Britain’s top secret agent marks 50 years on cinema’s front line
The words “James Bond Will Return” at the end of each 007 adventure is enough to get the heart quickening before you are even out of the cinema.
As always Bond is as good as his word and he is back in action this month with his 23rd big screen adventure, Skyfall – a film which also marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond as the film world’s favourite action hero.
It’s 50 years since Sylvia Trench sat at that gaming table in Dr No and inquired after the name of her card-playing opponent. The camera panned across to the tuxedo-clad figure lighting a cigarette, who then uttered those immortal lines: “The name’s Bond, James Bond.”
James Bond ushered in a new age of film-making. The accent was on spectacle – on larger-than-life villains and big, set-piece action sequences.
The films, like the books, were a celebration of the finer things in life. Bond was always well dressed, drove top-of-the-range cars, drank the best champagne and had access to the smartest, most innovative and deadliest gadgets in the world.
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James Bond was always a classy secret agent. He is the perfect person to have as your host to raise money for charitable causes.
James Bond always does the right thing, which is why the James Bond series has been responsible for raising thousands of pounds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance over the past 10 years.
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Clive Thomas was the first person to put together a James Bond regional premiere, with Bond girls and look-alike stars, and now Chris Carman-Jones of Mercatus Marketing in Eye is looking to follow in his footsteps and help keep the air ambulance flying.
This year’s regional premiere is going to be bigger and better than ever. It is being held at Ipswich Cineworld on October 25 – a day before the film’s nationwide release – and it is going to be screened in high-definition Imax.
It will be the first time the Imax screen in Ipswich is used. It will be a double premiere.
Chris said: “It’s the perfect way to open up a new way of watching films in Ipswich. James Bond is the ultimate movie hero. James Bond films are always bigger and more glamorous than any other blockbuster and the new Imax screen will undoubtedly be the best way to experience 007’s latest mission.”
Chris said they are hoping to raise �10,000 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance from the evening. Tickets will cost �50 each, there will be red-carpet treatment at the cinema, a pre-film drinks reception at Liquid and the nightclub will host a post-film casino evening as well.
A commemorative programme is being produced and there is a host of opportunities for sponsorship. There will also be an auction for high-value prizes.
“The whole thing has to be classy – in the same way that James Bond is classy. We are looking to give audiences a taste of the James Bond lifestyle and raise money for the air ambulance at the same time.
“Sadly, we have seen in recent weeks just how valuable that service is. It has attended a number of serious accidents on our roads and it is vital that the service continues.”
In this latest big-screen adventure James Bond is once again played by Daniel Craig. Judi Dench returns as his boss, M, and Ben Whishaw is weapons-master Q.
The director, Sam Mendes, has assembled a dazzling guest cast which includes Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Naomie Harris and Albert Finney, while Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who made such an impression in No Country For Old Men, has great fun as Raoul Silva – a Bond villain looking to be one of the most memorable characters in the series’ history.
The James Bond films have had their fair share of larger-than-life bad guys. It is one of the ingredients which has kept the films going over the last 50 years.
The Bond films are an exotic cocktail of the absurd, the seductive and the exciting. You expect Bond villains to be crazed meglomaniacs but they also have to be charming and ruthless. Goldfinger is the ultimate Bond villain – he was so good they named a song after him – but he represents all those qualities which give the series its zest.
Strong well-defined villains give Bond something to play against. They are also articulate: you get plenty of barbed dialogue as they trade barely-concealed jibes.
This is exactly what is driving the classic scene in Goldfinger’s laboratory when Bond is strapped to an operating theatre table and an industrial laser is about to slice him up the middle. As the table melts between his legs, Bond looks up to his would-be executioner and says: “Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?” Goldfinger, who is on his way out of the room, stops, turns and almost impatiently replies: “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.”
It is a classic exchange which powers the film along as much as the action scenes, the stunts, the gadgets and the girls.
Although some people may believe that the Bond franchise is just the same film re-made time and time again, the Bond films today are quite different from the movies that splashed across the screens in the 1960s.
One of the areas that has changed most is the role played by women. Women have always been one of the central preoccupations of Bond. Bond as a character loves them, and Bond as a film franchise loves the glamour and allure they provide.
The Bond films often stand accused of being sexist, even misogynistic – certainly Ian Fleming wrote James Bond that way – but the films have largely been more concerned with strong women.
