This month we finally reach the end of our journey through the cinematic world of James Bond. I’ve made my wife Melissa watch every single film over the past three years, in the hope she might start to like them. We’ve both seen SPECTRE once before, when we went to the cinema together on the week of release. At the time Mel proclaimed it the best one since Casino Royale.
So I pour Mel a glass of prosecco, load a Bond blu-ray and take up my notepad and pen for the last time.
The movie opens with the caption “The dead are alive;” a term which will resonate with greater meaning beyond the Day of the Dead pre-title scenes later in the story. The Mexican festival is brought vividly to life with an army of extras. James Bond strolls through the crowds in a skull mask and skeleton suit, accompanied by a young lady named Estrella.
“This really makes me want to go back to Mexico,” says Mel. “I’d love to see this.”
They make their way to Estrella’s hotel room, where Bond divests himself of his skeleton costume to reveal a sharp suit beneath. “I won’t be long,” he says, as he eases himself out of the window.
Mel says, “She’s just lucky James Bond walked out on her before he slept with her. Lucky escape, lass.”
Bond attempts to assassinate a man named Marco Sciarra. A chase through the streets results in a fight to the death in an out of control helicopter in the skies above Mexico City. Sciarra eventually plunges to his death. As a triumphant Bond examines a ring with an octopus motif which he pulled from Sciarra’s finger, the first strains of theme song, The Writing’s on the Wall, strike up.
“I’ve been here before…” Sam Smith begins, querulously.
“Me too, mate,” sighs Mel with a world-weary sigh.
In the titles some ladies massage a naked 007’s torso, leaving a fiery pattern in their wake.
“It’s like an Deep Heat advert,” notes Mel.
As Sam Smith’s caterwauling increases in intensity, I nervously eye Mel’s glass of prosecco. I suggest she might want to put it down in case his high-pitched warbling finds the right frequency to shatter the flute into a thousand pieces. But she seems determined to risk our glassware, and fearlessly takes another sip.
“Freaky octopus tentacle sex.”
PARDON? I shout over the shrill singing coming from the TV.
“Mark, it’s just not funny.”
Well, that’s not stopped me before and this is our last blog.
I hadn’t heard of Sam Smith before this, but Mel was apparently already a fan. “I don’t know why you don’t like this,” she says.
He has the temerity to sing from James Bond’s point of view, and he sings about emotions in a high-pitched voice!
“But he does have emotions,” Mel protests.
James Bond only needs two emotions: Lust and rage.
The song reaches the point where only dogs can hear the lyrics, so we able to converse normally again. On the screen Bond’s gun is firing ink at ladies.
Mel shakes her head, “That is so phallic: ‘Here you go women. Here’s my load.'”
Back in Blighty Miss Moneypenny has a box of Bond family effects recovered from the wreckage of Skyfall. Bond tells her to, “Bring it to me later… My place, 9:00.”
Mel continues on Bond’s behalf, “I didn’t get any sex in Mexico so I need some now.”
“His flat is very telling of his lonely existence. There’s nothing in it, like his cold, dead heart.”
I ask Mel if she remembers Bond’s flat in Live and Let Die.
“No,” she replies automatically.
I remind her that M and Moneypenny come round and there’s an Italian secret agent hiding in the cupboard.
“Oh yeah. Dogging.”
No! I tell Mel she’s thinking of The Man with the Golden Gun again. The scene where Bond sleeps with Andrea Anders after hiding Mary Goodnight in the wardrobe seems to be Mel’s one enduring memory of watching all the films. I had hoped that our project might have a better legacy.
“Why is he sitting in his house wearing his gun?”
Bond shows Moneypenny a video that Judi Dench’s M bequeathed him, instructing 007 to kill Sciara and then attend the funeral. The next day Bond and Tanner go to Q’s lab, where the quartermaster unveils the new Aston Martin DB10.
“That is just beautiful,” says Mel.
Unfortunately the DB10 is for another 00 agent, and Bond just gets given a watch.
The body of the DB5 that Silva blew up in Skyfall is also in the workshop. Q says, “When I said bring it back in one piece, I didn’t mean ‘bring back one piece.'”
Mel laughs. “James Bond is too cool for school now. Roger Moore would have loved that joke.”
A little while ago we went to the theatre for ‘An Evening with Sir Roger Moore’ in the idyllic beach resort of Blackpool. It’s was a great evening, and although Moore will never be Mel’s favourite Bond, he’s now her favourite actor to play Bond.
I point out that this scene further differentiates this Q from the original Desmond Llewellyn incarnation, who set out his stall in Goldfinger: “I never joke about my work, 007.”
