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The Series Project: James Bond (Part 1)

Professor Witney Seibold braves sharks, lasers and chauvinism to guide you through every James Bond film ever made.

 

I promised myself I wouldn't do this.

When I first conceived of The Series Project, I had a list of self-imposed rules to follow. For one, the series had to be at least five parts long (any less, and there's just not enough material). Remakes do not factor into the five-parts rule. The first two chapters had to be theatrical releases. And there had to be some kind of canonical through-line; spin-offs were series unto themselves. I also wasn't ever going to cover the James Bond movies. There were just too many of them. I would save my creative output for easy-to consume series of five-to-ten films, and leave it there.

Well, I already broke my own “theatrical” rule when I wrote about the Puppet Master movies. And now, in this new year, I have decided to do the unthinkable, and break another cardinal rule. I am going to watch every single James Bond movie (including the three non-canonical ones), and I will be presenting my findings to you, the dear readers of CraveOnline. Welcome, dear readers, to The Series Project: James Bond.

Since there are so many James Bond movies (This November's Skyfall will be the 26th film to feature a character named James Bond), this particular Series Project will less of a series overview, and more of a diary of my trek through these movies. I will report my findings as I go, and give commentary as I go. This seems like a more appropriate approach anyway, as the James Bond movies have little-to-no continuity between them. Very occasionally a character will recur, but the charm of James Bond is that he seems to start fresh each time. He is a pulp action hero, James Bond, who is more interesting as a fantasy character, and would actually be hurt by any sort of serious character depth, explicit origin, or complex story arc. I don't want to see James Bond as a child, or James Bond weeping in heartbreak, or James Bond trying to remain stoic in the face of his parents. I want to see him smirking through intense action sequences, giving cheesy quips, seducing women, and driving fancy cars. James Bond is little more than a nice suit and a pile of charming characteristics. His “story arc” is irrelevant.

Indeed, that is why it's been okay to change actors every few films. There have famously been six actors to play the role, and each has their strengths and weaknesses. I will be talking about each as we go. You'll have to wait to hear who my favorite Bond is.

James Bond, in case you are staggeringly unconnected, is a British spy working for MI-6. He is granted a license to kill as indicated by the “00” in his special code number 007. His boss, codename “M,” only ever refers to him by his number. Bond is highly skilled in fighting and machinery. He can speak several languages, and can handle many kinds of languages. He dresses well, is good at cards, and can seduce women merely by walking in a room. He goes after evil bad guys on a regular basis, and always wins. In the early films, he is often on the tail of a shadowy cabal of super criminals who call themselves SPECTRE, led by a faceless figure with a Persian cat. In later films, SPECTRE is abandoned, and the random super criminal is just that, random.

The James Bond movies were based on a long series of James Bond pulp novels, all written by Ian Fleming. Many of the films take their titles and certain events from the novels, but, as the series progresses, the novels will become less and less relevant to Bond's new film legacy.

The clichés in James Bond movies are well known by the culture at large, and I will use this series to explicitly document them. Each James Bond movie has a gadget or gadget presented by a character named Q, which James will indeed use throughout the course of the movie. Each film has a featured hot babe that James will indeed seduce, and will be played by a notable actress. Each film has a singular charismatic bad guy with an elaborate and expensive plan to conquer the world, steal a lot of money, or do something incredibly devastating. Each film takes place in a different exotic locale or locales. And each film (with a few exceptions) has a notable opening theme song, usually sung by a famous pop star.

For good measure, I will also include in my tally the people James Bond directly murders through his own actions. And since the James Bond films are all admittedly outlandish, and rarely make any kind of nod to reality, I will include every film's numerous WTF moments. You remember a few, I'm sure. The definitely over-the-top headscratchers that either have you throwing popcorn in incredulity, or laughing wildly for the same reason.

