To: Albert Cubby Broccoli Producer of: 'Goldeneye' From: Admiral Sir Miles Messervy RN (Retd) Ref: Cdr. James Bond (007)
Saturday 18 November 1995
As with many other artifacts of British popular culture (Dr Who, Beatles LPs, political sex scandals, fab gear), the James Bond film reached its evolutionary high point in the mid-1960s, and attempts to prolong its commercial life beyond this date should be viewed with scepticism. Let's face it, Cubs, none of us is getting any younger: post-imperial malaise, post-Cold War drabness and the deadening hand of John Major have rendered all revivals of Britain's past glories at best camp and at worse dire embarrassments.
Points That Should Be Considered Before Undertaking Further Missions on the Pattern of Goldeneye:
1: To start with the obvious, no Bond film worth its Double-O rating should star anyone but Sean Connery circa 1963. While Mr Brosnan certainly fails to plumb the depths of Messrs Lazenby, Niven and Moore, he isn't exactly on a level with Timothy Dalton, let alone vintage Big Tam. To be fair, Sean Connery circa anytime between You Only Live Twice and Never Say Never Again suffers from exactly the same inability to compete with his younger self that has so hobbled his successors, all of whom - as is sadly evident in chase scenes - run like girls. If further missions are to ensue, Mr Brosnan will need to return to GCHQ for a refresher course in surveillance technique, to RADA for a top-up in eyebrow-raising and off-the-cuff quipping and to Savile Row for instruction in the wearing of fine clothes.
2: Opening credits. Mr Brosnan is certainly up to the demands of posing with a gun in a blood-filled iris, and it gives me pleasure to commend the title sequence of Goldeneye as exactly the mix of Pop-art surrealism and naked lady silhouettes that made these pre-video-clip illustrated songs such an essential part of the sexual education of Sixties schoolboys. However, in the absence of Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner and this Bono fellah just won't do. The art of selecting a performer to belt out the Bond title song is to find someone who perfectly encapsulates the tastes of the exact month the film is released but seems unutterably naff and passe by the time it makes its cable TV debut: sterling examples are Matt Monro, Nancy Sinatra, Wings, Sheena Easton, Rita Coolidge, Duran Duran and, of course, a-ha. Miss Turner, it seems, is quite likely still to have a career when Goldeneye makes its network TV debut, which lets down the side more than a tad.
3: Bond Girls. It's probably harping on a lost cause in these times of political correctness, but, to my aged tastes, there simply aren't enough bikini-clad lovelies draped around the sets of the latest Bond. If I haven't missed something, Bond only actually has explicit sex with the heroine, which is fairly feeble compared with the bedpost-notching even the early Roger Moore managed. And no, Judi Dench does not count, any more than Lotte Lenya did.
Izabella Scorupco and Famke Janssen, however, are vintage stuff: equipped with real names almost as silly as their screen cognomens, they emerge from the requisite international obscurity and seem to bid fair to prove a match in their fleeting kisses of fame with Ursula Andress, Daniela Bianchi, Claudine Auger, Mie Hama, Barbara Bach, Lois Chiles, Maud Adams, Tanya Roberts and Talisa Soto. Ms Janssen, however, shows a deal too much acting ability and humour: it would be a shame if she were to break the mould by being the only Bond girl to capitalise on her debut and go on to do other notable work. Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg don't count, because they were successful Avengers before their Bond outings, and don't mention Jane Seymour or Britt Ekland.
If there is an element of Goldeneye that can be reckoned entirely satisfactory it is the aforementioned Ms Janssen's showing in the traditional role of Villain's Girlfriend, previously taken by the ladies fed to piranhas or dogs in You Only Live Twice and Moonraker, but also taking on sterling additional duties with her thigh-crushing assassinations, which qualify her for the equally traditional part of Villain's Gimmick Sidekick, as represented by Oddjob from Goldfinger or Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. The jury is still out on whether Xenia Onatopp is an exotic enough character- babe name in the Fleming mould (Pussy Galore, Honey Rider), or merely silly, prompting more titters than purrs.
4: The Villain. It is here that Goldeneye is most sorely lacking. Though he has a megalomaniacal scheme to make a huge profit while reducing the industrial world to anarchy, and a personal grudge against 007, Sean Bean's Janus just isn't up there with the likes of Dr No, Auric Goldfinger or Ernst Blofeld. For one thing, he is too spartan in his personal tastes: how can we make a spendthrift Martini-swiller in a posh car seem sympathetic unless he is up against a multi-zillionaire ostentatious enough to hollow out a volcano, paint Shirley Eaton with real gold, own a famously stolen real painting or keep a nuclear reactor in the garden. Plus, that lightly corrugated scar isn't deformity enough to compete with Joseph Wiseman's metal hands or Donald Pleasence's bald bonce.
5: Other Features. It is our pleasure to commend you for taking care to include a baccarat session at Monte Carlo; some mild flirting with Miss Moneypenny; the correct recipe for a vodka Martini; a chase involving an Aston Martin; a comedy scene with doddery old Desmond Llewellyn saying, "Now, look here 007" as extras self-destruct in the background; experimental gadgets which just happen to be specifically useful in a tight spot; and an underground secret base which can be spectacularly blown up for the big finish. Indeed, if it weren't for a decided shortage in the bikini- extra department, this might almost be a perfect simulation of the old Bond (Brosnan excepted).
6: Topicality. Let's face it, Cubby, all this attempt to keep up with the post-Cold War world is a bit embarrassing. And didn't you do it in The Spy Who Loved Me, with its KGB heroine, if not in From Russia with Love. Bond's expense account lifestyle seems out of place in the cutback- driven 1990s - the silliest moment in Goldeneye comes when Judi Dench has to get approval for Bond's mission from a Prime Minister we have to assume is drab old ditherer John Major, though Major would actually be too intimidated by a stern lady like Dame Judi to put up any resistance, and most of the rest of the Michaels in his cabinet have been auditioning for the role of Bond villain for years. However, considering 007 first spied for England in the austere 1950s, when rationing and carbolic were the order of the day, he could hardly be accused of ever being in touch with reality.
In conclusion, I should have to think most carefully before recommending a renewal of your Double-O license. There will certainly have to be a greater effort in the procurement of swimwear models and dastardly foreigners and it would do your cause no harm at all to pop back to 1963 in a Tardis and regenerate Sean Connery.
I remain very faithfully yours,
Signed in his absence by KIM NEWMAN
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant