film, James Bond

Movie Review: Diamonds Are Forever

Might not have been Connery’s best but it was a nice conclusion to his official Bond career. Spoilers ahead.

After killing off Blofeld, or so it would seem, Bond moves on to his next mission. M believes diamond are being stockpiled to dispenses prices via dumping and orders Bond to find a way in. Disguised as smuggler and assassin Peter Franks, Bond meets with Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) a diamond smuggler to find the diamonds. The real Franks shows up and Bond is forced to kill him and switches IDs. With the help of CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Norman Burton this time) Bond gets in, but is quick to realize anyone in contact with diamonds gets killed by two assassins Mr. Witt and Mr. Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith). Bond believes recluse billionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean) is behind the scheme, after following the diamonds with Whyte’s casino manager Bert Saxby (Bruce Cabot) to a location owned by Whyte. There Bond finds a satellite being built by genius Professor Doctor Metz (Joseph Furst). However Whyte is not behind the scheme, instead it was the supposed dead Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray this time, told you he’d be in another movie) who has many look a likes. His plan: to use the satellite and diamonds to destroy nuclear weapons and basically hold the world at ransom in an auction for nuclear supremacy. Bond and Leiter are able to make sure Blofeld does not succeed with his plan.

While it was not his final turn as 007 it was in the official franchise by Connery and I thought he did just as good as before. My thoughts on Tiffany will be later so I’d like to focus on the stand outs of the film. Mr. Gray’s performance as Blofeld is my personal favorite of the character, showing just how desperate Blofeld is to kill Bond and as head of SPECTRE. While there are memorable henchmen in the movie, two stick out the most: Mr. Witt and Mr. Kidd. They are always together and seem to take pleasure out of killing, almost everyone they come into contact with ends up dead. It is implied the two of them are lovers, which given the improv of them holding hands all but confirm it. Tiffany is not the only women in the film as three others make lasting impressions: Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) a gold digger Bond almost sleeps with until she is literally tossed out the window and is later killed at Tiffany’s place, wrong place wrong time, and Whyte’s female bodyguards Bambi and Thumper (Lola Larson and Trina Parks) who give Bond a hell of a fight. M, Leiter, Moneypenny and Q all do their bit in the film.

As for the film itself it was somewhat campier than what the previous films were at the time, but given the next set of films to come it was not too bad. The most memorable part of the film for me was the car chase in Vegas between Bond and the police. At one point Bond drives the car on two wheels, yeah don’t try that with your own car. Other than that I can understand why this film is more than often forgotten, but it is still a decent Bond picture. Coming soon, the begging of the Roger Moore films, Live and Let Die.

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classic, film, James Bond, must see

Movie Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

So sorry for the long wait, but I have finally watched “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and once again my heart is just a little broken. Once again spoilers will be ahead as it is unavoidable.

This time portrayed by George Lazenby, Bond is on the hunt for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (portrayed by Telly Savalas) when he saves the life of Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, aka Tracy (Diana Rigg), a women seemly committing suicide on the beach when Bond pulls up. Tracy thanks Bond at the hotel they are staying at, and Bond fights off an attacker. The next morning Bond is brought to Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), a crime-lord with legitimate ties and Tracy’s father. Telling Bond of Tracy’s past Draco offers his services and money in exchanging for continuing to see Tracy. Desperate to find Blofeld, Bond agrees. M pulls Bond off the Blofeld assignment and Bond submits his resignation, but Moneypenny writes it to give Bond two weeks instead, what would we do without her? Despite getting the information from Draco, Bond continues to see Tracy, falling in love with her. Bond discovers Blofeld is trying to gain a title as a count and poses as a genealogist Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker, who also does the voice when Bond goes undercover) to get closer to his foe. Blofeld has established an allergy research institute along with his henchwoman Irma Blunt (Ilse Steppat) on the Swiss Alps with the promise to cure allergies. Bond meets 12 women, and beds two of them, known as the Angels of Death; they believe they are being cured of their allergies but in actuality they are being brainwashed for biological warfare, destroying plants and animals in exchange for money, the title and amnesty. Bond, along with Tracy and Draco stop Blofeld with Bond forcing Blofeld into a neck brace. Bond and Tracy marry, but the film ends in tragedy; with Blofeld driving Bunt shoots at the couple killing Tracy. No Bond fan can watch that ending and not cry or have their heart broken.

I know Lazenby gets a lot of grief for his only turn as 007, don’t get me started on the clothes even if it was the style in 1969, but I did not think he was that bad. While Bond is usually seen as tough, leading with his head, and not emotional I found it refreshing seeing Bond in love and vulnerable. Seeing Bond in films later after Tracy’s death is almost sad whenever she gets brought up. My feelings for Diana Rigg as Tracy will be at a later time, and I do have a lot to say about her. Savalas’s Blofeld is very good as he actually does something other than threaten Bond and occasionally shoot. Ferzetti is great as Draco and it almost makes me wonder if Bond kept in contact with him after Tracy’s death. Steppat as Blunt is one of the best henchmen in the Bond universe and it is sad we never get to see her character again; the actress tragically died four days after the film premiere.

