Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Please, sir, I want some Moore."

Although I am still in the process of writing the next two installments of "31 Days of Speilberg" (Schindler's List in particular is taking a long time), I wanted to very quickly acknowledge something that I think might be important.

The man who portrayed the debonair susperspy James Bond in more "official" movies than any other actor turns 80 today. Now, naturally I realize that Roger Moore has done other things beside Bond (such as the TV series The Saint and... ummmmm... Boat Trip?) but I knew him first as Bond and, perhaps more importantly, I first knew Bond as him! Moore was the first Bond I ever saw (in a story I relay here) and while it's true that Moore's decidedly humorous approach is not nearly as beloved nowadays as it was back when he played the character, I think that both Moore and his movies are rather--oh, how I hate this word--underrated. He's certainly not the best Bond (that's Connery obviously) and he's not even my personal favorite Bond (I actually happen to really like Dalton). Nevertheless, I still think he's better than a lot of people give him credit for (in my book, he's still far superior to the abominable George Lazneby). I happen to have a tremendous amount of affection for Moore. Perhaps we Bond fans can't help but find a soft spot in our hearts for our "first Bond," simply because, whoever he might be, he's the one who introduced us to the fantastic world of 007. As corny as most of them seem to us now, Moore's entries in the series were incredibly successful and his contribution to the Bond legacy was/is enormous. He was the Pierce Brosnan/Danel Craig of his time. He rejuvenated the franchise. He kept it going. Without his seven movies, we probably wouldn't still have Bond today (something which I know many people would probably prefer but which I would consider a tragedy).

So, happy 80th Birthday, Roger! Let's lift our glasses of vodka (shaken of course, even though you never actually ordered them that way) in your honor. I don't know how you plan to celebrate, but I intend to re-watch one of your movies tonight... just probably not a A View to a Kill. ;)

22 comments:

Tucker said...

first - it's great to see a new post on your blog! I would even say a relief. Looking forward to more.

second - The Spy Who Loved me was the fist Bond film I saw in the theater and I remember all the great hype around it; the title song, the underwater car, etc. Later a friend's dad bought one of those Lotus Esprits and I got to ride around in it some. I'm sure I had seen earlier Bond films on TV because I was already very aware of who Bond was at the time. For me the Bond films, amongst other things, fit into that category of “personhood formation” that I went through as a boy and young man. And for that they hold a special place in my life, even though their actual value is quite debateable. I did get tired of the comedy aspects of Moore's films, and they seemed to become increasingly comedic with each one (and not really that funny). But I have to say that at his best Moore was a wonderful Bond, almost a dandy, and the opposite of Craig's take on the character (which I also think is excellent). I, like you, think Dalton was the best actor of the bunch. Thanks for remembering Moore.

Damian said...

First of all, thanks for commenting, Tuck. Like you, I am looking forward to seeing more posts on my blog. I may be gradually working my back into the blogosphere (like a nervous child slowly but surely inching its way into the cold water of a lake), but I'll get there eventually.

Second, The Spy Who Loved Me is probably Moore's best Bond (with For Your Eyes Only a close second IMO), so that's a great one to have seen first in the theatre. I agree with you that the comedic aspects of Moore's films did get a bit tired after a while, but it is interesting to me when people talk about how Moore "ruined Bond" when in fact he probably did more for Bond than any other actor (with the obvious exception of Connery and arguably Brosnan). Such folks tend to think that Bond can only be "one thing" and any given actor's particular "take" of the character (even if it's different than what they think it should be) is not legitimate. I tend to disagree. One of the great things about the character of Bond is that he is malleable; he is open to a number of different interpretations by a variety of different actors. Right or wrong, Moore's Bond was his and it was a perfectly legitimate take on the character. Every actor brings something unique to the role and Moore brought humor.

Nevertheless, Moore still had his very serious moments. One of the most striking to me was in For Your Eyes Only when Moore cavalierly kicked the car, which was precariously perched on the cliff, over the edge into the rocks far below, consequently killing the "bad guy" trapped inside in cold blood and proving once again that, despite all the numerous differences from his literary counterpart, he was still Ian Fleming's James Bond.

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara said...

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Piper said...

Damian,

Moore was my first Bond when I was growing up as well. In time though and through my collection, I much prefer Sean Connery and even Daniel Craig. While it looked like Moore was the savior of the franchise, I might argue he was the beginning of the end (and this is from a guy who still loves many of the Moore/Bond films) because it is with Moore that James Bond became more of a charicature than a real person. He was more about witty asides then kicking ass. And unfortunately while Brosnan looked the part, he carried with that tradition.

