Our Thanksgiving meeting began with punches, kicks and death-defying
stunts – it was Part 2 of Andrew Kent’s presentation on Jackie Chan.
Part 1 of the presentation concentrated on Jackie’s childhood and his early
films – up to 1983. However, after ’83, information on his personal
life became less accessible because Jackie is a very private person.
So, this presentation concentrated on Jackie’s stunt work.
If you think that Jackie works with a safety net, you’re wrong.
Jackie’s stunts are done without mattresses, harnesses or green screens.
He has been injured several times and even has a small hole in his skull
that resulted from a fall in ARMOUR OF GOD. His skull was cracked
and the surgeon decided that removing a small bit of bone was the best
Jackie prefers to work with his crew of stunt men. And
they all practice, practice, practice every day in order to take falls
and punches without getting seriously hurt. In fact, Jackie had difficulty
working in American films because most US stunt men were not up to the
level of Jackie’s crew. This difference in physical conditioning
is partially due to the stylistic differences in US and HK Martial Arts
films. US Films often have single, powerful blows, which either fatally
wound an opponent or send them flying 20 feet into a wall. THE PROTECTOR
(1985) illustrates this difference. Director James Glickenhaus’s
finale between Jackie and his opponent was a slow paced brawl. Jackie
re-cut the film for the Asian market and changed the finale to a kinetic
punch fest. Glickenhaus did not find out until 10 years later.
We also saw the recreations of two stunts from POLICE STORY.
The first involves Jackie hanging onto the exterior of a double-decker
bus using the long handle of an umbrella. While Jackie could have
been in real trouble if he was hit by oncoming cars, he at least was able
to use a prop steel umbrella for a little more security. The second
stunt involved Jackie running down a 90 degree incline to intercept said
bus. He demonstrated what would have happened had he slipped using
a basketball which just rolled faster and faster until it hit bottom with
Let’s give a hearty cheer for Andrew for this behind the scenes
look into Jackie Chan’s stunt work.
JACKIE DELIVERS THE ACTION GOODS
The film chosen for the night was ARMOUR OF GOD – Jackie’s take
on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Jackie plays Asian Hawk – an ex rock
star and procurer of rare goods. The titular Armour of God is a five-piece
relic that supposedly was the armour of god’s soldiers who won in a huge
battle. Naturally there is an evil cult that wants to destroy the
armour. They have two parts of it and require the other three, so they
kidnap Jackie’s ex-girlfriend and force Jackie and one of his band buddies
to retrieve the armour for them. Anyway, they get the girl back,
but she is drugged and horny. After some bedroom antics she steals
the Armour (along with the buddy) and takes it back to the evil cult.
Of course, Jackie must rescue them. Stunts include the infamous sequence
where Jackie Chan damaged his skull falling from a high tree. Other
stunts include a fine car chase and a mid-air jump onto a hot air balloon.
However, the most memorable sequence is when Jackie fights the four Amazon
women. It's a hoot and the whole sequence, including the one-man
army fight against the evil monks, is amazing to watch.
EARN A DOUBLE VOTE CARD *AND* MAKE JOHN WARD SMILE!
John Ward is compiling a Top 100 Genre Movies for our 100th meeting
in April 2007. He will be accepting lists until our March 2007 meeting,
so please email him with your list ASAP at JOHN5509@COMCAST.NET.
And if you don’t feel like listing 100 movie titles, you can do as little
as 5 or as much as 99 – he will count ‘em all.
*BONUS* - Members who submit their list by the December 2006
meeting will receive a double vote card.
Our club secretary, John Ward, has the sign-up sheet for the
2007 calendar. The calendar is $15. If you are interested in
purchasing one, please contact John.
THE YANKEE SWAP IS HERE!
Our December meeting includes the infamous Yankee Swap.
In order to participate, you must bring a gift for $25 (receipts please)
and put it on the gift table. Each person who brought a gift will
receive a number from 1 to # of participants. The person who draws
number 1 will pick a gift from the table. The person who draws number
2 can either pick another gift from the table or steal number 1’s gift.
Gifts can be stolen a maximum of 2 times, then they belong to the 2nd stealer.
This process continues until everyone has a gift. It’s always a lot
NEWS OF OUR NEXT MEETING –LAST SATURDAY IN DECEMBER
Our next meeting will be held on Saturday December 30th at 5:30
P.M. at the church hall behind the Perry Hall Presbyterian Church located
at 8848 Bel Air Road. Take Baltimore Beltway exit 32 north on Belair
Road. Turn left onto Joppa Road. Immediately past the miniature golf
course turn left into the parking lot. If you miss it there are ample
turn-around opportunities. If you get stuck, call 443-570-6455.
