It is no secret that Roger Moore holds the record as the actor who played James Bond the most, his tally an impressing 7. There are a bevy of reasons why this was the case, the most obvious being that each one of his films were massive financial successes, the only bump in the road being his second outing, The Man With the Golden Gun, which itself speaks to the immense stature of the franchise when the film that earns 97 million dollars is the ‘bump in the road.’ There was a shift in tone that permeated in the Bond films once Roger Moore took over the mantle from Sean Connery. Whereas the latter brought toughness and grittiness to his interpretation of the famous super spy all the while proving to be as smooth as butter, the former injected some light comedic flair. It was definitely still James Bond on the screen, but a different side was being shown to audiences, one that was softer around the edges. One of the series’ famous producers, Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, is on record for claiming that by the late 1970s, they were essentially making family entertainment. Roger Moore was the ultimate English gentleman, not one to behave like a thug.
That might explain, in part at least, why Moore is rarely considered to be one of the better Bonds. The character, as he was created by the author, journalist war veteran Ian Fleming, was both sophisticated and a gritty bastard. Moore could easily be the former, much less so the latter. The unfortunate aspect about James Bond movie conversations, and in particular when the debate about ‘who the best Bond was’ presents itself, is that the actors are forever tied to the overall quality of their respective films. It simplifies someone’s choices to the point of laziness. Pierce Brosnan was the star of Die Another Day, so he couldn’t have been that good, right? Ugh. Roger Moore was unfortunately part of the some of the franchise’s real clunkers, but that does not automatically make him a poor Bond. With all that in mind, and given Moore’s habitual cool, sophistication and capability to deliver a great line like the best of them, Sound on Sight would like to remember some of the best moments and lines of the incorrectly maligned Moore era. A close inspection of his films and of his performances will demonstrate, quite clearly, in fact, that there is plenty to like about his 7 films, 12-year tenures her Majesty’s most trusted secret agent. Let us begin with the moments from Moore’s four outings in the 70s.
Live and Let Die (1973, Guy Hamilton)
This film has earned a bad reputation for some rather silly reasons. Racist? I don’t know about you, but the character of Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) is depicted in a far more racist, less glamorous manner than any of the African American antagonists, but is another discussion entirely. Roger Moore’s first 007 adventure has always held a special place in my heart.
Baron Samedi, an unstoppable and unexplainable force
Pretty much anything involving Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holden) is unforgettable. He is one of Kananga’s two chief enforcers along with Tee Hee (Julius Harris). His most significant talent however is a mastery of all things voodoo, including resurrection! While he might not exactly cause nightmares for viewers, he is certainly one of the most unnerving villains Bond has ever faced. Naturally, if only one moment is to be highlighted, it has to be the very last shot in which yet another incarnation of the Baron is laughing away maniacally as he sits at the front of a train.
Boats launched into air
The action highlight of the film is when James is pursued by speed boat in the swampy deep south of Louisiana. The sequence is around ten minutes in duration and features some impressive stunt work, not the least of which occurs when not one but two boats go from one area of a river to the next by launching over a strip of land where police cars are parked and waiting for them.
Kananga’s torture methods
One of the hallmarks of the James Bond stories re the torture scenes, of which we do not get many in the films. Live and Live Die provides a rather good despite that Bond survives unscathed. Playing on the theme of Taro card reading and spiritual powers, Kananga has 007 tied to a chair with Tee Hee ready and waiting to break the hero’s fingers if Solitaire cannot correctly guess the number on the back of Bond’s watch. It does not last very long, but it is quite a well conceived scene.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974, Guy Hamilton)
This film is host to a bevy of issues, not the least of which is humour predicated on the fact that one character is a little person (Hervé Villechaise). Nevertheless, like in all Bond films, if one looks, one will find some interesting highlights.
Car flipping from bridge to bridge
Now, this moment during the car chase between Bond and Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) can be targeted for several reasons, the most egregious being that the filmmakers thought it wise to bring back the ridiculous Sheriff from Live and Let Die. The other issue is that the stunt in question looks rather stagey. That being said, simply witnessing Bond’s car jump from one end of a broken bridge, twist in the air, and land perfectly onto the other end is a sight to behold.
Opening and closing scenes in Scaramanga’s fun house
Once again, many can easily criticize these moments. Why would Scaramanga use a fun house with fake saloons and gangster cut outs to liquidate his targets when he could just sneak up on them whilst travelling the world? That is an excellent question to which there is no logical answer (the film’s script is not one of its strong points). Despite that, the opening and closing scenes are rather creepy in tone and design. The set also looks fabulous, with the filmmakers doing a fine job in giving it some exquisitely spooky lighting.
