24 Weeks of Bond: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Art by James(?) Talbot

I’m a big fan of James Bond, have been since I was a kid. Having recently repurchased the complete Criterion collection of all 24 films, I thought I would do a rewatch of them all and break them down a bit, one blog post at a time.

A couple caveats: I have only read a couple of Fleming’s original novels, and so I won’t be doing any direct comparisons of the films to their literary counterparts. I’ll also only be covering the Eon films, so that means no spoofs, spin-offs, and no Never Say Never Again.

Having said that, let’s get into it!

THE MOVIE: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, released in 1969 and directed by Peter R. Hunt who had previously served as a film editor and second unit director on the previous five films. His keen eye for camera cuts and stunning visuals helped earn him the directing job for the first Bond film after Sean Connery announced his retirement from the role. With a screenplay written by Richard Maibaum, OHSS endeavored to take a more realistic, less gadget-heavy approach. It also more adheres to the novel source material more closely than the previous adaptations.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of the criminal organization SPECTRE, holds the world captive by threatening to introduce weaponized chemicals to destroy or render impotent major countries’ food supplies. Meanwhile, James Bond meets a beautiful but distressed young woman. In the course of saving her life, he finds himself with leads pointing toward SPECTRE.

This was the longest Bond film until Casino Royale was released thirteen films and 37 years later.

THE BOND: George Lazenby, in his first and only appearance as Agent 007, following Sean Connery’s five turns in the role. Connery announced his intent to retire during the filming of You Only Live Twice, and the studio planned to keep the franchise rolling by casting Roger Moore in an adaptation of a different Fleming novel. However, filming rights fell through with the location they needed and Moore signed on for another season of The Saint. With Moore occupied, they turned to Australian actor Lazenby.

So impressed by Lazenby’s physicality in addition to his look and film presence, the studio offered him a 7 picture deal. Lazenby, dissuaded by his agent, chose to turn the deal down and only do the single film.

Lazenby’s Bond is perfectly serviceable. He plays the agent as determined, stubborn, and cold, all qualities of Bond the way Fleming created him. There is quite a loss of charm from Connery’s portrayal, but it’s made up more in Lazenby’s dangerous aura.

Lazenby is the youngest actor to have played Bond. His “shooting down the barrel” sequence is also the only one where Bond drops to a knee, and the only one where Bond becomes obscured by the falling blood.

THE GIRLS: Blofeld, in an attempt to infiltrate the world’s markets so he can deploy his chemical weapons to their maximum effect, uses hypnotic suggestion to get 12 women, his “Angels of Death”, to do his bidding.

Two of these women have slightly more than nothing to do on screen. Ruby Bartlett (Angela Scoular) and Nancy (Catherine Von Schell) are seduced in rapid order by an undercover Bond who uses the moments of intimacy to try and reveal information about Blofeld’s plan.

Much more important to the plot is Teresa Di Vicenzo (played with tremendous charisma by Diana Rigg, who, at that time, had become well known as the secret agent Emma Peel in Britain’s The Avengers television show; she would go on to play another unforgettable role in Game of Thrones’ Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell). Bond first sees Teresa when she tries to drown herself in the sea. He rescues her, then rescues her again moments later from men trying to kill her, and it isn’t long before he finds out there is much more to her than first appears.

As the daughter of the leader of an European crime syndicate, she is headstrong, deadly, and adventurous, even in the face of danger. She makes a good match for Bond, so much that he may even consider settling down.

THE VILLAINS: Ernst Stavro Blofeld is the major villain, and a tremendously active one, feeling like a culmination of his growing presence to this point. In Dr. No, you only heard of his criminal organization (SPECTRE). In From Russia With Love, you see him dealing with a pair of SPECTRE agents with competing schemes to kill Bond. After a break from him in Goldfinger, you see him addressing a whole room of subordinates in Thunderball. In You Only Live Live Twice, we finally see his face (played by Donald Pleasance at the time), and though he did attempt to kill Bond, most of his screentime was spent in a chair commanding others to do his dirty work.

In OHMSS Blofeld–played by Telly Savalas coming off a fantastic job in The Dirty Dozen– is a proactive, frontline participant in trying to kill Bond. Everything from his imposing physical presence to his dark, casual clothing serves to create a fearsome persona as opposed to the cautious, delegating, hands-free version the previous films seemed to portray. Here, he is fearless, aggressive, ruthless, and unshakeable. Salvalas does a terrific job in portraying a nemesis for Bond who feels like his equal at least in every way.

