the roger moore bond movies (and one connery)

live and let die

when you were young
and this was the only bond film you had on vhs
you used to watch it a ton and not notice its racism
you know you did
you know you did
you know you did

this is always an extremely uncomfortable rewatch, and it’s extra uncomfortable right now. this might be the most racist bond movie? it’s definitely either this or you only live twice. probably. i don’t know! bond movies are really racist and i’m terrified i’m forgetting something worse.

according to this movie black people are drug kingpins, henchmen (of drug kingpins), diplomats (who are actually drug kingpins), voodoo priests (who work for a drug kingpin), voodoo shopkeepers (who work for a drug kingpin), or inept cia agents (who work for a drug kingpin). so that’s swell.

women also have a great time in this movie! they can be comically inept cia agents (whose incompetence is literally a running joke), tarot card readers (whose virginity is like her one character trait), or moneypenny.

oh! and you know how guy hamilton-directed bond movies always have that little bonus action scene during their denouement? during this film’s, bond beats up a guy who uses a prosthetic arm by disabling said prosthetic arm, and then makes a quip about! it’s almost as nice as the previous movie where he murders a gay couple. or a few movies before that when he kills a lesbian-coded lady.

oh, this has nothing to do with anything, but it’s pretty funny that a few movies after i complained about the villain locking bond up somewhere where he could get outside, we’ve graduated to just LITERALLY LEAVING HIM ALONE OUTSIDE. and like… this colonizer getting eaten by a croc or gator would be HILARIOUS, you really don’t want to stick around and see that?

there’s an unfortunate amount of nostalgia here for me given the alluded to fact that this is the only bond we had on vhs when i was a kid, and i do love moore as bond. and on a base level yeah sure this is engaging enough. still though… my rating is a bit deceptive because as entertaining as this can be, i’m not gonna be in a hurry to rewatch it again, unless i’m watching all the bonds again. that’s literally the only situation where i’ll watch it anymore.

so yeah, see you next time there’s a new bond coming out probably. idk.

(c-rank)

the spy who loved me

this is maybe one of the most prototypical ridiculous bond villains ever. his entire deal is that he wants the soviet union and amerikkka to nuke each other so he can start the human race over with undersea cities. and like… undersea cities sounds pretty rad!! nuking everyone to get there, not so much.

this is basically you only live twice without the yellowface? there’s the aforementioned prototypical bond villain with a wonderfully impractical base of operations, and it all leads up to an absolutely bananas final action scene in said base of operations.

the best sequence of the movie is probably bond chasing jaws who’s chasing some guy who has the macguffin. there’s some super intense lighting/music that’s entirely diegetic, and the whole thing has this really strange mood to it that i super dig.

i also honestly kinda love that this is one of those dumbass “enemies have to team up to face an even greater threat!” sorta deals. and i’d love to worship at the altar of kgb agent triple x, but as they say the devil is in the details.

i love the way triple x is introduced. her superiors say they need to get their best agent, and the phone rings while she’s in bed with her boytoy. he starts to get up like he’s going to answer it… and then leans out of the way so she can. it’s a pretty great fakeout, and it’s pretty representative of the difference between women’s opportunities in communist countries versus western imperialist ones. and if you don’t believe me, i am writing this on the anniversary of the day soviet cosmonaut valentina tereshkova became the first woman in space. in 1963. the american space program (and america in general) can eat my ass.

another thing i have to imagine the movie got right purely on accident is that when the villain details his plan it’s triple x who expresses horror & disgust at the idea of all those innocent people dying, while bond is stoically silent. because western imperialists have never been and never will be motivated by caring for other human beings. (but of course they probably actually wrote it that way because they think being horrified by the idea of everyone on the globe being nuked is weak & feminine or something.)

thing is, as easily as this character could’ve been amazing, and as much as she was at times… this is still a bond movie. she’s there to be bond’s conquest. she has a very good reason for wanting him dead (he murdered her boyfriend) and she even gives every indication that she’s going to make good on that wish once the mission is over… only to inexplicably let bond disarm her & make out with her.

it’s not like i would expect anything less, but this movie would have been way better if it had ended with her putting one between his eyes.

(c-rank)

moonraker

it’s really dumb. i kind of love it.

