Twin Peaks “Realization Time” [1990)

Always apologize to the authorities.

What the French call cache-cache.

There are two great series of propaganda of which I’m aware.

One is the James Bond franchise.

The other is Twin Peaks.

External intelligence (I/O).

Internal intelligence (RB).

I/O (:OT)

RB (SW:)

I might suck at chess, but so did Napoleon.

Admitting one does not really understand does not have to lead to abject sellout.

Certain information is classified for a reason.

It was hard to come by.

It does not exist in an open source.

And so I try real hard to imagine an honorable employee of the CIA.

Maybe somebody like “Buzzy” Krongard who forgets to unpack a couple of Walther PPKs from his overnight bag before heading to the airport.

Oops…

Could happen to the best of us.

But why A.B.?

Why the lapse??

9/11:  where are they now???

When we imagine external intelligence, we might think of a world completely ruled by consequentialism and Realpolitik.

We like to think of Daniel Craig.  Sean Connery.  Roger Moore.

We like to think of our operatives as protectors.

But my guess is they perform some of the ugliest jobs on the planet.

For the state!

The dear, sweet NSA knows every book I’ve bought (unless I paid cash).

Knows my library withdrawals.

So I might as well cite Burckhardt.

The State as a Work of Art.

Seems pretty self-explanatory (if fanciful).

But German can be slippery.

And so we come to,

War as a Work of Art.

The “dilettante” Machiavelli gets the usual translation (Art of War), but not Burckhardt.

Not in my edition.

1958.

Imagination lets me conceive of a good FBI agent.

Like Coleen Rowley.

Robert Wright.

These, perhaps, are the forward projections of Special Agent Dale Cooper.

But let’s get deeper.

The turf war.

Two agencies of the same government.

Working at cross purposes.

I can easily imagine a unique relationship.

You don’t investigate our wholesale illegal activities,

and we don’t disappear your agents.

So that the CIA is beyond the law.

Perhaps it must be that way.  Beethoven might even resign it.

But it is naïve to think of the FBI as merely an investigative entity.

They too get creative.

In Twin Peaks we have an honorable man.  One of the best and brightest.

Dale Cooper.

Doing a job.  Innocent as a dove, but wise as a serpent.

When dealing with Log Lady, one gets crosswise with Elf Power and Stereolab.

Ending up, Gus the Mynah Bird with the Candy Bar Head.

There is an information hierarchy.

Pertinent to all forms of intelligence gathering and interpretation.

Data–>Info–>Knowledge (–> Wisdom)

The final stage is not optional, but it is elusive.

It is the most valuable.

It’s the part that says, “Hey, CIA man (or woman)…don’t take The Fugs too seriously.”

It’s also the fine line between bravery and stupidity (practically the same phenomenon) which inspires Sherilyn Fenn to smoke a fag in the closet.  [Err…]

Nothing to lose.  Fearless.

And what if such fire is married to morals?  Ethics?

We’re no saints, but we do a lot of selfless stuff.

And yet we spout our shit and muck up the mission of consummate professionals.

Differing perspectives.

Two meanings of intelligence.

We don’t have the intelligence (because we are civilian nobodies…combing the net for OSINT).

But we have intelligence.

It may not be Ivy League.

But it’s relentless.

 

-PD

Spectre [2015)

There’s a moment in this film when a character says “shoot” instead of “shit”.  It is the linchpin of the film.  What follows is the strangest cut in James Bond history since Roger Moore abruptly went gaucho in Moonraker.  But what we cut to is perhaps the first truly vicious, self-inflicted attack of self-parody the James Bond franchise has ever experienced.  Yes, self-parody.  Vicious.  Like a postmodern vomit of confetti.  This whole film.  But mainly starting at the amorous activities which follow the word “shoot”.

Derrida would find his hinge for deconstruction at “shoot”.  As if the film could not bear one more mild expletive and still retain its PG-13 rating.

But let’s dig a little deeper.

A series notorious for running low on creativity must have been thrilled to have the intellectual property rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. following the death of Kevin McClory.  It was not just the death of McClory which allowed the franchise to resurrect its proto-NWO, but also the acquisition by MGM and Danjac LLC of McClory’s estate in late 2013.

And so things must have looked rosy for Eon Productions.

Sadly, they made a few blunders.

