirk or wink.

If a blow up doll could be an actress with zero emotion and talent, Jill St. John would be that blow up. No doubt about it, the woman is beyond gorgeous and probably a joy to be around, but my dear sweet baby Jesus, who did she blow to get this part? Every line and inflection is the same exact same emotion which is “I’m getting a paycheck to show myself off regardless so let me sleepwalk this all off”. She had to be the 70’s equivalent of Jessica Alba and it shows.

Charles Gray as Blofeld looks and acts as if he is Mrs. Doubtfire that acciddently stumbled on set. He isn’t menacing, he isn’t villainous, and he isn’t the Blofeld that Telly Savalas and Donald Pleasence made great in their own way. He adds nothing new and plays him like he is getting the same paycheck St. John got. It is just nothing to go on with him. Not just him or the ones I mentioned, but every person is awful and miserable in this film, with the exception of Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, and Bernard Lee who have little screentime and manage to get away without any terribleness.

Which leads me to Sean Connery…I sorry to do this, but not even he could save it. He just looks like he also did it for the money and doesn’t care for the role anymore and this is his final send off as Bond (in a EON production anyway). What a terrible way to go out on such a lame feature. Hell, not even if Lazenby was still in the franchise could he save it.

The moments in this film are terrible and utterly forgettable. Vegas is forgettable  the moon buggy chase is a bland mess, the destruction of weapons and a submarine with a high power laser is pure utter crap. The plot is slow and boring thanks to a snail pace that makes Thunderball look like The Fast and the Furious. Every henchman and mook he fights isn’t worth a mentioned. Nothing could save this movie, except the theme song.

Shirley Bassey is back to deliver a fantastic theme that when even taken out of the film, it works even better. I love it and ranks as a favorite theme of mine.

Overall, Diamonds Are Forever is forever one of the worst films I have ever, filled with bland moments, terrible performances from nearly everyone, and a plot that nears ridiculousness that even the franchise would have no to, but didn’t. Save it if you have the collection of all the films just to have it as part of Connery’s film, but if you are one who is watching the series for the first time, don’t even bother watching it.

Assignment Status: 1.5 out of 5

In the next mission, Roger Moore comes in to replace Connery as the new Bond to bust a heroin drug ring from Harlem drug lord Mr. Big. In a film featuring pimpmobiles, voodoo, afros, a young Jane Seymour, and the most badass theme songs to a Bond film, it is time for Bond to move away from SPECTRE and move into more stranger plots.

Next Mission: Live or Let Die

007 in 23: Assignment #006- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

ASSIGNMENT #006: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby, only known for fish and chip commercials, has come in to tackle a more realistic take on the role Connery made famous. Lazenby’s only time as James Bond has been the butt of constant jokes, fans deriding his performance, and even the actor himself regrets being 007 only once. With all that aside, does this mean OHMSS is a bad film? Let’s see.

Bond, while in Portugal, (Lazenby) saves a woman by the name Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) from comitting suicide at a beach. Later, she thanks by by inviting him to her hotel room, only to be kidnapped and taken to the head of the European crime syndicate Unione Corse, Marc-Ange Draco (Gabrielle Ferzetti), who is Tracy’s father. Draco offers Bond to marry his daughter on a dowry of $1 million pounds. Bond initially refuses but soon comitts after Draco provides information where Blofeld (played in this feature by Telly Savalas). Bond argues with M over the prospect but continues his hunt for Blofeld and begins to pursue a romance with Tracy. Draco tells bond to head to Bern, Switzerland to obtain the alias of Lodon Coats of Arm’ genealogist Sir Hilary Bray after Blofeld attempts to obtain the name of Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp. As Bond pursues Blofeld at a research facilityrun by Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) located in the Swiss Alps at the top of Pia Gloria and meets with Blofeld and the ‘angels of death’ he has (and by meeting the angels of death, you know how Bond meets his women). He finds out that the women are being brainwashed by Blofeld to start a distribution of biological warfare viruses throughout the world through consumption of food.

