Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bond-arama: No. 0019 The Living Daylights (1987)

Today we continue our journey through the James Bond films with No. 0019 of 0023: The Living Daylights. This was Timothy Dalton’s first Bond film and it’s a very small movie. This film was meant to bring realism back to James Bond and explore his darker side. It didn’t. Instead, they created a film which felt small all around – small Bond (not larger than life), small-time villains, small-time plot, small sets confined to small areas. Even when Bond travels, you never get the travelogue feel of prior Bond films. Small, small, small.

Plot Quality: The Living Daylights begins with a bit of intrigue. During a mock 00-operative invasion of Gibraltar, some bad guy kills 004 and then nearly kills Bond. This leads to the discovery of something called Smert Spionam (“Death to Spies”). The scene then shifts to Czechoslovakia, where 007 has been assigned to protect KGB General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe), who is planning to defect. Bond shoots the female cellist (Maryam d’Abo) who was assigned to assassinate Koskov if he tries to flee. But Bond doesn’t kill her because he recognizes her as an amateur. Bond then smuggles Koskov out of Czechoslovakia into Austria through a pipeline. This is the best part of the film, even though it is a small idea involving few people, low stakes and confined sets. It also involves an annoying trope – the inept bureaucrat who despises Bond being called in to handle “his” operation.
When Bond returns to Britain, he meets with Koskov, who is being debriefed at a safehouse. Koskov warns MI6 about Smert Spionam, an operation supposedly being run by the new head of the KGB, Gen. Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), to assassinate British spies. Koskov claims this could start a war between the Soviets and the West. Koskov is then kidnapped from the MI6 safehouse. This is where the problems start with the film. For one thing, it’s not obvious how killing spies could lead to war – who goes to war over a dead spy? For another, the film now gets needlessly complicated with a series of double and triple crosses, which seem like they are included merely as filler.

Bond is ordered to kill Pushkin to stop this Smert Spionam operation and avenge the death of 004. Bond, however, decides that Pushkin would not have ordered this operation, so he confronts Pushkin, who tells Bond that Koskov is under investigation for embezzlement, which makes Bond realize the defection was faked by Koskov so he could trick MI6 into killing Pushkin for him. Bond then decides to track down the cellist, whom he believes helped Koskov fake his defection. Naturally, she falls for Bond and he escapes with her. Bond then returns to Tangier to find Pushkin, but Bond gets kidnapped by Koskov and taken to Afghanistan. There he meets the very westernized Mujahedeen. He then steals a Soviet military transport which Koskov is using to smuggle opium to enrich himself and an American arms dealer named Whitaker (Joe Don Baker). Bond saves the cellist and showers the countryside in opium. Then he goes to Tangier to kill Whitaker and Koskov. He kills Whitaker, but Koskov ends up being arrested by Pushkin, who will extract revenge. The film ends with the grateful Soviets letting the cellist leave for the West so she can play for Western audiences.

Unfortunately, despite this dizzying travel schedule, the audience never really gets a sense of travel in this film because the film never ventures out of closed sets, except at the Russian airbase in Afghanistan – and all you see there is dirt. This keeps the film small, as does the evil scheme. Indeed, ultimately, this scheme boils down to a guy looking to skim profits off a drug deal. This is hardly worthy of James Bond, especially because there are no real consequences if he doesn’t succeed. . . some opium gets to Europe. Big deal. They get all they want already. Moreover, the climax moment in the film is a fight between Bond and Koskov’s henchman Necros on an airplane. . . not even between Bond and Koskov himself. Again, small thinking.

Finally, as with License to Kill, there aren’t really any iconic moments and there aren’t really any memorable quotes. This isn’t a film that makes an impression.
Bond Quality: Timothy Dalton was a bad choice for Bond. With Roger Moore too old to play the role, the producers wanted Pierce Brosnan, but he was contractually bound to play Remington Steele. The next choice of the director and co-producers was Sam Neill, but Albert Broccoli wanted Dalton. Dalton had previously expressed disdain for the role and, frankly, he just didn’t have what he needed. For one thing, this film was meant to show a more realistic and darker Bond, but Dalton really couldn’t pull that off. For while Bond is meant to be cold-blooded, Dalton projects a lot of anger onto the screen. Bond is also meant to be stylish, but Dalton never once makes you wish you knew his tailor.

