Twenty-four films and James Bond is still trying to get up that great big hill of hope… or whatever that means. Look, basically what we’re saying is that we’re two dozen films into the franchise now and the new film, SPECTRE, plays more like a James Bond knockoff than a real James Bond movie, going through some familiar motions and hoping audiences don’t notice just how repetitious the whole damned enterprise is getting.
Frankly, we’re at the point now where – although many of the actual James Bond films are great – it actually seems more interesting to delve into the many clever and not-so-clever knockoffs that have littered the multiplexes over the last five decades. Some of this shameless riffs on a popular film franchise were good, some were bad, but if we’re really committed to this “4 Non Bonds” title – and we are – then we have to narrow our down to four.
These are our favorite James Bond knockoffs, for better or worse. What are yours?
Operation Double 007 (1968)
The idea behind Operation Double 007 would almost be clever if it weren’t so shameless. A super spy is murdered in the field, and the organization is forced to enlist the services of the spy’s brother to complete the mission. The kicker is, the brother in question is Neil Connery, the real-life sibling of Sean Connery, playing himself. So is James Bond actually dead now, or was Sean Connery a real-life James Bond this whole time?
Either way we’re all expected to believe that Neil is a suitable substitute for the original hotness, and he’s just no Sean. He is, however, a plastic surgeon hypnotist who teams up with Lois Maxwell, the original Moneypenny, to save the day. The whole movie is utterly bizarre and is probably best watched via Mystery Science Theater 3000, which lampooned Operation Double 007 (a.k.a. O.K. Connery! and Operation Kid Brother) in 1993.
For Your Height Only (1981)
For Your Height Only is one of those films you can’t quite believe is real. It sounds and even plays like a Family Guy sketch. This Filipino action/comedy stars Weng Weng as “Agent 00,” and the gag is that he’s really rather short. In fact, at 2’9″, Weng Weng is considered the shortest person ever to star in their own action movie.
But is it a good action movie? No, not in the slightest. But it’s a surprisingly fun affair, featuring Weng Weng heroically rescuing prostitutes from a gang run by Mr. Giant, whose real identity is proof positive that nobody was taking For Your Height Only seriously. Still, Weng Weng is a charming performer, and the film’s extreme naïveté makes it an entertaining experience. The dialogue is cheesy, the action is ludicrous, and the scene where Weng Weng wields a radio controlled death hat is a classic.
If Looks Could Kill (1991)
A lot of knockoff movies are bad, since being a flagrant carbon copy is practically in their DNA. Sometimes, however, these non-James Bond films are a lot of fun. Case in point: If Looks Could Kill, which stars Richard Grieco of 21 Jump Street, right before everyone realized he wasn’t going to be a big star. He plays a slacker high school student who happens to have the same name as a super spy (Roger Daltrey) and winds up accidentally accepting a top secret mission.
It doesn’t take long for Grieco to figure out the mix-up, but the gadgets are super cool and hot women start swooning over him, so he decides to just run with it. Meanwhile his whole high school class gets kidnapped and his French teacher stars losing her mind. The comedy is a little hit or miss but director William Dear (Harry and the Hendersons) plays the action sequences straight enough that If Looks Could Kill winds up playing like a halfway decent Bond movie, albeit with the wrong leading man.
Knight and Day (2010)
Audiences all over the world love Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible movies, so it’s a little baffling that his other spy thriller Knight and Day failed to find a sizable audience. Especially since the movie itself is a total hoot. Told like a typical James Bond film, but only from the perspective of the so-called “Bond Girl,” Knight and Day stars Cameron Diaz as a regular woman who keeps running into a handsome but perpetually endangered CIA agent, played by Tom Cruise.
Like If Looks Could Kill, this James Bond knockoff has an amusing premise but all the action plays as badass as possible. Director James Mangold (The Wolverine) whips out one killer car chase and shootout after another, and it’s pretty damned hilarious that we keep missing all the “best” parts because Cameron Diaz wasn’t there to see them. So we keep popping in and out of high octane adventures at just the wrong times, and we ultimately wind up just as thrilled and baffled as a typical Bond Girl would be.
Top Photo: Titanus
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.