When Roger Moore stepped into the role of James Bond in 1973 it would signal a major change for the character, a change that some would like and others would sneer at. Bond would become a much more jovial figure, gradually losing his edge over the course of (00)7 movies that would range from the best that the franchise could offer to the very worst.
Live And Let Die (1973)
The thing about James Bond movies is that, like the Disney classics, you often can’t really guess which one will be somebody’s absolute favourite. Take me, for example. I don’t know quite why but Live And Let Die has always been, and will always be, my favourite Bond film. I know that it’s flawed, I know that some other people outright laugh at the thing. Yet I love it.
Roger Moore, in his first time as 007, effortlessly makes the role his own. This would begin a chapter in the Bond franchise more lighthearted than any other and Moore had the twinkle in his eye from the very beginning, despite the darkness of the adventure surrounding him.
The plot this time around sees Bond taking on a powerful drug dealer, dealing with some shady voodoo shenanigans and trying to get a tarot card reader (Jane Seymour) to help him play his cards right. Just another day at the office for our dapper hero.
It’s Guy Hamilton back in the director’s chair and he does a fantastic job, cramming plenty in but also pacing the movie just right (something he forgot to do with the next instalment in the series). The screenplay by Tom Mankiewicz is humorous but also with a slight edge whenever the scenes call for it.
Moore is excellent as Bond, and would keep the role for twelve more years, while everyone around him is either a comfortable old acquaintance or an impressive newcomer. Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell aren’t onscreen for all that long but they do appear, unlike poor old Desmond Llewelyn who was missed out of this adventure. Yaphet Kotto commands attention as Kananga, Jane Seymour is at her most beautiful in the role of Solitaire, Gloria Hendry is sweet as Rosie Carver, Julius Harris plays a memorably hook-handed villain, Geoffrey Holder dances around as Baron Samedi and Clifton James gets to provide some enjoyable comic relief as Sheriff J. W. Pepper (his character would return briefly in The Man With The Golden Gun).
Then you can start adding all of the other little touches that elevate this movie to greatness. The theme song, one of the very best Bond songs, by Paul McCartney and Wings. The supernatural theme, which many other Bond fans dislike, is one that makes this a little bit more intriguing than many other Bond films. There are a number of decent action sequences throughout but the definite highlights are Bond trapped in the middle of a crocodile farm and a speedboat chase that still ranks up there with the very best moments from the franchise.
But, as I said at the very beginning, this is my very favourite Bond film even though I know it has a number of flaws. It’s not logical, many others will see this as a lesser Bond film, but I hope that one or two other people feel the same way. Otherwise I just look like a lone weirdo.
DIRECTOR: GUY HAMILTON
STARS: ROGER MOORE, YAPHET KOTTO, JANE SEYMOUR, CLIFTON JAMES, JULIUS HARRIS, GEOFFREY HOLDER, DAVID HEDISON, GLORIA HENDRY, BERNARD LEE, LOIS MAXWELL
RUNTIME: 121 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: Live And Let Die performed by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine.
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
The second outing for Roger Moore as James Bond couldn’t really be more removed from his enjoyable debut. This is a dull and plodding affair, with an unimpressive villain and only a few decent action moments. Thankfully, it still has enough of those classic Bond elements to make it watchable for fans – the ladies are lovely, Moore is amusingly suave at all times and there are one or two interesting vehicles on display – but it’s definitely one of the weaker movies in the official Bond franchise. Even the title song, performed by Lulu, is pretty awful and I always feel bad that this movie was the last one directed by Guy Hamilton. He deserved to go out with something more fitting.
The plot sees our main man, 007, being sent a golden bullet with his number on it. This, apparently, has been sent by Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and as Scaramanga is the greatest assassin in the world it looks like the end is nigh for James. Never one to sit and dwell on his bad luck, Bond figures that he’ll stand a much better chance of staying alive if he finds out just what Scaramanga looks like and gets to him first. There is some other stuff going on, involving a Solex Agitator solar energy converter that can help make someone very rich and also be used as a very powerful weapon, but the real crux of the story is the personal clash between Bond and Scaramanga.
