Live and Let Die

Not rated yet!
Director
Guy Hamilton
Runtime
2 h 01 min
Release Date
5 July 1973
Genres
Adventure, Action, Thriller
Overview
James Bond must investigate a mysterious murder case of a British agent in New Orleans. Soon he finds himself up against a gangster boss named Mr. Big.
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  • Dr. No & Live and Let Die

    [1]3,364 words

    My introduction to James Bond wasn’t through the movies, but through a book I checked out of the local library when I was a boy—Anglo-Scots Ian Fleming’s Gilt-Edged Bonds (1961), a collection containing Casino Royale [2], From Russia with Love [3], and Doctor No [4]. The opening scene of Doctor No (1958) made a powerful impression on me in those pre-race conscious days.

    British secret agent John Strangways leaves his bridge game at the posh Queen’s Club on Richmond Road in Kingston, Jamaica. (“Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day Queen’s Club will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground . . .”) Richmond Road “is the best road in all Jamaica, where the best people live in big, old-fashioned houses with an acre or two of beautiful lawn.”

    As Strangways approaches his car he becomes aware of three big, blind beggars wearing sunglasses and walking single file, each with his hand on the shoulder of the man in front, their white canes tap- tap- tapping against the pavement. “How odd, they were all Chigroes!”—Chinese Negroes—”How very odd!” They “would not have been incongruous in Kingston, where there were many diseased people on the streets,” but “in this quiet rich empty street” they certainly were. Moreover, “this is not a common mixture of bloods.”

    As Strangways drops a coin into the tin cup of the lead beggar, the men suddenly fan out, drawing three revolvers with silencers from concealed holsters. “The three heavy coughs were almost one. Strangways’s body was hurled forward as if it had been kicked. It lay absolutely still.”

    Shortly thereafter, Strangways’ blonde assistant, Mary Trueblood, is shot three times in the heart by “a big negro with yellowish skin and slanting eyes.”

    Later, over lunch in the mahogany-paneled Queen’s Club dining room, Jamaica’s Colonial Secretary provides James Bond, who has arrived from England to investigate, with a thumbnail racial sketch of the Caribbean island:

    “It’s like this.” He began his antics with the pipe. “The Jamaican is a kindly lazy man with the virtues and vices of a child. He lives on a very rich island but he doesn’t get rich from it. He doesn’t know how to and he’s too lazy. The British come and go and take the easy pickings, but for about two hundred years no Englishman has made a fortune out here. He doesn’t stay long enough. He takes a fat cut and leaves. It’s the Portuguese Jews who make the most. They came here with the British and they’ve stayed. But they’re snobs and they spend too much of their fortunes on building fine houses and giving dances. They’re the names that fill the social column in the Gleaner when the tourists have gone. They’re in rum and tobacco and they represent the big British firms over here – motor cars, insurance and so forth. Then come the Syrians, very rich too, but not such good businessmen. They have most of the stores and some of the best hotels. They’re not a very good risk. Get overstocked and have the occasional fire to get liquid again. Then there are the Indians with their usual flashy trade in soft goods and the like. They’re not much of a lot. Finally there are the Chinese, solid, compact, discreet – the most powerful clique in Jamaica. They’ve got the bakeries and the laundries and the best food stores. They keep to themselves and keep their strain pure.” Pleydell-Smith laughed. “Not that they don’t take the black girls when they want them. You can see the result all over Kingston – Chigroes – Chinese Negroes or Negresses. The Chigroes are a tough, forgotten race. They look down on the Negroes and the Chinese look down on them. One day they may become a nuisance. They’ve got some of the intelligence of the Chinese and most of the vices of the black man. The police have a lot of trouble with them.”

    So colonialism and race figure prominently in the novel.

    Dr. No [5] (1962-British)

    The first James Bond movie was Dr. No [5], of interest to me primarily because it was shot on location in Jamaica in 1962, the year the Caribbean island gained its independence from Great Britain, and unlike later, politically correct Bond films, presents a straightforward, unapologetic picture of colonialism and a racially clean world.

    That world is essentially still the world of the 1950s. The first hour of the movie captures the look and feel of those days with remarkable fidelity—the dress, the sets, the people, the landscapes, the automobiles, the social relationships.

    It reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo [6] (1958) in that sense, which accomplished the same thing. Once the movie descends into Dr. No‘s underground lair on Crab Key it becomes just another Bond/sci-fi/cartoon flick, but the first part captures and preserves a visually powerful window into our lost past.

    On Screen

    The complex racial dynamic of the novel is streamlined for the motion picture into a simple white-black-Chinese trichotomy.

    Whites are comfortable and unapologetically in charge. (Strange!)

    Dark-skinned blacks are subordinates. The key figure here is Cayman Islander Quarrel, CIA agent Felix Leiter’s (Jack Lord) and Bond’s faithful assistant.

    In Fleming’s novel, Quarrel speaks in dialect: “Dey calls him ‘Pus-Feller’ seein’ how him once fought wit’ a big hoctopus.”  This is eliminated in the film, although Quarrel is still depicted as superstitious (credulously believing in Dr. No’s “dragon”) and drinks rum in excess to buck up his shaky courage.

    The mild calypso music is doubtless appealing to white audiences. It was composed by English Jew Monty Norman (Monty Noserovitch) but is performed by a well-known black Jamaican band, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. Songs include “Under the Mango Tree” [7] and “Kingston Calypso” [7].

    In a scene at The Joy Boat bar and restaurant Byron Lee and the Dragonaires perform a number called “Jump Up.” Although filmed in such a way as to be virtually subliminal, interracial couples, including white women with colored men, can be seen dancing together. In the novel, “Only half the tables were filled, mostly by coloured people. There was a sprinkling of British and American sailors with their girls.”

    A light-skinned black, Marguerite LeWars, plays Dr. No’s photographer/spy Annabel Chung in The Joy Boat scene. LeWars was the real-life Miss Jamaica at the time. Her eyes were taped to make her appear slightly Oriental. This is the only nod to Ian Fleming’s Chigroes in the movie, though it is far too subtle to be noticed.

    Chinese are the villains, with demure Asian females everywhere working as spies for Dr. Julius No, a member of SPECTRE, a global criminal organization. Dr. No is disrupting the launch of America’s Mercury rockets.

    No is the “unwanted child of a German missionary and a Chinese girl of good family” who became the treasurer of the most powerful criminal society in China, the Tongs, before escaping to America with $10 million in gold stolen from his fellow gangsters.

    Dr. No is played by actor Joseph Wiseman, the son of Orthodox Jews. In the commentaries to Dr. No, in which everyone in gushing Hollywood fashion shamelessly heaps insincere praise on everyone else, Wiseman’s wooden performance as the first Bond villain passes virtually unmentioned. It’s not a matter of damning by faint praise, but of damning without comment, critical or otherwise.

    Connery’s Bond engages in interracial sex with Playdell-Smith’s Chinese secretary, Miss Taro. The way this was insinuated for moviegoers in 1962 was to assign Kenyan-born Englishwoman Zena Marshall to play the part. Her naturally “exotic looks” were enhanced by taping her eyes Chinese-style. She was dressed in Chinese clothing and her bungalow was designed by Jewish set designer Ken Adam with “Chinese elements, the way I thought someone who was Chinese would live on the island.”

    Clothing and décor can serve as quasi-racial markers. (Think of how Orthodox Jews or the Amish set themselves apart by dress and grooming.) Indeed, the only “racist” and “xenophobic” remarks (extremely rare) about Third World immigrants I hear from mentally homogenized Midwesterners are “They ought to dress like us” or “They should learn our language.”

    When Zena Marshall asked director Terence Young what kind of Chinese she was supposed to portray, he told her, “Well, she’s Chinese, but you really don’t play her Chinese, she’s international, mid-Atlantic.” “What on earth is that?” “A woman that men dream about but doesn’t really exist.”

    The net effect is to confuse viewers by having Bond engage in interracial sex with a woman who both is and isn’t foreign. It is a good example of how Hollywood subtly but manipulatively pushes the envelope to impose psychological-behavioral change on a passive audience via entertainment.

    Behind the Scenes

    Dr. No was the first James Bond film and the beginning of a decade-long collaboration between producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, an Italian-American, and Canadian-born Jew Harry Saltzman. Unusual in Jewish-white relationships, the Italian, not the Jew, was the dominant partner.

    Broccoli, who started in films working for Howard Hughes, is believed to have been responsible, together with his gangster cousin Pasquale “Pat” DiCicco and movie star Wallace Beery, for the 1937 beating death of vaudeville and movie comedian Ted Healy outside LA’s Trocadero nightclub. (The Three Stooges rose to fame, 1922–34, as part of Healy’s vaudeville act when they were known as Ted Healy and his Stooges. Healy and his Stooges can be seen in a couple of early talkies.)

    Broccoli and Saltzman, who did not know each other, were introduced by English Jew Wolf Mankowitz [8]. Mankowitz, a Marxist whose psychoanalyst wife was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, had been under surveillance for 16 years until 1960 by MI5, suspected of being a Soviet spy. He wrote the first draft of Dr. No, but after viewing early rushes insisted upon having his name removed, fearing the film would damage his reputation. So the Commie shot himself in the foot.

    The other screenwriter was Richard Maibaum, also Jewish, who eventually contributed to all but three of the Bond films between Dr. No and 1989’s License to Kill starring Timothy Dalton.

    The director of Dr. No was elegant, sophisticated, debonair, Shanghai-born Englishman Terence Young. More than anyone else he was responsible for creating the Bond screen image. According to universal testimony he also transformed young, working class Sean Connery into the on-screen polished, urbane counterpart of himself known as James Bond. Young taught the rough-hewn actor how to walk, talk, dress, and eat.

    Actress Ursula Andress, famous for appearing in a bikini in the movie, was born in Switzerland in 1936 to a Swiss mother and a German diplomat father who was expelled from the country for political reasons and disappeared during World War II. So there is probably a politically incorrect story lurking there.

    Andress’s speaking voice was dubbed by voice actress Monica “Nikki” van der Zyl and her singing voice by Diana Coupland, songwriter Monty Norman’s wife. Van der Zyl has less of an accent than Andress and sounds more feminine and alluring, less harsh, than the Swiss German actress.

    The famous still photographs of Andress in her bikini were taken by female porn photographer Bunny Yeager, a former pin-up girl who photographed bondage model Bettie Page. Yeager obtained the Dr. No gig from a man named Samuel Friedman (or Freedman).

    Another important crew member was set designer Ken Adam. He created much of the “feel” of the series in this first movie. For M’s room in London he devised the English-paneled, traditional-looking office of an ex-Navy man. For the Governor’s office in Jamaica, he imparted “a colonial feel.”

    Here is Wikipedia‘s account of Adam’s background, based upon newspaper accounts:

    Adam was born in Berlin, Germany to a Jewish family, the son of a former Prussian cavalryman. His father owned a fashion retail shop, which enabled Adam to be educated at the Französisches Gymnasium, and the family to have a summer house on the Baltic. In 1933, however, on the ascent to power of the Nazi Party, Adam watched from the Tiergarten as the Reichstag burned. That same year his father’s shop was forced into bankruptcy by actions of the Brown Shirts, and the family agreed to relocate to England.

    An heroic record as a British WWII fighter pilot, “Heinie the tank-buster,” is also claimed. Naturally, I am skeptical.

    Chris Blackwell [9], the son of an Irish father and a Jamaican Sephardic Jewish mother named Blanche Lindo Blackwell, served as location scout and production assistant at Ian Fleming’s suggestion. (Fleming visited the set of Dr. No while writing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)

    Born in London, Blackwell was raised on the island. His mother’s family was one of twenty-one that controlled Jamaica [10] in the 20th century. The Lindo fortune derived from sugar and rum during the slavery era. Blanche was Ian Fleming’s mistress and the inspiration for Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. She owned several thousand acres on Jamaica and sold properties there to both Fleming and Noël Coward.

    The Nation of Islam in its underground classic The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews [11] (1991) provides a useful summary of Jewish involvement in slavery in Jamaica. It states that Blanche and Chris Blackwell’s ancestor Alexander Lindo (1753–1812) and two other Jews “were the major slave importers” on the island. Alexander “admitted to being responsible for the deaths of over 150 African slaves in the Middle Passage and 20 more upon their arrival in Jamaica, though he was never punished.”

    Blanche commissioned her family genealogy, which was published as Jackie Ranston, The Lindo Legacy (London: Toucan Books, 2000).

    Chris Blackwell founded Island Records, a large independent label that became enormously powerful in the music industry. He made Bob Marley an international star and mainstreamed reggae music for white listeners.

    Chris Blackwell also owns Fleming’s former Jamaican estate, Goldeneye [12], where the James Bond novels were written. In 1962 there were still many expensive estates dotting Jamaica’s coastline. However, they have since been razed to make way for high-rise apartment buildings.

    Live and Let Die [13](1973-British)

    [14]

    Jane Seymour, Roger Moore, Japhet Kotto from "Live and Let Die"

    Live and Let Die [13] has little to recommend it—including the popular title song written by “Sir” Paul McCartney and his Jewish wife, “Lady” Linda McCartney—apart from some exciting automobile and boat chases. However, its depiction of race, so radically different from that of Dr. No a mere ten years before, begs for a comparison.

    Jamaica was again used for location shooting of the Caribbean sequences, though the island is now given the fictional name San Monique. In fact, the crew stayed in the same bungalows which in Dr. No served as the scene for the sexual tryst between Bond and Miss Taro, who lived in one of them. A black named Quarrel Junior, the son of the Quarrel killed by Dr. No’s “dragon,” serves as Bond’s guide.

    Just as Dr. No was Sean Connery’s first Bond picture, Live and Let Die is Roger Moore’s first. (Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were among the actors considered for the role.)

    Racial Dynamics, ’70s-Style

    Though directed by a French-born Englishman, Guy Hamilton, Live and Let Die was scripted by Jewish screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, the son of screenwriter/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve) and nephew of Herman J. Mankiewicz. It was Mankiewicz, a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, who gave the movie its pronounced racist tilt.

