We cut the cord, the cable TV cord, this Fall. It has meant some new habits in watching a few old film and television favorites. Usually we watch a few mindless things in the evening after a hectic workday. The more hectic, the more we both binge watch NCIS or other favorite. Some binge watch obsession my household is having this Thanksgiving holiday week! I’m watching James Bond movies on Hulu.
Monday night was the first time I saw 2015’s SPECTRE; While I watched only a few minutes of Craig’s other Bond movies on cable until now. I had been intrigued by the character of Blofeld and his long relationship as nemesis to Bond over the decades of movies. And I loved the tie-in to the original Bond car.
I realize, however, I prefer the movies from an earlier era. While most of the world was born after the Berlin Wall fell, the omnipresent shadow of nuclear arms race between the “West” and the Communist “Iron Curtain” was still part of my earliest school memories. While Ian Fleming’s villains were scheming to use nuclear weapons to blackmail the world, the Cuban Missile Crisis which occurred the year after Dr. NO’s release, made it all pretty realistic. And in my old age, I am still learning about James Bond. I had always thought Bond used a Walther PPK, but it was this same movie introduction that where “M” tells him to turn in his Beretta that I learned otherwise. The cars, the geiger counter/ camera that films in infrared, and 007s watch have always been cool. The villain bent on destroying America’s space program in Dr. NO never had cool gadgets.
For my post-puberty years, all the women with the suggestive names, from the first Bond “girl”, Ursula Andress , to the assassin in THUNDERBALL to the tarot -reading woman in Live and Let Die. Even the way the villains met their end were pretty spectacular. Tossed out of airplanes, launched out of ejector seats, tossed into a shark-filled pool, into a snowplow, or blown up by a compressed air cylinder, Bond always had a snappy pun or zinger. In Thunderball, I saw what I believe was the first time, and last time Bond was actually shot.
Since childhood, I’ve watched every 007 movie: Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan, until the blond Bond became the new millennium British secret agent. The first 007 movie and his introduction; and of course, that iconic theme in Dr. NO tonight. As a kid, I completely missed the wry humor and sexual innuendo of Bond’s character. I was totally into the gadgets that Q devised, the way a totally confident Bond could face a vicious killer or his thugs, and always get the best of them.
There were forgettable movies. Casino Royale with David Niven as James Bond I hardly recall. Though it was the first novel by Ian Fleming, I prefer the one with Daniel Craig from 2006. In the early 1970s, when George Lazenby, a newly married James Bond, witnessed Diana Rigg’s character assassinated by Telly Savalas’ Blofeld at the conclusion of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it again wasn’t Sean Connery. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t see Lazenby back in another portrayal.
Bond always comes out ahead. When Connery retired from the role, the former Saint, Roger Moore, became another great 007. Live and Let Die had great villains, voodoo, and of course, Jane Seymour. But afterward, as the theme of Ian Fleming’s fiction went farther afield, I wanted to watch the older movies. For me, Moonraker was a little too much like parody. By then I was starting my career in national security, technology and educated in the political and social sciences on how “spies” and espionage actually operate. It was then that these movies became so much less fun.
But the Get Smart, Austin Powers movies at the parody extreme, and Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, and the Bourne movies at the opposite end, reset my palate for spy movies. But they were not 007 and the British Secret Service. Yet with the changed times we live in, the cinematically more violent and more vengeful take of the Daniel Craig versions are not on my “favorites” list. Perhaps it is the social change that the innuendo and snappy lines James Bond delivered after doing-in a baddie in the 1960s seem dated and a little embarrassing for a Millennial Generation. But after forty- five years of Bond, I still find Sean Connery’s portrayals the penultimate James Bond.