Movie Review: DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) 7th James Bond Movie

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diamonds_are_forever.jpgDIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, 1971
James Bond Movie Review

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Grey, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Glover, Lois Maxwell
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

A mysterious diamond smuggling operation is being carried out from Africa to Las Vegas and everyone who touches the diamonds is ending up dead. M sends Bond to investigate and what Bond finds is the furthest thing he could’ve imagined, involving an old foe using of the diamonds to destroy the world.

REVIEW:

What happened? My real disappointment in Diamonds are Forever is the complete lack of regard of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is by far a superior film than Diamonds are Forever. That being said Diamonds are Forever can be enjoyed for its extreme camp value, which is the types of Bond you get through the 70’s. The producers seem to want to make the next Goldfinger, which proves that the franchise became about the money in a lot of ways. Connery was paid an enormous amount to play Bond again, they brought back Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton, had huge set pieces, crazy chases and a Las Vegas location. It all worked, because it was a big box office success.

The film itself is very thin compared to the others. A diamond smuggling ring is discovered and it ends up tracing back to Blofeld who is making doppelgangers of himself through some type of mud and clay moldings. He uses the diamonds to install into a satellite he has, and using the power of the diamonds he can shoot a lethal laser beam from space to blow things up. Pretty crazy and absurd. Fun to laugh about though.

Connery himself seems to be going through the motions. It does not feel like a man that just lost his wife. You can tell that Connery is ready to move on from the role. I do enjoy Blofeld’s gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. I find they get a lot of flack, but every time they are on screen I laugh or have a good time. They are the weirdest Bond villains in the series and I really enjoy them for that reason.

Despite the craziness of Diamonds are Forever there is a great car chase through Las Vegas in a mustang. There is also a scene where Bond gets chased while driving a moon buggy, with arms!?!

It is just as crazy as you could imagine.

As you can probably tell Diamonds are Forever is one of my least favorite of the films. If you set your brain aside you still have a good time. It is fast paced and entertaining, and it is an audience pleaser. Audiences wanted a Bond to win and it is what they got and producers took note of that fact. The filmmakers completely put Flemings books to the side and started doing things there own way. They completely rewrote the film with a few things, like characters, kept in. I believe this is partly to do with the least successful On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This is the dawn of the new Bond with Diamonds are Forever. Big bad guys, more gadgets, and more action. Fleming’s novels were more beyond this point until For Your Eyes Only.

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review: ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969) 6th James Bond Film

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On Her Majesty's Secret Service, MOVIE POSTERON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, 1969
James Bond Movie Review

Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Starring: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Lois Maxwell, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

Bond goes on the trail to find Blofeld, and is eventually lead to Switzerland. He falls in love, tries to quit being a secret agent, gets into a few ski chases, which all leads to the most tragic ending in any Bond film.

REVIEW:

Non-actor Lazenby filled in for Sean Connery in the roll of James Bond and even though Lazenby couldn’t deliver the dialogue that great (they even dubbed his voice for part of the movie), his fight scenes were really unique and the film itself is solid.

Director Peter Hunt went immediately back to Fleming’s novel and kept the film true to Fleming’s vision. After You Only Live Twice getting a bit out of hand, but extremely popular at the time, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service dared to go back to the roots of the genre, which is commendable. The film is action packed and exciting as well as extremely emotional and dramatic. This is the last film for awhile that feels serious before Bond films started becoming really campy and it is one of my favorites. It stands out on its own. It feels as if it doesn’t even belong beside the other films, because it feels so different.

Savalas stands out as the best Blofeld in the series. Also Played by Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray. Savalas’ Blofeld is quick, intelligent, proactive and always has the upper hand on Bond. Blofeld’s confidence is so apparent through his habits, like the way he holds his cigarettes, with a sense of righteousness. His master plan to brainwash innocent young girls into bringing back biological weaponry back to there countries is great, under his control, authority and trust he just needs to give the word and the girls will release the diseases. Savalas’ Blofeld is in my top five villains in the series mainly because savalas’ portrayal of a confident, subdued megalomaniac seems awfully realistic.