    Indeed, Live and Let Die was chosen as the next Bond film after Diamonds Are Forever [15] because Mankiewicz wanted to do a movie contrasting Negroes with whites in the new racist style. He described his role as “Pushing the envelope, but not too far, because it was just an entertainment.”

    The story shifts between Harlem, the Caribbean, and black New Orleans. Negroes are portrayed as tough, smart, and in-charge—though today the outlandish Afros, loud dress, and spastic dance movements of the New Orleans funeral bands look racist, just as Seinfeld‘s Negro lawyer Jackie Chiles seems lifted straight out of Amos ‘n’ Andy.

    Notable elements in Live and Let Die from our perspective are James Bond’s first interracial sexual encounter with a Negress and the erotic suggestiveness surrounding alluring, scantily clad Jewish actress Jane Seymour’s being struck violently across the face by her black master, Dr. Kananga, offered for sacrifice at a Negro voodoo ceremony, etc.

    In real life Seymour hung around 6′ 6″ Trinidadian actor-choreographer Geoffrey Holder, who played Baron Samedi, and his black troupe, dancing with them during their rehearsals. Despite Holder’s high reputation in dance and show business circles, his choreographed voodoo numbers in the movie are dull and undistinguished.

    Ian Fleming visited Harlem while researching Live and Let Die [16] (1954), which focused on Negro gangsters in New York City and the Caribbean. There he learned about the political power in the US of the NAACP and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a black union.

    Fleming’s novel was deemed so harsh in its depiction of blacks (e.g., “The air was thick with smoke and the sweet, feral smell of two hundred Negro bodies”) that his American publisher, Macmillan, censored the novel heavily prior to US publication (for example, it refused to reproduce the title of Chapter 5, “Nigger Heaven”). Whether the book exists anywhere today in unexpurgated form I don’t know. Possibly the first London edition was censored as well.

    Mankiewicz expressed contempt for Fleming’s novel: “I didn’t really try to adapt it. All the blacks in the book were shuffling. Fleming’s idea of what he thought American blacks talked like sounded like people out of a [Jewish] Stepin Fetchit movie from the 1930s.”

    Fetchit (Lincoln Perry), who appeared in numerous Hollywood films over many decades and was the first black actor to become a millionaire, is systematically censored and demeaned today; his movies are typically not shown or released on DVD. On the rare occasions when they are shown, his scenes are usually deleted.

    Not that Mankiewicz had a principled objection to racism. Just as Hollywood previously gave America Stepin Fetchit, Willie Best (Sleep ‘n Eat), and bug-eyed manservant Mantan Moreland, Mankiewicz gave it white, pot-bellied hick Louisiana Sheriff J. W. Pepper.

    Like Yaphet Kotto who played the villain Mr. Big/Dr. Kananga and was the most racist member of the black cast, Mankiewicz would have preferred to have the blacks defeat the whites. But since it was a James Bond movie he couldn’t do that. “So along the way I thought we would have some other people to make fun of.”

    Yaphet Kotto, by the way, claims to have had an observant Jewish father who spoke Hebrew. According to him, growing up black and Jewish in New York City was tough: “And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights.” Yeah, right.

    “I used a stock Southern sheriff character [a white version of shuffling Stepin Fetchit],” Mankiewicz said.

    I embellished on it by meeting all the Southern sheriffs down in Louisiana [during shooting]. They kind of resented that there was this stock Southern sheriff in the movie, although when they saw [actor] Clifton [James] play it, they all thought he was funny, and laughed like hell. They all looked like Clifton and talked just like Clifton, and I wondered what they were laughing at.

    Pepper and several white lawmen use the word “boy” in the movie, almost always directed at other whites. But once or twice it is used in addressing a black. ABC censored this on television, although it had no problem with the many invocations by Mankiewicz’s blacks of epithets such as “honky,” “white face in Harlem,” or “Can’t miss him, it’s like following a cue ball.”

    As Marlon Brando, who had German, Dutch, Irish, and English ancestry (the original spelling of his German surname was Brandau) observed in 1996:

    Hollywood is run by Jews. It is owned by Jews, and they should have a greater sensitivity. We have seen the nigger, we’ve seen the greaseball, we have seen the chink, the slit-eyed dangerous Jap. We have seen the wily Filipino. We’ve seen everything, but we never saw the kike, because they know perfectly well that is where you draw the wagons around.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • The Importance of James Bond
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]10,747 words

    The James Bond films turn fifty this year, an event commemorated by the eagerly-anticipated release of the 23rd Eon Productions 007 epic Skyfall.

    The Broccoli family say they will keep making these films as long as audiences still want to see them. Since the Broccoli’s at this point have more money than God, we can be sure that this is entirely a labor of love (as Rosa Klebb might say, running her bony fingers through our hair). To date, the Bond films have grossed $5 billion (Bond is the second highest grossing film series of all time, after Harry Potter). And the books have sold around 100 million copies.

    What can explain why these films have endured for half a century and are bigger now than ever before? (Bond himself, of course, has been around longer than that: the first Ian Fleming Bond novel – Casino Royale [2] – was published in 1953.) I’m going to try to explain this – but, as usual, the real explanation is a far cry from what most people (especially critics) think it is.

    Sex, Sadism, and Snobbery?

    Let’s begin with the noteworthy fact that both the Bond novels and films have always pissed off the right people, and for the right reasons.

    [3]

    Ian Fleming

    Attacks on Bond have come from both Left and Right. From the Left Bond has been accused – correctly – of sexism, racism, heterosexism (aka homophobia), classism, lookism, elitism, imperialism, and much else. This Leftist critique is still regularly trotted out. Just four years ago the BBC’s online news magazine published a piece asking “Is James Bond Loathsome? [4]” The piece quotes one professorial authority who proclaims “Ideologically, none of us should like the Bond films. They are sexist, heterosexist, xenophobic, everything that is not politically correct. Either the audiences don’t notice these ideological issues or the films provide a different kind of pleasure.” (A third possibility: perhaps the very political incorrectness of the Bond films is the source of that “different kind of pleasure.”)

    The Kremlin itself weighed in on the first Bond film, Dr. No [5] (1962) condemning it as capitalist propaganda. A more mainstream Leftist critic, Cyril Connolly in The Sunday Times, said that Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice [6] was “reactionary, sentimental, square, the Bond-image flails its way through the middle-brow masses, a relaxation to the great, a stimulus to the humble, the only common denominator between Kennedy and Oswald.” (Both Kennedy and Oswald were readers of Fleming.)

    In the ’50s and ’60s, those on the Right tended to complain mostly about Bond’s amorality. They deplored the “sex” (such as it was) in the novels and films, the “hedonism,” and the callous disregard for human life. They found it shocking that an assassin – a man with a “licence to kill” (!) – could be romanticized and regarded as a hero. Indeed, in retrospect this actually is rather shocking – but something we take completely for granted today. Bond was seen as a particularly bad influence on little boys. The Guardian’s reviewer remarked that the second Bond film, From Russia With Love [7] (1963) was “highly immoral in every imaginable way; it is neither uplifting, instructive nor life-enhancing.” (Though he admitted it was “fun.”) Predictably the Vatican condemned both the books and the films. But, oh, what a difference five decades makes! Just the other day the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano gave Skyfall two thumbs up [8]. (This made international news.)

    However, the classic conservative critique of Bond came from the pen of none other than Paul Johnson. Writing in The New Statesmen, he summed Bond up with the words “Sex, Sadism, and Snobbery.” Johnson was actually reviewing Fleming’s 1958 novel Dr. No [9]. This now-famous review began with the line, “I have just finished reading what is without doubt the nastiest book I have ever read.” It was actually the first time Fleming had come in for any major criticism, and Johnson opened the floodgates. For years afterwards those three words – sex, sadism, and snobbery – would be quoted again and again, as a derisive way of dismissing both Bond and his creator.

    [10]

    Sexism?

    Sex? Well, yes. Of a kind. Bond does wind up bedding women quite a lot, and without any moral compunction. But Fleming doesn’t treat us to the gory, bedroom details (and there is very little humping in the Bond films). What Johnson and others found offensive was really the attitude toward the whole thing. For example, Fleming notes that Bond has a penchant for affairs with married women, apparently because there’s little chance of emotional entanglement – something about which much is made in the 2006 film of Casino Royale [11]. In the novel, written 53 years earlier, Bond muses that “Women were for recreation.”

    And then there are all those “Bond girls” with names like Honey Rider, Mary Goodnight, and – of course – Pussy Galore. That last one still takes the breath away, even after all these years. What an audacious, salacious old bugger that Fleming was! Then there are the names invented just for the films: Sylvia Trench (I’m convinced that’s a dirty one, but others may disagree), Plenty O’Toole (“Named after your father, perhaps?” quips Bond), Holly Goodhead, Octopussy, and Xenia Onatopp. In the films they’re all incarnated in jutting, jiggling, Technicolor pulchritude. The novels are more conservative. Fleming described Dr. No’s Honey Rider as having a boy’s bottom. This prompted his friend Nöel Coward (a real old bugger) to write to him, “I know that we are all becoming progressively more broad-minded nowadays but really, old chap, what could you have been thinking of?”

    Sadism? Well, yes. And it’s actually more interesting and more imaginative than the sex. In the very first novel, the villain strips Bond naked and repeatedly assaults his testicles with a carpet beater. (A scene lovingly recreated in the recent film version, though with a rope instead of a carpet beater.) In the second novel, Live and Let Die [12] (1954), the villain arranges for the lower extremities of Bond’s best friend to be nibbled away by a shark. The still-living Felix Leiter is then found with a note that reads “He disagreed with something that ate him.” (This also found its way into the films, though in 1989’s Licence To Kill [13]. [1]) In the literary Dr. No, Honey Rider is staked out on a Caribbean island to await the arrival of flesh-eating crabs. And the list just goes on and on. In general, the novels are far more sadistic than the films.

    Snobbery? Yes, I’m afraid so. And here things become rather ridiculous. Fleming spends pages describing Bond’s taste in spirits, suits, shirts, shoes, ties, pajamas (yes, he wears pj’s), shampoo, cars, and even eggs. Bond insists that his egg be boiled for precisely three minutes. And it must be a speckled brown egg laid by a French Marans hen. (I am not kidding you.) The egg must be served with two slices of whole-wheat toast, and a pat of Jersey butter accompanied by Tiptree “Little Scarlet” strawberry jelly, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford Marmalade, and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum’s. Should the eggs be scrambled, they must be served with smoked salmon and champagne. But not just any champagne: Taittinger’s.

    We are supposed to be left with the impression that Bond is a man of very discerning tastes. The impression we are actually left with is that Bond is a pretentious middle class snob trying to put on airs. This kind of thing must have seemed very exotic to the reading public of Great Britain in the 1950s, with post-war austerity still a very vivid memory. And it must have seemed exotic and teddibly British to American readers. But nowadays any yahoo with a wireless connection can order a jar of Frank Coopers Vintage Oxford Marmalade [14] on Amazon.com and get it delivered in two days. And he will probably think it inferior to Smucker’s. (And he’ll probably be right.)

    The classic example, however, is the vodka martini, shaken not stirred. This is how the recipe for the Bond martini is stated in just about every film, but the actual Bond Martini is a little more complicated. Here’s how it first appears in Chapter Seven of Fleming’s Casino Royale:

    “A dry Martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”

    “Oui, Monsieur.”

    “Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”

    Yes, but why shake it? And why be so particular about not stirring it? Does it really make a difference? Believe it or not, this issue has actually prompted a scientific study [15]. The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario found that a shaken martini has more antioxidants than a stirred one. So perhaps Bond is just much more health-conscious than we had originally thought. All kidding aside, he finally comes to his senses in the 2006 Casino Royale. Asked by a bartender if he wants his vodka martini shaken or stirred, Bond replies “Do I look like I give a damn?”

    So, yes, the world of Bond is guilty as charged – of sex, sadism, and snobbery. But this just completely misses the point, because there really is something important about James Bond – very important. James Bond is a modern hero, a hero for the modern age. Actually, this claim has often been made. But I mean it in a special sense: Bond is a hero in spite of modernity; an anti-modern hero who manages to triumph over – and, indeed, harness – the very forces that turn most modern men into soulless, gelded appendages to their desktop PCs. This is why Bond is important, and this is why we’ve worshipped at the cinematic altar of Bond for half a century. We long to be as free as he is.

    Bond’s Spiritual Virility

    [16]

    “Bond. James Bond.” — Sean Connery is introduced in Dr. No

    As Julius Evola might have put it, Bond is spiritually virile. He is a self-contained, self-actualized man who appears to be a self-indulgent hedonist, but is in fact fundamentally detached from the pleasures and distractions that obsess and enthrall most men.

    Let’s begin with the much-discussed sex issue. In fact, Bond does not chase after women; women chase after him. This is established in the very first scene in which Sean Connery is introduced as Bond in Dr. No. He is playing Chemin de Fer at a London club. An attractive woman asks his name from across the table: “Mr. . . . ?” Famously, Connery replies “Bond. James Bond,” while lighting a cigarette and flourishing his great, caterpillar-like black eyebrows. The woman – Sylvia Trench, played by Eunice Gayson – pursues a rather disinterested Bond, acquires his business card, then breaks into his apartment and seduces him (over Bond’s protestations).

    Later in the same film, in a brief but iconic scene, we see a female hotel receptionist ogle Bond as he makes his way across the lobby. Dr. No establishes the sexual pattern for all the succeeding films (which does indeed have its basis in the novels). Women practically throw themselves at Bond, who often seems rather weary of the whole thing. (The Bond imitators – those who brought us Matt Helm, Derek Flint, and others – often failed to get this, turning their pseudo-Bonds into lascivious, salivating womanizers.) The ease with which Bond attracts women has often been noted, and chalked up to “male fantasy wish fulfillment.” This is true, but what exactly is the wish? It’s not just the desire for easy sex. It’s also the desire – only dimly understood by most men – to be free of the tiresome indignity of having to pursue women.

