MI6 Editors caught up with several members of the social organization Club S.P.E.C.T.R.E to reflect on James Bond and his adventures...

Opinion - S.P.E.C.T.R.E. James Bond Top Twenty One Countdown (3)
16th September 2006

MI6 Editors caught up with several members of the social organization Club S.P.E.C.T.R.E.* at their annual meeting and retreat in the US and we posed a series of research challenges to the society’s leadership for inclusion in MI6’s continuing education series over the next several months to coincide with the release of Casino Royale. MI6 will be printing their responses from a series of questions over the next few months.
Club S.P.E.C.T.R.E. James Bond Top Twent One Countdown (Part 1)
Club S.P.E.C.T.R.E. James Bond Top Twent One Countdown (Part 2)

The first of these questions was as follows:

”In keeping with the mounting interest in Bond 21 Casino Royale, what would you list as the 21 most memorable Bond moments and least favorable from the film series?”

The Club humorously acknowledged that fans are free to agree or disagree, but to keep in mind that anyone who seriously challenges these conclusions may well get a dip in Largo’s shark pool, or more inhumanely, be forced to watch the 1967 Eurotrash spy film Operation Kid Brother.

The 21 responses will be published in no significant order or ranking over the coming months.

Most Memorable

14) The Fort Knox Battle in Goldfinger
This sequence symbolizes the moment when the Bond formula for fantasy and realism reached the perfect blend. Bond is strapped to a ticking atomic bomb while the mute Korean muscleman Oddjob menaces him with a razor-sharp hat. As preposterous as it sounds, director Guy Hamilton succeeds in conveying edge-of-the-seat tension. Production designer Ken Adam was denied access to the real Fort Knox but he succeeded in giving producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman the “cathedral of gold” they had requested. Adam’s vision of Fort Knox if probably far more captivating than the real thing.

15) Train Fight in From Russia With Love
Back when Bond films generated genuine suspense, fight scenes appeared sparingly and with great impact.

This was amply illustrated with the fight aboard the Orient Express between Bond and the psychotic Soviet muscleman assassin Red Grant, superbly played with silent menace by noted actor and playwright Robert Shaw.

The two-minute sequence is a textbook example of how an action sequence should be directed and choreographed. Special kudos to editor Peter Hunt for a brilliant achievement.

Above : Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi and Robert Shaw on the set of the Orient Express.

16) The Death of Tracy in OHMSS
With the introduction of George Lazenby as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, director Peter Hunt used the opportunity to humanize Bond and revitalize the series, which had become overly dependent upon fantastic plots and gadgets. Sticking closely to Ian Fleming’s source novel, Hunt dared to keep the book’s downbeat ending wherein Bond’s new bride Tracy is murdered at the hands of SPECTRE chieftain Blofeld. The film remains an anomaly in the series but remains arguably the best 007 movie ever made.

Above: Donald Pleasence as Blofeld.

17) The Introduction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice
Until the release of this fifth Bond epic in 1967, the S.P.E.C.T.R.E chieftain had remained a mysterious, opaque presence seen only in the shadows or in cryptic visions stroking his pet white Siamese cat. Here, Bond is memorably introduced face-to-face with his nemesis, played by Donald Pleasence. As with Dr. No, he suffers from a disfigurement (a scarred eye vs. No’s metallic hands), but remains remarkably amiable and witty even as he plans worldwide destruction. The introduction of Blofeld (who would ultimately be left out of the series due to legal complications concerning the origin of the character) remains the epitome of Bond villainy- and has been immortalized via Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films. This sequence also introduces the most spectacular Bond set ever- production designer Ken Adam’s magnificent volcano lair.

