Babes, Bullets, Bombs (Article)

Having gone through my old back-up discs (again), I found my old website, which I'd presumably backed up for prestige or something. One of the features of this site was a Bond Week where I basically posted a different article relating to the Bond series on each weekday. This was one of them.

This is actually a rewrite of the original version of the article, because the original was literally three paragraphs. When I remade the site, I also redid the some of the articles, in order to improve their quality. This is probably the one that benefited the most from this. It was (re)written in 2004, before the Casino Royale film was announced, which explains why Vesper Lynd isn't mentioned.

Ever since Ursula Andress emerged from the sea in the Dr No, the Bond Women have played a major role in Bond films. Along there with the gadgets and the locations, the women are another one of those elements that you have to come expect from a Bond film.

Starting with the very first Bond Girl, Honey Ryder set the standard for the girls who would follow in her footsteps. Despite having her voice dubbed for the film, Ursula Andress made such a striking appearance in Dr No that she not only became an international start but also sent bikini sales soaring after her 'emergence from the sea'. The truth behind the shot was that Ursula had gashed her knee badly on some coral just prior to the shoot and her knee had become badly swollen. Thankfully the film-makers were able to cover the injuries with make up, allowing the scene to go ahead.

Moving on to From Russia With Love, the innocent and naive Tatiana Romanova is played beautifully by Daniela Bianchi, who was a novice actress and former Miss Rome. In a role which required a huge amount of passion, her performance is sincere and totally credible and she remains one of the more memorable of the Bond Women. Although she was actress of the moment, she surprisingly retired from acting only a few years after her success in the film, although she did appear in the Bond spoof Operation Kid Brother. During filming, Daniela was injured in a car crash on the way to the set. Sean Connery, in a car immediately behind her, dragged her from the wreckage. Her face was badly swollen and she was unable to film for two weeks, but her performance on-screen made the wait worthwhile.

Pussy Galore does not appear until well into the story, however the audience's introduction to her is memorable and sets the scene for a wonderful performance by former Avengers star Honor Blackman. Although the lesbian tendancies of Goldfinger's novel were only insinuated in the film version, Blackman plays the role with such passion that it seems much more then that. The mature presence of Blackman (37 at the time of filming, making her the oldest Bond Girl) added immeasurably to ensuring that Pussy Galore became one of the most memorable of all 007's lovers. Additionally, the name became part of the international lexicon and remains so today.

Dominique, or 'Domino' to her friends, is a beautiful, but somewhat morose young woman who serves as the primary Bond Girl for Thunderball, although she does prove herself invaluable by personally killing Largo, the film's villain and her 'jailer'. Claudine Auger, a former Miss France, was an inspired choice for the role of Domino, one of the more complex of the 007 heroines. Auger was not only a stunning beauty, but she satisfactorily conveyed the inner sadness of a pampered, but unloved, young woman caught in a seemingly inescapable web of deceit and danger. Like several other Bond actresses from the earlier films, Auger was dubbed for the final cut.

You Only Live Twice provided audiences with the first 'real' death of a Bond Girl - although several had perished during the course of Goldfinger, the audience barely had time to notice Bond had conquered them before they died. That changed with Aki, who was a 'New Generation' Japanese Secret Service agent. Akiko Wakabayashi played the role with infectious charm, and when she dies it's a genuine shock to the audience, who have grown to like the courageous and resouceful young woman. Interestingly, Akiko was to play the role of Kissy Suzuki, before the director became convinced she was more suitable for the role of Aki. Kissy, unlike Aki, refuses to bed 007 while the mission is in progress - an act which seems all the more strange when the pair are supposed to be on their honeymoon - but is eager to succumb to Bond's charms once the film is over. Mie Hama plays the role of Kissy with considerable charm and the fact that she appears primarily in a bikini provided the publicity department with ample opportunity to capitalize on her stunning figure. Of note is the fact that the name of the character is not mentioned once throughout the entire film.

