Monday, December 11, 2006

The Most Bondian Moments # 9-12

9. Dr. No
Again, I commit heresy - this time by ranking the first James Bond movie at number nine.
My ranking system for Bond films is totally bias and fickle - I used to rate Thunderball as my favorite of the series, but I watched it again recently and it kinda drags in the second act. Thunderball has a little too much narrative fat in the middle, so now Goldfinger is my favorite Bond movie, again. I've thought about this matter a lot, which is a little sad...
Anyway, my Bondian scene of choice in Dr. No is the death of Professor Dent, one of the good doctor's cronies.
In a nutshell: Bond waits patiently in the corner of a dark bedroom in a Jamaican bungalow, playing solitaire with a gun close at hand. He's set a trap for the killer he knows is coming for him - Bond has pulled a Ferris Bueller and stuffed the sheets of the bed with pillows. Sure enough, the sinister, scowling Professor Dent shoots Pillow Bond six times with a silenced revolver. Bond forces Dent to drop his gun and chats with him at gunpoint. While they talk, Dent tries to distract Bond while he pulls his gun slowly towards him on a rug. Dent makes his move - he grabs his pistol and fires at Bond - but it's empty, dumbass! Some Professor he is!

With a cigarette dangling casually from his mouth, Bond shoots him.

Bond says, "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six."

I understand when Dr. No came out in 1962 it was considered a bit racy and violent; I can kinda see why.

10. You Only Live Twice

Little Nellie, the mini-helicopter that Bond takes on a recon flight, is so bad-ass that it must be mentioned here. The scene where Bond takes on a pack of SPECTRE helicopters fearlessly treads the line between kick-ass and kitsch. It's a combination of great aerial stunt work and the most banal blue screen special effects this side of The Greatest American Hero. I have to cut the film makers a little slack - it was 1967.

Little Nellie: totally Airwolf.

11. The Living Daylights

The Living Daylights suffers from weak villains, a lack of libido, and a theme song by a-Ha that is so awful it is dangerous to fish. Seriously, that song will kill your tetras.

However, the movie does have its Bondian moments. My favorite element of The Living Daylights is the assassin Necros, a sleek blond killer who meets his demise during a fantastic fight with Bond on a cargo net dangling from the back of a plane at the end of the movie.

My choice for the most Bondian scene in the movie is this brilliant sequence when Necros infiltrates a safehouse in England dressed as a milkman in order to abduct General Koskov (who is really his boss). He is the most hardcore milkman ever. Necros uses the headphone chord of his Walkman as a garrotte and has clever milk bottle bombs. He kills a British agent in a savage fight in the kitchen. Inside the house Necros radios in a report of a major gas leak and in the confusion he “kidnaps” Koskov by switching his disguise from milkman to medic and carting the General away in an ambulance.

The desperate kitchen fight is particularly effective; it’s a lethal clash between two professionals and Necros comes out on top. Bond isn’t in this scene, of course, but it is undeniably Bondian.

12. Tomorrow Never Dies

In Tomorrow Never Dies, psychotic media mogul Elliot Carver tasks the eccentric Dr. Kaufman with killing his wife Paris and James Bond, then staging the scene to make it look like a murder/suicide. Kaufman is a ridiculously well-mannered German professional played by the late, great Vincent Schiavelli. In his one and only scene in the movie, Kaufman has already killed Bond’s old flame Paris. She lies dead in Bond’s Hamburg hotel room while Kaufman holds Bond at gunpoint.

Before Kaufman can kill Bond, he receives a call from Stamper, Carver’s henchman. He’s in a nearby parking garage with his men, trying to get into Bond’s BMW, and wants Kaufman to ask Bond how to get in. Kaufman apologizes to Bond for the inconvenience (“I feel like an idiot. I don’t know what to say.”) and asks how to open the car. Bond tosses Kaufman his cell phone and tells him the code to enter – but of course it activates a taser, shocking Kaufman.

