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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Superhero Sunday: Bond, Shaken Not Stirred

When I was 12 I became a rabid James Bond fan. Before long I put down the Mad Magazines and comic books and picked up paperback copies of Ian Fleming's novels about the super cool and suave psychopath, James Bond. 

At that time, I saw Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, and tried, for days afterward, to get a handle on exactly what I had viewed. I knew the man playing the lead was unlike any other man I had know. (I know, in hindsight, that he was very much like my own Father in coloring and size and even facial appearance. My Father's side of the family were Scots, as is the actor who played Bond.) Later, I begged my parents to let me see From Russia With Love, the follow-up Bond film. This time I knew exactly what the attraction was. I became totally enamored with Sean Connery and, because I had only seen him play Bond, fell into a crush on 007. (Gee, I wonder if the fact that the character was cold, sardonic, distant, handsome, and dark haired like my Father had anything whatsoever to do with the attraction. Of course, the old man wasn't a paid assassin, but he had a nasty mean streak that fit the bill handily.)

Probably the most iconic Bond photograph ever taken. A publicity shot for From Russia With Love, 1963. A man with his sizable metal phallus analog.

As a budding adolescent my home life was a sea of dysfunction and discontent. The Bond films and books were pure escapism. I was too immature to realize my new found hero wasn't just an alpha male but a ruthless, coldblooded assassin who had almost total disregard for women as anything other than slots to ejaculate in. (It is very telling that the majority of his conquests paid for the pleasure of his company with their lives. He'd just bed them and after they were spray painted gold, poisoned, or merely thrown off a building, forget them. Never let the specter of romance complicate your killing-machine perspective, eh?)

The film, From Russia With Love, is still what I consider the best in the series. It is the most true to the character and the least gadget happy of the series. In it Bond is really a spy and we see how a spy functions. It was Goldfinger, the following film that changed the stakes for every subsequent Bond film. It was to the film series what the '59 Cadillac was to American luxury cars. Everything had to be more deluxe after that; More action, more glamorous locales, bigger and badder villains, bustier broads, and full open-throttled, non-stop action sequences.

 Goldfinger, 1964. The first of the bigger-than-life Bond films.

The early Bond films had a lot going for them. They had decent direction and scripts, but what was really working in their favor was Connery, the supporting cast, the music by John Barry, great pop songs, a killer Bond theme, the cinematography and production design, the pre-titles opening sequences, the Maurice Binder designed titles sequences, and most of all, how sexy the whole affairs were.

Thunderball, 1965. The last good Connery-as-Bond film in the series.

By the time Roger Moore showed up the movies were little more than live action cartoons despite the fact that the producers had upped the ante in showing the money on the screen. And, with Roger Moore, my fascination ebbed. During the Moore period the Bond films were more popular than ever but I didn't see the first couple of ones until many years after the fact. I  disregarded them. It was kind of a mild boycott against the producer's replacement for Connery. I had accepted even the one-film-wonder, George Lazenby, as a better Bond (In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, one of the best Bond films and starring the always useful Diana Rigg.) than Moore would make. He just didn't have the sexy down like Connery did. He was more like your cozily attractive "Uncle Alph" than Alpha-with-capital- 'A' to me. After  a while I softened my stance and enjoyed, For Your Eyes Only (despite the horrid Lynn Holly Johnson, close to the worst actress ever to appear in a Bond film. The honor of the worst goes to Charlie Sheen's ex, Denise Richards.)

As an adult, I still see every new Bond film and was really delighted by Daniel Craig's performance as "Bond, James Bond." in the remake of Casino Royale. Now Bond is more like the relentless pit bull of the novels. And, thankfully, the sexy is back. The last film, Quantum of Solace, wasn't all that great and the next one (number 23 in the series) is on hold while the powers that be decide the fate of MGM Studios.

I will always have a special place in my alpha-male-loving libido for James Bond and, especially, Mr. Sean Connery. I've moved on to even more spectacular specimens these days. (Most have little to do with seeking a father replacement.) Still, Bond was my first superhero love and I will always be grateful for that.

A side note of passing interest: When I was 13 my family took its annual trip to San Francisco. While visiting Golden Gate Park I encountered one of the Aston Martins DB5s used in Goldfinger. It was on a promotional tour of the US to support the film. I was able to sit in the car. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. A very obvious example of the Law of Attraction, indeed. Had I had any idea what a Blower Bentley was at the time I might very well have attracted on of those, too. LOL.

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