The enchanting Diana Rigg gave a performance in On Her Majesty's Secret Service which completely silenced those who had criticized the Bond films for having 'bimbos' as conquests. The character of Tracy Di Vicenzo is wonderfully written, drawing almost completely from Ian Fleming's novel and allowing Bond to become involved with an interesting, three-dimensional woman who is intelligent, courageous and humorous. Given her previous experience on The Avengers, Diana truly makes the part her own and it's difficult to imagine anyone else in the part. Tracy is a truly complex character, alternating between a suicidal, love-starved spoiled rich girl and a daring, vivacious adventurer. For once, Bond has truly met his equal in every way imaginable, and the love scenes between the two are moving, adding huge emotional impact to the daring, down-beat climax.

Diamonds Are Forever provides the series with one of the worst examples of Bond Girls, and the character of Tiffany Case helped create the unjustified impression that Bond women's IQs measured less then their bra sizes. When Bond first meets Tiffany, she is hard-edged and intriguing, as befitting a professional smuggler. Unfortunately, this aspect of her personality disappears later in the film, when she becomes naive and easily manipulated by Bond and others. It's difficult to fault Jill St John's performance, as she is playing the role as written. To her credit, she still maintains periodic moments of sensuality. Yet Tiffany Case (named after the diamond store where her unwed mother game birth to her) is a weak leading lady when compared to her predecessors, and her exaggerated ineptitude makes it difficult to accept her as a worthy adversary or lover for James Bond.

A new Bond meant a new direction for the next Bond girl. Like her mother before her, the beautiful and virginal Solitaire is treated like a personal possession. Her unique ability to use tarot cards to predict the future makes her a valuable asset, and one who is largely kept against her will. Although seduced by Bond, a genuine affection builds between the couple, which is largely due to the abilities of the two actors. Jane Seymour made her big screen debut with Live And Let Die and acquits herself admirably, although her talents are somewhat diluted by the script, which makes Solitaire appear to be little more then a glorified Lois Lane. She is the typical helpless female who excels only in getting captured and making the hero risk life and limb to rescue her, although it is to Seymour's credit that the audience doesn't seem to notice this as much as it should.

Regretably, The Man With the Golden Gun focuses on the wrong woman. Of the two women in the film whom Bond seduces, it's Andrea Anders who becomes the sacrificial lamb, something which really should have gone to the other lady in the limelight, Mary Goodnight. The character of Anders is an intriguing and realistic presence in an otherwise outlandish film. The haunted mistress of the film's villain, Anders in willing to risk her life to escape his clutches. Maud Adams gives a strong performance as the tragic woman, bringing a real sense of conviction, not to mention fear, to the role. By comparison, Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland, is portrayed as someone so inept that she makes Inspector Clouseau seem like Sherlock Holmes. The running joke in the film is that Mary's romantic encounters with 007 are never consummated due to various encounters. Britt Eckland performs gamely, but no actress could bring dignity to the role. Interestingly, Maud Adams has the distinction of being the only actress to date to play major characters in 2 Bond films - she also played the title role in Octopussy.

The impact made by Barbara Bach's stunning visual performance as Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me makes the audience forget her rather shaky Russian accent. Despite having the traditional trappings of the buxom Bond woman, Anya is indeed a new breed of heroine for the series. She is 007's equal in terms of intellect, courage and delf-sufficiency. Given all her attributes, it's no wonder Bond is virtually a one-woman man during the course of the entire mission. The powerful emotion she portrays when she is informed of her lovers demise, and the horrid realisation that it was Bond, to whom she has become close, who killed him, remains testament to the almost-perfect portrayal Bach gives. She remains to this day one of the most beautiful women to ever grace a Bond film.

