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May 23, 2017

Roger Moore, Gentleman and Knight, RIP

He was 89. He died after a short bout of cancer.

But you shouldn't imagine he was a healthy guy -- this article recounts his many, many illnesses, from his very early childhood through his adulthood and through his later life. He was frequently sick -- his face was swollen with hives during the Spy Who Loved Me Shoot, and he passed gallstones during Moonraker -- and on top of that he cheerfully confessed to being a hypochondriac, though with his health history, I'm not sure he was a hypochondriac.

At least he was cheerful about it all, calling himself a "happy hypochondriac."

I know him almost entirely from the Bond pictures, so below, some of my favorite Moore Bond scenes.

I've picked a lot of Moore's more realistic scenes, or stuff where he's a bastard. People say that Connery was "serious" and realistically thuggish Bond, and Moore was a "silly" Bond without the realism of Connery's thuggishness, but that conveniently forgets the wild silliness of Connery's three last Bond movies (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and the very silly indeed Diamonds Are Forever), and also overlooks some of the parts of the first three Moore films, and the fifth, For Your Eyes Only, which were occasionally more grounded, and where Moore's Bond often vied with Connery's Bond in the Total Bastard Sweepstakes.

In fact, if you watch The Man With The Golden Gun and evaluate all of Bond's actions on a moral scale, he's really a right bastard in that one. Moore doesn't play it the way Connery would -- Connery would be serious about his bastard actions, whereas Moore plays it off lightly like it's all just a laugh -- so we don't take it as seriously, but if you take his actions seriously, Moore's Bond was frequently not a very nice guy at all.

He was just charming and flippant about it -- which, if you take this nonsense seriously, puts him in the Narcissistic Remorseless Sociopath category.

The G-Force Simulator Scene from Moonraker. Not only was this a cool (if convoluted) attempt on Bond's life, but I love Bond's reaction to the ordeal.

It's a pet peeve of mine when action heroes never show distress or fear, always acting above it all. Moore doesn't do that here.

After Bond is nearly killed from extreme g-force acceleration, there's no coolness or flippancy left in him -- he totters out of the centrifuge as weak and feeble as an elderly man, and gives an innocent woman an angry push.

Not for any good reason -- but because he's near-dead and just a little bit emotional about it.

You know -- like maybe you would be if you were dizzy to the point of near-unconsciousness and barely had any life left in you.

Occasional nods to realism -- what a concept!

Skydiving Without a Parachute, Moonraker. I don't suppose Roger Moore is in this scene very much, except for some unconvincing greenscreen cuts, but still, one of the wildest openings for a Bond movie.

One of the things I like most about Bond is his cool-headed refusal to accept death without a mighty fight, as exemplified in this scene.

The Mountain Ascent on St. Cyril's in For Your Eyes Only. Bond movies rarely have any real suspense, especially after the first few outings. Bond became a superman, there was way too much bombastic score and wacky vehicle hijinks, too many sardonic quips and bon mots, to sustain real suspense and fear.

But in this absolute corker of suspense from For Your Eyes Only, Bond's attempt of an already-difficult climb up a near-vertical cliff is sabotaged by a guard who hears him, and then the guard knocks out each of the three pitons holding Bond's rope in order to send him plunging to his death.

Bond has to scramble desperately (and use some cool shoelace-hitching to climb up the rope rapidly) to get into a position where he even has a hope of survival.

Spoiler alert: James Bond Will Return.

The Keel-Hauling Scene from For Your Eyes Only. Another great FYEO only scene, this one actually lifted from the novel Live and Let Die. Another one of the few really suspenseful scenes in all of Bond's history, with Bond stuck in a really bad situation with lots of time for fear to build.

Bond improvises a way to survive which could actually work.

Which probably just proves why the villain shouldn't have tried killing Bond this way, but should just have SHOT HIM IN THE FUCKING FACE. As usual. Will they never learn?

Murdering Stromborg, from The Spy Who Loved Me. Skip to 6:15. I kind of hate it when they always have to make some improbably-tricky way for Bond to kill the villain. How about Bond just taking the advice so many give to Bond's villains and just shoot the guy?

Well, Bond doesn't have the time or inclination for Complicated Methods of Execution here and just cold-bloodedly executes (the unarmed and defenseless) Stromborg with four shots.

Stromburg was a dick anyway. And a literal mutant, actually. He had webbed fingers. How dumb is that?

"No Head for Heights" From For Your Eyes Only. Sorry, I really like For Your Eyes Only.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the suspensefully quiet beginning of this sequence -- suspense needs quiet to work, which is why there's so little of it in blaring-soundtrack Bond movies -- where Bond, kind of implausibly, runs up the steps of a tower to intercept a car racing up the hill. I suppose the car had to do a lot of switch-backs, giving Bond time to get to the top faster, using the more direct route.

