April is the cruellest month: a day-by-day game

Twenty-one years I have been haunting this website, or earlier iterations of it, and in those years I’ve seen many things stated that, were I in the mood, would cause me to walk on stage and administer a slap. I would then say I was impersonating some tennis person, or something. Probably Boris Becker. Or Buster Mottram. No, actually, not he. Get my wife’s cake out of your fuppin’ mouth. It’ll melt yer lips.

Thought we might run another month-long game, a bit like the one in December last year, although the statements below, which have been posted hereabouts on this wasteland over the years, are perhaps a little baity, touch negative perhaps, and assertions rather than questions. I can’t say I agree with them all. Several I vehemently disagree with.

All of them interest me, though. How about you?

April 1: In terms of the snooping about and investigating and use of aliases, with its lengthy depiction of James Bond undertaking “spying”, A View to a Kill is most “spy film” in the series.

April 2: A Charles Gray style of Blofeld is obviously much more in the spirit of the novel OHMSS than the Telly Savalas version.

April 3: Every female character in For Your Eyes Only (including Sharon, but excepting Tula) is both badly written and performed. It is the worst roster of female role and representation in the series.

April 4: Not only should the DB5 be given a rest, but they could calm down the aggressive wristwatch selling (not least because Omega watches are vulgar).

April 5: Denise Richards is not the worst thing about The World is Not Enough by a long, long way.

April 6: if not using one of his novels, Raymond Benson should have been asked to write a Bond film; this would have been a better use of his storytelling strengths.

April 7: The only way forward now for the Bond series is to adopt the Codename Theory.

April 8: Barbara Broccoli can produce a better quality of film than her father ever could.

April 9: Given that she believes him to be Peter Franks and Bond knowingly encourages that belief, Tiffany Case does not give informed consent. Nor does anyone similarly engaging with “Saiiirr Hilary Bray, Baronet”.

April 10: Licence to Kill would be redeemable had it been M ordering the private vendetta (as in the short story For Your Eyes Only) with Bond, reluctant to obey, questioning the purpose of the (here it comes) Licence to Kill. The avenging Leiter angle doesn’t work; no-one cares. Least of all Leiter.

April 11: “Arriving in Iceland, and beyond” in Die Another Day is the better half of the film.

April 12: Colonel Sun had an interesting premise with the abduction of M, but utterly fails to do anything more with it and the book collapses.

April 13: Albert R. Broccoli is primarily to blame for Pierce Brosnan not being James Bond in The Living Daylights.

April 14: GoldenEye would be better regarded in hindsight had it been Brosnan’s only one. It said all that had to be said, and this undermines his other films as they simply don’t know what to do with him.

April 15: Crucify this: the received wisdom that OHMSS is faithful to the novel tends to overlook the fact that Diana Rigg is miscast.

April 16: Not one of the continuation novels is worth reading.

April 17: The nine films co-produced by Harry Saltzman are the best James Bond films, or at least the iconic ones. The rest make up the numbers.

April 18: If AmazonMGM is keen to exploit the IP and broaden the offering, 90-minute animated versions of the Fleming books is probably worth a try but there’s nothing else really worth doing. None of the other characters are interesting enough. This reality show travel game show thing… not convinced.

April 19: The “odd-numbered” films are patently better than the “even-numbered” films.

April 20: I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them; I shall use my time. However, is No Time to Die simply a clear and direct ending with a shocking amount of timewasting leading up to it? Destination: fine. Journey there, though, is a total scribble. The material delivered by Spectre and No Time to Die doesn’t justify two films; should have been one. Same with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The Craig films wasted both time and potential.

April 21: Brosnan and GoldenEye saved the series; it is a truth universally acknowledged. However, they were always planning to make another film after Licence to Kill. The threats seen off by Roger Moore - the failure of Lazenby, the indifference to The Man with the Golden Gun and the return of Connery/NSNA - were much more dangerous, had they prevailed. Roger Moore saved the series three times.

April 22: Never Say Never Again demonstrates a considerably higher level of competence by SPECTRE than most of the Eon films depict.

April 23: James Bond is the product of a frustrated public schoolboy terrified of women. It’s for adolescents refusing to grow up (at best), and its portrayals and attitudes clearly demonstrate this. Stay in your lane, Commander.

April 24: John Glen was the best director of James Bond films.

