James Bond turns into Elvis Presley

By the time Roger Moore took on the role of James Bond, the series was losing its connection to the Fleming novels. “The Man With the Golden Gun” retained the title character of the book, but the story was the invention of scriptwriter Richard Maibaum.   It wasnt so much a story as a series of set action pieces tangentially related to Bond’s pursuit of the villain, which was unfortunate because Fleming’s story was rich with scenes that had more dramatic  potential than Maibaum’s inventions.   “The Spy Who Loved Me”  had no relation at all to the novel, which read more like a cheap sex pulp than a Bond adventure,  with Bond, in name only, showing up in the final forty pages, to save the violated heroine from certain death.  This time, Maibaum had to come up with a wholly original screenplay, with a nod to the original M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny to connect it to the Bond movies that preceded it.

The Connery Bonds, also written by Maibaum,  were far from faithful to the Fleming novels, but at least they used the stories for their basic outlines.  The Moore Bonds are as different from  Connery’s as  the movies of Elvis Presley are from those of James Dean.  In fact, Moore  is somewhat reminiscent of the older Presley, glazing his way through set action pieces the way Presley charmed his way through mediocre musical numbers.  But don’t get me wrong.  The Presley movies were fun, and so are the Moore Bonds.  In fact, some parts of some of them are entertaining in ways that would have been impossible with Sean Connery.

One of the most un-secret agent elements of the post-Connery Bonds is the preponderance of preposterous  chase scenes.  For Bond, the event was the fight, not the chase,  Granted, Fleming’s Bond loved to engage in dangerous, high speed car chases, but you would never find him filling in for Wile E. Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon.  Neither would he attempt to escape a crashing plane by driving a car out of its rear hatch. He would crash land the smoking plane and jump to safety right before it exploded into flames.

But Moore cannot be blamed for the excesses of an over-zealous screenwriter who prefers his own ideas to those of the writer he has been hired to adapt.  And some of Maibaum’s ideas aren’t bad.  Bond films have always exploited the touristy side of their exotic locations, and  “The Spy Who Loves Me,” with its satirical mockery of tourists enjoying lectures of Egyptian history in the shadow of the pyramids while the Sphinx exudes a greenish tint, offers a nifty self-parody. But the question remains: What has become of James Bond in all this excess of entertainment?

Next:  George Lazenby


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