Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nostalgia Nugget: My First Bond... James Bond

And then... there were ninjas everywhere!

So I have a little theory. The first actor you see as James Bond tends to be the one you always associate with the role. This is especially true if you see your first James Bond film in the theaters. I’ve tested my theory a few times and it holds true for the majority of folks. There are a few wild cards out there that break convention and pick Peter Sellers as their favorite Bond even if they saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Lazenby as Bond.

Of course, whenever I talk about my crazy theory, someone always asks, who my favorite actor is playing the role of 007. I end up sputtering, and dithering and babbling for a while. But it comes down to – I like them all for different reasons. This results in people frowning and saying, “Come on Roman, pick one. Don’t cheat.” And still I rock back and forth and whimper and sob and can’t pick. I can pick a favorite film from each actor, but I just can’t pick one actor over the other. Sometimes I’m in the mood for Connery and other times only Brosnan will do.

In the 80s even ninjas had big hair.
This might be because my exposure to the world of James Bond came in fits and starts. Let’s go back in time for a bit. I remember staying at my grandmother’s house for some reason, maybe a family holiday or a visit. Not sure. Anyway, my grandmother loved action films, and it was the 1980s, so ninjas were all the rage (but this is pre-ninja turtles, I’m thinking early 80s here, around the era of The Octagon and Enter the Ninja). So my grandmother popped in this VHS that she swore had ninjas in it. So I’m watching this odd movie about this English guy running around hitting on ladies, watching a Sumo match, and flying in a tiny helicopter. I remember the evil bald guy and the cat, not to mention his lake with piranha in it. But I mostly remember it taking FOREVER for the ninjas to show up, and when they did the movie got pretty crazy with action. But man did it take forever to get there.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had seen my first James Bond movie: You Only Live Twice.

What I always assumed was the first James Bond movie I ever saw was A View to a Kill, good old Roger Moore’s swan song. I saw this for a friend’s birthday. We took in a Christopher Walken double feature. Yeah, I’m not sure how that worked either. Anyway, the theater was showing Brainstorm and A View to a Kill. We saw both films. What I remember most about that experience was the girls. I thought Tanya Roberts was pretty darn sexy, but found Grace Jones to be kinda freaky. I also remember all of us imitating Mr. Walken as Zoran for a couple months afterward, especially the line, “More! More power!” But I’m afraid to report that Brainstorm and its bizarre imagery made a bigger impression.

But I saw all the Bond films in the theater going forward (until Quantum of Solace which I never got around seeing until picking up the DVD). I remember seeing the Dalton films and enjoying them. But I was more into fantasy and sci-fi films at that point and didn’t fully appreciate the fantasy of the Bond universe.

It's  blast from the past, Mr. Bond!
I gave the series a try at some point. I thought Goldfinger was the first movie (this was pre-internet, so I couldn’t look this stuff up. I was info from people who made educated guesses about the first Bond movie).  I remember watching the VHS of Goldfinger and finding it odd that it included a Pink Panther cartoon with a spy theme, and a trailer for Thunderball on it. I enjoyed Goldfinger a great deal and ended up watching the next few movies. I had the oddest experience of déjà vu while watching You Only Live Twice and then remembered my grandmother’s weird “ninja movie” and made the connection. I don’t think the video store had On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, because I didn’t see that one till much later. Instead I went to Diamonds Are Forever. It stopped my exploration of the series cold, because it was so bad. Most of the folks I knew thought Mr. Moore was campy, and if they were worse than Diamonds, I was done.

Goldeneye came out in 1995, and I remember the ramp up to that movie creating a lot of excitement for the new Bond film. The video store I worked at picked up all the previous James Bond films, and on Laserdisc even! I decided to give the series another spin. This time I was armed with the store’s video guide, so I could actually start with Dr. No and make my way forward. I watched each Bond film and that was probably when the whole thing clicked. I developed an appreciation for the series and the incredible legacy of pop culture it created. It was around then that I determined which ones were my favorites, and which ones were better left unseen (Diamonds Are Forever didn’t improve with this viewing, and A View to a Kill  surprised me with it’s ridiculousness, something I didn’t remember from that viewing in my youth).