In smaller roles are Yuri Borienko as Blofeld’s bodyguard Grunther (Lazenby accidentally broke his nose during the audition, which helped Lazenby land the role as Bond), and Ilse Steppat as Blofeld’s henchwoman Irma Bunt. Steppat would unfortunately pass away just days after the film’s release.

Lastly, Gabriele Ferzetti plays Teresa di Vicenzo’s father Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the criminal organization Union Corse. He is undoubtedly a criminal with ulterior motives, but he also has a weird fixation on hooking up Bond with his daughter.

THE LOCATIONS: Portugal bookends the film, with a beautiful and thrilling beach scene at the beginning and a tragic scene in the mountains at the end. The meat of the film takes place in Switzerland, centered around Blofeld’s snowy alpine base. They make the most of the wintry environment with both lingering and sweeping views of Switzerland’s snowy majesty. They also get creative with their action sequences, using terrifying avalanches, prolonged ski chases (a little too long, if we’re being honest), and a genuinely thrilling bobsleigh chase, which sounds ridiculous, but includes a gunfight, crashes, and leaping to and from the sleighs.

THE CARS: There are a number of beautiful cars in this film, including a few different Rolls-Royces. There is a 1954 black Phantom IV, a 1962 Silver Cloud III Standard Steel Saloon, and a 1968 Silver Shadow Drophead Coupe. There’s a blink-and-you’ll miss it 1962 Jaguar Mk X and a 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Convertible.

Mercedes-Benz has a couple cars in important scenes and chases, and then Bond, of course, has an Aston Martin. This time it’s a 1968 DBS Vantage 5234/R.

You can find a full list of the cars shown in the film here.

THE GADGETS: As I said above, it was the intent for this film to rely less on gadgets than any of the previous films. To that end, the most outrageous piece of equipment might be the radioactive lint that is suggested as a form of tracking device. Other than that there is art only an improvised device Bond makes to open a locked door, and the vanity cases Blofeld hands out to his Angels of Death so he can continue his hypnotic suggestions as he carries out his bioterrorist plot.

THE MUSIC: The soundtrack shows a mixture of old and new from composer John Barry. It is the last of the films to use his classic James Bond theme introduced in Dr. No, for example, and the first that sees an extensive use of synth music and electric guitars, creating a more aggressive sound that has led many to agree is among the best scores in the entire Bond franchise.

Finding it difficult to work the title into the lyrics of a song, Barry instead devised a powerful instrumental for the title sequence, much like the title sequences of the first two films, and then created a separate theme song for the film titled, “We Have All the Time In the World.” The lyrics were written by Hal David (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me”), and sung by Louie Armstrong. It was one of the final recordings Armstrong did before his death.

THE SUPPORT: Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell return as M and Miss Moneypenny respectfully, with the former serving as more of a foil this time around, explicitly refusing to allow Bond to pursue Blofeld, frustrating the agent so much that he even threatens to resign. Desmond Llewelyn makes an appearance as Q as well, though only briefly as his gadgets are kept far away from the film.

Really, Ferzetti’s criminal Draco is the largest support, with the only other solid addition being Bernard Horsfall’s Shaun Campbell, an ill-fated colleague who tries to assist Bond on his Swiss operation.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Because George Lazenby only had one appearance as James Bond, and because it was sandwiched between Connery’s attempted last performance after making the character “his” and Connery’s ACTUAL last performance, OHMSS tends to get overlooked. It’s ironic, because everything about it–its nonreliance on gadgets, its close adherence to the source material, Lazenby’s cold and resourceful 007–makes this the MOST Bond-like film in the entire catalogue. Strong turns from Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas give a chemistry and a credibility both to the “Bond girl” and villain categories, with characters more than a match for Bond. Rigg and Savalas’ acting prowess also helps carry Lazenby’s relative inexperience.

The ski chase is overlong but still exciting, and a shockingly depressing ending provides an unexpected gut punch for those expecting the hero to always eke out a win. This film is exquisitely balanced, and the many fantastic qualities are echoed in several films (Inception, for example), including other Bond films (Spectre in particular pays homage).

Though Lazenby’s Bond might only be a stone in the lake that is the franchise, it was well-sunk.

