Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The 007 Project: You Only Live Twice

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Bond fakes his death to give himself room to operate more freely. He goes to Japan to investigate the source of a space launch where a capsule is pretending to be the USSR and kidnapping American astronauts, and vice versa. He discovers that SPECTRE is behind the plot, and he assumes the look of a Japanese ninja while invading their base. 

Memorable Quote:
You like Japanese sake, Mr. Bond, or would you prefer vodka martini?  ~Tanaka
Oh no, I like saki. Especially when it's served at the correct temperature: 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, like this is.  ~Bond

I like the scene where Bond has the astronaut outfit on and is getting ready to climb into the space capsule. Cool music, and pretty ballsy of Bond for being ready and willing to go up in space as part of his seat-of-the-pants plan. 

While I like the concept of the fake death, it would have meant more if it actually affected the plot. The only time it came up was when Osato and Brandt were surprised to learn that Bond was alive, but that knowledge wouldn't have changed any of their actions up to that point. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
While scouting locations in Japan, the chief production team narrowly escaped death. On March 5, 1966, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, director Lewis Gilbert, cinematographer Freddie Young, and production designer Ken Adam were booked to leave Japan on BOAC flight 911 departing Tokyo for Hong Kong and London. Two hours before their Boeing 707 flight departed, the team was invited to an unexpected ninja demonstration, and so missed their plane. Their flight took off as scheduled, and twenty-five minutes after take-off, the plane disintegrated over Mt. Fuji, killing all aboard.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This screenplay was written by children's author Roald Dahl. I was a big Fantastic Mr. Fox fan back in the day. 
  • The first Bond movie where the plot from Fleming's book wasn't closely followed. In the book, Bond gets amnesia after killing Blofeld, and then he lives with Kissy Suzuki for a while and gets her pregnant. 
  • It's unclear how Bond doesn't die after getting shot in the murphy bed. 
  • Great opening song! It's sung by Nancy Sinatra, who was offered the song after her father Frank turned it down. 
  • I like the recreation of Moneypenny and M's offices on the sub. 
  • Bond puts on a Covid-style mask when he gets in the back of the car and pretends to be the hoodlum he just took out, and somehow the driver never realizes the deception, even as he gets Bond out of the car and carries him on his back. The driver is played by wrestler Peter Maivia, Dwayne Johnson's grandfather. 
  • "In Japan, men always come first. Women come second."  ~Osato right before he and Bond get undressed and bathed by four scantily clad Japanese ladies. Women's empowerment was never one the Bond series' greatest strengths. 
  • 42:20 mark -- The car chase moves very quickly from busy Tokyo to the countryside. 
  • The scene where Helga Brandt leaves Bond in the plane to die was silly -- why would she go through all that trouble instead of just trying to kill him on land? Also it's impressive how Bond is able to safely land the plane without the wheels. 
  • During the helicopter chase, a cameraman on a harness got his foot partially cut off by a blade and later had the foot amputated. Remind me of that the next time I complain about CGI. 
  • Connery wore a hairpiece in all the Bond movies, and it looks like they gave him a different one when he gets a Japanese makeover. 
  • Shouldn't the US and the Soviets have known that a third party was involved since neither of them were involved in the other's disappearing spacecraft? 
  • The construction of the impressive crater set cost more than making Dr. No
  • Blofeld's cat gets spooked at one point, but Blofeld keeps a solid hold on him. Also, the cat ran away and was missing for a few days during production. 
  • The biggest stretch of the movie is actually not the Pac Mac space capsule that eats the other spaceships -- it's how Bond is allowed to be unrestrained (i.e. not tied up or handcuffed) in the control room while the rocket is taking off. On top of that, they even let him have one of his own cigarettes -- did they miss the part in his file where he uses an occassional gadget? 
  • It wasn't clear at first why Kissy was involved in the volcano assault, but I read online that she was part of the ninja force, despite not being properly dressed for battle. Her character isn't necessary for the story, other than that it fulfills a requirement from the producers to Roald Dahl to have three women for Bond. Mie Hama, who played Kissy, struggled with learning English after getting the part, and the producers told her they were taking the part away from her. She then threatened to jump off a building (!!), and they gave her the part back.  