Those blunders became the ramshackle, mutilated would-be masterpiece Spectre.

And so just what were these mistakes?

My guess is that many of them occurred behind closed doors.

There are moments in this film at which a film school freshman could have done a better job reeling in the mise-en-scène than did Sam Mendes.  But there’s a problem with that equation.  Sam Mendes is not that bad a director.  NO ONE wielding a nine-figure budget is that bad a director.  And so chalk another crappy movie up to the real villains:  MGM and Colombia Pictures.  Credit Eon Productions likewise with rubberstamping this high-school-science-fair of a picture.

But we can’t let Mendes off that easily.  I hope it was a good payday (again) Sam, because this film is generally a piece of shit.

HOWEVER…there are moments of what could have been.  If the executives had kept their noses (and asses) out of the production process, this could have been a homerun.

Christopher Waltz is good when approached with Hitchcockean framing.  As a silhouette.  You can feel Mendes reaching for Mulholland Dr.  But as per the Sony hacks, eventually you have to show the guy (or do you?).  Suffice it to say that Mr. Waltz is the least-scary Bond villain ever and barely more creepy than Jar Jar Binks.

And so it becomes obvious that cost cutting has its downside.  Who was the other bloke they were going to get for the villain?  Who cares.  Waltz sucks royally.  And yet, he is more competent as an actor than the film is solid in structural integrity.

As a whole, Spectre is a disaster which should never have made it out the door of the dream factory.  Anyone with an artistic bone in their body could have “fixed” this film.  Mendes was apparently not allowed to actually direct.

Fix number one would have been cutting an hour’s worth of superfluous meh.  I mean, really godawful, expensive, explosive meh.  Jesus…this film didn’t need to try and compete with Spiderman or whatever the superhero flavor of the week is.

The writers (God, the writers…) of this film are not worth their weight in rancid butter.  I heard rumors that the dialogue was bad.  Truth is, it is dry-heave bad…but mainly near the end of the film (the last quarter).

Next time, spend $200 mil. on a single, competent writer (Pynchon perhaps) and <$1 mil. on stunts and CGI.  This film experiences a leveraged shite effect throughout.  Oh, by the way…the opening scene in Mexico City is probably the weakest part of the film.  I would rather see Daniel Craig take a moist crap on a silver platter.

But let’s be fair…

This film tried.  It had grand aspirations.  SPECTRE…yes, bringing it all back home.  Establishing credibility from New World Order to Snowden.  Awesome.  Well-done in that regard.

As for the execution…for fuck’s sake.

I’d rather have a clumsily-performed lobotomy than watch this film again any time soon.

The biggest upside of the film is Léa Seydoux.  Ok, so casting got one thing right.  It almost makes up for Christopher “The Last” Waltz.

There are very important themes addressed in this film.  This could have been a light for liberty.  Someone sabotaged it.  Find that corporate person and you have found the real head of the real SPECTRE.

-PD

Licence to Kill [1989)

It may sound like heresy to say it, but this is the third great James Bond movie up to this point in the series.  Furthermore, it is particularly rich that it came out during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.  The pleasant surprise is that Carey Lowell takes the cake as hottest Bond girl through the first 16 films.  These are controversial claims and allusions.  Buckle up.

1974.  The first great Bond film.  There is no denying the palpable rush of Dr. No–no topping the exotic sensuality of From Russia with Love.  It has less to do with Connery, perhaps the best Bond, than it does with cinema.  The first great James Bond film came under the watchful eye of auteur Guy Hamilton.  He lives.  The Man with the Golden Gun.  Yes, it was a Roger Moore film.  So sue me.

1985.  The second great James Bond film.  Travesty of travesties!  He’s going to name two from the 80s.  Yes, that’s right.  A View to a Kill.  John Glen made an auteurist bid with this flick.  Again with the Roger Moore.  John Glen lives.

1989.  The third perfect Bond film.  John Glen achieves immortality.  Hyperbole.  Hyperbole.  This is to take nothing away from our cherished Guy Hamilton.  He too made more that just Golden Gun.

But let us stretch out a bit…  What makes these three films so strong?  Answer:  the villains.  Christopher Lee.  Christopher Walken.  And Christopher…er, Robert Davi.