Blofeld sees through Bond’s disguise after failing to get Blofeld out of Switzerland to be arrested. Bond escapes the hands of Blofeld and gives chase off the mountain in the mother of all ski chases. Bond races towards a local village and comes across Tracy as they escapes via car from Bunt and her henchmen, eventually crashing a stock car race. Bond and Tracy hide out in a barn where Bond professes his love for Tracy and proposes. Tracy accepts and they proceed in making some Swiss style loving. Blofeld finds them the next day skiing and attempts to kill them via avalanche but manages to only knock out Tracy and kidnaps her. Bond heads back to London as M proceeds to tell Bond that Blofeld is once again holding the world at ransom with a threat to destroy the world’s agriculture using the methods he brainwashed the ‘angels of death’ with. M tells Bond the ransom is to be paid, but Bond insists they rescue Tracy, which M forbids. Bond decides to go by himself and enlist Draco to lead him back to Blofeld’s hideout and save Tracy. Bond destroys the facility, rescues Tracy, chases Blofeld on a bobsled unleashing his Cool Runnings-like skill, and Blofeld is left stuck in a tree branch, breaking his neck.

Back in Portugal, Bond and Tracy wed with M, Q (no gadgets this time), and Moneypenny (crying her eyes out) in attendence. Bond and Tracy drive away, happily in love but stop when Tracy wants flowers from the ones surrounding the vehicle. As this occurs, a drive-by shooting by Bunt and Blofeld happens as Bond enters the vehicle ready to pursue them, until he realizes Tracy has been killed in the shooting. An officer checks to see if everything is all right, to which Bond in tears simply says “It’s all right. It’s quite all right, really. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry, you see…we have all the time in the world.”

This film was a fantastic one from beginning to end, but even I have to admit, it isn’t as great as the first three, but that isn’t quite a bad critique. This film has more in common with From Russia with Love more than an other film with being a bit more realistic and taking itself serious even when the plot can be quite ridiculous at times. As I wrote in an earlier paragraph, the entire escape chase is the centerpiece and highlight of the entire film, even outshining the climax of the film featuring the coolest slide down of ice while shooting ever put to film (I know it’s not a real category, but I just need to throw it out there). The acting itself is quite good, yet Lazenby can be a bit bland at times. The only real complaint was his delivery of certain lines, including the groan-worthy ‘other fella’ line. Telly Savalas as Blofeld is a fantastic choice and makes the character his own and shines as the best Blofeld of the series. Diana Rigg as Tracy is all around a joy to watch and is quite the fantastic Bond and even see her pull off her moves she learned while acting in The Avengers TV series.  The main plot is the only complaint as being very ridiculous to the point of unbelievability, but the true strength of this feature is the romance between Bond and Tracy by giving a tearjerker of an ending. I am not going to lie, I did in fact shed a tear at the end of this film. The chemistry was that great.

The theme, hell, the entire score of this film, is remarkable. Hours after watching it, I couldn’t get the theme out of my head. The score went on to inspire the soundtrack score to The Incredibles and even made its way to the original trailers of that film, proving its worth.

The love theme ‘All the Time in the World’, an important song to note, isn’t that bad either. Sung by the legendary greats of the jazz scene, Louis Armstrong, he lets it all come out  on this one track giving hope to are soon to be doomed lovers.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service may have the weakest Bond of the series, but succeeds in a being a fast paced and fun adventure with a realistic turn on the character. Those who get very emotional may want to keep a box of Kleenex nearby during the finale of the features though.

Assignment Status: 4.75 out of 5

Next time, Connery is back for one more round (I’m not covering Never Say Never Again, only the EON productions). Bond impersonates a diamond smuggler only to find Blofeld is using the diamonds to create a giant high powered laser. One last showdown between the leader of SPECTRE and Bond himself to finally stop Blofeld’s plan for world domination.

Next Mission: Diamonds Are Forever

007 in 23: Assignment #005- You Only Live Twice

ASSIGNMENT #005: You Only Live Twice (1967)

As an American spacecraft disappears in orbit above Earth by a mysterious craft, the Americans are quick to blame the Soviets, but British intelligence finds out that spacecraft landed somewhere along the coast of Japan. They inform the Americans and Soviets their top man is on the job, as we see 007 in bed with a gorgeous woman as always, only to be killed in ‘action’. the papers announce his death as a British Naval Commander who has passed on and his body is lowered into the ocean and Bond is laid to rest once and for all. The end of the greatest franchise of all time and the beloved suave character we rooted for.