Final Analysis:
While this movie was fun to watch because I didn't remember it at all, and while I liked the mystery element (i.e. Bond having to do some investigation) and the Japanese locale, there weren't a lot of highlights for me, and it's not a movie that I'd be overly excited to rewatch any time soon. Ranking this 4th out of 5. 

And a quick word on Connery before we move to Lazenby (even though Connery will be back). My overall impression of him is that he's very cool with great stage presence and definitely the most charming of all the Bonds, but he also comes off a bit swarmy at times and more invested in the women than the mission. So overall I like him, but he's not my favorite. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The 007 Project: Thunderball

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
It's all double-00s on deck when SPECTRE steals two atomic bombs and threatens to blow up a city unless they're paid 100 million pounds in diamonds. Bond goes to the Bahamas to investigate a lead, and he discovers the plot led by Largo, SPECTRE's number two, and Fiona Volpe, a red-headed assassin. He also meets Domino, Largo's mistress and the sister of the bomb transport pilot who was killed by SPECTRE. 

Memorable Quote:
My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for king and country. You don't think it gave me any pleasure, do you?  ~Bond

The entire middle third once Bond gets to the Bahamas is outstanding, especially the part when he's sneaking around Largo's home base at night. 

The underwater scenes, while well filmed, are simply too long. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The jetpack that Bond uses to escape his enemies was no special effect, but a real jetpack provided by the U.S. Air Force. Initially, Sir Sean Connery was to fly the jetpack without a helmet (and some publicity photos of him with the jetpack were made with him without a helmet). This was because he would have looked more debonair. It was later decided that he wear a helmet in the scene. This was for risk and safety reasons, as the pilot refused not to wear a helmet, and the scenes had to match.

I wouldn't have guessed that the jetpack was a real thing, or that Connery actually flew it. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I didn't remember the opening at all. It's quirky, but I like it. Not sure how he got the jet pack in place before meeting the SPECTRE agent or how he knew he'd need a jet pack to get away, but any time a jetpack is involved there's no point in asking too many questions. 
  • Thunderball by Tom Jones is a great Bond song. The story goes that Jones passed out in the studio due to holding the final note for so long. That's not unusual (see what I just did there?)
  • There was a legal brouhaha regarding the original Thunderball novel. In short, Ian Fleming mapped out the story with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham for a potential movie, and then a few years later he wrote the book using the same story without crediting the others. They sued Fleming and won shared rights to the story, and McClory was made a producer on the Thunderball movie. Later, McClory spearheaded the Never Say Never Again remake with Sean Connery that is based on Thunderball but is not produced by EON and therefore not considered by most people to be an "official" Bond movie. 
  • 17:00 mark - an uncomfortable moment where Bond basically commits sexual assault by telling the masseuse to have sex with him in exchange for not tattling on her. 
  • 29:55 - pretty impressive to have underwater landing lights in the middle of the ocean. 
  • 39:12 - great scene in the immaculate conference room as Bond walks in late and is disdainfully scolded by M before taking his seat in the 7th position of the 9 double-00s.
  • 49:23 - A woman turns her head to look at Bond when he walks by, and then 10 seconds later another woman smiles at him after he almost bumps into her.  Then at 54:33, the hotel front desk clerk stares longingly at him as he walks away. That's why they say that Bond is the guy that women want to be with and men want to be. 
  • The Bahamas was a long way to go for Q -- why couldn't he just equip Bond back in London? We also have our third Felix Leiter actor -- this particular one wasn't a great actor. 
  • Martine Beswick, who plays Paula, appeared as one of the gypsy women fighters in From Russia With Love
  • 51:55 - The classy, low-key party looks so much more fun than the parties of today -- I guess I was born out of my time. 
  • 1:20:58 - director Terence Young said that Connery was not acting when he looked shocked as the shark swam by. There was a small gap in the partition separating Connery from the sharks, and one shark found his way through.
  • 1:27:13 - during the parade chase (which reminds me a bit of Lost Love), there's a random shot of a dog lifting his leg to urinate and people in the parade wearing 007 hats (circled below). 