April 25: A Paloma spin-off is pointless. The character was clearly constructed to last ten minutes and there’s nothing else there. Dusting off the abandoned screenplay and scratching out the word “Jinx” and replacing it with “Paloma” does no-one any favours.

April 26: If a Bond film has a US location and/or a US leading lady, that’s advance warning that it will be a bit duff.

April 27: No Bond who has been in more than three Bond films has been in more than three great ones.

April 28: The use of its music in No Time to Die isn’t an embracing of OHMSS. It is a rejection of it.

April 29: Given that they’re now back in another creative rut of their own making, the most progressive news for the Bond film series’ 60th anniversary would be Eon selling up and someone totally new comes in. 60 years is a long time, they’ve done a lot of fun stuff but it might be time to go.

April 30: The Broccoli family aside, the Bond films represent nobody’s best work. Everyone has come from and/or gone onto better output.


I’m game! (please don’t let this be some cruel April Fool’s routine…)


Ah - no it’s not - on you go.


The first half of Dr No has Bond feeling the most like a detective, in my estimations. But A View To A Kill does have a genuine case for being the most ‘spy’ oriented film for the reasons listed. He does get up to quite a lot, which upon reflection is a fitting end for Moore as a seasoned pro.


One thing I had overlooked in A View to a Kill is the remark about a successful cover becoming also second nature, with a later payoff being that it’s not James Bond making that quiche, it is the James Stock persona. Defending this slender point is not a hill I would die on, but it is a molehill of mild bruising.


Day1 - I have to agree that somewhere in that script is a cold war spy thriller. AVTAK with another actor, which surely it was developed for, could have been a taut, 80s thriller with an insane Nazi Child villain, and lots of actual spying happening. With Sir Rogers return ( well his stunt doubles return , Sir Rogers’ is a cameo afterall ) it became like us all in our dotage a bit flabby and meandering, which is covered up by massive amounts of silly humour and a pinch of wish fulfilment. But yes it has more in common with The Spy Who Came in From The Cold than most Bond Movies.


You know, I was all ready to take a contrary position, here on Day 1, yet, I do find myself going “hmmm, you know something, that lad Jim might just have a point.” I was all set to go “No…FRWL is the most ‘spy’ of the franchise.” FRWL, with it’s decoding machines, and trips on the Orient Express, and coded introductions, and Bond parachuting into “our games with the Russians.” Yet, through it all, Bond is unabashedly, being James Bond. In fact that’s the whole conceit of the film, that he has to convince whats-her-face that he is the James Bond of her lust.

So while FRWL feels akin to Deighton, or dare I say it, Le Carre, with it’s 60s Cold War packaging, to Jim’s point, Bond is just Bond. Whereas in AVTAK, once you get past fake icebergs with Union Jack hatches, actually might have more in common with those aforementioned authors. Going to the races (ok, so it’s luxury box rather than Get Carter), lunch meetings (fair enough, Eifell Tower not omelettes in Harry Palmer’s flat), and snooping around the stables (insert suitable Dick Francis comment here), there’s a slice of the daily life around this outing.

And to be fair, in true detective style, we find out what’s going on around the same as Bond, and, it could be argued, are equally as underwhelmed…!


April 1:

I’m going to make the controversial claim that Licence to Kill is in fact the most ‘spy film’ of the series. I know it’s more traditionally classed as a revenge film and the irony of Bond being rogue in this one is not lost on me. However I would argue that Bond uses his spying skills to greatest effect here.

First we get scenes of Bond snooping under the guise of Universal Exports trying to locate a shark in order to find and expose Krest’s operation. Then we see him run down Lieter’s contacts to find Pam. Upon arrival in Isthmus City Bond is quickly able to infiltrate Sanchez’s organisation and maintain his cover for a surprisingly long time. During this time he is able to successfully manipulate Sanchez into killing his own underlings (like Krest and Heller) and gain access to the heart of the operation. Bond is only exposed at the climax when Dario recognises him, which is definitely the latest point in any film in which Bond’s cover is blown. The aforementioned AVTAK for example sees Bond rumbled early on while in other cases the villain doesn’t even entertain the cover identity. Once Sanchez discovers Bond isn’t who he says he is it’s only a short time before he dies a fiery death.


Interesting position V! Had never thought of LTK (a movie I do enjoy) as a spy film. For me it’s the closest the series comes to the “crime” genre - and no, not because of the (lazy) Miami Vice comparisons that get made. While his business is drugs, Sanchez is pretty much the series’ only crime lord, rather than “super” villain (whatever they are…!). Cinephiles might put me straight, but I’d also offer that LTK is the closest (I say “closest” not “is”) the series comes to “noir.” Bond is a private citizen for fhe duration, the plot hinges on the notion of identity. And while there’s “noir” in many of the Bond girls through the series, Lupe could easily be plopped into some of the classics of the genre and not be out-of-place. .


I’m still pondering this, partly because Moore’s Bond in general was doing much more snooping/investigating/reconnoitre-ish stuff than we’ve come to expect in more recent entries. Moore often carried devices for reading micro films (TSWLM), opening safes and photographing documents (MR), tracking and audio surveillance (OP) as well as counter-surveillance (LALD, AVTAK). And while some of that stuff reappeared over the Brosnan and Craig years I can’t help feeling it lost most of its intrigue. Perhaps also because it’s so ubiquitous nowadays.

I was going to mention how ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE was particularly espionage heavy, Bond going in under cover with apparently nothing but a pipe and a pair of spectacles to help him. But the spying he does seems limited. His one chance to move about unobserved outside his room he spends in Ruby’s instead. While a sortie to Bleuville’s laboratory/study should have been a much more revealing task. Though not as rewarding perhaps.

As for A VIEW TO A KILL and its spy content, I’m still not convinced it’s comparatively more than in OCTOPUSSY or THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. I concede that it could make good use of the espionage theme in parts. But for me the whole film has trouble holding together its decent pieces and therefore I struggle with the verdict of this being the most ‘spy film’ in the series.

Very very odd off-topic not deserving its own thread: while researching ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE for this post on my phone I got this result. Mark the Savalas character…

Must be either a glitch in the Google algorithm or an April fool’s Easter Egg.


Using that criteria, yes it is. But is that what “spying” is? Other entries have more gadgets, more Cold War intrigue, more “get this before the opposition gets it.” But if “spying” means “pretending to be someone else while gathering intel,” then yes, it’s AVTAK. Though even then we’re not talking about “deep cover.” Hey, look, I’ve got a notepad so I must be a reporter. Hey look, I’m 8% more supercilious and flippant than usual so I must be an aristocratic horse buyer. (See? I’ve got a cravat and everything.)

I like the vote for LTK – anything that manages to make that film more interesting somehow is a win – but as Bond is working as a free agent and not on behalf of any government or organization, I don’t think it qualifies as “spying” in the traditional sense. But I do like the idea that he’s using the skills he’s picked up as a spy to do maximum damage for his own ends.

For the record, I miss the days of investigating and snooping in the Bonds. Throughout the Brosnan and Craig eras, Bond has been more commando than spy, more demolition man than detective: his job is to get in, blow stuff up and get out. And in Craig’s case, with that earpiece connecting him to the office gang, he’s almost more just a biological version of a “killer drone.”


Despite all the “funny” and OTT moments, the “spying and snooping” content of MR is widely underestimated, There’s much more to it than just laser battles in space…


So we are saying, essentially, Sir Roger Bond was the most like an actual spy then …


April 2 -
Yes he is, having recently watch him twice on the big screen, he does fit with the novels description of Blofeld. Although Telly Savalas works better for the screen incarnation within the context of the film. I would dearly love to hear Gray put LazenbyBond in his place though. Could’ve threaded through to an interconnected universe for all those out there that care for such things. Henderson is Blofeld… ConneryBond kills smaller Blofeld double in same movie. OHMSS he doesn’t realise till it’s too late that the camp silverhaired gent on the ski Slope is the man with the wooden leg who “died” last movie. ITS ALL CONNECTED


(I hasten to repeat that although having posted them, I don’t necessarily agree with all the statements)

On the “spy” thing in 1, I suppose some of the fluidity in trying to nail down how this applies to Bond comes from his creator never seeming to have been totally sure either. He’s a spy for sure in Fleming’s Moonraker, but more an agent of disruption in Casino Royale. He sort-of starts a spy in Diamonds are Forever but Bond expresses himself as bored by all that about halfway through and starts shooting up bits of Las Vegas. Goldfinger he does a bit of spying, but is dimissive of it, yet baulks at being just a blunt instrument of basic execution in For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights.

