02-10-2016 10:45 AM
A couple of years ago I remembered that I was a huge James Bond fan, but I had somehow managed to miss seeing about half of the movies. I rectified that situation by picking up a rather beautiful and comprehensive 50th anniversary collection of the movies: The Ultimate James Bond Collection. With the release yesterday of SPECTRE to home video, I thought I'd spend a few paragraphs extolling this venerable franchise, one of the longest running and most successful film series in the history of history.
I watched SPECTRE last night and was again impressed with its beauty and thrills. Daniel Craig is arguably the finest Bond since Sean Connery, a damaged, ruthless, and tarnished white knight with a license to kill. The opening sequence for this, the 24th Bond film, is the most ambitious to date and there is no shortage of spectacle aftewards either. All of the key components of a Bond movie are present, action, adventure, spectacular locations, and a dastardly and compelling villain. While not as excellent as the astonishing Skyfall -- one of the finest films I have ever seen -- SPECTRE stands up as one of the truly great James Bond adventures.
Without doubt, however, Goldfinger remains one of my most favorite films of all time. While not the first of the Bond films, it is the movie that firmly establishes all of the Bond hallmarks, motifs, and themes that are employed in every film afterward. From a stirring theme sung by Shirley Bassey, to the first truly unforgettable Bond Girl, to a villain who is bone-chilling in his ruthlessness, Goldfinger is the archetypical James Bond movie and, by default, Sean Connery the quintessential James Bond.
Of the eleven movies I had not seen when I bought the boxed set, Live and Let Die was among the most remarkable. Set firmly in the 1970s,it is a remarkable artifact from the era in which it was made. A gripping story well told, Live and Let Die surprised me at every turn and Roger Moore did not put in a finer performances as the venerable MI6 secret agent before or after. The movie made no attempt to be timeless, for 1970s fashions and sensibilities abound, and yet its many unintentional anachronisms are the biggest part of its many charms.
In what was arguably the first intentional "reboot" of the franchise, the 17th film in the series, GoldenEye, introduced Pierce Brosnan as the modern post-Cold War super spy. In a story that was as ambitious as it was entertaining, GoldenEye was fun, clever, and utterly implausible in all of the right ways. GoldenEye gave the franchise much needed new blood and direction, and set the stage for the post-millennial Bond we've all come to know and love.
I've mentioned only five of the 24 films. Some of the rest are better than others, sometimes by miles. Some Bonds -- and Bond Girls -- are more forgettable than others, but the movies are all almost endlessly delightful. It's no wonder that this series has been going for over 50 years -- and shows no signs of stopping.
02-10-2016 11:52 AM
Nice write up. I also am a huge Bond fan and have been since I was probably 5 or 6
I really should step up to the plate and by the complete box set on Blu Ray. Then I can get rid of some of my VHS tapes.
I really could not pin point a favorite Bond for me. There are qualities of each that I appreciate and like. Unlike many people George Lazenby was one of my favorites. He would have gone on to Diamonds are forever but his ego got out of control and Brocoli convinced Connery to come back. And I think Diamonds was Connery's best Bond performance of a series of great performances.
02-10-2016 01:11 PM
I cannot extoll Bond on Blu-ray enough. The films have been meticulously remastered and are just a delight to look at. Every single one was crisp, with unbelievable detail. The color is bold, the audio is superior. It was a great way to see so many films for the first time. I think your mind would be blown, truly.
I agree that all of the movies have their virtues. I enjoy them all a great deal. I'm going to put Diamonds are Forever in the player later and see if I agree with your assessment. Bonus: Shirley Bassey sings the theme!
02-10-2016 03:28 PM
I have fond memories of when the Bond films were shown as the ABC Saturday Night movie and sitting in my dad's lap watching. He would let me stay up to see the whole movie, even if it was way past my bedtime.
The first one that I truly remember watching with him was Thunderball. The scene where the plane crashes into the ocean and the bad guys cover it up and then kill the pilot that was supposed to be working with them always comes to mind. The visuals of being under water and the planning just blew me away (I was also big into sharks at the time, so seeing them swim around helped to hook me in ).
I've always had a soft spot for the Bond films (even the ones that a lot of people don't like) and I'm always up for sitting down to watch one, no matter how many times I've seen it.
02-10-2016 05:08 PM
"A couple of years ago I remembered that I was a huge James Bond fan, but I had somehow managed to miss seeing about half of the movies"
I can completely relate to this. There is so much content out there! It's absolutely impossible to keep up with all the great TV and movies, so I find myself in this state of mind all the time.
02-11-2016 12:25 PM
Before Star Wars came out I was going to watch them all. I could not find my Empire Strikes Back. And I did not have have the newest directors cuts. So I purchased IV, V and VI at BB on Blu-Ray.
I was simply blown away by the superior video quality and what they did. I put in my DVD of IV just to compare.
Now your making me want to bite the bullet and the Bond filme. I may only watch them once every 4 or 5 years, but I would watch them until I can no longer watch movies.
02-11-2016 12:34 PM
The first one I can remember was Gold Finger. I am not as old as that movie but I remember the scene with the gilded woman on the couch (davenport if you will) and I was so amazed.
Then there were the Matt Helm series.
The author caught up on the Ian Flemming James Bond craze and started Matt Helm There are some 26 books.
I really liked Matt Helm as well.
However, I will stand on the Platform that the best James Bond movies were based on the storyline of the 14 Ian Flemming stories.
I think some of the story quality suffered after they ran out of Flemmings stories.
However, I have been pretty impressed with the Daniel Craig stories.
02-11-2016 01:03 PM
I don't want to aggravate itch to buy (actually I do, I work for a retailer after all), but I have not been disappointed with my Bond Collection purchase in the slightest measure. I don't honestly think you would be either as a film buff.
I'll tell you though, about the Star Wars Blu-rays, I was surprised by the profound difference between the picture quality from The Phantom Menace DVD to Blu-ray. That disparity is what sold me on the technology, truth be told. If a DVD that recent can be improved by so much, it was really worthy of making the transition. Of course, the original Star Wars Trilogy and it's myriad of special edition upgrades was simply smashing to behold too!
I haven't seen the Matt Helm movies since I was a youngster, but I have fond memories of them for some reason. I think there were four of them, but all I remember for sure was a round bed and a swimming pool full of acid. For a brief time, the movies were available on DVD, but I note that they are woefully now out of print.
If you mention Matt Helm, you almost have to bring up James Coburn's Flint movies, In Like Flint and Our Man Flint, also unforgivably out of print. While parodies of the spy adventure genre, the storytelling and production values were still quite high for what are essentially comedies. Extending the relationship even further, Mike Myers' dreadful, yet hilarious, Austin Powers movies drew heavily on the Flint films, down to the ring of the red Presidential telephone.