Moore is less

I’ve been terribly hard at work this weekend struggling through the odious chore of sitting around watching old James Bond movies on Blu-ray. No, really, it’s for work, honest.

It’s been an enlightening experience; prior to this, the only Bond films I’d ever seen all the way through were a couple of the depressingly average Brosnan movies and the considerably more entertaining Casino Royale. (The Daniel Craig one, not the weird satire featuring Woody Allen.) Besides those, the majority of my life’s Bond experience has been seeing bits and pieces of the films on TV when I was a kid; if memory serves, severely-cropped and heavily-edited Bond movies were a mainstay of Saturday evening television throughout the ’80s. And little wonder I’ve never felt compelled to rush out and track down more Bond. Most of the films they ran on TV were of the Roger Moore era, and now that I have a wider context of Bond actors to draw upon, I can see why the franchise always used to strike me as boring and archaic: Moore is a really lousy fit for the role.

It’s very strange that Moore’s films, despite being of a considerably more recent vintage than Sean Connery’s, feel a lot more dated. Part of that is due to the themes (mysticism and sci-fi) and the music (less orchestra, more disco) and the film quality (fewer saturated colors, more dull earthiness). But a lot of it has to due with the fact that Moore himself feels like he comes from an earlier era than Connery. His suits are never as smartly-tailored, his movements never as economical; he never seems genuinely invested in the action sequences, and sort of glides through the plot on a cloud of quips and sardonic eyebrows. The concept behind Bond was always a rather nasty piece of work wearing the persona of an English gentleman as a disguise, whereas Moore just seems like…an English gentlemen. The sort of fellow you’d want to have as your kids’ godfather, but perhaps not the ideal candidate to save the world from supervillains.

And man, it sure doesn’t help that the HD treatment makes his real age so much more obvious. When he convinces a reluctant young Jane Seymour into bed against her better judgment, he comes off not so much as a dashing charmer as he does a filthy old lech. It gave me the same sense of uneasiness I felt when I accidentally wandered into Shibuya’s love hotel district last week. Old men walking close by unenthusiastic young women toward neon signs offering discounted “rest” rates. Yech.

Ironically, though, it looks like it was the Japanese who had the right idea back then — they made Bond look rather conspicuously unlike Moore in this Moonraker poster. Of course, any dignity that might have lent the production was instantly shattered by the free-floating Jaws swooping down to chomp his un-Moore-like neck. To say nothing of the sexy space love-slave nurses, or whatever those are supposed to be.

And as they say over in that part of the world: 1UP’s movie blog should be launching soon. Please look forward to it. (bow)

17 thoughts on “Moore is less

  1. I always wonder how much the oddness of the Moore movies have to do with Moore himself versus the decisions of the producers. James Bond was clearly heading in a silly direction at the time (the homosexual henchman in Connery’s last official picture Diamonds are Forever are Exhibit A) and it seems like they just kept riding that money train to the bank throughout the 70s and 80s. Hence Bond fights Carribean magic spirits and midgets, goes into outer space for some laser combat, and actually meets someone calling herself Octopussy with a straight face. Even the music betrays any semblance of a serious film: The Man with a Golden Gun slaps a slide whistle onto a genuinely impressive car stunt and when Bond glides down a mountainside on a snowmobile’s plank in Live and Let Die, we hear The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA.”

    I admit the Moore films will always invoke a level of nostalgia for the Bond movies I saw as a child thanks to endless reruns on basic cable, but rather than repetition I credit his likability to burning those movies into my memories. The poor quality of the films themselves, however, render most of those memories into a single, indistinct Bond film rather than individual adventures.

  2. Yeah, like I said, it’s a combination of Moore’s unsuitability and the general misplaced priorities of the producers. Even the latter Connery films (Thunderball) were going a bit off-track. Once Ian Fleming died, it was like the whole venture lost its sense of focus.

    I kind of feel that Moore was to James Bond what Adam West was to Batman.

  3. I remember the week of Thanksgiving as the time when TBS (or was it TNT?) would show every Bond film in their collection. It was fun to see how Bond evolved over the years. I would love to see them do it again at some point.

    In regards to the Bond films, Moore was definitely not my favorite Bond, but For Your Eyes Only is a particularly addition to your Bond collection. I have a soft spot for Man With The Golden Gun because of Christopher Lee, so take that my enjoyment of that film with a grain of salt.

    Really though, all the Bond films need to be taken with a grain of salt. My favorite of the bunch, Goldfinger, involved a completely absurd villain death, a henchmen with a bladed top hat, and a female cohort with the God-given name Pussy Galore. It still won a special effects Oscar for all of these potentially damning characteristics.

    Also, I need to borrow my friend’s CD with all the Bond themes on it. Shirley Bassey can do no wrong with an orchestra backing her.

  4. That was pretty much my only exposure to Bond before the Brosnan movies, as well, so when I saw Casino Royale and looked into the Connery movies, it was kind of a revelation. I had always thought Bond just WAS that English gentleman, like you mentioned, but he was so much more interesting and I didn’t realize what I was missing out on.

  5. What are you saying? I think that part is originally classic in its own right (as a poster, I mean). Man, am I feeling so 80’s right now.

  6. Sorry for ambigouity of my statement as it seems to stem from the fact I can no longer directly quote anymore. (I was refering to Jaws in the poster, not, as one would persume, Bond as the cold assassin he really is).

  7. “‘Accidentally’ wandered into, huh?”

    Well, I was with my boss at the time, so it was a little weird.

  8. Roger Moore sucks. You are so right Parish. It is also a fact the japanese prefer him over Sean Connery. I also have a very low opinion about most of japan’s pop culture. It’s like, if stuff come’s from Japan, I like it more if it does not seem japanese at all (Sega Genesis, Wizardry-like games, and was Willie Mays and the Say-Hey kid a japanese cartoon movie? It kinda looked like it but not, also Ulysses 31, it was awesome because it never gave you the idea it was japanese at all, and Tokyo Godfathers, iit is so NOT wacky crazy anime it feels not japanese and it is extremely good, on the other hand, Roger Moore acts and feels like a very japanese anime character, it’s kinda like a retarded Golgo 13).

  9. It probably helped that I saw them fairly young, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Moonraker and Live And Let Die. One had Paul McCartney and New Orleans, and the other had a (to my mind) extremely impressive opening sequence filmed in mid-air. And Jaws.

  10. Honestly, after seeing Live and Let Die, I now kind of hate the song…which until a few days ago I loved dearly.

  11. If I may take things on a little tangent–Jeremy, have you ever seen an episode of MST3k with a movie called “Secret Agent Super Dragon?” Your description of Roger Moore’s “cloud of quips and sardonic eyebrows” reminded me so much about the guy who played Super Dragon; except the guy was a jerk, never really fought anyone, and was only good about being genuinely boring.

  12. The thing that really stuck with me in Live and Let Die was Baron Samedi at the end. It was also one of the first classic Bond movies I’ve delved into.

    Don’t get me wrong: Dr. No and Connery is still tops in my book.

  13. Noooo! Governor Odious is mean!
    I can’t wait to become a dirty old man! Show me the love hotel district! ;)

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