June 7, 2009

head-2.jpgWhen Casino Royale (and Quantum of Solace) relaunched the Bond franchise, it was hard to note that the makers borrowed much from the Jason Bourne approach. Sure, the first film was almost mostly the first James bond book, but the approach and Bond’s new relationship to women seemed lifted whole stock from Bourne.

But – as that is pretty much undeniable – Bond has always been something of a magpie in the post-Connery era, ready to steal from whatever is popular at the moment. Such dates all the films, but in a way that is sometimes pleasing, and at other times noxious.

The Man with the Golden Gun Blu-ray.jpgArguably the worst James bond film ever made, The Man with the Golden Gun is no exception.  The film features a bit of karate, and surely had something to do with Bruce Lee, who had already attained international stardom by the time this 1974 film launched. The premise is that Bond is being stalked by Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who is one of the world’s most deadly assassins. Bond is taken off assignment when a golden bullet is sent to MI:6, but that doesn’t deter Bond from chasing Scaramanga. Bond goes through a number of hoops to get close, including bedding his foe’s lover Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), but it turns out that Scaramanga wants nothing to do with Bond, though he is curious to test Bond’s skills. And when it turns out that Scaramanga was after the thing Bond was supposed to be protecting in the first place, the two eventually face off, with Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize) the evil sidekick and Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) the love interest.

What makes these films are stunts, and an involving mystery, and this film has neither. It also brings back Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James) from Live and Let Die. One gets the sense that the Bond franchise never figured out much of what to do with Roger Moore as its titular hero, and so this film seems to try to keep it serious, but the plot doesn’t have a particularly intriguing through-line, mostly because the bad guy doesn’t seem to care much about Bond, which makes Bond look weak and always on the tail of things. There is one spectacular car jump on a very improbable bridge that looks to be borrowed from a mini-golf set. The film feels endless, and the sex is awkward now because Moore treats Goodnight like poop, leaving her in the closet while he sexes another woman. This could be fun, but Moore is just too smug. Arguably the Moore films found their rhythm in the next film, with The Spy who Loved Me’s garish disco-trash approach, and for that I find that the Moore Bond’s I like tend to be the worst. They are way more interesting than when Moore pays a straight Bond.

The film comes widescreen (1.78:1) and 5.1 DTS HD and original English Mono. The picture quality is excellent as is the soundtrack, these films are tooled up and impressive. The film comes with an audio commentary with director Guy Hamilton and Members of the Cast and Crew, along with a second solo track by Sir Roger Moore. He is amusing, though he gets bored too. “The Russell Harty Show” (3 min.) offers period interviews with Moore and Villechaize. “On Location” (2 min.) offers a quick behind the scenes glimpse, while “Girls Fighting” (4 min.) offers some B roll of girls doing kung fu. “Amazing Thrill Show Stunt Film” (5 min.) comes with optional commentary, and talks about the physics of doing the main car stunt of the film. “The Road to Bond” (8 min.) offers an audio interview with stunt coordinator J.W. Milligan. “Guy Hamilton: The Director Speaks” (5 min.) gives the director his due. ” Inside The Man With the Golden Gun“(31 min.) is a standard making of, while.  Long form, but solid is “Double-O Stuntmen” (29 min.). Then there’s two trailers, two TV spots, and three radio spots, and then eleven still galleries.

License to Kill Blu-ray.jpg

Coming out in 1989, License to Kill is the most Joel Silver-ish Bond, something highlighted by the score by Michael Kamen, and the appearance of Robert Davi as the main villain. In this film Bond comes out to the coast to have a few laughs and get Felix Leigter (David Hedison, returning as Felix from Live and Let Die) married. Instead he gets involved with arresting drug dealer Frank Sanchez (Davi) with the help of Sharkey (Frank McRae) and Ed Killifer (Everett McGill). It should be noted that not only is there a reoccurring Leiter (rare), but Bond’s marriage is also mentioned, so this one tries to play like it’s aware there is some canon.

Ed Killifer ends up being a rat and sets Sanchez free for the reward money, and Sanchez then goes straight after Leiter. Bond wants revenge (his patience is at an end, he wants revenge), but MI:6 tries to recall him, so Bond goes rogue. He gets help from Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), and from Sanchez’s woman Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto). Bond wants to take down Sanchez from the inside, but gets gruff from Kwang (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) because he’s undercover.

Sanchez is good at trafficking drugs, but as Bond builds trust, he also undoes some of Sanchez’s associates by putting doubt in Sanchez’s mind. But he had an altercation with Dario (Benecio Del Toro), which may be his undoing.

I’ve always been somewhat cold to this film, perhaps because it’s machinations (the American action film) were not as easily grafted on to a PG-13 British spy thriller, but the film moves, and the women are hot, and the story is compelling. It’s a fairly good Bond film, and suggests that Timothy Dalton was actually 2/2 when it came to the franchise. He just came at the wrong time, and his films were still directed by John Glen (a solid Bond helmer, no doubt, but didn’t have the modern pizzazz). But Bond as Iago is a strong hook, and smarter than a lot of these movies turned out, and this is probably better than any of the Brosnan Bonds, save for Goldeneye.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Blu-ray presents the film in Widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD and original Dolby Surround. This film is improved some by the transfer, which is excellent. Hard to believe this film is twenty years old. There’s two audio commentaries, the first with with Director John Glen and cast members including Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Benecio Del Toro, David Hedison, and Desmond Llewelyn, and a second with producer Michael G. Wilson and Members of the Crew. Then there’s nine  deleted scenes with introductions by Glen (11 min.), then there’s period cast and crew interviews in “Bond 89” (12 min.),  then “On the Set with John Glen” (9 min.) “On Location with Peter Lamont” (5 min.) and stunt pilot interview “Ground Check with Corky Fornoff” (5 min.) continue with the period interviews. Then there’s the retrospective doc “Inside License to Kill” (32 min.) that highlights how the film was somewhat in the middle of a changing franchise and world. The “Production Featurette: Behind the Scenes” (5 min.)is the promo that was made for release, then there’s “Kenworth Trucks Feaurette” (9 min.) gives the trucks their due. There’s two music videos, two trailers, and eleven still galleries.

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