Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

By Will Ross and Devan Scott


I needn’t explain to you the things for which James Bond is famous. But though an image of sophisticated machismo can be summoned simply by intoning his moniker (which Ian Fleming claimed he chose because he wanted the most boring name possible), there is no collective experience defining the series’ popularity. “May the Force be with you,” “I am your father” and the surrounding scenes and characters are easily traced back to their respective Star Wars installments, but the Bond films displace cultural memories by incorporating them into the formula. How wildly the film in which the words “Bond – James Bond,” were first heard must differ from person to person!

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It’s this quality, in all likelihood, that has allowed the series to continue as the most enduring film franchise in cinema history to date. With the simple promise of “007” a prospective audience will know exactly what is promised and that the filmmakers have the budget to deliver it with all necessary bombast. It is this branding that has – until recently – made the Bond archetype the unassailable commercial realm of EON films. A change in tone or format may occur to keep it current, but as long as sex, shooting, and exotic locations surround a suave hunk named James Bond for a couple hours, there will be seats filled.

The fact remains, however, that these films are very different and distinguishable from one another. There are 26 major James Bond films: 22 from EON, a one hour television adaptation (Casino Royale, 1954), a Columbia-produced satire (Casino Royale, 1967), and a Connery revival by Warner Bros. (Never Say Never Again, 1983). By their outlandish nature, they are all unique experiences; in some cases entertaining for their ineptitude, and in others for genuinely gripping storytelling. For this retrospective Devan and I will survey the films on such an individual basis, weighing the merits and issues of the craftsmanship of each, mainly on each film’s own terms, but also in context of the series as a whole. Though we’ll be forthright about enjoying Bond’s more batshit moments, we won’t pull any punches and will make clear whether we’re laughing at or with him. We’ll also discuss the theme songs of each film.

One more thing: Though each and every Bond film is hugely problematic sociologically, we won’t be pointing out each and every instance of sexism and unethical violence. Taken solely from that perspective the ideological feminist and pacifist in us would have to condemn the whole franchise outright, so let’s forgive and take it as a given for the time being, shall we?

Right, then. Settle down with your martinis and enjoy the retrospective.



It must’ve been 1995 or 1996 that I had my first run-in with the most famous spy in modern history. I was at a family get-together at my cousins’ house. It was loud, there were about fifteen people there (a large number by our Scottish-Canadian standards), and I wasn’t enjoying myself in the least. At some point, I was invited to the basement to check out this one tank scene in this one movie. I’ll never quite forget what I saw: a guy driving a goddamn tank through a goddamn Russian city crushing goddamn Russian police cars. “Holy cow!”, my six-year-old self thought. I was informed that I was watching something called “James Bond”, which turned out to be the name of the rather dapper man at the helm of the aforementioned tank.

And so, after much confusion regarding the name of the movie, as my six-year-old mind was unable to parse out the idea that Goldeneye was merely an entry in a series known as “James Bond”, I was introduced to one of my first ‘grown-up’ cultural phenomena. Since then, thanks in part to the many Bond marathons that have cropped up on television over the years, the series has taken its rightful place as my most guilty of pleasures.

I can’t help feeling, however, that as the years have worn on, I’ve lost touch with the Bondster. Most of the Bond films occupy that hazy place in my memory where they’re inextricably connected to childhood experiences; I remember the fight on the Golden Gate bridge, the bit with the remote-controlled car, the mirror hall sequences, but they’re now more closely tied to episodes in my life than they are to the films themselves.

This retrospective, then, is about much more than simply examining the most profitable film series of all time. It’s a chance for me to revisit an old standby in my life; to laugh at how spotty my judgment undoubtedly was back then; to bring back some good memories, and maybe some bad ones; to reflect on how one cultural phenomenon has shaped my worldview through the years.

That is, if we can get through the Roger Moore era with our sanities intact.


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