Ditch the nostalgia for old 007. He’s gone, and so is his Great Britain

Our standards are higher now, we like fast car chases and gritty realism

Share

There’s a certain type of British humour that is almost exclusively of its time. You find it in Monty Python (You must now cut down the tallest tree in the forest... with... A HERRING!), you find it in Fawlty Towers (Don’t mention the war!), and you find it in the old James Bond films. It’s still sort of funny now in a kitsch, nostalgic way, but only because it reminds you of a simpler time - a time when kippers were hilarious, goose-stepping was an icebreaker, and a little sexism never hurt anyone. If someone came up with those jokes today, though, we’d all find it rather embarrassing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s one man who doesn’t like this turn of events, at all. And in a recent Radio Times interview, John Cleese made his feelings very clear:

“I did two James Bond movies, and then I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humourless”, he said, grimly.

“Also the big money was coming from Asia… where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw. The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.”

Ah yes. The traditional James Bond film is all about subtlety. You just don’t get characters like Pussy Galore, Xenia Onnatop or Plenty O’Toole anymore - and the reason is that the references go straight over audience heads.

Don’t get me wrong - I like the cheerful surrealism of the old Bond films. I like the bizarre, baroque sequences. That bit where Bond escapes from an alligator pit by using the alligators themselves as stepping stones. That moment in Live and Let Die where Bond forces the bad guy to eat an air capsule and therefore explode (he always did have an inflated opinion of himself), or when a hearse explodes (I think they were on their way to a funeral), or when someone gets harpooned (I think he got the point), or when a villain dies by snowblower (he had a lot of guts), or when Bond wrestles off a boa constrictor (it had a crush on me).

The villains were great, too. Rosa Klebb, poisoning victims with her clogs, Jaws, the metal mouthed monster who finds love in the end, Blofeld with his eerie emerald green contact lenses.

The trouble is, I like all these things as they are - safely in the past. You can’t reheat 70s Bond films now without producing Austin Powers. And forget the differences between the Asian and British markets - audiences simply expect more everywhere.

Our standards are higher. We like fast car chases and gritty realism and high definition fights that last for ages. And we’d take it over two hours of lacquered camp, no matter how many jokes about tea and references to some people being posher than others are in it. The new Bond films are funny, too - funny in a subtle, clever way, which plays much better with today’s audiences.

But this is just what nostalgics like Cleese fails to understand. Even British humour moves on. Even patriotism can be modern (just look at the plethora of Union Jacks in Skyfall). The truth is, Bond in his 60s heyday was already looking back - wryly - at a post-imperial age. A time when the world was run by middle-aged men sipping martinis. But that’s too far gone now. We need new points of reference. Prefer 007 as he was? Buy a box-set.

 

A dating service for clever people I’m not minded to join

So it looks like Mensa have set up a dating site. Sounds like a pretty good idea, in a way. If you’re clever (and you have to be, the site only lets you join if your IQ in in the 98th percentile) - you’ll probably want to date other clever people. But I think I’ve spotted a flaw.

The site selects for intelligence, yes, but it also selects for the sort of person who thinks they’re intelligent, indeed the sort of person who has invested time proving it and joining a club in which it will be constantly affirmed. The sort of person who will meet you at the British Museum for a first date and expect a long conversation about etruscan vases.

Then again, if you’re in Mensa, that’s probably what you want. As Dr Helen Fisher, Match.com’s scientific adviser wrote: “if you’re proud of being in Mensa, if someone (else) is also proud of being in Mensa, then you’re already in the same clan”. Quentin Tarantino is in the clan. Steve Martin is in the clan. Perhaps, on balance, it would be wise to stay out of the clan.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A rare shot of Clegg taking a stand on Cameron's right  

David Cameron might prefer another Lib Dem coalition after all

Andrew Grice
Imagine...  

Imagine... it’s 2014 and the drums of war are beating again

Boyd Tonkin
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices