Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

(snip)
The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

Uncomfortable moments in early 007 films

Close captioned image from Dr. No

Over the past few days, there have been three stories (in LAD Bible, the Daily Mail and the Express) about how millennials (people becoming adults in the early 21st century) find early James Bond films lacking.

The stories rely heavily on posts on Twitter from those who complain that Bond is a rapist or comes across as “rapey.” There are also complaints about racism as well.

But many of the tweets don’t get into specifics. With that in mind, here are some scenes that might be generating that reaction.

In selecting these three examples, they’re about Bond himself. In the stories linked above, some of the posters on Twitter objected to, for example, Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), who appeared in Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The sheriff clearly was racist, but was devised by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz for the audience to laugh at and ridicule.

“Fetch my shoes” (Dr. No): While on Crab Key, Bond (Sean Connery) instructs Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) to, “Fetch my shoes.”

Quarrel, a Jamaican native, had been assisting MI6 operative Strangways. The latter’s disappearance spurred M to assign Bond to find out what happened to Strangways. That put him on the trail of Dr. No.

Anyway, Bond telling Quarrel to “fetch” his shoes wasn’t a major plot point. Bond, Quarrel and Honey are getting ready to hide out in Crab Key.

While Bond’s line doesn’t have good optics in the 21st century, it wasn’t so great in the 1960s, either. The U.S. civil rights movement already was well underway. The Montgomery bus boycott began in December 1955.

In 2014, a website called The Complainist  did a detailed analysis of Dr. No. Concerning “Fetch my shoes,” it said the following:

“Oh goddammit. Fetch you’re own shoes JB. Gross. Gross gross gross.”

Bond and Kerim laugh lecherously (From Russia With Love): In From Russia With Love, Connery’s Bond is talking to Pedro Armandariz’s Kerim about whether Tatiana’s offer to deliver a Soviet decoding machine is genuine.

Bond and Kerim enjoy a laugh together in From Russia With Love

Kerim is skeptical. “My friend, she has you dangling.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Bond replies. “All I want is that Lektor.”

“All? Are you sure that’s all you want?”

“Well…” Bond says. The two then laugh lecherously for about five seconds before we cut to the next scene.

The thing is, this is a big difference from Ian Fleming’s novel. Bond was afraid he might actually be falling for Tatiana. In the film, at least in this scene, there isn’t nearly as much emotion involved. It’s an example of the different worldview of the novels and films.

Bond’s roll in the hay with Pussy (Goldfinger): This is likely the source of the “rapist” and “rapey” comments.

Auric Goldfinger instructs Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) to show Bond around his horse farm to reassure CIA agents who are keeping an eye on the place.

Bond and Pussy eventually go inside a barn. They demonstrate their skills in self defense. After Bond throws Pussy to the ground, the agent says, “Now, let’s both play.”

Pussy resists for a while before embracing Bond.

Bond tries to secure Pussy’s cooperation in Goldfinger.

As depicted in the film, she appears to have been wooed over by Bond but it’s not until the very end of the scene.

It’s not just millenials who’ve commented about this sequence over the years. I’ve had discussions with first-generation 007 film fans who feel the scene gets very close to rape.

Just a year later, in Thunderball, the filmmakers allude to Goldfinger. Bond has gone to bed with SPECTRE killer Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). But she stays loyal to SPECTRE.

“What a blow it must have been,” she says to Bond.

“Well, you can’t win them all,” Bond says.

In the 1990s, director Guy Hamilton recorded comments about the film for a Criterion laserdisc home release that got recalled.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” the director said on the commentary track. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

Patrick Macnee dies at 93, BBC says

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Macnee, debonair actor best known for playing John Steed on The Avengers, died today at 93, according to the BBC, WHICH CITED MACNEE’S SON RUPERT.

There was also a statement ON THE ACTOR’S WEBSITE that said Macnee “died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California…with his family at his bedside.”

Macnee enjoyed a long career, playing dozens of characters. Still, The Avengers and his character of John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, became Macnee’s career trademark. The show first went into production in 1961. Its greatest popularity came when he was paired with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

The actor saw two of his co-stars — Honor Blackman and Rigg — leave the series to take the lead female role in James Bond movies (Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Another Majesty’s actress, Joanna Lumley, was Macnee’s co-star in a 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Macnee finally got his turn at a Bond movie, A View to a Kill, in 1985, playing an ally of Bond (Roger Moore) who is killed by henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee, years earlier, had played Dr. Watson to Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in a made-for-television movie. Macnee also made a properly dignified chief of U.N.C.L.E. in 1983’s The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: For the second time this month (Christopher Lee’s death was the other), Roger Moore bids adieu to a colleague:

Groundhog Day: 007, U.N.C.L.E. fan comments

SPECTRE teaser poster

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE teaser poster

Like the movie Groundhog Day, some things in spy fandom happen over and over.

