Bond: The 1960s
Yes, I've seen Spectre, and no, it wasn't very good.
Oh well. They can't all be winners, can they? And Spectre wasn't the worst Bond film ever. I wouldn't even put it in the bottom three. It might have gone a long way towards ruining some of the "realism" seen in earlier Craig movies, but Bond has been done much worse.
After sitting through Spectre, I began wondering whether or not I had seen all of the Bond films before it, and if in the absence of one or two of those films I might have missed some of the Easter eggs. Spectre references many other films in the series, and I thought seeing the older films might reveal some of the trivia I didn't catch in the theater.
So I got my hands on Dr. No, and I've been working my way forward from there. At the time of writing, I'm midway into the Roger Moore-era Bond, and by next week I should have arrived at Timothy Dalton.
The first Bond film, Dr. No, was released in 1962. In it, Sean Connery makes his first appearance as James Bond, a character he would go on to define throughout the 60s. His portrayal was so powerful, in fact, that author Ian Fleming would later add elements of the cinematic Bond to his original literary creation.
After Dr. No, the films of the 60s are: From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), and On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). One of the two "non-Eon" films also appeared during this era, 1967's Casino Royale.
All of the movies from this era are entertaining to some degree. I'd pick Goldfinger as the best Bond film from this time, and it remains one of the best Bond films ever. It has the most interesting villain, Connery is excellent, and it has one of the most memorable conclusions. It also has the best theme song.
Dr. No, Thunderball, and From Russia with Love aren't bad, but they suffer from some pacing issues and less-than-credible plot twists (even for Bond movies). You Only Live Twice is silly enough to be interesting, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service - despite its obvious flaws - has one of the best plots of any Bond movie ever.
I'm not sure where to begin with 1967's Casino Royale. It's something of a send-up of the Bond films, and in it David Niven plays an aging Bond. It goes out of its way to be ZANY, and it makes almost no sense at all. In its defense, however, a lot of the women in it are extremely hot, and a couple of the jokes were actually amusing.
Thunderball is, in my opinion, the most boring of Connery's Bond movies, though it gets better toward the end.
You Only Live Twice is a mess, but it's a glorious mess. The plot makes little sense, and many of the story points seem entirely arbitrary. In a way this adds to the charm of the movie, and the actress who plays Aki is also very sexy.
Many people look down on Australian George Lazenby's only appearance as Bond - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - but I think he was OK as 007. He would have gotten better if he'd done another film.
The ending to that movie though! He gets married, then his wife is shot in front of him, then he sits in his car, crying over her corpse! I can only imagine that they wanted to end the series altogether at that point, but later changed their minds and decided that killing his new bride was the only way to keep the films going. Completely depressing, but the rest of the movie is pretty good.
I've had "Goldfinger" in my head for days. "Thunderball" is a surprisingly lame offering from Tom Jones. On Her Majesty's Secret Service doesn't have a theme song, but the theme music is my favorite of all the Bond movies. Majestic and brooding - it's great!
Is there a theme song to Casino Royale? I may have repressed the memory.
What is a Bond girl, exactly? For those less familiar with the 007 movies, a Bond girl is any sexy and/or interesting and/or important female character in a James Bond movie. Really. I'm not making that up. So using this definition, even "M" from Daniel Craig's Casino Royale and the original Moneypenny could be classified as Bond girls. In Moneypenny's case, it's not to much of a stretch... but in (Dame) Judi Dench's?
Anyway, the most famous Bond girls of the 1960s were probably Ursula Andress, by some accounts the first Bond girl ever, and Honor Blackman, who starred as the oft-mentioned Pussy Galore. In my opinion, the hottest Bond girls are Aki (Akiko Wabayashi) from You Only Live Twice, and Teresa de Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) from On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
But of course describing anyone as "the hottest" is a purely subjective business, and if Ms. Moneypenny's your thing, that's cool too. The actress that played her in 1967's Casino Royale was, by the way, very beautiful.
Where Does Bond Go?
Well, starting with Dr. No, Bond and ending with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he goes from England, to Jamaica, to England, to Turkey, to Croatia, to Italy, to somewhere in Latin America, to the USA, to London, to Switzerland, to the USA (again), to France, to London, to the Bahamas, to the USA, to Hong Kong, to Japan, to Portugal, to London, to Portugal (again), to Switzerland, and then to London. And I'm probably forgetting a couple places.
Highlights of the 60s Bond
1. The scene in Dr. No when Sean Connery first appears.
2. The heist at the end of Goldfinger.
3. The scuba fight at the end of Thunderball.
4. That whole weird sequence where Bond becomes a) a ninja, and then b) Japanese (!) in You Only Live Twice.
5. The ski chase which follows the car chase in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
And in Conclusion...
Conclusion? I don't have one! It's back to the grindstone for me. Almost through the 1970s Bond movies. Let you know when I get there...
Other Bond entries:
Bond: The 1970s
Bond: The 1980s
Bond: The 1990s
Bond: 2002 to the Present
Bond: The Conclusion!