Film Review Round-up – Three more Bonds – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981); FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) and GOLDENEYE (1995)

81947_largeFor Your Eyes Only (1981; UK; Technicolor; 127m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Glen; w. Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson; ph. Alan Hume; m. Bill Conti; ed. John Grover.  Cast: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lois Maxwell, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Julian Glover, Jill Bennett, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Cassandra Harris, Michael Gothard, John Wyman, Jack Hedley, James Villiers. Agent 007 is assigned to hunt for a lost British encryption device and prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Take out the silly prologue and epilogue and this is the straightest Bond for quite some time – and all the better for it. There are occasional lapses in pace and Moore is beginning to look a little old for the part, but the action sequences deliver excellent thrills. Bill Conti’s score, though, is the weakest of the series. Based on the short stories “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico” by Ian Fleming. [PG]

imagesFrom Russia with Love (1963; UK; Technicolor; 115m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry; ed. Peter R. Hunt.  Cast: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Francis De Wolff, George Pastell, Nadja Regin, Lois Maxwell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, Vladek Sheybal. James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. Second 007 film is a tense and well-made espionage thriller. The gadgets are still in the background here and Bond is left to his intelligence and his wits. Shaw makes an excellent heavy and Lenya is suitably creepy as Rosa Klebb. The production values are a notch up on DR. NO and the result is an exciting and action-packed adventure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

download (4)GoldenEye (1995; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 130m) ∗∗∗½  d. Martin Campbell; w. Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein; ph. Phil Meheux; m. Eric Serra; ed. Terry Rawlings.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Gottfried John, Alan Cumming, Tchéky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Serena Gordon, Simon Kunz. James Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research centre to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a fellow agent believed to be dead. The plot may misfire occasionally but Brosnan’s debut outing is the best Bond for years. Well directed and with some exceptional action set-pieces. Janssen is sexy and psychoytic, but Bean lacks charisma as the villain. Based on a story by Michael France. [12]

Film Review Round-up – Three Bonds – DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971), DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), DR. NO (1962)

poster_conceptDiamonds Are Forever (1971; UK; Technicolor; 120m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry; ed. Bert Bates, John W. Holmes.  Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton, Joseph Fürst, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Leonard Barr, Lois Maxwell, Margaret Lacey. A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Connery returns as Bond and the humour is played up at the expense of suspense. The film introduces a cartoonish feel that would dominate the series for more than a decade. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Die-Another-Day-Movie-Poster-LargeDie Another Day (2002; UK/USA; Colour; 133m) ∗∗  d. Lee Tamahori; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; ph. David Tattersall; m. David Arnold; ed. Andrew MacRitchie, Christian Wagner.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Emilio Echevarría, Mikhail Gorevoy, Lawrence Makoare, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, Madonna. James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul who is funding the development of an international space weapon. After a very strong first half this descends into some of the worst excesses seen in a Bond film since MOONRAKER. Berry is the films main asset in a lively turn, but some appalling CGI and a weak premise ultimately sink the film. [12]

dr-noDr. No (1962; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather; ph. Ted Moore; m. Monty Norman; ed. Peter R. Hunt.  Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell, Peter Burton. James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program. First 007 film is a colourful adventure, if a little slow-moving by today’s standards. Connery eases into the role with style and Andress is stunning as the first Bond girl. Many of the elements are set here, but there is a simplicity to the production that remains endearing compared to later entries in the series. Great set designs by Ken Adam. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – ABOVE THE LAW (1988); ABSENCE OF MALICE (1981); THE BIG STORE (1941); CASINO ROYALE (1967); CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Above the LawAbove the Law (1988; USA; Technicolor; 97m) ∗∗  d. Andrew Davis; w. Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, Andrew Davis, Steven Seagal; ph. Robert Steadman; m. David Michael Frank; ed. Michael Brown.  Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone, Daniel Faraldo, Ron Dean, Jack Wallace, Henry Silva. An ex-CIA policeman working for the local police department, while doing an investigation discovers the existence of a big weapon trade. Seagal has the physical attributes but not the charisma of a Clint Eastwood. The plot is used merely as a prop from which to hang a number of admittedly polished action scenes. Aka: NICO: ABOVE THE LAW. [18]

Absence of MaliceAbsence of Malice (1981; USA; Colour; 117m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Sydney Pollack; w. Kurt Luedtke; ph. Owen Roizman; m. Dave Grusin; ed. Sheldon Kahn.  Cast: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Luther Adler, Barry Primus, Josef Sommer, John Harkins, Don Hood, Wilford Brimley, Arnie Ross, Anna Marie Napoles. When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man’s life begins to unravel. Absorbing and well-made conspiracy thriller with excellent star turns from Newmand and Field. Adler’s last film. [PG]