The other great part about this film is the love story that spawns between Bond and Diana Rigg’s character Tracey. Tracey’s depression feeds into Bond’s need to save her from the beginning of the film to the tragic finale, which leaves Bond falling into a pit of sadness and self denial repeating the line “It’s all right. It’s quite all right, really. She’s having a rest.

We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world.”

On her Majesty’s Secret Service’s own tragedy comes with the next film Diamonds are Forever, which doesn’t take into account that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was even made. It didn’t do as well in the box office as the Connery films and audiences were known to boo the ending of the film. It was a Bond film that was ahead of its time and suffered because of it. The story is good and not too over the top and for Lazenby’s first and only outing as Bond he does prove there could be a lot of potential. Hunt’s film work and action scenes stand alone in the series, with gritty fights and interesting camera techniques that seemed innovative for the time. Unfortunately as Tracey says in the film, “People who want to stay alive play it safe.” That is exactly what they do with the next Bond films by keeping in the tradition of what the audience wants. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service may have not been the most popular Bond at the time, but as time goes on it becomes better and better, gaining it the respect from fans it didn’t fully get in 1969.

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Movie Review: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) 5th James Bond Film

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YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE,  MOVIE POSTERYOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, 1967
Movie Reviews

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Starring Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Donald Pleasence and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

In the midst of the cold war still going on, someone is stealing Russian and American spaceships right out of space. Bond fakes his death to go undercover in Japan, to find a chemical company supplying and hiding illegal rocket fuel. A mysterious island catches Bond’s eye after a young girl is found dead. On the island Bond searches a volcano that is not what it seems. Can Bond stop world War 3 and stop whoever is stealing the spaceships? I have a feeling a good predictable ending ensues.

REVIEW:

Roald Dahl wrote the imaginative script for You Only Live Twice and it is the most imaginative script so far of the series. Abandoning Fleming’s novel almost completely Dahl and the film makers make an epic Bond film dealing with the space race and the cold war. Someone is stealing ships right out of space using their own spaceship. Russia is blaming the U.S. and vice versa. Bond under the foes impression that he is now dead travels to Japan and finds that the Osato corporation is behind the crime. The themes in You Only Live Twice are great, especially for the time, before the first man hit the moon the Russians and Americans were fighting for the glory, so why not excite audiences who were all excited about the prospects of space at the time. Also this is the first film that deals with a corrupt corporation funding the money for big crime.

The first hour, You Only Live Twice is exciting and well told with great mystery woven around Japanese customs. Supposedly at the time men were put first in Japan before the women. They even say it in the movie with Bond saying I have to retire here, which doesn’t help the controversy of Bond being the worlds biggest womanizer, but he is. Bond slowly figures things out and it leads him to a volcano which is in fact a secret launching pad and station for none other than SPECTRE head No.1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld petting his white cat ready to kill anyone who fails ONCE. He is ready to start World War 3 for some money.

This is the film that is truly spoofed by the Austin Powers films. Blofeld’s volcano station is just crazy. Bond films were never the same grounded films after You Only Live Twice, with the exception of a couple. It pushes Bond in a direction completely away from Fleming’s novels into what the studios wanted. More action, more stunts, more gadgets overriding the stories being told. And I’m not saying I don’t like it. I still do, because it’s fun, emotionally it becomes lost, but this is the direction the franchise takes.

There is a certain amount of convenience in most Bond films. You just have to accept as an audience member and suspend disbelief. The Americans and Russians almost seem to jump to conclusions about each other too soon for the convenience of the film. Bond gets the chance to use each one of his gadgets at a perfect time in the movie. That is the fun of these movies though. As I am watching the film I can’t wait for Bond to get a chance to use a cigarette that is actually a gun.

As haywire as You only Live Twice is and fans of the novels may be disappointed. It still has its great moments, locales, action, girls and mystery to keep audiences excited. It feels like all the previous Bond films rolled into one, trying to revolutionize the genre into what it did become when Roger Moore took over.