The action scenes are very intense in the film with the ski segment and the final battle prior to the wedding. The entire film is one of the best in the franchise, and probably the saddest. It is still a must watch if you are a Bond fan. Coming soon, “Diamonds are Forever.”

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film, James Bond

Movie Review: You Only Live Twice

One of Bond’s somewhat more controversial films today, You Only Live Twice is still one of the more action packed of the franchise. Warning once again spoilers ahead.

An American spacecraft was taken in space by an unknown aircraft and killed an astronaut who could not get back in the rocket in time (which honestly did not make any sense to me why he couldn’t pull himself in or his buddy couldn’t.) America blames Russia, who denies all involvement, but the British suspect the Japanese are involved since the spacecraft landed just off the Sea of Japan. Bond is assigned, after faking his death in Hong King (hence the title.) Contacted by Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), an agent for Japanese Secret Service, Bond meets MI6 operative Dikko Henderson (Charles Gray, not the first time this actor will be in a Bond film) who believes the Japanese are working with someone else and has evidence of a rogue craft. He is killed before he can elaborate. Bond is able to kill the assassin and poses as him to find out more, discovering Osato Chemicals is involved by taking photos locked in a safe. Bond is then, uniquely I may add, introduced to the head of Japanese SS, Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamab). Bond is quick to suspect SPECTRE’s involvment, and he is right. The head of Osato Chemicals, Mr, Osato (Teru Shimada) along with his secretary, Number 11 Helga Brandt (Karin Dor)are working for number 1 of SPECTRE, finally introduced as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (portrayed in this film by Donald Pleasence), hired by the People’s Republic of China to start a war between Russia and America; tensions growing further after a Russian rocket is captured. In order to get close to the island where the rogue craft is, and this is where the controversy starts, Bond must become Japanese, train like Tanaka’s ninja’s and take a wife. Along the way Aki is killed by an assassin, who meant to kill Bond. Bond then enters the island with his “wife” Kissy (Mie Hama but voiced by Nikki van der Zyl) and soon comes face to face with Blofeld. Of course SPECTRE’s plans fail thanks to Bond and ninjas, but this was only the beginning of Bloefeld’s official on-screen presence.

Now you have to remember this movie was done in the 1960’s and a lot of older films were not as PC as they are today. While Bond’s Japanese appearance may not have been controversy back then, it does not do any favors now. I will say I do like observing a bit of Japanese culture with the sumo wrestling. Admittedly hearing some things bothered me, but knowing it is Japanese culture back then maybe even now I can forgive it(and I am not looking for any arguments about a different culture.) I have an aunt and uncle who lived in Japan for a while, so my knowledge of the culture is limited if any, but I do not wish to disrespect a culture.The film also has one of the best car chase scenes in Bond history, a great aerial flight with “Little Nellie” as Bond calls the craft and amazing use of ninjas during the training sequence and final battle.

Moving on, as usual my views on Aki and Kissy will appear later, so let’s focus on the villains and help. After five films Bond finally comes face to face with his greatest rival Blofeld. As you will come to see in other Bond films Blofeld is portrayed differently, but Donald Pleasence definitely set the bar with a unique look and fear. While at times his voice is not as menacing a it should be it does not take away Pleasence performance. Mr. Osato and Brandt are terrified of him, and once they failed him in trying to kill Bond they pay the ultimate price (Osato is shot while Brandt after sleeping with and failing to kill Bond is eaten alive by piranhas.) Thankfully Bond does have help with Japanese SS head Tanaka, but called Tiger by his friends. I like Tanaka because of his uniqueness. unlike many who help Bond this guy is not well known to his people, he has his own island, train and he has ninjas; who can say they have that? I must also add the opening sequence with the lava is one of my favorite openings to this franchise.

Overall while the film is not as PC by today’s standards You Only Live Twice is still a good film, and for a short period of time Sean Connery’s last as 007. Coming soon George Lazenby’s only turn as Bond in one of the best known, and heartbreaking, Bond films ever “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

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classic, film, James Bond

Movie Review: Thunderball

Again I am probably the only person who likes this film putting it pretty high in my top 10 if you may recall, but nonetheless I really love this film. Once again warning spoilers ahead.