The worst thing about The Man With The Golden Gun is that, frankly, it tries to cover all of the bases and be all things to all people. Moonraker would be the next film in the franchise to make a similar mistake and would, unsurprisingly, also be a weaker Bond movie because of it.
We have the lovely women (this time in the shape of Maud Adams and Britt Ekland, with the former playing Andrea Anders and latter playing Mary Goodnight AKA the most useless agent I’ve ever seen) and the regular cast members returning to their roles (Bernard Lee as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny) and I’ll always pick the car jumping over the corkscrewed, broken bridge as one of my favourite stunts of all time but the rest of the film is sorely lacking.
Clifton James is brought back as Sheriff J.W. Pepper and his angry redneck schtick is much more tiresome this time around than it was in the last movie. But he’d been popular, hence the decision to bring him back. There’s a sequence in which Bond finds himself surrounded by martial artists and needs help to get himself to safety. It’s a sequence that doesn’t feel like it should be there, it makes Bond look completely out of his depth, which isn’t in line with his image. But martial arts movies were proving extremely popular, hence the decision to shoehorn some into the movie.
Christopher Lee raises things slightly whenever he’s onscreen as the gracious, but deadly, Scaramanga but then it’s all lowered again (no pun intended) by the use of Herve Villechaize as the diminutive Nick Nack. Villechaize would, of course, go on to become a TV favourite as Tattoo in “Fantasy Island” but as an effective right hand man to the main villain here he is simply not believable.
Despite the many failings that the movie has, it IS still a Bond film and retains a certain charm that has kept the series going along for decades now. I may roll my eyes when watching this one, I may even curse it as being the weakest Bond movie featuring Roger Moore but I also smile on occasion and end up rewatching it whenever I happen to catch it on TV.
DIRECTOR: GUY HAMILTON
STARS: ROGER MOORE, CHRISTOPHER LEE, HERVE VILLECHAIZE, MAUD ADAMS, BRITT EKLAND, RICHARD LOO, SOON-TEK OH, BERNARD LEE, DESMOND LLEWELYN, LOIS MAXWELL, CLIFTON JAMES
RUNTIME: 125 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: The Man With The Golden Gun sung by Lulu.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Bond moves from one of his more disappointing outings to one of the best with this memorable adventure. It’s not quite up there with the very best of the 007 movies but it comes pretty darn close.
Roger Moore is this time suavely on the case to find out what is going on when someone starts stealing submarines carrying nuclear warheads. Because this has happened to both British and Russian vehicles, he is partnered up with the beautiful Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) and you just know that he will do all he can to defrost any animosity caused by the cold war.
The Spy Who Loved Me has so many great moments that it feels like a “greatest hits” album. The opening sequence is the one with Bond skiing away from a number of baddies, the song is the classic “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon, the sets are expansive and gorgeous, there’s a small role for the beautiful Caroline Munro (who signed my DVD, which is of no importance to anyone but me but I thought I’d mention it/boast anyway), the villain is a good one but his henchman (Jaws, played by Richard Kiel) is unforgettable. Throw in the superb Lotus Esprit sports car that easily nabs a place in the top tier of vehicles from the franchise, some fun with sharks and just a great sense of grandiosity about the whole thing and you have something that should appeal to most fans of the character.
Director Lewis Gilbert, working from a script by Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, does a great job from start to finish. Things take a bit of a dip in the last half hour or so, during a set-piece that drags on a bit too long, but everything is back on track just in time for the final showdown leading to one or two more quips from Roger Moore.
The regulars are all back in their rightful places – Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, etc – and everyone else is perfect in their various roles. Barbara Bach is suitably gorgeous, Curd Jurgens is excellent as Karl Stromberg (the sea-dwelling villain of the piece) and Richard Kiel made such an impact that his character was to reappear, and be a highlight once again, in the next movie.
The music this time may be by Marvin Hamlisch, as opposed to John Barry, but it’s still a great Bond score and I didn’t even realise that Barry wasn’t involved with this one until checking the credits.
Once again, Roger Moore takes the character further into the lighthearted and jokey territory that was very much his signature twist on the role but it only becomes irritating in places thanks to the amount of sheer fun moments lining up beside one another from the opening sequence to the closing credits (which would announce Bond returning in For Your Eyes Only – a movie that would be put back for a while to get Moonraker created and released in time to cash in on the sci-fi boon that came about after the release of a certain little movie named Star Wars).
DIRECTOR: LEWIS GILBERT
STARS: ROGER MOORE, BARBARA BACH, CURD JURGENS, RICHARD KIEL, BERNARD LEE, DESMOND LLEWELYN, LOIS MAXWELL, CAROLINE MUNRO, WALTER GOTELL, VALERIE LEON
RUNTIME: 125 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: Nobody Does It Better sung by Carly Simon.
Personally, I’ve always thought that the Bond franchise suffered when it tried to cash in on popular elements of the time. The Man With The Golden Gun was a bit embarrassing in places, with the martial arts mixed in there for fans of Bruce Lee, and Moonraker stumbles because it was made and released at this time to cash in on the sci-fi craze of the late 1970s (mostly caused by a little movie called Star Wars). It stumbles but it doesn’t fall down altogether, instead becoming quite an enjoyable, if lesser, adventure thanks to a few decent set-pieces, a second appearance from the big baddie known as Jaws and an enjoyably over the top villainous plot (even by Bond standards).
Roger Moore is, of course, back in the role of 007 and this time he’s investigating a missing space shuttle. That space shuttle belongs to Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), a brilliant and very rich individual who may or may not have had something to do with the disappearance of his own property. Of course, it’s not that long until we discover that Hugo Drax is a megalomaniacal villain in the classic Bond mold and his grand scheme must be stopped by the best of British.
When I first saw Moonraker I was unimpressed. I don’t think that, despite their best intentions, the film was ever able to seriously compete with the bigger sci-fi movies of the time. Of course, it wasn’t supposed to. It was supposed to be a Bond movie with a bit of space adventuring in the mix. It’s just a shame that nobody told me that when I was a youngster and expecting two hours of “Bond in space”.
As well as the usual mix of Moore humour, spectacular stunts and lovely women (mainly Lois Chiles as Dr. Holly Goodhead but there’s also Corinne Clery as Corinne Dufour, not forgetting the bright presence of Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny) there are a number of little nods and references, both subtle and blatantly obvious, to sci-fi movies and the space race.
There are many moments here that immediately feel quite ridiculous but they feel ridiculous in a ridiculously entertaining manner so the fun nature of the whole thing is easy to just go along with. Then there are one or two superb set-pieces that will please those wanting their action fix before things move back to being completely ridiculous for the last half hour or so.
Michael Lonsdale is great as Hugo Drax, Richard Kiel remains physically imposing and easily memorable as Jaws, Lois Chiles makes an appealing Bond girl and all of the regulars (Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, etc) and other cast members do just fine and I have to especially mention Blanche Ravalec as the young woman who proves to be a sweet beauty for a certain beast.
I still can’t really get over my first reaction to Moonraker (and that’s something to consider when watching and rewatching any movie) but I have to admit that, as sometimes happens, this time the fault was with me and what I was expecting. The film delivers plenty of fun for Bond fans and holds up as a great adventure.
On a final, but essential, note, this was the last Bond movie to feature Bernard Lee in the role of M. The actor would pass away during the pre-production of For Your Eyes Only and would be sadly missed by Bond fans.
DIRECTOR: LEWIS GILBERT
STARS: ROGER MOORE, LOIS CHILES, MICHAEL LONSDALE, RICHARD KIEL, CORINNE CLERY, BERNARD LEE, GEOFFREY KEEN, DESMOND LLEWELYN, LOIS MAXWELL, TOSHIRO SUGA
RUNTIME: 126 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: Moonraker sung by Shirley Bassey.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
In this adventure, Bond is tasked with recovering an encryption device known as the ATAC. It may have been stolen by Kristatos (Julian Glover) but as Bond investigates further he is pointed in the direction of Milos Columbo (Topol). Who actually has the machine? Luckily for Bond, the beautiful Melina Havelock (played by the beautiful Carole Bouquet) might be able to help him if she doesn’t keep herself too busy seeking revenge on whoever killed her parents.
