NOBODY DOES IT BETTER
by John M. Floyd
A few months ago I did a column about the James Bond phenomenon, and mostly about Bond movies. I’m not sure how pertinent it was to our crime/suspense short-story theme (although a few of the films were loosely adapted from Fleming’s short stories), but I am sure that I had fun doing the research. What other excuse could I have used to dig out all my old Bond books and tapes and DVDs?
The Me Who Loves Spies
With that in mind, I have put together a probably-too-long list of my personal opinions regarding Bond movies, novels, and shorts. JLW and I have wasted time with (sorry, I mean “discussed”) this stuff at length in the past, and I hope you’ll let me know your own feelings on the subject. It’s been reported that approximately two billion people have seen at least one Bond film, and who knows how many have read the novels and stories. Like him or hate him, 007 won’t soon be forgotten.
Here, then, is my take on the best and worst of good old JB’s adventures on the screen and on paper:
NOTE: Remember, these are opinions. “Best” means “my favorite” and “worst” means “my least favorite” — and that’s all they mean. Your mileage will vary.
Best movie: Goldfinger
Worst movie: A View to a Kill
Best plot (movie): From Russia With Love
Worst plot (movie): Moonraker
Best novel: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Worst novel: The Man With the Golden Gun
Best short story: “For Your Eyes Only”
Worst short story: “The Property of a Lady”
Best Bond actor: Sean Connery
Worst Bond actor: Roger Moore
Best Bond girl: Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Worst Bond girl: Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), The World Is Not Enough
Best stunt: Skiing off a cliff, The Spy Who Loved Me
Worst stunt: The flying and rotating-in-midair speedboat, Live and Let Die
Best opening credits: Goldfinger
Worst opening credits: Licence to Kill
Best pre-credits (teaser) sequence: Heroin plant explosion and “positively shocking” fight scene, Goldfinger
Worst pre-credits (teaser) sequence: Snowboard-to-submarine escape, A View to a Kill
Best gadget: Briefcase, From Russia With Love
Worst gadget: Invisible car, Die Another Day
Best villain: Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe)
Worst villain: Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), Tomorrow Never Dies
Best ally: Karim Bey (Pedro Armendariz), From Russia With Love
Worst ally: Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson), Never Say Never Again
Best henchman: Oddjob (Harold Sakata), Goldfinger
Worst henchman: Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize), The Man With the Golden Gun
Best Blofeld: Anthony Dawson (face unseen), From Russia With Love and Thunderball
Worst Blofeld: Telly Savalas, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Best M: Bernard Lee, 11 Bond films
Worst M: Edward Fox, Never Say Never Again
Best Bond outfit: Vested gray suit, Goldfinger
Worst Bond outfit: Clown costume, Octopussy
Best villain/henchman death: Oddjob’s electrocution, Goldfinger
Worst villain/henchman death: Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), who blew up like a balloon and then popped, Live and Let Die
Prettiest movie (scenery): The Man With the Golden Gun
Ugliest movie (scenery): Licence to Kill
Best fight scene: Bond vs. Red Grant on the train, From Russia With Love
Worst fight scene: Bond vs. Blofeld in the mud bath, Diamonds Are Forever
Best battle: The attack on Fort Knox, Goldfinger
Worst battle: Underwater hand-to-hand-combat fiasco, Thunderball
Best quote: “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” Goldfinger
Worst quote: TIE: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” From Russia With Love; and “I think he got the point” (after spear-gunning a bad guy), Thunderball
Best chase sequence: Ski escape from Piz Gloria, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Worst chase sequence: Gondola/speedboat/hovercraft chase in Venice, Moonraker
Best soundtrack: Goldfinger
Worst soundtrack: Never Say Never Again
Best song: “We Have All the Time in the World” (instrumental, John Barry orchestra), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Worst song: “The Man With the Golden Gun” (vocal, Lulu)
Not that it matters, but here are my rankings for actors’ portrayals of the Bond character, best to worst: Connery, Brosnan, Craig, Dalton, Lazenby, Moore. (I go back and forth between Craig and Brosnan, and I didn’t count David Niven, from the first Casino Royale.) Oh, and I almost forgot: I think the best non-John-Barry-written songs are Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” from Dr. No and Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die title theme.
From a View to a List
My ranking of all the movies, best to worst, is: Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Dr. No, Thunderball, GoldenEye, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Diamonds Are Forever, The Living Daylights, Casino Royale (2006), The World Is Not Enough, Quantum of Solace, Tomorrow Never Dies, Licence to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, Never Say Never Again, Die Another Day, The Man With the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die, Octopussy, Mooonraker, and A View to a Kill.
My ranking of the novels, best to worst: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Thunderball, Goldfinger, Casino Royale, Mooonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, and The Man With the Golden Gun.
My ranking of the short stories, best to worst: “For Your Eyes Only,” “The Living Daylights,” “From a View to a Kill,” “Quantum of Solace,” “Risico,” “The Hildebrand Rarity,” “Octopussy,” and “The Property of a Lady.”
For Wise Spies Only
If any of you are interested, the “Two-Disk Ultimate Edition” DVD of Dr. No has some great featurettes about the entire Bond movie franchise, and Deborah Lipp’s The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book (S & R Publishers) is a lot of fun as well. Unlike Q, Ms. Lipp does occasionally joke about her work.
And to those of you who are now thinking I’m a stark raving Bondmaniac . . . well, I find that shocking.