  • 1:34:20 - Bond is way too calm when he jumps into the shark infested waters to have a look around.
  • 1:37:25 - it seems like they're implying that Bond and Domino have sex underwater in scuba gear. 
  • Fun fact about Domino: She wears almost all black and white (like a domino). 
  • All of the Bond movies so far have ended abruptly, and this one does as well. I was surprised that Bond actually allowed himself and Domino to be rescued given his usual pattern of forgoing the rescue attempt. And Domino doesn't look to be attached to the hoist device and is just hanging on to Bond. And what happened to the scientist that couldn't swim? I guess they just left him to drown. 

Final Analysis:
I didn't remember much about this movie other than that it was my favorite of the Connery movies. Upon rewatching, it might not be quite as great as I remembered, but I still like it a lot and am putting it #1 on my list. I always love when Bond goes to the Caribbean, and Largo is a strong villain. I'm also a big Domino fan, and Fiona Volpe steals the show as the charismatic femme fatale. And a great theme song to boot -- thanks to Tom Jones for sacrificing his body for the final note. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

The 007 Project: Goldfinger

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
007 goes after Auric Goldfinger, a gold smuggler who plans to break into Fort Knox and make the gold radioactive to increase the value of his own gold. Along the way, 007 crosses paths with Pussy Galore, the Masterson sisters, and Oddjob, a short and bulky henchman who uses a bowler hat as a weapon. 

Memorable Quote:
Do you expect me to talk?  ~Bond
No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.  ~Goldfinger

It's delightful every time Sean Connery says "Pussy!" with such charm and bravado -- my favorite is when she catches him listening underneath the Fort Knox map. 

The scene where Goldfinger is explaining his plan to a room full of American hoods. The acting is not good, and the scene doesn't add much value. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The name of gangster Mr. Solo is believed to be the inspiration for the naming of Star Wars character Han Solo.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The actress in the opening scene appeared in From Russia With Love as Kerim Bey's mistress. For some reason the one thing I remembered about this opening was how the same measure of the Bond theme plays over and over (from 1:40 to 2:24). 
  • The Goldfinger song is a good one, and I like how bits and pieces of it appear throughout the movie. 
  • I dig the portrayal of early 1960's Miami, and the luxury hotel is quite something with a high dive and ice rink. I didn't realize that skimpy bikinis were so prevalent in the early 60s. The gal underwater in the swimming pool (8:41 mark) is about to lose hers. 
  • On the scene where Bond is at the fridge and gets hit on the head by Oddjob, Connery has said that his falling over wasn't acting because Harold Sakata (Oddjob) was that strong. 
  • I'm the furthest thing from a car aficionado, but even I think that those 1960 Aston Martins are awesome, and I'd love to have one. I'm guessing they're a little pricey, let me check......looks like you can get a DB5 for about 600K. That's a little more than I can afford at the moment. 
  • Director Guy Hamilton had the foresight to introduce the Q vs. 007 banter that became commonplace throughout the series. 
  • Another candidate for memorable quote:
    • Ejector seat?  You're joking.  ~Bond
    • I never joke about my work, 007.  ~Q
  • Goldfinger doesn't complain about Bond switching his golf ball?  For the record, I don't think Goldfinger is that great of a villain. Oddjob, on the other hand, is a bad dude. 
  • So Bond must be able to take his Aston Martin on the plane with him to Switzerland, which is surprising. And after he's caught in the woods and Tilly is killed, there's no way Oddjob and his crew would let Bond drive his own car. And with all the bullet holes that the old lady with the machine gun puts in the windshield (48:56 mark), there's no way that Bond wouldn't get hit. 
  • Speaking of Tilly, the actress is Helen Mirren's first cousin, and this movie was one of her only acting jobs. 
  • And yet another memorable quote candidate:
    • Who are you?  ~Bond 
    • My name is Pussy Galore.  ~Pussy
    • I must be dreaming.   ~Bond
  • Speaking of Pussy, she says, "You can turn off the charm. I'm immune." They don't play it up too much in the movie, but in the book they make it clear that she's a lesbian who Bond "cures", as Ian Fleming puts it
  • This movie begins a long tradition of the villain not just keeping Bond alive but also telling him the plan and keeping him nearby.
  • After Oddjob kills Solo, it seems unnecessary to destroy the car -- why not just dump the body?
  • So if Felix and the soldiers who got hit by the gas didn't actually get hit by any gas and were just pretending, that means that they knew the attack was coming (from being warned by Pussy). So why was it necessary to let the attackers get into Fort Knox before fighting back? 
  • The bomb stops at 007, but Bond says there were only three ticks left. The IMDB trivia says that the script called for three seconds, but the producers later changed the time display to 007 and didn't change the dialogue.