Also, since the stories in all the James Bond films are all kind of similar (and in some cases, hard-to-follow), after numerous sequels, they all begin to blend into one another. Who was that bad guy? Why is Bond in this building? As a result, I will spend little time recounting the actual plot details. We don't watch James Bond movies for the plot anyway. We just want the familiar formula ad infinitum.

All that said, let's dive into the first canonical James Bond movie in the franchise. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…

 

DR. NO (1962)
Directed by: Terence Young

BONDSean Connery

GADGETSJames Bond's famous Walther PPK.

THE BABEHoney Ryder, played by Ursula Andress

THE BAD GUYDr. Julius No of SPECTRE, played by Joseph Wiseman

LOCATION(S)Jamaica

THEME SONGThe now-famous James Bond theme (written by Monty Norman), and a curious samba version of “Three Blind Mice.”

BOND DIRECTLY KILLS: One tarantula, one geologist who would kill him, and one guard

WTF MOMENTSThis movie has a tank that looks like a dragon.
 


Welcome, Mr. Bond.

I'm a little surprised that the James Bond movies have endured when watching Dr. No. It's so very much a product of its time. The look of the bold, early 1960s film stock, the casual misogyny, the shag carpets, the jet-set aesthetic. The casual drinking, and the Boy's Club approach to spy tactics. These are all fantasies very much from the male 1960s mindset. One would think that a mere two or three sequels could come from this. But nothing doing.

This is the only James Bond film to feature an actual mystery. In most of the proceeding films, we'll know who the villain is right away, and we'll see their evil plan already in action. In this one, we know some British spies are being killed, and that weapon-like materials are being mysteriously transported to a secret island off the coast of Kingston Town. James Bond is assigned by M (Bernard Lee, who will play the role all the way through 1979's Moonraker) to go to Jamaica to investigate. He will be aided by Felix Leitner, who will remain his American contact throughout several films. Felix is played by Jack Lord in this film, and Lord's gigantic hair can be spotted a mile away. Oh yes, and James also has a flirtatious relationship with M's secretary Miss Moneypenny, played by Lois Maxwell, who will play the role through 1985's A View to a Kill.

Bond investigates, finds a trio of assassins nicknamed the Three Blind Mice, beds a hot brunette, treks to the mysterious island, and finds the secret base of Dr. No. Also on the island, he meets a sweet local gal named Honey Ryder, who looks awesome in a bikini, and who just happens to be there on the island to hunt for shells. Honey Ryder has little play on the plot at large, but does give an interesting backstory about how she was raped as a child, and is now happy to be collecting shells. She's eventually kidnapped and bolted to the ground by Dr. No's minions, and when Bond rescues her, she's missing her pants. I sure hope that she wasn't raped. Luckily, that's not implied.

Bond, as played by Sean Connery, is certainly a charmer, and has an alluring hairy chest (back when women seemed to like hairy chests), but little grace. Connery has plenty of sex-soaked smirks to dole out, and, thanks to his deep voice and barrel physique, exudes a certain kind of manliness. But not the 'roided-out manliness that children of the '80s look to, nor the Byronic wimp manliness as portrayed by a current generation's vampire lovers. He's actually not all that buff. He just has a generally nice physique. As the Bonds progress, you'll find they get more feminine (which is actually fine by me; I prefer an effeminate Bond). I think Connery's eyebrows to a lot of the heavy lifting for James Bond. He's quick to cock an eyebrow, and give his sexy wounded-puppy look to any and all females who might be watching. I have talked to various women, and few find 1960s Sean Connery directly sexy. Even my mother has said she prefers '80s-era Sean Connery, when he was bald and had the beard. What do you think? 1960s Connery. Sexy?

There's a scene on the island where Bond must outwit a tank shaped like a fire-breathing dragon. It's later established that Dr. No has been using this tank to scare off locals. But, really? A fire-breathing dragon tank? It seems that right away, the Jams Bond movies are kind of silly.

