THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My 5 Favorite James Bond Flicks

In anticipation of Thrillville's upcoming theme event, JAMES BOND NITE, at Kingman's Ivy Room in Albany (CA) on Thursday, April 1, 8PM, no cover, with theremin lounge band Project Pimento performing live, prizes and cocktails specials, including, naturally, the original Bond martini, the Vesper, I humbly but proudly present a list of my Top 5 Bond movies, to put you in that swingin' spy mood...

1. GOLDFINGER (1964)
I know, this is pretty much everyone's favorite Bond flick, or so it seems, but its perfect blend of action, style, sex and wit makes it the ideal Bond experience, featuring the ideal Bond, Sean Connery, in his third turn as 007, and perhaps the ultimate Bond villain,grandly portrayed by international star Gert Frobe, whose dialogue was completely dubbed as he only spoke German! The immortal exchange between Connery and Honor Blackman - "My name is Pussy Galore" "I must be dreaming...." may be my all-time favorite Bond moment, and the iconic image of Shirley Eaton painted in gold paint remains one of the defining moments of sexuality in the '60s, right up there with the Herb Alpert "Whipped Cream" album cover. This is also the film that introduced his famous tricked out Aston-Martin. And then there's that bombastic theme song sung by Shirley Bassey. 'Nuff said.

Originally entitled Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Connery's 4th Bond film is an epic adventure with thrilling underwater battles, exciting car chases, more imaginative gadgets than ever (including the famous flying jet-pack), ultra cool villains (chiefly Adolfo Celi as Largo), spectacular sets, gorgeous scenery (especially the Bahamas), and best of all, simply stunning femmes fatale (Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi). Tom Jones makes the theme song my favorite of them all as well. Later remade as 1983's so-so attempt at a franchise reboot, Never Say Never Again - Connery should have probably kept his Walter PPK retired, but he remains the definitive James Bond, equally convincing as both a lover and killer.

This controversial entry was one made after the first time Connery "retired" from his signature role, in between 1967's colorful effort You Only Live Twice and '71's lackluster semi-swansong Diamonds Are Forever. One-shot stand-in George Lazenby took a lot of heat for his relatively wooden performance, but time has treated him well (ironically, the theme song is "We Have All the Time in the World," sung by Louis Armstrong), and all in all, when not compared to Connery, which is frankly unfair, the Aussie model-turned-actor does just fine in the role, augmented by a superior story in which Bond falls in love (with the lovely Diana Rigg, who wouldn't?) and faces off with SPECTRE's evil mastermind and frequent Bond adversary, Ernst Blofeld, this time expertly played by a slick, smarmy Telly Savalas. Throw in an inspired score by John Barry, some incredible sets and action sequences - particularly the downhill ski chase - and you have what is arguably the greatest Bond film ever - almost...

Roger Moore is much maligned for his seven turns as Bond, and while I agree he doesn't measure up to his predecessor, he held his own via sheer force of charm. Credible as a ladies' man but woefully inadequate in the macho department, Moore's 007 had his own special, under-stated style, perhaps best showcased in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. In any case, his first Bond flick was also his best, mainly because it's the only voodoo/blaxploitation/spy film of the series, and maybe ever. The theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings is especially awesome as well. The Harlem/New Orleans locations, sinister villains (Yaphet Kotto as Kananga/Mr. Big, Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi), and sexy Jane Seymour as the main Bond girl here, Solitaire, combine to make this the most atmospheric entry in the series.

This most faithful cinematic version of Ian Fleming's fabled anti-hero came after a long stretch in which the Moore Bonds began to parody themselves, culminating in 1985's cartoonish clunker
A View to a Kill; Timothy Dalton turned in two solid performances in a couple of darkly excellent entries (1987's The Living Daylights, 1989's License to Kill); and Pierce Brosnan ably but unconvincingly carried on in four increasingly over-the-top Bonds (Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and the simply ridiculous Die Another Die). This "re-boot" cast the initially controversial Daniel Craig as Bond, who made the critics eat crow by delivering the most impassioned, believable, fully-realized version of the character since Connery in an equally gritty, authentic film that takes Bond back to the beginning, best represented by the re-introduction of the original Bond martini, "The Vesper," named for Bond's tragic love interest, played by Eva Green. Bond lives in the 21st Century. Cheers.