Has James Bond finally met his match? asked the poster to Roger Moore's seventh and final outing as the British secret service agent. The year is 1985; Roger is an old 57; Duran Duran is topping the charts and the world seems a different place from Live and Let Die, let alone Dr. No. So I guess the answer was probably an immediate YES!
How can I put this? Octopussy is shit. There's really very little to redeem it. It's boring, poorly plotted, badly acted and features an aging Moore who is beginning to sleepwalk his already somnambulant acting style towards Bullseye. But let's see if we can find anything worth talking about.
For Your Eyes Only was the first James Bond movie I saw at the cinema. I was probably nine. It was the Astra Cinema in Barrow-in-Furness, and I was there with friends rather than with my family. Perhaps, my brother's friends and my brother, who is two years older than me. We got to the start of the movie, with the helicopter and the projector broke down. I had been so excited and here we were waiting for the manager to put the film back on again and hoping they didn't cancel the screening. I was terrified. It affected me for a long time. I didn't trust things to work. It was such a shocking disappointment. But then the lights went down and the film came on again. Apparently some workmen had cut the power when they were doing some roadworks outside the cinema, but with the film on I didn't care.
Moonraker came out just as the 70s were coming to an end. Using the same team as brought about the success of The Spy Who Loved Me: Lewis Gilbert directing, Roger Moore (obviously) starring, Christopher Wood writing and even Richard Kiel returning as the henchman Jaws, the film had a notably higher budget - almost double - and exaggerated the comedy aspects while still retaining the evergreen Thunderball plot.
The Spy Who Loved Me is a great title, but a terrible book. Ian Fleming's ninth Bond novel is little more than novella. But even this slim piece of silliness was too embarrassing. The book is narrated by a Canadian girl and if you think the author of Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang and 007 can't write from a female perspective prepare yourself for a shock. He can't.
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.