Sean Connery defined the typical Bond – a gritty and street-smart operator who liked to have his Dry Martinis ‘shaken but not stirred’ as he went about the messy job of saving mankind and world from egomaniacal villains.
Roger Moore could never outclass Connery on that score so he decided to change the approach by playing for laughs and wry humour. He never looked as one who could roll up his sleeves and brawl in the dirt. His approach made him appear more sophisticated and it worked with mixed results.
It helped that Bond movies had a well-defined framework that drew in their loyal audience. The standard devices included – a breath-taking pre-credit stunt sequence that would often bear no relation to the film’s story followed up by Ms. Moneypenny arranging for Bond’s customary meeting with ‘M’ (to learn about his latest assignment) and ‘Q’ (to get some gimmicky devices. Armed with his mission Bond would like the British Isles and travel the world to showcase breath-taking visuals.
He would share a banter with the ‘Bond’ girls (often victims or willing consorts of the villain), get drawn into 2 -3 fight / stunt sequences involving planes, boats and cars in that order. The British attitude of ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ would be on full display aided by a bit of wry humour and the ‘arched eyebrow’ thrown in. Bond would engage politely with his adversary, who would often get to verbally banter Bond and follow it up by getting Bond n his fair damsel trapped in a seemingly ‘fatal’ situations.
And the climax would be all about turning the tables to successfully execute the mission with a typical touch of sang-froid. And Bond and the lady would then walk off into the sunset so to say.
James Bond took ‘politically incorrect’ positions on many aspects that would rile the modern generation – apparently a Gentleman he still went about seducing the fairer sex with scant regard for them as individuals, his global travels often ended up reinforcing the superficial stereotypes such as India being a land of snakes charmers doing the rope trick and fakirs sitting on a bed of nails, a Caribbean island is a fertile ground to produce Heroin, the Arabian world is about Camel rides on the dunes and visiting the traditional Souks etc. He is unapologetic about it because it was a different world where the social media scrutiny didn’t exist and many of these tropes were indeed the ‘world-view’ of his core audience.
Roger Moore starred in 7 James Bond movies –
- Live and Let Die – 1973
- The Man With The Golden Gun – 1974
- The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977
- Moonraker – 1979
- For Your Eyes Only – 1981
- Octopussy – 1983
- A View To Kill – 1985
My favourite 3 movies are –
The Spy Who Loved Me :
It had all the traditional Bond movie elements but it outdid itself on certain counts. The ‘Bond’ girl in the movie – Barbara Bach essaying the role of the Russian Secret Agent Triple X – Anya Amasova is neither a damsel in distress nor a consort of the villain. In a limited way she is poised as Bond’s alter ego and has a characterization that is missing for most of the Bond girls who strut around as glamour pieces and Blond bimbettes.
It also introduces Jaws – the silent henchman with steely teeth – who for once is unbeatable even by Bond.
The coolest gadget – Bond’s latest car turns into a cute submarine that helps him escape a deadly car / helicopter chase by the goons.
Lovely visuals of Egypt, Italy and Bahamas and of course the submerged terrain of the ocean floor.
For Your Eyes Only
Following the disaster that was the ‘Moonraker’, the movie again returned to the basics. So Bond is back as a credible secret agent. His opponents (Columbo and Kristatos) are well-drawn characters and the ‘Bond-Girl’ – Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) seems to be a marine archaeologist. The other young girl – Bibi Dahl – a precocious teen who plans to win the Olympics as an ice-skater. For once Bond behaves like a true Gentleman with the gals and the seduction game is ‘off-limits’.
Lovely visuals of Greece, Spain, Bahamas, Italy with the snow stunts and the mountain climbing shots that look real good.
It has to be on the list since Bond is visiting us in India. While it reinforced all the superficial stereotype of India being a land of snake-charmers and fakirs sitting on bed-of-nails, it really doesn’t hold any venom in the portrayal. It is just a matter-of-fact depiction of the English Sahib in the ancient land so more follows in terms of a royal hunt using Elephants and of course the Udaipur palaces being used as the abodes of the villains.
Octopussy being the leading lady who is just half-a-villain and has a change of heart at the end of it seems to be named thus as a gimmick and to provide some shock value. The story is bizarre with multiple strands involving fake Faberge eggs, nuclear bombs, a kerfuffle in the Russian KGB think tank but it all adds up in the climax to the last second when Bond in the disguise of a Circus Clown disarms a Nuclear Bomb at an US base in West Germany.
Cameos of Vijay Amritraj and the knife throwing twins is exciting. Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) as the villain’s right hand man follows the Jaws script and hardly speaks or questions the wisdom of his boss Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan).
Lovely visuals of India for a change – in particular the palace in the lake reminds us of the royal splendor of our past.