OTHER BOND BREAKDOWNS:

Dr. No

From Russia With Love

Goldfinger

Thunderball

You Only Live Twice

Diamonds Are Forever

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24 Weeks of Bond: You Only Live Twice

Art by Paul Mann

I’m a big fan of James Bond, have been since I was a kid. Having recently repurchased the complete Criterion collection of all 24 films, I thought I would do a rewatch of them all and break them down a bit, one blog post at a time.

A couple caveats: I have only read a couple of Fleming’s original novels, and so I won’t be doing any direct comparisons of the films to their literary counterparts. I’ll also only be covering the Eon films, so that means no spoofs, spin-offs, and no Never Say Never Again.

Having said that, let’s get into it!

THE MOVIE: You Only Live Twice, released in 1967. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert (Sink the Bismarck!, Alfie), who initially declined but accepted after being reminded how big of a blockbuster the 007 series was.

Most surprising to me was the fact that the screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, a close friend of Fleming’s who nonetheless said it was Fleming’s worst book, and was more a “travelogue” than a movie-worthy source of material. Though he created a lot of original material for the film, he still kept an extended Japanese wedding sequence and focused quite a bit on Japanese culture, keeping in line with Fleming’s work.

The movie itself sees an American spaceship hijacked by another craft, unknown but suspected by the Americans to belong to the Soviet Union. The British believe the Japanese may be involved, and they send Bond undercover to meet with government connections in Japan to try to uncover what’s going on.

While there is plenty of positive aspects to the film (gone are the artificially sped-up action sequences of Thunderball; Japan is an incredible setting; the plot is mostly exciting; the final action sequence is flat-out incredible), I just can’t help but think how poorly the sequences of Bond getting skin pigmentation and eye surgery to go undercover as a Japanese man have aged.

THE BOND: Sean Connery returns for his fifth outing as James Bond, and he looks great, although he was bored with playing the role and had a terrible relationship with the producers of the film. It was announced during filming that this would be his final turn playing Bond, although future years would see him return for one more film with Eon (Diamonds Are Forever, which I will cover), as well as a single film with another production company (Never Say Never, a remake of Thunderball, which I will not cover).

In terms of the film, there are some notable absences of Bondisms. He doesn’t wear a tuxedo, nor does he drive a car, and the martini he accepts from his host is (mistakenly on the character’s part, but intentional for the film) stirred and not shaken. He does, however, wear his Navy uniform, and he does also welcome some warm sake.

THE GIRLS: The first of You Only Live Twice’s Bond Girls that we’re introduced to is Ling, played by Tsai Chin. She doesn’t get much screen time, but she is central to an opening sequence that seemingly sees Bond killed. This isn’t the first time the films have done this to us, but it remains startling.

More prominently featured are Aki (Akiko Wakibayashi), a Japanese operative that Bond first meets during a sumo match, and Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), an ninja operative who “marries” Bond to maintain his Japanese cover. Kissy Suzuki’s name is not uttered in the film.

It should be noted, too, that this is the second Bond film to end with him canoodling in a life raft, proving he really does live twice.

And then, of course, there is femme fatale Helga Brandt/Spectre No.11, played by Karin Dor. She crosses Bond’s path a number of times and attempts to kill him. Her role in SPECTRE, however, hinges entirely on her ability not to fail.

THE VILLAINS: In addition to Helga Brandt, SPECTRE is all over the place in this film.

Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), a Japanese industrialist, works with SPECTRE to retrieve and cover up the stolen space shuttles and urge the U.S. and Russia closer to all-out war. In a neat piece of trivia, his henchman who fights Bond in his office, is played by Peter Maivia, grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Burt Kwouk and Michael Chow play SPECTRE henchmen (#3 and #4 respectively), while Ronald Rich plays Hans, Blofeld’s imposing bodyguard.

But it’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld/SPECTRE No.1 who really steals the show. After spending three films visually obscured save for the occasional back of his head, and the hand stroking his white cat, we finally see Blofeld’s scarred face. He is played by Donald Pleasance, who never blinks when on screen, and his ruthlessness is on full display. His massive volcano lab, filled with secret entrances, deadly piranhas, trapdoors, armored rooms, rail tunnels, and scores of armed men cost nearly as much to build a set for as it did to make the entirety of Dr. No, Bond’s first film adventure.

Pleasance’s appearance here would later serve as Mile Myer’s visual template for Dr. Evil in his Austin Powers spoofs.

THE LOCATIONS: This is the first Bond film not to show MI6 headquarters. Instead, the film really only shows two locations: Hong Kong, China, in the beginning; and then primarily Japan for the rest of the film (Kagoshima, for the most part, although some scenes were shot in Tokyo).