George H.W. Bush.  There was a book from 1992 called The Mafia, CIA and George Bush written by Pete Brewton.  That’s back when there was only one George Bush known on the world stage.  Middle initials were unnecessary.  I haven’t read the book in question, but it bears mentioning that I remembered the pithy title mistakenly…as The CIA, Drugs, and George Bush.  There’s more than an Oxford comma’s difference between the two…obviously.

1998 brought the world a book called Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb.  I have not read this book either.

So what, you may be asking, is my fucking point?

Let me note a few poignant books I have read.  9/11 Synthetic Terror:  Made in USA by Webster Griffin Tarpley.  Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert.  The Big Wedding by Sander Hicks.  9/11 The Big Lie (L’Effroyable imposture) by Thierry Meyssan.  Pentagate also by Meyssan.  The Shadow Government:  9/11 and State Terror by Len Bracken.  The Arch Conspirator also by Bracken.  Body of Secrets by James Bamford.  America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky.  The 9/11 Commission Report:  Omissions and Distortions by David Ray Griffin.  The Bilderberg Group by Daniel Estulin.  Inside Job:  Unmasking the 9/11 Conspiracies by Jim Marrs.  The Terror Conspiracy also by Marrs.

If you’re still reading you are likely laughing or transfixed.  And again I can sense the question:  what is the fucking point?

Well, dear reader, it is that I can wholeheartedly agree with Mark Gorton’s reservations regarding George H.W. Bush.  I used to think Dick Cheney was the scariest guy in the world (thanks Mike Ruppert).  Donald Rumsfeld always seemed in the running.  But after reading Gorton’s fastidious research, I concur that the prize should probably go to Poppy Bush.

At wikispooks.com, one can find the following articles by Gorton:

Fifty Years of the Deep State

The Coup of ’63, Part I

and

The Political Dominance of the Cabal

Gorton is not your average conspiracy theorist.  His degrees are from Yale, Stanford, and Harvard (respectively).  His business successes include founding LimeWire and the Tower Research Capital hedge fund.

And that brings us to sex.

Carey Lowell.  With her androgynous hairstyle, she still (because of?) manages to be the hottest Bond girl through the first 16 films.  Sure, Timothy Dalton is great, but Carey Lowell is fan-fucking-tastic.  The message of the establishment is that if you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get the sex cookie.  Carey Lowell is not an establishment actress in this movie.  Her character is the anti-Bond girl in some respects.  For this series, anyway, that’s as good as it gets.  Until Anamaria Marinca is cast alongside (or as) 007, the bar is memorably set by Lowell.  Perhaps as I critically watch the more recent films I will find other Bond girls who truly stand out in a believable way, but Lowell takes the cake through the first 16 films.

Lowell lived in Houston for awhile.  Back to Bush.  Right down the road is the scariest man in the world?  Dear readers…the Internet remains free for only so long.  Soon we may have to get all Bradbury and become book people.  If Carey ever gets tired of Richard Gere, maybe she’ll meet us in the forest.  I’ll be Histoire(s) du cinema.  The book.

-PD

A View to a Kill [1985)

The opening disclaimer is odd.  Zorin…  One wonders whether the apologetics were in deference to Valerian Zorin.  In the West, the Soviet diplomat/statesman was best known for a stand-off with Adlai Stevenson at a UN Security Council meeting during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Surely the legal clarification wasn’t at the behest of a high Soviet official?  The question is important because it colors my reading of this film.  Something unique was afoot for this production.  At what point in the life of this film was the disclaimer created?  Valerian Zorin died the year after this film was released.

Is it significant that an MI6 agent dies in the carwash at a BP gas station?  Is it significant that a Chevron sign comes tumbling down to destruction in the San Francisco car chase?

One thing is certain:  the fact that villain Max Zorin is interested in horse breeding and horse racing is no accident.  Dr. Carl Mortner (played by Willoughby Gray) is a former Nazi scientist whom the Soviets picked up (à la Operation Paperclip).  His steroid experiments on pregnant women in concentration camps spawned our highly-intelligent, psychopathic antagonist in question.  One could draw many parallels…

But we must also remember that this is a movie.  In my estimation, it is the best Bond film up till this point with the possible exception of The Man with the Golden Gun.  What makes this film so special is indeed exactly what I have been skirting around:  its villain (Christopher Walken).

Yes, the theme by Duran Duran is great.  Yes, Grace Jones is fantastic.  But it is Walken who really provides the drama.  That the greatest of all Bond villains would have a particularly nasty scheme up his sleeve is only natural.  Eliminate the competition.  It is simple.  Cold, calculating, mechanical…and creative in its destruction.

Fiona Fullerton really filled out since her role as the title character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972).  She would have made an excellent Bond girl, but the honor goes to perhaps an even more worthy candidate:  Tanya Roberts.  The blue-eyed Roberts and the blue-eyed Roger Moore are almost like the thoroughbreds which play a minor role in this film.  Credit both actors with remaining human while still being among the beautiful people.  Both do an excellent job of giving depth to their characters.  This would, sadly, be the last Roger Moore production in the Eon series of Bond movies (barring a late comeback).

It may or may not be significant that Roberts’ character has the last name Sutton.  Considering the geopolitical intrigue at stake, one might consider the reference as to Anthony Sutton.  Dr. Sutton was a historian, economist, and writer on politics who researched and published on such fascinating topics as the Skull & Bones fraternity of Yale University, The Trilateral Commission, and the U.S. Federal Reserve System.  Of particular note are Sutton’s books on the relation of Wall Street to both the Bolsheviks and the Nazis.

Shedule, not skedjule.  With a simple pronunciation nuance, Walken exits the mine after killing his own workers with an Uzi (while laughing).  Surely such demented individuals don’t reach such important positions of power, do they?

Walken even laughs at his own death.  By attacking Moore with an axe, we are brought back to the archetypal depiction of insanity which Jack Nicholson so hideously characterized in Kubrick’s The Shining.

I won’t forgive myself without mentioning the significant contribution over the years of Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny (this being her last film in the role).  And as a reward for having read this far, the secret to the disclaimer is Zoran Corporation (which strangely, strangely actually did specialize in making microchips…and! was located in Silicon Valley).  As a side-note, the aforementioned company derived its name from the Hebrew word for silicon (being strongly connected to the government of Israel, though incorporated in Delaware).

And I didn’t even get to snowboarding…or the game for Commodore 64 🙂

-PD

Octopussy [1983)

This was another childhood favorite of mine.  The intriguing geopolitical aspects were beyond me till now.  In the midst of the Soviet-Afghan War, the Bond franchise saw fit to introduce an Afghan villain.  What is more, the plot revolves around a rogue Soviet general (think Dr. Strangelove and Gen. Ripper) set on a sort of sneak attack against NATO.  The stratagem in question here is a rather more slippery bit of stealth.

Director John Glen does another admirable job and turns in a thoroughly entertaining episode for the series.  The disarming of the nuclear warhead is genuinely enthralling, but perhaps the best part of the movie is after that:  when Octopussy’s amazons besiege the villain’s hideout.

There’s a generous helping of humor and generally ridiculous set pieces in this installment.  Maud Adams makes a return to the series as the title character (having previously appeared in the excellent 1974 Eon production The Man with the Golden Gun).  The film, however, gets a bit clunky when her family history is introduced.  She pours a martini a little too fast and (voilà!) the plot becomes inexplicably convoluted at 100 miles per hour.

There is the nice reference to (one would assume) Strangers on a Train when Vijay is swatting thugs with a tennis racket.  It is cheeky, but the Bond series by this point had started to develop its own film language.  Other films simply could not get away with the hubris involved in such repeated suspension of disbelief.

Roger Moore in a gorilla suit is utterly absurd, but the whole thing works (to me) because he checks his watch while eavesdropping on a time-sensitive conversation.  On the other hand, the sequence in the jungle overdubbed with a Tarzan yell has the effect of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope film Road to Bali.  The only problem is that Road to Bali sustained the anarchic irreverence throughout.  Bond’s life being in danger all of a sudden seems to be a laughing matter.  Somehow, John Glen gets away with it.  I don’t know if deft is the right word, but in the context of the increasingly farfetched series it works…more or less.

