Having now finished with the second Bond era (Roger Moore + Sean Connery’s return), it’s time to for the “best of” list.
As with my last outing, I’ve created The Bond Oscars, in which I acknowledge the standouts in various categories. I’m eager to hear your thoughts as well, so please comment early and often, and offer up some categories of your own.
Best Bond Girl: Mr. Moore was not handed the strongest actresses in his stint as Bond, but it would’ve taken one heck of an actress to make me forget about Carole Bouquet in “For Your Eyes Only.” I’ll probably end up naming Ms. Bouquet as the most beautiful of all Bond Girls. She’s given plenty to do in the film, as she seeks retribution for her parents’ death. She also had good chemistry with Mr. Moore.
Best Villain: Alas, there were too many megalomaniacs-out-to-destroy-the-world in this era, so many fine actors were wasted in over-the-top roles. That’s why Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga takes the trophy easily here. The character has surprising depth to him, and he makes for a handsome and formidable challenge to Bond in this film.
Best Nemesis: I identify the nemesis as the secondary villain, such as Oddjob. There’s actually quite a broad selection here, with characters that are truly iconic from the Bond canon. Richard Kiel’s Jaws is certainly memorable in his first appearance (before being made a buffoon in the second) and will always have a place in my heart, and Grace Jones’ May Day might have been great if she hadn’t been underwritten. So I’m going with a dark horse: the silent yet deadly and unsettling Emile Locque, as portrayed by Michael Gothard.
Best Ally: No question. Chaim Topol’s Columbo is perfect. He is exactly the kind of handsome rogue we like seeing Bond paired with. He is crafty, capable, adventurous and loyal. He adds yet another terrific character to round out all the others in “For Your Eyes Only.”
Best Action Sequence: The speedboat chase in “Live and Let Die” is pretty classic, not only to the then-world-record speedboat jumps, and bizarre images of boats driving across land, but for how long the sequence sustains. The choreography, sheer scope, and thrills of the submarine rescue-escape in “Spy Who Loved Me” is excellent. The Bond-Columbo attack on the dock in “For Your Eyes Only” is very suspenseful and well-executed. There is an extended, stellar ski chase in “For Your Eyes Only“ designed and directed by Willy Bogner, Jr., who designed the chases in “OHMSS” and “Spy Who Loved Me.” I mean, seriously, motorcycles chasing a skier down a mountain? Then the skier leaps onto a bobsled track – with no ski poles – followed by the skier. That’s pretty good stuff. And while not always a fan of Bill Conti’s anachronistic music, it actually works great in this sequence. These are all worthy candidates and fans will differ.
Best Fight: Plenty to choose from, but I’ll go with Bond’s fight with Tee Hee on the train at the conclusion of “Live and Let Die.” I particularly enjoy the fact that there is no score during the battle.
Best Score: Despite being a handed a regrettably terrible film, John Barry turned in a terrific score with “A View To A Kill.” There’s a grand sweep to it in appropriate places, the love theme is perfectly suited for a Bond film, the suspenseful segments hit all the right emotional beats, and the familiar Bond melodies weave in and out as we’d want them to. Mr. Barry’s score could not have been more perfect in the ski prologue, and the fact that it’s yanked for a full minute for “California Girls” as Bond snowboards his way out of conflict with Russian pursuers, shows how awry the series had gone. You can hear this piece of music at this link. It demonstrates how great a composer Mr. Barry is, in that he has ever so gently contemporized his score with a bit of electric guitar mixed in amongst the orchestra, allowing the music to remain vintage Bond yet adding the contemporary flair needed for a 1985 film.
Best Production Design: The circus-theme of “Man With The Golden Gun” gave production designer Peter Murton plenty to work with, and design plays an important role in the film, giving it the kind of visual flair that also supplements the film’s theme. I’m choosing it over Ken Adam’s great sets in “Spy Who Loved Me” because otherwise Mr. Adam would just win this award every time!
Best Cinematography: I think the easy choice is “Man With The Golden Gun” for the reasons mentioned above. And yet, the fact that “For Your Eyes Only” looks so beautiful demonstrates the skill of Alan Hume in taking so many exterior locations and not permitting them to look washed out and glaring. In addition, the underwater work is exquisite.
Best Script: “For Your Eyes Only,” by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum. A tight screenplay, very well structured, never boring, with solid characters.
Most “Iconic Bond” film: “Man With The Golden Gun” really contains all the classic Bond elements, from the odd villain and quirky nemesis, to the exotic locales, the funhouse of death, the macguffin, the car loop-de-loop stunt, and solid thematics.
Best Title Sequence: “Live and Let Die.” No explanation necessary.
Best Line: “For Your Eyes Only”: “Yes, well, you get your clothes on…and I’ll buy you an ice cream”.
Best Death: “For Your Eyes Only.” You have to love Mr. Moore showing the edge we long for him to show when he kicks Locque’s car down the cliff. Particularly gruesome is the way his body flops out of the window at the bottom.
Best Scene: One scene and one scene only? Really? I came up with this category? I must be crazy. So I’m going to leave this one up to you folks!
And a recap of how I’ve rated the films thus far. Remember, I reserve the right to change my mind!
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
“The Man With The Golden Gun”
“For Your Eyes Only”
“From Russia With Love”
“Diamonds Are Forever”
“The Spy Who Loved Me”
“You Only Live Twice”
“Live and Let Die”
“A View To A Kill”
“Never Say Never Again”
James Bond will return in “The Living Daylights”