After killing another SPECTRE agent Bond recuperates at a sanatorium for his health (and manages to bed his physiotherapist) By coincidence (yeah right) SPECTRE is planning at that resort under the orders of the eye-patch wearing Number 2 Emile Largo (Adolfo Celi) The plan is to steal two atomic bombs and hold NATO for 100 million pounds unless they will detonate them at a major city. Bond quickly catches on when he is almost killed by SPECTRE operative Count Lippe  and finds the dead body of Francois Derval, and Derval was the one piloting the plane the bombs were on (a greedy operative whose face was surgically altered to look like Derval and soon paid for it.) Bond is assigned to make contact with Largo which he does through Derval’s sister and Largo’s mistress Domino (Claudine Auger.) Aided by Felix Leiter (portrayed in this film Rik Van Nutter) Q, and a CIA Agent Paula Caplan (Martine Beswick), Bond has to find the bombs before SPECTRE uses them, which is hard after a number of henchman get in his way including the fiery Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi)

Before I go into my views of the film I would like to remind you that my views of Domino will be later on so I’m going to focus on the major villain standouts: Largo and Volpe. If I have to be honest Largo is not a standout villain in the franchise despite him being Number 2 of SPECTRE. Him and Bond play a cat and mouse game throughout the film, and despite him saying he was doing it for SPECTRE it seems Largo was more concerned with Bond getting Domino. Largo is ruthless, but not as ruthless as other villains so he is easily forgetful. If any villain does stand out in this film it is Fiona Volpe. A fiery redhead she is very bad woman, even after she and Bond sleep together. Most women who sleep with Bond have something happen to them, but not Volpe. she is too nasty. There was apparently some speculation in her final scene whether Bond used her as a human shield when Bond turns ans she is shot by her own henchman (punny line by Bond shortly after), but let’s face it she was evil so I don’t care.

Now onto why I love this film. First off the opening with the jet-pack is probably the best opening for a Sean Connery Bond film ever. Second keep in mind the film was made 1965, and a good portion of this film was filmed underwater. I found that to be absolutely amazing when I first watch the film, as does my mom. Lastly my favorite part is at the end of the film with the underwater battle between the good guys and bad guys, watching them swim and killing each other is kinda awesome. Most people find it boring, but I love that scene. I’ll admit the story is not great, but for the camerawork this film is one of my favorites. I know people probably prefer the Never Say Never Again version of this film, but I’d rather go with the original than the remake.

Overall I love this film and it is defiantly worth a watch. Coming soon a film that definitely stirred up controversy You Only Live Twice

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classic, film, James Bond

Movie Review: Goldfinger

One could argue the most well known, well liked and best Bond film of all time. When I was starting to watch the films my mom said to watch Goldfinger as it is not only her favorite but in her opinion the best. After watching it I could definitely see why. Once again spoilers ahead if you have not seen it.

After destroying a drug lab in Latin America Bond heads to Miami to meet up with an old friend in CIA agent Felix Leiter (portrayed in this film by Cec Linder.) Under the orders of M, Bond has to keep an eye on bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe with Michael Collins providing the voice as Frobe’s accent was thick). He seems to be clean but the CIA and MI6 know better as Goldfinger is a known gold smuggler allowing himself to profit by selling bullion as well. Seeing Goldfinger cheating at a card game Bond sneaks into Goldfinger’s room and makes him loose not only the game but the girl that was helping him Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton.) However both pay for it later in the form of arguably the most famous henchman in Bond history the mute Oddjob (Harold Sakata), knocking out Bond and killing Jill by painting her skin gold dying of skin suffocation (a common medical belief back then.)

Bond soon discovers Goldfinger is not working alone as he learns of Operation Grand Slam with a Chinese agent known as Mr. Ling. The goal: to break into Fort Knox, killing the military men with a nerotoxin and not steal the gold but to render the gold useless thus making his gold worth more (yep not the most evil plan but with Goldfinger you don’t really care.) Goldfinger soon catches Bond, but is forced to keep him alive out of fear of MI6 knowing the plan. Bond also meets Goldfinger’s pilot, and for those that haven’t seen this film I swear this is her name, Pussy Galore. After getting a message to Leiter and seducing Galore, Bond is able to foil Goldfinger’s plans.

Now you will see my views on Ms. Galore at a later date but let’s go into the other factors in why this movie soars: Goldfinger and Oddjob in my opinion one of the best villains and henchman in the entire franchise. Goldfinger is a complete selfish man killing all of his partners in order to make himself more wealthy and once he realizes the military caught on switches uniforms to kill Mr. Ling. He then sneaks onto the plane to kill Bond, but once again his arrogance gets the better of him. Oddjob meanwhile is the perfect henchman willing to do anything for his master including making sure the plan goes off at the expense of his own life.

If I had to make a tiny little complaint about the film it is that Sean Connery’s Bond is a tad more sexist in the film than in the others, look at my future views of Pussy Galore to get an understanding. Other than that the film is downright great from the story, acting, and the better villains, girls and henchman of the franchise. Coming soon one of my favorites, although I don’t see many agreeing Thunderball.

