Can I persuade Mel there’s more to Bond than Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang?
Bond is at Colonel Jacques Bouvar’s funeral, lamenting that he wasn’t able to kill the SPECTRE man himself, to avenge his fallen comrades. His French liaison, Mademoiselle La Porte, asks, “Is there anything else our French station can do for Monsieur Bond?” To which Bond looks at her approvingly and replies, “Later, perhaps.”
Mel can’t believe it; “He’s at a funeral! Even talking about his dead colleagues his mind isn’t far from his next squeeze.”
I thought Mel would have a problem with Bond punching a widow full in the face because she opened her own car door, and therefore must be man in disguise. I always wondered what would have happened if she’d just been a fiercely independent feminist, but she just shrugs when I bring it up.
As 007 escapes from the roof on his jet-pack: “What the —- is that?! That’s ridiculous. Where did he get that from?”
He makes it to his Aston Martin DB5 and fires water jets at the pursuing henchmen.
“The French getting the water cannon again!”
The credits start up and I can tell Mel is thoroughly entertained by my Tom Jones impression, as she is each week when The Voice is on.
We find Bond convalescing at Shrublands health clinic, and Mel admires his elasticated towel, “I’d like one of those.”
When he breaks into Count Lippe’s room, Mel observes, “They look like the tulips he threw over that dead person [Colonel Bouvar].” As a bandaged-face figure opens the door, Mel gasps, “It IS that dead person!” It’s a fair assumption, and actually a plot we’ll actually see later in Die Another Day. I tell her that it’s Count Lippe.
Bond grabs Shrublands nurse Patricia Fearing while she’s examining him and tries to kiss her.
“Is she just doing her job? He’s just sexually assaulted that woman in her workplace! That is awful. It annoys me that you like this; it makes me not want to marry you.”
She puts our hero on ‘the rack’ for her own safety, and shortly Lippe sneaks in and turns up the speed to dangerous levels.
Mel laughs out loud, “That looks really rude!”
“Whoever directed this needs mental help… The phallic imagery of the mechanism going in and out!”
Patricia is worried she’ll lose her job because of Bond’s ordeal on the rack while under her care. Rather than reassure her, he suggests that his “silence could be bought… for a price,” and pulls her into the steam room.
Mel is a newly-qualified lawyer, and during her training did a stint in litigation. “Words can’t even describe how ridiculous this is! Imagine if we did that in Personal Injury: a client comes in and says, ‘I can’t walk for three years,’ and we say, ‘Well, we’ll just get you some sex with the person that did it to you.’ Medical negligence claims could be solved by an Indecent Proposal-esque payment scheme… ‘No win, no sex!'”
She’s actually shocked when Major Derval opens his door to his exact double. “He looks exactly the same!”
Count Lippe’s car is blown up by a motorbike which fires rockets.
“They’re getting more ridiculous: jet packs, sex for personal injuries and elasticated towels. Too frivolous.”
In Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall’s The Essential Bond – The Authorised Guide to the World of 007 (Boxtree, 1998) they make a similar point, at least about the gadgetry: “If there is a negative element in the film, it is the increasing reliance on hardware and technology. Sean Connery was correct in noting that Bond was becoming less interesting as a character and falling victim to the emphasis on gadgets and stunts.”
The deadly motorcyclist removes her helmet to reveal that it’s Ms Volpe.
“He’s obviously going to sleep with her. Whenever they have a half-decent strong woman they rip it to shreds by having her undo it. I know people will think I just go on about this, but it undermines women. It’s like in the song, ‘Any woman he wants he gets.’ Women aren’t represented at all. I know it’s a bygone age, but not all women would just bow down to James Bond. All the women are subservient. Even when they stand for something at the start, it’s only a matter of time before it’s completely undone. Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale is believable. Bond is smitten first, he’s prepared to give up everything to be with her, he’s almost subservient to her. She has none of the flirtatious shit at the start, then they get together after life and emotions, not as soon as they meet. I’m proud to have a woman portrayed like that. These women just make me ashamed to be a woman.”
I just scribble all this down, smug in the knowledge that Fiona Volpe will confound Mel’s expectations.
Bond replies to Miss Moneypenny, “Was there ever a man more misunderstood?” A quote which Mel immediately recognises, as I’ve stolen it as a little bon mot to use myself. “Is this where that’s from?!” she asks. I sometimes worry she will start watching more movies, and The Simpsons, and realise I haven’t an original witticism to call my own.
We watch in silence for a while, while Bond beats Largo at the card table, then takes Domino for a drink. Mel sings, “These Girls Fall Like Dominoes…” When they start dancing she says, “Well that’s just going to piss him off, isn’t it?” She’s right, it does.
Bond meets up with his Nassau liaison, Paula. I ask if Mel recognises her. She doesn’t, so I reveal that the actress also played one of the gypsy girls in From Russia With Love. She doesn’t seem to care.
“I feel sorry for Q. He’s so nice, he’s got his pineapple shirt on, he’s loving it, showing off his gadgets and James Bond has just got to be too cool for school.”
After Bond barely escapes his recce of the Disco Volante, he hitches a ride with Fiona Volpe, asking her, “How far do you go?”
“Urrgghh,” is Mel’s response.
Afterwards Bond is developing the photographs he’s taken in a dark room. “I like his shirt. You should get one like that for our honeymoon.”
I ask Mel if she notices anything about Felix Leiter, but she doesn’t.
Bond returns to his hotel room to find Fiona in his bath. “What a surprise!”
When she asks 007 for something to cover herself, he passes her a pair of shoes.
“Love, he’s going to see it anyway.”
After Volpe has seduced Bond, I point out that she has retained her evil ways, and not fallen in love with him and turned good.
“She still shagged him. She was only there for sex, what did sleeping together actually achieve?”
I answer that Bond probably thought she could be turned to be good, that’s why she mocks him about it, like he did with Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. And for Fiona, she tried to get his gun away from him, and lull him into a false sense of security, so he could be captured. I point out that she’s still a strong woman, and hasn’t turned her back on her evil convictions, which is what Mel was criticising the movies for earlier.
“But she’s given herself to him.”
He’s given himself to her! And now she’s going to kill him.
“But James Bond has done this many times, been with women and then forgot about them; they’re dead to him.”
We don’t know what happens between Bond and Honey, Tatiana or Pussy between the films.
“He doesn’t marry them.”
He might for all we know! What do you think happens to them?
“There’s probably a halfway house full of women getting therapy. Re-hab for Bond Girls.”
After Bond and Domino have ‘frightened the fishes,’ he has to break the news of her brother’s death.
“I just had sex with you in the same water where your brother’s dead body is,” Mel paraphrases for him.
“She’s got the best figure of any of these girls in the films so far,” Mel decides.
There then follows all the long underwater sequences, and Mel apologises for not having much to say beyond, “This is a boring one.”
This is also picked up on in The Essential Bond: “The film is somewhat controversial among Bond scholars. Some feel it is too long and even director Terence Young complained that the abundance of underwater sequences slowed the pace.” I’m not sure what a Bond scholar is, but it’s a job I’d like an application form for.
While Bond and Largo wrestle aboard the Disco Volante, and the yacht careers out of control, I explain that they’ve created the illusion of great speed simply by speeding up the film. I think she might have realised this though, she just replies, “Really?” quite sarcastically.
As the film ends I ask Mel what she thought.
“It got very boring very quickly. I wanted to go to sleep.”
So you wouldn’t want to watch this story again?
Which is unfortunate.
Mel will return… Watching Casino Royale (1967)
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