Guest Post: Top 5 Undervalued James Bond Films

snob

I asked Dan over at Public Transportation Snob to help me out with a guest post to conclude my James Bond run, which occasion he rose to magnificently. As a blogger following this run, he is one of the few who has watched them all, and I thought that he would be very well suited to help me out. If you aren’t already following his blog, go check it out!

Quantum of Solace

With the release of Skyfall in 2012, the James Bond franchise reclaimed its place among the great action series and introduced the character to new fans. Exploring the character’s past can be interesting, especially given the different pace and tone of the Craig films. The conventional wisdom says to watch the early Connery films, stop briefly with Moore, skip Dalton, and check out Goldeneye for Brosnan. While Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, and The Spy Who Loved Me are a requirement for any prospective Bond fan, there’s another group that deserves more credit. You may have heard that these five choices are terrible, but all have something to offer. Let’s take a look back at some undervalued options that deserve more credit from the franchise’s many fans.

5. Quantum of Solace (2008)
The deck was stacked against Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond right from the start. Both mainstream audiences and diehard fans loved Casino Royale. The expectations were high for the follow-up, and a step backwards was no surprise. It has story issues and a mediocre villain, but there’s still plenty to like. The opening car chase throws us right back into the action and connects well to the end of the previous movie. Marc Forster’s more frenetic shooting style is a bit much, but it injects major energy into the opening scene. There’s also an interesting cat-and-mouse game at the gorgeous opera stage in Bregenz, Austria and impressive stunts throughout the film. Criticisms focused on the villain’s meager plans, but that isn’t really the point. The focus stays on Bond’s emotional state after Vesper’s betrayal, and we’ve never seen this type of approach in the franchise. It doesn’t totally work, and the writer’s strike definitely harmed the script. Even so, the nastiness leveled at this film is way more than it deserves. It’s well above the bottom level of Bond films. Has anyone watched Diamonds Are Forever lately?

On-Her-Majesty's-Secret-Ser

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby’s one appearance as Bond is pretty much a straight adaptation of Ian Fleming’s source novel. It’s a rare case where the main plot (and the heartbreaking ending) wasn’t dramatically changed by the filmmakers. Admittedly, Lazenby is a bit flat compared to Connery and doesn’t exude the same physicality. Even so, he makes Bond more vulnerable and matches the story’s tone. Diana Rigg is an excellent choice to play Tracy, and Telly Savalas is easily the best Blofeld. The action scenes are inspired, particularly the climactic bobsled chase down a mountain. It’s a step above both Connery films that surround it (You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever) and ends with a brutal gut punch. It would have been interesting to see if Lazenby’s reputation would have grown if he hadn’t stepped aside following this movie. He had little experience and might have done better with a second try.

3. The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton arrived with great fanfare after Roger Moore finally exited, but he only appeared in two films. Despite that limited timeframe, both are stellar entries and deserve more credit. One of the reasons they’re dismissed is the topical connection with the issues of the time. This film has Bond still dealing with Cold War issues and even helping the Afghan resistance battle the Soviets. It also has more romance and spends time building his relationship with Kara Milovy (Olivia d’Abo). Despite Joe Don Baker’s cartoonish main villain, this movie feels more like a classic spy adventure than its recent predecessors. Dalton isn’t as physically imposing as Craig, but he’s an accomplished actor who makes the character feel real. The action remains solid, particularly a high-flying airplane battle over the desert. It’s an entertaining movie that set the stage for the more daring follow-up two years later.

For-Your-Eyes-Only

2. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Despite having some truly painful sequences (the Blofeld opening, everything with Bibi), Roger Moore’s fifth appearance is one of his best. It responds to the ridiculous excesses of Moonraker by putting Bond in a more low-key setting. It includes a rare moment when Moore gets his hands dirty, and the proper actor didn’t like it. When Bond vindictively kicks a hoodlum’s car down the hill, it’s a rare moment where this version of the character shows the rough edges of the original incarnation. It isn’t all doom and gloom, however. The major action sequence has Bond skiing down a bobsled ramp while being chased by a motorcycle. It’s a ludicrous scene that’s fun without drifting too far into camp. This film walks that line better than most and stands just behind The Spy Who Loved Me in the Moore rankings. He should have quit after this one.

