Friday, 31 October 2008

Top 5 Bond Films

The new Bond film "Quantum of Solace" goes on general release today. Not sure when I'll get to see it though, these days the only time I go to the cinema it's with a room full of excited children watching the latest release from Pixar or Dreamworks.

1. Goldfinger (Dir. Guy Hamilton, 1964)
The film that defined the template for all those that followed. A super villain with a super plan, a massive laser and two failed attempts to kill Bond, the Aston Martin making it's first appearance, Shirley Eaton painted in gold, Pussy Galore and her all-girl Flying Circus. Ticks all the boxes for me.

2. From Russia With Love (Dir. Terence Young, 1963)
I think this was probably the first Bond film I ever saw which gives it a special place in my heart. Slower paced than any of the films that followed, it possibly captures the atmosphere of the novels better than any other.

3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Dir. Peter R. Hunt, 1969)
I might be in a minority here, but I really like OHMSS. I like Lazenby's Bond and there's the added bonus, in Diana Rigg, of a Bond girl who can hold her own with our erstwhile hero. A bit of pathos at the end and that wonderful Louis Armstrong theme tune. Possibly the best ending of any Bond movie.

4. Live and Let Die (Dir. Guy Hamilton, 1973)
I'm not a fan of the Roger Moore era but have good memories of this, his debut Bond. Some dubious attempts to benefit from the Blaxploitation boom aside, "Live and Let Die" has some great action and maintains a pacey plot throughout.

5. Thunderball (Dir. Terence Young, 1965)
So good they made it twice. Decent story line, the return of the Aston and some great underwater scenes. Still not sure about the practicalities of that jet pack though.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Top 5 Bond Villains

You can't beat a good super-villain ... unless your name is Bond.

1. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence, You Only Live Twice) - The head of SPECTRE had more opportunities than most to kill off Bond, having some involvement in six of the films. This must make him either the most resilient or the least successful of Bond adversaries. His first film appearances (From Russia With Love & Thunderball) kept his face and identity hidden, revealing only his hands and voice. This added an element of mystery to the character as the unseen controlling influence behind each villainous plot. However, it's Donald Pleasence's performance that brought Blofeld to life and confirmed his status as the greatest of Bond's opponents.

2. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe, Goldfinger) - With Bond strapped to a table and a massive laser about to slice him in two, 007 asks if Goldfinger expects this to make him to talk. Goldfingers response "No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!" is undoubtedly my favourite quote from any Bond film. The irony is that even in this seemingly helpless situation, Goldfinger still fails to finish Bond off. In the end it's Goldfinger that croaks, getting sucked out of a plane after shooting at Bond and cracking the window.

3. Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman, Dr. No) - Initially comes across as an intelligent and ruthless foe, Dr No is eventually revealed to be a slightly unhinged psychotic nut. Despite several attempts to kill Bond off he never quite succeeds and is eventually killed by boiling to death in the coolant tank of his own nuclear reactor. In the novel he is killed by being buried under a massive heap of guano, the harvesting of which was supposed to provide a legitimate cover for his real activities.

4. Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya, From Russia with Love) - Quite possibly the scariest of all Bond's enemies, Klebb is Blofeld's leading agent in From Russia With Love, having formally been a member of SMERSH. In the final scenes of the film, at a point when it seems the action is over, she gains entry to Bond's apartment dressed as a maid to try and recover a cryptographic device. After a brief scuffle she makes an unsuccessful attempt on Bond's life, attempting to kill him with poison tipped spikes in her shoes.

5. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee, The Man with the Golden Gun) - Three nipples and a gold-plated single-shot pistol constructed from a pen, a lighter, some cuff links and a cigarette case. Scaramanga is a man very much in Bond's mold and proves a tricky foe to dispatch.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Top 5 Bond Gadgets

Bond's use of gadgetry is evident in the novels but it was in the films that they really came to the fore, becoming one of the key elements of any good Bond film.

1. Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger & Thunderball) - I make no apologies for the DB5 winning another category. It's a marvellous car but its the Q-Branch modifications that enable it to claim top gadget; revolving licence plates, tyre slashers that double as spinner hubcaps, a passenger ejector seat, a rear bulletproof shield, forward machine guns concealed behind the headlights, rearward defenses including smoke and oil slick sprayers. All essential items for the late 60's spy on the run in his vintage car.

2. Attaché Case (From Russia With Love) - This might not seem appropriate for the modern spy attempting to operate undercover in a foreign country but in 1963 this was an essential item for the British businessman abroad. Of course Bond's case came equipped with a foldaway AR-7 sniper’s rifle, a knife, 50 gold sovereigns and a canister of teargas primed to explode if it was opened by anyone other than it's owner. Makes an off-screen, and humorous, reappearance in Goldfinger when Bond is told it has been "damaged" whilst being examined by Goldfinger's henchmen.

