For every fan of James Bond, today was one of celebration with the arrival of the teaser of the new film “Spectre”, coming to theaters on November 6th of this year. While the finale of “Skyfall” (2012) did a tremendous job of resetting the franchise back to the classic formula of the 1960s with Ralph Fiennes taking over the role of M. the classic formula is incomplete without the menace of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). For those unfamiliar with Spectre, Ian Fleming introduced this organization run by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in his novels and they became a recurring foe for Bond throughout most of his movies from the 1960s with several actors playing the role of Blofeld, most memorably by Donald Pleasance in “You Only Live twice” (1967). I’ve been watching James Bond movies my entire life starting with “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) which I saw at the tender age of 5 on HBO and then in the theater for the first time with Octopussy” (1983), a title whose double meaning was lost on my 7-year-old imagination. It is impossible for me to look at this franchise objectively in that it is so intermingled with memories of time spent with family and friends. The franchise has always been a mixed bag of high and lows and I would never boast that any one particular Bond film redefined cinema as an art form as we know it. That is beside the point. What keeps me coming back to the franchise with religious fervor are those individual scenes and moments that define the essence of Bond. Everyone has their favorite Bond, their favorite action set piece and of course their favorite Bond girl. In honor of the teaser of “Spectre” I thought it was high time for me to compile my favorite Bond moments based on any categories that I feel like making up as I write this post. Would love to hear from you if you have any other suggestions.
Best Behind the Scenes Pictures
Before going into my lengthy rant about all my favorite moments from Bond history, it is appropriate that we start at the beginning with “Dr. No” (1962). While younger audiences today might find the movie to be hopelessly old fashioned, the movie features one scene that will continue to be rediscovered and loved as long as men have a pulse: Ursula Andress singing “Underneath the Mango Tree” while collecting shells with a knife strapped to her hip. A lucky photographer was on set to capture some images of Ursula and Sean Connery goofing around between takes and the shots are pure gold.
Best James Bond Artist
Robert McGinnis has illustrated countless book covers and movie posters and arguably the finest work of his career features the world of James Bond. Nobody captures better the sex appeal, glamour, and shameless charm of the Bond franchise than McGinnis. His work speaks for itself.
Best Bond Girl
This category does not require much conversation. Just about every Bond girl has a special place in my heart but only one reigns supreme, Barbara Bach aka Agent XXX from “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977). Just as lethal and assured as Bond, she not only gets the drop on Bond repeatedly throughout the movie, she continues to stagger my imagination to this very day. Ringo Starr is a lucky man.
Best Skiing Sequence
Over the years, Bond fans have been treated to a variety of great skiing sequences in James Bond movies from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) to “A View to a Kill” (1985). “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) might have the best ski stunt I’ve ever seen in a movie, but “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) wins the prize for best ski sequence overall with an astonishing music track called “Runaway” by Bill Conti. Enjoy.
Best Bond Song
George Lazenby did not win over a lot of fans when he took over the franchise briefly from Sean Connery in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Personally I quite like the movie but what I love in particular is the gorgeous opening music by the John Barry Orchestra. I used to play it on repeat while killing my friends playing “Goldeneye” on my N64 back in the late 1990s. Happy days.
Best Opening Title Sequence
Since the very beginning of the franchise, Bond flicks have always featured brilliant opening title sequences with naked girls in silhouette and Bond kicking all kinds of ass. Maybe by 2006 I was just desperately in need of an outstanding Bond experience but as the opening credits began for “Casino Royale” I knew that Bond was back in fine form and that I was in very good hands. The song leaves a little to be desired but the animated action sequences give me goose bumps each time I watch it.
Best Casino Scene
“Casino Royale” (2006) gets another shout out with the best casino sequence of any Bond film. While Bond indulges in games of chance in just about every one of his movies, this was the first where playing cards was such an essential part of the plot where Bond manages to seal an enemy’s doom simply by outwitting him at poker.
Best Fight Scene
The Sixties aren’t exactly famous for their brilliant fight scenes. This was the decade that abused most frequently the mysterious power of a judo chop to the neck. But with Connery’s second outing as Bond, “From Russia With Love” (1963), director Terence Young concocted an insanely violent, claustrophobic fight inside a train car between Bond and Robert Shaw’s character Grant. More than fifty years later, the fight still holds up really well.
I have no idea how many hundreds if not thousands of movies, novels and television shows have either taken inspiration from or tried to ridicule the Bond franchise over the last half century, but for me there is only one heavyweight champion when it comes to impersonations of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and the infamous Scaramanga played by Christopher Lee, “The Trip” (2010). In a now classic scene, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take turns paying homage to Bond and his villains in an effort to outshine the other to hilarious effect. Sublime stuff.
Best Guilty Pleasure
The musical tastes associated with the Bond franchise have more or less managed to stay current with the times in which the movies are made featuring artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, Madonna, Tina Turner and the unforgettable Shirley Bassey. Occasionally these Bond themes result in a monster hit like “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran or “Skyfall” by Adele which my ten-year-old sister couldn’t stop singing for months. There is one song, however, that makes me red in the face when I admit to liking, “Nobody Does it Better” performed by Carly Simon from “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Maybe it is due to being paired up with one of the most blatantly erotic title sequences in the history of the series, but this tune absolutely fills me with glee.
I’m going to bend the rules for this one but I can’t go with one villain in that this pair is impossible to think of except for as one unit, Auric Goldfinger and Oddjob from the ultimate Bond film, “Goldfinger” (1964). They are the perfect combination with Goldfinger’s brilliant criminal mind and wealth and Oddjob’ s near-indestructibility and crazy fucking hat. They might be relics from a bygone era but I can think of no other Bond villain that even comes close to this duo.
Most Outrageous Bond Girl Name
This is a really deep division with many serious contenders to consider including Xenia Onatopp, Chew Mee, Octopussy, Agent XXX, Dr. Goodhead and of course, the legendary Pussy Galore. In the end I guess there really is no way to dispute it. Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is a character that will never be forgotten as long as dirty old men like myself are around to remember her.
While not necessarily one of my favorite Bond movies, “Moonraker” (1979) features my favorite one-liner and James Bond does not even have the honor of saying it. The legendary Desmond Llewelyn aka Q absolutely shines with this double entendre as James Bond and Dr. Goodhead return in a shuttle from outer space.
Many movies have paid homage to the Bond franchise but none so effectively and gloriously entertaining as Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service”. I love this scene in particular where Colin Firth and Samuel L Jackson discuss their admiration for the classic Bond films.
Roger Moore will always be my Bond in that I grew up with him and first discovered the franchise through him but I have to say that after “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” I’m ready to call Daniel Craig the greatest Bond yet. Most will cry foul at my not automatically picking Sean Connery as the greatest Bond ever and obviously he is a total badass who played a crucial role in defining Bond for the public. But there’s something about Daniel Craig that feels a little sleazy and a little psychotic that captures the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels better than any actor to date. I hope he sticks with the character for many movies to come.
So that’s all I have for now. Would love to hear what categories you think should be included. I’m beyond fired up to see what Sam Mendes is cooking up with the latest movie and as far as I’m concerned November can’t arrive quickly enough.
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