Diamonds Are Forever (1971)


James Bond kills Blofeld in the opening sequence, but we all know he's not really dead. After this, Bond investigates a diamond smuggling ring.

Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including Tiffany Case, a feisty redhead with big breasts, and the equally well-endowed Plenty O'Toole. Actually, he doesn't get to nail that last one, because she's thrown out of a window. Bond also makes out with himself in public.


...Yawn! Blofeld again. Turns out he's the one behind the diamond smuggling, using a secluded millionaire and his casino as a front. Meanwhile two cartoonish henchmen, Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint, run around and kill everybody. Not sure they want world domination, though. Not really sure who they're working for, actually.


Oh dear... Where to begin on this one?

Diamonds Are Forever is an awful film, in every sense of the word. A stupid, boring, inelegant mess. Sure, Sean Connery is back - despite quitting the series after film number 5 - but he looks old and tired.

The story sends James Bond out on the sort of mission the guys from Mission: Impossible have been dealing with for 5 years. More efficiently, I might add. Bond, who presumably is one of the most skilled secret agents, should not be chasing a mere diamond smuggler. A fact he even mentions himself! Of course, the plot eventually turns out to involve Blofeld and world domination, but they don't know that up front. And the link between Blofeld and the diamonds is just pathetic, and makes little sense.

The problems of this film becomes very clear, when we're introduced to two ridiculous bad guys early in the film, who insists on saying each other's names in EVERY sentence. They look like a pair of mismatched comedians from a Saturday morning TV show for kids. Even Blofeld is reduced to a clown. At one point he dresses up like an old lady, with lipstick and everything, to evade capture. Appalling. The stupid behavior of the characters is matched by the overall acting quality, which reaches almost offensive levels, but I guess that goes well together with the cartoonish plot that sees Bond run around like Benny Hill, with action scenes straight out of Cannonball Run.

Let me just give one example of this: At one point Bond stumbles through a research facility and comes across a moon set, where astronauts seem to practice working on the moon. Why they would do this on what appears to be a completely ordinary cardboard set, with no similarities to actual moon conditions, is beyond me. When the astronauts see Bond they begin to chase him while moving in slow-motion, as if they were on the moon, while the regular guards chase him at normal speed. Why? Why, why, why?

The stupidity continues when Bond is once again almost killed by an array of random people. A diamond smuggler, a guard, and a few others. Plus he's beaten to a pulp by TWO GIRLS!

Bond has always been incompetent, but I never expected to see him looking like he just wants to be put out of his misery. Alas, although this is Sean Connery's last official 007 movie, he would return to the role 12 years later, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Diamonds Are Forever is, without a doubt, the weakest Bond film so far. It's so inept that I almost suspect the producers were actively trying to kill off the franchise. Where that leaves the next 14 years of Bond featuring Roger Moore, by comparison, I'm not sure.


On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)


James Bond looks different! George Lazenby takes over the iconic role from Sean Connery, and makes it his own.

Bond has been chasing Blofeld for two years, with no luck, but a new clue sends him to a secluded ski resort in Switzerland, where Blofeld is hiding, while preparing his next plan to take over the world. Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, but doesn't nail every broad with a pulse! Instead, he falls in love with feisty countess Tracy Di Vicenzo, played by Diana Rigg, and he quits Her Majesty's Secret Service (well, not really). He also wears a dress, and insists on being called "Hilly".


...Blofeld, who wants to pioneer the use of advanced chemical weapons, by having some hypnotized hot chicks spread nasty diseases, and then blackmail the superpowers for the cure, or something. There's also a curious, nasty henchwoman, called Irma Bunt. She's a beast that one.


Director Peter Hunt has put together an excellent Bond movie, against all odds. It's not an easy task he's got, after all. First of all he's got a new Bond - which is "bad" enough. And second, Bond does something in this film he's never done before: He becomes human.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a slick and inventive spy movie. It's got quite a few solid action set-pieces: A ski chase, a car chase that ends up on a stock car racetrack, and a bobsled chase! Bond's hand-to-hand fighting scenes reaches a new level, and the film closes with an impressive helicopter attack on Blofeld's stronghold.

What really sets this film apart, though, is the strange emotional core of the story. Bond almost stumbles over the woman Tracey. He saves her, with no ulterior motives. He even woos her, also without ulterior motives. He meets with her father, they discuss their future and settling down! Bond falls in love, he becomes vulnerable, and because of this the stakes are higher than ever before.

You can argue that Lazenby is nowhere near as good as Connery, he does seem a bit aloof at times, but he has an advantage because he gets to do the things Connery never did. Oddly enough, the solid love story setup is parked on the sidelines, while Bond goes on a mission.

35 minutes into the film Bond gets a lead on Blofeld's whereabouts and he travels to the aforementioned ski resort, under the guise of being a genealogy researcher. He immediately puts on a dress (okay, it's a traditional Scottish kilt), and proceeds to seduced the other visitors. They are all hot, young girls, who are being trained to carry out Blofeld's chemical terror plan!

Sidebar: Does anybody wonder why Bond and Blofeld don't even recognise each other when they meet in this film, despite meeting face to face in the last film? Now, I know both characters have been recast, but still...