Final Analysis:
Connery hitting his stride, the memorable Oddjob and Pussy characters, the death by gold paint scene, fun locales, and a catchy theme song all add up to a good movie and one that I like better than the first two.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The 007 Project: From Russia With Love

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
SPECTRE lays a trap for Bond by using a low-level Russian clerk to tempt him with a Lektor decoding device. Bond plays along and meets the woman in Istanbul, and they steal the Lektor, with SPECTRE agents in hot pursuit. 

Memorable Quote:
You won't be needing this, old man.  ~Bond

The dialogue between Bond and Grant on the Orient Express. Robert Shaw is great as Grant, and it's not the first time on this blog that I've extolled a "Robert Shaw on a train" scene.  

The middle third of the movie is slow and confusing. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Though he isn't shown actually taking it, it is implied that Bond keeps Grant's garrote watch, as the watch appears in On Her Majesty's Secret Service when Bond cleans out his desk, as well as in a deleted scene in A View to a Kill when the Paris police return Bond's property.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Great song for this movie, both the instrumental version in the title sequence and the lyrical version sung by Matt Monro at the end. 
  • 7:10 mark - all those people watching the chess game and no one sees Kronsteen rip up the paper with the SPECTRE message?
  • The character of Morzeny (partially bald guy who we first see on SPECTRE Island) is played by Walter Gotell, who we'll see in later movies as General Gogol. He also appeared in MacGyver as the psychic Starkoss in GX-1 and as the Russian general in Gold Rush
  • 28:04 - not sure why Bond tells Kerim Bey that M thinks Bond's wasting his time on this mission, because M was totally on board earlier. 
  • 29:15 - kind of strange how the full Bond action theme is played while he's just inspecting his hotel room. 
  • It's nice of Bond to stop the girl fight, but they never tell us which one he picked as the winner. 
  • When Tatiana "Tanya" Romanova (not to be confused with Victoria Tomanova) first meets Bond, she seems much more confident than I was expecting based on her earlier scene with Rosa Klebb. Daniela Bianchi, the actress playing Tanya, was only 21 years old at the time -- she's quite charming. 
  • 1:16:03 - there's some debate as to whether the random guy in the grass outside the train might actually be Ian Fleming. 
  • 1:16:50 - not one of Bond's finer moments when he gives Tanya's face a hard slap. Turns out that Connery himself was not always the most progressive on this topic. 
  • 1:27:10 - Bond is surprisingly quick to put his gun down and turn his back on Grant, even after discovering that Grant drugged Tanya's drink. 
  • So SPECTRE's plan is to get Tatiana to steal the Lektor and give it to Bond, and then they're going to steal it from Bond and sell it back to the Russians. What's the point of all that, and why involve Bond at all? I get that they want revenge for his role in taking out Dr. No, but there would be simpler ways to get that.  
  • Weird how Grant makes Bond open the first briefcase but then insists on opening the second one himself, which of course is the one that's rigged with the tear gas.  
  • It's kind of embarrassing for Bond that he can't subdue Klebb on his own, even with her having a poison shoe-knife -- she's basically a little old lady. 
  • 1:51:55 - Tanya quickly moves the gun back and forth as if she's actually considering shooting Bond instead of Klebb. I guess Bond did slap her. 
  • Two other pieces of trivia:
    • There was a From Russia With Love video game released in 2005 for Playstation 2, and Connery did the vocal work for Bond. 
    • Louis Armstrong performed with Lotte Lenya, the actress who plays Klebb, and he added her name to the lyrics of Mack the Knife. 