Bond persuades Q to cover for him while he goes to Rome to attend Sciarra’s funeral. He’s left Miss Moneypenny some presents.
“An orchid,” says Mel. “My favourite.”
Moneypenny unwraps her gift, revealing a mobile phone.
“Sex phone,” says Mel. “He’ll have left some willy pictures on there. He’s exactly the sort of man to take rude selfies. He thinks everyone wants to see it.”
After Marco Sciarra’s funeral, Bond wastes no time in hitting on his glamorous widow, Lucia.
“Can’t you see I’m grieving?” asks Mrs Sciarra.
“Not with your immaculate make-up,” replies Mel.
Lucia goes home, where a couple of SPECTRE hit-men are waiting to kill her. Bond shoots them first.
Lucia says, “All you’ve bought me is five minutes.”
Mel replies for Bond: “That’s all I need!”
Bond kisses Mrs Sciarra. Mel doesn’t like his passionate kissing style. “The way he eats their faces and bites their lips. Minging.”
Lucia has told Bond about a SPECTRE meeting that evening, so he gets dressed and heads off.
“She’s wearing more clothes after sex than she had on before!”
007 infiltrates the secret meeting with Marco Sciarra’s ring. There he witnesses the giant, mute henchman Mr Hinx gain a promotion by gouging a man’s eyes out with his thumbs.
Mel is horrified, “Urrghh. I’d forgotten about this bit. Oh, —-.”
“This recruitment process is quite brutal. But I’ve seen worse.”
The head of SPECTRE, Franz Oberhauser, reveals that he actually knows Bond is present at the meeting, so the secret agent legs it back to his Aston Martin. Hinx gives chase in his Jaguar. Mel laughs as Bond impatiently uses his car to push a little Fiat along a narrow street. She’s less keen on the DB10 being damaged. Sparks fly off the bodywork as it bounces down some steps.
“That makes me wince,” says Mel.
Bond uses the ejector seat to bail out as the Aston Martin crashes into the Tiber.
“Nooo!” cries Mel as the car sinks.
In Ian Fleming’s novels Bill Tanner is Bond’s best mate in the Service, but here he grasses on 007 to M by sending him the image of the drowned car. I find there’s always one person like that at work.
Mel see it differently. “He didn’t dob him in,” she says. “He doesn’t know that James Bond is on a mission from the old M. He’s probably worried that he’s dead.”
Moneypenny reveals that Mr White, from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, is the ‘Pale King’ he heard Sciarra speak of in Mexico, and SPECTRE talk about at their meeting. He is living out the end of his days, like his Breaking Bad namesake, in bearded, snowy seclusion.
Bond finds his former enemy in Austria. White makes Bond promise to protect his daughter, then shoots himself. At the Hoffler Klinik Bond has an appointment with said daughter, Doctor Madeleine Swann. Bond enjoys some flirtatious banter with the her.
Swann says, “I hope you don’t mind. The view can be distracting.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Bond replies suavely, without taking his eyes off her.
Mel says, “Cheesy —-er. These are like old James Bond lines.”
Q turns up at the clinic to try and persuade Bond to come home so that they don’t all get into trouble with M. Bond arranges to meet the quartermaster back at his hotel, but Q is followed by some shady characters, much to Mel’s alarm.
“Go on, Q! Run!” She tells him. “He’s not used to this shit. I bet it’s not in his contract.”
Fortunately Q escapes the SPECTRE goons, while Mr Hinx kidnaps Madeleine Swann. She is then dramatically rescued by Bond, who chases the convoy in a plane. As Bond helps Swann out of the wreckage of Hinx’s car, she pulls away from Bond and snaps, “Don’t touch me!”
Mel says, “Well, that’s a bit ungrateful.”
The pair travel to Tangiers, to the hotel L’American to find whatever clues Mr White has led them to.
“Where did she get her clothes from?” asks Mel. “And her matching shoes and handbag.”
Maybe duty free at the airport?
“What duty free sells clothes? It’s mainly perfume, alcohol and cigarettes. And gadgets… Actually there is a Monsoon in Manchester Airport.”
Maybe they’re from Monsoon?
The pair check into the hotel L’American, but Madeleine is not falling for 007’s charms.
“Come anywhere near me and I’ll kill you,” she says.
Mel approves, “Good lass. He’s preying on the recently-bereaved in this one. Funeral crasher!”
Bond keeps watch while Miss Swann sleeps. She wakes up when he finds a hidden room behind one of the walls. She’s now wearing a nightie.