There are a couple of ribald excerpts which bear mentioning.  One is a cheeky cut immediately after the word asp to a lady’s rear end.  The other is far more strange.  As Q is briefing Bond (as usual) there is a strange stand off with a very distant, timid feminism.  Moore focuses a camera on a lady’s breasts (herself also an employee of MI6) and does the mondo zoom in/zoom out to generally entertaining effect.  The strangeness lays in the lady’s reaction.  She is like one of the Vietnamese in the famous picture of Jane Fonda which Godard spun out into an entire film (Letter to Jane).  The lady connected to the breasts is obviously displeased by what today would be accurately termed sexual harassment.  The fumbling mise-en-scène allows her to linger in plain sight for a long while as the joke is played out in aftermath.  I find this to be a potentially greater crack in “the fourth wall” than Vijay’s snake-charmer rendition of the 007 theme.

-PD

For Your Eyes Only [1981)

This is where it gets good again.  After the misery of Moonraker, leave it to a guy named John Glen to rescue the series from ineptitude.  Like a master astronaut compared to Lewis Gilbert, Glen’s directorial debut in the series was auspicious enough to grant him the chair for four more films.

The MacGuffin (the ATAC machine…a missile command system) bears a striking resemblance to a Boss DR-880 drum machine.  When I was a boy this was a film I saw numerous times on TV.  It may, in fact, be the first Bond film I ever saw.

Credit the props department or perhaps wardrobe for the iconic octagonal glasses of the transient villain Locque.  While not as obviously creepy as Blofeld (seen in the intro where he meets his demise at the bottom of a smokestack), Locque’s silent presence is a unifying element for a series which had recently lacked imagination.  His nickname “The Dove” is said to be, “a sick joke.”  In short, he is a complex if not central character.

For once in the series, Bond turns down the affections of a beautiful young woman (ostensibly because she is too young).  Bibi Dahl also perhaps makes it too easy for our Don Juan superspy.

The underwater recovery of the ATAC is the closest thing to a true hint of return to the glory of Thunderball the series had captured in a long time.  It is a genuinely engaging scene and makes us realize just how far astray the franchise had gone.  Even the escape from the keelhauling is convincing and ingenious.  Glen distinguishes himself as a careful director in the Hitchcock tradition (attention to detail)…a far cry from his predecessor Gilbert.

The climb up the cliff face to St. Cyril’s monastery is riveting.  I remember this scene palpably from my youth.  The stress on the climbing tools…the rope…the hooks and hammers.  Bond’s recovery (with aid from his copious shoestrings) is really a nifty trick.

Carole Bouquet is mysteriously beautiful (and deadly with a crossbow) as Melina Havelock.  She is such a step up from previous Bond girl Lois Chiles.  Chaim Topol (credited as merely Topol) is really a great, great supporting actor in this film.  I mistook him for Alfonso Arau from Romancing the Stone (another great 80s film).

Michael Gothard was very well-cast as Locque.  Walter Gotell is brilliant as always as General Gogol.  We see a bit more of him in this film as the Reagan era of the Cold War was beginning its deep freeze.

The final touch of having Bond wired through to Prime Minister Thatcher is hilarious.  Janet Brown does an impeccable impersonation.  Bernard Lee (M) had passed on before he could film his scenes and this seems like a good time to honor the memory of a fine actor.  Thank you Mr. Lee.

Further recommended viewing is That Obscure Object of Desire (directed by Luis Buñuel)…that is, if you can’t get enough Carole Bouquet.

That Bond goes from driving a Lotus to a Citroën 2CV is emblematic of a film which hits all the right buttons both high and low.  Fans of The Pink Panther (1963) might recognize the location shoot of Cortina D’Ampezzo.  The greatest cheese factor comes at the outset with the song by Sheena Easton.  It really does get better from there.  Happy viewing!

 

-PD

 

Moonraker [1979)

This was Lewis Gilbert’s best Bond film (which isn’t saying very much).  This film straddles the line between good and bad filmmaking for its entirety.  At the end it’s hard to say just which has edged the other out in predomination.

Something tells me the director in question is less to blame for these debacles than I had previously thought.  It seems that there was an artless voice from above which was exerting pressure upon our metteur en scène.  Was it perhaps Albert Broccoli?

Enough with the finger-pointing.  Let’s talk about why this film is bad (and occasionally good).

The opening sequence is quite masterful.  It is, in fact, to these eyes more impressive than the feted ski jump from The Spy Who Loved Me.  And so, from the start, we are back in the company of dear old Jaws (Richard Kiel).  Any question as to whether he survived the fall from a plane sans parachute is answered quite quickly in the opening credits.  His name is prominent enough (comes quickly after the top-billed stars) that we assume (and correctly) that he did indeed live through the plunge.  It is just this sort of clumsy filmmaking which typifies Gilbert’s contributions to the series.  This daft touch even shows up at the end of the opening credits when the last chord of the song carries over like a maudlin, syrupy blanket into the shot of Q milling about in M’s office.  It is like we are watching Days of Our Lives.  One can hardly take such careless filmmaking seriously.