Bond aims a gun at Kaufman.

“Wait,” Kaufman pleads. “I’m just a professional, doing a job.”

“So am I,” Bond says, and shoots his ass.

Bond allows himself a nanosecond of sorrow as he quickly kisses Paris’ head then escapes out the window.

I love that scene, it’s a droll combination of Professor Dent’s murder and the scene between Red Grant and Bond on the Orient Express. Schiavelli’s performance is sinister and comic, but not too over the top. I almost wish he hadn’t died and became a recurring henchman like Jaws.


David C said...

I actually like The Living Daylights quite a bit in general, but the scene you picked is a great one. Really nicely staged and scored, and I like the fact that, even though Necros' infiltration is really well-planned and executed, the MI6 staff are by no means pushovers or dupes! Even though 007 isn't there, they put up a really good fight, and for once it doesn't seem like 007 is the only bad-ass professional in the agency!

Anonymous said...

A-ha's song "The Living Daylights" is utterly brilliant. It's easily one of the best, say, 100 songs ever made. I'm serious. You have no taste.

David Campbell said...

I disagree. That song sucks.

David Campbell said...

Actually, I take that back. I just think the chorus of that song sucks; the verses are OK.

David C said...

I stumbled across some article about Bond theme songs back when Die Another Day came out.

Interesting stuff in general. John Barry would generally work with the various pop musicians, since he liked to use the songs in his orchestral score as well.

The a-Ha guys are apparently still pissed off by this, more or less saying that Barry undermined the artistic integrity of their work.

Now, if, oh, Paul McCartney said something like that, I might take it seriously. But a one-hit-wonder Swedish supergroup, criticizing multiple Oscar and Grammy winner Barry? Eh, not so much....

MD said...

Correct me if I'm wrong (and I often am), but I thought the coolest part of Professor Dent's death in Dr. No is that we never see Dent die. Bond shoots him while he's out of the frame, and the camera never pans back to see the dead/dying Prof. It leaves all kind of questions like: Where did Bond shoot him, exactly? Was is a sweet, merciful "between-the-eyes" kill, or perhaps a painful "gut-shot" where the Professor was left to linger a few painful moments? Does leaving this to the viewer's imagination make him/her culpable, and is that wrong?

Anonymous said...

Necros didn't kill that guy in the kitchen, but he just beat him up and left him unconscious. He also didn't kill that other guy who was with Koskov until they left in a helicopter. Despite the fact that he was from SMERSH and these guys were at his mershy (get it?), he let them live.

Dent's murder is one of the best moments in the series and thank heavens it was left intact in the very first film. Dalton had a pretty good pre-title sequence introduction in TLD...
Btw, is that photo of Lazenby with the snowball real? Where is it from?

Anonymous said...

re: the kitchen fight (yes, this is ridiculous)
Necros had just killed a cook, but left that agent unconscious, but alive.

Anonymous said...

Smith & Wesson?

Tell me it wasn't a silenced revolver (which can't be silenced).

dwinn said...

"Why they call you 'Milkman'?"

"Cause I killed the milkman."

Bully said...

Necros is cool in my book for listening to the Pretenders on his Walkman...

More important, listening to the Pretenders perform a song that, like "Surrender" by k. d. lang, shoulda
actually been the title theme.

BIG said...

Which one has the scene where Timothy Dalton pops the wheelie in the semi? License to Kill? That was ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"The a-Ha guys are apparently still pissed off by this... a one-hit-wonder Swedish supergroup..."

They're Norwegian. And they're only considered a one-hit wonder in the US; they've released 8 albums and have been touring for 20 years. And they've said lots of positive things about Barry's version of their song.

(I can understand if people dismiss them for sounding 80's and whiny, but I like their sound and many of their songs, like "Early Morning" and "Velvet".)

Anonymous said...

This Bond kick of yours has been awesome, Dave. Keep it coming...until you get sick of it, then you ought to share your thoughts on the original New Universe. You know, if you have any.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Wow, a-Ha is as popular as David Hasslehoff.

