Shortly before we moved the b&w TV set to the kitchen, we had it next to my mother's sewing table. A local TV station was broadcasting a week's worth of James Bond movies, and since I was an adolescent and peer discussion was important to me, I asked my parents if I could watch this night's 007 offering. I don't know if my father smirked and gave my mother a broad wink, but he might as well have. "Sure," he said. "Why not?"
My mother's sewing machine was busy that night. I crept closer to the TV, hoping to catch the scurrilous bits between the barrage of electronic interference she threw my way. You would think my quest was a futile business, but no. Somewhere between the zig-zags I caught: a woman in a bikini cuddled next to the titular hero; two gypsy belly-dancers, scratching it out for our hero's affections; a girl in the buff rushing to a hotel bed and slipping between the sheets; our hero with the girl on a train, playing at being husband and wife; our hero, delivering a vicious slap to the girl's jaw ... I dunno. There was some fighting and somesuch in there, too.
It's 30 years later, and I can't get over From Russia With Love. To my mind, this is the Bond movie by which the others are measured, and nearly all of them slip well below the standard -- which is curious, because the movie wears its flaws as if they were badges of honour. The special effects are dodgy (you can spot the string holding up the exploding helicopter), the hero couldn't possibly be more sexist (well ... the early Goldfinger scene in which he gives a massage-girl named "Dink" a swat on the fanny is a bit of a topper), the gypsies come straight from central casting (and do a lousy job of fighting). The knife-in-the-shoe is pretty cool, though, and gets a lot of dramatic mileage.
Connery is called the "dangerous" Bond, and in the early films there's no doubt about it. His character straddles a line between irresistable charm and genuine repugnance. He's like a character from a James Salter story: the cad who crashes the party drunk, helps himself to the cognac, and gives the hostess a pinch. He's appalling, but the hostess can't stop thinking about him. Of course the villains are cold and ruthless; worse still, they have impeccable manners.
Bond struts around these stiffs, the embodiment of loose-limbed, hands-in-the-pockets insouciance. And he flips from adolescent id to parental condescension -- usually after there's been a nasty, protracted fight with a Bond Girl's safety at stake. It's irredeemably bad behaviour, with not a trace of reality to be found.
Enlightened men shouldn't enjoy this stuff -- but some of us do. Consider it our Pretty Woman.
Film Fave #6