    At some level, men realize that there is something unmanly about Don Juan. They realize that Bond, by contrast, has “got something” that makes it possible for him to attract women without effort. But that “something” consists in the fact that he doesn’t care about it as much as they do (perhaps because he’s proved his masculinity in other, more significant areas). He is detached. As a result, Bond doesn’t just attract a lot of babes, he attracts extraordinary women. One of the great myths about Bond – particularly as far as the films are concerned – is that Bond girls are brainless, helpless bimbos. This perception is now cynically exploited by the filmmakers, who every so often announce that “the Bond girl in the new film is different: she’s strong, she’s capable, she’s Bond’s equal,” blah blah blah.

    [17]

    Typecast as a physicist? — Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones in The World is Not Enough

    But this has been true from the very beginning. Honey Rider tells Bond in Dr. No that she murdered a man who raped her by putting a black widow spider under his mosquito net (“A female, and they’re the worst. It took him a whole week to die.”) Pussy Galore is a ball-busting lesbian and leader of her own gang of Amazons. And Octopussy is cut very much from the same cloth. Fiona in Thunderball [18] is a cold-blooded assassin, and even Domino – rather bimbo-like for most of the film – winds up executing the villain herself. By my count, no fewer than ten of the cinematic Bond girls are spies or assassins. Two of the Bond girls are scientists: a geologist in A View to a Kill [19] and a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough [20]. (Though it must be admitted that the actresses who play these parts are not very convincing.) Yes, there a few helpless bimbos – like Mary Goodnight in The Man With The Golden Gun [21] – but actually most of the Bondian heroines are strong, capable women. Which is just the sort of women we would expect a spiritually virile man to attract.

    And as for Bond’s seemingly absurd culinary pretensions, they’re not actually born of a desire to impress, nor are they an expression of hedonism. Bond explains himself rather well in Chapter Eight of Fleming’s Casino Royale:

    “You must forgive me,” he said. “I take a ridiculous amount of pleasure in what I eat or drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It’s very pernickety and old-maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble.”

    Besides, when you’re facing death on a daily basis, every meal could be your last! Of course Bond takes a lot of trouble over details; of course he lives life to the full. Hagakure [22], the “Book of the Samurai,” states that “The Way of the Samurai is found in death. . . . If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way.”[2] Bond has learned to face life as if death could come at any moment. This has the effect of heightening his senses and his tastes. He notices the nuances of food and drink that most men miss, and he takes greater pleasure in them, as he takes greater pleasure in sex.

    Bond’s pleasure is greater than that of other men – but paradoxically he is free of desire in a way most men are not. His constant brushes with death have given him a unique perspective: he is keenly aware of the impermanence of things, and of what matters and what does not. Bond enjoys food, drink, and sex so much precisely because of their unimportance. Other men, who have never faced death, place too much importance on these things and – again, paradoxically – are less able to enjoy them.

    Bond takes pleasure in the things of this world, but he is not mastered or absorbed by his appetites. This is the real meaning of the Bond family motto “The World is not Enough” (introduced in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [23], and later its own Bond film title). This is usually taken to be an expression of rapacious desire. In fact what it says is that the things of this world, which would be too much for most men to handle, are not enough for James Bond. He is greater than they are, thus he can “use them” without being corrupted by them. It’s unsurprising that book and film critics would be unable to understand any of this, and would simply see Bond as a “hedonist” and “snob.”

    Riding the Tiger

    But, again, Bond’s spiritual virility is achieved in a uniquely modern context. He is an “organization man” through and through. Unlike earlier heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond, and Doc Savage, Bond works for someone else. And not just anyone. He serves the state. And not just any state. He serves the tattered remnants of that Great Satan of yesteryear, the British Empire. Furthermore, Bond is a Commander in the Royal Navy. He is relatively low-ranking on the intelligence totem pole, and accustomed to obeying orders. All of this is part of the reason audiences identify with James Bond. This is an observation that may surprise some, since Bond is normally thought of as a superman we long to be, not someone we identify with. Yet we do. Like us, Bond works for a boss – and he is a rather small speck in the scheme of things. In this modern world we are all functionaries and office flunkies. Fleming actually spends a fair amount of time discussing the tedium of Bond’s office work – since he only goes on missions once or twice a year.

    We long to be able to leave the office – which we loathe just as much as Bond does – and have adventures. And we note, rather enviously, that Bond has managed to be an employee, a part of a vast organization, without being spiritually reduced by it. Bond does not lie awake at night worrying about office politics. Bond does not suck up to the boss. Bond does not get ulcers. It’s been made very clear to Bond that he is quite expendable – as it’s made very clear to all the ordinary folks working corporate jobs! – but somehow he’s found a way to ride this tiger.

    Day after day, we grow more and more anxious about the extent to which work encroaches on our lives. And a huge part of the problem has to do with our much ballyhooed advances in technology. As C. S. Lewis recognized in The Abolition of Man [24], every new advance in technology is an advance in some men’s ability to control others. So that now thanks to our cell phones and email the boss can always access us. Every new advance in software means more for us to learn on the job. It never ends, and we never outrun the fear that eventually we will simply not be able to catch up. This is yet one more way in which our culture puts all the emphasis on youth – for the young always know the new technologies better, the young can always adapt more swiftly to new innovations. Some of us even fear than new technologies will replace us entirely, as has actually happened to many people, both blue-collar and white-collar.

    Needless to say, technology has always been a big part of James Bond. This is much truer of the films than the books, though there’s a slim basis for it in the books. The films, however, go whole hog and are thoroughly “modernistic.” There are gadgets galore in the Bond films; they seem to celebrate technology. But here again, things are much more complicated than they seem. If we pay careful attention to the Bond films we will realize that Bond’s attitude towards technology is disdainful. This is the basis for the well-known comic tension between Bond and crusty old Q, the gadget master.

    Q first appears in From Russia With Love[3] in which he provides Bond with a clever trick attache case and folding sniper’s rifle. It’s a brief scene without any comedic elements, though Bond seems a bit amused by the gadgets. It’s Goldfinger [25], the next film in the series, that establishes the familiar pattern. Bond visits a humorless Q who provides him with an Aston Martin equipped with revolving license plates, machine guns, smoke screen, tire slashers, radar, oil slick, and – most famously – an ejector seat. Bond seems completely unimpressed and rolls his eyes when Q tells him that he won’t take more than hour or two of his time. When they get to the ejector seat Bond sneers and says “You must be joking!” Q responds, deadpan, “I never joke about my work, Double-Oh-Seven.”

    It is clear that Bond regards the real business of spying as a matter of physical stamina and mental agility. He is contemptuous of the idea that what he does could be done better by – or even with – machines. However, time and again Bond gets himself out of tight spot with one of Q’s gadgets. And so he does make a kind of uneasy peace with technology. But again and again when the time comes for Bond to really save the day he does so with his own wits and guts. In other words, the films wind up siding with Bond and declaring that technology – and technē – is not the answer.

    Sometimes the producers forget this, however, and when they do the films tend to go off the rails. The first time this happens is in 1965’s Thunderball. By that point, after the major success of Goldfinger, the Bond gadgets had gotten a lot of publicity and the producers were careful to load up Thunderball with as much tech as possible. It begins in the pre-credit sequence, in which Bond escapes pursuers in a jetpack (!). The Aston Martin then reappears. And in the film’s climactic underwater action sequences, Bond dons a kind of underwater jetpack that fires projectiles. The effect is ridiculous. Author John Brosnan comments that the scene makes Connery look like a “clown.” And he writes of the whole film, “With Thunderball, James Bond tended to become depersonalised, turning into a sort of bland dummy whose only function was to manipulate the various gadgets and act as a catalyst to keep the whole show moving.”[4]

    The Bond films of the 60s started off as relatively realistic spy thrillers, but over time gee whiz technology took over and dwarfed the Bond character. In their first decade, the pinnacle of this technological silliness was reached with You Only Live Twice (1967), which one reviewer dismissed as looking like an episode of TV’s Thunderbirds. Everyone, including the producers, felt that something had been lost. The verdict was usually that the films had become too “outlandish.” The truth, however, is that what made Bond Bond had been negated: he wasn’t riding the tiger anymore; he was being dragged along behind it.

    And so with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [26] the producers dumped the gadgets, and cranked things back to the minimalism of From Russia With Love. The result was a film that many fans, myself included, regard as the best of the series. But this pattern has been repeated several times in its history. The producers again and again allow Bond to become diminished by high-tech and special effects, and again and again realize their mistake and swear never to repeat it. In truth what is happening here is that, like all of us, they are struggling with the allure – and the danger – of technology.

    In later films, as actor Desmond Llewelyn aged into a lovable old codger, the Q character was softened a bit and given more to do. But early on he is as mechanical and charmless as the gadgets he dispenses. He is man become technics, who cares more about his inventions returning “intact from the field” than about Bond’s body returning intact! This, indeed, becomes a running joke and Bond seems to take delight not just in belittling Q’s gadgets but in demolishing them.

    Bond also delights in destroying the villains’ hardware as well. The classic Bond villains tended to set themselves up with ultra-modern lairs filled with impressive technological marvels. And all of it constructed out of miles and miles of gleaming, stainless steel. By contrast, Bond’s own environment – M’s office, Whitehall, and Bond’s apartment (seen in two films) – is ultra-traditional. (Interestingly, Q’s environs look like just like the villains’.)

    The contrast could not be clearer. The good dwells in small, warm, and human spaces surrounded by organic materials (wood and fabrics of various kinds), and decorations chosen for their charm, or because they suggest national heritage (the paintings and busts in M’s office). These spaces are inhabited by individuals with distinct characters and quirks: the crusty but benign M; the stalwart, love-struck Moneypenny, etc.

    [27]

    M’s office — warm and traditional

    The evil, by contrast, dwells in huge, cold, intimidating, depersonalized spaces made of metal, stripped of anything charming and anything that suggests national identity – or cluttered with objects suggesting a confusion of national identities (e.g., Dr. No’s living room, Blofeld’s various apartments, etc.). And here the space is inhabited by emotionless human automata in coveralls, or Mao jackets, who often refer to each other only as numbers. I’ll have more to say about what this represents later on . . .

    [28]

    Blofeld’s office — cold and inhuman

    Bond as Modern Mythology

    [29]

    Venus — Ursula Andress in Dr. No

    A handsome knight, a favorite of all the ladies at court, is sent to a remote part of the kingdom to investigate the disappearance of another knight. There he learns that a terrifying wizard is responsible. The wizard lives on a mysterious island, to which many have journeyed – but from which none has ever returned. Our hero teams up with a knight from a distant kingdom that is also being plagued by the wizard’s magic. Then, accompanied by a curmudgeonly but loyal dwarf, as black as the night, our hero journeys to the island. Unexpectedly, they find themselves assisted by an avatar of Venus, who suddenly rises from the ocean. Together, the trio explores the wizard’s island. One night, they encounter a terrible dragon, who breathes fire on the swarthy dwarf and kills him. The dragon is in thrall to the wizard, however, and is under orders not to kill our hero and his Venus. He takes them captive and drags them down into the wizard’s subterranean lair.

    When they finally meet the wizard himself they find that he is a frightening, but also rather pathetic figure. He has no hands, having sacrificed them in order to read the leaves of Satan’s book and discover the secret of producing a terrible form of black magic. The wizard tries to seduce our hero with promises of magic power, but when he proves incorruptible the wizard seals him in a dungeon. The knight quickly finds, however, that it contains a tiny door that leads him into a vast labyrinth, filled with one terrifying challenge after another. The final challenge involves a fight with a giant sea monster.

    The knight kills the beast and finds his way into the wizard’s secret chamber, where the evil necromancer is in the midst of a black magic rite. Over the smoky, hell-like abyss from whence comes the wizard’s power, the two men struggle. The knight seems doomed, but in the end the fates deal out poetic justice to the wizard. His lack of hands – the very hands he sacrificed to obtain his magic – makes him unable to cling to the altar over the abyss, and he plunges into it. Our hero then rescues Venus from certain death at the hands of the wizard’s flesh-eating demons, and together they leave the island, never to return.

    For the uninitiated, this is exactly the plot of Dr. No.[5] Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of another British agent. There, he teams up with a CIA agent investigating recent radio interference with American rocket launches. They discover that the man responsible seems to be a reclusive scientist named Dr. No, who lives on an island called Crab Key. Bond sails to the island, accompanied by a local black fisherman named Quarrel. The next morning, the beautiful Honey Rider appears, rising out of the ocean. (She had come to the island looking for shells.) Earlier, Quarrel had warned Bond that the island is guarded by a dragon, and that night the three actually encounter it. But the “dragon” turns out to be a tank of sorts, fitted out with a flamethrower – which kills poor Quarrel. Men with machine guns pile out of the “dragon” and take Bond and Honey down to Dr. No’s subterranean installation.

    [30]

    The “dragon” from Dr. No

    Over dinner, Dr. No reveals that he lost his hands as a result of his experiments with nuclear power.[6] He tries to recruit Bond, unsuccessfully. Dr. No places Bond in a cell, and gives him the option of staying there or traversing a labyrinth. Bond chooses the latter, but much to his discomfort. He is shocked, burned, and almost drowned. (In the novel he is also attacked by poisonous insects.) Finally (in the novel only) Bond must defeat a giant squid. In the film version, Bond then infiltrates Dr. No’s reactor room. There is a final climactic battle, and Dr. No – owing to his lack of hands – is unable to stop himself from slipping into the steaming reactor pool.[7] Things start to explode, and Bond rushes off to rescue Honey (who – again, in the novel only – is about to be eaten by flesh-eating crabs). Together, they escape the island.

