Saturday, 4 April 2009

Perspective on James Bond Movie Villains: Part 2 - Freelancers of the Connery and Moore Years

This is a continuation of looking at villains from the James Bond movies, influenced by reflection on the one in the most recent Bond movie, 'A Quantum of Solace' (2008). In this part, I will look at villains who worked freelance rather than for SPECTRE, SMERSH or Quantum. Given how many there are to get through, in this part I will look at the ones in movies starring Sean Connery and Roger Moore, so covering 1962-85; George Lazenby's Bond only fought SPECTRE.

Auric Goldfinger played by Gert Fröbe disguised as a US Army officer despite carrying a gold-plated revolver

Auric Goldfinger
As I noted in Part 1, the author of the first James Bond novels, Ian Fleming, was not averse to using the names of real people for his villains. This is noticeable with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of the criminal organisation, SPECTRE. Fleming simply added 'Stavro' to the name Ernst Blofeld, a relative of Tom Blofeld, a member of Fleming's club. For Auric Goldfinger the protagonist in 'Goldfinger' (1964), played by German actor Gert Fröbe (1913-88), the name was clearly influenced by Ernő Goldfinger (1902-87), the Hungarian-born architect. Fleming talked with a cousin of Goldfinger's wife, Ursula, whilst playing golf (in the movie Bond and Goldfinger first meet on the golf course; Goldfinger is shown cheating at both golf and cards).

The real Goldfinger, a man renowned for disliking jokes, was tempted to sue Fleming when the novel came out in 1959.  As a counter-attack Fleming threatened to rename the character 'Goldprick' (with 'prick' in Britain being a perjorative term of the penis, perhaps influencing the movie 'Austin Powers in Goldmember' (2002) with 'member' being a similar perjorative term for the same piece of anatomy). The first name, Auric, was clearly influenced by the Latin word for gold, 'aurum', from which the chemical symbol for the element, Au, comes.

Goldfinger certainly fits the 'bad uncle' category of Bond villains and, at times, the rotund jolly German appears too amenable. The actor later played bumbling German characters, Colonel Manfred von Holstein in 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines' (1965) and Baron Bomburst in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' (1968), the novel of which had also been written by Ian Fleming. Goldfinger's plot fits in with a period when control over the movement of capital was much more restrictive than these days.  British people going on holiday were only able to carry £25 in foreign currency (though, in 1964, £25 would have been three weeks' wages for a technical worker), so as not to upset the balance of payments. Also the value of gold was different in different countries. Thus, Goldfinger begins the movie simply smuggling gold in the chassises of cars. However, making use of mafia connections in the USA he moves to a larger scheme to irradiate the US gold stockpile at Fort Knox using an atomic device in order to raise the value of his own gold holdings. This type of plot was revived for the John McClane movie 'Die Hard With A Vengeance' (1995).

Goldfinger seems to be working in concert with the Communist Chinese (who tested their first atomic bomb in 1964) who want to bring economic chaos to the West, though clearly Goldfinger will also gain a lot from the situation. British actor Burt Kwouk (born 1930) who would later appear as a SPECTRE member in 'You Only Live Twice' (and plays a Chinese general in 'Casino Royale' (1967)) is seen in this movie as Goldfinger's Chinese contact, Mr. Ling. In 'Goldfinger' the villain is derived from: lingering concerns over the Germans with the added issues of the time about currency manipulation felt to be carried out by Swiss bankers; combined with the perceived threat from Red China which crops up in many of the Bond movies. These days with China having such huge foreign reserves itself you could have an interesting twist on 'Goldfinger' for the late 2000s.

Despite his avuncular manner, or perhaps because of it, we are shown Goldfinger's callous side. Notable is the painting gold of Jill Masterson to leave an iconic image, after she has screwed up Goldfinger's cheating at cards on Bond's initiative. Bond always involves women in his plans to get close to the villains and it usually ends with them dying in a remarkable way that is seen as a warning. There is a sense that in the world of villains we are all at risk of being caught up in the crossfire. Occasionally the less sophisticated agents of the villain also die, one remembers in 'Dr. No' when Professor Dent, on the orders of No, fires into what he believes is the body of Bond. Casually, Bond who is actually hidden behind the door, steps forward and says 'That's a Smith and Wesson and you've had your six' and shoots the man dead. Similarly in the same movie, he uses Miss Taro as a shield when being shot at. The implication is that, in such battles, both the good and the bad manipulate people and dispose of them to win the greater victory. In more recent movies questions around this abuse of human life are raised more explicitly than in the Bond movies of the 1960s and 1970s.

Others are killed by Goldfinger: the mafia bosses are gassed at Goldfinger's stud farm and another is crushed in his car at a scrap yard. The scene that makes Goldfinger memorable, even forty-five years later, is with Bond tied to a sheet of metal about to be cut in half by a powerful laser. "You expect me to talk?" Bond asks. "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die." Goldfinger chuckles, making it all that more chilling because we are aware of Bond's vulnerability. As the directors of the later Moore-as-Bond movies forgot, making both Bond and his opponents human allows the audience to engage with the characters far more effectively than with pantomime goodies and baddies.

Other interesting aspects of Goldfinger include his obsession with the material of gold. It is interesting that, despite his seeming joviality and ability to attract women like Jill Masterson and Pussy Galore to work for him, he actually is emotionally detached. His manservant Oddjob is a Korean mute and Pussy Galore, it is suggested, is a lesbian. It is as if they are not only Goldfinger's workers, but almost his wards. Like all villains and spy bosses (notably M and Felix Leiter) in the Bond movies, Goldfinger has to be on the scene of his exploits, even equipping himself with the disguise of a US Army officer, though the gold-plated revolver might give the game away.

Goldfinger is an engaging villain as there is more to him than Dr. No and we can see what motivates him. In some ways for Goldfinger it is the pull of gold and a desire to thumb his nose at the authorities, whereas with Dr. No it is about a personal rejection of his background and what that has meant for him. Blofeld and No almost seem to be aesthetes in a kind of hermit like existence in their bases.  In contrast Goldfinger lives the good life: we see him relaxing in Miami, playing golf, at his stud farm and so on.

