He might not have been the "best" Bond or the Bond of my favorite 007 movie ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service" -- don't @ me), but Roger Moore, who died Tuesday at age 89, was my first Bond. Suave and self-assured, he was the Bond who introduced me to a wonderful world of globe-trotting locales, fanciful gadgets, villainous henchmen (and women) and casual love interests with puntastic names (Tiffany Case, anyone?).
Yes, there are Moore moments that reached heights of ridiculousness -- 1970s leisure suits, 007 dressed as a circus clown in "Octopussy" and pretty much all of "Moonraker" -- but he delivered some of the best Bond bits since Sean Connery first lit a cigarette in a casino.
In no particular order, I present my Bond highlights from the Roger Moore films.
Big blimps, big bridges
I begin with 1985's "A View to a Kill," as it was the first Bond movie I remember seeing all the way through. Despite Moore being a bit too old for the part by this time -- his 57 years showed as he chased Grace Jones up the Eiffel Tower -- "A View to a Kill" features some awesome moments. Duran Duran's theme song of the same name is still epic (I was at the peak of my Duran Duran fandom at the time), Grace Jones's outfits were amazing and an abundance of airships warmed my 11-year-old aviation geek's heart.
But the best part was Moore's fight with a characteristically creepy Christopher Walken atop San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Sure, Moore tended to rely more on quips than fighting skills to get him out of scrapes, but this was a quality combat scene. As for the rest of the film, just disregard the use of The Beach Boys' "California Girls" in the pre-title sequence and former Charlie's Angel Tanya Roberts playing California's state geologist. Then again, no one says "Jaaaaames!" like her.
Galloping through Greece
After the bizarre space odyssey of "Moonraker," 1981's "For Your Eyes Only" returned Bond to the basics. The plot rests on a solid foundation of Soviet espionage rather than a mad oligarch trying to annihilate the human race, Sheena Easton delivers a great theme song with lyrics that almost made sense and we get an enjoyable pre-title sequence where Bond dumps Blofeld down a chimney in London's Docklands.
It's the locations, though, that complete this Bond film. Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Italian Alps is a pleasant start (even with the tedious bits featuring figure skater Lynn Holly Johnson), but the scenes on the Greek island of Corfu and the spectacular rocktop monasteries of Meteora are the real winners. As a big fan of Greece, I don't need a reason to visit, but "For Your Eyes Only" inspired me to travel to both locations after I moved to London two years ago. They're as breathtaking in person as they are on screen.
Best oil tanker ever
Immense and improbable sets have been a hallmark of Bond films since the rocket-swallowing volcano in 1967's "You Only Live Twice." That was cool, but Moore got an equivalent a decade later in "The Spy Who Loved me" with a submarine-swallowing oil tanker. Captained by a mad oligarch trying to (what else?) annihilate the human race, the tanker makes for a spectacular visual set with gorgeous modern interior design. And best of all, it has a monorail. A monorail! In an oil tanker!
On the whole, this is one of Moore's best films. Also great were the underwater sequences with the submersible Lotus Esprit, the Egyptian locales, the introduction of Richard Kiel's Jaws (still one of the best Bond henchman), a villain's lair that can rise out of the ocean, a well-matched and tough Bond girl who's a KGB agent and the ski jump with the Union Jack parachute. Oh, and Carly Simon sang the hell out of that theme.
An awesome Acrostar
In the pre-title sequence for 1983's "Octopussy," Moore goes undercover in an unnamed-but-probably-Cuba Latin American country to blow up some sort of radar dish in an airplane hanger. Things get a bit tricky when he's captured, but aided by his local (and naturally beautiful) female contact, he manages to escape in a tiny Acrostar jet hidden in a trailer behind a fake horse's backside.
The aerial sequence that follows is immensely fun. Bond manages to evade a missile while blowing up the aforementioned radar dish at the same time (convenient!). Such a small jet doesn't have much gas, but he manages to land close to the gas station for a fill-up. Just don't think too hard about how a roadside station would happen to have jet fuel in the pump.
Bond always evolves
Moore brought a different Bond than Sean Connery, but that's really the whole point. Beginning with "Live and Let Die" in 1973, he carried 007 almost to the end of the Cold War. He rarely got angry or moody on screen, instead relying on humor to dispatch villains and complete his missions. And through it all he still managed to charm Miss Moneypenny, frustrate M and annoy Q to no end. Bond fans, and the entire franchise, are better for him.
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