    That the Bond stories are “modern myths” has often been asserted, and there’s quite a bit to this. John Brosnan, states that “Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, et al. are the descendents not of Al Capone but of Dracula himself.” And he continues:

    Seen, then, in this context the Bond books and films become twentieth-century folk epics with Bond as a latter day St. George fighting against evil incarnate. They are the same basic stories that have been passed down through the centuries but with the hero and the villain adapted to our technological age. No longer is it Satan’s power that people fear but the new demons of machinery and atomic power. So the vampire has exchanged his castle for Dr. No’s subterranean laboratory, his fangs for Dr. No’s steel claws, and his unholy source of power for Dr. No’s atomic reactor.[8]

    This is actually a very insightful analysis, from one of the earliest book-length studies of the Bond films. All the traditional mythic elements are present in Bond, only they have been rather straightforwardly modernized. One might also mention the fact that Bond’s gadgets are simply modernized versions of things like magic swords and spears, helmets of invisibility, and indestructible shields. M is actually a sort of Odin figure, whose feelings of paternal affection for his No. 1 hero don’t change the fact that he controls Bond’s destiny, and is willing to send Bond to his death. And I could go on.

    The Bond character has often been derided by critics as an exaggerated superman. And, in truth, his exploits are often incredible, in the literal sense of the term. Slaying the giant squid is just one example. He’s saved the entire world more often than anyone can remember, without so much as mussing his hair. Yet the exploits of the heroes of Celtic and Germanic mythology are just as implausible, often more so. But no one criticizes them as “unrealistic.”

    Bond is indeed the stuff of modern myth. And audiences have responded to him so strongly because we have a need for this sort of thing. It provides a kind of spiritual fuel. Of course, the same could be said of Star Wars (indeed, Lucas consciously wove mythic motifs into his films). Yet Star Wars has never come in for anything like the criticism Bond has received. I think that this has to do with the fact that the ethos of the Bond films is implicitly pagan. Whereas the ethos of the Star Wars saga is implicitly Christian, and therefore more in line with the liberalism of most film critics (however secular they may imagine themselves to be). But I’ll have more to say about that later on . . . .

    In case you haven’t figured this out, I have been fascinated by James Bond since a very early age – in fact, since before my parents allowed me to see a Bond film. I first learned about Bond from my mother, who one night told me about a secret agent who had a special car outfitted with machine guns and an ejector seat. I then acquired the classic Corgi toy version of the Bond Aston Martin (still being manufactured years after Goldfinger was released). But my parents decided that the films were “too adult” for me to see. Besides, I became interested in Bond during the three-year hiatus between 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun and 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me [31]. There just was no Bond for me to see – except on television. But back then the films were all broadcast with absurd “parental advisories” which scared my parents into changing the channel.

    I longed for something like Bond to appear on television. But, alas, these were the days of shows like Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, and S.W.AT., which all struck me (even as a child) as cheap, seedy, and naturalistic. I longed, although I did not realize it, to see the present mythologized. Science fiction and fantasy didn’t appeal to me much. (I was the only kid in school who didn’t see Star Wars a second time.) I wanted to see grand conflicts between good and evil, with extraordinary heroes doing extraordinary things, but set in the here-and-now.

    When we think about the traditional myths, sagas, and folktales that have been passed down to us, we tend to think that the “mythic elements” include such things as powerful kings, castles with moats around them, knights in armor, imperiled princesses, poisoned blades, and court magicians. But when our traditional myths were composed these things actually existed. They were the realistic elements in the myths. What the myths and sagas did was to take the here-and-now and introduce elements of the supernatural, and superhumanly heroic.

    Myths make the present extraordinary.[9] Thus, it actually seems a bit weaselly to refer to Bond as “modern myth.” Kind of like calling discrimination against whites “reverse discrimination.” No, it’s just discrimination. And Bond is just myth. When the Volsung Saga and Parzival were written they were “modern myths,” i.e., myths of today. In making the present extraordinary, myths make clear the difference between good and evil, which is often hard to discern when we are caught up in the complicated details of the moment. They show us eternal truth shining through present actuality. And they erect archetypes of heroism and virtue; they gave us something to aspire to.

    This was what I wanted to see as a child: I wanted to see the world around me made mythic. And when my parents finally allowed me to see a Bond film (The Spy Who Loved Me, in 1977), this was exactly what I found. And I’ve been hooked ever since. It was for the same reasons that, in my early twenties, I responded so strongly to Ayn Rand’s novels. Rand called her literary style “romantic realism.” She laid her stories in the present day, but her characters were larger than life and did extraordinary things. It seemed natural to her to include elements of science fiction – just like in the Bond films. And so her characters invent new technologies, and hide them in secret valleys beneath holographic projection screens (see Atlas Shrugged [32]).[10] As Brosnan noted in writing of the Bond films, “modern myths” substitute science fiction for the supernatural. (There seems to be some kind of cultural or literary necessity to this.) “Romantic realism,” is just the same thing as myth, properly understood.

    Bond’s Moralism

    So how exactly do the Bond myths make clear the difference between good and evil? (The idea that there could be a moral dimension to Bond would strike many people as absurd.) I actually alluded to this earlier. To see this we have to look at who Bond is fighting, and how he fights them.

    In the films, it was rarely the Soviets. When Fleming got tired of making Russians the villains, he invented S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion), a multi-national criminal organization headed by the diabolical Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Moriarty plus Mabuse). S.P.E.C.T.R.E. first appears in Fleming’s novel Thunderball [33] (1961), but the filmmakers inserted the organization into their version of Dr. No, making the eponymous villain a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent (in the novel he’s working for the Soviets). The sinister organization then appears in five of the next six films (it’s even worked into From Russia With Love, in which the Russians only appear to be the baddies – it’s actually Blofeld and company).

    Blofeld and his white Persian cat make their first appearance in From Russia With Love. In an early scene he explains the modus operandi of the organization in terms of the fish in his office aquarium:

    “Siamese fighting fish. fascinating creatures, brave but on the whole stupid. Yes, they’re stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here, who lets the other two fight. He waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself. And then, like S.P.E.C.T.R.E., he strikes.”

    The idea is that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. will allow the two superpowers to fight it out, then move in and pick up the pieces. Does Blofeld want merely to profit financially, or does he seek world domination? Probably a bit of both. (And is there a difference?) What is fascinating here is that the organization is, as it were, “triangulated” vis-à-vis the U.S. and U.S.S.R. In fact, what S.P.E.C.T.R.E. embodies is Heidegger’s thesis of the metaphysical identity of the superpowers. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. represents the core of both: materialism, dehumanization, homogenization, globalism, and Heidegger’s Gestell [34].

    These are the real villains, these are the things we are really worried about. And both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were out to advance them, each in their own way. But suddenly now it is little England (no longer an imperial power) that is caught in the pincers. So off goes Bond to slay the dragon of homogenization, and make the world safe for British eccentricity (which, if you think about it, was exactly the premise of TV’s The Avengers).

    But there’s another significant sort of villain that Bond finds himself up against: the crazy idealist. These are mainly an invention of the films – there’s really only one in the Fleming novels. The villain in the literary Moonraker [35] (1955), Sir Hugo Drax (really Graf Hugo von der Drache) is a Nazi who plans to destroy London with a missile as revenge for the defeat of Hitler and – I kid you not – as revenge for various forms of social humiliation inflicted on him in English boarding schools. The cinematic Drax [36] is a much crazier idealist: he plans to destroy all life on earth using nerve gas, while creating a new master race on an orbiting space station. The villain of the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me, plans to destroy the earth by provoking nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., while creating a new master race in a city beneath the sea.

    Hmm . . . did these two guys ever meet? Needless to say, Bond vanquishes both of them. In the name of what? In the name of finitude and imperfection; in the name of this world, warts and all. This is surely one of the things that bothers liberal critics. Bond is not an idealist. His “world affirming” attitude extends well beyond a tolerance for marmalade.

    But though Bond may not be an idealist, he certainly is a moralist. I have always been convinced that one of the reasons liberal critics tend to hate Bond is that, unlike them, he is not morally confused. Bond has no compunctions at all about passing moral judgments. And in making those judgments he is clearly not drawing on the Sermon on the Mount. No, Bond’s ethos is really that of a pagan.

    In the early days of Bond, much was made of the fact that he had a “licence to kill” (I’m deliberately using the British spelling of “license”). This is what the Double-0 prefix in 007 signifies. In Britain in the ’60s, Bond was frequently depicted in film trailers and radio spots as “the gentleman agent with the licence to kill!” The concept of a “licence to kill” is really a legal one. What it means is that Bond is officially authorized to kill in the line of duty and, presumably, in Britain he cannot be prosecuted or otherwise held liable for deaths he causes on the job. It does not really mean that he can kill anyone he wants to, at anytime. Yet, that’s sort of what “licence to kill” communicates to people and – let’s be honest – it gives us a bit of a thrill.

    If only I had a licence to kill. I’d probably start with some of the people I work with. Then I’d move on to . . . Well, it’s pointless to sit around fantasizing, pleasant though it might be. It is odd, isn’t it, that the concept of a licence to kill seems so Romantic. It makes Bond seem larger than life. Why? Because it suggests that he has been liberated from the mundane, popular moralism that constrains and confuses us.

    In thinking about Blofeld and what must be done with him, Bond does not take time to ponder whether there might really be some good in everyone. (“After all, he does really seem to love that cat. He never goes anywhere without it . . .”) Nor does Bond feel the necessity to Mirandize Blofeld and turn him over to the proper authorities so that he can get due process and a speedy trial. No, Bond simply executes Blofeld (or he tries to – repeatedly).

    Bond electrocutes people, harpoons them, strangles them, feeds them to piranha fish, dumps them into pits of boiling mud, explodes them with shark gun pellets, drops them off cliffs, throws them from airplanes, sets them on fire, and sometimes just shoots them (often repeatedly: see how Bond executes Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me). Usually, after each execution, Bond utters a memorable witticism. After harpooning one man with a shark gun in Thunderball, Bond remarks “I think he got the point.” After dumping someone in a pool of piranha in You Only Live Twice, Bonds wishes the little critters “Bon appétit.”

    He doesn’t agonize over it later (though, admittedly, there’s a tiny bit of that in the novels). He doesn’t wonder if he did the right thing. No, one of the things that characterizes Bond is moral certainty. He knows who the bad guys are, and he knows they deserve it. And he doesn’t seem to wonder what God thinks about the matter either. No, Bond relies entirely on his own judgment, and is sure in his judgment. And sure of his moral authority to punish evildoers. This is the sort of thing that drives liberals crazy.

    But what is it that guides Bond’s moral judgment? Though he takes it upon himself to be judge, jury, and executioner, Bond is never arrogant or capricious in his decision to take a life. Bond is no sociopath. When the assassin Scaramanga suggests in The Man with the Golden Gun that he and Bond are morally equivalent, Bond responds, memorably, “There’s a useful four letter word. And you’re full of it.” Bond is beyond good and evil – but only in the sense that he’s beyond Christian (or liberal) moralizing. This is typified by the title Live and Let Die.

    The filmmakers have long employed a brilliant dramatic device that appears in most of the Bond films. At a certain point in the story, an ally of Bond (or, at least, a sympathetic character) will be killed by the villain or the villain’s henchmen. This introduces a note of pathos into what are often extremely lighthearted stories, and it also allows Bond to show some emotion and reveal some vulnerability (in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service he actually cries). But these scenes are important for yet another reason. Always up until that point in the story Bond has been pursuing his mission for Queen and Country. But the death of his friend makes the mission personal.

    However, it would not be accurate to say that from that moment forward Bond is acting for Bond. Rather, he is acting according to his own, personal sense of justice. And it is interesting that what catalyzes this is invariably that good-old-pagan virtue of loyalty, and that good-old-pagan desire for vengeance. This is, in fact, the entire premise of 1989’s Licence to Kill, which is actually an eloquent commentary on the very concept of the “licence to kill.” In the story, M revokes Bond’s licence. But Bond goes rogue, bent on avenging the brutalization of his friend Felix and the rape and murder of Felix’s fiancé. What the title of the film means is that although Bond’s legal licence to kill is revoked, the events of the story grant him a moral licence to kill. This is the stuff of the pagan, pre-Christian sagas.

    But what would Jesus do? Who bloody cares?! I’ve been asking myself for years “What would James Bond do?” Bond is my moral compass.

    Bond as Racialist and Nationalist

    Let’s talk a bit more about Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Odd name, isn’t it? It’s German, except for the middle name, because Blofeld is half German, half Greek.[11] This is a pattern we often find with Bond villains: they are mutts of some kind, or something other than what they appear to be. Dr. No is German and Chinese (a frightening combination, if ever there was one!). Not being British is bad enough, but these men are double trouble. Perhaps the most chilling example is Donovan Grant, the homicidal killer in From Russia With Love. Fleming provides us with the details of his paternity in one lurid sentence: “Donovan Grant was the result of a midnight union between a German professional weight-lifter and a Southern Irish waitress.” Poor fellow. One gets the impression that for Fleming having German ancestry must be one of the worst things that could befall a man. (Too bad for the Queen!)

    Clearly, Fleming was bothered by the idea of contamination by the non-white, and the not-quite-white. And he obviously endorsed the idea that “the wogs begin at Calais.” The filmmakers, probably without quite realizing it, have carried on this tradition. Perhaps someone will correct me, but I can’t think of a single villain in the Fleming novels or the films who’s genuinely English (aside from some very minor ones like Major Dexter Smythe in the “Octopussy” short story).

    Even the non-whites in Fleming are of mixed parentage. I’ve already mentioned Dr. No. Then there’s Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Fleming tells us that he was born in Haiti and is “half Negro and half French.” That novel, by the way, is usually cited as Fleming’s most racist. The book actually alternates between a kind of naïve, unselfconscious racism and overt attempts to be racially “broadminded.” When Bond is first briefed on Mr. Big he says

    “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a great Negro criminal before . . . Chinamen, of course, the men behind the opium trade. There’ve been plenty of big-time Japs, mostly in pearls and drugs. Plenty of Negros mixed up in diamonds and gold in Africa, but always in a small way. They don’t seem to take to big business.”