Anyway, all the scenes at the resort are just plain weird. They seem totally disconnected from the rest of the film, almost goofy. Like somebody taped over the middle part of the film with an especially strange Twilight Zone episode! This sequence ends as abruptly as it began, with the return of Tracey and the serious plot. I must admit I found the whole thing quite entertaining, but it's still weird!

The film redeems itself with some cool action sequences in the final act, and on top of that we get that absolutely brutal ending, but the filmmakers really owe us an On Her Majesty's Secret Service II. Alas, Lazenby would be gone by the next film, and the events of this film are never mentioned.

This will be sacrilegious to some, but I definitely prefer Lazenby and this film over Connery and his lackluster efforts.


You Only Live Twice (1967)


An American spaceship is captured by another unidentified spaceship. The Americans thinks the Russians are to blame, the Russians prepare for American retaliation, but the British Secret Service believes the mysterious craft originated from Japan, and thus James Bond is sent to the Land of the Rising Sun to prevent World War III.

Bond gets to play with the mini-helicopter Little Nellie, he's trained as a ninja, at one point he's dressed up to look like a Japanese fisherman, and he dies (again) in the pre-credit sequence. Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including an innocent Japanese island girl, a feisty redhead who works for the bad guys and a few other assorted Asian girls.


...SPECTRE. Again. No. 1 is back, and so is his cat, but this time we actually get to see his face, and we even learn his name. Shudder! We also get some serious opposition from some very cool Japanese henchmen! Hai!


From the very early moments of You Only Live Twice the mood seems distinctly different from the previous films. A hijacking in space, resulting in an international conflict. The danger of war in the air. Bond is dispatched on an uncharacteristically clear mission, backed by solid intel. There's a definite feeling of modern espionage here. Is this really a Bond film? Even the investigation itself seems much more coherent this time around - Bond follows a lead, it leads to a clue, the clue is examined and a new lead is produced. Wow, almost like a real investigation!

It's also worth noting that we're at the same level of information as Bond, at least for the first hour. That works far better than when we have all the facts and are just waiting for Bond to stumble over them. Even when we learn who's behind the whole plot ahead of Bond, he's already voiced his theories - which of course are correct - so we know he's on the right track. It's a lot easier to root for him that way!

Naturally the film still gets distracted every now and then, it's not completely free of those unnecessary detours. It seems strange, for example, to make the effort of faking Bond's death, only to have him walk around moments later with no disguise, but at least it makes for a colorful opening, even if it steals a lot of screen-time. Later the film grinds to a halt at the most crucial moment to show us Bond's transformation into a Japanese fisherman (there's ninja training and heavy makeup involved). Still, things could be worse.

Bond also seems a little less smug here, which suits him well. Sean Connery plays down the character's natural charm, and I'm wondering if this is a conscious choice, or a sign that he's getting fed up with 007. Either way, and especially in light of the international crisis at the heart of the story, it seems quite fitting for this film.

Overall this adventure just feels bigger. We've got a big important plot, we finally get to meet the ultimate bad guy face to face, we're in a (truly) foreign country, with gorgeous vistas and exotic locations, even the sets are bigger. There's a cool areal action scene with several helicopters, and the final action set-piece is more impressive than anything we've seen before.

All in all, You Only Live Twice is a good place to start if you want to check out some of the earlier Bond films. It's the first one I can actually recommend.


Thunderball (1965)


Once again James Bond is called into action when the world is threatened by the evil geniuses from SPECTRE. This time the organisation has acquired two nuclear bombs and issued an ultimatum to NATO: Pay £100 million, or else... Muhahahah (I added the last part).

Bond heads to the Bahamas following a hunch, and inadvertently stumbles over the whole plot. In the pre-credit sequence Bond uses a jet pack to escape, and there's a whole lot of underwater shenanigans along the way. Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including his physiotherapist, innocent, scuba diving, island girl Domino, and evil henchwoman Fiona Volpe. Though, he takes no pleasure in that last one, he'll have you know.


SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo aka. No. 2, who's in charge of the whole operation. He's assisted by a hot redhead with giant breasts, a guy who has undergone plastic surgery to replace an important NATO person, and a bunch of more or less capable henchmen.


Even from the opening sequence it's obvious that somebody turned up the volume on the James Bond universe. If nothing else, this film moves at a brisk pace, and it's certainly never boring, but it's not too coherent either.

The story sounds simple, "Bond must find stolen nukes", but for some reason Thunderball is kind of a mess. There's too much running around aimlessly, checking up on hunches. The story is too elaborate and very disjointed, many things are kept secret, either from us, or the characters. And speaking of characters, there are also too many and they are often badly introduced.

I must once again direct your attention to Austin Powers. In those films there's a character called Basil Exposition. Guess what he does... That's right, he provides exposition. He pops up every now and then with new information for our hero, while reminding us what the next course of action should be. We kind of need that in Thunderball. Here's why that doesn't happen: OUR HERO HAS NO CLUE WHAT'S GOING ON! Bond follows all the right clues - we know this, because WE know what's going on - but he's got NO idea what he doing! He just follows his hunches and relies on blind luck once again, as he stumbles over one important piece of information after another. Even 1,5 hours into the film, he still doesn't know what's going on! Bond needs a clear mission - a specific goal. Let's be honest, he's not the guy you send out to do some subtle "checking up on things". You send him out when you want someone killed or screwed. That's what he does.