Dalton also never feels comfortable in the role. This is because Dalton is one of those Shakespearean-type actors who can’t shake his training. If you compare him in this role to his role in The Rocketeer or his role in Flash Gordon, they’re identical. And anyone who thinks you can play James Bond the same way you play Prince Baron just doesn’t understand acting.

The Bond Girl: The Bond girl here was Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy, the cellist. She’s kind of passive. She exudes no passion, no mystery, and she has no great motive to be in the film. She’s just the narcoleptic girlfriend along for the ride. Nor do you ever get the sense that she sees Bond as more than just a friend.
Villain Quality: Finally, we come to the villain(s). Yikes. This film has two villains, and neither is worthwhile. First, you have Koskov. Played by Jeroen Krabbe, the villain in The Fugitive, Koskov is not fitting to be a James Bond villain. Essentially, he’s an embezzler who tries to trick James Bond into killing his boss to keep from being discovered. This makes little rational sense and robs the story of any stakes. Indeed, whether Bond succeeds or not, nothing changes for the world. Perhaps realizing this, the writers try to up the stakes by telling the audience that Koskov is trading arms to the Mujahedeen in exchange for drugs, which he will sell in Europe. But how does this help? It’s not like Europe won’t get plenty of drugs either way, and the US was openly arming the Mujahedeen. So what do we care?

Moreover, his plan to get Bond to kill his boss is Rube-Goldberg silly. Does anyone really think the Soviet Union won’t figure out that he staged a fake defection and met with Bond right before Bond killed his boss? The Soviets would need to be retarded not to put those facts together. Seriously, just shoot Pushkin or stage a car accident like everybody else does. Of course, Koskov may be mental because he keeps not killing Bond for no apparent reason. Even worse, throughout the film Koskov comes across as a bungler who kisses everyone’s butt... like the Biff of the James Bond Villain world. This is not a Bond villain, not in scheme, not in personality.
The other villain is Joe Don Baker as Brad Whitaker. Baker is a B-grade actor at best and Whitaker is pathetic. He’s an arms dealer who likes to dress up like a general and play with toy soldiers. He doesn’t really have a scheme either because the writers assumed that the audience would accept the fact that he’s an arms dealer as proof enough of his villainy. Stupidly, his death is essentially treated as the climax of the film, even though he’s a bit player with an uninteresting story not worthy of Bond. In fact, there wasn’t even a reason for Bond to go after him because the cops could have picked him up just as easily.

Neither villain rises to the level of a Bond villain. This is probably why the film’s true climax involves Bond killing Koskov’s henchman aboard the Russian transport plane. And just to add insult to injury on that point, the only cool thing about the henchman is his name “Necros.” He has no other defining traits.

Conclusion

This was a rocky start for Timothy Dalton. The film began well enough, but quickly became a jumbled mess, and there was little to mark this film as a James Bond film: small time villains, small locations, small Bond, small plot, mousy Bond Girl, dated soundtrack. The only thing that wasn’t small was the transport plane fight, and that was too long to stay interesting and it lacked any real stakes. . . it was just a nice stunt. But this film was better than Dalton’s second attempt. That’s why this film is No. 0019 of 0023.

53 comments:

Backthrow said...

More mostly-bland '80s Bond. A 'meh' plot and minor, minor villains, but the Gibraltar opening sequence and the transport plane fight (and some of the Afghanistan bits), plus John Barry's last Bond score (though a so-so theme song by a-ha), make this film worthwhile enough for me that I put it more in the middle, and a little higher than Andrew does... mainly because there are some Moore (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, OCTOPUSSY, LIVE AND LET DIE) and Brosnan (THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) 007 entries that I overall like less.

Joe Don Baker has been quite good in supporting roles a couple of times... check him out as Robert Duvall's partner-in-crime in THE OUTFIT (1973) and especially as scary hitman 'Molly' in CHARLEY VARRICK (1973), if you haven't already (both films are terrific), but he's one of the sorriest villains in the entire run of 007 films, with a piddly death scene to match his puny performance.

Dave Olson said...

Well, cut the producers a little slack. They already had two strikes against them: (A) They were telling a story leftover from the Moore era in which the Soviets were the bad guys while (B) Glasnost and Perestroika were already well underway by 1987. You can't really make the Rooskies or one of their proxies the bad guys when they were becoming buddy-buddy with the ultimate Cold Warrior, Ronald Reagan.