 

Movie Review: THUNDERBALL (1965) 4th James Bond Movie

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THUNDERBALL,  MOVIE POSTERTHUNDERBALL, 1965
Movie Reviews

Directed by Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celii, Luciana Paluzzi and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

M sends Bond to a health spa to improve his health. SPECTRE has come up with a plan to steal two nuclear warheads and hold the world as hostage. M sends Bond to the Bahamas where Bond plays cat and mouse with SPECTRE’s no. 2, Emilio Largo that climaxes in a big underwater battle.

REVIEW:

With a bigger budget and longer running time than the last films and a great theme song by Tom Jones, Thunderball tells us that it is going to be big and exciting. Filmed in the beautiful Bahamas with a lot of underwater sequences and a lot of sharks, which appear a lot in future films after Thunderball. Supposedly Connery was almost attacked by a shark on set.

Connery is great as the 60’s hero. He seems more confidant in this film. Claudine Auger as Domino is my favorite Bond girl in the series. I’m not the only one. I’ve had intense talks with friends where we agree that she is the best. She is, sweet, knowing, adventurous and proves she can fend for herself by the end. What can I say, she is just absolutely beautiful.

There is a lot a stake for Bond survival wise, but not as much emotional stakes as the previous two films. Though I like how matter of fact Bond is with Domino when he tells her that her brother is dead. He exploits her to get close to Largo to find out where Largo plans to detonate the warheads. He does what he has to do for the world. Does he have to sleep with Domino before he tells her? Probably not. But the movie suggests he does it because he likes her and wants to keep Domino close. It works and Domino tells Bond where Largo is going to be with his men before they go get the warheads Largo has hidden. Bond disguises himself and finds out that Largo is going to hit Miami. Bond gets the information to Felix Leiter, his good friend, and the Americans come in to intercept Largo and his men underwater in one of the only and very exciting underwater battles scenes. Sometimes it is hard to tell what’s going on, but it doesn’t take away from the excitement.

As the film ends, Bond and Domino strap up to a long line and send a balloon in the sky to lift the line up and a plane goes by and catches them and takes them for a ride. This is one of the James Bond stunts that is pretty ludicrous, because it takes all shred of believability out of the film and where did this plane come from. Most people I’ve watched this film with all give a “what the @#$%!! when they see that stunt. It goes to show that in an over the top action film some things still don’t make sense.

Apart from that I still love Thunderball with the great SPECTRE meeting with all the agents around the world and No. 1, soon to be know as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, with his controls to kill anyone in their chairs that screw up. The eye-patched Largo is great, and the first real beautiful femme fatale, Fiona Volpe, is seductive and dangerous, even to watch as an audience member. Largo’s pool of sharks proves an intense and exciting scene. And Bond flies a crazy jet pack.

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Movie Review: GOLDFINGER, 1964. 3rd James Bond Movie

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GOLDFINGER,  MOVIE POSTERGOLDFINGER, 1964
Movie Reviews

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Starring Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

A vengeful Bond is sent to see where the megalomaniac Auric Goldfinger gets his gold by M. Bond and Goldfinger have many one on one confrontations where Bond figures out that Goldfinger has a plan that could send the U.S.A into economic turmoil, while Goldfinger profits from the misfortunes.

REVIEW:

If you don’t know James Bond, most people would recognize Auric Goldfinger and his Korean bodyguard Oddjob, spoofed a lot due to his metal hat he throws to murder people. Goldfinger and Oddjob are so iconic to the Bond franchise. Bond and Goldfinger have numerous confrontations both playing at each others game, while a massive looming Korean with his lethal hat hangs out ready to kill on Goldfinger’s orders.

Goldfinger is one of the best Bond’s. It is so entertaining it is impossible not to enjoy it. They started pushing the genre and it is noticeable in this film. In From Russia with Love Bond had his fun briefcase from Q. Now he has a full on Aston Martin with so many gadgets, even an ejector seat. Red grant seemed to be unstoppable, but Bond managed to get the best of him in a fight. Now Oddjob is the force to be reckoned with and Bond has to use is wits more than his muscle to stop him.