Final Analysis:
This movie seems to be regarded by many people as one of the best Bond movies ever, but I didn't care for it, and I'm sure it's going to be in my bottom 5 by the time it's all said and done. Bianchi and Shaw are both great and the theme song is good, but otherwise there's not a lot of highlights or scenes that I really enjoyed. I also found the plot to be confusing, especially in the middle third of the movie, such as what did the Gypsies have to do with anything, and why were the Russians shooting at them? And then I didn't know who the guy was that Kerim Bey shoots with a sniper rifle -- probably a Russian, but the Russian characters were so underdeveloped that it was hard to tell. Slotting this below Dr. No in my rankings

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The 007 Project: Dr. No

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of an MI6 operative, who himself was investigating reports of interference in American space rockets. Bond discovers that the source of the interference is an operation led by Dr. No, a scientist working for SPECTRE. Along the way Bond meets Honey Ryder, a young lady who is on Dr. No's island looking for shells. 

Memorable Quote:
What are you doing here? Looking for shells?  ~Honey
No, I'm just looking.  ~Bond

I like the "Underneath the Mango Tree" song and how it's used in different parts of the movie -- it's catchy and evocative of the Caribbean. Here's a good modern arrangement of the song. 

Honey's character could use some more depth. For example, if Dr. No killed her father, why does she still regularly comes to his island to look for seashells?

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
A Francisco de Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington, stolen in August 1961 from London's National Gallery, is found on an easel next to the stairs in Dr. No's dining area, which is why Bond stops to notice it as he passes it while going up the stairs. It was recovered in 1965. When this movie first came out, British audiences laughed upon seeing the Goya, knowing it had been stolen. According to director Terence Young, the idea for the stolen painting prop came from the film's Irish co-screenwriter Johanna Harwood.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I've always loved the MGM lion roar at the beginning of the Bond movies and knowing that the movie is about to start -- it's like arriving at the top of a roller coaster. 
  • Interesting that they have someone other than Connery firing the gun. Also it's the only Bond movie without an opening theme and credit montage. 
  • The card game Bond's playing looks like it just involves flipping cards over. 
  • 9:43 mark - there's no CGI on the hat toss from Connery -- that's real. The scene afterwards between Bond and Moneypenny goes on for a while as part of the same camera shot -- that would have been frustrating to keep having to nail the hat toss if they didn't get the rest of the take right. 
  • Nice of the British to help out the U.S. even though they're not directly affected by Dr. No messing with U.S. rockets. 
  • This movie is the only appearance of a non-Desmond Llewelyn Q until his death. 
  • The Caribbean and Jamaica in particular is the perfect setting for a Bond movie: a beautiful, exotic location with a hint of mystery. 
  • I like Quarrel (great name), and Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-O fame exudes coolness as Felix Leiter. 
  • Maybe we should check out the island where no one is allowed to go and that's run by a mysterious foreigner and where visitors suspiciously disappear.  Brilliant idea, James.    
  • 44:19 - Bond emphatically killing the tarantula reminds me of the time I killed a monstrous five-inch long cockroach. 
  • Bond should have tried to get some information from the professor before shooting him in cold blood. 
  • Voice dubbing was more common back then, and Ursula Andress's voice was dubbed for someone with less of an accent. You'd think that there'd be enough actresses out there that you could find someone who could look, act, and speak the way you wanted so that they wouldn't need dubbing. 
  • Dr. No is a familiar face: Joseph Wiseman, aka Joe Catano from The Battle of Tommy Giordano. He could have used more screen time -- he's only in the movie for 20 minutes. 
  • It's pretty dumb of Dr. No to put Bond in a room with a tunnel that's so easily accessed.
  • Bond is lucky that no one recognizes him through his hazmat suit (especially Dr. No who is just a few feet away) and that everyone except Dr. No leaves the room after Bond sabotages the equipment.

