Welcome to the latest Snooty Ushers collaboration. From time to time, we will be taking a topic of mutual interest and giving our thoughts and opinions, all on the same post. This week Daniel Craig plays James Bond, 007, for the 4th time as Sam Mendes brings us Spectre. With the release of the 24th official big screen outing of Ian Fleming’s MI6 agent, The Snooty Ushers have got together to discuss one of the most successful franchises in movie history. No series of films have spanned such a large amount of time, from the early 60s, through to the fall of the Berlin wall, and a gritty reboot that has taken the series to greater heights than ever. There have been some slight missteps when the producers went chasing popular cinema trends (the shoehorned “kung fu” in Man With The Golden Gun and going into space with Moonraker after Star Wars’ success are two examples) but the Bond films have supplied some of the most exciting, thrilling, and entertaining moments in British film history.
So here we are: The Snooty Ushers On… Bond.
James: Daniel Craig (2006- )
I was 12 when GoldenEye came out, so Pierce Brosnan was my first new Bond. When they were being repeated on TV, Sean Connery was the one I preferred over Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton was alright. George Lazenby wasn’t. But for me, Connery’s films are just a bit better, so he was my favourite. That is until Casino Royale. Daniel Craig in that film embodied everything I like about Bond: the toughness, the coolness, but then also the vulnerability. Quantum of Solace showed this Bond had more depth than any previous version, and Skyfall is great, again going back to his very roots, building him into the complete James Bond. If he can just throw a hat onto a hatstand…
Dave: Daniel Craig (2006- )
This is like Sophie’s Choice. It is very difficult to pick a favourite as each actor brought something unique to the role and some were hampered by either some truly terrible films (Moore/Brosnan) or political correctness (Dalton). Sean Connery, who seems to be, in many people’s opinion the definitive Bond is hampered by the fact that I have a really low opinion of the man. He isn’t much of an actor and don’t get me started on his links to the S.N.P.
Daniel Craig, for me is the perfect Bond for the modern era, he echos the cool of Steve McQueen while bringing a rugged edge to the character, which was needed to re-boot things after the disaster of Die Another Day. It seems crazy to think of the negativity that surrounded him the day he drove down the Thames on a speed boat, remember the “Blonde Bond” saga? All a distant memory, as he nailed the character and goes from strength to strength.
Welshy: Daniel Craig (2006-)
Tough choice, I love Connery’s Bond. Unfortunately it has to be Daniel Craig. I think he was such a different type of Bond but he worked so well drawing more on original source material than the franchise film well. Since my two fellow ushers have said quite a bit already I will address this in the next section.
James: Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)
The archetypal Bond film. Although I’ve always thought From Russia With Love is constantly underrated (it could be the best spy film in the series), this was the first Bond film. Sean Connery nails it as Bond here, getting the right level of the thug and the charmer that Fleming wrote. Auric Goldfinger is a brilliant villain, with a ruthless streak that Bond matches (shown early on when Goldfinger cheats at golf, but Bond tricks him back). Then there’s the famous scene with Bond strapped to a table, about to be sliced in half, with the great “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” line. This is my favourite scene in all of Bond. Goldfinger means it! There’s no heroic escape from Bond in this scene, it’s a desperate shouting of a phrase he had overheard earlier that has far more relevancy than he realises. Goldfinger only then decides he needs to keep Bond alive. Sure there are flashier scenes elsewhere, but that for me is Bond at its best. The DB5 is introduced here. Even the banter between Q and Bond first starts here. The film improved on the book, giving a nice twist to Goldfinger’s plan to irradiate, rather than steal, the gold in Fort Knox. Goldfinger basically set the template for the Bond film’s to come. And it’s my favourite.
Dave: Goldeneye (Martin Campbell, 1995)
Ah, if the first category was Sophie’s Choice, I don’t know what this is. So many great films: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, The World Is Not Enough, Casino Royale, Skyfall… but for me, it has to be Goldeneye, just pipping From Russia With Love
I was buzzing in the mid 90s when they were bringing the franchise back and loved Brosnan’s casting. The film was great fun and I have re-watched it many times. Judi Dench was a master stroke as M and Sean Bean was perfect foil for Brosnan as the villain. I think this choice has a lot to do with my love for the amazing Nintendo 64 game, which I was addicted to for years.