And apropos that... Yeah, I get it, Bond is a nice looking man, but he's not THAT nice looking, and when he opens his mouth he's often a bit of a douche. So why would women drop their pants at the first sight of him? Especially considering how unpleasantly he often behaves. This time he blackmails a women to have sex with him, so she can keep her job, and he jumps on the nasty evil henchwoman without flinching, moments after discovering a close friend has been killed. You could argue that Bond's womanizing ways are merely a product of their time, but unless women didn't develop self-respect before the '70s, I don't buy it at all.

At least the film does alright for itself in terms of action sequences. There's a lot of underwater stuff, and the centerpiece of the plot - stealing the nukes underwater - is quite well done. There's also a big underwater action showdown towards the end - a fight between two teams of scuba divers. If you know how difficult underwater shooting is, you can appreciate it for that fact, but honestly it's quite impossible to tell what's going on. Some orange guys are fighting some black guys, or something, but it looks really good!

Alright, I'm about ready for some serious bad guys now, because this whole SPECTRE thing is not working for me. An evil leader, who calls everybody by a number, and has a button so he can easily get rid of incompetent henchmen, while stroking a cat...? That's Austin Powers bad guy Doctor Evil! You can't go back from that. I know Austin Powers came 30 years AFTER this film, but that series has retroactively destroyed any chance that this James Bond villain could ever be taken seriously.

Before we wrap this up, let's check how Bond embarrasses himself this time around. Well, in this movie Bond is almost killed by a massage machine that looks like some kind of ancient self-pleasuring device. Rather unflattering. You know, between Bond's incompetence and his womanizing, I'm starting to root for the bad guys. That can't be good.


Goldfinger (1964)


James Bond is dispatched to investigate Auric Goldfinger, suspected of smuggling gold. To assist him on his quest he gets a brand new Aston Martin, and we get the first proper Q scene. The car is outfitted with tracking device, anti-pursuit capabilities and an ejection-seat. Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including the feisty pilot Pussy Galore, and the innocent Jill Masterson, who pays for that bit of fun, by being suffocated in gold paint (which is not actually possible, according to Mythbusters).


...Goldfinger, of course. Not only does he have a clever plan to win world domination, he actually almost succeeds. He's assisted, in no small amount, by his Korean henchman Oddjob, who can throw a hat really hard (also, not possible, according to Mythbusters).

Pssst... Do you know how we can tell Goldfinger is really bad? He cheats when he plays gin! The humanity... The humanity...


Now we're getting somewhere. This is by no means a clear-cut winner, but Goldfinger is far less embarrassing than the previous two 007 films. Bond is ready for action even before the opening credits roll. He jumps out of the water in scuba gear (with a duck on his head, but never mind that), plants some explosives, removes the diving gear to reveal an impeccable suit, and almost gets laid. All this before the film has even begun. Of course, he's also nearly killed twice within the first 5 minutes, but it wouldn't really be Bond if he was all careful, right? Even though he's reckless, he's far less stupid in this movie than in the earlier entries. It continues to amaze me how much he relies on luck, rather than his (presumably) extensive training, but I guess that's the charm of the whole concept.

Story is still a major issue, although by the end, we're clearly on the right track. However, the first act is still a bit rough. We're introduced to Goldfinger in two elaborate sequence: In the first Bond catches him cheating during his card game, and in the second Goldfinger and Bond play a round of golf, where they both cheat. That's the first half hour. Neither of these scenes lead anywhere, we learn nothing particularly interesting (nothing that isn't repeated later anyway), and the pace is off the charts slow. Luckily the central plot, meaning Goldfinger's plan, which involves compromising the entire US gold supply, is actually quite clever. As soon as that kicks into gear the film becomes interesting. We get some cool action scene, a few clever plot twists, and some genuinely interesting characters, who actually pose a threat or a challenge to Bond.

We could have done without the "unnecessarily slow cutting device" Bond is exposed to, or the rather clumsy exposition scene where Goldfinger explains his entire plan in great detail to a bunch of people, only to kill them off minutes later, but to be fair these are minor bumps in the road, barely noticeable when we're going at full speed. The entire end sequence is certainly on par with the best of the best from the '60s! There's a big fight between two groups of soldiers, cross-cut with a small fight between Bond and Oddjob, while the counter of an armed nuclear device provides an inescapable and rather effective deadline.

Goldfinger was a rather enjoyable revisit, but like I mentioned, it's not without it's flaws. Story is one thing, but I do think the worst crime this movie commits, is the scene where Bond cheats a guard by pretending to ride down an elevator behind his prison cell door. You know who also does the elevator thing? Austin Powers. At least he got laid with that trick.

Oh, and one last thing... Pussy Galore? Really? Really!? Can we please put an end to these juvenile female character names?