Film Review – LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

Live and Let Die (1973; UK; Colour; 121m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. George Martin.  Cast: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Clifton James, Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder, David Hedison, Gloria Hendry, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Tommy Lane, Earl Jolly Brown, Roy Stewart. 007 is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organization and a reliable psychic tarot card reader. Moore’s debut continues in the same vein as DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER with his glib, almost dismissive approach adding a lighter touch. Despite some atmospheric scenes involving voodoo rituals, comedic overtones increasingly begin to dominate at the expense of suspense, but it does boast one of the series’ strongest themes (courtesy of Paul & Linda McCartney) and a well-staged boat chase. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever (1971; UK; Technicolor; 120m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  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 makes a welcome return as Bond, but here the cartoonish humour is played up at the expense of suspense. The plot is uninspiring and the Las Vegas locations feel tacky rather than glamorous, but the set pieces are well staged. The film set a tone for the series that would last for more than a decade. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

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

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969; UK; Technicolor; 142m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Peter R. Hunt; w. Richard Maibaum; ph. Michael Reed; m. John Barry.  Cast: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, Angela Scoular, Lois Maxwell, Catherine Schell, George Baker, Bernard Lee, Bernard Horsfall, Desmond Llewelyn. James Bond woos a mob boss’s daughter 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. Savaged on release, this is actually one of the very best Bond films and a great movie in its own right. The story sticks closely to Ian Fleming’s source novel and has more heart than any other in the series. Lazenby may lack Connery’s charisma as Bond but he manages to conjure both a toughness and vulnerability that makes the character more human. Savalas makes an excellent Blofeld, whilst Rigg delivers one of the strongest female lead performances. Gorgeous photography, a classic John Barry score and superbly choreographed action sequences make this close to perfection. [PG]

Film Review – YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967; UK; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗  d. Lewis Gilbert; w. Roald Dahl; ph. Freddie Young; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsurô Tanba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin. Agent 007 and the Japanese secret service ninja force must find and stop the true culprit of a series of space-jackings before nuclear war is provoked. Despite an explosive finale and impressive production values (notably Ken Adam’s wonderful volcano interior), this is Bond by numbers. Connery looks bored and the script ticks all the boxes in moving from one set piece to another without generating any real suspense. It does, however, boast possibly John Barry’s finest score for the series. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – THUNDERBALL (1965)

Thunderball (1965; UK; Technicolor; 130m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Guy Doleman, Molly Peters, Martine Beswick, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Roland Culver, Earl Cameron, Paul Stassino, Rose Alba, Philip Locke. James Bond heads to The Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo in an international extortion scheme. The biggest Bond film of the 60s is one of the best. Connery is at the height of his game here and the story has a scale that is larger than any of the previous entries. The humour is more evident, but still kept in check and Paluzzi is one of the best ever Bond villainesses. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming, which itself was based on a story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming [PG]

Film Review – GOLDFINGER (1964)

Goldfinger (1964; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Martin Benson, Cec Linder, Austin Willis, Lois Maxwell, Bill Nagy, Desmond Llewelyn, Margaret Nolan. Investigating a gold magnate’s smuggling, James Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve. Third Bond film is the one that set a formula that would be repeated for many years to come. Frobe is the most memorable Bond villain, Sakata as Oddjob is the series’ best henchman, Blackman a feisty femme fatale and the Aston Martin DB5 is the definitive Bond car. The action-packed film has so many iconic moments they disguise some of its limitations, such as the sometimes loose direction. Nevertheless, it remains the best remembered of Connery’s tenure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

From Russia with Love (1963; UK; Technicolor; 115m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  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 plot involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. Second 007 film is a tense, gritty 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]

Film Review – DR. NO (1962)

Dr. No (1962; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather; ph. Ted Moore; m. Monty Norman.  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 – THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)

Living Daylights, The (1987; UK; Technicolor; 130m) ∗∗∗  d. John Glen; w. Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson; ph. Alec Mills; m. John Barry.  Cast: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen Krabbé, Joe Don Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Art Malik, Andreas Wisniewski, Thomas Wheatley, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Caroline Bliss, John Terry, Virginia Hey. James Bond is living on the edge to stop an evil arms dealer from starting another world war. Bond crosses all seven continents in order to stop the evil Whitaker and General Koskov. Dalton makes an effective and more serious 007 in an entertaining addition to the series. There are still moments of outlandish humour, but these are kept mainly in check. The plot lacks depth and a charismatic villain, but whilst overlong the film delivers some strong action sequences and gives a failing franchise the kiss of life. Based on a short story by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Book Review – TRIGGER MORTIS by Anthony Horowitz (2015)

TRIGGER MORTIS by ANTHONY HOROWITZ (2015, Orion, 320pp) ∗∗∗
      Blurb: James Bond is back. Anthony Horowitz’s new novel is a thrilling tour de force, sure to delight fans of the original 007 novels and new readers alike. It also features previously unseen material written by Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. The story begins in the lethal world of Grand Prix with an attempt by the Russians to sabotage a race at Nürburgring, the most dangerous track in Europe. Bond is in the driving seat but events swiftly take an unexpected turn, pitching him into an entirely different race with implications that could change the world. Anthony Horowitz recreates the golden age of Bond, packed with speed, danger, strong women and fiendish villains, in this brilliantly authentic adventure.

Anthony Horowitz goes back to the period of Fleming’s novels and sets this latest extension to the James Bond literary canon days after Fleming’s Goldfinger (1959). This is a move which tries to establish some authenticity of this book within the Fleming timeline from the original novels. For the most part this works well in re-creating a James Bond from Fleming’s vision. However, the book is ultimately reminiscent of many of the films in that it links a series of action and dramatic set-pieces together around a standard Bond plot.

At the beginning of the book Bond is living with Pussy Galore – who in Fleming’s Goldfinger was the head of an all-lesbian organisation, based in Harlem, known as the Cement Mixers. Her relationship with Bond is resolved in the first part of the book. In the early stages there is also the set-piece (based on Fleming’s original notes) around the attempted sabotage of the motor race at Nürburgring. Here Bond is alerted to SMERSH activity with a mysterious Korean, known as Jason Sin. It is revealed Sin is haunted by American atrocities during the Korean War, which accounted for the loss of his family, and is using his hatred to fuel an attempt to strike back at the US by helping the Russians in sabotaging the space programme.

Horowitz sticks close to Fleming’s portrayal of Bond and this proves to be the main plus of the novel. He also retains some of Fleming’s more eccentric approach to the prose, including his almost obsessive attention to detail. The plot itself is hard to buy into and full of holes. However, Horowitz works his description of the action sequences well – notably for the motor racing sequence, which utilises Fleming material – and Jeopardy Lane is a good addition to the literary Bond girl roster. The book will therefore both satisfy and potentially irritate Bond and Fleming scholars.