3. Rolex Oyster Submariner (Live & Let Die) - The Rolex Submariner is worn by Bond in a number of films, but stakes it's claim for gadget glory when it is returned to Bond at the start of "Live & Let Die" after being "repaired" by Q-Branch. The modified watch has a powerful electro-magnet that can (and I'm really not quite convinced about the science of this) deflect bullets and also a spinning bezel which is subsequently used by Bond to free himself from his rope restraints and escape the pool of man-eating sharks.

4. Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone (Tomorrow Never Dies) - Now THIS is a phone that can multi-task. Never mind your mega pixel camera or MP3 player (though it probably has those as well) this phone loads up with a spectacular array of useful tools. A stun gun, a fingerprint scanner, analyzer and transmitter that can also be used for opening high-tech fingerprint-identification locks, and a lock pick. As if that weren't enough it also houses a flip-open remote control for the control of his BMW 750iL. I've got a Sony Ericsson phone, I've not yet worked out how to access these functions.

5. Jet packs (Thunderball)- Thunderball saw the use of two different types of jet pack. The standard variety enables Bond to escape after killing SPECTRE agent Colonel Bouvar. Though slightly ungainly in execution the scene did provide an iconic moment in the film. Later he uses an underwater jet pack, equipped with explosive tipped spear guns as he attempts to capture Largo and fend off his henchmen.

More gadget related information here, here and here.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Top 5 Bond Girls

Well, I have to confess this was quite fun putting together. So many beautiful women to choose from but it takes more than looks to be a great Bond Girl. A bit of savvy, a bit of style, a mischievous glint in the eye - I'm not sure I can quite define it. In fact I've struggled to write anything for the final five that wasn't either edging towards pervy or slightly too Terry Thomas. Think I'll leave it for the pictures to do the talking.

1. Honey Ryder - Ursula Andress (Dr No, 1962)

2. Teresa Di Vincenzo - Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969)

3. Domino Derval - Claudine Auger (Thunderball, 1964)

4. Jill Masterson - Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger, 1964)

5. Solitaire - Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die, 1973)

Friday, 3 October 2008

Top 5 Bond Cars

Bond is back! The new film "Quantum of Solace" is due for release on 31st October which gives me 5 weeks of Bond Top fives to get everyone in the mood. The Times ran their own top ten not that long ago too, check out the link if you're interested.

1. Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger, 1964) - This is THE Bond car. It's not the one Fleming used in the books but it's the first car used in the film series and the car I most associate with Bond. Packed full of gadgets including an ejector seat, machine guns and rotating number plates it was the look and style that really won me over. I've still got my Corgi model of it somewhere at home (though I think the man that got fired out of the ejector seat has long gone). It also made appearances in Thunderball (1965), Goldeneye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Casino Royale (2006), which I think is more than any other car. I could quite easily completed a Top 5 of Aston Martins, they're lovely cars. The Aston Martin DBS used in OHMSS comes a close second for me and the Aston Martin DBS from Casino Royale is just as stunning.

2. Bentley Mark IV (From Russia With Love, 1963) - OK, so it never actually existed as a real car but this was Bond’s car in many of Ian Fleming’s novels. A Derby Bentley was used in it's place for a brief cameo during From Russia With Love and the car was mentioned obliquely during the 2006 version of Casino Royale.

3. Lotus Esprit S1 (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977) - It's a very eighties design and not the sort of car I'd normally like. All square corners and ugly angular styling. However, once you've seen it turn into a submarine it takes on a whole new aspect. I think this might have been the first Bond film I saw in the cinema and that moment, as the car dives into the sea, is one that has stayed with me ever since. Torpedoes too!

4. Ford Mustang Mach-1 (Diamonds Are Forever, 1971) - This car didn't belong to Bond but a wild chase through the streets of Las Vegas is enough to give me an excuse to get a Mustang in the list. You've gotta love an American muscle car.

5. AMC Hornet X (The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974) - Possibly not the most auspicious car Bond has driven, this gains all it's magic from a fabulous car chase in which Bond, having stolen the Hornet from a car dealership and with Sheriff J.W. Pepper alongside for "comic" interjection, pursues Scaramanga who has agent Goodnight locked in his boot. It's a great car chase, and the Hornet earns it's place with a spectacular corkscrew jump over the river. Scaramanga is also driving an AMC car, a Matador which also gains more kudos than it might otherwise achieve by transforming into a plane. Who wouldn't want a car like that? On a side note in trying to find out what cars these were I stumbled across this site which has a fairly damning description of AMC cars in general and a nice picture of a Matador.