At least Holly Goodhead continues a string of success regarding the names of Bond girls.

Perhaps the most telling S.O.S. from Lewis Gilbert is the obvious homage to Jean Renoir’s La Règle du jeu.  As Drax and his hunting party are taking leisure in sportsmanship, his assistants are swatting at the tree trunks with sticks or canes to scare the birds into the air.  Only the finest of minds would work this deft reference into such an otherwise brutish series.

The bit atop Sugarloaf Mountain is generally delightful.  Perhaps Wes Anderson had this in mind when he plotted the funicular rendezvous in The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Jaws meeting the buxom, bespectacled Dolly is just impossibly cute (with the strains of Tchaikovsky in the background).  In a final bit of touching panache, Jaws switches allegiances to help out Bond and Goodhead.  It is actually a masterful stroke in a series rife with pithy henchmen.  We even get to hear Kiel’s voice for once (after he pops a champagne cork by prying it off with his metal teeth).

The film really gets bad when it tries to not only relive the glory of Thunderball, but also tries to transpose that elusive magic into the milieu of Star Wars.  To say that the outer-space laser battle has not aged well would be a fairly grand understatement.  Of particular offence are the sound effects which make Oskar Sala’s noises from The Birds sound like Mozart by comparison.  The lasers sound so cheap and doinky that the entire mise-en-scène falls apart.

Gilbert didn’t really have a very persuasive Bond girl to work with either.  Lois Chiles has about as much personality as a wet rag.  Likewise, we are subject to “villain fail” once again.  Michael Lonsdale is merely a sweaty schlub who happens to have the same tailor as Chairman Mao.  Toshiro Suga is comedically unmenacing.  Corinne Cléry would have made a much better Bond girl.  At least her demise at the hand (paw?) of dogs was unique to the series thus far.

Truth be told:  Blanche Ravalec is the most attractive girl in this movie (with honorable mention to the redhead and the short-haired blonde in Drax’s “ark”).

But saving the most important for last, let us try and deconstruct after Derrida.  The positively worst, most abrupt cut in the entire series happens when Bond is ejected from the back of an ambulance onto a road in Rio.  With absolutely no segue, we next see him on a horse in full vaquero costume.  It is at this point that the movie becomes so absurdly bad and ineptly surreal.  In truth, the whole film hinges on this one amateurish cut.  And it is from analyzing outwards (concentrically) that I assume Lewis Gilbert was subject to a maltreatment akin to that suffered by Orson Welles post-Kane.  No director deserves to be so abused.

 

-PD

The Man with the Golden Gun [1974)

Third nipple.  It had to be said.  Nay, not even the great Roger Moore could get away with a strictly biological description.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…  Indeed, Scaramanga was the most interesting and well-rounded villain yet in this series (by far).  This is Guy Hamilton’s directorial masterpiece.  Any who look down upon action/adventure movies are missing the fun of life.  C’est la vie.  It is an honor to write about a living legend–a true auteur.  I salute you Monsieur Hamilton!

Sure…there are some funny bits.  Coal and oil would soon run out?  Well, 40 years have gone by and we are still burning away.  But let us not dwell upon a minor hitch.  This film is so enjoyable to watch!

The location shoots are immaculate.  Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand…  I must admit I got a bit wistful hearing traditional Thai music (something I was lucky enough to study at university).  Hamilton pushes all the right buttons (rather the opposite of Miss Goodnight’s errant derriere).

I would dare say this is the best Bond film up to this point in the “canon”…without question!

It is not a matter of Connery vs. Moore, but rather of Hamilton vs. cinema.  There were great moments earlier in the series, but this really is the whole package.  It’s a shame Connery and Hamilton didn’t get the opportunity to hit on all cylinders as Moore and Hamilton did with this vehicle.

