10 Films to Watch if You Like Classic Bond

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North by Northwest (1959): It’s no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock was offered the chance to direct Dr. No because he had singlehandedly propelled the spy thriller into the public eye through such classic as The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, and Notorious. It’s also no surprise that he turned down the chance because had essentially made the greatest spy thriller ever. There was no reason to attempt to make another. Cary Grant. Eva Marie Sainte. Bernard Hermann. Ernest Lehman. Mt. Rushmore. Cropdusters. Just a few of the things that make this film awesome. It’s a must for all Bond fans.

That Man from Rio (1964): So there’s no doubt that Philippe de Broca’s film was made in a world conscious of the James Bond phenomenon but it’s also a charming blend of Tintin-esque action serials and wild humor that’s anchored by the charming pair of Jean-Pierre Belmondo and Francoise Dorleac. Its mixture of lavish location shooting, fun-filled action, and consistent humor makes it a must for all Bond lovers.

Charade (1963): By now we’ve all heard that this picture from Stanley Donen was the best Hitchcock film that he never made. Sure, that’s probably true if you want to put any stock in such an assertion but beyond that, we have Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn starring opposite each other in a spy comedy romance. It sounds like an absolutely delightful proposition and it is. It’s funny as a rom-com but still exhibits enough intrigue to pass as a compelling thriller.

The Ipcress File (1965): Sir Michael Caine as British spy Harry Palmer should be enough to pull audiences into this franchise. But if not that then consider this. Although it was made by some of the minds behind Bond, this franchise was supposed to be its antithesis in its representation of the spy life. It’s the anti-Bond if you will. Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain would follow in the subsequent years.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965): However, if you want something completely different from Bond with a sense of stark realism matched with a cynical edge you probably couldn’t get closer to the mark than watching this thriller based off the work of John Le Carre. Richard Burton is as disillusioned as any spy in the history of the movies and you get the strange sense that he has the right to be. If you looking for another tonal shift in the realm of spy thrillers look to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It’s demanding but certainly worthwhile.

Casino Royale (1967): We’re about to enter the territory of less demanding fare and the epitome of that is this initial Casino Royale (please don’t dare confuse this installment with Daniel Craig’s. Please don’t). All you need to know is that Peter Sellers plays Evelyn Tremble (ie James Bond), Ursula Andress is Vesper Lynd (ie James Bond), Orson Welles is Le Chiffre, Woody Allen is Jimmy Bond…must I go on or do you get the idea? If you had any preconception that this was a Bond movie you were mistaken.

Our Man Flint (1967): James Coburn the tough guy from such classics as The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape landed his own headlining gig as a spy in his own right. See him in Charade (previously mentioned) and the continuing installment In Like Flint.

Murderers Row (1966): Dean Martin as super spy Matt Helm. Need I say more? Is it any surprise that he’s a dashing ladies man who also seems to like the high life and hitting the sauce. It grabs hold of the Bond phase like any good (or mediocre copycat) although it was based on a number of novels by Donald Hamilton. A number of sequels followed including The Silencers, The Ambushers and The Wrecking Crew.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997): Mike Myers as Austin Powers the most ludicrous, wacky, grooviest, and strangely perverse spy you’ve ever known. But his arch nemesis Dr. Evil is far worse. Pit them off against each other and you’re bound to have a stupid good time amid all the outrageous bits of parody. Oh yeah, check out The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember too. Groovy Baby!

Get Smart (2008): This is a public service announcement. No offense to Steve Carell or Anne Hathaway whatsoever, but please just go ahead and watch the TV show with the iconic duo of Don Adams and Barbara Feldon with Edward Platt. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were comic geniuses and they knew a good fad when they saw one. Spies might come and go but “Shoe Phones” and “Cones of Silence” will never die. Would you believe? Because you should.

Bonus – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) et al: It might not feel exactly like Bond and Indiana Jones is a big enough star in his own right but there’s no doubt that the special mixture of thrills, humor, and iconic status also falls on the mantle of Dr. Jones. Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that his father is played by none other than Sean Connery the guy who was in Marnie, The Hunt for Red October, and, yes, a few other movies.

This is only a few options so please don’t think you have a license to kill me for leaving something off. But hope you enjoyed this assortment of 10 classic flicks for every Bond lover.

