Tag Archives: Pierce Brosnan

Starring Roger Moore As James Bond

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One couldn’t help but be saddened by Roger Moore’s passing at age 89. My heart sank when I read the news on Monday morning. Roger Moore is best known as the man who played Ian Fleming’s famous spy James Bond in more films than any other actor. His depiction of Bond may be the most parodied, but in many respects that sense of parody was initiated by Moore.

Sean Connery’s Bond is a tough, sexually aggressive and predatory character. He reflects the feeling of masculinity in jeopardy of his times, as swinging London gave way to the summer of love and sexual liberation. When Connery first played Bond, the Beatles sang only love songs, when Moore took over the mantle in 1973 with Live & Let Die, the Beatles were no more, there was only Wings.

Moore’s interpretation of James Bond reflects his times, from Black Power to Watergate, to Reagan. For Moore, Bond offered audiences an escape from the horrors and the monotony of their everyday existence into a world of absurd cartoon physics, wacky gadgets, gorgeous women, and terribly corny puns. Moore never took Bond too seriously, he knew it was absurd, and he knew that was what kept people coming in droves to see the Bond films.

Live & Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) are Moore’s best Bond films. The writing is taught, the sleaze is thick, and the glamour is tacky. In these films the milieu of Fleming’s novels are best preserved. Moore’s self awareness in his part, combined with this aesthetic made him more inviting in many ways than Connery had been, and certainly less predatory. The gigantic set pieces of Moonraker, Octopussy and A View To A Kill were yet to come.

As Roger Moore began his tenure as Bond in the early seventies there had not yet been Star Wars, nor had United Artists become so totally dependent upon the grosses of the Bond films for its survival. As all of this changed, the films grew and grew in there spectacle, to the point that Moore’s take on the character seemed out of place. By the mid-eighties, with Reagan in office, the chauvinism of Bond was no longer to be interpreted as a dark joke, but to be celebrated quietly (as it eventually would be in the hands of Pierce Brosnan). Bond couldn’t be “camp” anymore.

Given the progress of film technology, it is Moore’s excellent sense of camp that actually makes his films the most accessible in the pre-Brosnan era of Bond (Connery’s first two outings are by far the best, but the films that followed are equally as trite as Moore’s worst pictures). From a historian’s perspective, it is fascinating to watch Moore’s early Bond films in terms of their give and take relationship with Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite films as well as other films of the Blacksploitation genre.

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Die hard fans of Bond tend to be dismissive of Roger Moore’s contributions to the franchise, preferring the hard hitting antics of Daniel Craig or the classy and sleek delivery of sleaze of Brosnan’s Bond. But I remember as a kid in the third grade telling my father that I had seen two Bond films at a sleepover. He warned me to avoid the Roger Moore films. I didn’t do as my father asked because I wanted to see for myself; and I actually enjoyed them. They were funnier than the other films, and they felt more removed like a dream.

Roger Moore’s version of James Bond is very much a dream. The world of those films is not the serious matter of life and death we associate with the idea of Bond. Roger Moore knew he was inhabiting the “dreams” of young men, and his films reflect that, they invite us to share that dream, in all of its silly prepubescent logic.

-Robert Curry

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Toys, Movies & Games

I still have a teddy bear and  I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about this sentimental attachment.  I was two years old when I got my bear.  He’s a “Red Octobear”; a red teddy bear in a Russian submarine uniform.  This particular teddy bear was manufactured by the North American Bear Co. between 1990 and 1993 as a means to promote the Paramount Pictures film The Hunt For Red October (1990).  I knew my bear long before I ever saw the film he was created to promote, and it would be some years before I realized that there was any connection at all.  By nature I am rarely ever a nostalgic person, but happening upon my childhood “friend” the other day it occurred to me that, particularly as a child, one’s relationship to the cinema is hardly ever exclusive to the cinema itself.  Often objects created or songs written for or to promote a film will color the relationship an audience will have with said film.

Consider those of my generation who grew up playing Golden Eye for Nintendo 64 before ever seeing any of the James Bond films.  The slight differences in narrative between the game and the film would take on the reverse effect of the actual marketing of either since Nintendo and Rare created the game under the assumption that people would purchase their product after seeing the film.  If that is not the case, a gamer familiar with Golden Eye who sees the film for the first time may well wonder why Pierce Brosnan’s Bond does not have to deal with a hostage situation aboard a yacht.  And if you know the game before the film it also stands to reason that references in the game to other films in the James Bond franchise will go under appreciated (primarily hidden characters and levels from Goldfinger and Moonraker).

Objects such as Golden Eye the game, Red Octobear or the Toy Story kid’s meal at Burger King are paratexts, informing and shaping the audience’s understanding of the fictitious world presented by the film with which these objects “tie-in”.  This is not unheard of or new in any way.  Going back as far as the years following World War II it was not uncommon for studios to commission products like paper dolls, toys, board games, and comic book adaptations to help sell their films to audiences.  But it’s only been in the last two decades that these marketing strategies have diversified with an aim at appealing to an exclusively adult demographic.

Much of this has to do with novelty and fetish properties originally designed to appeal to adult collectors of memorabilia.  McFarlane Toys’ Movie Maniacs line appealed to those beyond their inherent “comic book collector” demographic with a line of detailed action figures derived from several of the biggest cult films of all time.  These toys were not meant to be played with, but displayed.  From there the industry for collectibles changed, expanding and reinventing itself so that today we have wine inspired by and advertising the television phenomenon Game Of Thrones.

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As Hollywood continues to compete with online entertainment platforms and struggles to keep audiences going to theaters there is no doubt in my mind that this trend in marketing will expand further in its quest to appeal to adults.  The lengths and breadth to which Hollywood will extend its marketing strategies will surely surpass those of Red Octobear.  Though I sincerely doubt that any studio will again commission an object so innocent and naive as Red Octobear to help sell one of its blockbuster action films again.

-Robert Curry

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