BONDAGE: LESS IS MOORE

by Jake on April 17, 2013

Roger MooreAfter ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, Sean Connery had had enough and vowed never to play James Bond again. He did, of course, many years later in ‘Never Say Never Again’, but at the time, it seemed like the 007 series was in big trouble. Audiences had already made it clear after George Lazenby’s one shot at the role they weren’t cool with non-Sean Bond, so what to do?

The producers needed a miracle; they got a Saint.

Enter Roger Moore, a handsome English fellow who was absolutely awesome as The Saint on television. With Moore signing on, the James Bond franchise was back in action!

Too bad the movies sucked.

Okay, I’m being a bit unfair, perhaps. I mean, the Bond films had been going downhill before Moore and, really, despite his entire acting range hinging upon lifting his right eyebrow or, for variety, lifting his left eyebrow (seriously, he looks like he’s having a seizure sometimes), he can’t take all the blame. It seemed as though the filmmakers couldn’t quite figure out how to do anything new with the concept. Also, the 1950′s novels seemed increasingly out of date in the late 60′s, which meant the movies were increasingly relying less and less on the books, often keeping only the titles.

Their solution throughout the 70′s seemed to be taking whatever film genre was selling and shoehorning James Bond into it.

WingsSo ‘Live and Let Die’ is a radical departure for the franchise, bringing not only Moore as the new Bond but also a more modern, rock music soundtrack – the title song is by the band Wings, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

And the plot, while still loosely adhering to the book, is clearly much more of a blaxploitation pastiche than anything else. While the film was successful, Moore’s portrayal of 007 was very different from Connery (or Lazenby).

See, the thing about James Bond is, he’s essentially an assassin. Sure, he’s a spy and all, but the main point of the Double-O Section is that they have a licence to kill. And James Bond has no problems with that, resolving almost every mission by blowing stuff up and murdering a heap of bad folks.

Question: How many Bond villains are brought in to stand trial?
Answer: What’s a “trial”?

And although James Bond mingles with the European jet-setters, that’s just part of his job. He is, in fact, a working-class guy who just happens to be very, very good at his job.

Roger Moore’s James Bond was not like this at all.

For whatever reason, Moore’s Bond was much more of a soft-living aristocrat, to say nothing of an insufferable know-it-all. Whatever M wanted to brief Bond about, Moore’s version already knew anything and everything there was to know about it – and delighted in showing this fact off.

Moore also played a kinder, gentler 007; he wasn’t as menacing and he tended to rely on an improbable karate chop to the neck – a move that was about as convincing as the Vulcan neck pinch, but not nearly as cool.

Moonraker JawsThe gadgets, the villains, the henchmen (Jaws? A guy with steel teeth? REALLY?) all got progressively more over the top as the series progressed. Even the salacious female names were getting ridiculous (Agent Triple-X? REALLY?), and apparently they were running out of Bond girls, since Maud Adams, whose appeal I’ve never understood, popped up TWICE in two different roles.

The whole thing culminated in ‘Moonraker’, a movie so stupid that it made everyone step back and reassess this whole ‘James Bond movie’ thing. Which led to the one bright spot in this dark, dark era…

‘For Your Eyes Only’ is one of the best James Bond films ever made, EVER. Even Roger Moore’s acting seems a bit more under control, and this is a guy William Shatner would call hammy. It’s a more plausible, realistic and grounded entry in the franchise and a much needed return to form.

So of course, they had to go and ruin everything by making ‘Octopussy’, a movie so painfully awful it makes ‘Moonraker’ look like ‘Casablanca’. They then finished off with ‘View to a Kill’, which was the final Moore outing. This movie was, to be fair, not as bad as ‘Octopussy’, but it still wasn’t good enough.

Sir Roger Moore

Pictured: Not Jaws

So that was that. Roger Moore held the 007 role longer than anyone else and, for many people my age, he’s the James Bond they grew up with. I certainly can’t deny that he’s the one I grew up with, but I also have to admit that he is my least favorite Bond.

Of course, that’s like saying “least favorite candy bar”. I mean, even the worst Bond movie ever (‘Octopussy’, for example) is still fun. I mean, there’s big action sequences, hot babes, cool gadgets and, you know, all the stuff that you think of when you think of James Bond.

So my advice would be to watch ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and just skip over the rest. It’s a fitting follow-up to the Lazenby and Connery films while still being a great Bond movie in its own right. Plus, no guys with steel teeth or, God help us, Maud Adams.

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