Bond Age Man

Nigel Watson
Talking Pictures alias






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Barnes and Hearn's book title Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sums up Bond.

BMW motorbike and Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies. Copyright BMW.

Also see 
Darren Slade's article
Death of the British Hero

The BMW two seater roadster, and Bond in The World Is Not Enough. Copyright BMW.

Cold War spy movies came and went, but Bond out lived the genre and established an unassailable niche of its own. The Bond formula is so powerful that it can be copied and sustained by many others, like Michael Caine, James Coburn and Dean Martin who respectively starred in the Harry Palmer, Flint and Matt Helm film series. The Carry On team even joined the fray with Carry On Spying, and there was the unfortunate full-length animation film Freddie As F.R.O.7. TV series also copied Bond, for example The Man From Uncle owes a substantial debt to Bond, especially in terms of its mixture of girls and gadgets, and Get Smart like the Carry On team wrung humour out of the world of Bond. In more recent years James Cameron gave us True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Bond coping with family life.

A prime-time documentary 30 Years of James Bond (London Weekend Television, 1992, U.K. director Alasdair Macmillan, U.S.A. director, and producer Lorna Dickinson) emphasised their special effects and gadgets. It was diplomatic (blinkered) of the documentary makers to ignore the fact that Bond was really a homicidal sex maniac who was barely under the control of Her Majesty's Secret Service. No mention was made of the Cold war context of the films or how they became less realistic and more like spectacular travelogues, no mention was made of the swinging-sixties permissiveness or the role (or lack of role) of women. In a world with no Cold War but with AIDS there is the feeling that Bond's reason for existence and his behaviour are no longer appropriate. 

Certainly his attitude to women doesn't bare close inspection: 

Women were either helpless nubile victims to be rescued and rumped or they were hatchet-faced lesbians who hated and hunted men. 
(Gordon, Jane, 'Bond Bombshells', Elle, July 1989. ) 
Such attitudes were toned down in the films, but the undiluted chauvinism of Ian Fleming's writings were given full reign in Playboy magazine, which serialised the Bond novels in 1964. In the same year the third film, Goldfinger, established the 'Bond Girl' as a regular feature. Roald Dahl said that when he was writing the screenplay for You Only Live Twice (1967) he was given this formula: 
"you put in three girls...Girl number one is pro-Bond. She stays around roughly through the first reel of the picture. Then she is bumped off by the enemy, preferably in Bond's arms. " 
Girl number two is anti-Bond and usually captures him, and he has to save himself by knocking her out with his sexual charm and power. She gets killed in an original (usually grisly) fashion mid-way through the film. The third girl will manage to survive to the end of the film. 

Such misogyny did not worry Ian Fleming, but when his novels were transferred to the screen humour and irony was used to soften the impact. Roger Moore in particular shamelessly undermined the Bond mystique which, ironically alienated many viewers, as did the opinion that he was a one eyebrow actor. Nonetheless Moore was able to keep Bond alive during the 1970s and 1980s. During this period the ‘Bond Girl’ formula gave way to more assertive women, and with the arrival of Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence To Kill (1989) there was the introduction of the ‘Bond Woman’ who can challenge and equal Bond. Though this seems to be a mere tweaking of the formula, at the end of the day Bond is the central heterosexual hero who expects to be surrounded by women. Whether they love him or hate him is irrelevant, their glamour and beauty is the main reason for their inclusion. (Even with the introduction of the more politically correct Pierce Brosnan ‘his’ women are still pictured with him along with his latest cars and gadgets, suggesting that they are equally usable and disposable at his whim.) 


Though Bond elaborates myths of nationhood, he can only do so through racism. He dislikes men from Russia and the Balkans, is horrified by blacks and Chinese, finds the French ridiculous and the Italians are "good for nothing but wearing monogrammed shirts and spending the day smoking". He cannot help reminding the Germans about the war, and he never trusts the Irish. He is particularly patronising about Americans. 
{Pascoe, David. 'Bond. ..Junk Bond', The Modern Review, Volume 1, Issue 5, Oct. -Nov. 1992.) 
Some people think that these factors have killed off James Bond, but there are several projects in the pipe-line aiming to bring him back to active service. (Most of this text was written in 1992. Brosnan debuted in the 1995 Goldeneye six years after Licence to Kill, which was Dalton’s last appearance as Bond.) In the U.S.A. they want to make a big budget TV series but copyright wrangles could scupper this plan. Certainly producers cannot easily ignore such a potential source of profit even if the politics of the enterprise are rather dodgy. 

Will Bond die? Should he be killed? I think he will survive to fight another day. (I was right for once!) First of all there seem to be plenty of conflicts and bad guys out there for a super hero like Bond to tackle. Indeed, films like Live And Let Die have centred on international drug dealing, so the Cold War is not essential for his survival. Old sixties TV series are back in vogue and a 'new' Bond can play on this nostalgia value. 

Many Hollywood film directors grew-up watching Bond movies and are more than willing to work on such projects. In the 30 Years of James Bond documentary it was implied that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg would never have got where they are today without having watched the adventures of Bond. This is an obvious simplification but their Indiana Jones trilogy was a conscious effort to recreate the excitement and thrills of Bond, and Spielberg has publicly stated that he would like to have directed a Bond movie (this explains his use of Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - see: Slade, Darren and Watson, Nigel, Supernatural Spielberg, VALIS Books, London, 1992, p.57). 

It is hard to distinguish one Bond movie from another, especially since they have relied on re-treading similar storylines with different gadgets and exotic locations, yet they are good examples of exciting colourful, noisy big-screen action. They are what Chris Savage King calls trash but he asks: "What film series provided such cheap thrills using such luxurious means?" ('Kitsch kitsch, bang bang', The Modern Review, Volume 1, Issue 5, Oct. - Nov. 1992.) He thinks we are not going to see their like again but I trust that trash cannot be so easily be dumped. 

If words are likely to be the ammunition required to kill off Bond then these should do it: 

He is to secret agenting as Alan Whicker is to TV journalism, a sort of blue-blazered round-the-world anachronism, the ultimate hob-nobber. It is not too fanciful to regard Whicker as having modelled himself on Bond. Whilst Bond battles with Dr. No, Whicker interviews Papa Doc. In each case the status quo is preserved. 

(Turner, Adrian, 'Sex, snobbery, sadism and style', Weekend Guardian, August 15-16, 1992.) 

Also see Darren Slade's article:

Death of the British Hero
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Material Copyright © 2001 Nigel Watson