That's Dave Willard’s cell phone. He'll talk you in.
DECEMBER PRESENTATION – REVENGE FILMS
Revenge has been a staple of films for most of their history.
What the heroes of these films demand is what the audience receives: satisfaction.
Let’s end 2006 by getting even on Revenge Night, presented by Regina Vallerani.
HEAR YE HEAR YE! ELECTIONS ARE NEAR!
Our annual elections will be held at the January
2007 meeting. The requirements for running for election are simple
– have a paid 2007 membership to the club, be willing to give up an extra
day in the month for a board meeting and have a strong interest in helping
the club prosper. If you’d like to run, please let one of the current
board members (Jim Childs, Andrew Kent, Joe Plempel, Dave Willard or John
This is just a reminder that dues expire on New
Year's Day. It will be time to pony up for the coming year. Individuals
are $25. Couples are $40. Extra family members who reside at the same address
are $15 each added the primary membership. We hope that you decide
to join us for an exciting year ahead.
Dues can be paid to Andrew Kent at meetings or sent via pay pal
to ICSFILM@HOTMAIL.COM or mailed to Andrew at:
5025 Green Mountain Circle Apt 6
Columbia, MD 21044
All Checks should be payable to ‘ICS’ or ‘Imaginative Cinema Society’.
ICS FILES NEEDS YOU!
The ICS Files is looking for some contributors. If you go to
the movies, (ha ha) send in a review of the movie you saw. We want
to get some diverse ICS members thoughts on the movies they are seeing.
We are also looking for someone to send in updated movie news
information. It is a position that Tim and Andrew have held, and
if you find that you are on the internet often anyway, if would just be
a matter of pulling interesting articles and snippets about movies. If
you are worried about the writing aspect, send Betsy the rough info and
let her edit it for the ICS Files style.
BALTIMORE LOSES A FILMMAKER
The ICS family sends condolences to our
member Mitch Klein and the Dohler family on the recent loss of Don Dohler,
a friend, Baltimore filmmaker and honorary ICS member. Notice was sent
that the Dohler family is having a remembrance for him on Saturday, January
6, Ramada Inn Conference Center in Edgewood, MD at 2PM. You are all welcome
to attend. This will be celebrating his life and career.
If any members would like to send cards and
flowers, before he passed, Don mentioned that he would prefer a small donation
to the Joyce Foundation. This is a foundation that was set up for his sister,
who is challenged and it is designed for her continued care. No one is
obligated of course, but if interested, anyone can donate a small sum (even
$5) to "The Joyce Dohler Foundation" P.O. Box 149, Bel Air, MD
ICS Members Holiday Dream Gifts!
When coming up with this idea for an article, I wanted something
to be able to show some ICS personalities to other members. I mean, what
you watch is definitely a personality profile. So, asking ICS’ers to tell
me, what they would like for Christmas this year, I got some interesting
responses. I was trying to find out, you know- if you could have any DVD’s
you wanted, which ones would you like? Mostly what I got was “Well,
I buy what I want, when I want it, so I am not really asking for anything.”
This seems to make sense as we are adults and don’t need Santa. But,
we did get some members eagerly sending their lists in for me to post for
Santa to read.
This is a bit different than the 100 movie list (hey, by the
way, send your list in to John!) This would be a list of movies or TV shows
seen out at Best buy or on the DVDdeepdiscount website and have nagged
Santa to leave under the tree for you because you can’t justify buying
something for yourself at this time of year.
In asking for a list of DVD’s, I didn’t think to add in any of
the new tech toys that are out there like Wii or flat screen TV’s or Home
theatre equipment. The idea was simple pleasures that can be slipped
under the tree or into a stocking.
There was a nice wide range of movies requested, from the simple
movies to the boxed sets and from books to action figures to Death Stars.
What a great group we have!
Here are some of the responses:
To start us off, our esteemed Leader Dave Willard -
As a new convert to Battlestar Galactica I'd love some season-long
DVD sets of earlier seasons. I'd treasure virtually anything from Rhino's
I'd love probably too many martial arts films to list (but one
that would include THE KUNG FU HUSTLE , THE PRODIGAL SON ,
LEGEND OF A FIGHTER , WING CHUN , SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER 
and LADY SNOWBLOOD [1973).
There's some collections of silent films I'd love, including THE MOVIES
BEGIN - A TREASURY OF EARLY CINEMA, 1894-1913, MORE TREASURES FROM AMERICAN
FILM ARCHIVES 1894-1931 and UNSEEN CINEMA - EARLY AMERICAN AVANT GARDE
FILM 1894-1941 as well as some favorite individual titles like IT, THE
BIG PARADE, THE CROWD, THE UNKNOWN and WINGS.