Yeah, let's go with that.

Bond just kills the guy here. Nothing very tricky. They were going to have it so that it was the little lapel pin (used by Kristatos to frame his rival Columbo) that unbalances the car and sends it over the cliff, but eventually realized that was too cute by half and so they just have Bond kick the car off.

Oh, and I can't find the clip, but For Your Eyes Only also features Bond's best allies, the crossbow wielding avengess Electra, and the criminal-but-not-such-a-bad-guy-if-you-get-to-know-him Columbo. Sort of an overweight Greek Han Solo.

The moment when Columbo informs a captured Bond that everything he's been told so far is a lie -- and then, to prove his own (relative) innocence, gives Bond his gun back -- is great.

"You have what the Greeks call tha'ros -- guts!" Columbo says as he hands Bond his gun.

Bond checks to see if the gun is loaded, pulls the slide back to park a bullet in the chamber, and then points it at Columbo's heart. "So have you, Columbo," he says, as Columbo's eyes go wide, realizing he just might have miscalculated.

But then Bond pockets the gun. All friends now. Now let's go raid a smuggling yacht.

The Funhouse Duel in The Man With The Golden Gun. Okay, this one's all tricks and convoluted death traps, but man oh man, who can resist a Funhouse of Murder? And beating the world's greatest assassin in his own lair?

The Man With the Golden Gun is often derided as largely silly -- it is mostly that -- but it also features some of Bond's Peak Bastard scenes, from slapping the heroine around for information, to threatening to emasculate a gun-maker with his own rifle for information, to pushing a Thai boy off a motorboat by the face just to avoid paying the 20,000 bahts he promised him.

Which is probably just like twenty bucks. He pushed a kid off a speeding boat by the face to save himself twenty bucks. Well Bullets Aren't Cheap, you know.

The Raid on the Voodoo Fortress in Live and Let Die. I love Baron Samedi -- too bad they never brought him back for a fitting final disposition -- and I love this scene of Roger Moore differentiating himself from Connery through using, rather than a svelte Barreta or Walter PPK, a big ass .44 Magnum revolver.

Once again, I appreciate that every so often Bond actually just uses his gun to try to dispatch a heavy, rather than resorting to some convoluted method of dispatching him. (Though as to how he takes care of the real villain Kananga... the less said the better.)

Gotta say, this one has three of my favorite villains -- Kananga, Tee Hee, and Baron Samedi. I even like the minor villain flunky Whispers.

The Crocodile Farm, Live and Let Die. A classic of suspense including a failed attempt at high-tech trickery, and a ludicrous, though delightful, solution to his predicament.

Also features one of those great scenes of Bond talking with a great villain -- I like it when Bond and villains are just kind of professionally detached about these things. Tee-Hee is being paid to kill Bond, and Bond has to kill Tee-Hee as part of his job. But neither actually hates each other. It's not always passion, emotion, and hate behind it: as the lyrics of the song go, When you gotta job to do, you gotta do it well, you gotta give the other fella hell....

Yeah, I like when Bond is emotionally invested in defeating the bad guy -- sometimes -- but I also like it when he and an opponent don't really have anything against each other, except circumstance and employment requirements.

The Man With the Golden Gun had a lot of that going on, as Bond and Scaramanga were manipulated into crossing each other's paths but didn't start out with any particular reason to kill each other, but by this scene, Bond is pissed at Scaramanga for murdering his love sex interest Andrea Anders.

Maybe. Too be honest, he slapped her around earlier. Didn't seem to really like her that much, despite her physical charms. Maybe he's just a rude dinner guest.

Oh, another good Peak Bastard moment in Live and Let Die when Bond threatens to kill the most annoying Bond girl/traitor ever, after they've had sex. "You couldn't," Rosie says, "Not after what we've just done...," alluding to having just made love.

Bond answers thus.

And finally...

The Tarot Card Seduction from Live and Let Die. I also used to like it when Bond was a bit more underhanded -- you know, the way a hardened, amoral paid assassin would be.

Knowing that the definitely virginal, possibly clairvoyant Solitaire believes in the power of fate as revealed through the tarots, Bond resorts to stacking the deck in his favor to get her to inform on the villain, and oh, by the way, also tricking her into having the best kind of sex with him -- Hot Pale Virgin Witch Sex.

Kinda "rapey," as the kids would say these days.

This is also kind of mean in another way: Solitaire either will lose her actual powers of clairvoyance, or will psychologically lose her imagined powers of clairvoyance, the moment she loses her virginity.

So Bond doesn't just take her flower, but her Gift.

And once she's lost that gift, she is of no use to the villain Kananga and is forced to ally with Bond, just out of self-preservation.

Hey, sometimes saving the world isn't pretty.

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posted by Ace at 07:40 PM

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