We eventually meet the villain, Dr. No, a man who is half-Japanese, and has been working with radioactive materials for so long that his hands have been eaten away, and replaced by extra-strong metal hands. He has been sneaking nuclear materials to his island for the purposes of sabotaging America's space program. This was 1962, mind you, and the Space Race was in full swing. Dr. No has a secret lair, and to enter you have to go through a decontamination process to make sure you're not irradiated. Dr. No invites Bond to dinner and tries to recruit him into a secret society called SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), which is devoted to causing high-profile mischief. Bond, being unflappably patriotic, easily refuses. I wonder what the advantages to joining SPECTRE are. Are they like Freemasons, where you get special access to higher echelons of business? Or is it just an organized group of embittered billionaires, hell bent on world destruction? Give then disposition of Dr. No and the other SPECTREs we'll meet, I'm guessing it's the latter.

Eventually, Bond escapes from his prison, sabotages Dr. No's evil missile launcher, and frees Honey. He and Honey are then rescued by MI-6. The last shot of the film is the two of them about to get it on in a strange place. You'll find that most of the James Bond movies end with James about to have sex with the lead hottie.

This film is weirdly slow-paced for the kickoff of what is known today as the premiere action franchise on the planet. Since the James Bond habits had yet to be really codified, I suppose the filmmakers felt no need to keep the pace brisk, or to include any of the trademark chases the series is now known for. Not many chases, a few death-defying escapes, and a grand domination plot. Q wasn't even in this one. The only real “gadget” he's given is the Walther PPK handgun he is to use for the rest of the series. He bemoans having to trade guns at the outset of this film, as he liked his old one, even though it jammed up regularly. Incidentally, the sales of Walther PPKs increased exponentially after the release of this film. I wonder if they're still big sellers.

I liked this film okay, and for the time it was kind of revolutionary. What we call “action” films were only starting up in earnest in the early 1960s, and Dr. No was certainly on the cutting edge.

The second film, you'll find, is better.


 

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
Directed by: Terence Young

BONDSean Connery

GADGETSA car phone and a pager (in 1963!). An attache case that secretly carries a gun, a knife, and a teargas booby trap.

THE BABETatalia Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi

THE BAD GUY: Rosa Klebb, a.k.a. #3, played by Lotte Lenya

LOCATION(S)Venice, Istanbul

THEME SONGSung by Matt Monro over the closing credits.

BOND DIRECTLY KILLSThe bad guy's muscle

WTF MOMENTSThere is a periscope in the sewers under Istanbul that allow Bond and a fellow agent to spy on the bad guys. Bond is taken to a gypsy caravan, where he witnesses an organized catfight. The bad guys have switchblade shoes. There's a scene where some bad guys are trying to sneak out of a building. They sneak through a painting on the side of the building, so it looks like they're climbing out of Anita Ekberg's mouth.
 


It's already been established that Bond cannot resist a hot lady, so SPECTRE has a plan: They will inject a sexy female Russian agent into a secret plot to smuggle an Enigma machine across many borders, as a way to make it look like the Russians are doing it, inciting the ire of MI-6, who will try to get it first. SPECTRE, we see early on, is run by a mysterious man with no name (the others call him “#1”), and whose face we never see. He wears a gray coat, and strokes a Persian cat. In the end credits, we'll learn that this man is named Blofeld, and is credited with a mere question mark (but was actually played by a prolific British TV actor named Anthony Dawson). He talks with #3 (Lenya) and another weasely fellow named #5 (played by Vladek Sheybal from The Apple). They lay their plans bare.

#3, a.k.a. Rosa Klebb, is in charge of executing the plan, and we see some amusing opening scenes where bad guys are training with flame-throwers and practicing martial arts. We are also introduced to The Muscle, in the form of Donald Grant (Robert Shaw), a beefy blonde titan who is instructed to follow James Bond, and swoop in to steal the enigma machine from him at an opportune moment. That sounds easier than stealing it yourself. From Russia with Love is structured oddly, in that we don't see our hero for the first 20 minutes of film. Rosa also recruits the hot Russian agent, and we meet Tatiana Romanova (former Miss Rome, Daniela Bianchi). Rosa instructs Tatiana to be extra sexy toward Bond and to double-cross him when the time is right, all the while giving some very, very inappropriate gropes. The lesbian stuff is awesome.