Then I always thought the gold standard was "Twilight Zone: The Complete
Definitive Collection." Spending some quality time with all 156 Twilight
Zone tales sounds like a good time to me!
Jim Childs (also known as Duffman)
Always a Superman fan first and foremost, I think the SUPERMAN COLLECTION,
is a given. The Richard Donner cut of SUPER MAN II is worth it. The
whole balance of the story is changed.
Of course, I have to mention, THE SIMPSONS, season nine.
Also to complete the household collection, COLUMBO the fifth season.
I would not turn up my nose as any of the following, but don’t expect
them under the tree. THE JAMES BOND DVD Collection Vol 1 thru 5 would be
nice and GODZILLA, the Gojira collection
FORBIDDEN PLANET – the first disc is the movie, second disc has The
Invisible Boy and other Robby the Robot sightings.
The ROCKY box set would be a good thing to get me in the mood for the
new ROCKY movie that is coming out.
Not coming till Jan. 2nd, but SNAKES ON A PLANE.
DARK SHADOWS volumes 6 and up.
SPEED RACER volumes 4 & 5
Any Italian westerns
THE EVIL DEAD box set
Didn't ask for any DVDs this year. But if I had to get some DVDs, I
suppose the DOOGIE HOWSER season 3 set would be all right
All I want is the Lego Death Star!.
There are quite a few out there that I would love to see under the
tree this year. To start with I am really looking for the LOST action figure
There is the QUANTUM LEAP 5th season, can never get enough of Scott
Bakula And I have been watching ANGEL on TNT in the mornings (thanks to
Tivo) so the whole series would be nice…no commercials!
THE SIMPSONS Season 9
STAR TREK the Animated series,
E.R. season 5 and 6
PRINCESS BRIDE, Dread Pirate Edition
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2
MY SUPER EX GIRLFRIEND
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
And because it is Christimas, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (60TH Anniversary
LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH
BLACK CHRISTMAS (remastered version)
DARK WATHERS (Mariano Baino giallo - not Jennifer Connelly film)
DOOGIE HOWSER - Seasons 1 or 2
THE GET SMART Box Set
SEX IN THE CITY, the new DVD box set and OVER THE HEDGE would be nice.
I'm a big fan of RENT, so the book of the same name that was written by
the creator before he died.
I'm always looking to extend my LOTR action figure collection.
John Ward -
This year will be a big surprise, since I've only asked for two titles:
the Criterion Collection's newly remastered 3-disc everything-but-the-kitchen-sink
edition of SEVEN SAMURAI, and the just-released SNL: THE COMPLETE FIRST
SEASON OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
The first season of SNL featured the Killer Bees, Richard Pryor
in a hilarious EXORCIST takeoff, and of course, the legendary Last Voyage
of the Starship Enterprise. I can't wait.
Book wise, there's a collection of Roger Ebert's writings from
the past 40 years, Awake in the Dark.
Who knows what else I'll get? Well, it's a safe bet I'll get
some Best Buy gift cards, and I plan on going right over there Tuesday
the 26th to pick up the DVD of THE DESCENT, which comes out that day.
Tim Fleming (all the way from NM)
FUTURAMA Vol.2 and Vol. 4
U2 18 The Milan Concert and videos
LOONEY TUNES Vol.2 and Vol. 4
LOST Season 2
DR WHO Season 2 (although it comes out in January)
Brian Setzer Christmas Extravaganza (The Brian Setzer Christmas show
That about wraps this up (pun intended). Hope Santa can fill some of
these yuletide wishes!
meanderingsmovie meanderingsmovie meanderings
By Sam DiBlasi
’It’s A Wonderful Life’, The Senator Style
There are some things that you automatically associate
with the Holiday season. Some that come to mind are the Christmas
tree, the Christmas wreath, ornately wrapped gifts, eggnog, family events,
and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life. This movie is an American icon
of the Christmas spirit and I would presume that most folks reading this
have seen it at least once, if not dozens of times.
There is a tradition that is observed every year
in Baltimore. The Senator Theater screens this classic annually as
a benefit for the Maryland Food Bank. So, as is the usual tradition,
I searched through the pantry and gathered up a respectable amount of non
perishable food items for the admission. It is never usually a problem
finding enough, having amassed quite an inventory over the past 12 months.
I can never resist sales, especially when there is a coupon involved.
The result of these sales and coupons usually equates with a glut of canned
goods and other non perishables. So, it’s off to The Senator Theater,
bag of food in hand, to see It’s a Wonderful Life.
