Thursday, November 15, 2012
My Favorite Bond: Mark Ahn on The Spy Who Loved Me
Sean Connery will always be remembered for being James Bond, and Daniel Craig has captured the public imagination with the current run of Bond films, with Pierce Brosnan generally accepted, Timothy Dalton appreciated but seldom mentioned, and George Lazenby mostly forgotten. Which leaves Moore, whose reception ranges from being considered just as iconic as Connery to being the least-liked Bond.
There are definitely legitimate reasons as to why Moore is received so negatively: Moore looks better in a tuxedo than throwing a punch (more Bruce Wayne than Batman, as my friend puts it), was almost 60 at the end of his tenure, and made some absolute clunkers (Moonraker and Octopussy in particular).
But, the obstacles he had to overcome were the biggest. He had to follow the iconic Connery, whose role was world-building. Not to underestimate this task, but even if Connery had failed, as the pioneer of the role, he and the creators still had the freedom to interpret Ian Fleming’s material to make the character what they wanted. Once the series got going, Connery’s physique, voice, and a slew of wildly popular films created an even larger mountain to climb for whoever followed him. How do you follow or replace something that was working and successful on multiple levels?
What doesn't change, however, is that my first memories of James Bond (and movies in generally, really) were of Roger Moore. He was the guy in the tuxedo when I got hooked on the car chases, gadgets, and girls while watching the network re-runs on Sunday nights as a kid. I didn’t care about that weird mole that Moore has on his face, or that he wasn’t Connery because I didn’t know who Connery was.
The Spy Who Loved Me is probably the best of the Moore films. It's solid in all of the traditional ways that makes Bond movies enjoyable: a kick-ass opening ski chase, the good guy gadgets (I love that Lotus submarine), bad guy gadgets (Atlantis) and a terrific bad guy in Karl Stromberg (played by Curt Jurgens) who is ostentatiously diabolical. But what makes this movie distinctive from the others comes down to two ingredients:
Part of what makes Jaws so effective is his simplicity. He never makes a noise, he’s indestructible, he always wears a suit or suspenders, and instead of using guns or knives or something practical for an assassin, he bites you. In the neck. He not only has the strength appropriate to a 7 foot tall killer, but his jaw muscles are strong enough to bite through chains and sharks. Bond might have faced billionaire megalomaniacs, or physically imposing henchmen, but he never faced anyone who represented the physical danger combined with the cunning of Jaws. Did wonders for my childhood fear of vampires.
Favorite Bond Theme Song: “View to a Kill” by Duran Duran. It’s a terrible song! But it makes me nostalgic and happy the way that Bond movies from the era do. “Diamonds Are Forever” by Shirley Bassey is also fantastic.
Favorite Bond Girl: Carole Bouquet (Melina Havelock in For Your Eyes Only), Barbara Bach (The Spy Who Loved Me), Claudine Auger (Domino in Thunderball).
Favorite Bond Villain who is not Jaws or Oddjob: Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love), Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (Diamonds Are Forever)
Favorite gadget from Q: Lotus submarine (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Underrated Bond Movie: For Your Eyes Only
Bond Movie I Shouldn't Like But Do: The Man with the Golden Gun
Least Favorite Bond Movies: Die Another Day, Never Say Never Again
Previously on "My Favorite Bond":
Alex on GoldenEye
JB on Goldfinger
Patrick on On Her Majesty's Secret Service