    But then Bond immediately follows this up with “Pretty law-abiding chaps, on the whole, I should have thought.” Not to be out-run on this race to fantasyland, M responds: “the Negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions – scientists, doctors, writers. It’s about time they turned out a great criminal. . . . They’ve got plenty of brains and ability and guts.” Perhaps M had just had a snort of Bond’s Benzedrine.

    But Fleming wasn’t fooling anybody. The title of Chapter Five in the British edition of Live and Let Die was “Nigger Heaven.” When it was published in the U.S. a year later this was changed to “Seventh Avenue,” and certain racially-charged passages were heavily censored.

    Aside from the villains that are foreign mixtures of various kinds, there are the ones who are pretending to be British – which is almost as bad. Sir Hugo Drax in the literary Moonraker is actually half German, but he’s passing himself off as a British war hero. Goldfinger is perhaps the most interesting case: he’s Latvian, but a naturalized British subject. The surname Goldfinger is almost always German-Jewish, which has led to some speculation as to whether the character – who is obsessed with amassing great hordes of gold – is intended to be a kind of anti-Semitic caricature.

    In the novel, Bond encounters Goldfinger for the first time in his hotel in Miami (just as in the film). Goldfinger is cheating a wealthy older gentleman at gin rummy – a fellow by the name of Du Pont, who happens to be an old friend of Bond’s. (Bond villains are not gentlemen: they tend to cheat at games. Goldfinger will cheat again at golf, Hugo Drax cheats at cards, Kamal Kahn cheats at backgammon in Octopussy, and Max Zorin cheats at horse racing in A View to a Kill.) Bond and Mr. Du Pont actually discuss whether or not Goldfinger might be Jewish. Du Pont says “You’d think he’d be a Jew from the name, but he doesn’t look it.” He then volunteers that were Goldfinger Jewish he would never have been admitted to the hotel (!).

    But Fleming may just have been trying to throw us off the scent. It’s a well-known fact that he borrowed the name of his most famous villain from his neighbor, the architect Ernö Goldfinger. (In the novel the character’s first name is Auric – a clever play on the chemical symbol for gold, Au.) Goldfinger the architect was indeed Jewish, and Fleming seems to have disliked him intensely. Goldfinger’s designs represented the worst of modern, post-war architecture.

    [37]

    The house that Goldfinger built — round the corner from Fleming’s place

    Ernö Goldfinger capitalized on post-war devastation and homelessness in Britain by creating some of the most hideous high-rise flats imaginable. His designs were completely devoid of charm, and anything suggesting Englishness. Ever the traditionalist, Fleming was horrified. And he was personally affected by it: Goldfinger had a number of cottages in Fleming’s neighborhood razed in order to make way for his new, butt-ugly modernistic home. The cherry on the cake is that Goldfinger also designed the post-war headquarters of the British Communist Party.

    When Fleming’s novel was published, Ernö Goldfinger threatened to sue. Fleming responded by suggesting the book be re-titled Goldprick (a move that would have delighted Austin Powers). However, Goldfinger was apparently pleased by the publicity the book brought him, so he dropped his case in exchange for Fleming paying his legal costs and six free copies of the book. While Fleming may have delighted in naming his villain after the odious architect, the characterization of Goldfinger is actually said to have been based on Charles W. Engelhard, Jr., an American millionaire involved in the precious metals industry, and thoroughbred horse racing (just like Auric Goldfinger). Engelhard was also Jewish.

    [38]

    Ernö Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower — a worse crime than robbing Fort Knox

    There were also “fake Englishmen” created exclusively for Bond’s cinematic exploits. Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye [39] (1995) starts off as a British agent – and friend of Bond – but turns out to be descended from Cossacks and bent on revenge against the U.K. (It’s a long story . . . ) Perhaps the most dramatic example in the Bond films of the “fake Englishman” is Gustav Graves in Die Another Day (2002; possibly the worst of the Pierce Brosnan Bonds). Graves actually turns out to be a North Korean mastermind who has undergone “gene therapy” and physically transformed himself into an Englishman. (Perhaps the most confused and implausible plot element in any Bond film.)

    Its one thing to be some heavily-accented, foreign counterjumper trying to pass himself off as an English gentleman. But the case of Graves suggests that there may be people out there who are genetic fakes: English, but not really. Come to think of it, doesn’t this describe Tony Blair and all the ethnomasochists of the Labour Party, who’ve pretty much destroyed England? And – ouch – doesn’t this also describe any American of English ancestry? Perhaps “gene therapy” is the solution to the U.K.’s immigration problem. They’d still be flooded with Pakis and Arabs, but at least they’d look English. (And let’s be quite honest with each other: to a significant degree, immigration is an aesthetic problem, as well as a cultural and racial one.)

    [40]

    Pervert and cat

    It’s not just their race and ethnicity that makes the Bond villains so frightening: they’re usually also physically and psychologically screwed up. Dr. No has no hands. Blofeld has a syphilitic scar in the novels (and what appears to be a dueling scar in one film). Emilio Largo is missing an eye. Tee Hee in Live and Let Die is missing a hand. Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun has a third nipple. Nick Nack, in the same film, is a dwarf. Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me has steel teeth, and Stromberg, in the novelization of that film, has webbed fingers. Max Zorin is the product of Nazi experiments. Alec Trevelyan is hideously scarred. Renard in The World is Not Enough is incapable of feeling pain or pleasure. And Le Chiffre in Casino Royale cries blood.

    In short, the Bond villains are “special.” In today’s world these people would all get to sit in the reserved benches at the front of the bus (even Scaramanga with his nipple: remember, not all disabilities are visible). But in Fleming’s world they are accorded no sympathy. In Fleming’s world there’s a healthy horror of physical abnormalities, and a Classically Greek intuition that what’s twisted on the outside is twisted on the inside. The flip side of this is the much-maligned Bondian focus on beauty. (Though what most feminist critics don’t seem to get is that Bond is offered to us as a sex object as well.)

    [41]

    Lesbo — Lotte Lenya as Klebb in From Russia With Love

    Then there are all those perversions. From Russia With Love is a veritable cavalcade of perverts. Rosa Klebb is a lesbian who gets off on torturing people. Donovan Grant is a serial killer who derives a sexual thrill from killing (but only when the moon is full! This didn’t make it into the film). Finally, another From Russia With Love assassin, Krilencu, also kills for pleasure. So does Vargas in Thunderball. Blofeld is described as asexual. Wynt and Kidd in Diamonds are Forever are gay. And Scaramanga only makes love prior to killing. This just scratches the surface.

    Thank god that physical deformity and sexual perversion don’t exist in Fleming’s England!

    Actually, the most iconic Bond villain of all may be Le Chiffre in the literary Casino Royale. “Le Chiffre” means “the cipher.” The man in question adopted this name after the war, when he was liberated from Dachau. He claimed to be suffering from total amnesia, and at first was unable to speak. He could not remember his nationality. (M’s dossier, however, states that he has “large [ear]lobes, indicating some Jewish blood”!) Nor could he even remember his own name. And so he adopted the name Le Chiffre, to express his complete lack of identity. Le Chiffre is the perfect modern villain – and a perfect villain for the first Bond adventure. He embodies everything that Bond is fighting against: he is a rootless cosmopolitan, a man without a country, and without any allegiances (other than to himself).

    Bond himself is the antithesis of this. Despite his Overmanish qualities, he’s a patriot who sees himself as serving Queen and Country. Much has been made of the fact that Bond is a kind of wish fulfillment for the post-imperial British. He came along at a time when British power and prestige were on the wane. But Bond allows the British to pretend that they are still a world power, and that it’s up to them to come to the rescue. There’s a lot to this analysis, actually. For one thing, isn’t it significant that Bond so often has to come to the aid of the hapless Americans? This actually begins in the novels, in which Bond is always ordering around Americans like Felix Leiter, who are portrayed as classless and inept. Kingsley Amis put it best, writing in The James Bond Dossier [42]:

    The point of Felix Leiter, such a nonentity as a piece of characterization, is that he, the American, takes orders from Bond, the Britisher, and that Bond is constantly doing better than he, showing himself, not braver or more devoted, but smarter, wilier, tougher, more resourceful—the incarnation of little old England with her quiet ways and shoestring budget wiping the eye of great big global-tentacled multi-billion-dollar-appropriating America.

    This is all true, and I suppose that if one sees things from this perspective, Bond (and Fleming) come off seeming a trifle pathetic. But the truth is that Bond doesn’t really have any illusions about British power and influence. He’s just fighting for his country. Not because he thinks it’s the greatest country in the world, or because he thinks it has a mission to civilize the rest of the planet. The loss of the Empire really makes no difference to him, because he doesn’t need a reason to love England and the English. He simply loves what is his own. Would that there were more Englishmen like James Bond. . . .

    Prospects for the Future

    [43]I am writing this some days prior to Skyfall’s release in the U.S. Based on the advance publicity, and reviews by critics in the U.K., I am cautiously optimistic.

    During the gap between 1989’s Licence to Kill and the first Pierce Brosnan film, GoldenEye [39] (1995), I worried that when Bond returned he would be made politically correct. But the producers actually seemed to signal that that wasn’t going to happen. In GoldenEye, the now-female M informs a bemused (and unrepentant) Bond that he’s a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.”

    Yes, I was bothered a little bit by the female M. (And puzzled as to why they hadn’t followed Sir Humphrey Appleby’s suggestion in Yes, Minister and changed the code name to F.) But the real head of MI6 at the time was a woman, and Judi Dench is a fine actress, so I was willing to go along with it. It also didn’t bother me that there were token blacks surrounding M. So what? And Pierce Brosnan bedding down with Halle Berry didn’t trouble me at all (from Octopussy to Octoroon, I suppose one might say). Afterall, Bond has been bedding non-white women since Dr. No. I don’t think he plans to have children with any of them.

    And I am also willing to overlook the fact that Bond no longer smokes. I still vividly recall an interview with Pierce Brosnan who described shooting a scene in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond is sitting in the dark, lying in wait in someone’s hotel room, wearing shirtsleeves, cradling his gun and drinking vodka (in short, kind of like a scene in Dr. No). Brosnan said the scene “just cried out for a cigarette.” But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. It would have been a bad influence on the kiddies. Let me get this straight: he’s sitting in the dark, swigging Smirnoff, about to kill someone – but smoking a cigarette would have sent impressionable viewers the wrong message? (Meanwhile, apparently, Brosnan was shooting Lark commercials in Japan.)

    Yes, I’m willing to forgive James Bond quite a lot, actually. And at this point I’m not really concerned that the producers will ruin the series with political correctness. They’re too smart for that. I am concerned, however, that many of the things I’ve discussed in this essay – things that make Bond Bond – are falling by the wayside.

    I was delighted with how the producers chose to “reboot” Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale. I had been saying for years that major changes needed to made; that the series was riding on nostalgia; that it had become stale. I also think that Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery. Why? Because he actually manages to make Bond into a three-dimensional, believable character. Timothy Dalton did this as well, but he somehow wasn’t quite the right “fit” – and Brosnan always gave me the impression of a man playing a man playing James Bond. However, one of the ways in which they’ve made the character more believable is to make him less self-possessed. This new Bond is unsure of himself in many ways. He seems a bit unstable, and is not fully in command of himself and his surroundings. He’s not riding the tiger yet. Maybe he’s learning to ride it, but I don’t know.

    And this new Bond has no critical distance from technology. There’s something about seeing James Bond with a cell phone pressed against his ear that really bothers me. He’s become too much like us. Too swamped by the tech. Too swamped by the organization. He seems smaller and more vulnerable. He seems beleaguered – as we all are today. Is the character going to continue growing and developing? Will he grow into the old James Bond, who showed us that it is possible to ride the tiger of modernity and not be trampled by it? I hope so.

    Despite my misgivings, I will be first in line to see Skyfall when it opens. And I have already ordered my 50th anniversary Blu-ray set [44] of all twenty-two earlier Eon productions Bond films. I’ve learned a whole lot about life from James Bond, and I will continue to defend Bond and continue seeing these films from now till my dying breath . . .

    . . . unless they make Bond black [45].[12]

    Notes

    [1] More sadism was borrowed from the same novel and placed in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only: Bond and the heroine are tied together and dragged over coral reefs.

    [2] Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, trans. William Scott Wilson (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1979), 23-24, emphasis added.

    [3] A “Major Boothroyd,” who is apparently supposed to be the same person as Q, appears in Dr. No. But there he is merely an “armourer,” who provides Bond with his famous Walther PPK. He is also not played by Desmond Llewelyn, the actor most famously associated with Q, but by Peter Burton.

    [4] John Brosnan, James Bond in the Cinema (London: Tantivy Press, 1972), 73.

    [5] I have actually amalgamated elements from both the novel and the film.

    [6] In the novel, he betrays the Tong society, who cut off his hands.

    [7] In the novel, Bond buries Dr. No under a pile of bat guano.

    [8] Brosnan, 11.

    [9] This is why Bond, as myth, is actually superior to Tolkien – and why he appeals to a wider audience.

    [10] It’s no surprise that Rand was gaga over Dr. No. But she disliked the later films, thinking that they undermined Bond’s mythic heroism.

    [11] He was born in Gdynia, Poland, when it was part of Germany.

    [12] Calm yourselves: this business about casting a black man as Bond has been around for years. It’s a publicity stunt.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Skyfall
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,353 words

    SPOILER ALERT! Do not read this essay until you have seen Skyfall. I would not want to ruin your experience of seeing the best James Bond film in many years.

    Bond films always seem to be judged “good” or “bad” relative to other Bond films. But Skyfall is not only a good Bond film, it’s a good film period. Daniel Craig apparently ran into Sam Mendes at a party and, on a whim, asked if he might be interested in directing a Bond film. This was a real stroke of good fortune, as Mendes’s Skyfall is perhaps the most exciting, visually arresting, and emotionally moving film in the entire series.

    In the old Sean Connery days the Bond films were both innovative and daring. The cinematography, editing, set design, and music set new standards and were endlessly imitated. The films were also considered daring in their violence and in their rather frank and amoral approach to sexuality. But though the Bond films have made gobs of money for fifty years, they have been neither innovative nor daring since the 1960s.

