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Half a century and six different Bonds, all with one thing in common – their licence to kill.
A licence which, as we all know, stands for Vodka martinis, Moneypenny, M, SPECTRE, Aston Martins, Pussy Galore, Blofeld, ejector seats, Shirley Bassey, John Barry, Ken Adam, the 2012 London Olympics, black tie, DJs, Honey Ryder, EON, Oddjob and Jaws.
Need we say more...?
Well yes actually, because starting this Sunday we’ll be screening Bond’s ‘six of the best’, starting with Skyfall (Daniel Craig), GoldenEye (Pierce Brosnan), The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton), The Spy Who Loved Me (Roger Moore), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (George Lazenby) and finishing on Friday April 26 with Goldfinger (Sean Connery).
This is the Oxford Mail’s eighth annual film festival at the Phoenix Picturehouse cinema and according to features editor Jeremy Smith: “Since we’ve celebrated Spielberg, Kubrick, Hitchcock and Allen among others, we thought it time we salute Britain’s greatest contribution to cinema - the James Bond film.
“And as six actors have currently portrayed the ‘gentleman spy’, we thought we’d screen their best Bond outings. And here they are...
“Of course, everyone has their favourite film as everyone has their favourite Bond, so do remember that the Phoenix’s bar will be open from 6.30pm onwards for those seeking like-minded debate over a Martini or two.”
All films start at 8.45pm and as usual, tickets are half price to anyone presenting a copy of that day’s Oxford Mail (and yes, for the Sunday night opening of Skyfall, Saturday’s edition of the paper will be fine).
And please remember, as this is a CELEBRATION of everything shaken not stirred, if you wish to dress up to match the spirit of the occasion...DO (because there will be prizes...). Here’s Jeremy’s rundown:
* Sunday, April 21 - 8.45pm
Skyfall (Cert 12) 2012
Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Wishaw
Director: Sam Mendes
Title Song: Written and performed by Adele.
Synopsis: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
Overview: A return to form if ever there was one. And this time all the staples of the classic Bond cocktail that in recent years have been noticably absent are deftly – and affectionately – reintroduced, from the smart one-liners, to ‘Q’, the Aston Martin and a larger-than-life villain.
Uttery brilliant pre-credits sequence involving a train, a motorcycle and a digger. A new, younger Q (Wishaw) makes his debut in a gleefully barbed exchange with 007, while Bond baddie Raoul Silva is left to wonder just how ‘macho’ James Bond really is...
The action set pieces are superb and choosing to film almost wholly in London is inspired.
The last quarter of the story may divide audiences as the film’s pace, style and geography change dramatically, but there’s no doubting this is Daniel Craig’s best outing so far.
* Monday, April 22 – 8.45pm
Goldeneye (Cert 12) 1995
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Judi Dench, Famke Janssen and Desmond Llewelyn
Director: Martin Campbell
Title Song: By Bono and The Edge and performed by Tina Turner. l Synopsis: On his first post-Cold War mission, Bond finds himself involved in a race for a vital piece of weaponry – the credit-card sized ‘GoldenEye’ that controls a satellite weapons system.
Overview: A new Bond in Pierce Brosnan is introduced via an astonishing 720ft bungee jump off Switzerland’s Verzasca Dam (and is consequently voted the best movie stunt of all time in a 2002 Sky Movies poll).
‘M’ of course is now a woman, played by Judi Dench, but the much-loved Desmond Llewelyn is still playing ‘Q’.
The film’s largest stunt sequence is a thrilling tank chase through the streets of St Petersburg which, considering the sheer scale and complexity of the sequence, took almost two months to film.
Brosnan’s portrayal was enthusiastically received by critics and audiences alike, while the use of Perrier in a major action sequence was largely criticised (when you see the film, you’ll understand why...).
* Tuesday, April 23 – 8.45pm
The Living Daylights (Cert PG) 1987
Starring Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker *
Director: John Glenn
Title Song: Sung by A-ha.
Synopsis: A tad complicated but boils down to this – Bond must stop an arms dealer from igniting World War III.
Overview: Packed with action from start to finish, audiences were happy to let the plot wash over them. And this of course was a Bond for the ’80s (there are far fewer interactions with the ladies).