While part of the fun in Bond movies is seeing all the exotic locales the secret agent is traveling to, keeping the majority of the film set in Japan allows it to have a unique flavor (Bond would say it’s like Peking Duck). The entire movie is steeped in culture, from the food to the drinks, the bathhouses and the samurai/ninja mentality and training, the nature and the customs, and even the sports. However ill-advised Bond’s method for going undercover is, the rest of the movie does exude a true love for Japan.

THE CARS: As I stated above, Bond doesn’t actually drive any cars this go-around, let alone his now-signature Aston Martin. As to be expected in a film set primarily in Japan, there are a lot of Japanese makes and models featured here: Toyotas, Subarus, Nissans, etc. You can find a full list here.

But that doesn’t mean Bond doesn’t get some exciting machinery! Instead of the streets, he takes to the SKY for a thrilling helicopter chase that was reportedly difficult to film. Bond flies the Wallis WA-116 Agile Series 1 gyroplane, nicknamed Little Nellie. Q outfitted it with offensive and defensive capabilities, of course: machine guns, flamethrowers, aerial mines, rockets, and a pair of heat-seeking missiles!

THE GADGETS: Aside from Little Nellie, most of the gadgets are relatively mundane here. There’s a flip-up trap bed (not so different from normal folding beds), a purse with a microphone in it, a camera controlled by a typewriter, and an x-ray screen built into a desk. Tiger Tanaka has a chute trap that leads to a sofa in his office.

Bond gets a couple things to work with: a cigarette with rocket ammunition built to fire from the tip, and a transportable safe-cracking device.

Most of the rest is built into Blofeld’s volcano lair: hidden compartments and collapsible bridges, armored blinds and a retractable roof to hide from the forces of justice.

Also there are a ton of samurai and ninja weapons. I wouldn’t exactly call those gadgets.

THE MUSIC: This is the fourth Bond film to be scored by John Barry, and he did so while trying to incorporate Eastern music styles, finding them elegant. For the theme, he composed “You Only Live Twice” with lyricist Leslie Bricusse. It was offered to Frank Sinatra, who passed, and then his daughter, Nancy, making her the first non-British vocalist for the 007 series. She was reportedly so nervous it took her upwards of 25 takes to perform, with the final version being pieced together from the best takes.

THE SUPPORT: Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell both return as MI6 head M and his secretary Moneypenny, respectively. This would mark the last time Lois and Sean Connery shared a scene together, as their encounter in Diamonds Are Forever was filmed separately. Also, with no MI6 headquarters in this film, they make do with a portable office set up aboard an aircraft carrier, a hilarious and appreciated design.

Desmond Llewelyn returns as the incorrigible gadget master, Q, while Charles Gray plays British contact Dikko Henderson in a small but pleasant role.

Most important to the film is Tetsurō Tamba’s Tiger Tanaka. What Felix Leiter is to the USA, Tiger is to Japan. His jovial nature and reliability in a pinch make him invaluable to Bond’s mission in Japan, and Tiger is instantly memorable for both his sense of humor and his combat prowess.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Only Live Twice is one of the more memorable ones for me: the sumo match, the ninja warriors, Little Nellie are all stand-outs. Some folks might not like the parts near the middle that run a bit slow, but as I’ve grown older, I find I focus more on what those longer sequences add to the film it’s in. As much as I enjoy the action in Bond films, they were never really supposed to be the kinds of movie that, say, the Mission Impossible series has turned into. These films are about style and espionage, charm and culture as much as anything else.

That said, there were were action sequences that really stood out to me here. The first, obviously, is the final battle in the volcano base. Ninjas rappelling from the ceiling, police officers and terrorists shooting it out, grenades blowing up left and right, shuriken flying, Bond nearly dying repeatedly, and even getting trounced, and the explosive finale. It’s astonishing in its scale.

The other scene that comes to mind is a foot chase across a long rooftop, where Bond is being pursued by several gangsters. As he flees from superior numbers and pauses to hand out a beating or two and then flees again and then fends off the enemy the camera pans out further and further. I thought it was a really cinematic moment, and I was transfixed.

Anyway, this movie is important to the Bond mythos because of SPECTRE’s overt presence and because it’s the first time we see Blofeld really, and the first time he takes a direct hand in the conflict at hand. The slower parts in Japan mixed with the insane final battle in a massive lair almost make it seem like two different types of films jammed together, but it works more than it doesn’t.