“When did she get changed? And where did that chemise come from?”
“Monsoon! It looks like something you’d wear on your wedding night.”
A clue in Mr White’s hidden room leads Bond and Madeleine to catch a train to a more remote part of Morocco. They enjoy a meal together during their journey.
“She has a lot of similarities with Vesper,” says Mel. “Especially this scene on the train.”
Mr Hinx shows up and attacks the couple.
“This is so brutal,” says Mel as the two men battle each through the train.
Mel gets really into this fight, willing Bond to beat the larger man. After Dr Swann intervenes and Bond gets Hinx in a headlock she says, “Good lad! Go on, strangle him!”
After Hinx gets pulled off the train by being tied to some barrels, Bond and Swann go to bed together.
“We’ve nearly died… let’s have sex now!”
They alight the train in the middle of nowhere, and are eventually picked up by a Rolls Royce. I point out that it’s like the one that Goldfinger has.
“I can’t remember that,” Mel says.
The couple arrive at the secret SPECTRE base, built in a crater. I ask Mel if she can remember their volcano base in You Only Live Twice?
They are offered a glass of champagne before going in to meet their Oberhauser, but they decline.
Mel says, “As if you would turn down champagne.”
I suggest that it might be drugged, like Dr. No did to Bond and Honey?
Mel just looks at me.
Bond and Swann are sent into a darkened room which has a meteorite on display.
“Touch it. You can touch it if you want,” offers Franz Oberhauser as he steps out of the shadows.
Mel says, “That’s James Bond’s chat up line.”
We learn that Oberhauser has been behind all the threats 007 has faced in the new Bondinuity since Daniel Craig took over, and has caused the deaths of Vesper and M.
Mel is quiet for a while now, and apologises, “This is where they really delve into the plot.”
Oberhauser has a room full of screens where he can spy on anyone. He shows Bond and Swann M’s farewell speech to the Double-O Section.
“Not much more than a voyeur are you?” Bond asks Oberhauser.
Mel retorts, “You can talk, James! You love dogging!”
Oberhauser reveals he has changed his name to Ernst Stavro Blofeld and that he wants to use a tiny robotic drill on Bond’s head.
The drill bit could wipe Bond’s memory, but luckily it doesn’t. He manages to slip Madeleine his Q watch. It explodes, allowing the couple to escape. But first they stare lovingly into each other’s eyes.
“Quick!” Mel urges them. “Get out of there!”
The pair escape back to the UK, where they meet up with M, Tanner, Q and Moneypenny. Bond’s colleagues have been working against C, a corrupt intelligence chief who has been working for Blofeld. Madeleine decides not to come with them, and walks away.
Mel is not impressed by Bond’s lack of chivalry. “He’s not even going to see her safely home.”
He’s got to save Britain!
“He just not arsed, Mark.”
M confronts C, who says, “How predictably moronic. But then isn’t that what M stands for? ‘Moron.'”
But M reveals the bullets he has removed from C’s gun. “And now we know what C stands for.”
Mel says, “That’s funny – making you think he means the C-word.”
Yeah, I say – ‘Cad.’
Mel is quiet throughout the climactic battle through the wrecked MI6 headquarters. After saving Madeleine from the explosion that engulfs the SIS building, Bond shoots down Blofeld’s helicopter, which crashes onto Westminster Bridge. Bond has Blofeld at gunpoint. The villain urges Bond to shoot, but he replies, “Out of bullets. And besides, I’ve got something better to do.” He looks at Madeleine Swann.
Mel says, “Urggh. She’s ‘something to do.'”
The ending of the movie is open to interpretation, presumably deliberately, as we don’t know if Daniel Craig will return to the role. On one hand Bond could be leaving Her Majesty’s Secret Service, on the other he could just be taking some more “overdue holiday” with Miss Swann.
Mel chooses to believe the former, that they go off and live happily ever after and have babies.
I suggest it might be a good story if the next film mirrors On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Blofeld returns to kill Swann as revenge. Then have Bond on a mission of vengeance in that or the movie after.
“Err, No! Why would you want her to die? Leave them alone and let them get married.”
It would be a shame if the rumours are true and Daniel Craig doesn’t continue though. It would be great to see Christoph Waltz return as well and do the Blofeld story properly over two or three movies. I think I read that Waltz would only come back if Craig does, so there could be an On Her Majesty’s Secret Service situation with both characters re-cast.
On the screen Bond and Madeleine drive off in the refurbished DB5. As the credits roll, Mel says, “That’s it! We’re done. No more blogs!”
“For now anyway…. Give me at least a year off.”
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