It's now that we finally see James Bond actually sleeping with a woman we saw in the last film. You can make all the venereal disease jokes you like. At this point in the 1960s, James Bond's lovemaking prowess was something that could only be praised. This was the age of Playboy Magazine, the Jet Set, martinis and sharp suits. The spy mythos runs a direct line from the swinging lounge lifestyle. It's no wonder that so many men still connect to the spy fantasy. It looks good, there's a lot of sex, and you're good at everything. Nothing ever bothers you. You are driven by your work ethic, your love of country, and your love of nude ladies. What man can't relate to that on at least some inner adolescent level?

Indeed, James's lovemaking prowess is such that he manages to shag evil women good. Tatiana, with every intention of completing her mission, meets up with James, ingratiates herself into his life, and pretends to be on his side. Once they sleep together, though, she actually does fall in love with him, and is now determined to marry him. When they steal the Enigma machine together, she aids him with every intention of now betraying her government and moving to England. They even get on a passenger train to Yugoslavia, and she's all over him, dripping with lovey language.

Before the theft goes down, though, James must do some investigating. He meets a Turkish official (Pedro Armindáriz), and it's during this portion that we see the nutty sewer periscope, and that completely baffling gypsy catfight. Oh yeah, the two gypsy women go at it like mad. They are fighting over a man. When a rival gypsy clan breaks in, James helps to fight them off. Because of this, he is allowed to select which of the two women gets to marry. It's implied that he had a threesome with them. Go James.

We meet Q for the first time in this film. Q is played by Desmond Llewellyn, who would play the role in every James Bond film through 1999's The World is Not Enough. Q is a great character. He not only innovates fantastical devices for James Bond, but he also has a very workmanlike approach to his job. The gadgets are always presented in a very matter-of-fact manner, and Q refuses to joke along with Bond about them. Indeed, most of his co-workers seem a bit exasperated with Bond's flip attitude. Bond is the charming adolescent in a room full of grown-ups. But back to the film. There was a blonde guy, right?

Oh yes, and through all the action, we have that beefy blonde guy following James around. He kills other bad guys who might kill James. He needs Bond alive to steal the Enigma machine. I'm sorry I keep calling it an Enigma machine. I think in the movie, they actually call it a LECTER machine or some such thing. Whatever. It's just the MacGuffin.

Anyway, later, on the train, our blonde fellow has a run-in with Bond, and they fight. Bond ends up using his booby-trapped suitcase to trick the guy, and pushes him off the train. This is the only man James Bond directly kills in this film. Case closed. Let's get married. Oh wait. There's another confrontation later on when Rosa Klebb appears in his hotel room, and tries to kill him with a poisoned switchblade shoe. But she's easily dispatched.

I like this film much better than Dr. No. The story, for a James Bond film, is way more cogent than what we're used to (we who have already seen future James Bond movies), and it's easy to tell who is where, and what they're doing there. The gadgets are outlandish, but still kind of palpable, and Bond's serial promiscuity, while still a plot point, is not so silly as to have exploding panties everywhere he goes. So it seems the James Bond movies are improving. But hang on, 'cause we're about to get even better.

 

GOLDFINGER (1964)
Directed by: Guy Hamilton

BONDSean Connery

GADGETSThe tricked out Aston Martin with a bullet shield, rotating license plates, oil slick and road spikes. A tracking device that can be worn in the shoe.

THE BABEPussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman

THE BAD GUYAuric Goldfinger, played by Gert Fröbe

LOCATION(S)Miami, Geneva, Virginia

THEME SONGSung by Shirley Bassey

BOND DIRECTLY KILLSOddjob

WTF MOMENTSThere's a character named “Pussy Galore,” fer cryin' out loud. There's a scene where a bunch of Cagney-type American gangsters meet in a room to discuss crime. And, um… Is that a rape?
 