Le Chiffre
Le Chiffre is an interloper in this category as he does not appear in a Connery or a Moore Bond movie. However, he is first seen in 'Casino Royale' (1967), a Bond spoof, which does fit, however with the mid-1960s Bond peak.  Le Chiffre (i.e. The Cipher) has appeared in the two movie versions of 'Casino Royale' to varying effects. In the novel, he is a displaced person found at Dachau at the end of the Second World War. He is portrayed as having Jewish and Polish or German ancestry, though he speaks French with an Occitan (southern French) accent. He becomes a banker for the Soviet organisation, SMERSH, through a front trade union. In all the versions Le Chiffre is trying to recover his employers' money he has invested but lost; in the novel he has put money into brothels.

In the 1967 movie, Le Chiffre has lost SMERSH's money through gambling at baccarat and, failing to retrieve the funds through blackmail, returns to the gaming table to try to win it back.  However, he comes up against the British card expert Evelyn Tremble (in those days Evelyn was a man's rather than a woman's name) backed by Sir James Bond. In the 2006 movie, Le Chiffre is more freelance, investing money from a Ugandan rebel leader, Otanno, in an insider trade deal that Bond foils.  This means Le Chiffre loses Otanno's money and is compelled to try to win it back, something Bond and Felix Leiter work to prevent.

Le Chiffre played by Orson Welles

I am going to say very little about 'Casino Royale' (1967) because it is a very poorly made comedy movie spoofing aspects of James Bond novels and movies. The main villain is Dr. Noah, the alter-ego of retired Sir James Bond's son, Jimmy Bond, played by comic actor/director Woody Allen. However, among the star-filled cast is Orson Welles (1915-85) as Le Chiffre. Welles had an up and down career but acted in some stunning roles, notably Harry Lime in 'The Third Man' (1950) and Captain Hank Quinlan in 'A Touch of Evil' (1958); I do not rate 'Citizen Kane' (1941) highly but many people do. In this version of 'Casino Royale' he is being very much a representation of himself, but in that, he probably does the best acting in the whole movie and is very credible as the sophisticated card player who has to be beaten.

The 'Casino Royale' story reflects incidents in Ian Fleming's own life as a secret agent in which he tried (unsuccessfully) to bankrupt a rival at the gaming tables. Welles's Le Chiffre is one of only four bearded villains in the Bond movies (Julian Glover's Aristotle Kristatos, Max von Sydow's Blofeld and Michael Lonsdale's Sir Hugo Drax being the others). Despite the comic elements of Welles's role such as performing tricks to try to distract Tremble, he is the best element of the movie and it is a shame that Welles was not used in such a role in one of the mainstream Bond movies.

Le Chiffre played by Mads Mikkelsen

In the 2006 movie Le Chiffre is played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (born 1965) as a much colder character of the Dr. No style. It is suggested that he is an Albanian and is in the mould of East European chess masters (imagine a physically stronger Kronsteen). In terms of coldness, such as his lack of concern when his girlfriend is threatened with being maimed, is a remarked upon trait. For the bulk of the movie, of course, he is focused on survival. Having lost the rebel general's money in the foiled insider trading he knows he has to win the money back playing at his best; then by poisoning and finally torturing Bond to try to get the access code to the money Bond has won.

Some elements have had to be altered to reflect the fact that this is the 2000s and not the late 1950s. Thus, Casino Royale is now in Montenegro rather than France, and it is an East African general rather than Soviet intelligence that whose money Le Chiffre loses. The torture weapon is a knotted rope rather than a carpet beater (I do not know where you would find one of those these days) but the bulk of the story is very close to that of the novel. Le Chiffre is shot by his main employers, who we learn, in the sequel, 'Quantum of Solace' are Quantum, rather than SMERSH, but the plot is basically the same which is possibly why the movie is highly rated.

I suppose I could have put Le Chiffre in with those who work for SPECTRE/Quantum, but when we see him he is very much working for himself, in fact, counter to the interests of his employers. Le Chiffre has the disability, i.e. that he weeps blood (haemolacria), that is the easy signal that he is a villain, but he appears human and as a desperate man trying to remain calm when he knows he is onto his last chance. Le Chiffre is interesting, as aside from insider trading, he has no grand plot, rather he is an important cog in the plots of others, but one with his own sense of pride and his personal interests. This makes him more engaging that a cackling mad man in his huge base.

Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big both played by Yaphet Kotto

Dr.Kananga/Mr. Big
The first thing about this villain is that he presents two faces: first the dictator of small Caribbean island, San Monique, and, then, a leading drugs dealer in New York, Mr. Big. It is interesting that in the movie, it is as Dr. Kananga that he wears a plastic covering that alters his facial features (slightly) to make him appear as Big.  Removing it is a bit like Clark Kent taking off his glasses to be Superman. Kananga/Big was played by Yaphet Kotto, a Jewish black man from New York whose father had been Crown Prince of the Cameroons. The kind of international background that Kotto has in reality was typical of the villains in the Bond stories. The name Kananga came from Ross Kananga, the man in Jamaica who owned the crocodile farm featured in the movie. However, there may have been some intention to obliquely reference Dr. Kenneth Kaunda who was dictator of Zambia in 1964-91; the Katanga region is in Uganda.

Many of the aspects from the novel 'Live and Let Die' (1954) turn up in other Bond movies rather than the 1973 movies of the same name.  Examples are Leiter losing an arm and a leg when dropped into a shark tank: this is used in 'Licence to Kill' (1989) and Bond and a woman being dragged by an aircraft over coral is used in 'For Your Eyes Only' (1985). In the novel Mr. Big works for SMERSH and is smuggling gold. Of course, with the currency exchange rules being altered, this was less of an issue by 1973 so the plot in the movie is to flood the USA with cheap heroin shipped in from San Monique to drive other dealers out of business and then to take a monopoly of the trade. This references US fears of drug cultivation in the Caribbean (taken to an extreme in 'Bad Boys II' (2003) in which Cuba is portrayed as a vast drugs cultivation centre).

There is another contemporary movie reference in that, for some of the movie, Bond eschews his Walther PPK pistol in favour of a magnum revolver.  The very successful 'Dirty Harry' movie starring Clint Eastwood had come out in 1971 and was followed in 1973 by 'Magnum Force'.  In both of these, Eastwood's character wields and regularly references his magnum revolver.  Perhaps to show that Bond is equally as tough he ends up with one in this movie.