I liked Connery because he could always back up his threats. He had the brawn to go with the brains and the charm. And Craig is rough around the edges but he still made the character more real life. Moore got to the point where he was a comic book character. He came in to a deadly setting and always had a look on his face that he knew he would never get hurt. And because of that, there was no suspense and no thrill in the action.

Damian said...

Moviezz:

For Your Eyes Only is indeed a great Bond film, but my all-time personal favorite would probably still have to be Octopussy (again, the first one I ever saw). A View to a Kill is pretty bad, but I'd still rather watch that one than Man With the Golden Gun.

Sara:

Thank you for commenting. I'm glad you like my taste in music. I've always been a big fan of movie scores (from any decade).

Piper:

While my piece on Moore was intended as a celebration and appreciation of him and his contribution to the Bond series, I hope I was clear that, in spite of my affection for him, he's still not my favorite Bond nor by any means the best of the Bonds. Like you, I much prefer Connery, Craig (and even Dalton and Brosnan) to Moore. I was just trying to maintain some perspective. I really don't think that, despite what some people may say, Moore "ruined" Bond. I think that's a bit harsh.

Granted, one could make the argument that Moore might've done more harm than good to the series, but I'd be inclined to disagree. The "damage" that Moore did (moving Bond more into the realm of comedy and self-parody) was not irreversible, while keeping Bond stagnate and not allowing him to adapt with the changing political climate and moods of the contemporary culture would be worse. At the time that Moore made his movies, his approach was what people wanted to see. Can we look back on it now and realize that it was pretty silly? Sure we can, but one of the reasons we are able to look back now (and have current movies with which to compare them) is because they kept the series going. My basic point is that I think the end of the Bond series would've been far more devastating than simply bringing more comedy into it.

Like you, I much prefer the tougher, harder, edgier and more serious Bond: a Bond who seems more like he could exist in real life. This is one of the reasons why I really like Daniel Craig and why I happen to think Timothy Dalton is highly underrated. Dalton tried to bring those elements to the character back in the late 80's with his two films, but they did not do well financially. Again, it just wasn't what the people wanted at the time. A few years later Brosnan came along and sort of "married" Dalton's intensity with Moore's lightness. His movies became the highest-grossing Bond films ever and while people can debate the quality of them all they want (Personally, I happen to think Goldeneye was a great Bond film, World is Not Enough was good, Die Another Day was mediocre at best and Tomorrow Never Dies sucked), I don't think one can deny their commercial success. A more "realistic" Bond is more preferable to me personally (as well as a lot of other people), but it would be a mistake I think to deny the escapist aspect of his adventures. I think they should take themselves seriously but not TOO seriously (after all, they are not making high art here). I mean, one could even make the argument that Goldfinger was the beginning of the end because of all the fantasy and humor that it brought to world of Bond. And yet, Goldfinger was a phenomenon. It kicked James Bond into the stratosphere and ended up becoming what many today consider (including myself probably) the best Bond film of all time.

Bond is a survivor and in order for him (and his movies) to endure, he has to be able to change with the times. One of the things that makes Bond stories significant is that they can reflect our ever-shifting values and yet, at the same time, embody classic qualities that we have long admired and wanted to emulate (courage, tenacity, intelligence, battling evil, etc). In a way, Bond has become a sort of modern mythic hero (albeit a highly flawed one) and keeping Bond around fills, I think, a very important need for our society. Now, can he reach a point where he's changed so much that he is no longer James Bond? Sure. If they try to make him a woman, for example, I am done with the series. However, I don't think that's happened yet. Of all the actors to have played Bond so far, Moore may very well be the least like the character as he was originally conceived by Ian Fleming (although he was actually considered for the role BEFORE Connery), but I actually think that Bond has now become much bigger than Ian Fleming, just as Sherlock Holmes eventually overshadowed his creator. Plus, as I said to Tucker, I believe that through it all Moore retained the "essence" of the character. He was still James Bond 007... and I much prefer him to George Lazenby's embarassing turn.

Anyway, sorry about the rant, Piper. I guess I just love talking about Bond... especially with a fellow Bond fan. :)

Piper said...

Damian,

Sorry I never took you as a Moore sympathizer and I think that Moore becoming more of a charicature had more to do with the producers than Moore himself. And while I feel he was the beginning of the downfall, I do very much love those films. It is only as a die hard fan that I am so hard on them.

Damian said...

