I was seven years old.
It was the summer of '83 and my family and I were visiting my grandparents in New Jersey. I am a little fuzzy as to some of the details, but I seem to recall my mother and grandmother had taken my brother and sister on a walk to get some ice cream or something. I was at the house with my father and grandfather (whom I believe was taking a nap). I do, however, vividly remember sitting on the front porch and being bored out of my mind when my dad stepped through the door and asked me:
"So, Damian, do you want to go see a James Bond movie?"
I had never seen a James Bond movie. I had never even heard the name "James Bond" before. I honestly thought he was referring to an actor. He might as well have asked me if I wanted to go see a "John Wayne movie" for all the difference it would have made. Still, whoever was in it, it was a movie and I loved going to the movies. It got me out of the house and saved me from boredom.
When we arrived at the theatre I remember seeing some large, and rather striking, photos hanging in the lobby. One, in particular, featured a man who looked like he was trapped in a giant spider web. I turned to my dad and asked excitedly, "Is that the movie we're seeing?" He nodded. We entered the auditorium and, to my dismay, we were apparently a little late because the movie had already started. Up on the screen was that same man flying around in a small jet with a heat-seeking missle in "hot" pursuit. Even at that young age I knew that, for there to be so much action occurring up on the screen, we had to be either well into the movie or, worse, it was nearly over. I got upset. "We missed it!" I cried. My dad said, "No, no, Damian. It just started." I kept protesting but he just kept assuring me that we hadn't really missed anything yet.
We took our seats. The man in the jet eluded the missle (blowing up a building in the process), noticed that his fuel guage was blinking "empty," landed the jet, pulled up to a gas station where an old man was sitting in a rocking chair, popped the hatch, leaned out and said, with a wry smile, "Fill 'er up, please." Suddenly the opening credits started. I was dumbfounded. My dad was right. I looked at him and said, "How did you know?" I assumed that he must have seen the movie already, but he told me he hadn't. So, how did he know? He knew because he was aware of something then that I was not aware of (but am now): namely, that every James Bond movie opens up with an exciting action sequence before the main titles.
I don't remember a whole lot more of that afternoon except that during the chase scene through the streets of New Delhi my dad whispered to me, "I love the music." and proceeded to hum along with the score. Again, I wondered how he knew the music without having seen the movie before and, again, he knew because of what I also know now: that every James Bond movie, at some point, features the "James Bond theme," an instantly recognizable, super-cool piece of music that perfectly captures the essence of its title character. From that day on I was hooked on Bond movies.
I have since learned that the movie I saw that day was called Octopussy (one of the more provocative Bond titles), that the man portraying James Bond was named Roger Moore and that he was not the first to play the role but was rather the third in a collection of actors that currently numbers six (not including the "unofficial" entries), the other five being Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
I've also, since then, watched every single Bond film at least a dozen times and made sure to see each subsequent entry in the theatre. If there is one movie series about which I am most fanatical, this would probably be it..... more so even than Back to the Future, Godfather, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and probably Star Wars (although that's a close one). I realize that, although it has the distinction of being the longest running movie series in cinema history (spanning over 40 years and 20 films), it is not the deepest movie series. A Bond movie is pretty much always a work of fluff. As Roger Ebert said, "If it is not great art, it is great entertainment" and that's what I get out of them. They're fun. They maye be more fun for guys than for girls, but being a guy I am not ashamed to say that I love them.
This Friday the new Bond film Casino Royale, the last entry to be based on an Ian Fleming novel, will be released and it will introduce a new Bond actor. You can bet that I will be there on opening night, because whenever I see that familiar gunbarrel logo, listen to that jazzy guitar riff or hear those three memorable words ("Bond, James Bond"), I feel like I'm seven years old again.