I'd rate it a little higher than this; it's better than some of the not-yet-reviwed Moore stories, and even at least one of the Connery movies.

ScottDS said...

I agree with the folks above - I would've ranked this movie a little higher.

Maybe it was the fact that this film came after A View to a Kill but I've always liked this one. The opening, John Barry's score (his last Bond score), and even the songs (the theme is okay but I love "Where Has Everybody Gone" by The Pretenders)... and yes, I like Dalton. He may have been a victim of bad timing, coming in when the Bond franchise was maybe getting a little stale, no thanks to the end of the Cold War and the usual studio BS.

Plus, every time they try to make Bond darker, it usually results in a much smaller movie. Seriously, this happens almost every time. But "darker Bond" doesn't have to = "smaller sets" or "less location work."

And speaking of sets, Ken Adam's last Bond movie was Moonraker and longtime Bond art director Peter Lamont took over on For Your Eyes Only. Most fans could probably tell the difference - they have different styles but Lamont's work was more practical and never as exaggerated or ornate as Adam's work. Maybe the films lost some luster with Adam's departure. People still talk about his Fort Knox set in Goldfinger and his interrogation room in Dr. No.

(Lamont is a brilliant designer in his own right but it's not the same.)

shawn said...

Man, for coming in better than 4 other movies, you are a bit harsh. I agree with the others, this isn't the greatest Bond out there, but I thought they did alright introducing us to the new Bond.

I agree that Baker's gun-runner was a very lackluster villian.

Anyways, looking forward to 18.

And D'abo- well, it was the age of Aids and the motion picture industry decided that monogamy was now the "in" thing. So only one Bond girl for you!

I do think that the Gibraltar sequence is pretty damn good and I like Dalton better than old Moore.

rlaWTX said...

I had to look up Joe Don Baker to be sure I had the right guy in mind - I found it interesting that he was in several more 007 movies...

The pix of Dalton in the article - he looks bored. Or constipated.

Haven't seen the movie, so no substantive comments actually on it...

djskit said...

This isn't the one where they escape on the sliding cello case, is it? Nuff said!

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Joe Don Baker is ok as a supporting actor. I've actually liked him a good deal in some minor roles. But he's a bad choice as a main villain and this is a poor villain in any event.

I suppose the film could have gone higher, but we're at a point right now in the countdown where several films were clustered and it was very close. I would say that we've moved from the F films to the D films.

As for the opening, I agree, I like that and the transport plane fight is great, but it lasts too long and ultimately feels kind of meaningless to me because it's only the henchman.

Dwizzum said...

I find you review spot on. It's a small film and looks cheap. not sure what the budget situation was back then. Joe Don Baker is a buffoon as a villain in this. I remember seeing this when it came out as a big Bond fan and being disappointed. I'd watch Moonraker over again before this any day. I agree that the only interesting part was the transport plane fight with Necros, who was under developed. He had like 2 lines and I remember him choking out some guy out with headphones.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, As I mention to Backthrow, we've moved out of the "total failure" group of films and now we're in the next clump. It's a close call in the next 2-3 films which should be ranked ahead of which, before we take a big step forward again. I think this one win "worst in group" however because it struggles to feel like a Bond film. The whole thing has a cheap and small feel to it. You're right about the Soviets, but this was probably the time for them to try something original, to try something more intimate like Casino Royal or something more spectacular, like a True Lies. In the end, this film just doesn't feel grand enough to be a James Bond to me.

K said...

As it happens I saw this recently. Andrew's comments don't leave a lot more to comment on as he hits it pretty perfectly.

So going meta, how would WE, the commentariat, improve this movie? I mean beyond the obvious of an extensive increase in nudity and graphic violence.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The difference in visuals between Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only is huge... but both still feel like James Bond. This film doesn't. This film feels like it was shot entirely on a sound stage using ethnic restaurant decorations to make the place feel like wherever they were visiting. Then they ventured outside for two scenes with stuntmen.

In terms of darker=smaller, I think you're right that the connection need not be there. I would argue that Craig's Bond is both darker and much larger than anything they had done lately. They do great exotic locations, larger than life fight scenes, and intimate brutality. That's a great mix.

On Dalton, I really don't think he was a victim of timing. I think Dalton simply isn't an actor who can play the role. The problem is that he's playing the same character he plays in everything, and as I note, you can't play Bond the way you play Flash Gordon.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I like Dalton better than Moore at the end, but not the beginning.

