Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Will The Real James Bond Stand Up-Part II-Sean Connery’s “Thunderball” (1965 )-A Film Review
Will The Real James Bond Stand Up-Part II-Sean Connery’s “Thunderball” (1965 )-A Film Review
By former Senior Film Critic Sandy Salmon
[I personally do not like the new regime, under Greg Green’s steady guidance, policy of getting rid of titles which were the hallmark of the now safely departed and exiled Allan Jackson who used to run the show here. It took many years for me to get that Senior Film Critic title having come over from the American Film Gazette under the Jackson regime when former Associate Film Critic Alden Riley decided to come over on retiring Senior Film Critic Sam Lowell’s say so and I resent being thrown on the dung heap and placed with everybody else with just their names on the by-line line. For now I will use my old title in the past tense until we go back to titles or Greg make a big deal out of my moniker and tries to shut it down. Then I will go back to being an Everyman like Alden Riley and Si Lannon have mentioned elsewhere. Sandy Salmon]
Readers who have read Associate Film Critic Alden Riley’s recent review of Goldeneye posted on this site on December 5, 2017 (and on the on-line American Film Gazette the same day) the first of four films where well-known action actor Pierce Brosnan plays the legendary super-spy Ian Fleming-created Bond, James Bond know that he and I had a dispute over whether to review that film or not. I had insisted that he finish up the original James Bond part of the long running series starring Sean Connery started in the early 1960s of which I had reviewed the first three efforts. He balked saying that being significantly younger than I by a generation that he could not see Sean Connery as his idea of the Bond character and argued that he would prefer to do the Pierce Brosnan series which he felt epitomized the Bond role. Since this dispute underscored a storm which has been brewing among the writers on this site (and to a lesser extent at the on-line Progressive American and American Film Gazette respectively) I conceded the point and challenged him to a “duel” to argue in the public prints over who was the “real” James Bond-Connery or Brosnan. The other post-Connery Bonds like Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton interested neither of us so the chase was on.
[Since this concession by me to a younger writer is of some importance to the future direction of this site I should explain my view about the real deal which has produced this continual tension (something Sam Lowell, the film critic emeritus on this site and all around gadfly who while surprisingly siding with the younger writers against his old regime site manager friend has called a “tempest in a tea pot” and maybe he was right). This site (and to a lesser extent Progressive American, American Film Gazette and the American Music Annals which all of the older writers have written for at some point) had been tilted as might be expected toward the coterie of writers who came up the ranks with Jackson, a coterie of men which is a separate issue, who were formed one way or another by the turbulent 1960s. Although I have only recently taken over Sam Lowell’s position as film critic, now senior film critic with the addition of Alden and a couple of other stringers I too am of that generation and the “dispute” over the Sean Connery James Bond series with Alden has reflected both my preferences and my sense of where we should put our collective energies.
According to Sam, and the former site administrator, they saw nothing wrong with tilting toward the 1960s which they saw above all as a defining cultural, political and social moment which has been reflected even now in the long rear-guard actions to fight against what Jackson calls the night-takers. Then several years ago when Markin brought in younger writers like Alden, Zack James, Lance Lawrence, Brad Fox and a few other stringers he, and the older writers, expected somewhat rigidly and erroneously that they would “keep the ‘60s alive” for the next generation. Naturally those younger writers balked not so much about having to cover the 1960s history stuff which they knew was a key the site’s existence but that all subsequent nodal points which informed their lives were down-played if not dismissed.
It was in that content that the Connery-Brosnan fight represented a prime example of the “Old Guard” stifling (Zack James’ word) the “Young Turks.” Alden reminded me during this argument though that it had really come to a head when during an expansive, some said seemingly endless, commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, 1967 San Francisco-based explosion when Allan asked everybody to hone in on those events when taking up writing projects. I, and looking back on it, the other older writers took up the cause in a heartbeat. The younger writers with the exception of Zack James whose older brother Alex started the whole thing in 2017 and had been out there in 1967 balked for the most part.