I already blogged about how Goldeneye made James Bond cool again in the 1990s. But there really was a bit of spy mania in that decade, from about 1994 on. MGM fueled the whole thing with amazing releases of the James Bond series on DVD that included amazing documentaries about the films, the creators and the some of the fervor the films created when they were released. I think those DVDs were very responsible for me becoming a fan of the series.

Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Laserdisc!
It is because of this round about discovery of the James Bond series that I don’t really have a favorite James Bond actor. I don’t know if I count Connery, Moore, Dalton or Brosnan as the “first” James Bond I experienced, because I like all of them for different reasons, and each one of them had a movie that was part of that introduction. I didn’t see one as “the” primary actor. In a way that allows me to be more objective than some of the more hard-core fans I’ve run into who live and die by their actor. It also allows me to be curious when the change the actor and not outraged by the choice.

But still that question comes up, and I can never answer it without sputtering, flailing and falling down a lot. So next time, just ask me what my favorite Bond movie from a specific era or decade is, and we’ll all be just fine. 


  1. I’ve never been a dedicated Bond fan, but I appreciate the character’s place in the culture and find the movies pleasant enough; so, while there is not a single Bond on my overflowing DVD shelves, I do enjoy the flicks when I stumble upon them on TV or (usually at the prompting of a fellow theater-goer) see one on the big screen. “Goldfinger” opened a couple weeks after I started prep school (grades 7-12) at age 11. The film was pretty racy for a mainstream movie at the time, which meant for that reason alone the tween and teen boys (being what they always are) in my school were enthusiastic about it. So, “Goldfinger” was my first Bond movie. Sean was James, and, yes you are right: ever since then all the others have been just his replacements, some better suited to the part than others. Nostalgia thereby dictates “Goldfinger” as my favorite with “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (despite the faux Bond) close behind, though I like the Daniel Craig reboots too.

    Amy Winehouse apparently was a Roger Moore gal, judging by the lyrics to “You Know I’m No Good.”

    1. Correction: The 1967 Casino Royale spoof is on one of my shelves, but that doesn't really count, does it?

    2. It all depends on who you talk to. Some folks include that one, and also include "Never Say Never Again". I tend not to include either one. But that's just me.

      Yeah "On Her Majesty's Secret Services" still holds up real well. I'm always impressed with it each time I revisit it. I think I might have to tackle it for my blog this year.

  2. For me 007 is Sean Connery although Daniel Craig's portrayal of Bond has been pretty good. Skyfall I enjoyed quite a bit. Roger Moore's series of films I found to be a bit under par and started to get a bit formulaic. I remember watching a few of the Moore films and cracking jokes at some of he ridiculous situations. I remember one scene where he trots across the backs of some alligators in a pit, and when he does the gators open their mouths--it looked pretty fake. Even so, they can be entertaining. I do own a copy of Moore's Moonraker however.

    I'm not totally sure if I've seen every Bond film. I maybe have to track some of them down.

    1. Moore had a couple of really good ones. I certainly recommend "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "For Your Eyes Only". The first one is like a less ridiculous version of "Moonraker" with some wonderful scenes in Egypt, Italy and a huge battle in a super-tanker. "For Your Eyes Only" is the most serious of the Moore films (still pretty jokey at times though). It is a straight up spy thriller for the most part, and some of the scenes in Greece are breathtaking. Probably contains Moore's best performance as James Bond too.

      Yeah, the scene with the alligators was from "Live and Let Die" one of the weakest of his films. But surprisingly, that stunt with the gators was done live! If you ever check out the DVD with the behind the scenes you can see the various takes of the stuntman running across the alligators backs. The guy was nuts!

      Bond films have highs and lows. It all depends on what you are looking for. If you want over the top action and adventure then something like "Goldfinger", "Thunderball", "Spy Who Loved Me" or "Goldeneye" will work. If you are looking for more straight spy thrills, "From Russia with Love", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", "For Your Eyes Only", "License to Kill" and any of the Daniel Craig ones will work.

  3. I'm adding those Moore films to my DVD queue on NF. I added GoldenEye too. Thanks for the recommends. I can't believe the alligators were live, that is crazy. :) I think part of the draw to the Bond films are the locations--quite an adventure.