You're right about AIDS and that really gives the films of this era a strange puritanical vibe, doesn't it? It feels like Hollywood is telling people, "Sex isn't sexy... not worth the trouble... it's just depressing... don't do it."

In terms of the ranking, I call them as I see them. Feel free to disagree! :)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, The problem with Dalton's Bond is exactly the attitude. He moves back and forth between pissy, bored and condescending. He has no inner calm, no sense of humor, and no "oh man, you're gonna get it now." Even when he's turning on the charm, he comes across as agitated.

Yep, Baker was in several others -- primarily Brosnan films.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, Yeah, that's kind of a silly moment, especially when the border guards just let him pass because they're so shocked to see someone sliding downhill on a cello case.

AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, To me, that's the big problem with the transport fight scene -- Necros is underdeveloped. He has almost no lines and he doesn't come across as much more than just your average peon. They should at least have given them more of a reason to hate each other before the fight.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Thanks! Let me get back to you with some ideas. In the meantime, let's see what everyone else suggests!

Backthrow said...

Andrew,

I honestly don't know what could've been done with this plot in 1987; like Dave said, it was just too late in the game for the Soviet angle to create all that much urgency for the audience. This would've had more gravity to it in the 1970s or 1980-83, if streamlined and given far better villains, but even then, the Bond series had a sort of 'playing footsie' detente theme going on with its 'official' Soviet characters. If the arms dealer villain was beefed-up and better written and cast, you'd still end up with something like LICENCE TO KILL.

Backthrow said...

Straying from the main topic, ever-so-slightly:

Speaking of small-scale spy action, I caught a gritty, halfway-decent attempt at hopping on the Bond bandwagon the other day: Alastair MacLean's WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971), starring an incredibly young Anthony Hopkins. Most Bond knock-offs and also-rans were spoofs, but this was definitely not (apart from Robert Morley's slightly-comic 'M'-type boss); Hopkins plays an agent who is sort of midway between Michael Caine's contemptuous/blackmailed 'Harry Palmer' and the mor 'for Queen & country' 007. The plot, involving modern-day pirates secretly smuggling gold bars from a ship they've scuttled off the Scottish coast, is somewhat convoluted in execution, and the Bond-wannabe score seems more appropriate to casino-set action than the bleak, low-key setting of the film, but it's serviceable. Some good location work, cinematography and action scenes, though not on a big, Bond-film level.

Anyway, the main reason I bring it up is because it's a not-on-DVD flick that's currently on Netflix's streaming service, which, along with the also-gritty/small-scale/not-on-DVD (and definitely worth-seeing) DANGER ROUTE (1968), will be expiring from Netflix streaming as of Wednesday, May 1st. Watch 'em while you can!

Oh, and on that same day, REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS is being *added* to Netflix streaming (they didn't carry the DVD version as a rental), so I'll be looking forward to catching that again, after reading Andrew's review a while back. If we're lucky, maybe this version will finally be in widescreen.

Backthrow said...

Trailers to both films previously mentioned:

WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL

DANGER ROUTE

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, In a way, this film is a prisoner of its time. For one thing, it stood right at the end of the Soviets, so we needed to play nice with them. And drugs were becoming the craze so that seemed to be where the franchise needed to head -- even though everyone else was already doing it. Moreover, the level of sex and brutality was held back by this being a very conservative era in films. The production values were lousy too, but fit the style of the times. So in a way, fixing it would have required a real leap to the future.

Interestingly, I suspect that if they had leaped ahead to Goldeneye at this point, then I think this film would have been visionary and would probably be remembered as one of the best ever. But I think the producers were too cautious and too cheap at this point to swing for the fences... I think they were happy hitting singles and living on the past.

In fact, when I compare this film with something even as silly as Beverly Hills Cop, I see a much richer film with better sets, settings and action. Then you get things like True Lies just around the corner and you realize just how safe they played it with this film.

In the end, I think that fixing this movie would have required them to swing for the fences. Make the villain someone who wants to take over the Soviet Union. Make the weapon something on the horizon like an EM pulse. Bring back the travelogue feel of the transitions. (Pick a new Bond, but even leaving that aside, tell Dalton to mimic Connery until it's time to fight and then mimic Red Grant in From Russia With Love .