'Live and Let Die' (1973) seemed an ideal Bond story to make at the time, given the 'blaxploitation' movies of the early 1970s.  These featured black heroes/heroines (or anti-heroes) for the first time in US movies.  However, the themes were often around the crime and inner city life occasionally with references to Africa and the Caribbean. In this, 'Live and Let Die' is almost an archetypal blaxploitation movie with locations in the Caribbean, the Harlem district of New York and New Orleans. It references jazz and voodoo culture too, using both in intimidating ways. Kananga/Big is calm but Baron Samedi, the voodoo leader offers the cackling and, in contrast to Kananga and his assistants, ends the movie surviving Bond's intervention. In contrast to many blaxploitation movies, the interaction between the black and the white (Bond, Felix Leiter and fortune teller Solitaire) protagonists, actually offers a different dimension. In one scene Leiter jokes about Bond's 'disguise' of being a white man in Harlem.  This is interesting, as, in general, Bond is portrayed as being at home in any context, yet, in this movie he comes into ones in which he is a clear outsider.

In some ways the movie as with all Bond movies touches on the tensions felt at the time. In this case the anxiety among white Americans in the face of rising black consciousness which was becoming an element of international popular culture especially through movies.  The movie, however, uses stereotypical black roles associated with drugs and crime.  At the end of the day Kananga/Mr. Big is an ambitious drugs baron, little different to Franz Sanchez in 'Licence to Kill'. Of course, his approach would still have killed off more Americans even than the drugs trade of the 1970s was already doing.

In the novel Mr. Big becomes involved in the gold smuggling as a way to overcome the lethargy that he suffers from being sated in his life. In the movie, there is a kind of clinical weariness with things that also comes through. Kananga/Big is callous and uses torture and voodoo to keep San Monique's people in check.  He kills people he feels have betrayed him, such as Bond's first black sexual conquest, Rosie Carver.  Bond discards her in a very harsh way and she is killed by robot guns hidden in scarecrows around Kananga's poppy fields. The moment when Bond shuns her, thinking she has betrayed the CIA, is probably the harshest we see Moore acting as Bond. Ironically Kananga/Big, even when he knows Solitaire has betrayed him and lost her virginity (necessary to retain her psychic powers), is almost sad for what has happened rather than malicious. That vulnerability, again, is important in making the villain seem to have some humanity and thus engages us further.

Kananga/Big is difficult to categorise as a villain, he is not over-the-top and neither is he avuncular and yet he shows more emotion than the 'cold fish' villains. He was reviewed as a poor opponent for Bond, but I feel he has credibility. He remains the only villain that Bond has faced in movies whose ethnicity was not at least half-Caucasian.

Francisco Scaramanga played by Christopher Lee

Francisco Scaramanga
Scaramanga is named either after one of Fleming's rivals at school, George Ambrose Scaramanga, or perhaps Pandia Peter Scaramanga whom Fleming met while writing 'The Man with the Golden Gun' (published 1965). In the novel Scaramanga is a Cuban agent working with a strange consortium of the Soviet KGB and American gangsters. He is also seeking to destabilise the sugar industry of the Caribbean to increase the value of the Cuban crop. Scaramanga uses a gold-plated revolver (like the one Auric Goldfinger uses in his movie) and a gold plated derringer single shot pistol firing a poisoned bullet. In the novel the revolver is .45 (11.4 mm) calibre, firing silver cored, gold coated rounds. In the movie Scaramanga uses a 4.2 mm (.17) calibre single shot gold pistol firing a dum-dum bullet of 23 carat gold and nickel. The gun can be disassembled into a cigarette case, a pen, a lighter and a cuff link. The prop of the gun, reckoned to be worth £80,000, was stolen in October 2008.

In the movie of 'The Man with the Golden Gun' (1974), Scaramanga, superbly played by Christopher Lee (1922-2015; his mother was an Italian contessa and his step-father was an uncle of Ian Fleming), is half-Cuban, half-Catalan, but like the novel version, learnt his shooting skills being brought up in a circus.  In the novel, Scaramanga worked for gangsters bizarrely called 'The Spangled Mob' who feature in the novels of 'Diamonds Are Forever' and 'Goldfinger'. In the movie he has worked for the KGB until leaving in the 1950s to become freelance. Scaramanga charges $1 million per hit, which, in 1974, was worth equivalent to between $4-6 million today.  He has become a successful freelance assassin allowing him to acquire a private island in the South China Sea (though the real location is off Thailand) with its own solar power plant, and a car that is able to adapt into an aeroplane.

Scaramanga works for anyone who pays and, in the movie, has killed 002 Bill Fairbanks, and, later, Dan Gibson a British scientist who has developed the solex agitator.  This is the device that Scaramanga's latest employer, seemingly a Thai crimelord called Hai Fat, wants, but Scaramanga takes for himself. At the time of the movie, the world had suffered the 'oil shock' a rapid increase in oil prices by Arab producing nations to protest at Western support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. This ended cheap oil which had fuelled the post-1948 boom across much of the world and led to instability in terms of balance of payments. In addition, there were growing fears that oil would soon run out in the face of spiralling demand, so efforts were made to find alternative sources of power.

The British, in particular, led the way in exploiting wave and wind power though all of these developments were allowed to go to waste by the late 1970s when more North Sea oil and gas became available and the world adapted to more expensive oil. Of course, given the location of Scaramanga's base, solar power was an ideal form of energy supply for him and the solex agitator would improve the equipment he already had, some suggest, in order to create a solar-powered laser cannon (something like what Goldfinger used to access Fort Knox?). A similar solar device is the focus of the thriller 'Caravan to Vaccarès' (novel by Alastair Maclean, 1969; movie 1974 which featured Michael Lonsdale, more on him later).

Scaramanga is the most suave Bond villain. We know he is a villain because of his peculiarity (rather than disability) of a third nipple (which I was told recently affects 1 in 20 of the population meaning there are over 200 million people with it across the world). He is never uncertain about what he does and is proud of his skills. He is even more of a recluse than many of the other villains, having only Nick Nack his man servant, Kra a combined technician/security man and Andrea Anders, his lover.  He kills Andrea when it is revealed she has sought Bond's assistance to escape from Scaramanga, partly because he only makes love to her before a kill. In the novel, Scaramanga is supposedly a latent homosexual, but in the movie he appears to be rather a ladies man. However, there are hints that he finds relationships difficult and he killed the man who hurt his only childhood friend, an elephant at the circus.