The Senator usually has a great crowd for this event
and there were several other ICS members there. It’s interesting
to see ICS’ers at a movie other than a Horror or Science Fiction genre.
This years Food Bank event had two movies to choose from. Prior to It’s
a Wonderful Life, they showed A Christmas Carol. A nice choice of traditional
holiday classic movies to view on a Sunday after a Saturday of shopping
at the malls or dealing with the crowds at Best Buy. A fun outing
for the family and friends.
The film is a heartwarming story about George Bailey,
played by James Stewart, who sacrifices his plans to “shake the dust of
this crummy little town off my feet…see the world…build things.”
He is working in the family business, The Bailey Brothers Building and
Loan, while saving for college. This Building and Loan is an integral
part of the town of Bedford Falls, as it is the only institution not owned
by the miserly Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). George’s college plans
are foiled when his father is the victim of a massive stroke and dies.
The building and loan is doomed to plummet into the hands of Mr. Potter
after the death of George’s father unless George stays on at the helm.
George agrees to stay, and shortly thereafter, he marries Mary (Donna Reed).
Even their honeymoon plans are thwarted when there is a run on the bank
and George and Mary give up their own money to keep the Building and Loan
afloat. They continue on to have a few children and George becomes
known as a pillar in the community, helping all who seek his aid.
George’s Uncle Billy is in the bank making a deposit
on Christmas Eve when he runs into Mr. Potter. While talking with
Mr. Potter in the bank, he inadvertently mixes up his deposit of $8,000.00
cash with Mr. Potter’s newspaper. Mr. Potter chooses to keep the
money in an attempt to bring about the demise of the Building and Loan.
The Building and Loan is now short that money, just as the bank examiner
arrives to go over the books. George is beside himself. He
knows that this “means bankruptcy, scandal, and prison.” He goes
to Mr. Potter and begs for money to meet the debt, but Mr. Potter calls
the police and accuses George of misappropriation of funds. George
goes out to get drunk and ends up on a bridge contemplating suicide.
While all of this is unfolding on Earth, Joseph
is up in Heaven preparing to send down Clarence, George’s Guardian Angel,
to help guide George through this chain of events. Clarence is promised
the chance to earn his wings if he is successful in seeing George through
this tumultuous time. Clarence arrives in the nick of time, sees
George on the bridge and jumps into the water, knowing that George will
jump in to save him. Clarence is rescued by George and Clarence proceeds
to grant George’s wish when he wishes that he’d never been born.
Clarence then forges ahead and shows George what
it would be like had he not been born. Naturally, George is appalled
when he sees what his influence has had on everyone that he had come in
contact with. Clarence comments, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s
life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves
an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
George finally decides that he wants things back
the way they were and he is seen back on the bridge praying, “Get me back,
I don’t care what happens to me! Get me back to my wife and kids…”
George returns home where he finds that the whole town has collected money
to cover the $8,000.00 shortage. George realizes that he is, as his
brother says, “the richest man in town.” Just at that moment a bell
rings on the Christmas tree and George knows that Clarence has earned his
This movie has become, for me, an indispensable
part of every Christmas season. I can’t fathom anyone watching this
film and not shedding a tear or two. There is nothing like It’s a
Wonderful Life to get you in the spirit of the season.
“Merry Christmas, Movie house! Merry
Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building
and Loan! Merry Christmas!”
Good bye farewellsfarewellsfarewells
Donald M. Dohler,
managing editor of the Times-Herald, a Baltimore County community newspaper,
and producer for Timewarp films, an independent science fiction and grade-B
horror film company, who also founded and edited a magazine for amateur
filmmakers, died of melanoma Dec. 2 at his Perry Hall home. He was 60.
Mr. Dohler, who divided his professional life
between being a newspaper reporter and editor and filmmaker, was born in
Baltimore and raised in the Idlewylde neighborhood of Baltimore County.
During the 1950s, he spent Saturday afternoons
in local movie theaters watching what many film critics and historians
now consider classics from the science fiction and horror genre, films
such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
and Forbidden Planet.
Mr. Dohler was 13 when he was given an 8 mm Kodak
movie camera for Christmas in 1958. He and a boyhood friend launched themselves
into filmmaking with The Mad Scientist, their first production, filmed
in his family's garage.
"They were crude and silly, but that's what got
me into filmmaking," Mr. Dohler told the City Paper in a 2003 interview.
"He was a self-taught writer. As a teenager,
he began his publishing career with a humor fanzine called Wild, which
featured the early work of noted underground cartoonists Jay Lynch and
Art Spiegelman," said his son, Greg Dohler of Baltimore. "He later published
Cinemagic, a how-to for amateur filmmakers, and Movie Club, an appreciation
of classic horror and science fiction films."