That would be my recommendation.

AndrewPrice said...

Sorry, that should have been to Backthrow and K.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I'm a big fan of Remo Williams. :)

I haven't seen the movies you mention, but they sound interesting. Interestingly, I've found that films made from Alastair MacLean's books are either really good or not very good. He seems to be a victim of bad producers -- kind of like Clive Cussler.

Backthrow said...

Oh, by the way, don't anybody fall for the 'buy the DVD' message at the end of the WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL YouTube trailer... just another sleaze peddling a bootleg. I think the film got a DVD release at some point in the U.K., but not stateside, thus the likely source ripped to make the bootleg disc.

K said...

tell Dalton to mimic Connery

... and stop emulating Moore's take on Bond.
Moore's Bond was a super genius with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. An unbelievable card board caricature.

Unfortunately, Dalton's Bond starts at exactly the same place. His interaction with the bureaucrat at the beginning only underlines that and his instant detection of the amateur status of the cute girl assassin way to cutsey. I almost expected Derrick Flint to pop out of the closet in the next scene.

I like your idea of the bad guy taking over the USSR - head of the KGB perhaps?

AndrewPrice said...

K, I have no idea what you mean about the head of the KGB taking over Russia. That could NEVER happen! As an aside, they should change the name of the villain to Putzkin or Putinski or something like that.

Funny how real life can be more imaginative that film, isn't it?

I agree about Bond. Moore was not only too knowledgeable about everything, he was smug about it. Dalton isn't as smug, but he seems to substitute impatience for smugness. I prefer Connery who listened more than he spoke. That's the most believable kind of spy -- taking everything in and then acting... not showing off how smart he is.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, In the early days of DVD I ended up getting a handful of crappy transfers so I'm much more careful these days.

Anonymous said...

You've ranked this one too low. True, it's not great, but very few Bond films are. It is one of the better mediocre ones. Certainly top ten.

First, the car is great. I don't like its gadgets because gadgets are usually lame, but the car itself is wonderful. A bond muscle car.

Second, Dalton is leaps and bounds better than the clownish and prissy Roger Moore. The Bond films instantly went from dreadful to decent when Dalton showed up.

Third, the limited scope of the film is not really an issue for me. Several of the Bond books are similarly limited in scope. No big deal. From Russia With Love and Casino Royale are two of the best films, and they are limited in scope. In fact, several of the Bond films that are grand in scale and story, blow. Moonraker, View to a Kill, You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me are all terrible, or near terrible.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation...with several comments that the Soviets couldn't be the bad guys anymore at this point in the 80's, I have a question: when were the Soviets ever the bad guys in this series?

Their sole antagonist role came in "For Your Eyes Only."
Other than that, they're just bystanders as a third group tries to start war between them and the U.S. ("You Only Live Twice," "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Octopussy"), or they have a rogue in their ranks ("Octopussy," "A View to a Kill," "The Living Daylights").
As for movies based on the books, the Russians were written out as bad guys in both "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love." (SPECTRE was shoehorned in from "Thunderball.") Heck, in the novel, the first half of FRWL takes place entirely within the Soviet intelligence apparatus as they plan to kill Bond in a very humiliating fashion.

Like I said, just an observation. The producers, it sees, were always afraid of making certain people angry by portraying communism as bad. The villains in this film were just a tired version of the "third party bad guy" trope that was dated even before Connery left the series.

-Rustbelt

Anonymous said...

On this movie, well, I'm joining the crowd that says it was better than the ranking this series is giving it.
It has a great start with the defection and, IMHO, the attack on the MI6 safehouse is a terrific action sequence. After that, however, it does bog down and gets confusing. (Though it doesn't leave me with a feeling of "what the heck..?" that "Octopussy does.)
On that note, I'm going to agree with 2 points that Lawrence Meyers made in his BH review of this film. One, the bureaucrat had a nice story arc in which he grows from being a by-the-book guy and eventually thinks more like Bond- and that his death by Necros only enrages the audience against the bad guys further. Also, apparently Pushkin was a substitute for series regular General Gogol. Having Bond getting ordered to kill Gogol definitely would've heightened the emotional tension in this movie, given their previous relationship.

(continued...)