It's often been said that Goldfinger is the best of all the James Bond movies. I tend to agree. It was far along enough in the series to give us the charming Bond elements we were already used to, but early enough for them not to feel contrived. James Bond is at his usual level of super-humanity, but is still put in danger often enough that he's not indestructible. For instance, when he's strapped to a table, and is about to be sliced in half with a laser beam (starting at his crotch, yikes), he doesn't rip his arm free and beat up a bunch of thugs to escape, but drops the name of the bad guy's evil scheme, causing the bad guy to turn the laser off. Close call. Bond uses his wits to escape. To me, this makes him cooler than if he had merely physically wrenched himself free.

This film has a lot of the James Bond moments you find yourself quoting. “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” comes from this one. The gold-obsessed bad guy comes from this one. Oddjob, the bad guy with the razor-edged hat comes from this one. And this is the first film in which we see Q's lab; i.e. that bustling room in the basement of MI-6 where agents seem to be constantly testing out various outlandish gadgets that require them to fire guns and be launched through the air. Actually seeing Q's lab connects James Bond more strongly to MI-6 at large. We get the impression, finally, that MI-6 is up to way more than just what James Bond is up to. Each one of those gadgets will have to be used by some other field agent. Like many people, Q's lab is one of my favorite conceits of the entire James Bond franchise.

To the film: The story is also straightforward in this one, and is actually mostly carried by the charismatic villain. Auric Goldfinger has been buying up huge amounts of gold all over the world, to the point where MI-6 begins to take notice. They send James Bond to Miami to spy on him, and then approach him with bricks of Nazi gold MI-6 has somehow acquired. We know something is fishy when a Miami bikini babe (Shirley Eaton) under the employ of Goldfinger ends up dead in her hotel room, coated in gold paint. The dead woman covered in gold is one of the more iconic images from all action cinema. Bond explains later that she dies of “skin suffocation,” and how all-body makeup requires an exposed patch of skin at the base of the spine in order not to kill you. That seems ridiculous, but whatever. It's still neat. James also hears about a mysterious evil operation named “Project Grand Slam.”

I like that Goldfinger didn't work for SPECTRE in this film. The SPECTRE plot point will follow James through several more films, and while it gives MI-6 a cogent bad guy to fight, having a single evil organization responsible for the all world's evil seems cheap to me. Surely there are other billionaire terrorists ion the world.

Oddjob (Harold Sakata) is in this film as The Muscle. He can take a punch, and has a bowler hat with a razor in the brim that he can throw with deadly accuracy. My guess is that the iron hat bit was lifted directly from John Steed in the British spy series The Avengers, which started in 1961. It's still cool here, though, and now the bad guy is using it. Felix Leiter, the American CIA man, is in this film, too, and this time is played by Cec Linder. Felix seems to be a different actor in each film.

We also get to meet Pussy Galore in this film. Sigh. Do I need to comment on her name? Ms. Galore is loyal to Goldfinger, and runs a flight school for pretty women. She is tough, takes no guff, and is not amused by James Bond or his charms. For a character with such an openly obscene name, Honor Blackman actually gives her a lot of strength. I'd be tempted to call her an injection of feminism, were she not clearly a fetish object, AND WERE SHE NOT NAMED “PUSSY GALORE.”James Bond does end up bedding her in a barn, and the movie's ickiest moment comes to pass. I understand that Ms. Galore is presented a tough lady who needs some tough loving from a tough man, but the scene is less about straightforward seduction of a tough woman, and more like… well, it looks a bit like rape to me. Am I mad, or did James Bond just rape a woman virtuous?