What I like about Goldfinger the most is the fact that Bond can’t save everyone. The first bit of the film Jill Masterson, a young pretty girl working for Goldfinger is seduced by bond and Bond makes Goldfinger lose his high stakes card game. As punishment Goldfinger has Jill Masterson killed by painting her completely in gold paint suffocating her skin.

This is the first time we see Bond fail to protect a female. Later in the movie he fails again. We see Connery affected by these moments, but Connery’s Bond doesn’t carry the burdens of the deaths with him as we see in Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond. Connery’s Bond seems too fast with his emotions.

Nevertheless we root for Connery as he uses every trick up his sleeve to foil Goldfinger. The classic scene where he is about to get zapped in half by the laser gun and he talks Goldfinger into saving him is so intense with Goldfingers famous line “I expect you to Die,” he says it with such joy as well. I love as well Goldfingers room where he is explaining his plans to all the mafiosi and he has built all these contraptions in his room that move and rotate into maps and models. He must of spent a lot of money, which is why he is so insane. I can’t help to think that it is a lot of evidence if he ever gets caught.

When the Fort Knox scene comes it is so action packed and the pace doesn’t let down until the end when Pussy Galore (one of many bond girl names with sexual connotations) and Bond get together.

Goldfinger is one of the funnest Bond’s. It crazier than the first two films, but it works well for what an audience wants. Gold was a huge resource back then like oil is today and Goldfinger is just a fun bad guy to watch. He is one of my favorite Bond villains and even though Oddjob’s hat throwing is ridiculous, it fits into Bonds universe where you can’t really be surprised by what any of the bad guys do. Goldfinger was one of the first box office successes of its time and the Bond films really took off after Goldfinger, and I have to say I am glad they did.

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Movie Review: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1963. 2nd James Bond Film

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FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE,  MOVIE POSTERFROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1962
Movie Reviews

Directed by Terence Young
Starring Sean Connery, Pedro Armendariz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Daniela Bianchi and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

It comes to MI6’s attention that a Russian girl has defected and offered to bring a lektor decoding device to MI6 in exchange that James Bond comes and retrieves her and the device. Bond rightfully responds that it is a trap, but who is setting the trap? Is it the Russians?

REVIEW:

Off the bat I have to say that From Russia with Love is my favorite Bond film and Bond novel. The film follows the source material relatively close, except a few minor changes, but that doesn’t matter, because the film is exciting and it flows extremely well. Unlike Dr. No we know the plan of the foes right off the bat. We have to watch Bond from a distance and he thinks he’s got everything figured out. He thinks the Russians are setting him up, but it is in fact SPECTRE. Bond doesn’t know this until over halfway into the film and you can see on Connery’s face that it is a huge blow to the ego. SPECTRE wants Bond dead for killing Dr. No and they want to steal the Lektor to sell it back to the Russians to help fund their organization. So why not kill two birds in one stone. Get MI6, who have been trying to get a lektor for ages, to send Bond to get the Lektor, SPECTRE sends an assassin to kill Bond get the Lektor into SPECTRE’s hands, all the time Russia and England will be blaming each other.

The film took place during the intense cold war and the film does a good job at portraying that, which makes SPECTRE that much more diabolical is that they are taking advantage of world issues for their own gain. The film is a perfect balance. There is not too much and not too little. We aren’t overwhelmed by an overabundance of set pieces and gadgets just yet and this is Connery’s most vulnerable film as Bond, particularly when Red Grant, the Irish psychopath working for SPECTRE proves that bond doesn’t always know what is going on, which leads into an amazing fight scene in a train car. It’s not like a Jason Bourne fight, but for 1963 I can imagine it was a very similar experience at the time.

This is the first film to introduce Q and his gadgets, which become a James Bond staple. Bond gets a suitcase full of fun toys that always conveniently help him on the way.

Although the gadgetry was never in the books, it is fun, especially for young males to imagine all the cool things Bond can play with. Later films they keep topping the previous films and the gadgets get more ridiculous, but for now they are simple and fun.