Who are they kidding? Bond is very much alive. MI6 sets up the eloborate ploy to allow 007 not to be interrupted while investigating who exactly is taking the spacecrafts and all signs seem to point to that sleazy group of scoundrels that is SPECTRE. They simply pick him up at the bottom of the sea, transfer him to a sub, and voila, instant rebirth. Bond enters Japan and is helped by Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), the assistant to Tiger Tanaka (Tetsurō Tamba), head of the Japanese secret service, and Aki leads him to MI6 operative Dikko Henderson (Charles Gray). Bond meets with Henderson who delivers evidence about the craft stealing the other crafts, but is suddenly killed by an unknown assailant. Bond hunts and kills him and gets into a getaway car head to Osato Chemicals. Bond enters, fight a random mook, and steal documents that may lead to what the craft and plan is. Aki picks 007 and flee in a subway station, falls through a trapdoor and is greeted by Tanaka himself, sitting villainous on a chair, but luckily, he is on James’ side. The next day, Bond meets up with Osato (Teru Shimada) who orders his secretary, Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), to kill Bond as they are SPECTRE agents. Bond enters a gunfight, wins and tracks down a new lead at a shipping dock. Unfortunatly, Bond gets knocked out and kidnapped by Helga (he gets kidnapped more than Princess Peach now, I swear.)

He decides to use his ‘head’ and please her to get out of her hair. As Tanaka and Bond investigate futher, they learn that SPECTRE is indeed behind the disappearances. Just in the nick of time, Q comes to show off the new gadgets and Bond’s little girl, a toy helicopter which Bond uses to engage in a mid-air battle and figures that the SPECTRE base is nearby on a remote island. Meanwhile, SPECTRE captures a Soviet spacecraft, making tensions between America and the Soviet Russia even greater than before. In order to be on the island, Bond trains with ninjas, disguises as a Japanese man and marry Tanaka’s student, Kissy Sazuki (she isn’t named til the credits, an odd Bond first), despite Aki wanting to be the blushing bride. Sadly, Bond’s love of the film, Aki, is killed in an attempted assassination of Bond. Suzuki and Bond investigate the volcano and discover the lair is the volcano and he slips inside ready to disrupt SPECTRE’s plan of framing the Soviets in another spacecraft hijacking. Bond goes in by stealing an astronaut suits, ready to go to space (slow down, this isn’t Moonraker), but Blofeld discovers him. Bond and Blofeld finally meet face to face, revealing the hidden face of the cat petting villain himself.

Ernst Starvos Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) is ready and willing to kill Bond. Bond tricks Blofeld to open the hatch and the ninjas enter and take down all of Blofeld’s men. Bond, as chaos ensues, fights Blofeld’s bodygaurd, Hans, throws him into a pool of pirahna fish, destroys the spacecraft with a self destruct button, and saves the entire world from a nuclear holocaust. Not only does he use self-destruct on the spacecraft, but on the entire base as him, Tanaka, some ninjas, and Kissy leave and flee to safety via submarine. How does it end? You should already know.

After the mess that was Thunderball, You Only Live Twice is a nice refresher on what made the first three fantastic, even if it can be a bit over the top. Sean Connery as Bond, there is nothing more to say. The man is James Bond and he knows it. This was supposed to be his final feature until Diamonds are Forever, but more on that when we get to there. The women in this film are fantastic and some of the best. Aki is a great addition and gives a great performance of one of the closest to being Bond’s girlfriend since Tatiana Romanova from From Russia with Love. Blofeld is a fantastic reveal and played very well and how I pictured, menacing yet calm. The moments I loved from this film are fantastic, from the helicopter fight scene to the climax at the base, it is all awesome. Bond fighting the random mook at the Osato building might rank up their with one of the best fights in the series. The plot is ridiculous  but somehow the genius Roald Dahl made it all work. Yes, Roald Dahl, writer of Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Witches wrote this feature and it shows. The one element I wish they did improved on was to focus a bit more on the tension that would loom between the States and Russia, but that would probably make the movie more complicated than it already is. Overall, I enjoyed this film very much.

The theme song for this film I absolutely loved. Nancy Sinatra’s voice is gorgeous, seductive, and smooth. It is a treat to listen to, even out of the film itself.

Assignment Status: 4.75 out of 5

Next time, Connery is out and Lazenby is in as SPECTRE plans to declare world domination again by sterilizing the world’s food supply through the ‘angels of death’. Time to head to Switzerland for skiing, humor, and to face Blofeld once more.

Next Assignment: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

007 in 23: Assignment #004- Thunderball

ASSIGNMENT #004: Thunderball (1965)

SPECTRE has returned to move forward with its plan of world domination while James Bond is told by M to rest at a clinic rest up before he continues another further missions. Bond notices a man by the name of Count Lippe (Guy Doleman) at the clinic with a Tong tattoo. Count Lippe also notices Bond and tries to kill him with a spinal traction machine. Bond is saved by psychotherapist Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters) who he sleeps with (you should all know what he does to women by now). Bond after finds the corpse of French NATO pilot Francois Derval who was caring for two NATO atomic bombs, but was murdered by SPECTRE agent Angelo Palazzi (Paul Stassino). Angelo has gone through plastic surgery to get himself to look exactly like Derval to give SPECTRE by sabotaging the flight and giving it to SPECTRE No. 2 agent Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). Upon arrival, Largo kills Angelo for trying to extort more money than he was to earn. At Whitehall, all double-0 agents are called in for briefing as Bond is being chase by Lippe until SPECTRE agent Fiona kills Lippe. Bond, MI6 and NATO are told by SPECTRE their demands for $100 million in flawless uncut diamond in an exchange. If they do not comply, they will launch the bombs in an unspecified location in England or the United States.

Bond decides he want to take on the mission entitled Thunderball to foil SPECTRE. What follows is Bond snorkeling with Domino (Claudine Auger), Derval’s sister,  going to parties, getting information, getting laid, talking to Largo and reuniting with good ol’ CIA operative and resident Other Darrin character Felix Leiter (now played by Rik Van Nutter). Luckily, the boredom of repetition of slow dialogue and even slower underwater scenes is saved when Q arrives to give Bond some much needs underwater gadgets to help him on his mission. Bond tries to seek on board Largo’s boat but is kidnapped by Fiona. He quickly escapes through a parade and arrives at the Kiss Kiss Club where Fiona appears to attempt to murder him, but is killed by her bodyguard. Bond and Felix go to find the downed plane Derval was to pilot, but finds Domino and proceeds to make love underwater. Bond tells Domino Largo killed her brother and gives her a the Geiger counter Q gave him to see if the bombs are, in fact, on board. Bond in disguise finds out Largo’s plan to destroy the vacationing hot spot Miami Beach. After the plan is unveiled, Bond and Felix arrange an underwater ambush with the United States Coast Guards. Bond gets on board Largo’s ship, fights him, foils his plan, saves the day, makes love at sea, roll credits.

I know the synopsis this time is as detailed and a bit more unprofessional, but I have to get it out. Thunderball is one of the most boring films I have ever seen in my entire damn life and I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I know the film had some issues due to a dispute with the story creators and Ian Fleming, but it seems that seeped into the film. The innovative underwater scenes are very nicely shot, but they stop the film, along with the constant dialogue between Bond at the clinic and SPECTRE agents. These scenes intended to move the story along had the film come to a dead stop and give the film a very slow pacing. The chracters are all unlikable, with the exception of Q and James Bond. Largo isn’t even itimidating in the slightest and Domino is so forgettable I even forgot her damn name halfway during the film. The plot is even wasted as it isn’t even detailed or layed out until 40 whole minutes into the film. I counted it, 40 goddamn minutes. I really don’t mean to be like this, but just because the film is over two hours long doesn’t mean you have to use the entire length with filler. Thunderball should have been called Thunderbored. However, despite all my bitching and complaining, there are a number of great positives.

It did innovate how to film underwater and gave something cinema can use to its advantage, even if it was wasted. The best film that has full on underwater sequences is Jaws, but it does owe this film a lot for trying to film and move the camera underwater. Sean Connery as Bond is once again at his best. Connery could have sleepwalked (hell, even sleepswim) his role and he still would have been delightful. Q is back and he is fantastic, as are Moneypenny and M since they have little screen time to prove they are their roles. The final ten minutes of the film is where this movie shines and it is worth just a rental for that alone or a quick search on YouTube. Other than that, Thunderball is a blunder.

Thunderball had a tough act to follow after the fun Goldfinger, the near perfect thriller From Russia with Love, and the exciting Dr. No. Thunderball suffers with a slow pace, a waste of a fascinating plot, waste of talent, but helped innovate an amazing addition to cinema.

