Friday, March 09, 2007

Early Bond

I was so impressed by the new Bond film that I put a bunch of the original ones on my Netflix queue. After watching “Dr. No” (1962) and “From Russia with Love” (1963), I think I may have been a little harsh on Connery’s Bond in my “Casino Royale” review. Connery did some fine work in these films. “Dr. No” in particular is spare, brutal, and cool. There is nothing cute about Bond in this film. The closest thing to gadgetry involves a detailed discussion of the merits of a .32 caliber Beretta (Bond’s preference) compared to a Walther PPK in .380, which of course is the gun he ultimately made famous. The dialog in “Dr. No” is also nice and spare, without the lame attempts at glibness that later defined the franchise.

“From Russia with Love” is also a fine Bond film, but with all due respect I feel that the cracks are already beginning to show here. While the dialog is mostly excellent, there are a few attempts to give Bond clever one-liners that just fall flat. After killing a SPECTRE agent who is armed with a poisoned blade in the toe of her shoe, Bond comments, “She had her kicks.” The problem with lines like this, in this film and in the other Bond films, is that they are so obviously intended to be noticed that they stop the flow of the story. They also aren’t usually funny. I prefer the more natural, but stylish, dialogue in the film. When Bond discovers, too late, that his supposed contact is actually a SPECTRE assassin, he recalls his adversary’s odd dinner choice and remarks, “Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.” The assassin replies, “You may know the right wines, but you're the one on your knees. How does it feel old man?”

Despite a few complaints, I am enjoying re-watching these old Bond films. “Goldfinger”, the third in the series should be on its way soon.

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