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, On the limited scope, I think the problem is that they don't accept the limited scope and work with it. Compare Casino Royale where they accept the fact that most of the film will play out in the hotel, so they work to make that exciting. Here they act like the film will span the world, but it doesn't. It has the feel of "go there, enter room, trade dialog, leave." It never builds intensity because the plot isn't centered on the action so much as changing of locations.

Dalton isn't clownish or prissy and that's a good thing, but he doesn't really have the qualities that are needed either. It's just a different kind of "not good."

Anonymous said...

And just 2 more things and I'll stop.

One, Andrew, I completely disagree with you on Dalton. I like the intensity and temper he brings to the role. Much better IMO than Moore or Brosnan. (Honestly, I'd rather watch a tape of Obama's re-inauguration speech than sit through one of Brosnan's Bond films again.)

And two, Andrew, why are you being so nice to Joe Don Baker? After all, the highlight of this man's career was THIS!

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, That's a really good point. The series has never been about Russia. It's always been fantasy. So the end of the Soviets really shouldn't have hurt the series at all.

On the bureaucrat, I can't disagree that he does have a good story arc and his death does bring some meaning to the film, but it's not enough in my opinion to really give Necros much meaning.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I thought about "Mitchell" the whole time I wrote this. "Mitchell" is probably my favorite MST3k after "Gamera" and "Rocketship XM". What an awful show that would have been!

As for Dalton, we can definitely disagree, but I just don't see him having any of the needed qualities. Between him and Brosnan, I would pick Brosnan by a mile, but neither compares to Connery or Craig or even early Moore.

Backthrow said...

Rustbelt,

True, they really weren't. Early, in the film version of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, the producers even presented the U.S. representatives as more rabid, hard-line Cold Warriors than their reserved Soviet counterparts at the place of meeting (granted, it was just after the U.S. astronauts had disappeared), with the British reps as the calm, reasonable intermediaries.

I'm just saying that if the producers had wanted the Soviet government as the main baddies, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS would've worked better several years earlier... as they did with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY --and even there, they were somewhat watered-down, certainly from the way they were portrayed in the book version of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

Anonymous said...

Backthrow, I was just making a general observation. Personally, I think there are several Bond movies that would've been better if they'd had the gall (a la "Firefox") to make the Soviets the bad guys.
Heck, even classic ones like FRWL, may even have been improved if they'd stuck with the original material. It's a possibility...
But it appears the producers were either worried about the foreign market or making their left-leaning buddies in the movie industry a little cranky.

-Rustbelt

Anonymous said...

And Andrew,

Yeah, we're going to have to officially disagree on Dalton.
That being said, "favorite MST3K?" Oh, don't make me choose! "Space Mutiny" (Railing Kill!), "Lost Continent" (Rock Climbing), "The Beast of Yucca Flats" (Coleman Francis: the Cinematic Poet of Parking)...too many to choose from. I'd almost suggest it as a Great Film Debate topic, but we may not have enough commentators here who have seen the show.

For now, let's just laugh with the second half of the Joe Don Baker MST3K double-header.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I thought that scene actually encapsulate the whole idea really well. You had the Americans and the Russians locked in a sort of wrestling match. And Britain (through Bond) saw itself as the umpire in a way who kept the two side from becoming irrational.

I don't think that's at all historically accurate, but it puts the whole idea of James Bond into perspective.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I like Firefox a lot and I would have liked to see more anti-Soviet films. It's one of the few.

On the debates, I'm not sure if enough people have seen MST3k to comment? Maybe a Wednesday article?

Lost Continent... ouch. "No one will be admitted during the rock climbing scene!" LOL!

PikeBishop said...

Rustbelt:

Your point on not really taking on the Soviet Union got me to thinking. I was born in 65 so I only got Mission Impossible and stuff like that in reruns, and I was able to see through all that "Agents of a certain Eastern Power" crap to avoid calling the spade the spade.

One of the best takes on this was believe it or not the late great British clown, Benny Hill.

They were doing a sketch parodying "The Avengers" with Benny as John Steed, getting his assignment.

Steed's "M" briefed him referring to "Agents of a Certain Eastern Power, who shall remain nameless."

Benny: "Oh you mean Russia!"

Entire staff at briefing: SSSSSSSHHHHH! (index fingers to lips)

M: Yes, we must be careful of agents from the other side.

Benny: Oh you mean Russia!

And it goes on from there.

Anonymous said...