OTHER BOND BREAKDOWNS:

Dr. No

From Russia With Love

Goldfinger

Thunderball

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Diamonds Are Forever

24 Weeks of Bond: Thunderball

Art by Frank McCarthy

I’m a big fan of James Bond, have been since I was a kid. Having recently repurchased the complete Criterion collection of all 24 films, I thought I would do a rewatch of them all and break them down a bit, one blog post at a time.

A couple caveats: I have only read a couple of Fleming’s original novels, and so I won’t be doing any direct comparisons of the films to their literary counterparts. I’ll also only be covering the Eon films, so that means no spoofs, spin-offs, and no Never Say Never Again.

Having said that, let’s get into it!

THE MOVIE: Thunderball! Directed by Terence Young after taking a break after the first two, the fourth 007 film was released in 1965. Originally intended to be the first film, Thunderball was the focus of extensive legal battles that ran all the way until 2006 between Ian Fleming and his story collaborators. A settlement saw credit being given to a screenplay written by Jack Whittingham in addition to screenplay credits to Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins. It also led to the film being remade in 1983 as Never Say Never Again by an independent production company, although Sean Connery would reprise his role as Bond in that as well.

At the time of rewatching, I remembered very little about the film except that there were some extensive underwater sequences. It turns out that’s because there IS a ton of the film set underwater, especially in the back end, involving sharks that got dangerous close to the actors (they tried to restrict filming those scenes to low tides due to the threat of sharks), and a climactic final battle underwater involving sixty divers. In fact, water motifs permeate the film in spas and on yachts, and even in the elaborate credit sequence.

The plot is fun. The terrorist group SPECTRE enacts an absolutely audacious, complicated plot to infiltrate NATO and abscond with nuclear missiles to hold the world hostage with. They threaten to launch a missile at a major English OR American (keeping the United States box office in mind by keeping them involved) if a ransom isn’t met. Bond, recovering from a previous mission, gets involved largely on accident at first, and then requests to be officially assigned to the case. Both feeding people to sharks and holding the world for ransom would later be aped by Michael Meyers in his Austin Powers spoofs.

This film is also notable as being the first with the Bond actor performing the “turn-and-shoot” down the sight of the barrel at the beginning of the film.

By this point, the 007 franchise had become a veritable juggernaut in terms of cinematic events. Thunderball became the first Bond movie to be released in the United States before the UK.

THE BOND: This is Sean Connery’s fourth outing, and his take on the secret agent this time around skews closer to the version he played in Dr. No. The womanizing is still there (a Bond staple), but not overdone. The cruelty and comfortability with murder is present, as is the charm. Thunderball has a spy thriller tone separate from the romanticism of From Russia With Love and the occasional camp of Goldfinger.

Gambling and drinking, also Bond staples, return here, though Bond swaps out his martinis for Dom Perignon (which he also enjoyed in Goldfinger).

THE GIRLS: There are three women in Thunderball who might be properly considered Bond women. The first, Patricia Fearing (as played by Molly Peters; dubbed by Barbara Jefford, who also dubbed Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love), is a physical therapist assigned to help Bond recoup after a harrowing assassination mission. Initially cold and clinical with Bond, she becomes more intrigued and attracted to the special agent after he nearly suffers a fatal occurrence on her rehabilitation machine.

Fiona Volpe (as played by Luciana Paluzzi) isn’t just a Bond girl in Thunderball… she’s a major villain! And in my opinion, the first femme fatale in the 007 movies. Dr. No’s lady leads were mostly love interests or damsels in distress. From Russia With Love’s Tatiana Romanova was technically a double agent, though she was never outright villainous; Rosa Klebb was a villain but not the amorous and alluring type associated with “femme fatales”. Even Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore, while morally ambiguous, seemed more of a flirt to Bond than an actual danger.

In Thunderball, Fiona uses her looks to manipulate targets, colleagues, and James Bond himself, and when they’re right where she wants them, she’s unafraid to resort to cold-blooded murder.

Lastly, Claudine Auger (dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl, who also dubbed Honey Rider and Sylvia Ttench in Dr. No) plays Dominique “Domino” Derval, the sister of SPECTRE’s NATO target and the imprisoned mistress of SPECTRE’S #2 agent and Thunderball’s main villain. She is integral to the film’s resolution.