    Yes, they are still imitated. But it’s primarily the elements of the archetypal, ’60s Bond that have been the object of imitation. And, notoriously, the Bond films began imitating themselves practically as soon as the ’60s came to an end. Worse yet, Bond has often been guilty of following trends set by other films. First came the Blaxploitation Bond, Live and Let Die (1973). Then The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) tried to cash in on the popularity of martial arts movies. The nadir was reached when Moonraker (1979) took Bond into space, chasing after the Star Wars audience.

    But the Daniel Craig films, which “rebooted the franchise” (an expression I detest), have changed all that. These films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, are fresh, original, and feature cutting-edge talent in all areas. And Skyfall is the best of them, by far (better than Casino Royale, which was excellent, and far better than the lackluster Quantum of Solace, which appeared in 2008). This one is going to inspire imitators, and it is destined to be thought of as one of the “classics” in a series that might well celebrate its hundredth anniversary someday.

    Cinematographer Roger Deakins has filled Skyfall with scenes that are often extraordinarily beautiful (especially those set in Macau – a location Bond visited in The Man with the Golden Gun, but with rather less spectacular results). The acting is also the best in any Bond film. Craig has managed to turn Bond into a believable, three dimensional character. He is still larger than life, but he contains depths never plumbed by any other actor. And, yes, that includes Sean Connery. Craig is the better actor, and his is the more credible Bond. I realize that this is heresy, but the same opinion was recently put forward [2] (albeit more politely) by Roger Moore, who has never been accused of great acting. (Connery himself could not be reached for comment.) Judi Dench (as M) and Javier Bardem (as Silva, the villain) are also excellent.

    Skyfall’s screenplay (by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan) is fresh, the dialogue intelligent and snappy. There’s not a line in it that made me wince. Even Bond’s one-liners are excellent (leaving a Chinese thug to be devoured by a Komodo dragon, he quips, “Ah, the circle of life . . .”). The story is also thoroughly surprising and unpredictable. How many times have you been able to say that about a Bond movie? When A View to a Kill appeared in 1985, one critic commented, memorably, that going to see a Bond movie is like going to the zoo: you’re either pleased to see the same animals again, or you’re not. Gone are those days. Even Thomas Newman’s music score for Skyfall deserves praise: it’s a great improvement over David Arnold’s often shameless attempts to imitate John Barry. (I honestly think it’s the best non-Barry score for a Bond film.)

    The plot, as everyone knows by now, concerns a former MI6 agent (Bardem) out for revenge against M, who betrayed him years earlier to the Chinese. The story takes many twists and turns, but the basic simplicity of the villain’s motivations is actually a great virtue of this film. (Some Bond movies have plots so complicated they rival film noir.) It’s not the first time there has been a Bond revenge movie: 1989’s Licence to Kill has Bond going rogue, out for revenge against the villain, and the bad guy in 1995’s GoldenEye is motivated by revenge.

    But this film breaks with a lot of Bond plot conventions, and the major one concerns “the Bond girl.” The classic Bond formula actually involves three girls. Two of them usually only appear briefly. One is often killed, and sometimes one is an enemy agent (who also gets killed). The third is often introduced well into the film (e.g., Honey Rider in Dr. No, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger), but she sticks around until the end, and is the “female lead” of the production.

    Skyfall follows this formula – up to a point. There’s a black female MI6 agent named Eve (played by Naomie Harris) who’s introduced at the beginning of the film, then disappears for much of the rest of it. Then Bond encounters another female, this one held in thrall to the villain (another nod to The Man with the Golden Gun). She is Séverine (a name lifted from Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour), played by Bérénice Lim Marlohe. And she is the film’s “sacrificial lamb,” killed by Silva before Bond’s eyes. As I discussed in my essay “The Importance of James Bond [3],” this is a familiar plot device in the series. It’s there to allow Bond to show his human side, and to make us hate the villain more. Though here, curiously, Bond reacts coldly to Séverine’s death.

    The curious thing, however, is that after Silva blows poor Séverine away with his dueling pistol, no beautiful babe shows up to help Craig carry the rest of the film. There is no “third girl” in Skyfall. This struck me as strange . . . until I realized the obvious: in this film, M is the Bond girl. (A point which has been made by a number of reviewers.)

    In large measure, Skyfall is really about the relationship between Bond and M. It’s a relationship which hasn’t been explored much in the films. In Fleming’s novels, it’s made clear that Bond both loves and hates his boss. M is usually cold and stern with Bond – but there are occasional, brief flashes of fatherly affection. M is actually a keen psychologist, and he no doubt realizes that the best way to keep Bond on his toes is precisely through leavening his disapproval with only a small amount of warmth. Bond is, after all, an orphan who lost his father and mother at the age of eleven. Inevitably, he can’t help but see M as a father figure. And M is surely not above exploiting this.

    This dynamic between Bond and M was never explored on screen before the Daniel Craig era. And his films faithfully draw upon the problematic Bond-M relationship as depicted in the novels. Except, of course, that Craig’s M is a woman. And if anything, this makes the situation much, much more complicated.

    M is a mother figure to Bond, but she bosses him around like dear old dad might have. And though he is drawn to her and desires her approval, the truth is that no adult male ever quite gets used to taking orders from a woman. He loves M, and resents her at the same time – probably much more than he would a male M. To make matters even more complicated, M makes it abundantly clear – especially in Skyfall – that she is willing to throw Bond to the wolves if the situation demands it. Like all orphans, at some level Bond feels abandoned. He longs for the love of the mother who left him (twice in the Craig films he breaks into M’s apartment – wanting to be near her). But the love of his mother-substitute is more than a little doubtful. After all, she is willing to have him killed!

    Poor, confused Bond. The key difference, in fact, between Craig’s Bond and all the others is that he’s very believably screwed up. The Craig films explore all the psychological dynamics one would expect to find in the life of an orphan who becomes a cold-blooded, government assassin. And they do so very credibly, very plausibly. This extra depth to the Craig films makes all the difference in the world. As I’ve said, Bond is still larger than life, but he is no longer a kind of unapproachable cartoon superman (as Brosnan generally played him). We admire him, and we feel for him also.

    Much has been said about the Craig movies making Bond “relevant to today.” Indeed they do, but it has nothing to do with Bond banging black chicks (which he’s been doing since Live and Let Die), or wearing a Bluetooth headset. What has happened is that Bond has been made relevant to today’s younger males – mainly thirty-somethings (according to what I’ve read, the audience for Skyfall is overwhelmingly male and over the age of 25). Few male Bond fans are orphans, of course, but most feel arrested at some earlier stage of development. Arrested, for instance, by overbearing parents and a society that has never challenged them sufficiently. They . . . uh . . . we are all like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club [4], who calls himself “a thirty-year-old boy.” Like us, Bond is screwed up. But he holds up to us the possibility of transmuting the shit of our lives into gold.

    Skyfall takes the complicated dynamic of Bond’s relation to M and pushes it toward a climax that is truly bizarre and dreamlike – thick with symbolism and psychological catharsis. At the risk of understatement, it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a Bond film before. (And if you’ve made the mistake of reading this far before seeing the film then STOP – this is your last warning!)

    To make a long story short, Silva almost succeeds in killing M, and Bond realizes that the only way to protect her is take matters completely into his own hands and spirit her off to someplace safe. So, he essentially kidnaps M and tells her that they must go back “into the past.” The first stop on the way is to pick up Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. When the car is first seen, the audience in the theatre where I saw the film cheered and applauded (and I have read that audiences have reacted similarly all over the U.S. and Europe). In a delightful touch, Bond threatens to remove a censorious M from the car by firing the passenger ejector seat. Like a passive-aggressive Jewish mother, M grumbles “Go ahead. Eject me. See if I care.”

    They head north, all the way to the Scottish Highlands and to Bond’s ancestral home, Skyfall (this is not mentioned in Fleming, nor is the name ever explained in the film). It’s a broken down, disused old manse. One gets the impression that Bond has not seen it since he lost his parents. (Fleming tells us that after his parents died – in a climbing accident, no less – Bond was raised by his aunt Charmian in “the quaintly named hamlet of Pett Bottom near Canterbury in Kent.”) A kindly old caretaker named Kincade appears, a figure from Bond’s childhood, played by Albert Finney. And with the addition of this new character, a strange new dynamic is now established. M, of course, is cast in the role of Bond’s mother, while Kincade now emerges as a father figure. (In one amusing scene, he even tries to teach Bond to shoot! In another amusing touch, he hears “M” as “Em” and addresses her henceforth as Emma.)

    They know that Silva will eventually track them down, so Bond is keen to find out if the gun cabinet is still well-stocked. Alas, all the guns have been sold to an American collector (it just had to be an American, didn’t it?). All that remains is the old hunting rifle that had belonged to Bond’s father (inscribed with the initials “AB,” for Andrew Bond). And a knife. “Sometimes the old ways are best,” says Kincade, laying the knife on the table. Bond and Kincade then lay a number of clever booby traps for the villains. A last resort for M, should the going get really rough, is a secret passage leading out of the house, built centuries earlier.

    Rifles, knives, secret passages, escapes across (and under) the heath. It’s all very, very “low tech.” In my essay “The Importance of James Bond,” I discussed Bond’s equivocal relationship to technology, and I expressed the concern that Daniel Craig’s Bond was becoming too tech-friendly. I’m happy to say that Skyfall has allayed all my concerns about this. From beginning to end, this film is strongly traditionalist, and deeply skeptical about the “blessings” of technology.

    Indeed, the event that catalyzes the whole story is the theft of a hard drive that stores the identities of all British agents who have infiltrated terrorist organizations. Smart move, putting all that on somebody’s hard drive. Naturally, Silva gets ahold of it. And then he hacks into MI6’s network and brings it down. Oh, and then he blows up MI6’s high-tech HQ! M and company are forced to relocate to a bunker used by Churchill during World War Two. All of this is importantly symbolic: the gee-whiz computer technology overused in Quantum of Solace is gone. Now all that can save the day is Bond’s cleverness and guts.

    But the “experts,” armed with electrocardiograms, word association tests, and other paraphernalia pronounce Bond unfit for duty. Bugger the experts! Bond proves them all wrong, accomplishing what techne pronounced impossible. And he does it with precious little from the new Q, now a young computer geek. Q equips him with exactly two gadgets: a gun that only he can fire and a little radio. “Not exactly Christmas, is it?” quips Bond. But the both the little radio (actually, a homer not unlike the one he used way back in Goldfinger) and the gun (a similar gun appears in Licence to Kill) save his life.

    At one point we see M is testifying before a subcommittee of the House of Commons, being grilled by “experts” who think that putting actual agents in the field is rather old fashioned in this high tech world. Patiently, M – no stranger to high tech, but souring on it – explains to them why the old ways really are best. Then, in a scene that made me tear up, she quotes Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses,” as her men risk their lives in the streets to stop Silva:

    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    And where does it all wind up? Again, with a journey back in time. All tech is gone. Bond is reduced to loading a hunting rifle, setting booby traps, and strapping a knife to his body. And the tough, ball-busting M is reduced as well – reduced to being a woman who must be rescued by a man. But Bond himself is not personally reduced. He has returned to this strange, primal scene, and has been reunited with his “mother” and “father.” But now he must do what he was unable to do when he was a child, but which he can do as a man: he must save them from death. In doing so, he exorcizes these ghosts from his past.

    I won’t discuss all the details of what follows. But I must correct one omission in what I’ve said above. The one piece of “tech” Bond makes use of is the Aston Martin. I was pleased that, unlike some of the other films in which the car has reappeared, some sensible use was actually made of it here. Bond hides in the car, then fires its front machine guns at Silva’s men as they approach the house. But this use of tech delighted me – and it has important symbolic significance. Today’s younger audiences tend to look down their noses at anything predating the era of the internet (I’ve even heard young audiences laugh out loud at rotary phones). Here the one piece of tech Bond utilizes – with deadly effect – is that old-fashioned, pre-electronic Aston Martin from that hopelessly old-fashioned film that grandpa loves.

    In the end, Bond winds up killing Silva with the lowest-tech gadget imaginable: the knife seen earlier, plunged deep into Silva’s back. Much to my shock, M then dies in Bond’s arms, of wounds suffered during the attack on the house. And, yes, I shed a tear at this as well. But, in my defense, so does Bond! This is only the second time in the history of the series that Bond has cried. The first time, of course, was in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Blofeld murdered Bond’s bride, Tracey. That was a moving scene as well, but Craig is a much better actor than George Lazenby, and this time we actually see the tears, which seem quite real (in OHMSS we don’t actually see the tears, we just hear Bond sob). I thought of OHMSS as I watched this scene, as Bond cradles his “mother” here much as he does Tracey. That there is something Oedipal to this is more than obvious. The film’s entire Scotland sequence plays like a long, Freudian dream.

    But this is not all. The final scene of the film is extraordinary. Eve, the black MI6 agent seen earlier, returns and reveals herself to be Eve Moneypenny (who never had a first name in the books or any earlier film). At the beginning of the film she accidentally shoots and almost kills Bond. (Memo to the screenwriters: there’s a reason that there aren’t any black female sharpshooters in real life.) Now she has decided to take a new job: as M’s receptionist. Sometimes the old ways are best . . .

    And what of M himself? The new M is Mallory, a character seen earlier, played by Ralph Fiennes. But the most extraordinary thing of all is that his office is a recreation of the one seen in the old Bernard Lee days, complete with the padded leather door. Gone are the female M’s high-tech digs from the past six films. And M has gone back to being a man! Yes, it bears repeating, sometimes the old ways really are best. And this film returns us to them. It is an unabashed celebration of tradition, and a clear reaction against the “modernizing” of Bond that has taken place since GoldenEye. It is, in fact, a reaction against much of modernity itself. And – if I do say so – as a confirmation of the thesis I advanced in “The Importance of James Bond” it is everything I could have wished for. “James Bond is back!” the ads always proclaim. Indeed he is.

