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Anorak | Shaken Not Stirred: Five Great Character Moments in the Roger Moore James Bond Era

Shaken Not Stirred: Five Great Character Moments in the Roger Moore James Bond Era

by | 28th, February 2014

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I VERY happily grew up with Sir Roger Moore in the role of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and thus maintain a deep well of affection and nostalgia for his seven films…even if some Bond fans do not

Moore’s epoch as Agent 007 isn’t usually considered the most creatively fertile time in the franchise’s history, in part because the Bond films of the day pursued “hot” movie trends instead of initiating them, as had been the case in the 1960s.

To wit, the Bond movies of the Moore era attempted to jump on the bandwagon of Blaxploitation cinema (Live and Let Die [1973]), martial arts/Kung-Fu films ( The Man with the Golden Gun [1974]), and even the Star Wars craze ( Moonraker [1979]).

Despite the fact that Bond films of this time period seem desperate to pinpoint some any pop culture relevance, the Roger Moore efforts nonetheless boast some surprising character moments that could have been ripped straight from the novels…and Fleming’s literary descriptions of the character.

For instance, at least two films of the Roger Moore era (The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only ) make explicit mention of the character’s tragic history namely his dead wife, Tracy a background that the last Connery film, Diamonds are Forever (1971) totally ignored.

 

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Although it is undeniable that some James Bond films of the Roger Moore indeed tread heavily into unfortunate slapstick comedy (see: the pigeon doing a double-take at a gondola-turned-hovercraft in Moonraker ), the actor’s finest moments in the famous role arrive not when he is called upon to play scenes broadly or cheekily, but rather when he is tasked with expressing Bond’s humanity.

Some of these “human” moments are small, even throwaway ones, but each one reminds the audience that 007 is not just a superhuman quipster in a white-dinner jacket.  He’s still a man who bleeds, sweats, and struggles.

In chronological order then, here are five character moments from the James Bond Era of Roger Moore:

 

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From The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Bond talks to agent Triple XXX (Barbara Bach) about the fact that he murdered her lover.

The Spy Who Loved Me sees British and Russian intelligence join up to solve the mystery of several missing nuclear submarines. Britain’s finest, Bond, and Russia’s XXX join forces, and trace the missing subs back to a man named Stromberg (Curt Jurgen).

In a scene set in Sardinia, where Stromberg is headquartered, XXX confronts Bond about the fact that he may have murdered her lover three weeks earlier, on an unconnected assignment.

Bond turns away from XXX (and the audience), before he answers her accusation.  Finally, he tells her that it’s hard to know who you kill when you’re racing on skis at 40 miles an hour…but yes, he did kill her lover.  At this point, she informs Bond that after their mission is done, she will murder him.

This scene reminds the audience both of the constant danger in Bond’s profession, and its emotional toll upon him. Moore doesn’t rush the scene, or play it lightly. Instead, he takes his time with Bond’s response, giving us time to wonder how Bond will answer.  It’s a balancing act for 007, because if he tells XXX the truth, their mission together will be imperiled.  But he also feels he owes her the truth…so he gives it to her.

Bond’s sense of duty and moral code is on display in this scene, and Moore gets that aspect of the character absolutely right.

The longer that Bond is in the business of killing people, the more bodies will pile up, and the more angry spouses or family members he will be forced to confront. From this scene, we understand very clearly how Bond’s profession separates him from other people, even from other people in the spy business.

 

 

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From Moonraker (1979): A rattled Bond — nearly pulped in a sabotage training centrifuge — pushes away Dr. Holly Goodhead (Loise Chiles) as she tries to help him.

This is an almost throwaway moment, but it occurs early in the 1979 film. Bond is visiting the complex of industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), and Drax has secretly ordered that some harm come to him on a tour of the facility.

Dr. Holly Goodhead secretly a CIA agent convinces Bond to try out a training centrifuge, but then steps away, unwittingly leaving the villainous henchman Chang (Toshira Suga) to sabotage the machinery, and nearly kill Bond.

An apologetic Goodhead returns after Bond has disabled the deadly machine, and worriedly asks 007 what happened.

Instead of answering, he staggers out of the centrifuge, pushes her aside roughly, and is clearly pissed.

He doesn’t want to talk.

He doesn’t want to relate.

He’s angry , and this moment reveals that Moore’s Bond isn’t always suave or slick, or on the make.  This is one of the few times in the Moore films that we see Bond genuinely ruffled, and knocked off-kilter.

In this moment, audiences see a hurt and angry Bond, one who momentarily rejects civility and who hasn’t yet restored his façade of charm.

It’s a telling if brief moment for the character. The ever-present mask of composure falls away.

 

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From Moonraker (1979): Bond saves 100,000 people from nerve gas…without quipping.

At the end of Moonraker, Bond and Goodhead board a space shuttle, Moonraker 5, and attempt to destroy three globes in Earth orbit.

If these globes re-enter the atmosphere, they’ll spew toxic nerve gas across whole continents.  Bond destroys two without breaking a sweat, but can’t draw a bead on the third and final canister.  He must switch to “manual” control to target it when things get rough.

Meanwhile,

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Posted: 28th, February 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts Comments (6) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink