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Saturday, July 01, 2017

New 007 For The 80's

Dalton Introduces a Sullen and Go-Rogue Bond

It became post-Roger Moore fashionable to anger up James Bond, the seek after "harder edge" meant to get us back to departed spirit of Ian Fleming and danger of Sean Connery. Neither of these was reachable because times had changed and so, irrevocably, had the series. Biggest barrier lay in fact that Bond was himself neither new nor a novelty anymore. The only way to reboot was to recast the part, that a most reliable means of juicing boxoffice. There was always curiosity when a new 007 took the stage, then disillusionment when understudies didn't measure to Connery's fit. Roger Moore had tough times adjusting, his first two raising doubts that the format itself could continue, and George Lazenby had problematic debut, so much so as to make his first Bond a last.

Now came Timothy Dalton, a splash (but welcome?) of ill-temper and doubtful commitment to Queen and country his forebears served w/o question. Just as we had come to doubt our federal law enforcing, so had he, to a point of letting MI6 "stuff it" rather than submit to further of that organization's discipline. Dalton was celebrated for stage background and dabs of Shakespeare to make playing of a pulp hero duck soup. He was good, at least to my mind, but there are ones who'd disagree --- one friend not normally misguided says he'd not watch Dalton's Bond again on a bet. Others complained that he lacked "humor," as if we'd not had surfeit of that over seven servings of Roger Moore. In fact, it was refreshing to see Bond taken seriously again, assuming that was possible after twenty-five years of increasingly degraded merchandise.

The Living Daylights' story was cold-warrish, never my favorite device, especially as I always found those hardest to follow, possibly due to my habit of not giving proper attention to 007 narratives. Also it's long, as in three or four endings like action movies today. Bond Girl rush was '87-reduced thanks to the AIDS scare; that aspect got as much press as Dalton and the pic itself. We didn't realize it then, but The Living Daylights would be John Barry's final turn at composing for the series. For me, he makes the difference as to re-watching Bonds, or not. Something like For Your Eyes Only, with Bill Conti styling, amounts to foul in the punch bowl for at least this viewer. We wouldn't be long after The Living Daylights losing faces and background participants who'd been there since a start --- it had been a quarter-century, after all --- and some had already moved on. Comforting continuity of this series couldn't last forever, but at least it would stay recognizable for a few more years, if not decades.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Glad you pushed that button. I liked Dalton as Bond.

5:38 AM  
Blogger kenneth Von Gunden said...

A government-saving(s) Bond...

I agree that a return to humor with Dalton was not called for after the 3-stooges plots of Moore's films. However...his Bond could been a LITTLE less grim.

George Lazenby could have been a great Bond. As it was, his one-time effort is one of my favorite Bond films. Unfortunately, he was good enough to justify his threat to Sean Connery by the producers. Connery returned to the role, if only briefly.

10:12 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

There is a very clever and funny "life story" of George Lazenby playing on Hulu. Lazenby appears on camera and narrates. Highly recommended!

10:34 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dear John:

Excellent post on DAYLIGHTS -- which I saw with my father thirty years ago during the same London trip when we visited the Tate -- with a very astute note regarding the importance of the film's (excellent) John Barry score. There's a composer we miss every day.

On the subject of Dalton, I remember someone telling me, "the guy's hair is always flying all over the place!" This was something new for the series. Dalton (a good actor) was a rugged Bond, and unafraid to appear scruffy in action; this might have rubbed some fans the wrong way. Remember those early UA trailers for DOCTOR NO and FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE with the narrator describing 007 as "The gentleman agent who's licensed to kill!"? While Dalton looks good in a suit, for a good chunk of the movie, he's dressed down and dirty -- a far cry from our memory of Connery emerging from his GOLDFINGER wet suit clad in a tux. [When Dalton has a here-uncharacteristic "Bond line" out in the desert about how there's a great restaurant in a nearby hamlet, we're taken a little aback; what will he wear?.]

But he held up the banner well. If the subsequent LICENCE TO KILL hadn't turned out to be one of the weakest entries in the series (in almost every way), Dalton might have caught on and lasted a while.

The shot of the DeMille (gigantically) promoting GOLDFINGER was terrific. I tend to salt away Mayfair/DeMille photos; I'm always thrilled to see one I've never previously encountered.

-- Griff

12:54 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Wish I had a photo of every front the Mayfair/DeMille did, Griff. Imagine being heir to their file cabinets when the theatre closed.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Jerry Kovar said...

I saw GOLDFINGER at the Demille during the opening weekend. One of two times I waited on line to get into a theater (RCMH being the other). Stood in the cold with a friend and missed getting into the next show. Had to wait well over two hours for the next one. Theater sat over 1,700 so there were a few of us. Worth it for this 14 year old.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Even if Dalton came close to killing off the franchise, he's my second favorite 007. I liked him in the role.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

I recall Patrick MacNee on Larry King about the time this came out. He was a bit partisan; having starred in the playful "The Avengers" and appeared with Moore in "A View to a Kill". He expressed civilized dislike for the idea of "realistic" violence, saying he was in the Royal Navy during the war and had enough of it

1:48 PM  
Blogger JAMES COBB said...

Glad you mentioned John Barry.... his scores pretty much made the series work. Other key players: Ken Adam's production design and Maurice Binder's title sequences.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I don't worry so much about how Bonds compare to each other. So much about the world has changed since Dr. No that it's surprising the character has lasted in any way— so many of the things that signified how unique he was (from his level of sexual liberation to his world travels to his knowledge of wine and sports cars and so on) belong to the middle class now, if they want them. (Many things of his seem very anachronistic now— at least I don't know many whose idea of a good time is playing baccarat in Monaco.)

For me the comparison is other action movies of any given era. On that level, Bond is the gold standard that even Indiana Jones could not equal (too inconsistent, too long between chapters), even when they're not that great. I know what pleasures await in a Bond film, however well or poorly they're carried off. In that sense I look forward to them as I certainly don't other things (another Die Hard? Another Transporter? Dear God). The only series that comes close in ensuring reliable genre satisfaction has kind of flown under the radar-- no, not that other JB Jason Bourne, but Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible series. Modeled closely on Bond, but tailored for Cruise's American hardbody type, they deliver the goods a bit soullessly, but at least with the proper machine-tooled sheen.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Finally saw SPECTRE today. Liked it a lot.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

^Good to see that you do like it as much as I do.

9:41 PM  

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