For Your Eyes Only feels like a classic Bond outing in almost every way but it’s also very different from the preceding movies in the Moore era. The tone isn’t as light, the ladies are gorgeous, the action moments are enjoyable and well done, there are a mix of vehicles onscreen and Bond gets by thanks to a mix of brains and bravery. It’s actually my favourite performance by Roger Moore in the main role although it’s not my overall favourite from his seven adventures.
It must be mentioned that this movie features one of the strangest, though also quite amusing, openers in the entire franchise. It’s nice to see a reference to the tragic history of the main character as Bond is seen by a graveside but as the legal rights for everything to do with SPECTRE were awarded to Kevin McClory the rest of the sequence becomes rather strange as an unnamed, bald man in a wheelchair (clearly, but unofficially, Blofeld) tries to cause the demise of Bond before having the tables turned on him.
Getting to the main storyline of the film, the intention was to get Bond grounded again after the space-bound antics of Moonraker, to take things back to basics (an attitude change shown literally onscreen as Bond has to move from his destroyed Lotus to a beaten up Citroen 2CV). It works and it works well. This is a movie in which Bond actually feels like someone who can throw himself into the thick of things again and do whatever has to be done to get the required result rather than just schmooze his way through a number of encounters until gadgetry and good luck help him to save the day.
The cast members all do okay. Carole Bouquet is one of my favourite “Bond girls” so I’ll always have that bias but Lynn-Holly Johnson is a lot of fun while Julian Glover and Topol are both charismatic men who may or may not be the main villain. Cassandra Harris is an extra delight and Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen and Walter Gotell return to their roles that they can play with their eyes closed.
Of course, it has the potential to be as divisive as any other Bond movie but with the great cast of characters, impressive underwater sequences, an extended chase that features Charles Dance as an evil henchman and, in case I didn’t mention her enough, the gorgeous Carole Bouquet I place this high up in the pecking order of Bond movies. It’s a favourite of mine.
DIRECTOR: JOHN GLEN
STARS: ROGER MOORE, CAROLE BOUQUET, TOPOL, LYNN-HOLLY JOHNSON, JULIAN GLOVER, CASSANDRA HARRIS, JILL BENNETT, MICHAEL GOTHARD, JOHN WYMAN, JACK HEDLEY, LOIS MAXWELL, DESMOND LLEWELYN, GEOFFREY KEEN
RUNTIME: 127 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: For Your Eyes Only sung by Sheena Easton.
I was born in 1975. Why is that the first sentence in my review of Octopussy? Well, despite the fact that Bond had been going strong for many years by that point it was Octopussy that seemed to be the one that was advertised when I was becoming aware of the character. I think that may be the same for many others of my generation. When the movie was being released it was everywhere and clips from the opening sequence (featuring Bond evading capture by skillfully flying a light aircraft through some tricky situations, to put it mildly) were shown on, it seemed, every TV show that paid any attention whatsoever to the latest cinema releases. It’s a shame that the film didn’t really deserve such support, it’s another outing that showcases the worst of the Moore era and feels extra disappointing after the greatness of For Your Eyes Only.
Things begin with a fake Faberge egg. Well, they begin with the death of an agent dressed as a clown but it’s all really because of the fake Faberge egg. When the real egg is put up for auction, Bond sets out to find out who the seller is and get to the bottom of the situation. He soon finds himself travelling to India, helped by a young man named Vijay (Vijay Amritraj), and eventually meeting the titular character (played by Maud Adams) while attempting to avoid a death at the hands of the angry Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan). As if all of that wasn’t enough to contend with, it turns out that something big and devastating has been masterminded by the maniacal General Orlov (Steven Berkoff).
Octopussy is often fun in a bright and breezy way (the scenes in India are especially vibrant and colourful) but it suffers a lot thanks to too many comedy moments being sprinkled throughout, an uninteresting main villain and not enough outstanding action set-pieces.
The cast aren’t that bad though. Moore is Moore, of course. Maud Adams is alluring and watchable enough to make her claim to fame a worthwhile one – she plays, to date, the only woman/Bond girl who has been given the title of the movie. Louis Jordan is someone I have always enjoyed seeing onscreen and he’s great here. Vijay Amritraj doesn’t get the best material to work with but does well enough and Steven Berkoff is okay, even if he is stuck playing one of the weakest villains of the franchise.