“Secret Agent” probably covers both the finding-outery and the blowing-uppery. Might fit him better than “spy”. Something like Solo tries both and demonstrates how deft one has to be in meshing these (Solo doesn’t work).

On 2, can see it and, if universe-building, would help explain why Blofeld doesn’t recognise Bond; whichever poor sod is underneath that Blofeld’s skin - insert “Blofeld has a man inside him” observation where you wish - had never met Bond. (Still don’t really get why Blofeld is creating doubles anyway). They did get the three stages of Blofeld in there - bruising but intellectual heavy, urbane gent then whalloped-out loon - if not in the right order. Part of this is also wanting to see cracked-egg Donald Pleasance flapping about in a silk kimono and brandishing a sword. Don’t say that wouldn’t thrill you, too.


So as it’s been half a decade since I re-read OHMSS, I decided to pull my old copy of Benson’s Beside Companion from the shelf (not that I don’t trust you StB!) and yes, by the page Gray was cast 2 years and a Bond too late.

But I do like Savalas and within the context of the film, his casting works (as does Gray). Put it this way, if you flip-flopped them and their films, they would both be out-of-place. Savalas, clearly the meanest of the Bonds (I’d offer Waltz, the most renowned actor of the bunch, the most boring). Gray, on the other hand, he wins the “most fun Blofeld to hang out with” award. I mean, sign me up for the plastic surgery - I could lounge around Vegas listening to bon mots and cackling away.

On another note, wouldn’t Gray have made a terrific Darth Vader…(“Oh God, not the son thing again, this is all quite tiring. Tattooine is such a…unimaginative place”).


April 1:

Most snoopy 007 films:


But, yes: AVTAK gets the crown. And it is much better than I remember. Maybe because I do not remember it better due to a lack of watching it. Which makes me want to watch it again. Absence does make my heart grow fonder.

April 2:

Gray in OHMSS… Well, that actually is a pretty great idea. I must confess I never was a big fan of Savalas as Blofeld because he played him so…normal. Gray would have had delicious fun sending out a virus to cause sterility. And to have him kill Tracy… wow, what a wicked ending that would have been.

Makes me think of Gray playing Blofeld in every film.

What a missed chance.


My first instinct was to say “no” out of my total aversion to the notion of shoe-horning Gray into OHMSS, but honestly if his goal is to convince the world that he’s some sort of blue-blood nobleman, his portrayal works much better. Savalas only really works as “main villain” if you keep reminding yourself theres a bobsled chase/fistfight coming up at the end. But if he’s a “count,” Schwartzenegger’s an archduke.


Interestingly, Deborah Lipp makes exactly this case in her The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book:

‘The casting of Telly Savalas baffles me. Other than the fact that Pleasence was also bald, he had nothing in common with any previous conception of Spectre’s head. Savalas was known for thuggish, psychotic, or sadistic roles, and perhaps Eon wanted a more fearsome quality to Blofeld. But Blofeld is also brilliant, aloof, and, of course, European. Savalas is none of these things. He portrays Blofeld as a macho hood.’

And on Charles Gray:

‘Blofeld needs to be large and imposing, unlike Donald Pleasence. He needs, unlike Telly Savalas, to portray an effete sort of snobbery, a bit prissiness, consistent with a villain who pets a cat and doesn’t dirty his hands by performing the killings he orders. He needs a commanding voice, since we were introduced to him as a voice alone, and a distinctive personal style. Charles Gray would seem the perfect choice.’

I long used to prefer Savalas over any other Blofeld incarnation. But I have to confess it’s entirely unconvincing why Savalas-Blofeld should care about the College of Arms’ approval of his title that he already uses anyway and that he could simply fake by his own agent inside the College of Arms.

That’s of course a giant hole in the plot/script any other actor in the role would also face. But with Savalas it feels like a hole, while with Gray it would feel like Gray-Blofeld would just swallow it hook, line and sinker. I can easily imagine his Blofeld to go that extra mile. I could even see him recognising Bond and perversely play along, leaving Bond to do his schoolboy snooping in Ruby’s sheets while thinking up the weird ‘Bunt-Schock’. None of that really befits the Savalas-Blofeld.


No, no, absolutely n… um, oh. Damn, this is right.

Melina… well, revenge. But otherwise… Holly in MR was much more interesting. Going back to Fleming was probably not a good idea in that regard. Thankfully, after this Octopussy followed…