In the James Bond world, even though Daniel Craig was cast as 007 almost a decade ago, you can still find fan debates about the 47-year-old actor.

For example, a story IN THE U.K. MIRROR reported Honor Blackman said that Craig, and not Sean Connery was now the best film Bond.

“I’m sorry to say he’s a better actor – but I think Sean would acknowledge that,” the Mirror quoted Blackman, who played Pussy Galore oppose Connery in Goldfinger. “I think Dan is terrific. He’s capable of so much more.”

Naturally, on social media, Craig fans and supporters noted the story and got into it with critics of the actor.  It happens the other way round, of course, when someone famous — say Ursula Andress in a DAILY MAIL STORY — says Craig isn’t the best Bond (“‘Hes a great actor, but not James Bond.”) Fan critics seize on comments such as that and try to rub it in the nose of Craig fans.

Then again, maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. There are still 007 fans who harshly criticize Roger Moore — who hasn’t done a Bond movie in 30 years — for taking too light a tone with his Bond films.

At the same time, Blackman’s comments were totally comfort food for 007 fans.

“Now it’s no longer like Ian Fleming, it’s more like The Bourne Identity,” Blackman said about current Bond movies. “It’s a different kind of film.” A lot of Bond fans don’t like the comparison with the Bourne films.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

Meanwhile, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. continue to have variations on a the same theme: Namely, should a movie version of the 1964-68 spy show have been made at all?

There are some fans of the original show who never wanted it made in the first place and view it as garbage four months before it’s due out in theaters.

Among the reasons: it changes the U.N.C.L.E. timeline (the movie depicts the beginning of U.N.C.L.E. in 1963, whereupon in the show it began sometime shortly after World War II); there’s no way the stars (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) can possibly compare to Robert Vaughn and David McCallum); and the movie has lost the “everyman” dynamic of the show because it with two leads over 6-feet tall, including the 6-foot-5 Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, originally played by the 5-foot-7 McCallum.

As details dribble out, such as the movie Solo has a history as an art thief, that debate intensifies.

Nevertheless, other U.N.C.L.E. fans, having gone without an official U.N.C.L.E. production since a 1983 television movie, are looking forward to the film and want to give it a chance.

Both are spy entertainment’s version of Groundhog Day. No doubt somebody will again gear up one or the other debate sooner than later.

Brian Clemens, mastermind of The Avengers, dies

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Brian Clemens, a mastermind of the television series The Avengers, has died, according to an obituary on the INQUISITR WEBSITE.

Clemens, born in 1931, had a lengthy career as a writer and producer. But he is perhaps best known for his work on The Avengers (1961-69) and The New Avengers (1976-77).

In a 2008 U.K. television interview, Clemens said The Avengers “had a curious logic all its own.” Ideas that might work elsewhere could work on The Avengers, he said. “The Avengers had unwritten rules” which were “in my head,” Clemens said.

Of suave John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, Clemens said in 2008: “He is the manipulator of the all the girls he’s ever been associated with. He gets them into situations for his own benefit.”

Eon Productions, maker of the James Bond film series, used The Avengers as a farm club. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers, was signed to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. After bringing aboard Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, the series even made a joke about Mrs. Gale sending Steed a card from Fort Knox.

Rigg, of course, ended up playing Tracy, Bond’s doomed bride, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Macnee finally made his 007 appearance in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Going the other way, Joanna Lumley, who had a small part in Majesty’s, was the female lead in The New Avengers.

Here’s the 2008 interview with Clemens:

Gold, only Gold: Goldfinger at 50

Sean Connery and Gert Frobe

Sean Connery and Gert Frobe

By NicolĂĄs Suszczyk, guest writer

It doesn’t have to be your favorite film. You might be in the minority of those who don’t like it, and, of course, you might not find it as serious as From Russia with Love, Skyfall, Casino Royale or The Living Daylights.

But you can’t deny Goldfinger is the James Bond film which set the standards to “what a James Bond film is” to the eyes of the worldwide public.

The third Bond film has all the ingredients that made us Bond fans: three (main) beautiful girls, an imposing villain with world domination dreams, a dangerous henchman and larger-than-life sets, the thrilling John Barry score and the still-memorable Shirley Bassey song, an icon of the Bond culture.

Over the years Auric Goldfinger evolved into Max Zorin and Elliott Carver; Jill Masterson’s golden body was re-adapted in the 21st century as Strawberry Field’s unwanted oil bath for Quantum of Solace; and Oddjob was the “father” of all the powerful and unbeatable henchmen.

The Aston Martin DB5 was the Bondmobile that the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig eras resurrected and all its accessories inspired Maxwell Smart’s red Sunbeam Alpine. Goldfinger wasn’t just important as a template for the following James Bond films, but for all the 1960s spy series and spoofs like Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., with agents and their gadgets, girls and extravagant villains.