Bond is spoilt for choice in Moonraker, although only one of his conquests make much of an impact. The character of Corinne Dufour, played with understated charm by French actress Corinne Clery, Corinne is personal assistant/pilot for the main villain. 007 seduces the beautiful girl and persuades her to allow him to photograph secret papers. For her betrayal, she pays a terrible price - a pack of Dobermans are unleashed on her and she is torn to shreds (out of view, thankfully) in a truly harrowing and suspenseful sequence. Although she has little screen time, Corinne makes a substantial impact of audiences, leaving them reeling when she dies. Manuela, the field agent assigned to Rio and assigned to work with Bond, makes it clear from the start that she mixes business with pleasure and, after becoming romantic with Bond almost immediately upon his arrival, the pair investigate a warehouse, during which Manuela - who is obviously more skilled in the boudoir then in the field - barely puts up a token resistance and has to be rescued by Bond. The character makes little impact on audiences and seems to hark back to a time when Bond's women were little more then living dolls. Finally, the main conquest of the film, Dr Holly Goodhead, is intelligently written and Lois Chiles is most satisfactory in the part. Although, refreshingly, it is she who initially treats 007 as a one-night stand, the character is bland and remains one of the least memorable of Bond's on-screen lovers.

For Your Eyes Only starts with a wonderfully shot scene in which Bond pays respects to his late wife from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, an intriguing start to a film which has one of the most fascinating women in a Bond film yet. Melina Havelock, played beautifully by French actress Carole Bouquet, impresses Bond when they first meet by being a strong-willed, courageous woman who is not hesitant about using her proficiency with a crossbow to eliminate her enemies and she plays a vital role in the destruction of the film's villain. Carole plays Melina with genuine conviction, making her character a haunted woman with a mission of vengeance. She and Bond don't even share a romantic moment until the last sequence of the film - an unusual situation for 007, but a scenario that makes the plot much more convincing.

Returning for her second Bond film, Maud Adams plays the title role of Octopussy, one of the best films of Roger Moore's career. Octopussy is already familiar with Bond, having allowed her father to commit suicide rather then face the scandal of a high-profile court martial on charges of theft and murder, and the two become closer still as the film progresses, eventually becoming lovers about halfway through the film. She also demonstrates considerable skill when dealing with the villans of the film, matching them every step of the way. Maud is one of the most accomplished actresses to appear in a Bond film, and exudes considerable chemistry with Moore. With this role, she ensures her status as one of the most memorable of Bond's ladies.

Although A View To A Kill has some very strong characters, Stacey Sutton is not one of them. On the few occasions when Tanya Roberts isn't screaming for help or being chased, her deliverance of lines elicit more laughs then credibility. Despite her stunning screen presence, Tanya can't bring much to the role. Much more effective is Grace Jones in the role of May Day. A humourless but highly sexual woman who relishes dressing in outlandish clothing, she possesses extraordinary strength and is more then efficient in the art of murder. May Day is one of the most original and interesting characters to appear during this era of Bond films, and Grace steals most of the scenes in which she appears - including a very funny one in which she beds Bond but ensures it is she who is on top.

With a new actor playing Bond came a new style to the films, and The Living Daylights proves this with the character of Kara Milovy. A beautiful and talented Czech cellist, Kara is unwittingly betrayed by the one she loves and is tossed around almost like a ragdoll before finally making a stand. Kara is one of the more interesting and believable of Bond's women, being innocent yet brave and fiercely self-sufficient. The role is played with considerable skill by the wonderful Maryan d'Abo, who proved to be a very appropriate leading lady for Timothy Dalton's more serious interpretation of 007.

Although License To Kill was arguably the most controversial of the Bond films, one thing that isn't is the performances of the two leading ladies. Lupe Lamora is the 'kept' woman of the film's villain, and, like Domino from Thunderball, is tired of behind held a virtual captive in the luxurious surroundings of her lover's estate. Model Talisa Soto gives an impressive performance in what could have been a clich├ęd, one-dimensional plot. Her beauty is accentuated by the eye-popping gowns and dresses she wears throughout the film, a look that makes Pam Bouvier seem her complete opposite. One of the most intriguing of Bond's ladies, Pam is a tough-as-nails courageous freelance pilot who works periodically for the CIA. Although the screenwriters can't resist having her eventually fall madly in love with Bond, her pouting jealousy of 007's involvement with Lupe is the only false note in her characterization. She is excellently played by model/actress Carey Lowell, who brings a refreshing cynicism to her role which ensures that this Bond girl is far more then just an ornament for 007.

