There’s no one quite like James Bond.
For 50 years, 007 has been thrilling folks like you and I with his trademark style of action, coolness, and panache. Six different actors have filled the role of Bond over the course of 22 movies with number 23, Skyfall, releasing in just a few days. While I will happily watch any 007 outing and every one has had it’s thrilling moments, not all James Bond movies are created equal. For every Goldfinger, there’s a Moonraker to match. In celebration of Skyfall and the Bond 50th anniversary, I have set out to separate the great flicks from the not so great. This isn’t a mere 1-22 ranking; rather I’m going to separate the movies into four different tiers. We’ll be showing off one tier per day leading up to the much anticipated release of Skyfall on November 9.
Couple things here. I opted not to count Never Say Never Again and the 1967 Casino Royale spoof in this feature. Neither are “official” Bond movies, which is to say neither were produced by Eon productions or the Broccoli family. Besides that, Never Say Never Again is terrible. This is also going to be a very personal look at the series. I fully expect disagreement here, as Bond means a great many things to a great many people. If you want, you have a license to kill me in the comments, but also prepare for me to defend my opinions. Lastly, if you’ve never seen any of these movies, there are spoilers abound, so tread carefully if you plan on ever watching them.
For day one, we’ll be examining the creme de la crap. The Bond’s that are legitimately bad films, and the toughest ones to watch.
Tier 4: “You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.”
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Lets get this one out of the way, shall we? On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is painfully slow moving. It of course is most notable for starring George Lazenby as James Bond for his first and only crack at the role. It’s also the Bond movie that most closely adheres to its Ian Flemming source material, as the movie and the book of the same name are very similar. Lazenby was of course a model and not an actor, so think of him as the Brandon Routh of the James Bond franchise. He’s not the only actor keeping this flick down, as Telly Savalas, woefully miscast as Blofeld, manages to out-do Lazenby in the “what the hell is that guy doing in this film?” department.
The inane plot centers around Blofeld brainwashing women to spread a virus to cause animal and plant life infertility in attempt to gain amnesty and the title of Count de Bleauchamp (points for originality there, I guess). All I can ever remember about this film is the horrendous wink/nod to the audience at the beginning (“This never happened to the other fellow.”), Bond in a kilt, Bond’s stupid high-pitched accent through a quarter of the movie, Savalas’ gruff performance, and the Bond wedding at the end. That’s right! The most promiscuous character in cinema history gets married…for all of five minutes before his new bride gets gunned down by Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Blunt in the movie’s final scene. The pacing of this movie is incredibly bad, as it seems to drag at a snail’s pace. Truly, it’s a tough film to watch.
It’s not all bad. There are some great action sequences, the emotional scenes are the best in the franchise until Casino Royale, and Diana Rigg as Tracy gives a solid performance. None of that keeps OHMSS from kicking off this feature as one of the worst Bond movies there is.
Hey everyone! Star Wars was a huge hit, everyone wants to see space movies…so let’s have James Bond go into outer space! Good God, this movie sucks! Moonraker has two redeeming qualities: the skydiving stunt at the beginning is freaking excellent (it took 88 jumps to film, by the way. Imagine the difficulty of the choreography!), and Hugo Drax has some of my favorite lines of any villain in the franchise, even if they were delivered with Michael Lonsdale’s boring, monotone style. Everything else is terrible with this movie. Buckle up, as I attempt to list all of the most notable stupidities in this film:
-Jaws, who was a menacing badass in The Spy Who Loved Me, is reduced to nothing more than a cartoon character.
-Dr. Holly Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles, was a terrible Bond girl with the worst name of any of them. Yes, that’s worse than Pussy Galore.
-The aforementioned skydive fight ends on the silliest of notes, completely undermining it’s awesomeness.
-The special effects in the space battle scene. Seriously, watch this movie again with the knowledge that it was made after Star Wars was released.
-Drax’s plan to eradicate life on Earth and replace them with a few hundred people he shuttled in space to create a new “Master Race.” He wouldn’t even get to see the fruits of his labor, as to see the plan to fruition would take a really long time!
-The “Bondola” scene in Venice.
-Drax apparently calling the henchman hot line to secure the services of Jaws. “Is he available?”
-The snake wrestling match.
That’s all the big ones. I also blame Moonraker for being the first movie to really portray Roger Moore as the “silly” Bond. I actually enjoy Moore in the role, but feel that the writing in his movies betray him. Thanks to all of this silliness, Moonraker absolutely deserves to sit this low on the totem pole. It’s crap.
Live and Let Die (1973)
Many Bond movies tend to mimic qualities from other movies in the medium from time to time. Unbelieveably, Live and Let Die took some cues from the height of the blaxploitation era. Unsurprisingly, it not only fails, but comes off as being incredibly racist as a result. Why does it fail? Because pretty much every black person you see in the film is evil as shit, as well as the voodoo culture as a whole.
There are a lot of scenes in the movie that induce a cringe from me. Bond’s disregard toward Rosie Carver and the “cue ball” joke are chief among them. Also, as if stereotyping voodoo and Haitian culture wasn’t enough, Sherriff J.W. Pepper is your typical loud and annoying southern stereotype, you know, because they have to balance out the evil black guys. Somehow, Ol’ J.W. managed to make it back for a return engagement in The Man With the Golden Gun. Kananga has the most foolish death of any villain in the franchise.
It’s not good when the best thing about your movie is its title song, and that is about the only great thing about Live and Let Die. And I forgot to mention the most blasphemous thing about LaLD from a Bond standpoint: Q is nowhere to be seen! It’s a good thing too, as Desmond Llewellyn doesn’t have to have this atrocious movie polluting his IMDB page.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The return of Sean Connery! Too bad it had to be in what was the campiest of Bond movies. I love the pre-teaser sequence in Diamonds Are Forever, as it picks up from where OHMSS left off with Bond looking to gain vengeance for the death of his wife. After that, things take a turn for the worst.
Many people liked DAF, and I struggle to see why. Jill St. John as Tiffany Case does a nice job in the role, but the character is obnoxious. Blofeld continued his downward spiral as a villain, having to resort to cross dressing to escape from Bond. Watching this, I long for the days when the character was a menacing pair of hands stroking a white cat with a steely voice to match. The location set pieces in DAF are also generally bland with only Willard Whyte’s penthouse really standing out as stellar.
The henchman duo of Wint & Kidd were the best parts of the film, as they were very formidable adversaries while still carrying a light touch. Besides them, there are a few standout scenes, but none of them redeem the campiness of the movie. Diamonds Are Forever more than any other Bond movie feels like if you add a lot more jokes, it could be an Austin Powers movie. It’s never good when you closely compare a movie to a film that spoofs it, and that more than anything is why I think Diamonds Are Forever is such a mess.
That’s all for day one. Check back tomorrow as we move further up the Bond ladder to check out the very flawed but entertaining Bond movies in the series.
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