HA! A Moore sympathizer, eh? Well, I've never really looked at it that way, but I guess you could call me one. As for the alleged "downfall" of Bond, I just don't see it. Bond is still going as strong as ever and shows no signs of slowing down. If Bond eventually does come to an end, I don't think it will be because of anything Roger Moore did.

Anyway, I hope I never implied that you weren't a diehard Bond fan. I would never say that about anyone (athough I have had it said about me before simply because a) I don't hate Roger Moore and b) I do hate George Lazenby: two characteristics that a "true" Bond fan apparently can't possess). As I said, I just love talking about Bond with fellow fans, however they might feel about Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, Lazenby, Craig and... aw heck, even Connery (although when someone says they don't like Connery I might be inclined to question their judgement if not perhaps they're "fandom").

Megan said...

The Bond Thing is a Guy Thing that I can get into and enjoy (no matter who plays him) but...will never have true love for such a misogynist.

Time's up D. I see your comments elsewhere, that means you have access...

Damian said...

The Bond Thing is a Guy Thing that I can get into and enjoy (no matter who plays him) but...will never have true love for such a misogynist.

I remember the moment I first discovered, through some slightly older and more discerning eyes, that a couple of my childhood heroes--James Bond and Sherlock Holmes--both had rather strong misogynistic personalities. I wrestled with whether or not I could still in good conscience watch/read their adventures without necessarily endorsing their character flaws. I decided that I could, but I realized that I should no longer be upset with any woman who has no love for Bond or Holmes whatsoever (just as there are movies that I feel are very strongly "anti-male" but which seem to resonate with many women).

Time's up D. I see your comments elsewhere, that means you have access...

I do have access (finally) and they arer coming, Megan. I promise you! :)

Megan said...

Oh, I agree with you. I do quite like the Bond franchise and spy/detective thrillers in general, and I would even argue that a misogynistic protagonist is practically necessary. (Sam Spade comes to mind, Bourne of course, even Fletch!)

There aren't as many female equivalents in cinema that I can think of off the top of my head (Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect is a good one). But the best literary series characters like Kay Scarpetta, V.I. Warshawski or Kinsey Millhone are all pretty anti-man most of the time!

Flickhead said...

While I don't agree that Lazenby was "abominable," I do believe that On Her Majesty's Secret Service is superior to all the Moore Bond movies rolled into one.

If you eliminate "J.W. Pepper" from The Man With the Golden Gun, remove "Jaws" from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, and tweak Octopussy, you could find some halfway decent material in them.

But Moore's films signaled the end of an era. The Connery films invented what would become cliches, the Moore films aped existing genres. As a Bond fan since 1964, I regard Live and Let Die as the worst of the series, a horrible mash-up of early '70s hillbilly and blaxploitation, balled up under a zero budget, and boring to boot. The "actress" who plays his Jamaican contact (was her character named Rosie?) gives an impossibly bad performance. The J.W. Pepper stretch is among the flattest, least involving 45 minutes of celluloid I've ever sat through.

If Basil Rathbone is the cinema's most identifiable Sherlock Holmes, Jeremy Brett is the closest to Doyle's creation. The same can be applied to 007: Sean Connery is the image, but Timothy Dalton is closest to Fleming. Pierce Brosnan wasn't bad -- he was better than Moore, even though The World is Not Enough never recuperates from its second tedious hour.

The new Bond could prove to be outstanding. The 2005 Casino Royale is easily the best in the series since From Russia with Love.

Damian said...

First of all, Flickhead, that was just awesome! As I told Piper I really love talking Bond with other fans.

Your characterization of the Moore films as the "end of an era" makes a lot more sense to me than referring to them as "the beginning of the end of Bond." That's really only what I tend to refute with the anti-Moore camp (of which I used to be a member). Moore's tenure as Bond was certainly different than Connery's (although one can already see the series moving in that direction before Moore ever took over, particularly in Diamonds Are Forever which is called by some not as the "last Connery movie" but as the "first Moore movie"). Moore might signaled the end of one era of Bond, but it was the beginning of another (one which it could be said persisted through Brosnan and is only now starting to come to an end) and while I do not disagree with those who feel it is an inferior era (I also personally prefer the darker, edgier Bond of say Dalton and Craig), I am far from hating them.

Also, your relating of Bond to Holmes is also very apt. I have done the same thing myself many times. Although I love Rathbone, Brett is my favorite Holmes and when I read the Doyle stories, he is who I picture. With Bond, however, I have never read an Ian Fleming novel so I have no basis for comparison when it comes to the movies. I can only judge them (and their central actor's interpretation of the character) on their own merits... or lack thereof.

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