THE VILLAINS: This film is also jam-packed with villains, including a look inside SPECTRE’S operations, with a number of operatives in their lair giving #1 (Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played in body here again by Anthony Dawson, though there is disagreement on who provided the voice over) reports on their progress, with fatal rewards for failure.

The main villain, though, is #2, Emilio Largo. Largo is played by Italian actor Adolfo Celi, and the overlarge hands of the villain in the novel are replaced with a more visually striking eyepatch for his film appearance. Largo is an utterly ruthless fence and black marketeer who came up with the plot to infiltrate NATO with a body double and steal nuclear weapons.

Largo’s lackies also include Fiona Volpe (See Above); the henchmen Vargas (Philip Locke) and Anni (Michael Brennan); Angel Palazzi, the body double who takes over NATO pilot Franç Derval’s assignment (both roles played by Paul Stassino); and the rich and nefarious Count Lippe (played by Guy Doleman and named after Bond creator Ian Fleming’s actual count friend), also ranked #4 in SPECTRE).

While seeing so many SPECTRE operatives and the inner workings of their organization is exciting, it’s hard to understand how they keep working, with so many betrayals and sudden murders.

ALSO, actor Bob Simmons makes a brief but memorable appearance in the beginning of the film as SPECTRE assassin Jacques Bouvar.

THE LOCATIONS: Beside a brief (and always necessary appearance) at MI6 headquarters in England, the first and only time we see all 00 agents in one place, Thunderball is set primarily in two locations:

The first, France, is used only during the opening sequence–a funeral followed by a surprise reveal and a thrilling action sequence.

The bulk of the movie, though, is set in the Bahamas. Former pirate refuge Nassau and New Providence Island, specifically, and the waters around them (though shooting also took place in Florida for some water shots). It’s visually distinctive enough to set it apart from Jamaica (Dr. No) and the resorts of Miami (Goldfinger), although the true spectacle comes from the sequences set beneath the surface of the water: heists, sabotages, and a full blown battle.

THE CARS: There are some absolutely beautiful cars in this film, including a black 1962 Silver Cloud Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II, a white 1960 Peugeot 403, and a black 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable Hardtop 51A.

James Bond’s tricked out 1963 Aston Martin DB5 returns, this time showcasing its rising bulletproof plate that covers the back window, and rear water pumps with seemingly firehose level power behind them.

You can find a full list of other cars featured in Thunderball here.

THE GADGETS: In addition to Bond’s excellent car, he uses a jetpack in the opening sequence that was a REAL thing that had been developed by the army. Onlt a few people were qualified to use it, and so one of them acted as a stunt double for that scene.

Bond also utilizes a tape recorder hidden in a dictionary; a watch and an infrared camera, both with Geiger counters meant to help find the missing nuclear weapons; a rebreather for extended time spent underwater; and a homing beacon hidden inside a radioactive pill meant for consumption.

On SPECTRE’s end of things, Largo gains entrance to their headquarters via a remote control hidden in a cigarette case; Blofeld has had the chairs in his lair outfitted with lethal devices and disposal methods to take care of those who have displeased him; and Fiona Volpe’s motorcycle comes outfitted with a torpedo launcher.

THE MUSIC: John Barry returned to score for the 007 series a third time, and included dynamic pieces for the action and underwater sequences. When it came to finding a theme song, however, they ran into some difficulties.

First, a song titled, “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” was written (by Barry and Leslie Bricusse), record (Shirley Bassey) AND re-recorded (by Dionne Warwick) before being dropped entirely and remaining unreleased for nearly 30 years.

Then, Johnny Cash, of all people, recorded and submitted a song titled, “Thunderball.” It wasn’t chosen.

Finally, John Barry and Don Black then went on to write the version of “Thunderball” that would be used for the film. Tom Jones would record the vocals, becoming the first man to sing a 007 theme song.

THE SUPPORT: A lot of familiar faces return: Bernard Lee as Bond’s superior, M; Desmond Llewelyn as the gadget master, Q; Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, M’s secretary and Bond’s unattainable goal.

New is Rik van Nutter as CIA agent and Bond’s friend, Felix Leiter, appearing somewhere between the flashy version of Dr. No and the bureaucrat version of Goldfinger.

Marine Beswick has a small but welcome role as Paula Caplan, a secret agent colleague from the CIA. While her role isn’t extensive and doesn’t end well, it’s nice to see women in the field (as heroes and villains), holding their own.

Earl Cameron plays Leiter and Bond’s assistant, Binder, while Leonard Sachs plays the liaison to the Royal Air Force, Group Captain Prichard.

