Does SPECTRE have too much humor? Not really

Cover art for a North by Northwest Blu Ray release

Cover art for a North by Northwest Blu Ray release

A recurring criticism of SPECTRE is that the 24th James Bond film engages in too much “Roger Moore humor.”

This trope came up repeatedly. (Trust us, this blog surveyed a lot of reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.) Yet, in a lot of ways, SPECTRE’s humor content was closer to “Alfred Hitchock-Ernest Lehman humor,” as realized in the 1959 movie North by Northwest.

Without going into too much detail, North by Northwest concerns the adventures of New York advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), who suddenly finds himself in the midst of a Cold War adventure involving spies from all sides.

Sounds like very serious stuff. And it is. But there’s also some humor, similar to SPECTRE.

SLAPSTICK: In SPECTRE, the main example of slapstick humor involves a hapless driver of a Fiat in Rome, with Bond (Daniel Craig) tailgating him while trying to evade Hinx (Dave Bautista). The Fiat driver eventually touches (slightly) a post, causing his air bag to deploy.

In North by Northwest, Thornhill has been forced to drink an entire fifth of Bourbon by the lackeys of lead villain Vandamm (James Mas0n). The thugs intend to make it look like Thornhill had a fatal auto accident while drunk. But Thornhills revives enough to drive off. At one point, two of his car’s four wheels are over a cliff. In a closeup, Grant looks at the camera while his character is drunk and not entirely sure what’s going on.

MORE SUBTLE HUMOR: In SPECTRE, Bond has amusing exchanges with M (Ralph Fiennes) and Q (Ben Whishaw).

In North by Northwest, Thornhill — who finally knows everything — gets away from his “American Intelligence” minder the Professor (Leo G. Carroll). He gets out of his own hospital room and enters the room of a woman patient.

The woman patient, while putting on her glasses, says, “Stop!”

Grant’s Thornhill replies, “I’m sorry…” The woman patient, her glasses now on and realizing what she sees, replies, “Stop….”

“Uh, uh, uh,” Thornhill says, wagging his finger. He then ducks out of the room.

In a 2009 post, this blog argued that North by Northwest provided the blueprint for 1960s spy entertainment. SPECTRE is an attempt to replicate that, as well as the “classic” Bond film style, while including some of the drama of 21st century Daniel Craig 007 movies.

SPECTRE has its faults. This blog’s review, while liking the film overall, cited the “reveal,” the length and the last third of the film as demerits. Still, SPECTRE doen’t remotely resemble a comedy, as some critics seemed to think it did.  It’s an attempt, as we’ve said before, of blending “classic” and Craig-style Bond.

And it’s humor content is comparable to what Hitchcock liked to introduce in some of his films. SPECTRE isn’t up to the standards of North by Northwest. That’s still a nice standard to shoot for.

 

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2 Responses

  1. I suppose you can’t please everybody. But the fact remains there’s still a lot of bond Fans like myself who grew-up with the Roger Moore bond films. and seeing SPECTRE pay Homage to them is a Fitting form of Respect. However we should also realize that there’s a new Generation of critics that don’t take to kindly to remembering who started the Humour in bond films. Sir Sean Connery on a number of interviews admitted that it was he who coined the Humour in bond films. But it was sir roger Moore who Carried it to the Next Level. However its good to read that Alfred Hitchcock’s ”North by Northwest” is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary on Blu-ray. what if this classic film was a Blue print for SPECTRE ? remember according to History Ian Fleming had hitchcock in mind to make the first James Bond movie.

  2. I didn’t think there was any kind of humour overkill in the film ,it’s ridiculous to go on about it ,it’s part of the Bond ‘thing’. In Casino Royale Vespar remarks about the confident easy charm of the ex-special forces spy, or something which I think sums up the whole character of Craig and Connery’s Bonds especially. And the quips to ‘M’ and various people in charge and the ‘baddies’ add to the confident swagger and humour of the kind of killer with the easy smile. Personally my favourite humorous moment was in ‘Skyfall’ when Bond rips the back of the train off and climbs aboard and nonchalantly straightens his cuffs, a simple bit of physical comedy pulled off to perfection

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