He was the first in the official film series and arguably one of the best. He’s my personal favourite, despite a couple of iffy movies and some questionable ethics. He’s cool, he’s suave and he packs a mean 60’s karate chop move. It’s Sean Connery!
Dr. No (1962)
Starting off a film series was never going to be easy, but ‘Dr. No’ does a pretty great job of setting up the James Bond franchise with a solid first outing. Sean Connery is Bond. He’s capable, he’s charming, he’s good looking and dangerous. He’s the best! He heads to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of an agent and comes up against Dr. No himself, a megalomaniac bent on disrupting missiles. This adventure is a bit slower than most of the films that follow it. It has some long scenes where not too much is happening and is guilty of using the Bond theme a tad too much at inappropriate times.
But it is still very enjoyable. Connery is an excellent Bond, No is a great villain and Ursula Andress is a good first Bond girl as Honey Ryder. The action is a little slow and unimaginative but then, this is the first James Bond film in what was intended to be a franchise and it was the early 60’s. It deviates from the book a little, but in good ways. Bernard Lee is great as M, Lois Maxwell is fantastic as the best Moneypenny and Quarrel is one of Bond’s best buddies. Plus the Bond theme itself is incredible and, though used too much here, is definitely worth the airtime. All in all, it’s a good first film for the series, but is by no means the strongest.
JACK’S SCORE: 3/5
From Russia with Love (1963)
Now this is a Bond film! Following the book fairly closely, this film sees Bond being set up by SPECTRE, who plan to kill him to attack MI6. It’s a fairly simple idea but there are a few twists and turns in the story that make it rather complex and interesting. Desmond Llewelyn makes his first appearance as Q, but one great addition that doesn’t stick around is Robert Shaw as the evil Red Grant. The first proper Bond henchman and one of the best. He’s a great villain. He’s smart, dangerous and basically 007’s opposite number. He’s really great and still up there in the charts to this day.
Tatiana is a good Bond girl, Kerim Bey is a great sidekick character and Rosa Klebb is a menacing villain. The action is great, the train fight is one of the best, the story is awesome. Everything in this film is the best. This is easily one of the best Bond films of all time. Everything about it is so perfect. Even the them song by Matt Monroe is a brilliant song. It all just works so well.
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5
The two that preceded this were paced differently and the stories unfolded in peculiar ways, but this one really set the template for every Bond film that would follow. Bond gets his mission, gets some gadgets and goes on an adventure. It’s a bit lighter in tone and really emphasises the campy fun that these films would come to embrace. This time, Bond is on the trail of Auric Goldfinger, who has a plan to steal all the gold in Fort Knox. Aiding him is his henchman Oddjob, who really kicked off the trend of a henchman with a gimmick (bowler hat death frisbee anyone?!), and Pussy Galore, a strong character who soon succumbs to 60’s sexism troubles. It’s a shame that this film features the really weird and dodgy, ‘kind of rape’ scene. It’s the worst part of the film as it really ruins Pussy’s character.
However, apart from that, the film is pretty great. It cements the Bond formula and introduces some cool elements that will be used further down the line. And who can forget the Aston Martin DB5?! One of the nicest cars ever made. There’s a lot to love in this film, from the one liners to the great villains, the cold open scene to the ending. The action scenes to one of the best Bond themes ever produced, sung by Shirley Basset. Everything is really really enjoyable and fun.
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5
Things take a bit of a dip here as Bond comes up against SPECTRE once again. This time though there’s a jetpack which not only looks terrible and makes no sense, but it just seems like a real extreme direction to take the gadgets straight away. Especially as it comes right after Bond fights a man dressed as a woman. But this movie is a bit weird. It’s not bad as such, it’s just a bit long and very slow. The plot sees SPECTRE man Largo stealing nuclear weapons to hold the world to ransom. It’s an okay plot but it just unfolds at such a slow pace that the film seems kind of boring at times.
It does have some good action scenes though, in particular a massive underwater battle sequence which plays out at a slow underwater speed and features some great choreography and music. Plus there’s also the power ballad of a theme song by Tom Jones. There is some good stuff in here, it’s just not as good as those that come before and after it. Connery is still great, and seeing him literally escape a shark in one scene is pretty impressive. But overall the film could just do with a bit of a harsh edit to chop it down a bit and give it a brisker pace. Enjoyable, but a bit of a slog.
JACK’S SCORE: 3/5
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Here he is people: Ernst Stavro Blofeld! Bond’s biggest nemesis is here finally, played brilliantly by Donald Pleasance. He’s the ultimate villain. His lair is in a volcano and he is stealing spaceships to start a war between America and Russia. It’s overt he top, it’s crazy but it’s a whole heap of fun! This film goes all out. The climactic battle scene where an army of ninja with guns storm a volcano filled with bad guys protecting a space rocket is the craziest thing ever and yet it’s so awesome. From the opening scene where Bond is supposedly killed to Nancy Sinatra’s beautiful theme, this film is a great story which sees Bond going undercover in Japan.
Yes, there’s a weird bit where Bond gets a makeover to look Asian, but then there’s an epic sequence where Bond is chased over rooftops by a gang of baddies filmed from a helicopter. It might not be the most gracefully done film, but it throws everything out there and makes for a very big, fun action film. A worthy introduction for Bond’s biggest bad guy and a suitably big fifth entry into the franchise. You can kind of tell Connery is getting a little tired of the franchise but he is still a very great Bond. There’s some really fun stuff in this big bonanza of a movie and it’s really great.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
After Lazenby left, the studio brought Connery back. He may only be a few years older but the times have changed and this movie shows it. Old Connery is back, but not to his best. This film is probably his most campy and silly, seeing him travel to America to foil a plot by Blofeld to make a giant space laser out of stolen diamonds. Yeah… It’s mental. But because it is all so ridiculously silly, it’s actually quite fun. The cold open pretty much wraps up what happened in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘ straight away, getting rid of the darkness and replacing it with jokes and one liners that are actually really funny. But maybe that’s because they’re so silly.
The action is mostly decent. There’s a good car chase and a big climax battle scene. There’s gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd who are so strange and weird and yet they work really well. Jill St. John as Bond girl Tiffany Case is a bit annoying, but she serves her purpose in the film. Charles Gray is Blofeld this time round and, while not as good as the two who came before him, he is still a very capable villain and is still quite menacing. It is a ridiculous movie and perhaps not really a fitting end to Connery’s official run as the super spy, but it’s a guilty pleasure movie for me. One that I can just stick on and watch and enjoy. I can have a laugh and also enjoy the action. It might not be the best, but I still love it!
JACK’S SCORE: 3/5