Scaramanga does not appear to be a great threat to the world, but he is to Bond who it appears he has been charged with murdering, though we are uncertain by whom. He has also killed Gibson, removing the world of a man who could have assisted a great deal with the fuel crisis. In stealing the solex agitator for himself, Scaramanga has betrayed an employer which presumably would have reduced his chances of future employment and he probably would have had to auction the device to the highest bidder, perhaps allowing him to retire.  This movie's story is as much about a duel between Bond and a worthy adversary, one who is certainly as deadly as Bond and equally as sophisticated. In fact, there were criticisms that Moore toned down his suaveness for this movie, though I think the harder edge was visible in 'Live and Let Die' too. Two very sophisticated men might have seemed a little too much.  A duel between Connery's Bond and Lee's Scaramanga would have been different, perhaps something like the Rob Roy - Archibald Cunningham duel near the end of 'Rob Roy' (1995).
Personally I am always irritated by the flippant humour of the Moore movies and loathe the presence of the hick sheriff, J.W. Pepper (played by Clifton James, born 1921) who it is contrived to appear both in his home state of Louisiana in 'Live and Let Die' and then totally unnecessarily on holiday in Thailand in 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. He was a popular character and I imagine that I am simply out of step with the tastes of the average movie goer of the early 1970s. 

Scaramanga is a little like Le Chiffre, a tool of bigger criminals who is trying to secure his freedom. He is, until the last, more successful than Le Chiffre and it is on his terms that he has a duel with Bond, who, it is clear, he had long envisaged as his main rival in the world, hence there being a replica of him in Scaramanga's 'fun house' training area. To some degree, picked up more in 'GoldenEye' (1995), there is the sense of the villain being a reflection of Bond himself, another hired killer.  In 'The Man with the Golden Gun' we see this duality explored to the greatest extent and certainly for the first time since the brief Grant-shadowing-Bond scene on/beside the train carriage in 'From Russia With Love'.  Scaramanga has been voted the best Bond villain though the opposite view has been held by others.

Karl Stromberg played by Curt Jurgens

Karl Stromberg
Though not working for SPECTRE, like Ernst Stavro Blofeld and later Sir Hugo Drax, Stromberg (played by Curt Jurgens (1915-1982)) can see benefit in destroying the world and, in his case, allowing a new civilization to develop beneath the sea. Stromberg has a webbed hand (the peculiarity to signal that he is a villain) which makes him feel an affinity with the sea. In 'The Spy Who Loved Me' (1977) we see a revival of the plan from 'You Only Live Twice' of ten years earlier with Stromberg using a huge oil tanker to capture Soviet, American and British submarines equipped with nuclear missiles. The way the submarines are paralysed and absorbed into the tanker is very similar to the spacecraft which takes the rockets in 'You Only Live Twice'.

Stromberg plans to go further than SPECTRE's project and, rather than simply precipitating a war (being in 1977 detente between the USA and USSR, though having faded, had not gone entirely; the tensions were certainly less than they were to be two years later when the USSR went into Afghanistan and the so-called Second Cold War started), he plans to launch nuclear missiles on New York and Moscow. Bond gets on to Stromberg because he is trying to purchase a submarine tracking device which has come on the market and which would aid his capture of the submarines.

Fleming was disappointed with the novel 'The Spy That Loved Me' which is written from the perspective of a woman and in which Bond does not feature a great deal. Fleming specified that the story could not be used in a movie, only the title. Only two aspects of the novel survive in the movies, again with an element appearing in a movie of a different title. In this case, Bond having his assassin shoot pillows thinking they are Bond's body in bed, is seen in 'Dr. No'. The only aspect from the book brought to this movie was the steel-toothed assassin. In the novel he was Sol Horrowitz, a gangster and in this movie and 'Moonraker' (1979) he is the supposedly mute, Jaws, played by Richard Kiel (born 1939, 2.18m tall). The movie 'Jaws', about a killer shark, had been released in 1975 and was incredibly successful, so the name had easy comprehension for the audience.  In the movie novelisation SMERSH, headed by Colonel-General Nikitin, who featured in the novel 'From Russia with Love' (1957), appears though it does not do so in the movie. Bond is also shown in this book as being tortured with electric shocks to his genitals, naturally something which is not in the screen version.

Major Anya Amasova (Agent Triple X) is shown in the novel of the movie as working for the Otdyel IV section of SMERSH whereas in the movie itself she is simply a member of the KGB, an organisation well known by audiences by that time. Bond kills her lover, Sergei Bersov, though neither know this until Major Amasova and Bond are compelled to work together to prevent Stromberg's plot. By the time they find out, Amasova, has fallen for Bond and will not carry out her intended revenge.

In the movie Major Amasova is directed to work with the British by her commander, head of the KGB, General Anatol Gogol who appears in the following Bond movies too: 'Moonraker', 'For Your Eyes Only', 'Octopussy', 'A View To A Kill' and 'The Living Daylights' by which time (1987) he has moved to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, presumably to reflect the changing political climate in the USSR of the time. Gogol was played by Walter Gotell (1924-97) a German born actor who had also appeared as SPECTRE trainer Morzeny in 'From Russia With Love'.

The Soviet-UK collaboration was interesting especially at the time as was having a woman who was clearly Bond's equal and had a reason to hate him after he has killed her lover in the opening scenes of the movie. Her hostility evaporates rather too easily and Bond seduces her, but I suppose we could not expect anything different in a mainstream movie. The next agent in movie history to be assigned the Triple X designation is CIA agent Xander Cage in 'xXx' (2002).

'The Spy Who Loved Me' was acclaimed at the time and I liked it in my youth, but its appeal has palled with time. In some ways, even though we had been building up to it in the preceding movies, this is the first one in which the gadgets become stars in their own right, notably the Lotus car that can turn into a submarine. There is some gravity: we have the usual killing of an assistant to prove the villain's callous nature when the floor of the lift aboard Stromberg's aquatic base drops his assistant into a tank of sharks and watches them eat her through the glass of a large aquarium. He is the third villain, after Emilio Largo and Kananga/Mr. Big, and, later, Franz Sanchez to use sharks to kill people; Blofeld used piranhas and Kananga/Mr. Big also makes use of crocodiles. Stromberg also has a harpoon gun concealed beneath his meeting room table, the barrel of which Bond fires down to shoot Stromberg in the stomach and kill him.

