Tired of waiting for the next 007 movie to open? Here’s a solution that even Q would find fiendishly ingenious
His name might be Bond, James Bond but at the beginning of 2011 the studio responsible for the most successful franchise in spy movie history found itself in dire straits. It was broke, dead broke.
It looked like the mighty roar of the MGM lion was about to be silenced forever. In the event last minute refinancing bailed the studio out and, to the joy of fans everywhere, Bond 23 returned from an enforced layover and went back into production.
But for diehards who’d been expecting Daniel Craig back in 2011, the news that it’s going to be November 2012 before the world’s most famous spy is on the big screen again is very bad indeed.
Here at Aqua Vitae’s secret lair we decided to take matters into our own hands and kill time by assembling a DIY superspy. But where to start? All the Bonds to date have something to offer. There’s Brosnan’s hair. Craig’s pecs. Dalton’s grit. Lazenby’s up-yours attitude. Moore’s raised eyebrow.
Then we realised we could stop messing about and just use all of Sean Connery, and the best Bond film of them all, 007’s second outing, From Russia with Love. As Bond producer Michael G. Wilson put it in 2008 – and this was after Daniel Craig’s excellent 2006 debut – “We always start out trying to make another From Russia with Love and end up with another Thunderball.”
Ah, 1965’s Thunderball. Only the fourth Bond film and already the slide into Austin Powers parody is complete. Bond may be played by Connery but he’s less your lethal agent licensed to kill more your smartmouthed quipster. There are girls, there are gadgets. Lots of them. What there isn’t is a plot. And the film is way too long. Even worse, worst of all when it comes to Bond in fact, the film has underwater sequences.
Using the almost prehistoric From Russia with Love as some sort of template might seem surprising. But FRWL is current co-producer Barbara Broccoli’s preferred Bond too. And Timothy Dalton’s, Daniel Craig’s and, we rest our case, Sean Connery’s. “It was with this film that the Bond style and formula were perfected,” said Barbara Broccoli’s dad Cubby, the producer who started it all with Dr No in 1962.
So we’ve found our lead character, using a time machine to nab a 33-year-old Sean Connery, the former milkman, bodybuilder and coffin polisher. Now let’s build a film.
First there’s that simple gun-barrel sequence. Now there are many wonderful things to be found on Youtube but montages of all the gun-barrel opening sequences from all the Bond films are not on that list – even when guitarist Vic Flick is twanging out the Bond theme as they play. To all the geeks and freaks who are posting this stuff – please stop. In spite of what the film says, you only live once.
Then we’re on to the thrilling pre-title sequence. An innovation in From Russia with Love and one that’s stuck, it’s notable for having almost nothing to do with the rest of the film, is often wordless, and frequently features body doubles, either overtly (in FRWL we see Bond being killed by an assassin – except it’s not Bond). Or on the sly – Roger Moore might be a decent skier, but he’s not that good.
Moving, in Bond-honoured fashion, swiftly on, we then get a title sequence of gyrating lovelies (or a gyrating Daniel Craig in Casino Royale), which leads to the introduction of the “Bond song”, some of which have been great (Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney and Shirley Bassey). Some not (everything since A-ha did The Living Daylights – don’t write in).
Moving even more swiftly on we then have Bond’s Briefing By M, at which point 007 is confusingly addressed as Commander Bond, a Flirt With Moneypenny, a Rendezvous With Q for some wacky gadgetry, the most useless-looking gadget being the lifesaver later on. Before audiences start checking their watches it’s a sprint on to An Exotic Location, where Bond meets A Henchman or two (in FRWL it’s Robert Shaw with obviously evil bleach-blond hair and Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb, the knife in her shoe only outdone in deadliness by her hatchet face.
There’s just time for a teasing meeting with The Villain (Ernst Stavro Blofeld in FRWL), then a Bad Bond Girl, a CIA Buddy and a Good Bond Girl before Bond heads back to the Villain’s Secret Hideaway and, doh!, immediate capture. Here, instead of shooting Bond on the spot, the Villain tells Bond his Evil Plan before popping out for a second (to let the White Cat out, presumably), leaving Bad Bond Girl to free the otherwise completely bolloxed Bond. Cue ticktock countdown, sirens, lots of running around, The Villain’s attempted escape, his death and a big post-climactic finish featuring Bond and Bond Girl on a boat. Here sex is alluded to in time-honoured British comedy fashion, perhaps most groanworthily in the line delivered by Brosnan’s 007 to Denise Richards’ Dr Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough – “I thought that Christmas only came once a year”.
Apart from the Christmas gag, almost everything else just mentioned is in From Russia with Love. And if you look hard enough you’ll see that even in the Daniel Craig Bonds most of the elements from the Best Bond Film Ever are there too; all the canny producers have done is juggle them about a bit, and hidden Q and Moneypenny backstage the easier to sell the “reboot” idea.
You now have the ingredients to build your own Bond. Which elements will Bond 23’s director Sam Mendes – of American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road fame – select? The rumour mill is suggesting a “classic Bond”, the return of Moneypenny and a character not unlike Blofeld. Diamonds might be forever. But so, it would seem, is From Russia with Love.
Live and Let DIY
Other bits you might need to build your own Bond
Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger: “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die?” Whether it’s Goldfinger, Blofeld, Zorin, Dr No, Scaramanga, Le Chiffre, your standard issue Bond villain does love to talk. So much so you’d swear his dastardly secret weapon was his tongue.
Pussy Galore, Honey Ryder, Xenia Onatopp, Plenty O’Toole, Holly Goodhead – they’re not so much names, more invitations. But the ones 007 gets serious about – Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Quantum of Solace – never make it to the end credits.
Oddjob, Jaws, Mr Kid and Mr Wint, Baron Samedi, Nick Nack and Rosa Klebb. Most henchmen are forgettable; a few are not. Either way they all end up dead. Fried, stabbed, crushed, dry-roasted, you name it, allowing 007 to make one of his appalling quips.
Bond’s own Martini recipe, now called a Vesper, is three shots Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, half a shot of Kina Lillet, shake over ice, add lemon peel. Shaken, not stirred, of course. Unless it’s Casino Royale, when Daniel Craig’s 007 is asked how he wants his prepared and replies “Do I look like I give a damn.”
Though a supporting character, Q, played for many years by Desmond Llewellyn, often got the best laughs in the film. His memorable “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir” from Moonraker is a standout, but Llewellyn’s advantage was that the most banal line – “Now pay attention 007” – could come with an explosive payoff, literally.
Update April 2021: This piece was first published in Aqua Vitae magazine, Dubai. Since then Daniel Craig has played James Bond twice more, in Skyfall (referred to as Bond 23 in this piece) and Spectre, both of which re-asserted the classic Bond formula, down to a return of a Blofeld type (Javier Bardem’s Silva) and Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). And very good they both were too. Blofeld himself (now played by Christoph Waltz) resurfaced in Spectre. Who knows where No Time to Die will take us, later in 2021?
Until then, there’s this very smart collection of ALL the Bond movies (apart from Never Say Never Again, which is not an “official” Bond movie) – Connery to Craig by way of Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan – all the way from Dr No to Spectre.
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© Steve Morrissey 2011, updated 2021