Today is the 50th anniversary of the premier of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. All this week NPR’s Morning Edition has been doing a series of specials on James Bond at 50. This week they are exploring the physics of Bond gadgets, music from the Bond movies, Bond’s favorite martini and the differences between shaken and stirred, and, finally, a survey to determine which actor was the quintessential Bond.
Some people memorize the names of all of the presidents of the US in order. Some memorize all the books of the Bible. I can recite all 22 James Bond films in order, with information such as the Bond actor, major villain, and plot. I sometimes do this as a cognitive exercise to relax, somewhat akin to counting sheep. (And, for the record, I can list all of the books of the Bible, but don’t know all the presidents.)
So, when NPR started this series I was delighted. Unfortunately, it came off as a bit shallow. I guess time constraints wouldn’t let them delve into the issues as much as I might have liked, but I was hoping they would get into whether or not a shaken martini tastes better than a stirred one, rather than simply which is colder. Oh, well.
Next month the super spy’s 23 film outing (well, 25th, if you count the one-offs) hits the big screen when Skyfall premiers on November 2. I liked the last two with Daniel Craig as Bond, but to me, they weren’t really Bond movies. The previews for this film seem to have more of the Bond elements, in addition to the physicality that Craig brings to the role.
Also just release is Adele’s theme song, “Skyfall”, marking the first time that the song and movie share a title.
But, back to the earlier movies…
It would be hard to pick my favorite Bond movie. On some level they are all corny. I can, however, pick out my least favorites. “Diamonds Are Forever” tops that list, with “Moonraker” coming in a close second. The former marked the end of the Connery era, with good reason. His stature as the quintessential Bond was taking a beating with poor scripts. While the campiness of Moonraker played to Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond, there were far too many groan-inducing moments – the return of the henchman Jaws, a coded line from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and possibly one of the most implausible plots in the series. In my mind these beat out the much maligned “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with George Lazenby.
I’m sure there will be lots of Bond movie marathons leading up to Skyfall, but I may celebrate by reading one of the actual novels. I’ve read a few of the original Ian Fleming works, but none of the later books. Of course, there are significant differences between the film canon and the books. Here’s how Bond was envisioned by Fleming…
His signature Aston Martin and Walther PPK came later in the series. He started with a revolver, a Beretta, and drove a Bentley (which shows up in Dr. No and From Russa with Love.)
The “medium dry vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred”, featured in Casino Royale, but his preference for them was also largely a product of the movies. Bond enjoyed his drink with a twist, but my own taste is for a gin martini straight up with olives, not quite dirty, but slightly tainted. And it is with one of those that I will toast 50 years of Bond movies. Na zdravie!
4 thoughts on “Bond at 50”
He had a rather formidable drink in Casino Royale which he christened “The Vespa” after the female double-agent. Someday I’ll have to write the recipe down and get one made.
I have copies of all the novels if you wish to borrow some.
As popular as the recent “Casino Royale” movie was, I’m sure you could order one at just about any semi-respectable bar.
I’ve got six of the early novels. Honestly, I don’t remember which ones I’ve read.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is definitely one of the top Bond movies. Great film, wrong actor for Bond.
The Roger Moore-era movies, except The Spy Who Loved Me, battle for the top spots on my own worst Bond movie list. Too bad the Pierce Brosnan-era scripts were so bad, sigh, he was good in the role.
Daniel Craig is exactly, IMO, what the franchise needed to get back on track. Well, that and better scripts and semi-plausible plots. So far, at least the theme song is pretty darn good.
I didn’t like the opening and closing action scenes of CR. Running along the top of a crane and then getting down in the way they did …. and that collapsing building bit in Venice. Not so cool. Otherwise, I thought that book realized the novel remarkably well. I like the emphasis on character with this new Bond. Setting the casino in Montenegro instead of on the NW coast of France was interesting, but I liked it well enough.
I liked the Sean Connery Bonds a lot, and even David Lazzerby. I think he’s grossly under-rated. Maybe the shared brilliance of Dianna Rigg (sp) – she is a jewel in anything I’ve seen her act in. Movie and TV. Roger Moore … kind of mixed bag. I liked The Living Daylights for the most part, but some annoying bits in the script. It COULD have been much better, and I enjoyed it anyway. The “safe sex” Bond, if I recall.