Stromberg is very much in the Dr. No category in terms of coldness, though his plans are of the scale of Blofeld's. Stromberg is too distant really for us to engage with him. In the novel of the movie, you get a better sense of him. He almost seems like a cross between someone from the Green movement who wants us to return to a simpler life and one of these American post-apocalyptic fantasists that feels men would be real men once we have had the nuclear holocaust. In both these trends he was ahead of fashion as these aspects came more to the fore in popular politics in the 1980s.

Hugo Drax played by Michael Lonsdale

Hugo Drax
Despite the poor quality of 'Moonraker' (1979) it was the most successful Bond movie financially until 'GoldenEye' (1995). The budget, double that of 'The Spy Who Loved Me' was used in very silly ways: the chase through Venice on a motorised gondola which produces a hovercraft skirt, stands out amongst these elements. Bond killing a large rubber snake with a poison-tipped pen after having been tipped into a pool off a fake rock (having eschewed the suspicious looking metal bridge so often used to drop people among the sharks in Bond movies) is another.

As 'Live and Let Die' reflected the blaxploitation movies and, to a lesser extent, 'The Spy Who Loved Me' was a response to trends following 'Jaws', 'Moonraker' is clearly of the 'Star Wars' (1977) era. The second movie produced in that series, 'The Empire Strikes Back' (1980) was not going to come until the following year, but there were numerous other 'Star Wars' influenced movies around that a Bond movie had to contend with. Unfortunately, as throughout the 1970s, perhaps bar with 'The Man with the Golden Gun', it suggested that the Bond movies were simply following rather than leading.

The effects are good, but perhaps are out of place in a Bond movie and reinforce the trend to the gadgets being the stars.The plans of Hugo Drax are very similar to that of Karl Stromberg. Drax wants to wipe out humanity and build a new civilisation afterwards. Unlike Stromberg. though, he at least seems to have some people ready to repopulate the world afterwards. For Stromberg refuge would be under the sea, for Drax it is in space. The first space shuttle was launched in April 1981 but this movie, as with most Bond movies, shows technology having developed further, so that six space shuttles have already been built.  One shuttle is being loaned to the UK for its use when it is stolen to replace another one Drax had built but has faults, quite incredible given how limited the UK's space programme is even now, let alone in 1979.  In addition the US Marine Corps has a space force equipped with laser guns that can battle threats in space. Of course, you can argue that the Bond world is parallel to ours, as yet, as far as I know, we still do not have a laser as powerful as the one Goldfinger wields as early as 1964. Yet, in such a context, hand-held laser guns would presumably have been possible within 15 years of Goldfinger's development.

Drax's method of killing the world's population is by use of poison from a rare Amazonian Black Orchid (reused as a plant in the British TV series, 'Doctor Who' in 1981) which will be emitted from 50 pods placed around the world each with sufficient poison to kill 100 million people. Now, this sounds more like the type of methodology that villains of the past would have used. Even more stylish he holds the poison in special glass vials developed in Venice (the second of three occasions Bond goes there in the movies, the others being at the end of 'From Russia with Love' and later at the end of 'Casino Royale' (2006)). 'Casino Royale' (2006) comes closest to putting the unique aspects of Venice to best effect.  In 'Moonraker' the setting is quite wasted, though the laboratory (its keypad opening to the tune signalled to aliens in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)), is in elegant surroundings of a Venetian glass showroom. The parcour chase scene in 'Quantum of Solace' (2008) could have been very intriguing staged in Venice rather than Siena.

'Moonraker' was produced in France and features a French chateau that Drax has had moved to southern California. Having it set in France, say, near the border with West Germany (as the European Space Agency's Mission Control is at Darmstadt and its astronaut training centre at Köln), and having action move to French Guiana rather than Brazil would have fitted, but I imagine that would have put off US audiences.

Drax is the first Bond villain in the mainstream Bond movies to be bearded and, given he has no other disability or physical peculiarity, presumably this is the signal that he is a villain.  He also wears a Nehru-collar jacket for part of the movie, just like No and Blofeld before him. He is played by excellent Anglo-French actor Michael Lonsdale who portrays Drax as urbane with an underlying cruelty. The scene in which Bond and Drax go shooting is reminiscent of the scene between Bond and Goldfinger at the golf course. People comment on how Drax has his assistant killed by dogs as being unnecessarily brutal. However, I think this is no different to Largo or Stromberg or Aristotle Kristatos using sharks. Perhaps the lack of water makes it seem more immediate. In many ways this is a repeat of what Stromberg does.

In the novel Drax is a redhead, a former German nobleman and Nazi soldier, Graf Hugo von der Drache. He fought in the SS Panzer Brigade 150 which employed English-speaking soldiers wearing US uniforms to work behind enemy lines in the Ardennes Offensive of 1944. The unit drove captured US vehicles and others modified to resemble them. Drax ends up as a Werwolf, the alleged post-war Nazi guerillas, and, after an explosion is injured, heavily scarred and is mistaken for a British soldier.  He becomes Sir Hugo Drax a millionaire through his company Drax Metals. He develops rockets for the British but, retaining an undying hatred for the country, aims these (armed with an atomic bomb supplied by the Soviets) at London rather than into the North Sea as intended. The co-ordinates are altered and Drax is killed by his own missile whilst escaping in a submarine. In the movie, we do not know Drax's background, though in the novelisation Bond wonders which side he had fought on in the Second World War. Given the French influence apparent in his house and his assistant Corinne Dufour, perhaps he was supposed to be a Vichyite collaborationist or a member of the French staffed SS unit, the Charlemange Division, or someone from Alsace-Lorraine which was taken from France and formed part of Nazi Germany 1940-5.

Drax seems to be an ideal Bond villain with a complex history, a kind of superficial civilised air with cruelty and disregard beneath it. His plot is one of the grandest as he effectively plans to become master of the world leading a shrunken 'perfect' human population. This emphasis on the purity of the new human race is used by Bond to turn the supposedly mute giant Jaws and his deaf girlfriend, Dolly, against Drax. It is also very much like the Nazis' emphasis on racial purity which led them to kill around 70,000 disabled people in their T4 scheme even before the Second World War in Europe had been started.