The firestorm really came when I mentioned to Alden that I had done a review of a documentary about the first Monterey Pops Festival also in 1967 where Janis Joplin among others won their spurs in the rock pantheon and he told me that he did not know who Janis Joplin was. I let that pass but somehow Allan heard about it and in a fit of pique ordered over my head Alden to do a review of a bio-pic of Janis: Little Girl Blues. Alden did it but the past several months as I said have been a tug-of-war among those whose sensibilities were established during the 1960s and those whose sensibilities were essentially formed by the Reagan years. Two very different epochs. The net effect though is that now Alden can write about Brosnan’s James Bond and anything else he wants. Allan had decided to retire soon and had brought in Greg Green from American Film Gazette to act as administrator so a different focus should be expected.
I would like to add since Lance Lawrence of the younger writer set snidely brought something of the dispute up in a round-about way when he was doing a light commentary, posted December 5, 2017 here (and on the 6th on the on-line American Folk Gazette and Progressive American websites) on a recent book by a Harvard professor about 1960s folk king icon Bob Dylan arguing that he, Dylan, belong right up there in the Western Civilization literary pantheon with the classic lyric poet like Homer and Virgil. In his public take on this internal site storm Lance mentioned that Dylan was another one of the causes for the bad feelings among the staff since Allan had assigned him to do a review of Volume 12 of what even I consider never-ending the Dylan Bootleg series.
Lance balked after listening to the six CD set and accompanying booklets saying that it was just mishmash of bullshit and outtakes and not worthy of consideration. Allan flipped out and this too brought matters to a head. Allan after heated arguments about direction and emphasis on the site told the collective audience that he was bringing in Greg Green as acting administrator and that he planned to retire. Lance’s implication: Allan had been purged, “purged like his buddy Trotsky” is the way he put it. Yes, a vote of confidence was taken and Allan was on the short end of the stick when Sam Lowell unexpectedly considering they had grown up together sided with the “Young Turks” but he was not purged, was not in any way in put in Trotsky’s position of having to defend his place in the Russian Revolution, in the Bolshevik Party when Uncle Joe pulled the hammer down, and eventually laid down his head for his belief when all was said and done. Allan will have like Sam emeritus status and can write, or not write, whenever something interest him.]
Alden is right that in the now 20 something Bond, James Bond, films whether directly inspired by Ian Fleming’s novels or merely on the developed character that a certain familiar formula has kept the series running through several Bonds. Everybody knows that there will be plenty of high tech gadgetry provided by the ever present and resourceful Q who really should retire if he has not already, plenty of physically over-the-top action and plenty of sexy women either chasing or being chased by any actor who plays Bond. Additionally something that Alden did not pick up since he was a baby during the heyday of the big Cold War rivalry between the West, America centrally and the now long gone Soviet Union, that in the fight against the bad guys by British intelligence although they are given names like SPECTRE and Janus they are really stand-ins for the opponent bad guy countries of the moment like Russia and China.
All of this goes with the territory even though this first Pierce Brosnan Bond vehicle was not created out of Fleming’s stockpile. It most clearly in present in the early Connery films as he is something of a dashing one man avenging angel for the good guy Western values that guys like Doctor No and Gold-finger threaten. Connery uses his handsomeness, not “pretty boy” demeanor as a way to make his work easier since there is a toughness that shows whether he is in stilted work suit or casual clothes. Brosnan only brings a “pretty boy” charm and over the top, and at times unbelievable physical manifestation to the role against Connery’s dashingly handsome demeanor. Sean also plays the role with more cheek, more sense that this whole thing is just an arduous task to get through to keep the lights burning.
As to the actual plot-line of Thunderball here as Sam Lowell likes to say the short skinny since as has already been suggested about other parts of this long-running Bond series there is a certain set formula. The bastards at SPECTRE are at it again as they as per Number One are responsible for hijacking through the usual nefarious means two atomic weapons to be used as bargaining chips for a big payoff of $100 million a lot then but chicken feed now for not destroying a major city. The city turned out to be Miami which now has its own problems to confront with climate change but then was a mecca for the sun-drenched tourists and plenty of mobster and ex-pats from all over Latin America after being giving the boot from their home countries. Bond is put on the case first to find the hiding place of the two bombs and then shutting down as much of the SPECTRE operation as possible for a single avenging angel to do. Along the way he snags the inevitable beauty who turns up in his path, succumbs to his charms and helps get the bomb situation under control. I wish I could say that would be the end of the bad guys but the world and slew of future Bond movies including ‘Pretty Boy” Brosnan’s portion tell us otherwise.