Friday, May 22, 2009

James Bond and me.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was the first James Bond film I was allowed to see.
My family took guidance from the Legion of Decency, so we didn't see DR. NO as it was classified "B: Morally Objectionable In Part For All." Imagine our concern when we discovered, after having already seen it, that HERCULES UNCHAINED was classified "B". My older sister went to the Catholic Chaplin at Camp Sukiran and asked if we had committed a sin, and the priest replied "No". The ratings were a guide to the content of the movie and as long as we weren't swayed to believe that the morally objectionable behavoir shown wasn't objectionable, it would be okay to see the movie.
So, my family went to see FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the second James Bond film, but the first to come out after we got the okay to see "B" rated movies. I loved it from the lethal training exercise in the Spectre garden to "She got her kicks."
Then DR. NO got a re-release and we saw it and I loved it too.
But, as excited as my family was with the James Bond films, many people that I knew didn't know about them. That changed with GOLDFINGER. Everyone got excited about GOLDFINGER. No one shared my irritation that it made no sense for Goldfinger to explain his plan to the assembled gangsters, divide them into those that stayed and Mr. Solo who left, only to kill them all seperately. Now I understand that this was thought to be a clever way for Bond to overhear the plan and for the filmmakers to show how lethal the gas was - but it really hurt one's ability to re-watch a movie when it just became more and more apparant how stupid the plotting was.
And this was the movie that really made James Bond a popular success. And so most of the subsequent films used it as the blueprint from which to build.
I credit the return of director Terence Young, who did DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, with the fact that I loved THUNDERBALL. But then YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was disappointing, George Lazenby made ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE a chore to sit through and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was dreadful.
So, I gave up on the Bond movies. I did not go to see LIVE AND LET DIE. Roger Moore and Paul McCartney were not tempting.
But there I was in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting for a Greyhound bus to take me to visit an high school friend living in Montgomery, Alabama and I had a few hours to kill. A nearby multiplex was showing THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and it had Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland in it. I went, I saw and I was nauseated.
Years later, in L.A., I got Select-TV because it was showing The Hammer House of Horror TV series, and I ended up catching up on the unseen Bond films. Select-TV merged with rival On-TV and then the time came to get cable and the Z Channel. That's how I kept up with James Bond, without much enthusiasm.
As did a number of other people, I went to see NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN hoping that Sean Connery and Irvin Kershner - who had changed my mind about seeing any more of those STAR WARS movies - would bring back some of what I had previously enjoyed, but I mostly came out thinking that I hoped to never see Kim Basinger or Barbara Carrera again.
The change from Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton - who was in a movie I love called THE LION IN WINTER - sparked some interest, but THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS on cable TV did nothing for me. Steve James told me that LICENCE TO KILL was better and I agreed, but mostly I thought I'd like to see more of Carey Lowell - but not on Law & Order I discovered.
When the role of James Bond passed to Pierce Brosnan the publicity effort for the new Bond film reached a level higher than any that I could recall. And it coincided with my raising a little girl to whom I was trying to impart a love of movies. Though she had never seen a James Bond movie, she was aware of the question, "Will Pierce Brosnan make a good James Bond?" So we saw GOLDENEYE at the Cinerama Dome, her favorite theater, and she reported, "I thought he made a good James Bond."
With that I tried to get her to watch the three Sean Connery films that I loved and discovered that she wasn't interested.
"But you said you thought Pierce Brosnan made a good James Bond and I want to show you the original James Bond."
"I said that I thought Pierce Brosnan made a good James Bond, but I didn't say that I was interested in seeing any more James Bond movies."
And, actually, neither was my wife. She loved the Sean Connery/James Bond movies, loved the books, and had no interest in any more of the movies.
So I caught TOMORROW NEVER DIES on cable, mostly because of Michelle Yeoh and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH on DVD, mostly because of Sophie Marceau. I still haven't watched DIE ANOTHER DAY or the two new ones starring Daniel Craig.
But there I was at the Burbank Central Library with the special two-disc DVD set for OCTOPUSSY in my hand and the feeling that I never really gave the film a chance. So, I gave it a watch and spent the time wondering if the train stunts in Jackie Chan's POLICE STORY 3 SUPERCOP were inspired by this movie and wondering if OCTOPUSSY's filmmakers were aware of how much their movie was a rehash of GOLDFINGER.
And you know how I feel about GOLDFINGER.

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