Review: Goldfinger (1964)

goldfingerThe film opens with a wonderfully unnecessary opening gambit, which allows us to reenter the world of dashing MI6 super spy James Bond (Sean Connery). His electrifying escapade culminates in the memorable quip, “Shocking, positively shocking” and just like that we jump headlong into his next adventure, Goldfinger!

Shirley Bassey’s striking rendition of the title tune reverberates over the metallic credits setting the tone for one of the great Bond films. It starts with the music and never wavers as we pick up with MI6 on a nice holiday in Miami Beach. He has his first run-in with international gold dealer and suspected smuggler Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frode). Bond has a little fun with the cheater at the expense of a young woman while also having his first encounter with the mysterious Odd Job.

Goldfinger leads Bond all over the place from Switzerland then back to the United States. MI6 discovers how Goldfinger does it while also crossing paths with Jill Masterson’s sister Tillie, who has a personal vendetta to make Goldfinger pay. It doesn’t go so well.

Bond is imprisoned but not before proving himself to be a nuisance. He is nearly mowed down by an industrial laser, but Goldfinger thinks better of it and ships him off to his base on a Kentucky farm. Bond gets his first tete-a-tete with pilot extraordinaire Pussy Galore, and needless to say, he is intrigued. Meanwhile, his American ally Felix Leiter attempts to track his whereabouts and keep tabs on his progress.

Imprisoned yet again, he, of course, escapes just long enough to witness the plans of Goldfinger to use a deadly Delta 9 nerve gas to incapacitate the defenses at For Knox so he can swipe all the gold from the stronghold.

He first gets rid of some lowly American mobsters and captures Bond again. Operation Grand Slam begins as Pussy leads her group of pilots over Fort Knox deploying the gas over the premises. It takes effect instantly and soon Goldfinger rolls in with his forces and Bond in toe. It’s like taking candy from a baby and Bond can do very little as he is handcuffed to the bomb which is to set off in the vault. A rather sticky situation indeed.

But alas it was all a ploy. The gas did not actually work and all the troops suddenly get up and convene on Fort Knox with Goldfinger and his forces still inside. The game seems to be up, but not before another shocking moment between Bond and his old nemesis Odd Job.

The rascally Goldfinger gets away but Bond at least ends up with Ms. Galore. He used all his power of persuasion to acquire her help. What happened to Goldfinger, you ask? He comes back to enact his revenge, of course, and it nearly works. Instead Bond and Pussy get in some passionate necking while the search parties are out looking for them.

It is hard to top this early Bond installment for a plethora of reasons. It has the best theme song. It has arguably the best villain (or villains if you include Odd Job). Perhaps the best Bond in Sean Connery. The best decked-out car in the Ashton Martin DB5. And a couple memorable Bond girls. When it is all said and done, it adds up to an enjoyable spy thriller stuffed with intrigue, wit, and a crumbling of early 1960s sensibility. Above all it’s a “positively shocking”  piece of entertainment sure to give you a volt.

4.5/5 Stars

Review: From Russia With Love (1963)

fromrussia1To Love it, To Love it Not… Sean Connery is back as Bond and so there is plenty to enjoy with From Russia with Love (1963). Out of personal preference, my top three favorite films in the franchise would have to include Goldfinger (1964), Casino Royale (2006) and this beauty, all packed with quintessential Bond.

Sean Connery is arguably the best Bond. Some of that resulting from being the original and also simply because he was made for the role with dashing good looks, an impressive physique, and one smashing accent. Next, comes arguably one of the best so-called “Bond” girls in Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) who plays the beautiful Russian opposite the handsome Brit. They’re a match made in heaven beginning with steamy encounters, followed by violent escapades, and topped off with playful romance. There’s not more you would want, except action and villains and gadgets, which we also get along with some ubiquitous Cold War sentiment.

In this installment, the Soviets are pitted against the CIA and MI6 with the nefarious SPECTRE manipulating both sides. They have received the aid of one of the Soviet’s highest officials in Rosa Klebb, who puts their plan into action. She, first and foremost, recruits deadly assassin “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw), followed by the pawn Tatiana Romanova, who works at the Soviet consulate in Istanbul. She is to be the siren to lure Bond into a trap with the tantalizing promise of a Lektor device (which MI6 desperately wants).

Thus, as any good spy would, Bond goes after this presumed admirer and first meets with station head Ali Kerim Bey. One man is dead and the Soviets suspect the Westerners. Bey’s office is bombed and the Soviets are the obvious culprit. However, the whole time it’s Grant working incognito.