But no matter, the stunts were extraordinary, including the famous aerial duel between Bond and Necros hanging out the cargo door of a C-130 Hercules . Though naturally that’s not all – Bond’s Aston Martin comes equipped this time with rocket launchers and lasers; the chase down the Rock of Gibraltar which forms the pre-credit sequence is nail-biting and later Bond escapes, maybe for the first and last time, in a cello case.
Interestingly, Dalton and director John Glen argued heatedly over whether Bond should ever be seen with his hands in his pockets...
* Wednesday April 24 – 8.45pm
The Spy Who Loved Me (Cert PG) 1977
Starring Roger Moore, Barabara Bach, Curt Jurgens, Caroline Munro and Richard Kiel
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Title Song: Nobody Does It Better by Marvin Hamlisch and sung by Carly Simon.
Synopsis: No one does megalomaniacs better than director Lewis Gilbert, and in this, his second Bond outing (he directed three in total), he oversees Karl Stromberg’s plan to destroy the world and a create a new Eden beneath the sea.
Overview: Considering Gilbert’s first foray in the Bond franchise was You Only Live Twice it’s hardly surprising that The Spy Who Loved Me is big, bold and out of this world.
Opening with probably the most memorable stunt of any Bond film, 007 leaps – apparantly without a parachute – from the lip of Mount Asgard on Baffin Island while escaping on skis. The rest as they say is history...
In terms of sheer scale, this film dwarfs them all – it required the building of a new soundstage at Pinewood to accomodate the interior of Stromberg’s supertanker, includes a submersible Lotus Esprit, and an extended car chase in Sardinia.
Plus, and this is very important, the debut of a certain Bond baddie known as ‘Jaws’.
The film was a huge commercial and critical hit and Sir Roger Moore considers it his favourite Bond outing.
* Thursday, April 25 - 8.45pm
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Cert PG) 1969
Starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti and IIse Steppat
Director: Peter Hunt
Title Song: No theme song as composer John Barry felt it would be impossible to include the film’s title in a lyric. Consequently, he wrote one of the most outstanding instrumental title themes as well as penning We Have All The Time In The World, sung by Louis Armstrong.
Synopsis: In addition to getting married (yes, married), Bond has to try and thwart arch nemeis Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s plan to sterilise the world’s food supply via his ‘angels of death’ unless his title of the Count De Bleuchamp be recognised and he receives an international amnesty.
Overview: As divisive as Marmite - half the world loves it, the other can’t stand it. So it’s only fair I declare my interest now. Next to Goldfinger, I consider it the best of all Bonds. Jaw-dropping action scenes in its alpine location, a Bond played for the first and only time by George Lazenby who IS believable and credible, and a score by John Barry that triggers your endorphines.
Plus, it’s very close to Fleming’s source novel and unquestionably the best photographed of any Bond film.
The skiing sequences, even today, will leave you breathless, the stock-car race is white-knuckle joy of the purest kind, and guess what? You may even cry at the end...
* Friday, April 26 – 8.45pm
Goldfinger (Cert PG) 1964
Starring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton and Harold Sakata
Director: Guy Hamilton
Title Song: Sung by Shirley Bassey.
Synopsis: While investigating gold magnate Auric Goldfinger’s smuggling operation, Bond uncovers his plan to attack the United States bullion depository at Fort Knox.
Overview: For many people, this third instalment in the Bond canon represents the definitive Bond, establishing as it does the blueprint for all future Bond films. Which is this – Shirley Bassey, erotic main title design, memorable villain, smart dialogue, girls, world domination, gadgets (the Aston Martin being the ultimate), ‘Q’, Ken Adams sets, John Barry score, DJs, and plenty of sexual innuendo (PG rated of course).
And Goldfinger has them all – and then some.
In fact, it’s almost impossible to find fault with...
For further information contact the Phoenix cinema in Walton Street on 01865 316570; Jeremy Smith on 01865 425435 or twitter @PhoenixPH; @OxfordMail; @OxMailJSmith
License To Thrill: and here are just a few of the special Bond giveaways on offer during the six-day Bond bonanza – a meal for two at Brasserie Blanc, The Randolph Hotel and The Big Bang restaurant, free tickets to Beaulieu’s Bond In Motion exhibition, books on the Music of James Bond, bottles of champagne, posters, mugs, graphic novels and of course an Aston Martin (but very small...)