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classic, film, James Bond

Movie Review: From Russia with Love

The second film of the Bond franchise, and in my opinion one of the more underrated ones. While it does appear on multiple top 10 James Bond film lists I still do not hear this one talked about as much as the other Bond films, which I find somewhat sad as it is a good film. Warning if you have not see the film spoilers ahead.

How we start the film is pretty unique as we see a fake Bond being killed by a blond Robert Shaw (pre-Jaws) as Donald “Red” Grant. We also see the factors Bond would have to face along the way; all members of SPECTRE looking to steal a Lektor cryptographic device from the Russians, humiliate MI6, created tension between the Russians and the British, and kill 007 for killing Dr. No in the previous film. Such evil factors including Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), a calculating mastermind and Number 5 in SPECTRE,  Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) a former SMERSH colonial now Number 3 in SPECTRE, the then unknown Number 1 of SPECTRE (more on that person at a later date) and the unknowingly helping Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi with Barbara Jefford providing the voice) a beautiful Russian cipher clerk who believes she is on a mission with SMERSH to seduce Bond into coming. Of course Bond and M know this is a trap but they wanted to get their hands on that Lektor so off he goes to Istanbul, aided by Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz) the head of MI6’s Turkey office.

Sean Connery once again shines the 007, which comes as no surprise, but the supporting cast as well do their part, you can check my view on Tatiana on a different blog I’m planning. What has somewhat become a tradition every few films is the big blond bad henchman, but in my opinion no one was badder (maybe not bigger or blonder) than Grant. He was actually kinda menacing and scarier when he didn’t talk, when he did it was still menacing but ti was better when he didn’t speak. The fight scene he has with Bond in the train car might has been the quietest fight I’ve seen in the films, but it was still a joy to watch. Admittedly letting Bond know what was actually going on was kinda stupid but Grant thought he would kill him. Klebb is a scary and evil Russian woman willing to do whatever it takes to kill Bond (seen later out of fear by Number 1) and she definitely makes her point (if you’ve seen the film you know what I mean.) This was also the first appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q, the man who would supply Bond’s equipment from this film until The World Is Not Enough.

Overall this film is a good follow up to Dr. No and should be considered as one of the better Bond films. Coming up soon arguably the best Bond movie of all time “Goldfinger.”

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Movie Review: Dr. No

I have ranked them before, now it is time to review them. James Bond has been around for over 50 years with many hit books, films and video games. My mother has always been a fan and she has since passed the love on to me. Every year the Bond films pre Daniel Craig become free for us to watch on a movie channel we got so I record them, but this year was a little different. When I was looking I noticed the Craig films were available on other networks so my other and I are doing a little Bond athon (yep I said it.) And as I am trying to write more I will do a review of the Bond films we have watched to give you guys who may not have watched the films and idea of what to expect. Just to be clear I will only be reviewing the offical Bond films, so no Casino Royal without Daniel Craig and no Never Say Never Again despite Sean Connery, sorry. So enough backstory from me let’s go into the review (if you have not seen the film potential spoilers ahead.)

Dr. No was not the first James Bond book, but it was the first film to be made by MGM of Ian Fleming’s books. The film follows James Bond, portrayed by Sean Connery, 007, as he travels to Jamaica to discover who has killed a fellow agent and if it has to do with the radio jamming of rocket ships. James is quick to gain allies such as Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), a boatman who knew the victim, Felix Leiter (portrayed in this film by Jack Lord), a CIA agent who you will see often in Bond films, not by the same person though and the beautiful Honey Rider (Ursula Andress), a shell collector with a personal interest in the story (you will see my views on Honey and other Bond girls at a later date.)

However not everyone wants Bond there including the title character Dr. No. A Chinese/German scientist (Joseph Wiseman) whom is a scary as he is smart, the metal hands do not help in the freaky department. I was going to do a ranking of the Bond villains but as there are too man of them you can look at my reviews. No is highly regarded as one of the best villains on the Bond franchise, whether it has to do with the creepy factor or how smart he is doesn’t matter. Dr. No can scary the heck out of you with just his look and voice. Whether it was arrogance or just plain stupid No does let Bond know about the organization that will torment Bond on/off over the course of the franchise: Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE.) Of course though Bond defeats Dr. No, in spectacular fashion I may add and sails away with Honey.

The film is absolutely incredible, hence why it usually ranks pretty high on best Bond films. Sean Connery’s first outing as 007 was great and showed he had what it took to play the beloved secret agent. Th supporting MI6 cast even for a brief time showed how they could handle 007, Bernard Lee as his boss M and Lois Maxwell as Bond’s most frequent flirt Moneypenny. The rest of the cast as well does a great job fighting with or against Bond. Overall it was a great start to a great franchise.

Coming soon my review of From Russia with Love.

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