What else happens in the movie? Bond briefly meets the sister of the golden dead girl, who is trying to kill Goldfinger. He gets to drive his souped up car and employ all its tricks, including the bulletproof shield, the spikes, and the oil slick. He sends an enemy car skidding all over the road. They slip off a hill and their car explodes. Any car that turns upside-down explodes. We all know that by now. I'm debating as to whether or not this counts as a kill for Bond. I'm going to say no. He put the car in danger, but it was the bad driving and shoddy auto engineering that killed the people inside. Later in the film, Bond is captured, threatened with a laser, and kidnapped to Virginia, where he hears Goldfinger's evil plan. It turns out Project Grand Slam (financed by American gangsters) is a plot to blow up Fort Knox, and increase the value of Goldfinger's gold. Clever. Don't steal new money, just raise the value of your own.

Goldfinger uses crop dusters to put all the guards in Ft. Knox to sleep, and breaks into the place with a bomb. By the point, James has slipped a transmitter to MI-6, and snuck in alongside Goldfinger. There's a spectacular fight, Bond electrocutes Oddjob, and a fellow MI-6 agent stops the bomb from blowing up. The bomb's countdown clock stops at “007.” How cute.

Everything that James Bond is, is put in this film and done to perfection. It's hard to point out why Goldfinger is so perfect. The clever, standalone plot, perhaps. The charismatic bad guy. Maybe it's to do with the impeccable pacing. All the plot threads come into play, and all the trademark enjoyable ridiculousness is in place. I think you can see the invention of the James Bond code in Goldfinger. Everything that you know James Bond for will finally be said by the third film. There are other Bond films I like as much, but Goldfinger is clearly the best. If you know little about James Bond, and approaching the films can seem daunting (there are 22 of them, after all), I encourage you to start withGoldfinger. If you're an enthused action-movie-loving boyfriend who has begged your girlfriend to sit and watch James Bond movies with you, insist on only one. Insist on Goldfinger.

The next film takes a dip.


 

THUNDERBALL (1965)
Directed by: Terence Young

BONDSean Connery

GADGETSA jet pack! An underwater breather, an underwater camera, a watch/Geiger counter.

THE BABEDomino, played by Claudine Auger

THE BAD GUY: Emilio Largo, a.k.a. #2, played by Adolfo Celi

LOCATION(S)Nassau, The Bahamas

THEME SONGSung by Tom Jones

BOND DIRECTLY KILLSA guy in drag, he harpoons a bad guy named Vargas, he stabs, drowns and grenades four or five divers.

WTF MOMENTSOy vey. Where do I start? There's a post-funeral fight where James Bond kills a guy in a dress. There's, um, a random jet pack waiting on the roof for James Bond in the intro. SPECTRE is back, and all the bad guys sit around a long table, manned by Blofeld. James Bond is hooked up to a bizarre back-stretching machine. James Bond extorts sex from a nurse. James Bond sets some booze on fire to escape a car. James Bond instructs Felix to shoot a shark for no good reason. James Bond wears some of the silliest-looking short shorts when he goes diving.
 


Thunderball is the longest James Bond film to this point, and probably the dullest. I'm willing to bet a good 30-35 minutes of screen time is devoted to underwater photography and deep-sea diving. That means extended passages of slow-moving people with no dialogue. The entire climax is a harpoon-happy showdown between the bad guy's underwater minions and MI-6's agents. And while underwater scenes can be fun, this movie goes entirely too far with it. James Bond with an aquatic theme was certainly something that hadn't been tried yet, but it doesn't really up the action quotient. Thunderball is an over-the-top recovery after the glory of Goldfinger.

Let's start with the bad guys. You've seen this scene before in spy spoofs: The bad guys are gathered around a long, long table, plotting the end of the world. At the head of a table in a faceless man in gray, stroking a Persian cat. The bad guy is the unnamed and still-uncredited Blofeld (again played by Anthony Dawson). The thugs are his numbered agents. When one of the thugs fails to produce results, Blofeld electrocutes them using a button on a panel in front of him. You would think the thugs would merely not sit in the electrified chairs. Watching Goldfinger and Thunderball back-to-back (as indeed they were often released in theaters back in the '60s), you begin to see where Austin Powers came from. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) is, after all, an attempt to mock the dated elements of the 1960s James Bond movies (the conceit of a secret cabal of evildoers, though, is silly enough that it needs no Austin Powers spoof). Austin Powers lifted the long table, Blofeld, Oddjob, #2, the evil shark tank, and the Persian cat all from either Goldfinger or Thunderball.

