Everybody is familiar with the movies. There are the spectacular action scenes and outrageous stunts. The larger than life villain with the evil and outlandish plan to destroy the world. The ingenious gadgets devised by the gadget master “Q”. The exotic locations, the gorgeous girls and the distinctive catchy title music. And of course, in the middle of all of this, James Bond himself, usually immaculately dressed in a tuxedo, drinking a dry martini (shaken, not stirred) and ready with a humorous throwaway remark. The Bond movies constitute the longest running and most successful series in film history. Since “Dr. No” introduced Ian Fleming’s master spy to cinemas audiences in 1962, there have been 22 official Bond movies spanning almost 50 years and accurately reflecting the changing times during which they are set.
But with all those Bond films and with no less than 6 different actors portraying Bond over the years, which films are the best? Everyone will have his or her own opinion, but any Bond fan should have the following films in their collection:
“FromRussiawith Love” (1963)
This was the second Bond film to be made, hard on the heels of “Dr No” which was a considerable box office success. The film premiered in London in October 1963 and by the early months of the following year, had already made over $2.25 million – a huge amount at the time.
The plot of the movie concerns a convoluted scheme by the criminal organization SPECTRE to avenge the death of their agent, Dr. No in the first movie. Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE, enjoys such odd hobbies as Siamese fighting fish and his master plotter – who also excels at chess – is instructed to devise the foolproof plan. Bond is lured to exotic Istanbul by a beautiful female spy who claims she wants to defect to the west – and also has a top-secret coding machine as a bonus. Bond smells a rat, but goes along with the plan. Along the way he participates in a violent fight in a gypsy encampment, takes a trip on the legendary Orient Express, and fends off a woman whose preferred method of killing is to kick people in the ankle with poisonous spiked shoes.
The action in the movie is realistic and violent rather than relying on outrageous stunts, and it is this realism that makes it one of the better films. Throughout the film, which effectively manages to capture the cold war atmosphere of the early 60s, there is an air of suspense. The highlight of the film is the fight scene between Bond and the Russian agent and psychopath Grant, in the cramped confines of Bond’s compartment on the Orient Express. Its one of the most thrilling and suspenseful fight scenes ever filmed; Bond only saves himself by relying on his wits as well as his strength.
There is some of the trademark humour in the movie, but never enough to spoil the tension. Bond is his usual snobbish self when he realizes he should have been suspicious of Grant when the latter orders red wine with fish – something a gentleman would never do! There is also a running joke which carries over from the first Bond film – Bond is just about to spend some long overdue quality time with his female companion from the first film, when yet again, he is called away on an urgent mission.
In Goldfinger, all the elements that made the Bond movies so successful came together in a way that they have never done since. Goldfinger is not only a great film; it captures the spirit of what is often referred to as “the swinging sixties”. There is even a reference in the film to the Beatles, who were taking the world by storm when the movie came out. If you only ever see one Bond film, this should be the one. Goldfinger was a huge success and led to a wave of spy movies and TV series, as well as various Bond toys and games.
The film opens with Bond convalescing on Miami Beach after a recent mission. He is introduced to the enigmatic and wealthy Mr. Goldfinger who amuses himself by cheating at cards. Of course, Bond discovers how Goldfinger is cheating and steals his girlfriend at the same time. Bond and Goldfinger meet again on the golf course – playing for a bar of gold – as Bond tries to find out just how Goldfinger is smuggling huge amounts of gold between countries.
Bond tails Goldfinger to his headquarters in Switzerland where he is discovered spying on Goldfinger. Goldfinger decides to keep Bond alive for fear he knows too much about his next major heist. The heist in question is to break into FortKnoxand contaminate all the gold, thus increasing the value of Goldfinger’s own gold supply. Needless to say, Bond manages to foil this operation too – and get the girl as well.
There are many highlights of the movie. At the beginning of the film, Bond is given his best gadget yet – an Aston Martin sports car, complete with various defence mechanisms such as machine guns and an ejector seat. Goldfinger’s assistant, Oddjob is almost as evil and frightening as Goldfinger himself, wielding a deadly steel-rimmed bowler hat to decapitate people. The climactic fight between Bond and Oddjob amidst the towering piles of gold bullion in FortKnox(a set so realistic that many thought it actually was filmed in FortKnox) is one of the best in the entire series. And who can forget the scene where Bond, about to be killed by a laser beam slowly moving towards him, asks Goldfinger: “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger replies casually: “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)
By the late 1960s, Sean Connery had grown tired of the role of Bond, after 5 films, and a search was made for someone to replace him. The producers chose George Lazenby, a relatively unknown Australian actor, on the strength of various screen tests.
In the movie, Bond is on the trail of Ernst Blofeld, his opponent from several of the prior films, yet again. During the course of his investigations he comes across Tracy, a spoilt rich girl whose father is the head of a huge European crime syndicate. Sensing that he may be able to discover Blofeld’s whereabouts, Bond agrees to spend time with Tracyin exchange for information. Blofeld is hiding in yet another spectacular hideout – a research laboratory on top of a Swiss Alp and is working on an evil program to wage bacteriological warfare on the world. Bond poses as a genealogist and tricks his way into Bolfeld’s hideout. After romancing various women, Bond is discovered by Blofeld and imprisoned in the room housing the cable car mechanism.
Bond escapes from the room and eventually from Blofeld’s hideout by skiing down the mountain, in hot pursuit by Blofeld and his men. Bond accidentally runs into Tracy who is spending Christmas Eve in the nearby village and they both elude their pursuers once again, on skis and by car. At one point during their escape, Bond surprises even himself and asks Tracy to marry him. However, Blofeld triggers an avalanche and kidnaps Tracy, while Bond manages to elude him. With the help of Tracy’s father, Bond goes back to Blofeld’s hideout in a helicopter to kill him and rescue Tracy. This is a good excuse for Blofeld’s base to spectacularly explode, as well as have an exciting bobsled chase.
Many people declare this to be their favourite Bond movie as it follows so closely to Ian Fleming’s original novel. Lazenby does a good job of doing the seemingly impossible – following in Sean Connery’s footsteps. Great care was taken to ensure the continuity of the series – Bond is seen cleaning out his desk and finding various items from the previous films. And Bond, after a fight scene on a beach at the beginning of the film declares: “This never happened to the other fellow!” And if you have not seen the film, or read the book, the film’s unexpected ending will shock you.