Aristotle Kristatos played by Julian Glover

Aristotle Kristatos
We know that, aside from Jamaica, Ian Fleming had an interest in Greece. However, until 'For Your Eyes Only' (1981) it does not feature in the movies. In terms of novels, only 'Colonel Sun', a post-Fleming Bond novel, written by Kingsley Amis in 1968, published four years after Fleming's death, features the country.  It sees Bond rescuing M from a Greek island where he has fallen into the clutches of expert Chinese torturer Colonel Sun (perhaps some influence for the North Korean torturers for 'Die Another Day' (2002)). 'For Your Eyes Only' is geographically quite restricted to Greece and northern Italy, but this is no bad thing and is certainly a refreshing change after the excesses of 'Moonraker'.

Roger Moore almost decided to not appear in the movie and it is a shame that he did not step down and allowed some better, more serious actor to come instead. Michael Billington (1941-2005) would have been the most credible option, he regularly screen tested for Bond in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lewis Collins (born 1946; holds a pilot's licence and a black belt in ju-jitsu) is rather now too associated with his role in 'The Professionals' (1977-83) but could have been a credible dour Bond in the Brosnan style.  At 1.79m he has physical presence, though smaller than Moore.  Heights have been Connery - 1.90m, Lazenby - 1.87m, Moore - 1.87m, Dalton - 1.82m, Brosnan - 1.85m, Craig the shortest at 1.77m plus an upper class British accent. Ian Ogilvy (born 1943) was also considered but would have been a disaster as he was nothing better than a watered-down version of Roger Moore. He appeared in the appalling 1970s revival of Moore's series 'The Saint'.

With a better Bond this movie could have been an excellent addition to the series. The interaction between Moore, 54 in 1981 and the female leads especially Bibi Dahl (played by Lynn-Holly Johnson, 23 in 1981) and to a lesser extent Melina Havelock (24 at the time though she looks quite a bit older than Johnson) is often highly embarrassing due to the age differences.  Fortunately the script has Bond turning down Dahl's attempted seduction.

One thing that people tend to forget is how much the world had changed from the time 'Moonraker' had been released in 1979 and when 'For Your Eyes Only' came out in 1981. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, the start of a war that would last until 1989. The USA, under bullish Republican President Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980 and president from January 1981, backed the Afghan guerillas fighting the Soviets and the Afghan government. Reagan believed that in the case of a nuclear war, worthy Christians would be somehow lifted into the skies by God and be lowered back down to Earth once the war was over in order to bring about the second Eden. With politicians openly talking in a way that seemed to come right out of Stromberg's and Drax's plans, it was a challenge for movie makers to trump that. In addition, with the advent of the Second Cold War 1979-85, nuclear war did seem, once again, to be possible to an extent not felt since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961. In such a context, movies featuring that threat might have been seen in bad taste. This, combined with criticisms of 'Moonraker', led to a return to a smaller scale focus.

One thing that is interesting about 'For Your Eyes Only' is the lack of certainty about the key players. Greek smuggler Aristotle Kristatos (played well by British actor Julian Glover who, in the past, had been considered for the role of Bond himself) is initially portrayed to Bond as an ally who will help him retrieve the ATAC tracking device from a British spyship which has been sunk in the Mediterranean. It is only later that Bond finds out that Kristatos, whilst freelance, is actually employed by the Soviets.  Conversely, his enemy, another Greek smuggler, Milos Columbo (played by Chaim Topol), is actually the man Bond needs to work with (in another example of Ian Fleming using real-life people's names for his characters, he is named after Gioacchino Colombo, the Ferrari designer). In addition, Melina Havelock, the daughter of Sir Timothy Havelock, the British secret agent in the region killed at the start of the movie, is not content to fit in with Bond's plans and simply wants to kill Kristatos in revenge for his murder of her father. After Kristatos's death, Bond is able to seduce her.

If Bond had only watched Bond movies he could have told Kristatos was the villain much sooner. He has no disability, though he is bearded, but so is Columbo. However, he employs Jacoba Brink (a name a little like Irma Bunt from 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' who she resembles and Helga Brandt from 'You Only Live Twice') to train his skating protegee Dahl and a cold East German skiier (who resembles both Hans of 'You Only Live Twice' and later Mr. Stamper of 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997)). Columbo, who has previously worked with Kristatos, going back to the Second World War, also wants revenge on him. There is an unstated implication that they may have fought on different sides in the Greek Civil War between Communists and Royalists 1944-8 which followed, especially as Kristatos is in league with the Soviets and Columbo is sympathetic to the British.

With Columbo's help, Bond finds evidence that Kristatos has mines like the one used to sink the British spyship and also that he is a drug smuggler. The movie revolves around a 'MacGuffin', the ATAC device which Bond retrieves from the sunken British ship and then is taken from him by Kristatos who wants to sell it to the Soviets for pure financial gain. There is no battle in a huge base, rather a mountain top monastery, St. Cyril's. The motivations of all involved are pretty much personal. Bond does not have the full picture from the start and ironically destroys the ATAC machine to stop the General Gogol taking it from him.

Kristatos is suave, seen as a man of interests, especially in winter sports. In no way does he seem maniacal and is not seeking the demise of humankind. He has his personal rivalries and is willing to kill rivals and people who get in his way, notably Havelock and Bond. Kristatos is a believable villain and, whilst not threatening armageddon, is a worthy adversary for Bond.

General Orlov played by Steven Berkoff

General Orlov
In 'Octopussy' (1983) Soviet General Orlov is played by actor/director Steven Berkoff (born 1937) who is adept at portraying driven men, just the right side of maniacal (I think particularly of Sagan in 'Outland' (1981) which starred Sean Connery; Victor Maitland in 'Beverly Hills Cop 2' (1984); The Fanatic in Absolute Beginners (1986); Berkoff had also been in an episode of ' The Professionals' in 1983 which co-starred Lewis Collins) and he portrayed Hitler in 'War and Remembrance' (1988-9). Orlov's plan is to smuggle a nuclear device into an American military base in West Germany and trigger it in the belief that the West German public will demand the removal of nuclear weapons from their soil allowing an easier Soviet invasion of western Europe.