    I’m such a big Bond fan I once had a nightmare that I had gone to see “the new Bond film” and found it to be an unimaginably lame and pathetic failure (sort of how Indiana Jones fans must have felt when they went to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). But Skyfall feels like I went to sleep and dreamed of that Bond film than which no greater can be conceived. One that not only delivers in terms of action, thrills, and all the traditional Bondian elements – but which also contains philosophical and psychological depth of a kind I never expected to find in this series.

    I cannot praise Skyfall enough. Do yourself a favor and see it today. Even if you don’t think you like Bond films, see it anyway. This one will convert you.

     

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Jay Dyer2
Esoteric Hollywood



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ 𝐄𝐃𝐆𝐘 🔥 𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐓𝐄𝐍𝐓 🔥 𝐖𝐀𝐑𝐍𝐈𝐍𝐆 🔥 (𝐍𝐒𝐅𝐖?) ⚠️

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  • Hollywood Voodoo: Jay Dyer...

    Ed Opperman of the Opperman Report invited me on to discuss Hollywood magic and the art of deciphering film.  In this conversation we cover new ground with Baron Samedhi and Live...

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  • Esoteric Hollywood –...

    Stream or download hour 1 free here.  Jamie Hanshaw joins me to answer questions from listeners and analyze 5 Hollywood presentations of Voodoo and Hoodoo: The Believers, Serpent and the...

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Murray N. Rothbard (a.k.a. Mr. First Nighter)1
The Mises Institute



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Arts and Movies - Vol. 5.7, July 1973

    The Heartbreak Kid. dir. by Elaine May. With Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepherd, Jeannie Berlin, and Eddie Albert. If, in the old adage, “it takes one to know one,” we can perhaps understand some of the brilliance with which the team of Nichols and May hilariously and acidulously satirized the typical conversation and thought-processes of New York-liberal-Jewish intellectuals in their great records of the 1950s and early 60s. Since then, Mike Nichols has gone on to ape the pretentiousness of the people he once satirized, leaving Elaine May to mine the comic vein alone. Her first movie, A New Leaf, was simply and happily hilarious, starring the great comedic talent of Walter Matthau, but lacked the old social bite of former days. In The Heartbreak Kid, Miss May returns to her old genre, and with the notable exception of Philip Roth, no one is as adept in exploring the cultural differences and conflicts between the Jewish and the goyishe worlds. Heartbreak Kid is a brilliantly crafted…

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The American Conservative Staff1
The American Conservative



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • 007's Masculine Mystique
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Fiction sometimes has a way of transcending its most ardent limitation, which is that it is fiction. Just ask Eric Holder, who probably never thought he’d be cast as the villain in a Vin Diesel flick. Fiction’s most successful transcending phenomenon, though, is probably Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007, haberdasher’s muse and the world’s most famous secret agent (never mind the oxymoron). Ever en vogue, Bond this summer made a cameo during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics—an impressive feat for any actual man, let alone a made-up one. But then transforming from fictional character to Olympic ambassador is probably an easier task for Bond than his other real-life obligation: defending the West against itself. Kingsley Amis’s Bond Two things struck me while recently re-watching “The Spy Who Loved Me,” the tenth James Bond film and the one that the 12 year-old in me still remembers as having starred Caroline Munro. Roger Moore’s turn as 007 may not have been as literary as Timothy Dalton’s or Daniel Craig’s, but he still interpreted the role as something far edgier than Beau Maverick in a tux, even if he doesn’t get credit for it. More importantly: even though I’ve always seen very little attenuation between Ian Fleming’s novels and Cubby Broccoli’s screen treatments, I could never explain why. Until now. I’ve finally realized that Fleming’s Bond (often brooding, sometimes sadistic and occasionally cruel) and the cinematic incarnation (often quick to quip and far more obsessed with sex) exist in the same world, one that shares very little with the world that you or I inhabit. But it’s not the metal-jawed giants, volcanic lairs, and poisonous gardens that differentiate Bond’s world from ours. It’s the politics. Bond doesn’t have a political agenda in the usual sense. In fact, much has been written about the apolitical context within which Bond is usually framed. The Soviets were seldom the primary antagonists, often giving way to politically nonaffiliated madmen who hate East and West indiscriminately. Domestic issues are rarely evoked: there’s some tangential racism in Fleming’s Live and Let Die (attributable to the mores of the time and a Tom Wolfe-like attempt at recreating some urban dialect); there’s a nondescript energy crisis that has everybody—even stiff-collared Tories—up in arms in Guy Hamilton’s underrated “The Man with the Golden Gun;” “Quantum of Solace” portrays an ecologically savvy terrorist. But other than that, and some similar peripherals, the only extent to which Bond has ever been accused of being political has been the occasional complaint from the enlightened left that the world of espionage entails a far greater moral ambiguity than all the girls, gadgets and martinis suggest. (Which is fine. But Jason Bourne is still a whiny bore.) This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any political appeal to James Bond. In fact, the more I revisit the world of Bond, the more I find that there is a consistently recurring political subtext to Fleming’s novels and the soon-to-be 23 films. Kingsley Amis thought so, too. In his extended essay The James Bond Dossier he wrote: The England for which Bond is prepared to die, like the reasons why he’s prepared to die for it, is largely taken for granted. This differentiates it, to its advantage, from the England of most Englishmen. … Negative virtues are even more important in escapist than in enlightening literature, and not the least of the blessings enjoyed by Mr. Fleming’s reader is his absolute confidence that whatever any given new Bond may contain, it will not contain bitter protests or biting satire or even witty commentary about the state of the nation. We can get all of that at home. … Politically, Bond’s England is substantially right of center. As the title of the eleventh volume uninhibitedly proclaims, royalty is at the head of things. … An unwontedly emotional passage near the end of Doctor No shows Bond … conferring in the office of the Governor of Jamaica and thinking of home. … ‘His mind drifted into a world of tennis courts and lily pads and kings and queens, of London, of people being photographed with pigeons on their heads in Trafalgar Square…’ The films largely share this trait, portraying Bond as “Her Majesty’s loyal terrier, defender of the so-called faith.” But why is royalty at the head of all things? British institutions, after all, don’t matter so much to real-life Britons. Consider the Queen’s Jubilee earlier this year. All pomp, but what of the circumstance? What the Queen timelessly stands for—empire, class, obligation, responsibility and even Britannia herself—are things today’s British, unlike Bond, reject. This—and not the sex, sadism, and snobbery—is the allure for the Bond fantasist. 007’s Britain is antiquated. It’s not the Britain of Cameron and Clegg. It’s the one with a penchant for staying tyrants—of either the mustachioed or the vertically-challenged variety—and the one that gave us pocket calculators, steel warships, jet airplanes, and loads of other cool stuff. Bond’s Britain is relevant, wealthy, and influential, still a beacon of Western ingenuity. This as opposed to the more accurate depiction of the sterile, cynical, stymied Britain of, say, George Smiley or Harry Palmer. Amis preferred the Fleming mold: I also find a belief, however unreflecting, in the rightness of one’s cause more sympathetic than the anguished cynicism and the torpid cynicism of Messrs le Carré and Deighton. More useful in an adventure story anyway, and more powerful—so powerful that when the frogman’s suit arrives for Bond in Live and Let Die, I can join with him in blessing the efficiency of M’s “Q” Branch, whereas I know full well that given postwar standards of British workmanship, the thing would either choke him or take him straight to the bottom. The next time you roll your eyes at the implausibility of invisible Aston-Martins, consider this possibility: it’s not that Bond’s adventures are completely inauthentic, as opposed to the realistic yarns of le Carré—it’s just that in Fleming’s universe, Europeans didn’t stop being industrious once they were introduced to paid leave and exuberant pensions. It’s been said that Bond’s Britain is okay with American superiority. This is preposterous. We “cousins” are well regarded in the Bond realm, but make no mistake, our purpose in a Bond adventure is to be told what’s what by our former colonial masters. Bond may well hold “individual Americans with the highest respect,” says Amis, but “in the plural they’re the neon lit, women-dominated, conspicuous consumers of popular sociology.” Of course, the movies are far more Americanized than the novels. But even there, Amis has a point: has Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA ally, ever done anything other than take “orders from Bond, the Britisher [while] Bond is constantly doing better than he, showing himself not braver or more devoted, but smarter, wilier, tougher, more resourceful—the incarnation of little old England with her quiet ways”? Answer: No. A Sexist Dinosaur Britain’s postwar doldrums remolded Englishmen into something less than their former selves.  This was the real-world environment into which James Bond was born. Bond, Sean Connery told Playboy back in 1965, was a refreshing change of pace for the “predominately grey” Britain of the mid-20th century. 007 displayed characteristics that were then rare and appealing, chief among them: his “self-containment, his powers of decision, his ability to carry on through ‘til the end and to survive. There’s so much social welfare today that people have forgotten what it is to make their own decisions rather than to leave them to others. So Bond is a welcome change.” Yet Bond wasn’t really a change so much as he represented an inherited idea of high-minded masculinity—inherited, I think, not from Ian nor from the commandos and officers the author knew from Naval Intelligence, but from Ian’s father. Major Valentine Fleming was a Tory MP from Henley and an officer of the Oxfordshire Hussars during World War I. He died near Picardy, France, in the trenches, in May 1917, after which he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Incidentally, a fellow named Winston Churchill wrote the major’s obituary: [Major Fleming] had that foundation of spontaneous and almost unconscious self-suppression in the discharge of what he conceived to be his duty without which happiness, however full … is imperfect. That these qualities are not singular in this generation does not lessen the loss of those in whom they shine. As the war lengthens and intensifies … it seems as if one watched at night a well-loved city whose lights, which burn so bright, which burn so true, are extinguished in the distance in the darkness one by one. It’s no coincidence that James Bond, like his creator, is an orphan. And if you read carefully between the lines—or listen closely to the give-and-take on screen—you’ll notice that Bond’s relationship with his superior “M” always plays much like the relationship between a headstrong adolescent and a stern, hard-of-praise father, as if both Fleming and Bond are straining for fatherly guidance. (That give-and-take, by the way, is something that Bernard Lee and Robert Brown always get right on-screen and that Judi Dench, by definition, cannot; in fact, the brilliance of “GoldenEye” lies in Pierce Brosnan’s discontent with having a female chief, while the shortcoming of subsequent entries lies in his acceptance of female superiority.) Ian Fleming always denied that he shared character traits with his creation—he said that Bond was merely a composite of his war colleagues. But it’s hard to say that he shared no traits whatsoever: Bond’s penchant for scrambled eggs, short-sleeve Sea Island cotton shirts, and liquor, women, and gambling are reflections of Ian. And Bond’s operational prowess is definitely drawn from the commandos Fleming knew during World War II. But Bond’s intangible virtues are Valentine’s—and, no, these virtues may not have been singular then, but they are quite un-plural now. Where Valentine’s contemporaries took to the trenches, the young men of today’s Britain riot in the streets.  That’s what a half-century of self-entitlement does to a society: it takes the backbone out of people while simultaneously giving them notions of grandeur. This makes them malleable. Make enough people malleable and you can make them, en masse, believe in any fancy or whim. Want to know why gay marriage is inevitable? Because today’s man, coerced into believing in his own emasculation, would introduce himself to a lesbian named Pussy Galore by saying: “I respect your lifestyle choice.” When James Bond met a lesbian named Pussy Galore, he slept with her. James Bond: the opposite of self-entitlement. Pieties, Shaken and Stirred The New York Times’s film review of “Live and Let Die” noted that the Bond movies hold a “certain insolence toward public pieties.” This certainly seems true. But why then are the films—like the books before them—so incredibly popular? The answer is that, like with any good spy, Bond has proven adept at creating a little misdirection here and there. Raymond Chandler famously suggested that Bond was “what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets.” This is generally perceived to mean that men want to be Bond because he daringly saves the world from megalomaniacal madmen while bedding women who lust after him because he’s dangerous. But what if all of this were just cover? What if men wanted to be Bond because secretly—or maybe not so secretly—they wanted to be less neutered, more decisive, more graceful under pressure, more accountable, and less postmodern? Until now Bond’s been a consistent character. The films sometimes have bordered on self-parody, but he’s always been the same decisive, sometimes cruel, woman-dominating Briton, believing in duty, obligation, and the Crown. Daniel Craig’s incumbency guarantees us that this will continue (with much less of the self-parody), but I worry for how long. I detected a hint of Jason Bourne-like cynicism in the last entry, “Quantum of Solace,” where, in a first for a James Bond flick, the CIA gets into bed with nefarious types and Her Majesty’s government willingly complies. Craig, though, is not only a good Bond, he’s a smart actor. He knows his character. I therefore wonder if he’s ever read Fleming’s original version of “Quantum,” which bore no relation to the movie. It was a short story, in the Somerset Maugham mold, in which Bond reflects that the dramas of ordinary people may be greater and more meaningful than his own. He’s right, of course. Men like James Bond are expendable for a reason. Take away that reason and you take away the nobility—and the purpose—in their expendability. If audiences thought of that, I wonder if they’d see past Bond’s sex and gadgets and superficiality, wonderful and fun though they may be, and realize what really makes James Bond appealing. The reality for ordinary men and women is that we need to reassert some dignity in our ordinary lives. But that reality can’t overcome the pieties of modern discourse: we claim to like our men less assertive and less masculine and less accountable, and we claim to like our governments mired and enabling. James Bond may be unflappable. He may bed women like Caroline Munro, and he may be MGM’s saving grace. And above all he is durable—come this fall his latest big-screen adventure, “Skyfall,” hits theaters almost 50 years to the day after Sean Connery debuted as the suave super spy in “Dr. No.” But the one thing 007 can’t do is save us from ourselves. Stephen B. Tippins Jr. is an attorney practicing in Buford, Georgia. ]]>
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PJ Media Staff2
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Hundreds of Drive-In Theaters May Close Permanently
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle There are only 356 drive-in theaters left in the U.S. and the majority of them may close at the end of this season if they don’t upgrade to expensive digital equipment. Hollywood movie studios will stop producing movies in 35mm film in 2013 and a large number of the remaining drive-ins in the country cannot afford the estimated $80,000 to upgrade to digital.Drive-in theaters are woven into the fabric of American culture — at their peak in 1958 there were over 5000 drive-ins in the U.S. Many couples and families have fond drive-in memories — they evoke images of the past, when Americans were unplugged from technology and the entire family could spend an evening sitting in the fresh air in lawn chairs (or a beat up car) enjoying a movie for a reasonable price. And B.Y.O.S. — Bring Your Own Snacks — no need to smuggle Milk Duds into the theater in your pants!My parents used to take our family to the drive-in dressed in our pajamas so they could just toss us into bed when we arrived home after the late show. We would feast on huge Tupperware bowls of homemade popcorn and drink Pepsi from glass bottles. I have a vivid memory of the funeral march scene from the 1973 James Bond flick, Live and Let Die.  I was in third grade and our parents — not really the sheltering types —  thought we would be asleep by the second movie that night (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here).  I don’t think I slept soundly for months after that.Remember the clunky silver sound box that hung on your car window before the theaters converted to FM sound? And the etiquette that all but a few miscreants willingly followed to make everyone’s experience more pleasant — parking lights only, keep your foot off the brake pedal, don’t obstruct the view with your hatch, large vehicles at the back.I cherish memories of drive-in dates and groups of friends crammed into my best friend's Chevy Nova to take advantage of the per car rate (it’s still only $18/per car in our area). Later, when we had kids of our own, my husband took our boys to see Spider Man, Iron Man, and a host of other superhero movies for their boys’ nights out. We also joined other families who all parked together — tailgate party style — with coolers full of juice boxes, fruit, cheese, and baby carrots. Those were the years we had to park in the back row because we all had minivans. Fortunately, there was enough adult humor in Shrek and Night at the Museum to make it fun for the adults as well as the kids, despite the minivans and the healthy culinary choices. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/8/23/hundreds-of-drive-in-theaters-may-close-permanently-at-end-of-season/ previous Page 1 of 2 next   ]]>
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  • The 5 Best and 5 Worst James Bond Theme Songs
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle Fans of the James Bond films look forward to the theme songs as much as anything else. There's a thrill to hearing a new 007 theme over the movie's creative, sexy title sequences. The theme songs have set the tone for Bond in 19 of the 22 films in the series.We've seen 007 theme songs that range from the low-key (Nancy Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice" in 1967) to the heavy-hitting (Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" in 2006) to the truly bizarre (I'm looking at you, Jack White & Alicia Keys). No matter how good or bad the song, a Bond theme is an integral part of the experience.In honor of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, I present to you the five best theme songs of the series, followed by the five worst. A couple of years ago I shared my own personal favorites on my website, but with this list I'm looking at the songs with critical and historical eyes.5. Louis Armstrong, “We Have All The Time In The World,” from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)On Her Majesty’s Secret Service stands as a bit of an anomaly among Bond movies. The film marked George Lazenby’s only appearance as 007, and the plot centered around eternal bachelor Bond getting married and becoming a widower. It’s also one of only three entries in the series not to have a song over the opening credits -- the other ones were Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Instead, the beautiful “We Have All The Time In The World” plays during a romantic sequence later on in the film. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service - We Have All The Time In The World', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Composer John Barry chose Louis Armstrong to perform the ballad, and Barry later picked it as one of his two favorite Bond theme songs, both for the beauty of the music and the pleasure of working with the jazz legend.“We Have All The Time In The World” has endured as a favorite, especially among the Brits. Artists as diverse as Iggy Pop, the Puppini Sisters, and Michael Ball have covered the song, and respondents to a 2005 poll ranked it as the third most popular wedding song in the United Kingdom. I even read a few years back where some British churches used the song in worship services. The song might not spring to mind as a classic Bond theme, but Armstrong still provided a rare moment of grace.4. Tom Jones, “Thunderball,” from Thunderball (1965)The second song to appear over the title sequence of a Bond film has an interesting history. Initially, Barry and lyricist Leslie Bricusse penned a song titled “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” named for an Italian journalist’s nickname for 007. United Artists balked, insisting that the song have the same title as the movie. Barry teamed up with Don Black to rush out a new title song. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Thunderball Opening Title Sequence', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Johnny Cash also submitted a song but the studio rejected it. Check it out here.Tom Jones gave one of his bravura performances on “Thunderball” but not without paying a price. Jones passed out after belting the climactic high note. Years later he said:I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.“Thunderball” continued a new tradition: dramatic title songs that set the tone for the whole film. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/3/29/the-5-best-and-5-worst-james-bond-theme-songs/ previous Page 1 of 4 next   ]]>
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Kyle Smith1
National Review