Lastly, George Pravda has a somewhat important role as nuclear physicist Ladislav Kuntz, who helps Largo initially but finds a small measure of decency within himself.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Thunderball probably isn’t in my top 5 Bond films, but I do like it quite a bit. I think it’s one of Connery’s finer turns in the role. The villains, though many, are genuinely exciting. The plot is ridiculous but fun. The water sequences do go on a little long but are astounding in their execution. There is a lot to like here, but it as impressive as the final sequences are, they almost wash away the rest of the film.

OTHER BOND BREAKDOWNS:

Dr. No

From Russia With Love

Goldfinger

You Only Live Twice

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Diamonds Are Forever

24 Weeks of Bond: Goldfinger

Art by Dick Bobnick

I’m a big fan of James Bond, have been since I was a kid. Having recently repurchased the complete Criterion collection of all 24 films, I thought I would do a rewatch of them all and break them down a bit, one blog post at a time.

A couple caveats: I have only read a couple of Fleming’s original novels, and so I won’t be doing any direct comparisons of the films to their literary counterparts. I’ll also only be covering the Eon films, so that means no spoofs, spin-offs, and no Never Say Never Again.

Having said that, let’s get into it!

THE MOVIE: Goldfinger! I love this movie. Terence Young, who directed the first two 007 movies, moved on to something else, so he was replaced by Guy Hamilton, who actually knew Bond’s creator Ian Fleming from intelligence work in the war.

Goldfinger, released in 1964, sees Bond put on an investigation of gold magnate and suspected smuggler Auric Goldfinger. Bond, unable to help himself, immediately gets more heavily involved and discovers that there is much more to Goldfinger than expected. Namely, that he seeks to infiltrate Fort Knox and destabilize the world’s economy.

This film is considered the first blockbuster Bond film, was adapted to target American audiences specifically, and also introduced a lot of Bond staples, including elaborate gadgets and the Aston Martin as his “official” car of choice.

It would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Effects/Sound Effects.

THE BOND: Sean Connery returns as Bond. This particular venture sees him at his most flirtatious, it feels, and at his corniest, with some baddie-death-related one-liners. It should also be noted, though, that Bond gets thoroughly trounced almost entirely throughout this film, showcasing a vulnerability that was lost at times in the preceding films.

THE GIRLS: Shirley Eaton doesn’t get a lot of screentime as Jill Masterson, and yet is one of the most iconic Bond roles in the entire legacy. Playing Goldfinger’s employee, she went from helping him cheat at cards to cheating herself…with Bond. That would be the factor leading to her untimely demise, but it’s HOW she dies–covered entirely in gold paint and left to suffocate that creates a simultaneously horrifying and fascinating visual impossible to forget.

Tania Mallett has an equally short role as Jill Masterson’s vengeance-seeking sister, Tilly Masterson. Though her luck with Goldfinger goes no better, she does have a memorable time not giving Bond any attention despite his best efforts.

Most famously, perhaps, is Honor Blackman’s performance as Pussy Galore, an expert pilot and the leader of an all-female flying squad called her Flying Circus. Blackman had previously starred as Cathy Gale on the British spy show, The Avengers, and was chosen for her charisma and her judo talents, both of which she utilizes to great effect in this film.

THE VILLAINS: Goldfinger features two of Bond’s most iconic bad guys. Auric Goldfinger, played by German actor Gert Fröbe, has become rich dealing in and smuggling precious stones and minerals. He is greedy, manipulative, destructive, and he will do anything to win, including cheating at every opportunity. He has one of the single greatest exchanges in the Bond series, when he has 007 strapped to a table, a cutting-edge laser slowly working its way toward bisecting him:

Bond: You expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

Goldfinger’s henchman is Oddjob, a monosyllabic Korean killer played by Olympic silver medalist weightlifter Harold Sakata. Oddjob’s weapon of choice is a bowler hat with a metal brim capable of breaking necks as he flings it like a circlet. Even without it, he’s a formidable foe and spends most of the film absolutely dominating Bond and beating him mercilessly. Sakata was burned badly while filming his death scene, committing to the moment even after the cameras stopped rolling.

Character actor Martin Benson plays Mister Solo, a mobster who disagrees with Goldfinger’s audacious plan; and Burt Kwouk (Cato, in the excellent Pink Panther films) plays the Chinese scientist who supplies Auric with the bomb he needs.