The low point, as far as the James Bond film treatment of women was concerned, must have been the 1970s, when harems of page three girls were hired to lounge around pools or be seduced by Bond. They were literally scenery and set-dressing.
But, in the beginning, Bond girls were clever, brainy and gave as good as they got. This has also been true of the series since its return in 1995. In Dr No, Honey Ryder, played by Ursula Andress, was an innocent but she was also quick and resourceful. Better still, in From Russia With Love the heroine, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) is a cipher clerk in the Russian embassy, while Lotte Lenya creates one of the series’ all-time great villains in Rosa Klebb.
The role for 1960s Bond girls reaches an all-time high in the next film, Goldfinger, with the introduction of the wonderfully-named Pussy Galore – played with delicious relish by Honor Blackman.
She’s nobody’s fool. She’s a pilot, a martial arts expert, and will not be manipulated by either Bond or Goldfinger.
She is the ultimate strong, resourceful, self-reliant woman. Unfortunately, from this highpoint the series’ women did go into a steep decline in the 1970s but rallied dramatically with the series’ return.
The most obvious change was that in Goldeneye M was a woman – not any woman but a serious, clever, no-nonsense Judi Dench, who immediately told Bond that she thought 007 was a “misogynist dinosaur”. The series was addressing its critics on screen.
It was recognising its faults and doing something about them. Goldeneye also delivered a powerful female villain in Xenia Onatopp, played by Famke Janssen with as much relish as Honor Blackman had played Pussy Galore.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, martial arts heroine Michelle Yeoh played a Chinese secret service agent who teamed up with Bond to defeat multi-media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). Throughout the film she appears on an equal footing with Bond.
More recently, in Casino Royale Eva Green’s treasury expert, Vesper Lynd, had more than enough intellectual capacity and personal charisma to put Bond in his place.
Humour played an important part in their sparring relationship and humour is also an essential ingredient in the Bond films – both in the form of smart dialogue exchanges: “Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really make up for having no hands?” – to which Dr No replies: “I misjudged you, Mr Bond. I thought you a clever adversary but in reality you are just a stupid policeman.”
In From Russia With Love a lot of mileage is gained from the fact that every operative working for Turkish secret service chief Ali Kerim Bey is a member of his family.
Bond is also famous for his groan-inducing one-liners. When he skewers one of Emilio Largo’s henchman to a palm tree with a shark gun, Bond blithely quips: “I think he got the point.”
Add to this the gadgets and the cars and you could suppose that the James Bond films are nothing but a soulless formula. But a soulless formula would not have lasted 50 years. It would not have created one of the most popular and successful series of films the world has ever seen. James is a global phenomenon.
The real secret of Bond’s success is that the films are made with a great deal of love and care. The elements of the 007 cocktail are blended with great skill. The only times that the films have suffered a set-back (Moonraker, License To Kill, Quantum of Solace) are when they have strayed too far from Bond’s essential ingredients.
But it is the character of James Bond himself which is the most important ingredient in the mix. After a nerve-wracking mis-step with George Lazenby, the handing over of the role to Roger Moore in 1973 proved that James Bond belonged to more than one actor. James Bond was more than Sean Connery.
Roger Moore took James Bond in a whole new direction and was phenomenally popular in the part – although interestingly his interpretation of the role has worn less well over time. His films now look more anachronistic than the Sean Connery films of the previous decade.
Each actor brought out different elements of the part. Connery was a charming killer, Moore’s Bond had much more humour, while Timothy Dalton brought a serious minded-
aspect to the changing face of the Cold War.
When the series returned, Pierce Brosnan managed to combine his own charm with the steely-hearted aspects of Connery’s Bond. In The World Is Not Enough he coolly executes his former lover, played by Sophie Marceau, without blinking.
Today Daniel Craig has adopted the mantle of James Bond and has brought a grittiness to the role which befits our current austere world.
Craig is signed up for another batch of films and we can be assured that whatever punishment he endures in Skyfall, James Bond Will Return.
Tickets for the James Bond regional premiere can be booked online at www.bondinsuffolk.co.uk. Those wanting to sponsor an element of the event or make a donation to the East Anglian Air Ambulance can contact Chris Carman-Jones at Mercatus Marketing on 07793662192.