The villains in From Russia with Love are very memorable. Rosa Klebb is the nasty woman who spearheads the operation under No. 1 who’s face we do not see, but through her fear we know he is not to be toyed with. She hires Red Grant, a man who makes James Bond enjoyable prey to hunt. He is very strong and begins a long line of Bond foes that seem indestructible, raising the danger levels higher.

With all the new add ons that upped the ante for the series From Russia with love remains my favorite, because it is more believable than a lot of other Bond films, which is what makes the film more exciting. There’s a connection with from Russia with Love that the other films don’t have for me, and that is what constitutes as good story telling for this type of genre. There has to be a sense of being grounded in reality even if it is a crazy spy story and From Russia With Love achieves that the best of the early Bonds films

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Movie Review: DR NO, 1962. First James Bond Film

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dr_noDR NO, 1962
Movie Reviews

Directed by Terence Young
Starring Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

James Bond is sent to investigate the murders of an operative and his secretary, stationed in Jamaica. While there he discovers there is more going on than anyone could imagine. The locals are scared out of their minds to talk, there is a huge lack of trust between anyone, a mysterious island and everyone seems to want James Bond dead.

REVIEW:

I am a huge James Bond fan, for many reasons, like many others I love James Bond himself. A cool, ultra suave and sophisticated spy, unafraid to practically do anything dangerous. He sounds like the ultimate hero and dammit he is. The Bond films have grown with the times to suit what the audience wants (Moonraker: the Star Wars James Bond) and to even give a jolt of reality and portray Bond with real emotional feelings (On her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale). The Bond girls have grown with the times as becoming more and more strong willed dependent women that don’t need to fully rely on Bond and Bond to rely on them more. I just wanted to discuss where I am going to go as I do my reviews of these films I love. The first of the films Dr. No is one of my favorites and it is the film that introduced all the Bond standards you would expect from a James Bond movie.

The film starts with the signature shot looking through the gun barrel and a man turns and shoots, blood comes down the screen. It’s not Connery, but we get the picture that it is James Bond and he WILL KILL YOU if you have a gun pointed at him. Pretty cool and also a little scary when you think about it. He is a dangerous man. After an arousing title sequence we start with three blind men, seemingly walking a fair distance, pretending to be blind until they meet up with Strangways, the British operative stationed in Jamaica, they use their disability cunningly and WHAT!! Yeah, they kill Strangways. They kill his secretary as well and steal a file entitled Dr. No from the office. From there we meet Bond for the first time and right off the bat we know were safe with the man where he wins the first of many hands gambling ( I actually think he can see through the backs of cards). Bond gets his first girl, which becomes a controversial subject in the Bond films, the portrayal of Women by Bond.

Bond meets M who sends him to Jamaica to investigate Strangways murder. Bond goes, and the story then unfolds almost like a Raymond Chandler novel. Dr. No more than any other Bond film is more of a mystery. That is why I like Dr. No so much. You are putting the puzzle together with Bond. A small murder case turns into a plot by Dr. No to Disrupt radio transmissions in the American space program, which would cause chaos at the cape Canaveral rocket launch sites. Like Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Bond uncovers more and more of the truth from locals, enemies and evidence pointing toward an island called crab key, that none of the locals will go near. Bond meets Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in crab key in the most famous bond girl scene in the series. I don’t blame it for being famous it is sexy and at the time probably too sexy.

So far in the film Dr. No (who belongs to a terrorist organization called SPECTRE) himself has been the ultimate mystery. For 3 quarters of the film we had only heard his voice, which was almost godlike, like a lot of future Bond villains, they appear to have complexes of all destroying the world on a global scale. Dr. No’s lair is brilliantly decorated by Ken Adam who starts a trait for Bond’s foes as having rich living conditions.

Overall Dr. No sets the standard for Bond films and opens us up to the world of Bond, his witty one liners and his smooth talking demeanor. Not only that it is a solid movie and definitely in my top 5 of the series. Sure it is a little outlandish and almost silly by todays standards, but it works so well and is a lot of fun. It also works to stay within the times by using the antagonist’s idea to disrupt the space race which was a huge and exciting ordeal at the time. Bond is the hero we need to protect us as the world moves forward around us. He is the hero that keeps the world running smoothly.

 

 

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