Best Bond girl
Ursula Andress, Dr. No
By John Walsh
The most convincingly smart was Lois Chiles in Moonraker playing Dr Holly Goodhead, the NASA astrophysicist working for the CIA (the Women’s Movement was very strong in 1979) who greets Roger Moore’s crass enquiry, “You’re Dr Goodhead? A woman?” with the words, “Your powers of observation do you credit, Mr Bond”. And the least convincingly smart was Denise Richards as the bomb-disposing nuclear chemist (yeah, right) Dr Christmas Jones in The World is Not Enough.
The toughest bunny was the Hong Kong martial arts veteran Michelle Yeoh chop-socking her way into the boys’ hearts in Tomorrow Never Dies, although an earlier generation of boys never got over the judo style and the insouciance of Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. On the subject of resonant dames, the most ridiculous was probably Xenia Onatopp played by Famke Janssen in GoldenEye, the girl who killed people by crushing them between her thighs. The best actress was undoubtedly Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, bringing a real pathos to her role as Tracy di Vicenzo, a Mafia heiress who marries James Bond but is killed shortly afterwards.
How one could go on and on about the Bond Girls. An average of four per film, they represented a showcase of global female sexuality and resourcefulness over the years, from Dr. No in 1962 to Skyfall in 2012. But who was the best?
Fans of Casino Royale will swear that Eva Green, the slender Parisienne who plays Vesper Lynd, is the best Bond girl ever, and they have a point. She’s cool, sexy, intelligent, flirtatiously appraising and a real person. But for me there’s something too angular about Vesper/Eva – the hair too sculpted, the eyes too mean, the Franglais voice too deliberate – to make her the perfect Bond babe.
No – neither she nor any other can eclipse the memory of Ursula Andress, as Honeychile Ryder in Dr. No, emerging from the sea in a white bikini, holding two conch shells and singing Under the Mango Tree. Yes, her Swiss voice was dubbed, and yes it’s crass to be enthralled by a swimming costume, but she was astounding. Andress’s lean and dazzling beauty, the goddess tilt of her chin, her caramel limbs, her honey-blonde hair, the knife in her bikini belt, the way she looked in a chap’s white shirt. She exploded all received British ideas of what glamour might look like in 1962; she ushered in the modern world of colour, glamour and rock’n’roll, just as much as did David Bailey or the Beatles. She remains the mother of all the Bond belles.
Best Bond villain
Ernst Stavro Blofeld, You Only Live Twice
By Tim Moore
“Goodbye, Mr Bond.”
A top-drawer Bond baddy needs an unsettling disfigurement: Dr. No’s iron hand and the Sabatier-sponsored dentures of Jaws cut the mustard, but Scaramanga’s third nipple falls sadly short. His mission must be defined by boundless megalomania – it’s surprising to recall the drug deals and prosaic acts of industrial sabotage that have occupied so many.
Crucially, he must have done battle with a properly hard Bond, which I’m afraid rules out all those thwarted by the safari-suited, bald-chested Roger Moore. By a process of elimination – pay attention, 007 – we have arrived at Bond’s ultimate nemesis. The name’s Blofeld. Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Well-dressed, softly spoken and murderously psychotic, Blofeld stands above his Bond-despatched rivals as the one who always gets away at the end.
Old Ernst’s celluloid career was rather slow off the mark – in his first two Bond films, the SPECTRE boss was just a lap with a cat in it. We had to wait until 1967’s You Only Live Twice for Donald Pleasence to put a face to those feline-fondling fingers. But what a face it was: entirely hairless and cleaved in two by a hideous scar, together suggestive of a very literal fight with a lawnmower.
With his breathy, quavering intonation, faint smile and mad eye, the Pleasence Blofeld was a masterclass in pure evil – it’s not often you see Sean Connery recoil. That volcanic crater was the definitive super-villain’s hideaway, and its owner’s aim a refreshingly simple wish to precipitate a nuclear holocaust and inherit whatever remained.