Let me share a personal story between the facts many of us know –- I found Goldfinger terribly boring the first time I saw it, when my grandmother rented it and I was 9 or 10. I was carried away by the spectacle of the Pierce Brosnan films and the funny treats of the Roger Moore era after watching -–in that order– The Man with the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die and Moonraker.

By the late 1990s I was mad for GoldenEye and its 1997 videogame version that, as we all knew, featured villains like Jaws, Baron Samedi and Oddjob in the multiplayer modes. I’ve seen Jaws and Baron Samedi and then I wanted to watch Oddjob, hence, I asked my grandmother to rent me Goldfinger. I heard a very good review of it from the father of a schoolmate then who told me “it was great,” but as I started watching it
 it was strange. I found Sean Connery’s performance extremely dull, and I barely watched some scenes of it. It’s a hard thing to confess, don’t you think?

But, well, luckily I grew up and by the second time I watched it (it was the last Bond film I bought to complete my VHS collection) I enjoyed it very much.

Even when It hadn’t had the thrilling action scenes of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough or the emotionally deep plots of Casino Royale and Licence to Kill, and the idea of James Bond questioning himself for killing somebody –- present in the 1959 Ian Fleming novel and resurfaced in the latest Bond films — was completely wiped out as in the first scene Connery’s Bond electrocutes a thug and leaves an unconscious girl dropped in the floor by claiming the situation was “positively shocking.”

Goldfinger broke new ground. Ted Moore’s cinematography became more colorful, John Barry’s soundtrack had a funnier approach in contrast with the previous film’s percussion sound bites, the action scenes were more spectacular and the humor in the dialogue grew up. The women, that in the first two films followed the hero, became more self-reliant: Pussy Galore was “immune” to Bond’s charms for a long time.

This film also set the starting point for the classic love-hate relationship between Bond and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, even when this was the second film where Llewelyn appeared as the character. It was director Guy Hamilton who convinced Llewelyn to show disdain toward Bond for the way he mistreats his gadgets, a formula that worked for many years.

Every day closer to the 50th anniversary, Goldfinger is the first 007 film that will come to the mind of every moviegoer. Since Sept. 17, 1964, Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Guy Hamilton and John Barry literally told us how a spy film should be made.

Goldfinger’s 50th anniversary: the golden touch

Sean Connery and Honor Blackman projected onto the iconic "Golden Girl."

Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and the “Golden Girl.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, the third James Bond film.

Where Dr. No and From Russia With Love were wildly successful, Goldfinger turned 007 into a phenomenon. Where the first two films were escapist, Goldfinger was outlandish — a woman killed with gold paint, a car equipped with an ejector seat, machine guns and other weaponry, a plot to invade Fort Knox and a henchman who killed people by throwing a steel-rimmed hat at them.

Audiences could not get enough. Worldwide, Goldfinger’s box office was 58 percent higher ($124.9 million) than the box office of From Russia With Love ($78.9 million). In the U.S., Goldfinger’s box office more than doubled that of its 007 predecessor ($51.1 million compared with $24.8 million).

Sean Connery had become a star as Bond, his status confirmed by having his name “above the title” in the main credits. In the first two films, it was “Starring Sean Connery” immediately after the name of the movies was shown.

As noted here before, Goldfinger was the tide that lifted all boats of the 1960s spy craze.

In the U.S., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had struggled in the ratings early in its run, rallied around the time Goldfinger made its American debut. By the fall of 1965, spy shows would be a major attraction on U.S. television.

In theaters, Bond’s success encouraged both wildly escapist films (the Flint and Matt Helm series) and the occasional serious, “anti-Bond” film (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Ipcress File, the later produced by 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman and having several 007 production crew members aboard.).

Television commercials likewise were inspired by Goldfinger and 007. Harold Sakata, who played henchman Oddjob, starring in a series of spots for cough medicine. Butterfinger candy bars had a spot that utilized the hit John Barry-Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley Goldfinger title song.

The movie has been analyzed in many, many places, including five years ago at this blog. It was a difficult film to script, with Richard Maibaum, and later, Paul Dehn tackling storytelling issues in Ian Fleming’s novel. The final script turned Fleming’s longest novel into a tight film that ran below two hours.

In the 21st century, some Bond fans will say Goldfinger isn’t the best 007 movie. Some even say they’ve seen it so many times they’re really not sure they can watch it again.

Still, whatever one’s opinion, Goldfinger changed everything in the 007 universe. For years, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman sought “another” Goldfinger. Richard Maibaum’s first take on Diamonds Are Forever included Goldfinger’s twin brother, an idea that was rejected.

You can make the case that various 007 films are better. Some fans cite From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall among them. But Goldfinger, because of its impact not only on the 007 franchise but on other popular entertainment, may be the most important.