Mr. Dohler was working in Washington as a payroll
clerk when two robbers entered the business and demanded the company safe
"It was in 1976, on his 30th birthday, and one
of the guys put a shotgun to the back of his head. He said that's when
he realized that he wanted to make movies," his son said. "So he quit and
began working on The Alien Factor, produced by his company, Cinemagic Visual
Effects, and completed it in 1977."
Mr. Dohler either directed, produced or wrote
11 films, including Fiend, The Alien Factor 2: The Alien Rampage, Blood
Massacre, Harvesters, Stakes, Nightbeast and Dead Hunt, which was completed
last year. Crawler, his last picture, is still in post-production.
"His films that have been seen worldwide through
television and DVD distribution" were filmed mainly in Perry Hall and other
Baltimore County locations, his son said.
Mr. Dohler was a co-founder in 2000 of Timewarp
Films, with Joe Ripple, an actor turned director.
"On and off for the past 27 years, Dohler, while
failing to register on the mainstream movie-biz Richter scale, has been
cranking out low-budget, no stars horror and science fiction fare," reported
the City Paper, who described his work this way:
"They are "90-minute features chockablock with
decapitations, eviscerations, impalings, murderous nuclear families devoted
to cannibalism or organ harvesting, thong-clad vampirettes, cleaver-wielding
housewives, switch-blade flicking psychos, trigger-happy yahoos, marauding
aliens, reanimated corpses, fog machines in overdrive, enough fake blood
to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools, more running through the
woods than a battalion of Green Berets on maneuvers, and some of the scariest
Baltimore accents in the history of cinema."
"He was a driven filmmaker who never gave up
no matter how little the budget. He's now sitting next to Ed Wood in heaven,"
said film director John Waters yesterday from Los Angeles.
"Maryland was the low-budget movie capital of
the world because of Don, and his movies became an inspiration to those
who wanted to make films," said Mitch Klein, a graphic and special effects
artist who worked on five of Mr. Dohler's films. "He was very easy to work
with and trusted everyone to do their job."
"It was incredible working with him," said Leanna
Chamish, who starred as the vampire queen in Stakes. "His death is a big
loss because he presented a lot of opportunities for people to get started
in show business and they wouldn't have gotten a leg up without Don."
About 20 years ago, Mr. Dohler began reporting
and editing community newspapers in Baltimore and Harford counties, and
most recently had been editor of the Times-Herald.
"Don believed passionately in community newspapers
and he knew how important they were to people who lived in those communities.
He sought out stories and treated them as seriously as if he were writing
or editing them for The New York Times," said Bob Hughes, spokesman for
the Baltimore County Public Library and part-time actor who appeared in
several of Mr. Dohler's films. "I think at one time or another, he has
been editor of virtually every paper that existed in Perry Hall, Parkville,
White Marsh and Essex."
"He was the consummate community journalist.
No story was ever too small for Don," said Bryan Sears, political editor
of Patuxent Publishing Co.'s Baltimore County newspapers. "He knew so many
people. Wherever I went, people would ask, 'Do you know Don Dohler?'"
Mr. Hughes added: "He enjoyed filmmaking so completely,
as he did his newspaper work."
Also surviving are his wife of six months, the
former Leslie McFarland; a daughter, Kim Pfeiffer of West Chester, Pa.;
a brother, Glenn Barnes of Perry Hall; a sister, Joyce Dohler of Perry
Hall; and a granddaughter. His wife, the former Pamela Merenda, died in
1992, and a marriage to Lynn Eschenbach ended in divorce.
-Don was a friend and honorary member of the
ICS and will be greatly missed-
the maverick director who earned a reputation as one of America's most
original filmmakers with such landmark movies as MASH, Nashville and McCabe
& Mrs. Miller, has died. He was 81.
Over the years, he had earned five Academy Award
nominations for best director — for MASH, Nashville, The Player, Short
Cuts and, most recently, Gosford Park. In March of this year, when the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with an honorary
Oscar, Altman viewed it "as a nod to all of my films. To me, I've just
made one long film." Other of his films include that cold day in the park,
brewster mccloud, the long goodbye, california split, 3 women, popeye,
mcteague, ready to wear, kansas city and a prairie home companion.
the illustrator for the 1970s overhauling of the X-Men that turned a relatively
obscure Marvel Comics title into a 1980s publishing sensation and eventually
a major film franchise, has died.
He designed or co-created many signature characters
for the popular comic book series, and some of them — such as Storm, Mystique,
Nightcrawler and Colossus — went on to become part of Fox's X-Men films,
which have grossed $607 million at U.S. theaters.