Assignment Status: 2.5 out of 5

Next time we see Bond, he is dead and in the water, only to return to find out who is behind the disappearance of American and Soviet spacecraft in orbit as it may be SPECTRE attempting to start World War III. In a mission filled with gorgeous Japanese women, a villainous lair, helicopter fights, ninjas, and a not as racist as it seems disguise, Bond must travel to Japan, born again and ready to take on Blofeld once more.

Next Mission: You Only Live Twice


P.S. Edit: The theme song for Thunderball by Tom Jones is actually pretty badass.

007 in 23: Assignment #003- Goldfinger

ASSIGNMENT #003: Goldfinger (1964)

With SPECTRE out of the way for now, James Bond is assignment in Miami to subdue a gold smuggler named Auric Goldfinger (Gert Forbe) alongside Felix Leiter (played this time by Cec Linder). Bond decides to put his charm to work his way to Goldfinger’s assistant, Jill Matheson (Shirley Eaton), to further learn about Goldfinger’s ploy. Unfortunately, after sexing up the assistant, Bond is attacked by the mysterious Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and is knocked out. Bond wakes to find Jill has been covered in gold pain and is dead due to skin suffocation. In England, Bond gets briefed on the true mission of how Goldfinger smuggles gold all around the world and heads to Q branch to be briefed on the gadgets that will help him on this venture, including the now famous Bond car of choice, the Aston Martin. From there, Bond engages in a high stakes game of golf with Goldfinger with a Nazi gold bar as the prize and pursues him to Switzerland shortly after. Upon arrival, he catches up with Tilly Matheson (Tania Mallet) attempting to avenge the death of her sister. Bond then finds Goldfinger’s plant and hears of a plan known as ‘Operation Grand Slam’, bu doesn’t hear anything further than that.

Tilly trips an alarm and they attempt to escape until Oddjob kills Tilly with his trademark hat. Bond is then captured, tied, and is interrogated by Goldfinger via laser slowly going to his crotch. After lying to Goldfinger’s about MI6’s knowledge of Grand Slam, Goldfinger’s spares him, knocks him out, and he is awaken in his private jet, piloted by Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Pussy takes the plane to Goldfinger’s private farm near fort Knox. Whilst there, Bond discovers exactly what Grand Slam is…a plot to break into Fort Knox and steal gold by using Pussy’s pilot students planes to spread nerve gas to avoid any military interruption. Later, Bond finds out not only stealing it, but releasing an atomic device that will radiate the gold that will make it valuable by rendering the gold useless. As Grand Slam begins, Bond is handcuff to the atomic devicen ticking away and is in Fort Knox as the army is unconscious and seems Goldfinger’s plan will work until Felix Leiter brings out a troop unaffected by the gas near Fort Knox to attack. Bond escapes, fights Oddjob to the death, unarms the bomb (with help), saves the day, and boards a plane to have dinner with The President of the United States. On board, Goldfinger appears to finally get his man and shoots his gun, but depressurizes the plane causing gravity to take over and Goldfinger to exit to his death via window. Pussy piloting the plane escapes with Bond due to parachute. Felix Leiter try to find where they are, Pussy gives the signal when Bond tells her there is no need and…well, you know the rest.

Goldfinger does add every final trope that was missing from the two previous Bond features and delivers on a promise of action, suspense and excitement. One of the key moments I enjoyed was actually venturing into the Q branch and seeing the gadgets and testing that goes on with Q getting more screen time. Q might grow to be a favorite of mine with snappy lines and takes his job very seriously, even if the gadgets are a bit ridiculous. The other scenes are the ones you all Bond fans know such as the Aston Martin chase proving the full display of what this car packs, the fight at Fort Knox with Oddjob that is one of my favorite fights in a feature, and the laser scene that made many a woman quiver with fear at the lost of Bond’s manhood and many men fear for their own manhood. Despite her name (stop giggling like a premature schoolboy while reading), the addition of Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore is great and she actually seems like a Bond girl capable of beating the ever loving hell out of 007.

I really did enjoy this film and so far these three are the best in my eyes. I had seen this film before when I was a Freshman in high and I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed it now, but not as much as From Russia with Love. From Russia had everything but handled suspense and pacing very well. Goldfinger balanced the pacing also, but lacked the suspense and romance that made From Russia a favorite of mine. Pussy and Bond just seemed to be with one another virtually out of nowhere without build up and sincerity, but that is going to a very minor complaint in a great Bond feature.

