Film: Screen life

Get an evil mastermind who cannot do the simplest task, like killing someone. `We're not going to actually watch them die, we're going to shut the door and just assume everything goes as planned.'

"I'm going to place them in an easily escapable situation, involving an over-elaborate and exotic death," says Dr Evil of his secret agent quarry in the 007 spoof Austin Powers. Take the mickey out of James Bond? Get an evil mastermind who cannot do the simplest task, like killing someone. "We're not going to actually watch them die, we're going to shut the door and just assume everything goes as planned."

Our hero must go free for future adventures. So it goes in Austin Powers, Matt Helm, Our Man Flint, Simon Templar...

Wouldn't that leave a mark?

The good news is that Bond beds, bonks, bullets, blasts and bullshits just enough through this pounds 65m production to prove he's still the man men want to be, the one that women want to love despite the fact that he has to wear condoms and can hardly find enough evil these days to justify a movie. Thank heavens for Murdoch.

Without him, Jonathan Pryce may have had electric cattle prods for hands or something to lend him that exotic, erotic yet evil edge. As it is, he's a power-mad media mogul, which is creepy enough.

Alas, the Bond "franchise" now needs help from Visa, Smirnoff, Ericsson, BMW, Heineken, Omega and Avis to keep the production British. That's a far cry from the days when an unknown actor called Sean Connery - an ex- body builder who moved like a panther across the parking lot - got $15,000 to star in a little film called Dr No.

It could be so much worse. Tomorrow Never Dies, with its troubled script, bad set reports, and ballooning budget, promised to be a heap of old cobblers. As I saw on this week, Tomorrow Never Dies could be the best Bond yet. And I was weaned on Goldfinger.

(For Bond news - plus screensavers, clips, sounds and, yes, the obligatory mugs, T-shirts and business card cases, call up these excellent websites: www.mcs.net/klast/www/bond/html; www.Ianfleming.org/; www.universalexport.net/).

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