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A View to a Bond Baddie: Aristotle “Aris” Kristatos

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), 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.

For Your Eyes Only is often overlooked when discussing Roger Moore’s time as the iconic secret agent. Positioned between the camp excesses of Moonraker and the rather disappointing blandness of Octopussy, Moore’s fifth film in the role is arguably the actor’s best. It distinguishes itself from its peers in several ways. Most obviously, it’s a relatively low-key espionage thriller, rather than a spectacular action film. The narrative is driven by mystery and intrigue at least as much as it is by action and adventure. The stakes are relatively grounded when compared to those in Moore’s other films. There’s no planned genocide here, not even the immediate threat of nuclear war. It almost feels like a spiritual companion to the Timothy Dalton films, or the early Sean Connery adventures. And yet, despite the fact its tone feels a little out of character, For Your Eyes Only really feels like it plays to Roger Moore’s strengths. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the villain, Aristotle “Aris” Kristatos, who serves as the best foil for Roger Moore’s Bond in any of Moore’s seven films.

One to cross(bow) off the list…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Franz Sanchez

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), 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.

As far as James Bond’s on-screen adversaries go, Franz Sanchez stands out for a number of reasons. Like Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos, Robert Davi seems like he might have wandered on to the set from a nearby sound stage. While the murky and subtle double-agent from For Your Eyes Only could have arrived from a John le Carré story, Franz Sanchez looks to have wandered out of Miami Vice. Licence to Kill represented an attempt by the producers to make Bond topical again, with mixed results. It’s still one of the most divisive films in the series.

Part of that attempt to modernise Bond was the decision to cast the character as a morally ambiguous anti-hero out for revenge, in contrast to the clean-cut morality of earlier adventures. However, Sanchez himself was also by-product of the attempt to modernise Bond. Bond was no longer hunting a spy, an assassin or a madman with plans of world domination. Instead, Bond found himself confronting a thug running an international drug cartel.

It’s all keeled over on him…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Francisco Scaramanga

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.

You see, Mr Bond, like every great artist, I want to create an indisputable masterpiece once in my lifetime. The death of 007 mano a mano, face to face, will be mine.

You mean stuffed and displayed  over your rocky mantelpiece?

That’s an amusing idea,  but I was thinking in terms of history.  A duel between titans. My golden gun against your Walther PPK. Each of us with a 50-50 chance.

Six bullets to your one?

I only need one.

Scaramanga and Bond

Was there ever a better Bond villain wasted in a more terrible film? Okay, maybe Christopher Walken as Max Zorin comes close, but Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga feels like the only potentially redemptive aspect of the tonally mismatched The Man With The Golden Gun, a movie about a duel to a death that involves a karate school, secret lairs, giant frickin’ lasers and a slide whistle. Scaramanga is easily the most compelling thing about the whole film, and that might explain the contempt that many people hold for it. After all, the eponymous assassin is missing for most of the middle section of the film.

The eyes of a killer…

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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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Non-Review Review: A View to a Kill

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.

A View to A Kill is not fondly remembered. In fact, it frequently finds itself listed amongst the dregs of the Bond films when the time comes to rank the worst of the British secret agent’s on-screen adventures. Truth be told, I find that rather harsh – I’d argue that it’s a significantly stronger effort than The Man With The Golden Gun, at least – as well as possibly Octopussy and Moonraker. After all, both Roger Moore and Christopher Walken look like they are having such a ridiculously good time.

Not quite a towering accomplishment…

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Non-Review Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

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.

The Spy Who Loved Me was just what Bond needed after The Man With The Golden Gun. Let’s be honest here, the movie has perhaps the strongest and most iconic opening sequence of any Bond movie – even those who haven’t seen the film know the beats off by heart. Bond is skiing, escaping a Russian ambush in the snow. He’s giving as good as he gets, but he’s cornered – out numbered and outgunned. In a moment of desperation, Bond flees his attackers, skiing off the side of a cliff.

It’s a cliffhanger…

For a moment, there is nothing but silence. As the stunt man tumbles through the air, the music stops cold. It’s not just the audience holding their breath as they watch Bond enter free fall. Is this it for our illustrious secret agent? You know it can’t be more than a couple of seconds, but it seems to last an eternity. And then…

And then…

The Bond music kicks into gear as the parachute opens – a Union flag. And then the opening beats of Nobody Does It Better sound in the background as Bond makes good his escape. Let’s face it, the movie could end there and it would be the best thing to happen to Bond since Sean Connery left.

Nobody does it better…

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Let Bond Be Bond: What We Want from Bond 23

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.

The 23rd Bond movie had its release date confirmed as 9th November 2012, putting an end to the perpetual development hell that it seemed trapped in. With Oscar-winner Sam Mendes in the director’s chair, there would seem to be very little to worry about, but I thought – nonetheless – I’d collect some thoughts on what I’d like to see in the 23rd instalment of the long-running film series.

Shaken... but not stirred...

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