Fight without honour or humility
This is a tiny, brief moment, blink and you’ll miss it. It occurs when Bond is held captive of sorts in a martial arts school. The sensei forces Bond to engage some of his best students in combat. When the first challenger approaches and performs the traditional and honourable salute by slightly bending forwards, 007 kicks him in the face! James Bond might be the good guy, but let that not entail that the good guys always play nice.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, Lewis Gilbert)
Frequently referred to as the best of the Roger Moore Bond films, The Spy Who Loved Me is epic in nearly every sense of the term, even when compared to other Bonds. The work of Ken Adam and his production crew on Stromberg’s (Curd Jürgens) underwater base is testament to that. Without further ado, here are some of the film’s best moments
Union Jack forever
In one of the greatest moments in the franchise’s history, one that emphasises the character’s British patriotism, Bond, engaged in a furious ski chase in the arctic, jumps off the highest cliff ever seen (the stunt was performed on Baffin Island in Canada’s arctic!) and glides to safety thanks to his parachute…sporting the beautiful Union Jack design.
The Jaws of death
There is a brief moment early in the film when Stromberg calls upon Jaws (Richard Kiel) to liquidate some targets, which is the very first time the character is seen on screen. However, the first time the viewer sees the towering foe in action is far more impressive. It happens in Egypt at night during a fancy light show near the historic pyramids, with the lighting lending the scene in which Jaws slowly yet assuredly tracks down a helpless figure a genuine eeriness. Jaws would soon be transformed into a sad form of comedic relief, but this scene demonstrates just how effective the character could be used.
Helicopter versus car
In what is arguably one of the coolest chases in the entire series, the undeniably sexy Naomie (Caroline Munro, pursues Bond and agent Anya Asamova (Barbara Bach) in machine gun adorned helicopter as our heroes flee in the always flashy and sleek Lotus Esprit. The camera work in the scene is spectacular and captures all the fantastic twists and turns performed by both vehicles. Does it make any sense that Bond could see Naomie waving sarcastically at him from so far away? Not at all, but it hits the spot when he smiles back.
Get by with a little help from friends
It’s always fun to dig for some of the smaller but no less cool moments in the Bond films. This one arrives relatively early in the film when Bond arrives in Cairo looking for some information. A stocky assassin assaults 007 on the rooftops, and after a rough brawl, Bond finally gets the upper hand. The thug is inches away from falling, were it not for Bond’s tie, which he grips for dear life. Once 007 extracts the necessary information out of the villain, he slaps away the man’s hands, forcing him to a terrible fall below. Bond adjusts his tie and admits ‘What a helpful chap!’
The title says it all. Bond and sea men of the American military pitted against Stromberg’s forces inside the villain’s vast, technologically sophisticated and futuristic mega-submarine. Gun shootouts, grenades blowing up walls and bridges, brave stunt men flipping all over the place, not to mention that the set itself is spectacular to see. Here is some 007 trivia: None other than Stanley Kubrick helped production designer Ken Adam light the massive set, spending about an afternoon on the set as an assistant.
Moonraker (1979, Lewis Gilbert)
From one of the most celebrated films to one of the most maligned. It’s 007 in space and beyond in director Lewis Gilbert’s follow-up to the already epic Spy Who Loved Me. Unfortunately this time the largess results in a bloated, overly silly affair. Let’s see what some of the few redeeming moments are.
As much as the opening of the previous film was supremely impressive, the pre-title sequence to Moonraker manages to trump it. Bond returns to England via jet plane after yet another job well done, but turbulence disrupts the ride when the plane’s crew turns out to be hired killers, among them Jaws! After dispatching some of the foes, 007 steals one of the parachutes and jumps, which leads to one of the most death-defying, spectacularly filmed action stunts in the franchise’s history.
G-force defeats Bond
007 is always cool under pressure, but sometimes even the legendary spy knows when something gets the better of him. When Bond visits Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) of Drax Industries, one of the world’s leading financiers of space exploration, he is invited to take a test spin in of the compound’s g-force simulators. Of course the machine is rigged and Bond is literally given the ride of his life. One of Bond’s trusty gadgets helps him survive the ordeal, but he is visibly shaken and stirred as he clumsily stumbles out of the passenger’s seat.
Deadly cable car ride in Rio
Granted, there are a couple of back projection shots in this sequence that are painful to watch. Nonetheless, both in conception and execution, the scene is rather solid. Bond, in desperate need of an ally, tracks down leading lady Dr. Goodhead (Lois Chiles) in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. They ride a cable car down to the city, only to realize that Jaws is riding another car heading upwards towards them! What ensues is a battle atop the cars that is perhaps better on paper than what it looks like on film, but the effort is appreciated.
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This article is part of our 007 marathon. You can find all the entries by clicking here.