Bond is taken by Bey to a gypsy camp for refugee and after an evening capped by ambush, he has his first meeting with none other than the beautiful Romanova. The new accomplices ultimately steal the Lektor without a hitch and board the train as “newlyweds” with Bey. However, the ever lurking Grant is waiting for Bond and his companions. Without getting into all the gory details, it sets the stage for a great fighting sequence.

007 gets away with a recently drugged Romanova and puts a helicopter as well as a fleet of motor boats out of commission single-handedly. Number 1 of SPECTRE is very displeased, and Klebb has one last time to make things right. She has a wicked pair of kicks. That’s over soon enough.

What’s left is a romantic gondola ride with our two lovebirds and the notes of Matt Monro playing over the kisses. Talk about a first date, this one was a great one, even for all us third-wheelers.

Goldfinger maybe the apex of Bond viewing, but From Russia with Love is a close contender for that title. Its action does not look half bad even after 50 years, and Sean Connery is quite the hero. What more is there to say about Daniela Bianchi except God was very good to her. Very good indeed. It’s a great adventure with everything you would want and expect in a spy thriller. It’s from Russia with love.

4.5/5 Stars

The Best Films of Sean Connery

1. Goldfinger
2. From Russia with Love
3. Dr. No
4. The Man Who Would Be King
5. The Last Crusade
6. The Untouchables
7. The Hill
8. The Hunt For Red October
9. Marnie
10. The Red Tent
11. Time Bandits
12. Thunderball
13. Murder on the Orient Express

Goldfinger (1964)

fabbc-goldfinger_-_uk_cinema_posterStarring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s character James Bond, Agent 007, this installment has him facing off with Goldfinger. After an entertaining opening sequence, Bond is given the assignment of keeping an eye on Auric Goldfinger, a powerful man with a insatiable desire for gold. Along the way he crosses paths with beautiful women, Goldfinger’s deadly chauffeur Odd Job, the highly trained pilot Pussy Galore, and of course the criminal mastermind himself. Bond and Goldfinger battle back and forth, first with wits and then everything becomes much more sinister. Bond is taken captive as Goldfinger tries to implement his dastardly plan revolving around a vault full of gold. Needless to say, in the end 007 is victorious and he gets the girl. With Bond’s modified Ashton Martin, great action, good characters, and a memorable theme, this film is “shocking, positively shocking.”

 

4.5/5 Stars

From Russia with Love (1963)

This James Bond film starring Sean Connery as 007, finds Bond being thrown together with a beautiful Russian agent in an attempt to steal a Lektor coding device which the woman is willing to take from the Soviets. It began as an obvious trap for Bond but he gathers his briefcase and heads to Istanbul. There he is assisted by Kerim Bey who helps him spy on the Russians, hides him with a group of gypsies, and after escaping he knocks off a Russian agent. There is a small mishap at the hagia Sophia but the infiltration goes as planned and they escape with the Lektor aboard a train. Little do they know what danger they are in and all too soon Bond is fighting for his life against a trained assassin. Only then does he realize the British and Soviets had been manipulated by SPECTRE. Before they can get away completely Bond must stave off a helicopter and a fleet of SPECTRE speed boats. Finally in Venice it looks like Romanova has gotten the best of 007 and yet together they fend off a foe with deadly kicks. All that is left to do is a romantic gondola ride after a job well done. This film has the combo of action and romance that has become the expectation for Bond movies. The supporting cast includes Daniela Bianchi, Robert Shaw, and Pedro Armendariz.

4/5 Stars

The Last Crusade (1989)

3299e-indiana_jones_and_the_last_crusade_aStarring Harrison Ford with Sean Connery, this is the exciting final chapter of the original Indiana Jones trilogy. The film opens with the young Indy and we discover more  about him. Then, in 1938 we rejoin him as he begins his quest for the Holy Grail. He is introduced to an avid artifact collector named Donovan who then tells him his father Henry Jones Sr. has vanished. Indy winds up with his father’s diary and then heads to Venice where he meets a beautiful Austrian colleague of his father. Indy uses the clues and his knowledge to advance the search. However, all too soon he realizes his father is in trouble and the Nazis are behind it. After a twist the Joneses get away and continue to Berlin. however, their foes are already headed for the Grail. Indy is once again put in a difficult place as he is forced to evade the traps on his way to the very dangerous artifact. This film has a lot of great moments full of action and great dialogue. Ford and Connery play well off each other and we are also given a bit of an origin story for Indy.

4/5 Stars