I feel I've been a bit harsh with the first Roger Moore entry into the Bond franchise and I doubt I'm going to make any friends by stating that The Man with the Golden Gun, the 9th film in the franchise and the final entry to be directed by Guy Hamilton, is actually fairly good. Or not that bad. Or ... well, you get the picture.
Roger Moore had been in the running for Bond right at the very beginning of the series fro Dr. No, but his commitment to The Saint got in the way. With Connery out of the picture definitively and Lazenby proving a bust, the studio wanted an American to play the part with Burt Reynolds actively courted. Fortunately, Reynolds thought it was a British part and the producers agreed and Moore was ultimately cast. Live and Let Die was to be his first of seven appearances as James Bond.
In a world of alternative Bond films, there is an alternative Diamonds Are Forever, starring George Lazenby and acting as a direct sequel to On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It would be a brutal film, a revenger's tragedy perhaps as James Bond hunts Blofeld across the world, to avenge the murder of his wife. And yet it was not to be and instead we got this piece of crap.
The first non-Connery Bond is a paradox. A film that wants to be its own thing is also by far the most self-referential and nostalgic. The most self-aware, it is a meta-Bond from beginning to end. It proves that Bond can exist without Connery while at the same time underlining that it can't just be anybody.
It's been only five years since Sean Connery debuted as 007 in Dr. No but in his fifth outing You Only Live Twice the scale of the movie and the phenomenon has become so great that Ian Fleming's original source novels are nowhere near enough to create what audiences have come to expect.
Originally planned as the first James Bond movie, a long lasting legal dispute pushed Thunderball back to become the fourth entry in the now established genre. Keyed up by the accumulative iconic power of the genre and the high quality of Goldfinger, the film became a break out box office hit.
Goldfinger is the quintessential James Bond movie. Dr No and From Russia with Love were feeling their way into a new genre, but the third Connery film has a confidence in its tone, its action, its design and its lead performance that would become the gold standard by which all other Bonds would be judged.
Released in 1963 and based on Ian Fleming's 1957 novel, From Russia with Love is the second outing for Sean Connery as James Bond and is a marked improvement on the first film.
Dr. No is the first cinematic foray into James Bond. A lot is missing. No Q, no pre-titles sequence. Even the gun barrel sequence features some chubby chap who is very obviously not Sean Connery. But for all that it is also setting in place a template which will run for better and for much much worse through twenty four more films.