THE LOCATIONS: The film opens with a brief action sequence largely unrelated to the rest of the film and sees Bond disrupting a drug operation. It’s supposed to be set somewhere exotic (Serbia?), but was shot in England. Likewise the scenes set inside Fort Knox, as filming crews weren’t allowed inside the United States’ most famous depository.

The film also takes Bond to Miami, Florida (where he first encounters Auric Goldfinger), London to get properly outfitted for his assignment, the Alps and resorts of Switzerland, and ultimately to Kentucky and Fort Knox itself. While the Switzerland sequences seemed the most exotic this go-around, the sunny poolside in Florida and the impressiveness of Fort Knox gave the United States a glowing look.

THE CARS: You can find a comprehensive list of the cars in the film here, but the two most notable are Goldfinger’s beautiful (and gold) Rolls Royce Phantom III Sedance de Ville, and James Bond’s tricked-out Aston Martin DB 5. Bond mentions that his beloved Bentley is nowhere to be found, and he is instead given a modified Aston Martin loaded with gadgets. The Aston Martin would go on to be heavily tied into promotional materials and would itself become a staple of the Bond franchise.

THE GADGETS: Goldfinger really turned up the gadget ratio, from the seemingly mundane (an underwater breathing apparatus designed to look like a seagull) to the Aston Martin. The car was fitted with revolving license plates, a GPS tracking device, bulletproof windows, an oil slick and a smoke screen to be released from the rear, machine guns that came from the front, tire slashers that extended from the wheels (Bond inexplicably and irresponsibly uses these to try and pick up a woman), and a passenger ejector seat!

Bond also utilizes a grappling gun, a tracking device that fits in the heel of his shoe, and a larger magnetic tracking device he stashes in Goldfinger’s car.

Oddjob has hit steel-rimmed hat weapon, while Goldfinger has his industrial lab, a private plane with spy holes looking into the different chambers, and even an atomic bomb.

Though Goldfinger doesn’t have a lair like, say, Doctor No, he does have a ranch house that he’s tricked out. In addition to dungeon-like prison cells in the basement, his rumpus room is designed to completely transform. The window panels fold down, a massive map drops from the ceiling, and the floor even slides apart to reveal a massive model of his Fort Knox target.

And while that’s impressive, he also proves that it’s deadly when he uses his controls to seal the room and release a deadly nerve gas.

THE MUSIC: John Barry returns to Bond once again to score this film, including the theme song, “Goldfinger”, with lyrics by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. While the films have had a stylized credit sequence since the beginning, with Dr. No’s technicolor and feminine introduction, and though From Russia With Love had a bit of the theme song sprinkled in, Goldfinger really kicks off the tradition of having an elaborate credit sequence with the theme song performed over it (in this case, by Shirley Bassey). The soundtrack album would go on to top the Billboard 200, while the Goldfinger single would reach 8th in the Billboard Hot 1000.

I love that song.

THE SUPPORT: Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell return as M and Moneypenny respectively, of course, and serve well their usual roles of giving Bond his orders and flirting with him.

New in the role of CIA agent Felix Leiter is Cec Linder. Jack Lord, who played Leiter in Dr. No, had worried some executives for looking “too cool” and potentially taking attention away from Bond. Lindner, by comparison, is older and stuffier, looking more like a bureaucrat than a slick spy peer.

Desmond Llewelyn returns as the Quartermaster, but instead of being called Major Boothroyd, this films seems a transition into referring to him as Q for short. His inventiveness and surly nature is always a delight.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There is a lot to love about this film. The villain is single-minded and dismissive of Bond, and for large parts of the film, he should be. Bond’s arrogance and recklessness sees him overcome at almost every turn, even rendering him inactive for large parts of the middle and the end, a prisoner biding his time and hoping his peers will put clues enough to rescue him in the nick of time. In that sense, it’s unusual to see Bond do so little, even with the advantage of his new gadgets.

The Aston Martin’s many functions are exciting to see, as something like that was still relatively new to cinema, as was the industrial laser death weapon Goldfinger uses, which didn’t really exist at the time. The music is superb, and the many gold motifs throughout the film give a visual theme to match the title and villain.

Pussy Galore is a compelling anti-hero, a Catwoman-esque character, though I wish we had seen more of her Flying Circus. And Oddjob is perfect all around. All in all, one of my favorites.

OTHER BOND BREAKDOWNS:

Dr. No

From Russia With Love

Thunderball

You Only Live Twice

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Diamonds Are Forever