PikeBishop,

That sounds fantastic! Unfortunately, I'm too young to have experienced the Avengers- though I am aware of the show. Still, I'm going to make it a goal in life to see this skit.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop and Rustbelt, I'm amazed how often shows of that period deal with "eastern powers" or if they named a country, it was Yugoslavia or East Germany. It's like Russia wasn't even a player.

Voz said...

Since MST3K got brought up, I did appreciate Mitchell but Final Justice with Joe Don Baker IMHO is much better...
On the topic of Bond, I always said that I didn't like Dalton, but that was before I'd seen them...once I saw them I immediately liked him much better as Bond than Moore...

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, I love "Mitchell." I laughed my butt off. I mean, seriously, could they make a less appealing character? Wow!

Dwizzum said...

Oh, are we doing a MST3K thread now? Count me in.

Concerning Dalton, I like him as an actor, but something just wasn't right with him as Bond. He looks good on paper, but when you seem him on screen it just doesn't work. Moore brought his own charm and class to the role. He may not have been believable beating the crap out of someone, but you knew he could order the right wine with dinner, and was good at baccarat. I never got that with Dalton, he seemed flat and didn't bring anything to the role to me.

rlaWTX said...

The Avengers: if only John Steed had been as attractive and intriguing as Emma Peel!

Backthrow said...

One of my all-time favorite MST3K episodes was a James Bond rip-off; behold... DANGER!! DEATH RAY

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Didn't that one have basically the cast of the first couple James Bond films? I think Largo is in it, the girl from From Russia With Love and some others I can't think of at the moment.

AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, I agree. Dalton looks fine on paper, but he just doesn't work in practice. He doesn't convey the right emotions on screen and he struggles to display what he can at the right time.

I'll see what I can do about an MST3k thread!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, If John Steed had looked like Peel, then it would have been a very different show. :)

Backthrow said...

Andrew,

No, you're thinking of the Joel-era episode, where they riff OPERATION DOUBLE 007 (a.k.a. OPERATION KID BROTHER), starring Sean's real-life brother Neil Connery, plus Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee, Daniella Bianchi, Adolpho Celi ('Largo') and Anthony Dawson (who was both 'Professor Dent' in DR. NO, and provided Blofeld's hands/torso (but not the voice) in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and THUNDERBALL).

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, That's the one I was thinking of!

Dave Olson said...

Some final thoughts: The Bond movies were available on Netflix for the month of August. I took the opportunity to re-watch The Living Daylights to see if it's really as bad as you say or if it deserves to be ranked higher. Your review made me more aware of the film's (many) flaws, but my original opinion stands: You've ranked this film too low. There are at least two Moore films and certainly one of the Connery films that are worse than TLD.

I think it could have been improved with just another minutes' worth of dialogue or so. Consider:

-When Whitaker is confronted by Pushkin, he could have pointed out that the Russians aren't doing well in Afghanistan against the Mujaheddin. True enough for 1987. And he's the only one willing to sell the kind of high-tech weaponry that the Soviets need to avoid defeat. (No one else wants to irritate the Americans. Bloody yanks indeed.) Instead of leaving with the upper hand and a threat hanging in the air, Pushkin is forced into a stalemate and Whitaker is more firmly established as an antagonist. As an added bonus, the Mujaheddin enter the plot earlier as an underdog. (Again, this was 1987, before we knew what they would eventually morph into.)

- While en route to Afghanistan, Koskov reveals to Bond that he wants to use the massive profits his scheme will make him to buy even more weapons than what Pushkin could hope to get. With this, he becomes the Soviet's "White Knight", ousting Pushkin and becoming head of the KGB.

This was the kind of back-stabbery and double-crossing that happened all the time in the Soviet hierarchy and I think something like this would have made a more palatable film.

Having said all that, I reiterate that it's better than you say. Of course, it's book-ended by A View to a Kill and License to Kill, so the competition is pretty limp. Personally, I think it deserves to be ranked at the bottom of the middle, instead of the middle of the bottom.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, That would help a little, except the whole Afghanistan thing still feels tacked on. The whole idea of drugs and guns to Afghans comes out of the blue halfway through the film and feels really murky and halfhearted. It feels like a storyline done around the big stunk.

I think that to fix this requires not only a shifting of the motives to something audiences can care about, as you suggest, but a thorough refocus to connect the intro with the ending, plus a better ending and fixing all the other defects.

Post a Comment