The son of an Air Force officer, Cockrum was
born in Oregon in 1943 but moved around as a youngster. His interest in
art was set aside during a stint in the Navy, but then he went to New York
and eventually got his big break drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes for
DC. He then moved over to Marvel, DC's major rival, and, along with writer
Len Wein, was handed a group of moribund characters to refurbish. The X-Men
had been created in 1963 by comics pioneers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but
the premise failed to capture fans the way Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four
had. Wein and Cockrum took the existing team's mythology, added their own
heroes and delivered Giant-Size X-Men No. 1, published in 1975, which became
one of the most important Comics issues of the decade.
THE LAST WARD . . .
Last month’s column on action movies touched on quite a few titles, but
sharp-eyed readers probably noticed one glaring omission.
Where was James Bond?
Where was 007?
Simply put, I was saving him for the December column. There’s
no question that the Bond films are loaded with action and spectacular
stuntwork, but an added combination of wit and intrigue has placed James
Bond in a category all to himself. So I decided it was time to assess
the Bond canon, from the top to the very bottom.
Two things served as the inspiration for this decision.
First, there was the arrival last month of CASINO ROYALE, featuring Daniel
Craig as the “new” James Bond, an ironic term (more on that in a bit).
Second, there was the little “Bond-a-thon” at Mr. Wittig’s house, with
screenings of three of the best Bond films. Needless to say, I was
well primed to “talk Bond” this time around.
But let’s get back to Craig for a moment. I had heard all
the negative grumbling over the past year or so while CASINO ROYALE was
being filmed, all the whining about the blonde hair, the ears, the slightly
shorter height. I ignored most of it, chalking it up to the fears
of Bond purists, because I really wanted to like this guy. Why?
Because, for better or worse, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson
had tied the financial future of the franchise to Daniel Craig, and I didn’t
want the Bond franchise to die.
I have seen each and every one of the James Bond films in its
entirety, with the exception of the ‘60s spoof version of CASINO ROYALE.
I remember watching some of that atrocity on the late show many years ago,
and the only scene that sticks to my brain pan (kinda like gum I can’t
get off my shoe) is the moment with David Niven as a geriatric Bond, playing
a game of concrete medicine ball with some gorgeous beauties.
There was nothing geriatric about Daniel Craig’s Bond.
Describing him as the “new” Bond does indeed carry a note of irony, since
his rugged, brutal take on the character echoes much of what I liked about
Ian Fleming’s seminal first novel. As a bonus, we got to see an actor
carry the role for a change, and not the other way around; for a long time,
it seemed as if viewers were watching interchangeable men in tuxedoes.
In the space of a few breathless hours, little-known Daniel Craig made
the role his own. I was happy to bury my most vivid memory of Craig
– as Paul Newman’s psychotic son in ROAD TO PERDITION.
With CASINO ROYALE, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to
seeing a particular James Bond movie for the second time, and it’s been
decades since I’ve been able to say that. I guess that means the
franchise has been officially rebooted. It’ll be interesting to see
where the producers take it from here. Craig is on board for at least
two more films, but will he be remaking previous titles in the series,
or will he be taking the character down entirely new and different paths?
Time will tell. For now, we’re left with the problem of where to
rank CASINO ROYALE on a list of the Bond films. Welllll… it’s not
really a problem for me.
THE LAST WARD ranks JAMES BOND!
1. GOLDFINGER (1964)
The top of the pile, no contest. This was the film where
it all came together – Sean Connery was comfortable in the role, Honor
Blackman’s Pussy Galore was one of the most memorable Bond girls, Harold
Sakata’s Oddjob was an implacable menace as the greatest henchman ever,
and the finale in Fort Knox was exciting. Of course, Shirley Eaton’s
death scene remains as one of the most iconic moments in ‘60s cinema.
And who knew you could make golf so suspenseful?
2. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
I’m prepared for the Bond purists to cry “Foul!” over this high
ranking, but so what? How can I possibly rank the film over so many
others after only one viewing? Because the film does such a masterful
job of going back to basics. Gone are the wisecracks and witticisms,
the goofy gadgets, the over-the-top stunt sequences. Instead, we’ve
got some fine acting, some incredibly tension-packed scenes, and a regard
for the source novel that hasn’t been seen since the ‘60s. A great
3. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
Of all the Bond films, this is the one that has truly gotten
better with age and repeat viewings. It was the kick-off film at
the recent “Bondathon,” and I found so much to like: Lotte Lenya’s
loathsome Rosa Klebb, Robert Shaw’s seemingly unbeatable blonde assassin
Grant, Pedro Armendariz’ delightful Kerim Bey, the scene at the gypsy camp,
and one of the greatest fight scenes in film history – the death struggle
between Bond and Grant on the train. For me, the weak link is Daniela
Bianchi, one of the most forgettable and least attractive Bond girls.