Bond takes one for the team early on by swallowing a piece of forensic evidence:  a golden bullet which had become the erstwhile navel ornament of a belly-dancer in Beirut.  Not long after we are introduced to an indispensable character:  Nick Nack.  Yes, that’s right…Tatoo from Fantasy Island, but officially the late Hervé Villechaize.  The MI6 base aboard the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth was a brilliant touch.  Special notice should go to Joie Vejjajiva and Qiu Yuen who are masterfully cute and pugnacious as Hip’s nieces.

There is certainly a hesitant feminism which asserts itself from time to time.  It is rather awkward in such a chauvinistic series, but welcome nonetheless.

Maud Adams is wonderful (if I may say so) particularly when she is playing dead (or, as the film would have it, actually dead).  I am speaking of course about the Thai boxing match scene.  It must have been no small feat to look so icy-cold in such a heated environment.  The whole mise-en-scène is so delicately artful that there is no doubt what we are seeing is thoroughly cinematic (meant in the most superlative sense).

Britt Ekland is wonderful as the bumbling white-hot Bond girl Mary Goodnight.  No wonder she and Peter Sellers had been married.  She’s a right bird!

Guy Hamilton must have really taken to Clifton James as the latter unbelievably reprises his role as Louisiana Sherriff J.W. Pepper.  This really does make the film essential viewing for Cajuns the world-round.  The AMC chase with Moore and “deputy” Pepper is exhilarating and hilarious.  This really shows the European influence of Hamilton, though one might think him Italian rather than French.  Nonetheless, the mélange of emotions warrants mention as particularly “other” from the Anglo-American milieu in which we seem to be racing around.

But there is no missing the recurring reference to The Lady from Shanghai in the funhouse mirrors which bookend this wonderful movie.  Nick Nack, likewise, presages Mini-Me of the Austin Powers franchise.

One final thought…  There is a troublesome moment when Bond pushes a Thai boy into a canal.  For a moment, reality erupts within the spectacle (to more-or-less quote another famous Guy:  Debord).  It reminds us that espionage is not all fun and games.  People get hurt.  People are used.  There are many means to an end.  But I credit the series and even this film with upholding a certain stereotype of the British which I think has some truth to it…in a couple of words:  tact and manners.  Bond doesn’t really hurt the boy, though it is rather cruel seeing as how the boy had just helped him out of a “jam” only to have Bond, moreover, immediately renege on a 20,000 baht reward.  But even Scaramanga seems to appreciate the “sporting” nature of British fairness…offering Bond a chance.  True…Bond kicks a martial arts opponent in the face during the preordained moment for bowing to the sensei of the dojo, but Bond was outnumbered 20 to 1 (or thereabouts).  The final test comes when Nick Nack ends up in a suitcase courtesy of 007.  We assume from Ekland’s response that Bond has thrown the little person overboard, but we see at the end that the devilish manservant ended up in a wicker cage hoisted up the junk’s rigging.  I admire this delicacy.  Keep Bond and carry on!

 

-PD

Live and Let Die [1973)

Dr. Quinn:  Bond Girl.  It’s true.  And it’s also true that when I was a kid Roger Moore was James Bond for me.  Connery seemed like a hairy-chested old fart.  No doubt it was all of the Bond reruns and Bond-a-thons I was exposed to which seemed to, without fail, feature mostly the “newer” Bond films which starred Moore.

This film marks Moore’s debut and it is quite a good one.  From the opening credits we know we are in for a quality time as the voice of Macca and the deft production of George Martin bring us into the film proper.

Guy Hamilton turns in another fine film here.  True, this film is rife with Blaxploitation clichés, but it transcends the era nonetheless.

I’m not sure why there are crocodiles in a Louisiana bayou, but perhaps my four years in a Cajun band didn’t thoroughly verse me in the ways of south Louisiana.  Bond makes one of his most daring escapes yet in the series when he uses the creatures (there’s at least one gator) as stepping stones in a nimble-footed exit from certain death.

The series indeed adds a new dimension of local color to its history thanks to priceless performances by such as Clifton James.  Of all the henchmen, Earl Jolly Brown is strangely the most frightening (but character Tee Hee Johnson is a close second).

Perhaps I fell asleep mentally, but the crocodile farm is said to be on the fictional island of San Monique.  I will assume it is my error (though we have seen continuity mistakes in past Bond films).

All in all, this was a fortuitous start to a brilliant career for the second true Bond.  And I will never look at Jane Seymour the same way again 🙂

 

-PD