I wouldn’t say that there isn’t plenty here to enjoy, especially with the many beautiful girls who make up Octopussy’s “army”, but for those who dislike the idea of any Bond moments that see Roger Moore running around while dressed in a safari suit this is the film that epitomises that. Especially in the moments when Moore runs around while dressed in a safari suit. There’s also a horrible addition of the “Tarzan yell” in one jungle scene, Bond dressed up as a clown at one point and a whole air of smugness about the whole thing. Let’s face it, the Bond movies seemed at this point to be growing more and more like those Hal Needham/Burt Reynolds vehicles where everyone looked like they were having plenty of fun behind the camera while things limped along onscreen.
The next instalment, despite my initial reaction to it, was a bit better but it was clear that a change was needed.
DIRECTOR: JOHN GLEN
STARS: ROGER MOORE, MAUD ADAMS, LOUIS JORDAN, VIJAY AMRITRAJ, KRISTINA WAYBORN, KABIR BEDI, STEVEN BERKOFF, DAVID MEYER, TONY MEYER, DESMOND LLEWELYN, ROBERT BROWN, LOIS MAXWELL
RUNTIME: 131 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: All Time High sung by Rita Coolidge.
A View To A Kill (1985)
I used to hate A View To A Kill. Hate it. It was often one of the first titles I would put forward whenever someone asked me what I thought the worst Bond movie was. I find it strange to think that I am now one of those people who can’t bring themselves to actually class any Bond movie as a truly bad film but I find it stranger to realise that A View To A Kill is a damn good Bond movie.
Christopher Walken plays the villain of the piece this time, he’s Max Zorin, a man with a cunning plan that involves making a ridiculous amount of money at the expense of Silicon Valley. Bond is, of course, on the case and out to stop Zorin but he also has to contend with his deadly female bodyguard, Mayday (Grace Jones, as intimidating as usual), a rigged horse race, being trapped in a burning building and more of the usual perils that come with his job.
John Glen is back in the director’s chair and there’s a great cast involved but this movie suffers most from a sense that Moore overstayed his welcome. Don’t get me wrong, he still has the suave nature and ability to remain cool under pressure but there’s also a hint of lechery there that just comes hand in hand with his age and, sadly, the film that feels more like a showcase for Roger Moore’s stunt double during the enjoyable action sequences. That immediately takes viewers out of the experience and lessens what should have been a brilliant film.
Thankfully, most of the negatives are offset by Walken giving a Bond villain performance that sits up there with the very best of them and Grace Jones being a downright unnerving “henchman” (can you say henchwoman??). Patrick Macnee is also enjoyable to watch in his small role, which is more than can be said for Tanya Roberts, who plays Stacey Sutton and is one of the worst Bond girls I can think of. Fiona Fullerton makes a much better impression, for admittedly shallow reasons, as Pola Ivanova.
It may seem an easy film to rate low and dismiss but A View To A Kill has a lot more going for it than people give it credit for: Walken, a great theme song by Duran Duran (even if the pop music video that they made for it incorporated the movie footage and a horrendously smug turn from Simon Le Bon getting to say that he was “Bon, Simon Le Bon”), a fantastic Eiffel Tower sequence, decent plot that develops nicely as Bond investigates and an exciting finale that utilises the Golden Gate Bridge.
Moore himself may have disliked the film, he disapproved of the violence and didn’t get on at all with Grace Jones, and many others have agreed with him but I will bravely state that it is now a Bond movie I really enjoy. Most people might agree with Moore but I hope that at least some agree with me.
DIRECTOR: JOHN GLEN
STARS: ROGER MOORE, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, GRACE JONES, TANYA ROBERTS, PATRICK MACNEE, PATRICK BAUCHAU, DAVID YIP, FIONA FULLERTON, DESMOND LLEWELYN, LOIS MAXWELL, ROBERT BROWN, ALISON DOODY
RUNTIME: 131 MINS APPROX
MAIN THEME SONG: A View To A Kill sung by Duran Duran.
Artwork by Matthew Harrower.