Digging Double Oh Seven: Threat Level Midnight

In my zeal to enjoy my re-found health and the nice weather, I lost track of time and will not have enough time to watch a James Bond flick tonight (also because of NBC comedies and Jersey Shore, of course). I thought that meant there’d be no Bondy goodness today, but then I remembered that we were finally getting the chance to see Michael Scott’s Threat Level: Midnight starring Michael Scarn on tonight’s episode of The Office (funny I forgot about it after calling the show out on my Maxim TV column). The episode featured a secret agent whose nemesis has a gold face and killed his wife. Doesn’t sound too far off from a Bond movie, right? Well, he’s also got a robot butler, a mystical hockey teacher and his own signature dance which you can check out here. I was thinking about this earlier today, but I love it when movies or parodies of movies don’t just go with the genre they’ve chosen to tackle but also add in a few others. In this case, Michael Scott didn’t just want to make a secret agent movie, but also one with a robot AND a sports mentor/training montage. Fun stuff. I know this is a bit of a cop out entry, but at this point, I’m thinking the DDOS posts will be going on past the end of the month unless I can watch a bunch of movies back to back next week (we’re heading to Ohio this weekend). Don’t worry though, you’ve got a weekend full of James Bond Jr. posts!

Digging Double Oh Seven: Moonraker (1979)

In an effort to make up for missing a few days of DDOS thanks to sickness I decided to watch another Bond flick today: Moonraker. It’s funny how similar Moonraker is to The Spy Who Loved Me, but I wound up liking this movie a lot more. The flick starts with Bond using a parachute (the red and yellow color scheme is even the same), Jaws is in it, he finds himself entwined with a secret agent from another country, the villain wants to kill LOTS of people and the flick ends with Bond’s sexual conquest being spotted by both of their superiors. And yet, I dug it, mostly because Holly Goodhead doesn’t flippantly decided to bed with the guy who killed the guy she was dating. In fact, I get the feeling that she’s actually using her wiles in much the same way as Bond is: for the good of job. She also seems to hold her own better than Agent XXX ever did in the previous flick.

As I mentioned, the film opens with yet another parachute sequence, but this one features Bond jumping out of a crashing plane without a parachute in an effort to catch up with an assailant who already jumped and steal his chute. Again, the stunt looks freaking real because dudes were really jumping out of planes with thin chutes under their sport coats so it looked like they were jumping without them. It’s pretty sick. However, I hate how Jaws survives falling out of a plane and landing on a circus. I know these movies aren’t based in super-realism (at least not until Casino Royale) but that got under my skin a bit. Oh, the flick also has a butt ton of space fights, which is pretty awesome in addition to TWO boat chases, one of which involves a motorized gondola that turns into a hovercraft. I love that stuff. Plus the tram fight! So many moments of awesomeness!

And man, how crazy is Drax’s plan? He trained a new master race, built a space station to house them and devised a plan that would kill only the people on Earth so him and his peeps could come back and restart the Earth. Intense. Speaking of villains, did you know that Jaws turns into a good guy and finds love in this movie because kids were writing to the producers and asking for such a change? Ridonc! Good for him though. I guess landing on a circus and meeting a cute blond has a tendency to change one’s worldview.

Digging Double Oh Seven: Agent Under Fire (2001)

Unlike a lot of folks, Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 has almost no significance to me whatsoever. The simple reason for that is that I didn’t have that system and only wound up playing the game a few times at friends’ houses. I did play and enjoy the game based on Tomorrow Never Dies for Playstation, but even that was just a fun action game for me. The Bond video game that really had an impact for me was Agent Under Fire. See, in 2001 I was a Freshman in college and was placed in a quad room with some pretty rad dudes. I wound up sharing an actual bedroom with Hatem who had a PS2 and this game, which I actually didn’t even know the name of and it took some digging to track down. We always just called it Bond. For a while, Agent was the only first person shooter I was into. Halo was out at that time, but when the Xbox first came out the controllers were gigantic and not worth my effort.

I honestly can’t tell you how many hours we spent playing this game and shooting the hell out of each other. We dug the regular mode, but it was the difference modes and alterations you could do that made the game a lot of fun. One shot one kill was always frustrating, but exciting. Our absolute favorite way to set the game up was to negate the gravity as much as possible (what a fantastic option), turn off falling damage, turn on grappling hooks and give ourselves highly explosive guns that kind of look like what you’d expect C-3PO’s robothood to look like. Essentially, we turned the game into a video game version of The Matrix that we never tired of.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Soon enough, I discovered the joys of Red Faction II, a game that did a lot of what Agent did, but better. It would still be a year or two before I cared about a Halo game, but I’ll always have fond memories of Hatem, Brian, Nikhil and I sitting on my old blue plaid couch causing a ruckus because one of us just blew up another in MID AIR! In fact, just watching and listening to the sounds in the above YouTube clip makes me yearn for the days of living in Welch. I am 28 today. Good times.

Digging Double Oh Seven: Climax’s “Casino Royale”

I thought I knew James Bond flicks pretty well. The very first on screen portrayal of Bond was done by the amazing Sean Connery in 1962, right? Nope. The very first time someone played James Bond it was actually in 1954 on an American television program called Climax! that took popular books of the day and turned them into hour long teleplays. An early episode of the first season included their version of Casino Royale which played with many of the novel’s details, but tried to keep the same spirit, though a less intense one than the book for sure.

In this version James Bond is an American secret agent played by Barry Nelson (and going by “Jimmy” a few times). He’s still trying to take La Chiffre–played excellently by Peter Lorre–out via a game of baccarat–which isn’t nearly as well explained in this version than the book–with the help of a few familiar names with different faces/characterizations. In this version, Vesper is actually called Valerie Mathis and the characters of Mathis and Leiter are combined into the very British secret agent Clarence Leiter.

Nationalities aside, the differences are really the only reason to watch this version of the story because it’s not all that interesting or dramatic on it’s own, not nearly capturing the tension and drama of the book. Some of those differences include Bond being shot at in the opening scene instead of the attempted bombing I didn’t mention in my review of the book, Leiter giving Bond his mission, Bond winning the baccarat game and THEN getting threatened by the man with the cane gun (another thing I didn’t mention in my review) and the bad guys spying on Bond from the upstairs room instead of a different group of bad guys. As you might expect the end isn’t nearly as much of a–sorry I just can’t resist–ballbuster as the novel, nor is Bond nearly as fooled by Vesper, realizing she’s a double agent of some kind very early on in the show.

I can appreciate the economy of story the TV writers were going for when it came to adapting a sometimes racey and expensive story into a TV series (the end of the book involves lots of nakedness and swimming in France, not a cheap set up for any production, let alone a TV series in the medium’s infancy), but it’s really just an interesting oddity that can be skipped over if you don’t feel like spending 5o minutes watching grainy black and white on Netflix Instant (I guess there’s a DVD available as well as the image above and the YouTube clip indicate). Interestingly enough, the popularity of this episode lead to a deal between CBS and Fleming in which he would write a James Bond television series, but it wasn’t meant to be. Oh what could have been! Tomorrow we get into the legit flicks!