18) Bond Resigns from MI6
The gravitas that Timothy Dalton brought to the Bond role in the wake of the Roger Moore era alienated many fans who had been weaned on Moore’s often overtly humorous interpretation of the role. Purists, however, seemed gratified that Dalton brought a sense of purpose and dedication to the character that had been missing from many of the films of the Moore era. In Dalton’s second and last Bond outing, Licence to Kill we see a raw side of Bond’s emotions exposed for the first time when he discovers his colleague Felix Leiter mutilated and his new bride murdered by a drug kingpin. M reminds Bond that his kneejerk plan to exact revenge is not in keeping with MI6 policies. For once, Bond ignores warnings about allowing personal feelings to interfere with his mission- in this case a self-appointed crusade to avenge the Leiter's. In a tense meeting at the Hemingway House in the Florida Keys M issues Bond not only ignores M’s instructions, but makes a daring escape under gunfire, thus becoming a rogue agent. While it may be unrealistic to think that MI6 agents would actually fire at Bond for being insubordinate, the sequence works very well on a dramatic level. More importantly, it finally elevated Robert Brown’s M from being a lightweight character to a figure of genuine authority.

19) Bond Kicks Locque’s Car Off Cliff in For Your Eyes Only
The Roger Moore Bond films were traditionally characterized by an emphasis on lighthearted comedy- a reflection of Moore’s own opinion that neither the character or the series should be taken overly seriously. However, fan criticism of the overt slapstick of Moonraker led producer Cubby Broccoli to bring Bond “down to earth” in For Your Eyes Only via a logical screenplay and realistic characters. The hard edge to Moore/Bond was demonstrated when he kicked the villain Locque’s car off a cliff, sending the man to his death. Ironically, Moore opposed the scene as being overly harsh but fan response was favorable and the new, grittier Moore/Bond salvaged the series from turning into a comedic tour de force.

Least Memorable

20) “It's a BALLOON!”
Perhaps the most undignified death suffered by a Bond villain takes place in Live and Let Die when Bond forces a compressed air bullet into Kananga’s mouth, causing the poor bloke’s waistline to expand as rapidly as a Weight Watchers member in a Dunkin’ Donuts shop. As Kananga literally explodes like a giant balloon, one can only think that the only fate less dignified would have been to have old Kananga entered as the official S.P.E.C.T.R.E balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

21) James Bond- the Not-So-Secret-Secret Agent
It doesn’t stress credulity that Bond is well known among megalomaniacs. After all, he’s probably destroyed enough real estate and hardware to equal the gross national product of Switzerland during his on-going battles with the men who would be king. However, one would assume that his legend would not extend into the general public or petty criminal. Yet, in Diamonds Are Forever when Bond switches identities with smuggler Peter Franks, whom he has just terminated, Tiffany Case cries out “You’ve just killed James Bond!” In A View To A Kill, Bond identifies himself to a San Francisco police officer who also expresses incredulity that this could really be the James Bond. At some point the screenwriters must have thought they were penning the next Superman adventure, given the general public’s in-depth knowledge of Bond’s activities and reputation.

Right: Roger Moore and Tanya Roberts hang onto the Golden Gate Bridge set on the Pinewood backlot.


Discuss the Club S.P.E.C.T.R.E opinions at MI6 Forums.

* Like most private societies, Club S.P.E.C.T.R.E. membership is by invitation only and is dedicated to fellowship and a "Flemingesque" pursuit of the James Bond lifestyle- fine wines and liquors, cigars, exotic travel and beautiful women. The members represent a diverse and international social group consisting of James Bond authors, scholars and enthusiasts who share their common interest through outings and meetings geared toward celebrating all things relating to 007. The group's name ironically does not originate from the evil crime organization found in the James Bond novels and films. Rather, the name relates to the groups founding on Italian actor Adolfo Celi's birthday. (Celi portrayed the S.P.E.C.T.R.E villain Emilio Largo in Thunderball.) Thus, the organization was formed and a definition was assigned to its title: Society to Promote and Celebrate Celi's Triumphant and Remarkable Endeavors. Absurd? Naturally, but a hell of a lot of fun for its members.

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