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A View to a Bond Baddie: Max Zorin

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

An interesting thing about Roger Moore’s Bond films is the fact that the best baddies tended to pop up in the worst films. Okay, I have a soft spot for Julian Glover in For Your Eyes Only, arguably the best of Moore’s outings as James Bond, but I’m thinking of Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun and Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill. In particular, Walken’s Max Zorin stands out – in my opinion – as one of the best villains of the entire franchise. He’s a character who really stands at the half-way point between the classical Bond villains and the characters we’ve seen since, positioned half-way between Auric Goldfinger and Franz Sanchez. It also helps that Walken is having a whale of a time, and that fun is contagious.

Hang on in there…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Auric Goldfinger

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Golden words he will pour in your ear
But his lies can’t disguise what you fear
For a golden girl knows when he’s kissed her
It’s the kiss of death… from Mis-ter…
Goldfinger.

Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold
This heart is cold…

He loves only gold!

The first film in the series, Dr. No, did an exceptional job establishing the template for a Bond villain. Dr. Julius No had an island fortress, a stylish layer, an army of henchmen, a few key soldiers with a gimmick, a sinister plan and a physical deformity, all of which would become fairly key ingredients for an archetypal Bond baddie. That said, Joseph Wiseman only appear on-screen in the role for about twenty minutes, so the audience actually got relatively little time to know him. The follow-up, From Russia With Love, also had a set of memorable bad guys, but the interaction with Bond was limited to the final few minutes of the film. (That isn’t to suggest those few minutes weren’t fantastic.)

On the other hand, we actually spend most of Goldfinger with Auric Goldfinger, and he’s the first villain in the series who has a number of extended interactions with our hero.

His finger in many pies…

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John Barry, RIP

I had hoped to end James Bond January as a celebration of one of the most iconic film franchises ever produced. It as a fantastically organised event – thanks to the legend that is Paul Thain over at Paragraph Film Reviews. Through the month, we had some surprising good news. Despite the shadow that loomed over MGM, the next Bond film (Bond 23, as it is known) would enter production. It would be released for the film’s fiftieth anniversary, would see Daniel Craig return and would be directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes. That was good news, and it really contributed to the atmosphere of the month.

1933-2011

Unfortunately, as the month came to a close, there was bad news. It’s tragic to end the month with the passing of John Barry. Barry had a tremendous career that others can do far more justice to than I would dare attempt. A legendary composer, his work is instantly recognisable – even if you don’t know you’re listening to it. It’s rare for a composer to exude pure and refined class and sophistication, while still remaining truly accessible. Barry did that. He won an Oscar for his work on Born Free, a soundtrack that I can sing along with even though I have never seen the film. I imagine there are more than a few readers who can say the same thing.

There are those who will sum up his career more eloquently than this truncated blog post, but he was a master. He worked on twelve of the Bond films, however his work was so iconic that the only major departure from his style occurred with GoldenEye (and this was promptly corrected for Tomorrow Never Dies). Perhaps his most iconic Bond theme is for Goldfinger. There’s a video below embedded of Barry conducting an instrumental rendition.

However, my own personal favourite John Barry theme comes from You Only Live Twice:

And I have a soft spot for Diamonds Are Forever, where he famously coaxed Shirley Bassey to give it lots and then some.

Rest in peace.

Non-Review Review: You Only Live Twice

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

You Only Live Twice was my favourite when I was younger. It was energetic, witty, bright, colourful and adventurous. The stakes were ridiculously high – no less than the Third World War. Bond’s trip to Japan painted the country as an exotic wonderland to a mind as young as my own. The script was smart and the action was fast-paced – the movie still breezes along even today. The cost of the speed is that the movie is ultimately fairly light – it doesn’t carry anything particularly heavy or thought-provoking. This means that it ends up feeling relatively light-weight when measured against some of Sean Connery’s earlier outings like From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, which worked at least as much with suspense as with action.

Is Bond turning Japanese?

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Non-Review Review: Thunderball

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Thunderball perhaps gets a bit of a bad wrap because it’s perhaps not quite as good as From Russia With Love or Goldfinger. I’d argue that very few Bond films are. Thunderball perhaps represents the first moment that the series came to a rest – the first three installments had been built around establishing the character, his world and the tropes and clichés that viewers could expect from movie to movie. Sometimes concepts evolved gradually (for example, the novelty henchmen grew from the three blind assassins to Klebb and her knifey boots to Oddjob), while sometimes they were introduced suddenly (Bond’s Aston Martin), but by the time the fourth film came around, all these elements had been fairly firmly established. As such, the fourth film seemed to be more intent on consolidating the series than in breaking new ground. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that.

Bond isn't washed up... yet...

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Non-Review Review: Goldfinger

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Even though it was the third movie in an already iconic and hugely successful franchise, I think that Goldfinger is perhaps the film most responsibly for defining the shape of the archetypical Bond film we’ve been watching for fifty years now. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dr. No and From Russia With Love, but this film defined what an audience could expect from a Bond film. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s confident and it’s flamboyant. It’s also a wonderfully fun cinematic experience which manages to be consistently entertaining but never veering too far into the realm of the ridiculous.

A Golden Girl…

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