(b-rank)

for your eyes only

aggressively boring. probably in a dead heat with diamonds are forever and octopussy for the status of my least favorite bond.

(d-rank)

never say never again

now you’re on this, i hope we’re going to have some gratuitous sex and violence.

well, heck. apparently all this needed was a second watch? (i saw the tail end on cable once when i was very young, i remember the ending quite vividly, but i didn’t properly watch it until a couple years ago.) like… this pepsi to eon’s coke, largely the result of spite & a bitter legal dispute, genuinely might be my favorite connery bond movie. it’s definitely in the running. and if nothing else, i think it’s the only connery bond movie where he doesn’t rape anyone! (we do still have people of color used as background scenery for all our white characters, though, so… y’know.)

ok, also one of the reasons this might be my favorite connery bond is that the secret of connery’s bond is that all of them are uniformly just kinda ok? i know a lot of people go to bat for either from russia with love or goldfinger as the best bond movies ever, but just… no?

before we move off this, connery showed up to work for this one??? like, he’s never going to be my favorite bond, but i’m still super glad diamonds are forever wasn’t his last turn as bond, because heck that was just awful.

speaking of diamonds are forever, i am actually genuinely disappointed we didn’t get a competitor series out of this because the idea of max von sydow getting a run as blofeld is hecking tantalizing, and seeing the character get a more climactic ending (as he surely would have) than the two he got in the eon movies would be a huge relief. honestly, the way blofeld was bungled was one of the biggest disappointments of the main series.

heck, though, in terms of tone & presentation, this actually has a little of dalton’s run in its dna! (connery is not dalton, so… it doesn’t work quite as well. but it’s still there!) unfortunately, it’s also a precursor to the dalton era in terms of its eerie resemblance to the living daylights’ “surprise! islamophobia” ending.

comparisons to thunderball are unavoidable, and this largely compares favorably! the tonal control & pacing are largely superior. the action is grittier & more well-choreographed. and the underwater photography doesn’t bring the movie to a grinding halt. (admittedly, 20 years of advances in film technique probably has more than a little to do with this.) i do miss the shark tank villa scenes, but there’s a scene with sharks in the ocean that’s honestly superior! and the scene with bond & domino tangoing (i think? i don’t know much about dancing) is superior character work to literally anything in thunderball.

i will say the one area in which never say never again badly suffers in comparison to its predecessor is in bond’s conflict with functionally identical characters of fiona volpe (thunderball) & fatima blush (never say never again). my dumb lesbian brain does love how fatima is explicitly femdommy, but of course the character is overly sexualized & the way this is deployed ends up largely undermining her. she seems obsessed with largo, which… whatever. and she gets bond literally on his knees (well, on the ground at gunpoint anyway), but she’s so obsessed with having him admit that she was the best sexual experience he ever had that she gives him an opening to kill her in a ridiculously dramatic fashion. it’s just… bad. fiona, by contrast, plays a game of cat & mouse with bond where she bests him at nearly every turn, only to be killed by friendly fire meant for bond. and she’s not motivated by some strange sexual insecurity, instead dramatically calling bond out for his bullshit (“james bond, who only has to make love to a woman and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing, she immediately repents and returns to the side of right and virtue”). dumb lesbian brain aside, hers is the undeniably stronger character.

seriously, though. i remember being… not exactly unimpressed, but certainly not overly enthusiastic, the first time i saw this? and upon a second viewing it feels like it coulda been a genuine threat to eon’s dominance if it had continued as intended.

anyway, always remember:

“going down, one should always be relaxed”

(b-rank)

octopussy

… i mean, it’s bad.

like, it’s for sure in my “top” 5 worst bond movies. i think top 3. it’s not diamonds are forever bad, or for your eyes only bad… but it’s right up there.

literally the only reason it’s not in the running for my most hated bond is… it’s not boring? and like… bond enters the last setpiece in a hot air balloon??? and slides down a railing while shooting an automatic weapon??? it might be godawful but unlike diamonds are forever or for your eyes only it wouldn’t make an especially good sleep aid?

but… just… yeah. it might not be boring, but it’s bad.

the moore era is dire, y’all.

(d-rank)

a view to a kill

it’s been a while since i had an objectively awful take, so here ya go: this is easily the best roger moore bond movie.

(b-rank)


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