Thursday, May 2, 2013

Questionable Bond No. 5

As realtors will tell you... location, location, location. A good location can make a film that much better.

Question: "What was the best Bond location?"


Scott's Answer: Given that I live in Florida, I'm in no rush to get to another tropical locale. Instead, I will go with either St. Petersburg (GoldenEye) or Venice (From Russia with Love, Moonraker, and Casino Royale).

Andrew's Answer: My favorite location is hands down Istanbul from From Russia With Love.

26 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

I think because Ian Fleming's home Goldeneye was in Jamaica, I'll always have a soft spot for Jamaica ("Underneath the Mango tree") Still, I think I have to go with Andrew and Istanbul including the whole train ride thing. I will admit that Scaramanga's layer in China was pretty inspiring. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The do make Jamaica seem pretty tempting. Glad you agree about Istanbul though. That one really was just beautifully done. And trains are great. :)

K said...

"You Only Live Twice" - Japan. Virtually the entire movie was done in either Hong Kong or Japan, which gave the setting more time to sink in for the viewer.

The book's treatment, btw, digs even deeper into the culture than the movie - particularly Blofeld's sadistic use of the Japanese issues with suicide.

shawn said...

I always thought the mountain top retreat in On Her Majesty's Secret Service was pretty nifty. Also thought the pyramids of Giza made a nice backdrop in The Spy Who Loved Me.

tryanmax said...

I just saw On Her Majesty's Secret Service for the first time the other day and I must agree that it makes the Swiss Alps look spec-tac-u-lar! The Bond films vary greatly when it comes to showcasing locations, but OHMSS definitely does one of the best jobs.

AndrewPrice said...

K, True. I love the images of Hong Kong at the start of that one too.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn and tryanmax, Yep, the Alps are spectacular. That was an awesome setting. And I think that even further, OHMSS does do a great job of showing wherever Bond goes. I think that's something the later films lost.

Take a look at Octopussy for example. You see a field that could be outside the studio in Britain. You see a highway in Germany. And you see circus tents. You never see anything to tell you this is Cuba or Germany. In India, you see a race down a dirty road, a hotel that looks like a set, and the a brief moment on a river. There's nothing there that compares with the Alps scene, with Istanbul, with Japan. Even Goldfinger showed you Miami, Kentucky and Switzerland. I think a good Bond film need to do those sorts of things.

Backthrow said...

I don't think I could settle on one film's location, but I'd have to go along with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE's Turkey, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE's Swiss Alps (Spain/Portugal looks great in this, too), YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE's Japan and Jamaica/Caribbean in DR. NO and THUNDERBALL. Thailand (particularly Scaramanga's lair) in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is one of that film's very few virtues.

Amongst other things, the 1960s Bond films were travelogues. I think there were a few things going on with that. Firstly, for the most part, they were adhering somewhat closely to their source novels, and those went into great detail about Bond's often elegant or exotic surroundings. Secondly, the series was trying (and succeeding) at setting itself apart from the average Hollywood production at the time, by going for high production value, going to real locations as much as possible, rather than trying to fake it. And finally, it was a form of advertising for tourism; make these places look as exotic and inviting as possible, as the public (particularly middle-class Americans) had more disposable income and were traveling abroad on vacation more then they had in the past.

With DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, this all started going south. Amsterdam was rather 'blah', Las Vegas in it looked tacky, whether it really was at the time or not. Quality of place started to waver and vary from film to film. Some good-looking locations in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, MOONRAKER and particularly FOR YOUR EYES ONLY's Greece, but it was getting spotty. After that, the series seemed more interested in highlighting a specific building/structure, or set piece, rather than immersing you in an overall exotic, high-class world. Things got generic and sometimes rather dull. A lot of the locations were places no one would ever want to visit, unless they had to.

The Craig films seem to be straddling both approaches. The exoticism is returning, to a degree, thanks to superior direction and cinematography, though they still tend to go to places one wouldn't necessarily want to vacation in, like the Chilean desert in QUANTUM OF SOLACE or the bleak Scottish highlands in SKYFALL.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I agree. The early films did a great job of setting themselves apart by giving a travelogue feel. You had exotic locations which were beautifully shot and then you had one or two scenes that took place somewhere touristy. That really set the films apart from other films which just flashed the name of the place on the screen and then took place on inside sets.

And the Bond film lost that until recently. I think the Craig films have done a decent job of bringing that back so far.

I also totally agree about Vegas. I have to say that Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever feels like an embarrassment. When you consider all the really cool places he went in prior films and how gorgeous they made them... and then you get Vegas shown to you as a small, dingy town with a few neon billboards and a cheap looking hotel, it really sticks out. Not only that, but Bond seems to be mocking to location the whole time, like he's in the land of the hill billies.

5minutes said...

You know... I'm racking my brain, but I can't recall Bond spending any significant time in Australia...

Having said that, I'd also love to see Bond do something in the Colorado Rockies...

tryanmax said...

Because of the Bond series, I've just started plowing through the films in order (for the first time ever). I just got through DAF, which was really cornball. On the other hand, I was totally impressed with OHMSS.

My interpretation is that, with the switch to Lazenby, Eon felt they had to step up the game. Conversely, I think when they brought Connery back in, they slacked off a bit. It's really too bad, b/c if DAF would have taken itself a little more seriously, it could have been a far better film. I'd forgotten how entertaining Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd were.

AndrewPrice said...

5minutes, I don't think he's ever been to Australia. The Rockies would be nice. They could even get science-fictiony and have him deal with someone who is planning to set off the super-volcano in Yellowstone if they want to go that route.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, What's interesting about doing the series is that once you see them all back to back, many things start to become obvious that you didn't realize when you just think about the film based on the last time you saw them.

For example, people remember little things about each film and judge them based on that. "Oh yeah, Lazenby, he sucked, so the OHMSS sucked." "DAF brought Connery back, so it's better than all the Moore films at least." "Oh yeah, people didn't like Quantum of Solace so that must have sucked."

When you actually watch them all together, things like this get exposed as not true. You start to realize that OHMSS really is an excellent film-film. You realize that Connery played a buffoon in DAF. You also see where the filmmakers made dramatic changes (usually for the worse) in how they handled the series.

All in all, when you watch each film and then think about them together, you start to see all kinds of things that are very different than if you just sit down and do it based on reputation or vague memories of the highlights.

tryanmax said...

I'd never seen Lazenby before, and I found him to be an excellent Bond. Not quite as puckish as Connery, but otherwise I think he nailed the role. I wonder if he gets trashed just b/c he was the first to "replace" Connery.

DAF is definitely the first Bond film where he just seems along for the ride. If that had been Connery's first showing as Bond rather than his last (in an EON film) he would not have defined the role.

Backthrow said...

One thing is certain (from interviews I've seen on the DVDs); if Lazenby had continued as Bond in DAF, and Peter Hunt had directed it, the wedding and post-wedding scenes in OHMSS would've been more-or-less the pre-credits sequence in DAF, instead.

Also, though almost everyone would've loved it if Connery* had stayed on and played 007 in OHMSS, I suspect that if that had happened --while it likely would've been a great film-- it would've probably have had a couple less action set-pieces in it, and probably a different, less dynamic and less famous leading lady than Diana Rigg. Instead, they would've likely cast another Claudine Auger or Daniela Bianchi.

I think tryanmax is right, they had to up their game with Lazenby, since he wasn't Connery and had essentially zero acting experience (or name recognition), so they compensated with extra action and a 'name' actress, one known for action and intrigue, coming off the internationally popular AVENGERS series.

* and when people say that, I think they are imagining the Connery of the first four films, rather than the mostly-bored Connery ("where's my check?") of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and the semi-buffoon Connery ("again, where's my check?") of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.

Backthrow said...

Actually, just the post-wedding scene would have been the opening for DAF, my bad.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think Lazenby gets demerits for being the first to replace Connery, for being a one-off guy and because he is rather stiff.

I agree about DAF. If that had been the first Bond, the series likely never would have happened until someone tried a reboot in the 1980s.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I think that's right. While I still like You Only Live Twice very much, there is already a clear shift in his attitude. He's treating the movie more like a paycheck -- something he doesn't mind doing, but doesn't really care about. By the time of DAF, he comes across as a jackass who was treating the role as a joke. So you definitely are correct that if he had been Bond in OHMSS, it would have been more like DAF than anything.

And I agree with tryanmax and you that they definitely upped their game in OHMSS across the board. Diane Rigg was excellent, the cinematography was excellent, and the storyline was solid, though a tad under-developed.

Backthrow said...

Andrew,

Yeah. I don't want to sound like I'm totally slagging YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, because I still like it quite a bit, and I even like DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, to a degree, even though it's ultimately a disappointing camp-fest. I suspect if Connery had stayed for OHMSS in 1969, he'd have played it more flippantly than Lazenby, though maybe not as broadly as he would in DAF.

Then again, if OHMSS had been made directly after THUNDERBALL, as was initially planned, we'd have probably gotten a top-flight Connery performance as Bond (apparently, what really soured Connery on Bond was the treatment he got from the international and Japanese press while filming YOLT in Japan; they almost literally wouldn't give the man a moment's peace, even invading his privacy in the bathroom)... or, in 1969, maybe Connery would've upped his own game, with a hungry, debuting-director Peter Hunt behind the camera (instead of Guy Hamilton or Lewis Gilbert), insisting on a straight, mostly-serious performance from the meatier script.

Even so, I think we'd not have the car derby scene, maybe just the one big ski chase, and maybe one or two less hand-to-hand fights. Not that Connery couldn't do them, but because the producers wouldn't have deemed them necessary, even with the impulse to go bigger with each new film.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, You never know. There are so many factors when humans are concerned. One thing we do know is that the film wouldn't have been the same.

I'd heard that about the international press, but I get the feeling Connery was just bored too. He comes across as a guy who is losing interesting, not as a guy who is upset.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Even though it wasn't one of my choices, Istanbul is a good one. (A good train ride, too!)

Re: Scaramanga, I've blotted much of that movie out of my memory. I'm not saying I'll never watch it again but it's one of my bottom two Bond films.

PikeBishop said...

I was just talking to my favorite bartender the other night about a similar topic.

I was telling him how just last week I met this beautiful exotic beauty from some island nation. I had this mental block, All I could remember was that it started with a "J."

"Jamaica?" He asked.

"No, but she let me play with her tits a little bit." I responded.

ScottDS said...

K -

A visit to Japan is definitely on the old bucket list. When I lived up north, I wondered how awesome it must be to be a tourist in the middle of NYC.

As an American visiting Japan, I guess I'll know the feeling!

ScottDS said...

shawn -

Both great choices!

ScottDS said...

Backthrow and Andrew -

You're right about the older films working as travelogues. The Pink Panther movies worked in a similar fashion but with air travel being much more common for people (especially in the middle class) nowadays as compared to back then... the idea of showcasing exotic locations in movies may have lost a bit of its luster.

"Why go to the trouble?" asked more than one studio exec.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I'll go with the Alps in OHMSS. They're real and they're spectacular.

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