I remember the milkman assasin from when I saw the movie way back when. I thought the milk bottle grenades were pretty cool because they had a pretty good sound effect when they exploded. Kind of a clanking bottle followed by the boom. I guess that's what a milk bottle grenade is supposed to sound like though, huh?

Tom Bondurant said...

Schiavelli had a couple of good lines in his brief scene, including "I could shoot you from Stuttgart and make it look like a suicide."

Anonymous said...

As a longtime Bond and comics fan, I'm loving these posts! The thing I liked about that opening scene in Casino Royale was that it seemed to call back to that scene with Dent in Dr. No. (Not the bathroom fight -- the scene with the traitor in the Prague office.) The guy seems ready to kill Bond unaware with his gun, Bond knows it won't work, and then he shoots the guy cold.

The Necros fight in the Living Daylights is a highlight. My favorite scene with actual Bond in it may be the confrontation with KGB chief Pushkin, well played by John Rhys-Davies. Everyone wants Bond to kill this man - M, the villains, everybody who loves freedom and hates the Commies. Hell, after two of his fellow agents have been murdered, 007 is clearly up for killing somebody. But he's smart enough not to play their game. He talks to the guy. Sure, he does it at gunpoint, gut-punches him, beats up his bodyguard, and strips his mistress to her garters, but that was the prickly nature of detente. Both actors bring their A game to the scene, giving it some real tension; this was the first guy since Connery that I believed would kill a guy in cold blood.

Anonymous said...

Why, you almost wish the "late, great Vincent Schiavelli" handn't died. That's very nice of you.

Oh, you meant Kaufman. I'm sorry. My mistake.

Anonymous said...

I gotta stand up for the last fight in Licence to Kill, here. The movie may have some problems, but the finish is actually pretty good:

After chasing the villain across a dozen tanker trucks filled with with cocaine-laced gasoline (for more get up and go) they finally crash the last one and Bond's completely at the villain's mercy, battered and bloody and in no shape to fight back.

The villian raises his machete and Bond offers to explain why he pursed this vendetta, producing a lighter he got at his friend's wedding and proceeds to light him the fuck on fire.

I really dug on it because it seemed to be very Bond-like but also not-- because it wasn't exploding toothpaste or some other deus ex machina gadget that ended up saving him.

Anonymous said...

Adding to the previous discussion of Roger Moore's non-Bond performances, check out a little known pre-Bond post-Saint movie called The Man Who Haunted Himself. Moore is surprisingly serious, and very good. Not to mention The Persuaders!, an amusing tv show from the same period that buddied him up with Tony Curtis.

As for ultimate Bond moments, how about the "man talk" line at the pool at the beginning of Goldfinger?

Anonymous said...

You wrote:
"The a-Ha guys are apparently still pissed off by this, more or less saying that Barry undermined the artistic integrity of their work.

Not quite:
They have said that John Barry didn't ever show up while they were in the studio recording the song and that he only got there at the last moment and then wanted to go change all sorts of things.
In the end he ended up only adding some strings and changing some arangements and for that wanting his name as co-writer, while actually the whole song was completely written by Paul Waaktaar Savoy.

I can see why that ticked a-ha off a bit.

Who, by the way are from Norway and not from Sweden and who are only one-hit-wonders, if you happen to live in the US.

The single version is okay.
The live version they do these days is cool.
Over the years the great audience sing-a-long in the chorus and an extended reggae-break have made it a real a-ha anthem rather then some old Bond tune.

RTO Trainer said...

What? No mention of the score behind the Little Nelly scene? Come on. Any other music and the whoel thing would have been laughable. The music there, that James Bond March thing, made the scene.

Anonymous said...

I always remembered the sliding glass doors scene in The Living Daylights, where Necros has the doors set up to SLAM shut while a guy was walking in between them...ouch.

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