Another new Bond and another change of direction for the series. This time the role of Goldeneye's Bond Girl fell to two very different women. The first refreshingly flied in the face of political correctness, and the character of Xenia Onatopp harkend back to the glory days of Bond villainesses. Larger then life and played with enormous zeal by Famke Janssen, Xenia stands out in every respect. A ravishing beauty, she combines her love for S&M sex with her penchant for murder. The scenes between Xenia and Bond are very well written and feature the type of double entrendres that were so much a part of the Connery era, all of which is in complete contrast to Natalya Simonova, who is very much a heroine for the 1990s: independent, courageous and cynical, and she is played very capably by the popular Swedish actress and singer Izabella Scorupco. Of particular note is the scene where she questions what Bond does for a living, which is one of the most moving and memorable of the series.

Tomorrow Never Dies provides Bond with two more beautiful women, although they're both on his side this time. Teri Hatcher was a truly inspired choice for the limited, but very important role of the tragic Paris Carver. She looks absolutely stunning and is attired in glamorous outfits which accentuate the sensuality of her scenes with Pierce Brosnan. Their love scene, in which Bond tenderly disrobes her, is one of the most truly erotic sequences of any of the films, aided by the fact that Bond genuinely cares for this woman. His despair over discovering her body is an unusually moving moment and accentuates his compassion in a very emotional way. Paris is one of the more tragic of Bond's women because it is solely because of his actions that she is murdered. Wai Lin, on the other hand, is very much a Bond heroine in that she is completely independent, fearless and perfectly capable of defending herself. She is played with considerable charm by Michelle Yeoh, one of the Orient's biggest box-office sensations. She performs an amazing array of stunts for the film, has a quiet, unassuming demeanour and commands the screen in the action sequences she features in.

Again, Bond is provided with two women in The World Is Not Enough. Bond first encounters Christmas Jones, a Doctor of Atomic Physics, at a Kazakhstan test facility. Despite her intellectual prowess, Christmas - like most Bond girls - is quite resourceful, this time in the art of nuclear weapons, which proves pivotal. Although Denise Richards is really too young to realistically portray a nuclear weapons expert, she succeeds in avoiding the unintentional laughs one might have expected. Elektra King, on the other hand, is a highly sexual woman with a ruthless edge, and is the most intriguing female lead character to appear in a Bond film since Octopussy. Sophie Marceau plays the complicated role with admirable skill, managing to make Elektra alternately appealing and appalling.

Finally, Die Another Day has a very intentional homage to Ursula Andress' famous entrance as Honey in Dr. No, with Jinx rising Venus-like from the Caribbean, clad in a bikini very reminiscent of that worn by Ms. Andress forty years earlier. The impact is equally impressive. In the tradition of all Bond women, Jinx is sexually aggressive and uses Bond for her pleasure every bit as much as he uses her. Halle Berry radiates considerable chemistry with Pierce Brosnan, and the intensity of their love scenes provides a genuine air of eroticism that pushes the envelope back by Bond standards. Miranda Frost, meanwhile, lives up to her name and barely give Bond time to breath before turning on him. In the past, the results have been mixed when young actresses were cast in prominent roles in a Bond film. However, Rosamund Pike brings a sophistication and maturity to the role that makes her an alluring screen presence.

The women have undergone numerous changes throughout the years, from the independent women like Honey Ryder and Pussy Galore to the "stereotypical blond" like Stacey Sutton and Mary Goodnight. However as it started in Dr. No, this has come full circle with the current films offering more independent and authoritive women who are a match for 007 like Natalya Simonova and Wai Lin.

There are of course even some women who can meet 007 on his level and exceed it, like Xenia Onatopp and Jinx. Like many elements in the Bond films, the women are dependant on the changing times, trends and attitudes of current audiences with the producers hoping to stay on top of these complex patterns. One thing can be sure though, there will all ways be an abundance of beautiful, sexy, intelligent and gorgeous women who hold the title of "Bond Women" past, present and future.

No comments:

Post a Comment