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Paul McCartney for Best Original Song
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Paul McCartney saw “Everybody’s Fine,” the new Robert De Niro dramedy about a lonely widower determined to bring his family together by visiting each of his children in turn around the holidays, and decided to write a lovely song that plays over the closing credits. The story is here. I think McCartney stands an excellent chance to finally win a Best Original Song Oscar (he was nominated for “Live and Let Die” and “Vanilla Sky”). He might be competing with U2, which has a song playing over the closing credits of Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers,” which like “Everybody’s Fine” opens tomorrow. (The U2 song is a fairly weak effort, though.) The new Jeff Bridges country-western movie “Crazy Heart,” meanwhile, has an excellent group of (I think) original songs, one or more of which could easily be nominated, although I doubt the Academy includes a lot of country fans.]]>
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    (Review Source)

The Federalist Staff1
The Federalist



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • A Woman's Guide To The 15 Best (And 5 Worst!) James Bond Girls
    (”Live and Let Die” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    A Woman’s Guide To The 15 Best (And 5 Worst!) James Bond Girls November 6, 2015 By Mollie Hemingway Spectre, the new James Bond film, is finally out and to mixed reviews. What better time to reflect on the best and worst Bond girls the franchise has ever seen? Bond has changed over the years from a serial seducer of women to a more progressive, if sexually more boring, spy who you wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find out was questioning his sexuality. As Bond has changed, so have the women. But the best Bond women — sometimes villains, sometimes victims, sometimes both — are gorgeous in a swimming suit, tough but vulnerable, and very smart. The worst are gorgeous in a swimming suit, which is not nothing! Here’s a completely arbitrary list of one woman’s favorite and least favorite Bond girls. Feel free to add yours or take issue with my assessment in the comments. Worst: Dr. Christmas Jones The Film: The World Is Not Enough (1999)Played By: Denise RichardsWhy?: “Christmas comes only once a year.” I’m a fan of Richards, whose cinematic achievements include the role of White She Devil in Undercover Brother, the most important film of 2002. Her assets are ample, and there is something charming about her acting limitations. But wow is this bad. Richards plays a brilliant nuclear scientist who wears very little clothing and is named Christmas Jones for the sole reason that the writers wanted to make the joke above. Even for Bond puns, this one’s a croaker. And unfortunately Richards doesn’t hold her own in this very important role. You can watch the worst Christmas puns here. Weakest: Stacey Sutton The Film: A View To A Kill (1985)Played By: Tanya RobertsWhy?: Critics hated this movie. It was more product placement than plot, and Roger Moore was simply too old to play the part. But it had a lot going for it — great song, Christopher Walken as the villain, the amazing Grace Jones doing her thing. But wow was Roberts a weak Bond girl. She said recently that she believed the movie had cursed her from getting subsequent roles. In fact, it may just have been her acting that limited her future prospects. Most Lackluster Character: Solitaire The Film: Live And Let Die (1973)Played By: Jane SeymourWhy?: Seymour is a beautiful woman. Her character was kind of meh and unmemorable. Least Present: Paris Carver The Film: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)Played By: Teri HatcherWhy?: Hatcher reportedly only took the part to fulfill her husband’s desire to be married to a Bond girl. But even so, her inability to embrace her character was notable. She was also pregnant during filming, so maybe a case of morning sickness kept her from really throwing herself into the subtle and complex character that Bond girls are known for. Most Disappointing: Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson The Film: Die Another Day (2002)Played By: Halle BerryWhy?: No snag. Berry is a gorgeous woman. And her homage to Ursula Andress is great. She played the Bond girl role right after winning an Oscar, making her easily one of the most high-profile Bond girls in history. Which is why her actual role was disappointing. The entire movie was weak, and while her orange bikini is one for the ages, it did a better job of acting than she did. Berry’s character didn’t actually contribute much to the movie’s plot, and she didn’t really seem convincingly interested in Bond or vice versa. OK, now let’s move on to the best Bond girls. #15: Lucia Sciarra The Film: Spectre (2015)Played By: Monica BellucciWhy?: OK, so maybe she won’t deserve to be on this list, but Bellucci is an intriguing choice for Bond girl. She has a powerful screen presence, and at age 50, she’s the oldest Bond girl woman yet. She’s so sexy that she might even reinvigorate Bond’s lagging libido. #14: Mary Goodnight The Film: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)Played By: Britt EklandWhy?: I have such a strong dislike for the ditzy, pining Bond girl. The one exception is Ekland, who embraces the role and makes it sympathetic and more complex than most others. #13: Tiffany Case The Film: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)Played By: Jill St. JohnWhy?: St. John plays the rival of Plenty O’Toole for Bond’s affections. She wins, in no small part thanks to O’Toole ending up underwater in a pool. Kind of ditzy, but more naive, and very funny for a Bond girl. #12: Andrea Anders/Octopussy The Films: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) and Octopussy (1983)Played By: Maud AdamsWhy?: Such a good Bond girl, Adams came back for a second round. Her role as Miss Anders is oddly compelling, playing a woman who is in a bad situation and both scared and desperate to get out of it. She is calm and determined, even if she ends up dead. In Octopussy she is less compelling, beginning as a villain (but not much of one) before coming to the good side. #11: Lupe Lamora The Film: License to Kill (1989)Played By: Talisa SotoWhy?: On the strength of her kiss with Bond alone. #10: Pussy Galore The Film: Goldfinger (1964)Played By: Honor BlackmonWhy?: Everything: the name, the fashion, the ridiculous career (leader of a flying circus), the villainy, the humor, and that she is an alluring sex object and five years older than Connery. #9: Jill Masterson The Film: Goldfinger (1964)Played By: Shirley EatonWhy?: Yes, this movie was swimming in good Bond girls. Intelligent and kind, she’s first seen helping Goldfinger cheat at card games. After she betrays him and ends up in bed with Bond, she’s killed in most dramatic fashion (see above!). #8: May Day The Film: A View To A Kill (1985)Played By: Grace JonesWhy?: Everyone hates this film, but I kind of love it because of Jones — one of the most compelling performers around. Even though the movie didn’t do much with her, it did enough. A vicious villain, she is one of the few women convincingly cast as physically dangerous. Her sexual confidence oozes everywhere and is impossible to ignore. She’s tremendously underrated and if you missed this recent New York Times profile, be sure to read it. Also this NSFW hula-hoop performance of “Slave To The Rhythm.” #7: Wai Lin The Film: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)Played By: Michelle YeohWhy?: She was easily the best thing about this movie and completely held her own against Bond. Not as a Bond girl, per se, but as an action star in her own right. #6: Anya Amasova (Agent Triple X) The Film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)Played By: Barbara BachWhy?: I always thought Bach was the perfect Bond girl for a movie whose theme song was “Nobody Does It Better,” sung by Carly Simon. Amasova is a KGB agent who is extremely tough and fearless. And looks great with a gun. #5: Dominetta “Domino” Vitali The Film: Thunderball (1965)Played By: Claudine AugerWhy?: She’s the mistress of the villain but has an immediate connection with Bond when he rescues her in a freak underwater accident. There are so many bathing suits! And they’re all fantastic. Also dramatic rescues. Auger’s Domino is better than Kim Basinger’s later version, but they’re both pretty good. #4: Tracy Bond The Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)Played By: Diana RiggWhy?: The only woman to marry Bond, and the only Bond woman for George Lazenby. Unlike most Bond girls who just served to advance the plot, Rigg exuded cool in her own right in a way that very few other Bond girls have. #3: Vesper Lynd The Film: Casino Royale (2006)Played By: Eva GreenWhy?: Nearly the platonic ideal of a Bond girl. She was unbelievably sexy and also managed to cultivate a real air of mystery around her character. She was a major reason why the franchise came roaring back. #2: Fiona Volpe The Film: Thunderball (1965)Played By: Luciana PaluzziWhy?: She’s a secondary villain in the movie and so interesting. She also belittles Bond in such a hot way. Right before taking him captive, she says: “But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue…but not this one!” Also, her betrayal and death are pretty epic. #1: Honey Ryder The Film: Dr. No (1962)Played By: Ursula AndressWhy?: Mostly the bathing suit, but there is something about Andress that is enchanting even with more clothing. Her speaking and singing parts were dubbed in, but the role she embodied is iconic — a beautiful woman, somewhat liberated from sexual mores, needing the aid of Bond. She added the mystery and gobsmacking beauty that stick with us to this day. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway 007 Barbara Bach Britt Ekland Dr. No James Bond Jill St. John Luciana Paluzzi Monica Bellucci Octopussy Spectre Talisa Soto The Man With The Golden Gun Thunderball Ursula Andress Copyright © 2017 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1463670073398-2'); }); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({mode:'thumbs-2r', container:'taboola-below-main-column-mix', placement:'below-main-column', target_type:'mix'}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({flush:true}); 0 Comments /* * * CONFIGURATION VARIABLES: EDIT BEFORE PASTING INTO YOUR WEBPAGE * * */ var disqus_shortname = 'thefederalist23'; // required: replace example with your forum shortname /* * * DON'T EDIT BELOW THIS LINE * * */ (function() { var dsq = document.createElement('script'); dsq.type = 'text/javascript'; dsq.async = true; dsq.src = '//' + disqus_shortname + '.disqus.com/embed.js'; (document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(dsq); })(); Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. comments powered by Disqus ]]>
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