Shaken, Not Stirred

I couldn’t resist cracking open the complete James Bond I got the other day, even if I did nothing other than cackle over it and stroke it thoughtfully. Since I’d had the theme to Diamonds Are Forever stuck in my head, I decided to go ahead and watch it, thus establishing that I’m not going to watch the collection in any sort of logical order. Given that the Bond movies don’t have a coherent plot line, I don’t think it’s really an issue to watch them out of order, and switching back and forth between Bonds is a fun way to contrast their performances. (Sean Connery, needless to say, is simply the best, although Daniel Craig looks like he might shape up pretty well.)

I have to say, I’ve been colored impressed. The whole boxed set is in four separate cardboard sleeves with five discs each. Each disc comes in a nifty slimline case which includes a special features disc, with a featurette on the movie along with some really interesting interviews with Bond crews and other interesting supporting material. If you’re a Bond nerd like I am, the extra features are really fabulous. Each disc also has what I guess you would call linear notes, which talk briefly about the film and its cultural context. (Yes, gentle readers, the Bond films do have a cultural context.)

The DVDs that I ordered are the “Ultimate Edition,” which basically means that MGM cleaned up the prints and restored them before making the DVDs. As a result, the film is a lot more crisp, and you can see a lot more detail than in some older prints. People apparently take these DVDs pretty seriously, since they have their own fan site. Which is, I mean, I like James Bond and all, but that’s a little out of control. Although I do appreciate the cleaner print, don’t get me wrong.

A lot of crew, especially stunt people, returned to do the films over and over again because they got to do so many fun and neat things and work with lots of amazing toys. I imagine some also stayed for the explosions, since the Bond films do blow rather a lot of fun things up. Many of the famous stunts in the Bond films, especially in the title sequences, had never been done before, like the awesome skydiving scene in Moonraker. It’s really neat to see interviews with the stunt crews, especially when they talk about surmounting really challenging obstacles after the executive staff says things like “ok, now jump a car across a canal.”

There are also some fun interviews with actors, including some of the Bond girls. Now, I realize that popular opinion on the Bond girls is split, with most self-respecting feminist types railing against them while everyone else treats them like eye candy. Which, I suppose, they are, but some of them are also complete badasses, like Ursula Andress as Honey Rider in Dr. No. Yes, there’s the classic scene where she comes out of the water in that white bikini, but she’s also portrayed as savvy, smart, and athletically talented. Some of the more modern Bond girls have been even more impressive, especially now the M is a lady. Never underestimate a Bond girl, I say.

A lot of my friends make fun of me for being such a fan of James Bond, because they think of the films as archaic and rather silly. Silly they may be, but I think there’s more to them. You get to see an awesome assortment of exotic locations, for starters, and some of the Bonds have also been incredible actors. Some of the stunts are also really revolutionary, especially when you consider the fact that everything you see on screen actually happened; the Bond crews have really worked to avoid the use of CGI, which is one of the reasons the films are expensive to make. I think it’s also interesting to watch the cultural shift in the movies, from a focus on the Communist threat to more modern issues like smuggling and nuclear proliferation.

I wonder if anyone’s done a PhD on Bond?