The central bad guy in Thunderball is indeed #2, indeed wearing an eye patch, and really named Emilio Largo  (Adolfo Celi). SPECTRE has instructed him to gain access to nuclear weapons, and he has concocted a plot to swap pilots on an government ship, steal some bombs, hide them on the ocean floor, move them to a yacht, and then move them to a secret launch site. The swapped pilot is, inconveniently, the brother of #2’s chief floozy, the pretty Domino, played by Claudine Auger, a former Miss France.

#2 has a shark tank, and when his underlings fail, he pushes them into it. I understand you need to instill fear and loyalty in your underlings, but it seems counterintuitive to me to constantly murder them off. It's like when Darth Vader constantly strangles people in The Empire Strikes Back. That doesn't get the job at hand done any more efficiently, Darth.

#2 also has an evil floozy in the form of a hot Italian redhead named Fiona, played by Luciana Peluzzi. Fiona is a much more efficient bad guy than Largo, and her thugs seems to have more loyalty to her. Yes, she is left in a room alone with James Bond, and she does allow herself to get seduced. In a turnabout, though, she openly announces afterwards that she was just having a bit of fun with him, and that she is most certainly not converted to the side of good by Bond's sex magic. Nice swap. James Bond is the one who was used this time. He is resolved. “You can't win them all,” he says calmly.

Oh yeah. James Bond extorts sex from a nurse. Seriously. This effectively acts as two WTF moments. James Bond, after his misadventures from the last film, is at a spa, recuperating. He is given a massage, and is then strapped to a bizarro exists-in-no-real-hospitals back-stretching machine, which, well, stretches his spine. I'm sure similar physical therapy machines exist, but surely no one would be strapped down to such a device, and left alone for hours at a time. Just when the machine starts to stretch James Bond, a bad guy sneaks in and turns the machine up to 11. It pulses and groans, and for a brief moment it looks like James Bond is humping the machine. WTF Moment #1. The comely nurse returns to find the machine pumping away, and turns it off. She apologizes profusely. She asks that James not tell anyone about this incident, as she could get fired. He suggests she get naked as a way of sealing is silence. Previously, this nurse had rebuffed James. Now she reluctantly agrees. It's all kind of disgusting. WTF Moment #2.

There's a lot of local color, but, unlike in Goldfinger, we can never be 100% sure as to what's going on at any time. I guess the movie is more about the bad guys, and it's up to James Bond to go diving and undo their plans. There is just way too much diving. Way too much. Have I mentioned that Thunderball is always underwater? It's always underwater. All the big plot points are underwater. James Bond and Domino even make out underwater. For a long time, I thought Domino was Largo's daughter, so when they started talking about what SPECTRE did to her brother (disguising him as a pilot, and then drowning him to get a nuclear bomb from his plane), I thought Largo was doing that to his own son. It turns out I was mistaken.

James Bond films, I think, need to stay under the 125-minute mark. Just over two hours seems to be just the right length to tell their swashbuckling stories. 90 minutes is too brief for these. And once you cross 130 minutes, things start to drag, and you have one self-indulgent action sequence too many.

 


The sixth film in the series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the only one with George Lazenby as James Bond, is 142 minutes and I think is the longest of the series. We'll see if my theory stands. Be sure to join me next week for it, as I fully intend to keep charging through these movies, giving you my impressions of all. Next week, we'll be talking about the final two Sean Connery James Bond films, the one mentioned above, and the first of the Roger Moore films. All told, this series project should take six weeks. Strap in, friends. Our journey is just beginning.