As for the theme song, Shirley Bassey lets it all out on ‘Goldfinger’ and sets the scene for what to expect from this film. I love it, and apparently EON loved it too as this begins the tradition of the theme of the film at the opening instead of the close a la From Russia with Love. Expect quick theme song reviews from here on out.

Assignment Status: 4.75 out of 5

Next time, SPECTRE returns to take the world ransom by obtaining two atomic bombs and it is up to 007 himself to take them down. James Bond fight by jetpack, fights underwater, and fight on land to become the ultimate epitome of cool badass.

Next assignment: Thunderball

007 in 23: Assignment #002- From Russia with Love

ASSIGNMENT #002- From Russia with Love (1963)

After defeating the nefarious Dr. No, James Bond is back in action in From Russia with Love, which is debated as the best of the series alongside Goldfinger. Sean Connery returns to the role of 007 to face SPECTRE once again with agents avenging the death of Dr. No while attempting to get a cryptographic device from the Soviets to use for their own personal deeds. SPECTRE’s top man, Number 1 aka Ernst Stavro Blofled, enlist ex SMERSH (Death to Spies) agent Number 3 Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) to head out the mission. Klebb decides upon the assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) and the breathtaking cipher clerk Titania Romanova (Danielle Bianchi). M calls upon James Bond to escort Romanova via the Orient Express from Instanbul, but isn’t aware of Romanova involvement of the vengence plot by SPECTRE. Before then, Bond teams up with Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz) to investigate SPECTRE even further. After a bombing at Kerim Bey’s office, they seek refuge at a gypsy camp where Red Grantand the Soviets catch up with them, with James Bond saving the gypsies from peril.

Bond returns to his hotel he is staying at to find Romanova lying naked in bed, waiting for Bond to ‘bed’ her down. Romanova quickly falls for Bond and endangers SPECTRE’s plans and Bond’s life as the travel on the Orient Express. Red Grant soon finds Bond on the train and corners him. Grant attempts to open a suitcase he believes has the information he needs which is in fact a trap as tear gas blows in his face, leading to a fight between Grant and Bond. Bond and Romanova soon escape and head into Venice, hijack a vehicle, fight against a helicopter, and then enter a boat chase ending in a pure blaze of fire and glory. Foiling the plot and retiring to a hotel to relax, Rosa Klebb appears in the room ready to attack until Romanova tackles her down and kills her. Bond and Romanov are last seen ready to make love on a gondola ride through Venice.

I really did not want to give much away in the synopsis above because this is truly a step up from Dr. No and is even better than its predecessor. The moments in this film are something to be experienced. The gypsy fight leading to the Soviets attacking, the boat chase to Venice, and the fight between Red Grant are some of the best cinema moments that will make you cheer for Bond. They are the definitions of action at it’s finest with great cinematography and a sense of adventure. The theme for the film comes at the end, which may seem odd for a Bond feature, but the theme is a perfect love themed end cap to a perfect film.

The romance between Bond and Romanova is believable than Ryder and Bond’s romance from before. Bianchi plays Romanova with such grace and seductiveness and may very well be my favorite Bond girl (for now). Robert Shaw as Red Grant is quite astounding as a silent menace with as much poise and suaveness as Bond that you can’t help but believe him. Lotte Lenya is great in her role and dominates a presence of fear throughout, just like Dr. No. Blofled isn’t seen, but you can see him as the foil to M ready to seek revenge on MI6 and Bond. Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn, finally appears in a small part to set a long career of playing one of the most love characters in the series. Q provides Bond with his gadget filled suitcase and a secret sniper rifle, which is my personal favorite Q provides him in the film.

Everything I can say about From Russia with Love has already been said. It is a fantastic film and a true classic. I even have to admit that it may not just be the best films in the series, but possibly one of the best films made in the action genre. From Russia with Love is filled with the classic thrills of Bond, menacing villains, and a quick pace plot that never gets boring.

Assignment Status: 5 out of 5

Next time, Bond goes on to investigate an gold magnate by the name of Auric Goldfinger as he plans to attack Fort Knox. In a mission filled with car chases, high stakes golf, and Pussy Galore, the Bond franchises becomes what it is today.

Next assignment: Goldfinger