All Bond villains are big on internal discipline, but none downsized their workforce with more imaginative relish: Blofeld’s winsome number 11 gets fed to the piranhas without so much as a written warning. Like all Bond baddies he had a weakness for pre-execution soliloquies when common sense cried out for a quick shot in 007’s temple, yet he was also capable of a brutal economy with words – his rendition of “Kill Bond now!” remains a classic.
In short, here was a man you could truly imagine building up a huge multinational organisation whose acronym codified revenge as a corporate goal.
Best chase scene
On-foot chase, Casino Royale
By David Gritten
My favourite Bond scene is not about a car, a girl or even a gun. It’s in one of the newest 007 films, Casino Royale, in Daniel Craig, during a breathtaking free-running sequence, literally runs up a crane while chasing a villain. Forget the lack of logic: the scene announces Craig as a Bond of whom Ian Fleming would have approved. He’s a man’s man, fearsomely fit, faintly brutish and able to look after himself. After Roger Moore’s jokey double entendres and Pierce Brosnan’s every-hair-in-place suavity, what a relief: Craig is the first watchable 007 since Sean Connery.
Best Bond theme tune
Shirley Bassey, Diamonds Are Forever
By Mark Ellen
The jewel in the Bond theme crown has to be this monumental showcase by the leather-lunged shouter from the Valleys.
It’s suitably cool and just a little steely, a chilling hymn to the durability of diamonds that keeps flashing back in the soundtrack to fuel the manic thrust of the whole movie – arch-crooks maddened in their violent attempts to acquire these glittering, seductive prizes.
From the mines of South Africa to the casinos of Las Vegas and, eventually, to a rocket site in the Nevada desert, the pre-wig Sean Connery treads boldly in his slacks and open-toed sandals, battling a vast special effects budget and, inevitably, hooking up with some big-haired bikini-fillers with names like Tiffany Case and Plenty O’Toole.
I was a teenager in 1971 when the film was released and I remember being genuinely shocked by the lyrics of the song. Could there really be women this bruised by love in the big bad world that they had turned so coldly philosophical?
“Diamonds are forever,” Bassey maintains, as the strings begin to swirl, “sparkling round my little finger. Unlike men, the diamonds linger...” More strings plus a burst of brass. “I don’t need love,” she declares, “for what good will love do me? Diamonds never lie to me. For when love’s gone, they’ll lustre on.” And just as you’re recovering from the only living use of the word “lustre” as a verb, she clambers to her sour and wounded conclusion – that “men are mere mortals who are not worth going to your grave for”.
This mountainous Bassey theme tune, written by that wizard Bond score regular John Barry, was about something deeper and infinitely more menacing than the gun-waving struggles of its male stars: it was about the corrupting effect of the self-same rocks on womankind.
You can still see Bassey perform it – in her black, spangly dress – on various clips on YouTube: knowing, controlling, chandelier-shattering – and, frankly, immortal.
Best Bond car
Scaramanga’s flying car,The Man with the Golden Gun
By Boris Johnson
It must be tough to be a Bond movie producer. We’ve seen our hero escape from so many predicaments. We’ve seen him fire the ignition of so many extraordinary vehicles. I can imagine the boys at Eon Films are starting to run low on ideas.
We’ve had the car that thinks it’s a bicycle – I am thinking of that red Mustang that does the longest ever two-wheeled screech down an alley in Live and Let Die. We’ve had the car that thinks it’s a submarine – the Lotus that suddenly drives off a beach in The Spy Who Loved Me.
But of all the revelations in the Bond films, perhaps the most sublime was the moment when Pistols Scaramanga and his chortling little side-kick Nick Nack drove into an old garage somewhere in the Caribbean. There was some whining and chuntering, and I will never forget the expression of childish triumph on the face of Nick Nack as it was revealed that the old caramel-coloured AMC Matador had acquired wings and a tail-fin, and soon he and his master were in the air, with a terrified Britt Ekland banging away helplessly in the boot.