But it’s a minor quibble.
4. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
The best of the Roger Moore Bond films, by far. It opens
with an amazing shot – the ski jumping freefall – and makes marvelous use
of Egyptian locations. Moore is much more tolerable here than in
his other films, probably because he finds himself in a game of one-upmanship
with Barbara Bach as his Soviet spy counterpart. There’s a nice moment
when Moore gets serious to explain why he killed Bach’s lover. And
let’s not forget Richard Kiel as the silent-but-deadly Jaws, no. 2 on the
henchman list behind Harold Sakata.
5. THUNDERBALL (1965)
The first Bond film to win an Oscar – for special effects – found
Sean Connery at his most relaxed (and most popular). A nifty opening
sequence that features Bond’s fight with a transvestite assassin before
he escapes via jetpack, bookended with a slam-bang underwater spear gun
battle (the bad guys wore black, of course). In between, we’re treated
once again to a Bond hallmark: spectacular location shooting, this time
in the Caribbean. Remade in 1983 as NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.
6. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
Slightly weaker Connery Bond, but even a weaker Connery is still
better than most of what came later. Blofeld’s volcano lair is a
highlight, one of the largest indoor sets ever built, and the film’s Japanese
travelogue is pretty good. Donald Pleasance’s scarred Blofeld was
probably the best of the Blofelds, which isn’t saying much. This
is one I haven’t seen in a while; it’s probably time to revisit.
7. DR. NO (1962)
This was the first, and it shows in the shoestring budget, but
it’s still amazingly effective. Sean Connery introduces James Bond
as a much deadlier, colder agent (he didn’t stay that way very long).
Ursula Andress single handedly bumps this one at least 3 slots higher than
it has any right to be, just by walking out of the surf.
8. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
I have never been a huge fan of George Lazenby, the one-note
wonder who held the franchise aloft while everyone waited for Sean to come
back. I remember being severely unimpressed the first time I saw
this movie, which happened in my college days, years after Roger Moore
had started wearing the tux. But over the years, I have come to appreciate
the story, which ultimately depicted Bond in the most human terms possible,
at the heart of a personal tragedy. It seemed that even super spies
were capable of being hurt. I also liked Diana Rigg as Tracy Vincenzo,
Bond’s great love, easily in the top 5 of the Bond girls.
9. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
It’s interesting that this film follows OHMSS on my list, since
its opening can be directly connected to the Lazenby picture’s finale.
(Bond fans know what I’m talking about.) All the pyrotechnics of
the last few Moore films were downplayed for earthier delights, like nasty
assassins, red herrings, a keelhauling scene straight out of the Live and
Let Die novel, and a breathless climb up a sheer cliff. Julian Glover’s
villain was fairly blah, but the boisterous Topol evoked wonderful memories
of Pedro Armendariz.
10. TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as Bond is his best, IMHO, chiefly
because Michelle Yeoh kicks major ass as one of my favorite Bond girls.
There’s some nice stunt work, including an interesting chase with Brosnan
driving a car by remote from the backseat.
11. LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
Roger Moore’s first turn as 007 is actually not bad, although
you can see that the producers were hedging their bets with a limited budget.
The voodoo angle was effectively creepy, and I liked the fish-out-of-water
humor in the early Harlem scenes; when the villain orders his men to “take
Whitey out and waste him,” Moore innocently turns to the girl and asks,
“Waste him? Is that a good thing?” One of the best stunts in
the entire series involves escape-via-alligator, and of course, there’s
Paul McCartney’s theme song, second only to Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger
in the history of Bond music.
12. DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
This is where the pleasures of the series really started to drop
off. I remember this one primarily for Halle Berry’s “Ursula Andress
moves” in that orange bikini, and the swordfight was pretty good, but as
for the stunts and special effects…are you kidding? An invisible
car? I mean, come on!
13. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
All Bond fans are permitted at least one “guilty pleasure,” and
here’s mine. I’ve always enjoyed the film for Christopher Lee’s villain,
the cold-blooded assassin Scaramanga, but I admit he should have been surrounded
by a better movie. Once again, the series makes good use of its globetrotting
locales, and I especially liked the British Secret Service’s hidden “branch
office” in Kowloon Harbor. As for Herve Villechaize…the less said,
14. GOLDENEYE (1995)
Pierce Brosnan basically brings the Bond franchise back from
the dead, after two Timothy Dalton outings had placed the super spy on
life support. I’ve only seen this once, and not on video; if memory
serves, Judi Dench was introduced as M in this one, and Robbie Coltrane
provided nice support as a Russian agent. I remember that Sean Bean
played the villain, and Famke Janssen impressed (literally) as a femme
fatale known for crushing her victims with her thighs. I also remember
that Tina Turner was asked to channel her “inner Shirley Bassey” with the
title song, and failed miserably.
15. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
If James Bond had been played by anyone other than Sean Connery
in this film, and nothing else had been changed, I guarantee it would have
hit rock bottom on the list. I hated the cheap-looking Las Vegas
locations, I hated Charles Gray’s prissy Blofeld, I hated Jimmy Dean’s
millionaire recluse, I really hated those gay villains, Mr. Wint and Mr.
Kidd, and I cringed when Bond got his lunch handed to him by those female
wrestlers, Bambi and Thumper. But it was Sean Connery up there on
the screen, as commanding as ever, and I couldn’t rate this any lower.
He might have been a little gray around the edges, with a dangerously obvious
hairpiece, but he still had it.
16. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
Two scenes raised Timothy Dalton’s first appearance as Bond out
of the basement: his knife fight with the blonde assassin while hanging
from the cargo hold of an airplane, and the same blonde assassin’s duel
with an unnamed British agent in the safe house kitchen. That kitchen
fight was incredibly brutal for what had become a glossed-over movie formula,
and we weren’t to see its like again until CASINO ROYALE. I don’t
remember liking anything else about this movie. Joe Don Baker and
Jeroen Krabbe made for a pair of boring villains, and Maryam D’Abo was
far from a memorable Bond girl. The “escape via oboe case” made me
cringe almost as much as Bambi and Thumper did. I could add that
a-ha supplied a rotten theme song, but that would just be rubbing salt
in the wound.
17. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)
I liked the opening speedboat chase, a scenic tour of the Thames
River, but it was downhill from there. What’s not to hate?
Denise Richards as one of the all-time worst Bond girls, a nuclear physicist
named Christmas Jones? Robert Carlyle’s nutball villain with the
head injury that made him impervious to pain? Brosnan tied to the
antique torture chair, a strangely disgusting scene? Another forgettable
18. A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
When an over-the-hill Roger Moore made yet another escape on
stunt skis and a Beach Boys song played on the soundtrack, this film went
into the toilet, never to resurface. I didn’t get the appeal of Grace
Jones as an entertainment figure, and the prospect of an intimate scene
between Jones and ol’ Rog was just plain scary. Christopher Walken
had a few effective moments as the requisite megalomaniac psycho, and I
liked Duran-Duran’s title song, the first Bond song to hit no. 1 – so sue
me – but 95% of this film was a mess.
19. OCTOPUSSY (1983)
Rita Coolidge singing “All-Time High,” another dull theme song
– I guess a song with “Ocotpussy” as the title would have been too laughable.
Roger Moore starting to show his age, big-time. Louis Jourdan as
Kamal Khan, a boring villain. A boring pre-credit sequence in some
Cuba-style country. Maud Adams bombing as the only actress to play
two different Bond girls. Yet another outlandish train scene, with
those knife-throwing circus twins. Come to think of it, now I remember
why I really liked CASINO ROYALE – Craig didn’t get on a train, and he
didn’t strap on a pair of skis.
20. LICENCE TO KILL (1989)
The only memorable moment was what the bad guys did to Felix
Leiter in this one – feeding him to the sharks, yet another scene ripped
off from the original Live and Let Die novel. Geez, if the scenes
were that effective, why didn’t they just put them into LIVE AND LET DIE?
Wayne Newton was in this thing. “Nuff said.
21. MOONRAKER (1979)
Why? Because something had to be last, that’s why.
You want more? How about Michael Lonsdale as Drax, a villain that
Time magazine memorably described as looking like a “constipated basset
hound.” How about Lois Chiles as – get this – Holly Goodhead, the
CIA agent from Vassar. But for me, the absolutely lowest moment in
the entire Bond series came when uber-henchman Jaws sat down next to the
nearsighted Heidi clone, clinked champagne glasses, and said, “Well, here’s
to us.” I almost cried. And they weren’t tears of joy, either.
Next month, folks, the Top Ten Movies of 2006, with my annual
Top DVD Picks and the Allie Awards. See you then!
CALENDER OF EVENTS
Dec 15th Happy Hanukkah!
Dec 25th Merry Christmas!
Dec 26th Happy Kwanzaa Celebration!!
Dec 30th Happy ICS meeting day! 5:30pm
December meeting includes the infamous Yankee Swap and Revenge night
by Regina Vallerani – Revenge films at their finest.