Welshy: Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2002)
I thought this was an incredible especially following the entertaining, albeit silly Die Another Day and The World is Not Enough. Bond had been given an overhaul which as said I for Daniel Craig went back to the novels and brought lots of those elements in. It made Bond more of, as M says ‘ a blunt instrument’. He still has all the charisma and style of previous Bonds but he has an edge, a serious and slightly deeper sense of threat. It also touches on how he came to be Bond during some initial flirting with Vesper, the idea he is an orphan and went to Oxford on government money (Novels). Which is another reason I like Daniel Craig in the role because he is bigger, more rugged and a little more dead eyed than previous incantations. I also think the Monte Carlo setting and the Poker tournament is just so SEXY and SO BOND. (p.s. Dr No came a close second)
Least Favourite Film
James: A View To A Kill (John Glen, 1985)
If it wasn’t for Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, this would have been The Man With The Golden Gun. I hate that movie. Die Another Day is really bad as well, the opening scene (with Bond being captured and tortured) and Rosamund Pike are all that saved that. There’s a similar feeling to A View To A Kill, lead actor hanging around too long, introducing a side kick (Patrick MacNee is great, but really not needed in this film), and just a general air of complacency. Plus…
James Bond makes a quiche. It makes me squirm just typing it, and I know it has aged badly, but it is just silly. Christopher Walken is ok as Zorin, but his plan to sink Silicon Valley is a rip-off of Lex Luthor’s real estate plan in Superman. Just a bad film all round.
Dave: Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002)
Now, there certainly are some truly awful moments in Bond’s history, most of them featuring Roger Moore, but by the time 2002 came around people really should have known better. This was just a film too far for Brosnan. A rubbish posh boy villain, John Cleese’s Q was to jokey, Halle Berry as Jinx was utterly mis-cast, with Brosnan looking more like a dirty old man than a smooth secret agent, totally underusing Rick Yune’s super cool henchman and don’t get me started on the soft focus cameo by Madonna. After a good stint in the tux, it is a shame that Brosnan signed off with such a stinker.
Welshy: Tomorrow Never Dies (Roger Spotiswoode, 1997)
Boring and stupid as shit. I understand what they were trying to get across, with the power of the media etc. But it was still just executed poorly. Even Michelle Yeoh couldn’t save it. I felt it lacked the scale of previous film like the Connery’s Bonds and Goldeneye. I think Jonathan Pryce (Elliot Carver) was a poor villain. Again he doesn’t looks like real threat or imposing powerhouse. He doesn’t even the ability to make me believe he could be a megalomaniac. I wouldn’t listen to him. Again I think they were trying for a different type of Bond, more modern and trying to satire the trouble of the day and maybe that’s why he is portrayed as such. All in all though worst Bond Film ever.
Favourite Bond Girl
James: Judi Dench, M, GoldenEye – Skyfall
No? Ok then…
Diana Rigg, Tracy Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969)
So, Bond girl’s are pretty much disposable, both to Bond and the scriptwriter. It’s a big issue that many people have with the films, but the ideas is meant to be that if Bond is only using women as much as they use him. Or something, the sexual politics are very iffy, especially if you’ve read any of Fleming’s books. So, the ones that have the biggest impact (on Bond and the audience) are the ones he cares for but can’t save. These include Teri Hatcher in Tomorrow Never Dies (but she is a wafer thin character, a few lines about a past with Bond is all there is) and Eva Green in Casino Royale. But for me it has to be Tracy Bond, the only woman to marry Bond, and then… well, I’ll leave that one spoiler out.
Dave: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2002)
Named after Latin for evening, Vesper Lynd was described in the novel as born on a dark and stormy evening. She gave her name to the Vesper Martini, shaken, not stirred, a catchphrase in the modernised Bond films.
In Casino Royale, the character is updated as a foreign liaison to The Treasury, but is actually a double agent working for The Quantum organisation. Despite this Bond falls head over heels for her and is devastated by her death.
Eva Green is absolutely brilliant in this role, oozing sexuality, while still retaining a strong presence. She is initially skeptical of Bond, refusing to be his trophy. She ultimately cuts a deal to save Bond’s life at the cost of her own. What a lady!
This is a hard question, I mean………..Jayne Seymour(Solitaire) Michelle Yeoh (Wai Lin), Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Simonova)…………but seriously, like my fellow ushers I am aware of the murky arguments surrounding Bond Girls. However since Bond girls are a staple of the franchise for good and for bad. I am making my choice based solely on that fact.
so….My choice…..Honey Rider- Usrula Anders -Dr. No. (Terrance Young, 1962)
The original Bond Girl in the film that started it all. She was sexy and Swedish and I know that while she doesn’t always have the modern spitfire nature of the later bond girls, she could still hold her own. It was the only reason I actually stated going to the beach. (Michelle Yeoh came close second).
Best Bad Guy
James: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Donald Pleasance, You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967)
This is almost a cheat, I really don’t think there is any other choice. Christopher Lee as Scaramanga is very good (pitching him as Bond’s equal works a treat), and similarly Sean Bean’s ex-006 Alec Trevelyan was incredibly enjoyable both the first time I saw him (GoldenEye was my first “new” bond film) and subsequent re-watches. Goldfinger is perfect as a one-off, but Blofeld is the man behind SPECTRE, the number 1. He makes fleeting cameo appearances in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, shown to be pulling the strings and, especially in From Russia With Love, leading Bond a merry dance. He is finally revealed in You Only Live Twice and is basically blackmailing China to start a world war, the guy thinks big! And then, when he is foiled, he goes personal, he himself driving the car when Bond’s wife is shot in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I always assumed the explanation of him changing his appearance was cute and allowed the character to return when the actor moved on, but the radical altering of appearance is a big character trait from the beginning. For me, the original incarnation in You Only Live Twice is the best. Will he return in Spectre, with another different appearance?
Dave: Donald “Red” Grant, Robert Shaw, From Russia With Love (Terence Young, 1963)
I concede that he is more of a henchman than an actual villain, and really it is hard to look beyond Blofeld, and James has done such a good job above. I just love this character, he is kind of an anti-Bond, and if things had of gone differently, this is what Bond could have become himself. A ruthless assassin in a sharp suit, the shocking blonde hair isn’t ideal, but Robert Shaw is a great actor and elevates Red above the regular henchman in my opinion.
Welshy: Mr Big/ Kananga Yaphet Kotto, Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973),
Playing politician Dr. Kananga and big time gangster Mr. Big, Kotto created a very interesting villain. Maybe not as smooth as Scaramanga or as fearsome as Blofeld. He is by no means the best villain but he is certainly memorable. A villain drawn from the Blaxploitation era. He was just so cool with his face paint and his dual roles and his “Names are for tombstones baby”.
James: Aston Martin DB5
There is no other answer. Even in the Daniel Craig-era, this car has been memorable, firstly winning it in a card game in Casino Royale, and then the heroic unveiling in Skyfall (brilliantly undercut by M a few minutes later complaining about the ride). Before that, it served as Pierce Brosnan’s introduction to Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye, but of course, it became iconic in Goldfinger and Thunderball. As vital to the appeal of the Bond films as the pretty girls and exotic locations.
Dave: Aston Martin Vanquish from Die Another Day
Yes, it was, in my opinion, the worst Bond film, but what a car. Sleek, Silver, Sexy (lets forget the fact that it went invisible). If I ever win the lottery, there is a good chance this car will be my first purchase.
Welshy: Sunbeam Alpine from Dr. No.
All the Aston Martins are beautiful, especially in the later films the V12 in particular. My favorite Car was the Sunbeam Alpine. Ir was a modest, British and in a light lake blue. Bond rented the convertible in Jamaica to drive to the mountain apartment of Miss Taro the principal secretary of Jamaica. Although starting out as a leisurely sunny drive, Bond is soon chased by The Three Blind Mice in a hearse. He avoids their tail with style, by driving under a crane that is blocking the road. The hearse is too tall to fit under, and ends up swerving off the mountain to its fiery demise. The Alpine was supposedly borrowed from a local on the Island, to avoid the cost of importing their own.
Best Bond Song
James: Live and Let Die, Wings, 1973
Well, it wasn’t going to be Writing’s on the Wall. And I normally agree with Alan Partridge on most subjects…
and The Spy Who Loved Me is good, but not the best. It’s got to be Live And Let Die. The classic themes (Bassey, Jones etc) are very good and fit Bond well, but Live and Let Die is a great song, period.
Dave: From Russia With Love, Matt Munro, 1963
There are a so many great Bond themes that I absolutely love, You Know My Name, by Chris Cornell is the best of the modern ones, with Thunderball by Tom Jones and really any of the Shirley Bassey tracks hitting great heights, and Sam Smith’s song is brilliant, but for me, From Russia With Love takes it. The first real Bond theme just fits the franchise perfectly and the velvet tonsils of Matt Murno hits all the right notes. A classic song from probably my favourite film of the Connery era. Have a listen here
Welshy: Goldfinger Shirley Bassey 1964 – Not great with Music so I am deferring to my mother, who oddly enough is a die hard Bond fan, trust me, this woman knows her Bond.
On a scale of 1 to 007, how excited are you to watch Spectre?
Skyfall concluded with all the pieces in place for classic Bond, wiping the slate clean and putting a new MI6 in place, stronger and more secure than ever. So what do the producers decide to do? Bring back SPECTRE, the terrorist organisation big enough to wipe MI6 off the map and take Bond with them. I’m always pumped for a new Bond film, the epic quality of Skyfall raised my expectations even higher. Bringing Sam Mendes back for a second film will allow continuity, and Christoph Waltz (is he Blofeld???), Monica Bellucci, and Dave Bautista joining the cast is even more exciting.
These new films have brought Bond full circle. Pretty much everything James has said, I echo. I loved every second of Daniel Craig’s run as Bond and that looks set to continue. I think the Sam Smith song is great and every time I hear it, it gets me even more excited. Let’s do this!
Spectre is release on 26th October in the UK, and 6th November worldwide.
Wondering where Dan is? Well, The Snooty Ushers resident horror master is currently locked away in a dark corner of Snooty Usher Towers working on multitude of Horror pieces in time for Halloween, so horror fans, keep an eye out!