|And then... there were ninjas everywhere!|
So I have a little theory. The first actor you see as James Bond tends to be the one you always associate with the role. This is especially true if you see your first James Bond film in the theaters. I’ve tested my theory a few times and it holds true for the majority of folks. There are a few wild cards out there that break convention and pick Peter Sellers as their favorite Bond even if they saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Lazenby as Bond.
Of course, whenever I talk about my crazy theory, someone always asks, who my favorite actor is playing the role of 007. I end up sputtering, and dithering and babbling for a while. But it comes down to – I like them all for different reasons. This results in people frowning and saying, “Come on Roman, pick one. Don’t cheat.” And still I rock back and forth and whimper and sob and can’t pick. I can pick a favorite film from each actor, but I just can’t pick one actor over the other. Sometimes I’m in the mood for Connery and other times only Brosnan will do.
|In the 80s even ninjas had big hair.|
This might be because my exposure to the world of James Bond came in fits and starts. Let’s go back in time for a bit. I remember staying at my grandmother’s house for some reason, maybe a family holiday or a visit. Not sure. Anyway, my grandmother loved action films, and it was the 1980s, so ninjas were all the rage (but this is pre-ninja turtles, I’m thinking early 80s here, around the era of The Octagon and Enter the Ninja). So my grandmother popped in this VHS that she swore had ninjas in it. So I’m watching this odd movie about this English guy running around hitting on ladies, watching a Sumo match, and flying in a tiny helicopter. I remember the evil bald guy and the cat, not to mention his lake with piranha in it. But I mostly remember it taking FOREVER for the ninjas to show up, and when they did the movie got pretty crazy with action. But man did it take forever to get there.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had seen my first James Bond movie: You Only Live Twice.
What I always assumed was the first James Bond movie I ever saw was A View to a Kill, good old Roger Moore’s swan song. I saw this for a friend’s birthday. We took in a Christopher Walken double feature. Yeah, I’m not sure how that worked either. Anyway, the theater was showing Brainstorm and A View to a Kill. We saw both films. What I remember most about that experience was the girls. I thought Tanya Roberts was pretty darn sexy, but found Grace Jones to be kinda freaky. I also remember all of us imitating Mr. Walken as Zoran for a couple months afterward, especially the line, “More! More power!” But I’m afraid to report that Brainstorm and its bizarre imagery made a bigger impression.
But I saw all the Bond films in the theater going forward (until Quantum of Solace which I never got around seeing until picking up the DVD). I remember seeing the Dalton films and enjoying them. But I was more into fantasy and sci-fi films at that point and didn’t fully appreciate the fantasy of the Bond universe.
|It's blast from the past, Mr. Bond!|
I gave the series a try at some point. I thought Goldfinger was the first movie (this was pre-internet, so I couldn’t look this stuff up. I was info from people who made educated guesses about the first Bond movie). I remember watching the VHS of Goldfinger and finding it odd that it included a Pink Panther cartoon with a spy theme, and a trailer for Thunderball on it. I enjoyed Goldfinger a great deal and ended up watching the next few movies. I had the oddest experience of déjà vu while watching You Only Live Twice and then remembered my grandmother’s weird “ninja movie” and made the connection. I don’t think the video store had On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, because I didn’t see that one till much later. Instead I went to Diamonds Are Forever. It stopped my exploration of the series cold, because it was so bad. Most of the folks I knew thought Mr. Moore was campy, and if they were worse than Diamonds, I was done.
Goldeneye came out in 1995, and I remember the ramp up to that movie creating a lot of excitement for the new Bond film. The video store I worked at picked up all the previous James Bond films, and on Laserdisc even! I decided to give the series another spin. This time I was armed with the store’s video guide, so I could actually start with Dr. No and make my way forward. I watched each Bond film and that was probably when the whole thing clicked. I developed an appreciation for the series and the incredible legacy of pop culture it created. It was around then that I determined which ones were my favorites, and which ones were better left unseen (Diamonds Are Forever didn’t improve with this viewing, and A View to a Kill surprised me with it’s ridiculousness, something I didn’t remember from that viewing in my youth).
I already blogged about how Goldeneye made James Bond cool again in the 1990s. But there really was a bit of spy mania in that decade, from about 1994 on. MGM fueled the whole thing with amazing releases of the James Bond series on DVD that included amazing documentaries about the films, the creators and the some of the fervor the films created when they were released. I think those DVDs were very responsible for me becoming a fan of the series.
|Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Laserdisc!|
It is because of this round about discovery of the James Bond series that I don’t really have a favorite James Bond actor. I don’t know if I count Connery, Moore, Dalton or Brosnan as the “first” James Bond I experienced, because I like all of them for different reasons, and each one of them had a movie that was part of that introduction. I didn’t see one as “the” primary actor. In a way that allows me to be more objective than some of the more hard-core fans I’ve run into who live and die by their actor. It also allows me to be curious when the change the actor and not outraged by the choice.