Of course, 1983 was at the beginning of the end of the Second Cold War, but the threat of nuclear war was still a very real one. Mikhail Gorbachev had yet to come to power and Reagan was still in office in the USA backing anti-left wing guerillas in Central America. In western Europe, in the face of the heightened tension between the USSR and USA, the campaign for unilateral disarmament was becoming strong.  In the 1983 election, the British Labour Party had that as one of its policies. Of course, right-wingers argued rather than making western Europe safer, it would provoke a Soviet invasion. An invasion was believed to be the goal of the USSR by millions of people, as indicated by the popularity of books like 'The Third World War' (1982) by Sir John Hackett.  Thus, this movie about such a plot played to such beliefs. In fact, in the movie, Orlov is reined in by General Gogol and other calmer heads in the Soviet hierarchy.

Berkoff portrays Orlov as a driven Soviet leader wanting glory. However, ironically, he is also an entrepreneur using forged Faberge eggs to fund his development of an atomic device. His desire for a strong USSR is not out of step with those who tried to derail Boris Yeltsin's reforms through a coup in Russia in 1991. Orlov has no base and he is a member of the Soviet armed forces but his plan is a dangerous one for Europe. I believe, though, he under-estimated how wedded western governments were to retaining nuclear weapons even when accidents occurred with them. His plot is similar to that seen in 'The Fourth Protocol' (1987 based on the 1984 novel by Frederick Forsyth) which stars Pierce Brosnan as a Soviet agent smuggling a nuclear bomb into Britain.

Kamal Khan played by Louis Jourdan

Kamal Khan
Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince, was played by French actor Louis Jourdan (born 1919) and was the first Bond villain to receive equal billing with another. Khan is an Indian jewel thief that Orlov uses to recover a Faberge egg snatched by the murdered 009, whose name we never learn. Orlov's plan will also make use of Khan's contact in India, Octopussy a British-born female jewel smuggler.  Her circus that travels around Europe, and is used as a cover for the smuggling, will be employed to transport the nuclear device into the US military base. Octopussy, though being robust in defending her business, has no desire to provoke war. She feels an affinity for Bond because he allowed her father to commit suicide rather face the humiliation of a court martial.

Khan (who wears a Nehru-collar jacket) is also a suave character and his manner contrasts with that of Orlov. Both the actors seem well cast for the roles. Orlov, planning nuclear war, does not have to really prove he is ruthless but Khan achieves it by a 'tiger' hunt of Bond which is a gripping element of the movie. The involvement of Khan provides some exoticism to the movie which otherwise was focused on rather dull parts of West and East Germany. The division between the two continents jars with some reviewers, but it is a little more rational than the globe trotting of the 1970s Bond movies.

There is some ambivalence as seen around the characters of 'For Your Eyes Only' especially concerning Octopussy herself. She is a smuggler, but as with Columbo, Bond has to work with her to avert a much larger hazard. Like Melinda Havelock, she probably gives into Bond's wiles too easily, given that she is head of such a large operation and has her own palace. Her relationship with Kamal is uncertain too. One feels that, played by Jourdan, Khan would have more chance of seducing Octopussy than Bond would have done.  This is probably why we have to have her gratitude towards Bond and this also references the short story from which the movie takes its title.

The most irritating elements of 'Octopussy' include Moore's age, as by now he was 56 compared to Maud Adams (born 1945) as Octopussy, aged 38 at the time of movie. She is supposed to be experienced so it was right not to have an actress in her early 20s, but again, 14 years difference makes the love interest uncomfortable for the audience. In this movie, Moore looks really weary when battling with the knife-throwing twin assassins, Grischka and Mischka, especially if you set it beside Moore blasting away with the large revolver in 'Live and Let Die'. It seems a lot more than 10 years between the two movies if you compare how Moore appears in each.

The other thing is the use of Indian tennis player, Vijay Amritraj, as Bond's Indian contact.  He is given terrible lines related to his real-life profession. I do not know why they felt they had to include him. Fine, give him a part, but do not undermine the fantasy of the story by having behave as if he is not that character. You might as well have had General Orlov reference theatre direction all of the time. I know some of this stuff was crowd pleasing, but there are better ways of leavening the mood when you are trying to give a sense of threat.

Max Zorin
The last Roger Moore Bond movie was 'A View To A Kill' (1985) and suffered from budget cuts and sloppy direction. Even Moore admits he was 'four hundred years too old' for the part. The movie cost US$30 million to make compared to US$35 million for 'Octopussy', US$28 million for 'For Your Eyes Only' and US$34 million for 'Moonraker' which had been made six years before. This is a shame because there are some wonderful characters in this movie. The key villain is Max Zorin played by Christopher Walken (born 1943). Walken, like Berkoff, has honed his skills in playing sinister men and, despite being weighted down by a poorly made movie, does not disappoint in this case.

David Bowie, who has been appearing in full movies since 1969 and had been quite acclaimed for 'Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence' (1983) and 'The Hunger' (1983) had that alien appearance (put to greatest effect in 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' (1976)) which seemed to suit the portrayal of Zorin who was the result of Nazi genetic experiments. Bowie turned the part down feeling, probably correctly, that he would spend all his time watching stunt men acting as him. Another pop singer, Sting, who had appeared in 'Quadrophenia' (1979), on television in 'Brimstone and Treacle' (1982) and most relevant for the Zorin role, as the manic, cruel, very fit, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in 'Dune' (1984), was also offered the role. Either would have been good as Zorin, but either would have been wasted in this poor vehicle.

There are two plots in the movie, both of which revolve around silicon chips. Given that the Sinclair ZX81 the first (immensely successful) UK home computer had been launched four years earlier, followed by the ZX Spectrum in 1982, which sold 2 million units, computing was suddenly thrust into the public consciousness. Before then, computers had been seen as huge things that only companies (or villains bent on world domination), had.  Now they were in millions of homes and, by the mid-1980s, schools as well. So, we all knew what a silicon chip was and how vital it was for developments of the era. Ironically, the movie's lawyers did not check carefully enough and there was already a Zoran company that made silicon chips and they had to put a disclaimer on the movie. I suppose, though, despite causing them difficulties, this was in line with Ian Fleming's own controversial use of real people's names.

Anyway, 'A View to a Kill' sees a threat to a resource in high demand, like the one against gold in 'Goldfinger'; food supply in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'; to some extent solar power in 'The Man with the Golden Gun' and, most recently, control of utilities in 'Quantum of Solace'.  So, it provides a relevant issue that audiences can connect with.

The movie opens with Bond recovering a computer chip, from the corpse of 003, which Soviet forces are also after, that can withstand the EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) of a nuclear explosion. The chip is an exact replica of one made by Zorin Industries. Bond escapes all too comically in a submarine disguised as an ice floe. The theme of silicon chips continues with Zorin using implanted one to release chemicals into horses' bloodstreams at critical moments in races allowing them to win but meaning the doping is untraceable by conventional means. Like Goldfinger, Zorin likes to cheat on quite a low level as well as planning greater schemes.

The main plot by Zorin is to destroy California's Silicon Valley which, at the time, was at the heart of the global development in micro chip technology. He aims to do this by detonating explosives beneath lakes along the San Andreas and the Hayward faults leading to a double earthquake, devastating the area. You can compare this with Lex Luthor's plot in 'Superman' (1978) in which he aims to use nuclear missiles to shatter the San Andreas Fault and send the cities of the Californian coastline into the sea.

Max Zorin played by Christopher Walken

Zorin is portrayed as a psychopath, born at the end of the Second World War as a result of Nazi genetic experiments using steroids to create geniuses. Zorin was born in Dresden but moved to France where he became a successful businessman. Overlaps with Hugo Drax's life stem from the fact that the short story 'A View To A Kill' was originally seen as providing the background for Drax's life. Of course, like many of the characters in Bond's novels, their lives have been shaped by the Second World War and by the Cold War that followed. Zorin is accompanied by one of the surviving scientists, Dr. Carl Mortner (played by Briton Willoughby Gray (1916-93)), who changed his name from Dr. Hans Glaub. In the German release of the movie, Mortner is said to be a Polish Communist rather than a German. Like many Nazi scientists, he was taken up by one of the sides in the Cold War, in this case working for the USSR, where, we are led to assume he raised Zorin and both men escaped or were sent to the West in the 1960s.

We know Zorin has worked for the KGB but is now breaking free of that connection (a little like Rosa Klebb in 'From Russia with Love') and setting up on his own. General Gogol comes to try and rein Zorin back in, which suggests the break has only been comparatively recent and maybe a result of the precursors of the looser perestroika policy with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the USSR at the time.

Physically Walken is ideal for the role having the necessary Teutonic appearance combined with a brash American style that makes him appear a credible businessman of the computer revolution of the 1980s. He seems to have no peculiar physical traits, not even a beard, that signal he is a villain, all of what makes him a villain is psychological and effectively concealed inside.

As with Drax's use of the doberman pinschers to kill his assistant, people baulk at Zorin gunning down the mining staff that have been used to dig the locations into which his bombs are going to be placed. It seems acceptable for a villain to feed their assistants to sharks or electrocute them, but a more visceral attack is seen as somehow not suitable for a Bond movie. However, in an age when we see casual bloody violence nightly on television, if you want a villain who appears evil then he must show that to the audience. Feeding someone to something for the umpteenth time would not have worked. Zorin is supposed to be the product of the Nazi and Soviet Communist regimes and both gunned down people in pits, it fits with the character. Without this, we see Zorin's agents killing people, but not Zorin himself and the hazard of urbane villians is that they do not appear to be villains. Lacking the clear villainy then undermines Bond's carte blanche moral authority to use any means necessary to get to them and kill them. Of course, the earthquake would kill hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people, but that is removed from us, we need to see more immediate evil to perceive Zorin as a man who must be defeated.

May Day played by Grace Jones wielding a Walther PPK pistol

Zorin is a credible villain, planning something ingenious to make him very wealthy and, like Scaramanga, to entirely break free of KGB control. In many ways Zorin is also like Elliot Carver shown in 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997).

The other character who must be mentioned is May Day, wonderfully played by singer and model Grace Jones (born 1948), herself an iconic figure of 1980s culture; she is 1.79m tall, only about 4cm shorter than Walken. Jones was only the second black female protagonist in the Bond movies after the short-lived Rosie Carver in 'Live and Let Die'. She is Zorin's lover and his key enforcer, killing Bond's contacts in France Achille Aubergine (Aubergine?! I suppose this came about as that vegetable is called 'egg plant' in the USA), Sir Godfrey Tibbett (played by Patrick MacNee) and CIA agent Chuck Lee (played by British actor David Yip).

May Day is shown as incredibly strong, through the abuse of steroids, presumably supplied by the expert in them, Dr. Mortner. She escapes from the Eiffel Tower by parachuting off it, the kind of stunt usually reserved for Bond. In love making with Zorin and Bond it is clear she is in the driving seat coming on top, a decade ahead of Xena Onatopp. Her sense of betrayal by Zorin when she sees that he has allowed her aides, Jenny Flex and Pan Ho, to drown, means that she turns to working for Bond and foils the bulk of Zorin's plan, sacrificing herself in the process. Of course, she was probably foolish to expect love from a psychopath, but as she rides Zorin's bomb, her fury at him seems mixed with a genuine sense of lost love, which indicates her acting skills that she can produce emotion in such a mess of a movie. As with Jaws, May Day was a tough villain that audiences loved, but for that reason, she had to be seen by mainstream audiences as at least coming over to the side of good.

Of course, it would have been great for her to escape, like Irma Bunt. Imagine the camera pulling back from a slender black hand on a white cat (or probably more suitably a panther or snow leopard) to reveal Grace Jones as the chief villain. Jones is renowned for doing her own thing, especially on chat shows and may have been a challenge to work with, but I think she is a real highlight of the Bond villains and I hope the movie makers come up with someone equivalent in the future, though no-one could really replace Grace. This movie could have worked if Billington or Collins had already replaced Moore, if it had a better budget; better direction and editing; had not had a silly chase on a fire engine through San Francisco and a silly female scientist, geologist Stacey Sutton (played by Tanya Roberts) who puts this kind of role in Bond movies to shame. She should have looked at Dr. Holly Goodhead in 'Moonraker' or even KGB agent Pola Ivanova (played by Fiona Fullerton) in 'A View To A Kill' itself. As it is, Max Zorin and May Day are two excellent Bond villains, wasted.

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