    Final Analysis:
    I like the movie -- it's got a retro quality, and the dead time (i.e. slow scenes with no music) is kind of refreshing. Nevertheless, it's slow and dated enough that it's likely going to be near the bottom of my rankings when it's all said and done, but it still makes for a good viewing experience and introduction to the character, and for now it's #1.  

    Tuesday, August 4, 2020

    The 007 Project -- Rankings Page

    Ranking the Bond movies and other elements. Updating as I go. 


    1. Thunderball
    2. Goldfinger
    3. Dr. No
    4. You Only Live Twice
    5. From Russia With Love


    1. Sean Connery

    BOND GIRLS (criteria = 75% looks, 25% personality.  Apologies for being shallow.)

    1. Domino (Thunderball)
    2. Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)
    3. Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)
    4. Honey Ryder (Dr. No)
    5. Kissy Suzuki (You Only Live Twice)
    6. Sylvia Trench (Dr. No, From Russia With Love)
    7. Aki (You Only Live Twice)
    8. Patricia Fearing (Thunderball)

    VILLAINS (criteria = competency, toughness)

    1. Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
    2. Blofeld (You Only Live Twice)
    3. Dr. No
    4. Goldfinger
    5. Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love) 
    1. Oddjob (Goldfinger)
    2. Donald "Red" Grant (From Russia With Love)
    3. Hans (You Only Live Twice)
    4. Three Blind Mice (Dr. No)
    5. Vargas (Thunderball)
    1. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
    2. Helga Brandt (You Only Live Twice)
    3. Miss Taro (Dr. No)


    1. You Only Live Twice, by Nancy Sinatra
    2. Thunderball, by Tom Jones
    3. From Russia With Love, by Matt Monro
    4. Goldfinger, by Shirley Bassey

    MACGYVER PROJECT ALUMNI (in order of appearance)

    1. Sean Connery: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    2. Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No): The Battle of Tommy Giordano
    3. Walter Gotell (From Russia With Love): GX-1, Gold Rush

    Monday, August 3, 2020

    The 007 Project

    The name's Project, MacGyver Project.  I've been a big 007 fan since high school and have seen all the movies and read all the Ian Fleming books. I know the movies really well from Goldeneye to the present -- the ones before Goldeneye I don't remember as well, to varying degrees, and I'm looking forward to rewatching them now. At some point I'd like to reread the books -- if I ever do that, I'll update the corresponding post with my thoughts on the book. For now, time to settle in with a vodka martini and get ready to save the world. 

    Rankings Page: My rankings of the movies, Bond actors, title songs, villains, and Bond Girls. Updating as I go. 

    On her Majesty's Secret Service
    Diamonds Are Forever
    Live and Let Die
    The Man with the Golden Gun
    The Spy Who Love Me
    For Your Eyes Only
    A View to a Kill
    The Living Daylights
    License to Kill
    Tomorrow Never Dies
    The World Is Not Enough
    Die Another Day
    Casino Royale
    Quantum of Solace