License-to-Kill-3

1. Licence to Kill (1989)
Dalton has plenty of fans, but the general consensus still regards his second appearance as a failure. It was a box-office disappointment for the series but arrived during the crazy movie summer of 1989. Before Craig, this was the best example of a tougher Bond that connected to Fleming’s version of the character. Bond kills without remorse and brutally goes on a personal vendetta after Robert Davi’s vicious drug lord. Dalton sells the anger and brings some much-needed weight to the role. Who knows where he would have gone with another film? The final tanker truck chase is one of the series’ greatest action sequences and includes remarkable practical effects. By the time Bond and Sanchez face off in the end, the stakes are off the charts. While the drug lord plot puts the story firmly in 1989, it remains effective today. Davi creates one of the great Bond villains, and Dalton matches him to great effect. The result is a hugely undervalued film that deserves a lot more attention.

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17 thoughts on “Guest Post: Top 5 Undervalued James Bond Films

    • Zoë says:

      I really think people shot it down pretty bad, though Dan has a point when he says the odds were stacked against it. Pity, because the film actually had a lot of decent things to offer, too.

      Definitely belongs on this list!

      Like

  1. ruth says:

    I’m in love with this post, and I think you know why Dan 😉 YAY for Dalton’s Bond films AND Dalton as Bond, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me feel every time I hear/read people appreciate it as much as I do.

    I also agree w/ On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only, but I’m not fond of Quantom of Solace, I haven’t been interested in giving it a rewatch, but maybe one day.

    Like

  2. Ted S. says:

    Great piece Dan, pretty much agree on everything you wrote about these Bond flicks. But I’d put On Her Majesty’s Secret Service at number 1 for my list, for years this Bond film’s been underrated but ever since Chris Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond flick, more people are now giving it another shot and it’s getting more respect. I think it would be my favorite Bond film of all time if not for Lazenby’s weak acting, wish Connery or Dalton had starred in it.

    Like

    • Dan Heaton says:

      Thanks Ted. I definitely agree that Lazenby pulls down OHMSS a bit, though he isn’t as bad as the reputation. He’s just awkward when he’s not fighting someone. I think it deserves a second look, but it doesn’t get all the nasty reactions like Dalton’s films do. I do not get the hate for License to Kill.

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  3. GaryLee828 says:

    I thought Quantum of Solace was really good, but the problem is it just paled in comparison to Casino Royale, which is IMO the best Bond film of all-time and in my top 10 favorite film list. It had everything you could ask for in a Bond film, or an Action/Spy film. The script is immaculate. Aside from CR being so good, QOS was quite good – especially when comparing to the Bond drivel that had been coming out in the 90’s.

    I thought Dalton was a pretty good Bond, too.

    The only thing I disagree with you about is that Roger Moore should have quit after “For Your Eyes Only”. He was excellent in “Live & Let Die” and “Octopussy” which are my 2 favorite Bond films after Casino Royale.

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      I think Quantum of Solace got so much flak because people were still wowed after Casino Royale, which is the best Bond movie ever. Yep, I am on that boat too.

      I won’t lie, I really disliked Roger Moore as a Bond.

      Like

    • Dan Heaton says:

      I think Moore just got too old, especially in A View to a Kill, where he was seducing a girl less than half his age. Octopussy is okay, but it’s not one of my favorites. Live and Let Die was actually his first film, so I expect you meant to say a different one.

      I definitely agree that the greatness of Casino Royale is what hurts Quantum of Solace. Still, it’s like some Bond fans want to act like it doesn’t exist, which is crazy.

      Like

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