Big StoreThe Big Store (1941; USA; B&W; 83m) ∗∗∗  d. Charles Reisner; w. Sid Kuller, Hal Fimberg, Ray Golden; ph. Charles Lawton Jr.; m. George Stoll (musical director); ed. Conrad A. Nervig.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin, Virginia O’Brien. A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store’s crooked manager. Although the musical interludes threaten to drown the comedy there is much here to enjoy notably Groucho’s rendition of “Sing While You Sell” and the slapstick finale chase through the department store. Based on a story by Nat Perrin. The Marx Brothers announced that this would be their last film, but they actually went on to make two more. [U]

Casino Royale 1967Casino Royale (1967; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗  d. Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest; w. Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Burt Bacharach; ed. Bill Lenny.  Cast: Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Daliah Lavi, John Huston, George Raft, Joanna Pettet, Charles Boyer, Kurt Kasznar, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter O’Toole. In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH. Out-of-control spoof is interesting mainly for its cast and Burt Bacharach’s score. The whole thing, though, is ill-conceived and loses its way completely in a free-for-all climax. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Casino Royale 2006Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold; ed. Stuart Baird.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening sequence and the plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

My second Christmas film choice was a James Bond classic…

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969, United Artists, USA, 142 mins, Technicolor, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Spy Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Tracy), Telly Savalas (Blofeld), Gabriele Ferzetti (Draco), Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), George Baker (Sir Hilary Bray), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Bernard Horsfall (Campbell), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), Yuri Borienko (Grunther), Virginia North (Olympe), Geoffrey Cheshire (Toussaint), Irvin Allen (Che Che), Terence Mountain (Raphael).
      Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman; Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Richard Maibaum (Based on the novel by Ian Fleming); Director of Photography: Michael Reed; Music: John Barry; Film Editor: John Glen; Production Designer: Syd Cain; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Set Decorator: Peter Lamont; Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius

On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969The first Bond film not to feature Sean Connery proved to be a return to basics, eschewing the smirking humour and excessive scope and gadgetry that had sneaked into the last entry in the series, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Here, James Bond (Lazenby) woos a mob boss’s daughter (Rigg) and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld’s allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

This Bond film has an emotional centre and it stands out as the most authentic adaptation of Ian Fleming’s source material in the whole series. Much has been made of Lazenby’s debut by critics, but they overlook the fact that it is by using Lazenby the makers have managed to capture the true essence of Fleming’s story. The film simply would not have been as successful had Connery remained in the role. That is not to say Lazenby is a better actor or a better Bond, merely that Connery had become so closely identified with the part, he would not have been able to add the vulnerability and sensitivity required without audiences becoming suspicious.

Diana Rigg is excellent as Tracy, the girl who Bond wants to spend the rest of his life with. Savalas’ Blofeld has more charisma than Donald Pleasance displayed in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The photography in the Swiss Alps is stunning and John Barry provides his best score of the series. The ski scenes are well shot and dramatically played. The heart-breaking finale is unforgettable.

The result is possibly the best Bond film of all and one that deserves re-appraisal. It is a shame Lazenby did not continue in the role as the producers shied away from authenticity and went for self-parody in Connery’s comeback, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER – an approach that would dog the Bond films for more than a decade.

Film Review – GOLD (1974)

GOLD (1974, Killarney Film Studios, UK, 120 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: 12, Action Drama) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer).
      Producer: Michael Klinger; Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi (Technicolor); Music: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky, Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius.

Gold_(1974)An overlooked film from the 1970s, this conspiracy action adventure story based on Wilbur Smith’s novel mixes exciting sequences underground with standard plotting and characters above it. Moore plays Rod Slater a mine manager who is set up as the fall guy by Dillman and his team of crooked investors. Their scheme is for Moore to flood the mine with water, whilst he believes he is drilling a new area for gold, and thereby raise the price of gold so Dillman and his crew can cash in.

Moore is excellent as Slater instilling more energy and emotion into the role than in his James Bond movies of the same vintage. In fact many of the Bond crew are on hand here. Peter Hunt, who directed one of the very best Bonds in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, livens the film with his trademark fast editing, supported by future Bond director John Glen, during the action scenes and significantly heightens the tension. The finale is particularly well staged as Moore and Sabela battle their way through the flooding mine in an attempt to seal it with explosives. The supporting cast is strong too with York good as Dillman’s wife and Moore’s love interest; Milland suitably grumpy as the mine owner and Dillman conniving as the director of operations. Gielgud, however, is wasted in a smaller role as the head of the investment syndicate.

With grippingly authentic and well filmed mining scenes making up for those above ground, which sometimes drag, this is a neat movie that deserves some re-appraisal.