Ever since I have dreamt of a car that could fly, and that is why I was so excited the other day to read that someone has invented that very thing, and is proposing to sell it in showrooms. Then I discovered that someone else has actually patented a submarine car! It goes as deep as 10 metres, and is available to the likes of you and me. It is clear that where Bond goes, the market eventually follows.
That’s why I have a brilliant suggestion for Q, or whoever it is who designs Bond’s cars. It is now more than three-quarters of a century since the creation of the original Bentley convertible imagined by Ian Fleming, and it is no longer possible to have an entirely guilt-free journey while propelled by a massive carbon-emitting internal combustion engine. That’s why it is time for the next breakthrough, more exciting than the speedboat, the DB9, the Moonbuggy, the Space Shuttle. My challenge to Q is to make another Scaramanga car – a car that sprouts wings. But this time let’s show that it runs on grape must, or hydrogen. Q, old friend, it’s time for a James Bond car-plane that’s carbon-neutral, and that takes the guilt out of driving and flying at once. Unveil that to a 21st-century audience, and I guarantee you the biggest cheer of the night.
Best Bond love scene
James Bond and Vivienne Michel, The Spy Who Loved Me
By Rowan Pelling
When I was thirteen (1971, since you ask) I discovered a rich seam of adventure on my parents’ bookshelves that neatly bridged the thrilling world of children’s storytelling and the exotic promise of adult literature.
I refer to the Bond books. Not only were they riproaring reads, they were heady with illicit sexual overtones. James could be slapdash with his women’s affections, but even hardened lesbians, such as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, eventually succumbed to our hero’s all too evident charms. For any girl whose literary sexual preferences had been shaped by charismatic, brooding Mr Rochester, ruthless, scarred Bond was a no-brainer.
The movie incarnations of Bond were inevitably something of a disappointment after the books. No amount of eyebrow-raising could ever convince me that dapper Roger Moore was a trained killer; his clinches were the act of a smooth Rolls-Royce salesman. George Lazenby and Pierce Brosnan were lounge lizards, while Timothy Dalton – although undeniably gorgeous – looked as though he’d be happier back at the RSC.
Sean Connery, on the other hand, had ample swaggering machismo to make women swoon. But the film censor’s delicate scruples kept the movies cleaner than the books. We may celebrate Ursula Andress in her iconic white bikini in Dr. No but it’s worth remembering that in Fleming’s novel, Honeychile Ryder wades to the beach wearing nothing but her knife-belt. Audiences had to wait for Daniel Craig’s lean, mean, raw sexual magnetism in Casino Royale’s shower scene with Eva Green to truly feel ravished.
While all Bond books and films have their racy elements, there’s no doubt in my mind which example of the oeuvre left its devotees most aroused: the original novel version of The Spy Who Loved Me. The book is quite unlike Fleming’s other 007 stories in that it’s a first-person narrative by a young woman, the Canadian brunette, Vivienne Michel. Writing as a woman brought out the kinky, perverse side of Fleming and the book caused a minor scandal on its publication in 1962 because of its eroticism.
Vivienne’s narrative recalls her first two highly unsatisfactory love affairs, but, when we meet her, she has a temporary position on reception at the Dreamy Pines Motor Court – a down-at-heel motel in the Adirondacks, New York State. She’s alone, closing down the motel for winter, when two violent hoodlums turn up in a storm.
Happily, Vivienne’s luck changes when 007 has a puncture en route from a clean-up operation in Toronto back to Blighty. After a series of scenes of eroticised violence, Bond saves the girl and claims his due reward in her arms.
But clearly the Grand Guignol sensibility has gone to Viv’s head. After Bond has ravished her she confesses to the reader: “There might be many consequences for me – not the least that I might now be dissatisfied with other men.” There were certainly consequences for this impressionable girl.
I am scarred for life.
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