Ladies & Gentlemen, I bring you ‘Before They Were Bond’, a collection featuring an assortment of 9 films made & released before the headlining actors took over the helm of James Bond in the long running franchise, so we’re led to believe.
So what can we expect from a DVD set that brandishes artwork showing Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton & Roger Moore in an angel pose with their Walther PPK, a silhouette of a sultry woman in the background holding a pistol & a faded barrel shot from the intro? Let me tell you, I had both a brilliantly fun & frustratingly terrible time watching & reviewing these films.
You know you’re getting into some sweet old school James Bond related action & adventure like a 19th century period piece romance/thriller. Well, less of a romance & more of a suspenseful thriller which really threw me off as I went into this only reading the vague synopsis on the packaging. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking this was a romance, it begins like one. Daniel Craig plays James Lynchehaun, a charming man that tries to woo Agnes Mc.Donell with his…..charm. So throughout the film James is saying some sweet stuff, Agnes (Old lady name for a young blonde if you ask me) is talking to her maid friend like a giddy schoolgirl, then there’s a scene where James is manipulating the maid (Can’t remember why) then James’ dark intentions become clearer & clearer by the minute. I tell you, that moment Daniel Craig snaps into his raging, crazy, maniacal mode is one the best things I’ve seen in my life, but sadly that happens much too late in the final act of the film. I wish the whole movie was Daniel Craig reciting the lyrics to a Vengaboys song & running around the 19th century manor with a meat cleaver. Until that point, the whole film felt like it was holding back on showing James being a messed up person. Maybe this film is edited & there’s a version of this film where Daniel Craig impales a constable with a deer’s antlers. Who knows.
Overall, the film is slow, the characters are pretty bland & do nothing for the most part, that is until the final act, it doesn’t know if it wants to be a full on romance or a full on horror film without the gratuitous kills. I unintentionally laughed at the ending when it’s several years later, Agnes is old with rotting teeth & James is a drunkard stumbling into the mansion shouting “Ello ello ello luv!” He looked like a caricature from a Monty Python sketch. I laughed & cried.
The film is somewhat worth it if you want to watch Daniel Craig act crazy, but the question arises: was this released before Daniel Craig took over as James Bond? Yes, Daniel starred as James Bond with ‘Casino Royale’ back in 2005. Does this film have anything to do with James Bond? Besides the characters first name, nothing.
Roger Moore is Rod Slater, a gold tycoon who owns a mine, has his way with the ladies & cares for the coal miners who work on his mine. When trouble occurs, Rod is there to aid the rescue teams to help his distressed workers. He is soon wrapped into a devious plan, thought of by the corporate suits, to send miners to their death when they are asked to dig into a dangerous dike. Now I may not be an expert in economics, but how does digging into a dike & drowning a bunch of coal miners increase the price of gold? I don’t know, but when the film isn’t slow or focusing on a bunch of econ dialogue, it feels like a movie trying to cash in on the style of the James Bond films. Roger Moore brandishes nicely tailored suits, drives a Rolls Royce, lives in a huge mansion & always woos in beautiful women with his charms. On top of it, Manfred Steyner (Antagonist) & his crew of corporate thugs act like the bad guys from SPECTRE. The film even mimics the title sequence of a James Bond film with a power ballad & suido psychedelic style where the logo animation is silhouetted over footage of gold. All it needed was a gun barrel sequence & silhouettes of the naked female figure swimming all over the title sequence.
What can I say, when the film isn’t slow or padded with businessmen talking, it’s an intense & dramatic film. At first I expected Rod Slater to be this shallow rich person, but he turns out more relatable & sympathetic. The bad guys are ‘hiss-worthy’ & get their comeuppance by the end of the film (I won’t ruin how they get it, just see) and the film has some pretty intense rescue sequences. It’s a PG film & the sequences where Rod goes into a flooding coal mine are much more graphic than a Japanese gore film. Unlike ‘Love & Rage’, this film is a perfect choice for this DVD collection, except for one thing. Roger Moore took on the role of James Bond in 1973, this film came out in 1974. DVD packaging, you have some s’plaining to do! Let’s hope this isn’t a recurring pattern here.
[No poster for this one. It doesn‘t deserve it.]
Oh good lord, the things I do for a review. You ever watch a sitcom where a couple (Mainly a fat guy & a heavily attractive skinny woman) bicker over what movie to watch at the Cineplex? Of course the man wants to watch some testosterone fueled action movie & the woman wants to watch a period piece romance with some poetically pretentious title like ‘In the Eve of Wedded Bliss’ or some junk like that. This is the movie that the wife in a sitcom wants to watch!
The visuals smell like a TV movie old that would air in the mid 90’s on CBS. I’m not kidding, this film was a rough sit. I made it to the 30 minute mark before taking out the DVD, logging on to You Tube & watching some WorldStar Vines to get that sour taste out of my mind. The next week I bit my tongue, put the DVD on & white knuckled through the sappy 1900’s, 1800’s Romantic dialogue.
So this film is about Timothy Dalton (Not even going to name them by their characters) going to France, in a train, to see his bitch. Then we cut to his bitch in France where she tells her butler to send a telegram to Timothy telling him not to come because she’s a bitch. Sorry guys, that’s the only explanation I can give, she a bitch. Without knowing, Timothy arrives to France with a smile on his face thinking “Yeheaah!!! Vive Le France!” Then he finds out he was never meant to come to France because his wife? Ex-wife? I don’t know what she was supposed to be, she is done with Timothy’s relationship & so his trip was all for nothing, that is until he meets up with a redheaded woman by the name of Alicia Witt.
(FYI: Alicia Witt is that creepy voiced girl with the glowing eyes from David Lynch’s ‘Dune’.)
So Timothy Dalton hooks up with Alicia, they both have a one night stand at the hotel they’re staying at & decide to part ways after the fact. Ohhh how romantic, a woman getting done by a guy twice her age & leaving. You know condoms weren’t a thing in those times. That is until Timothy Dalton decides to visit that bitch who told him not to come, I guess he still has a thing for her. So all throughout her scenes she talks about how her family is visiting her estate, guess who her family’s travel maid is? ALICIA WITT, OHHHH NOOOO!!!! LE DRAMA!!!!!!!!!! LOVE TRIANGLE!!!! That was the point in the film when I just shut it off, I pretty much knew what kind of drama was going to take place, it was telegraphed very clearly. So Timothy Dalton acts like he’s never met Alicia Witt, Alicia gets jealous as she sess him trying to hook up with the bitch (Mind you, all this is happening in secret, the bitch doesn‘t know what‘s happening), the bitch is wanting to get married to some goofy looking guy & the goofy looking guy has no freaking clue what’s happening until all these characters go public with their affections. To end this miserable, poorly written (To those of you who are still reading this, you are brave) synopsis, Alicia Witt hooks up with Timothy Dalton (and probably have 8,000 babies together) & the goofy looking guy dumps the bitch because how dare she still have feelings for the guy she thought she had no feelings for!
I ignored the fact that this was a period piece romance & critiqued it as just a film. It’s a bad, boring, vapid little film trying to capture the audience’s interest, mainly women. I’ll give it this, Timothy Dalton was really giving it his all in his performance. Everyone else was terrible, their line deliveries almost sounded like an automated voice message & I won‘t really crap on the set design. This couldn‘t of been a high budgeted movie, but they got every detail right. Man was this film a rough sit. It makes ‘Love & Rage’ look like ‘Natural Born Killers‘ by comparison.
Was this made before Timothy was Bond? No! Timothy Dalton served his short term as James Bond back in 1987, almost a whole decade before this film was made. I say short because he starred in two Bond flicks, the best one being ‘License To Kill’ which was very remorseless with the violence & it has James Bond being a vengeful bastard, two decades before ‘Quantum of Solace’. I recommend that movie, way better romance than whatever this crap was.
Italian Exploitation, in this DVD set? Don’t get your hopes up.
Unlike in the previous three titles which headlined three bond actors, this one headlines a Bond girl, but she doesn’t even have a headline role. Barbara Bach’s character doesn’t even appear in the film until the final act & even then she doesn’t do anything. She just stands there, looks pretty for the cameras & that’s about it.
The story begins as our main character, a gentleman by the name of (Get ready to laugh at this very British name) Humphrey Van Weyden (Played by a Guiseppe Pambieri) is kidnapped by a bunch of pirates & wakes up in a ship as he’s forced to work for Captain Wolf Larsen, played by Chuck Connors. So the whole film is a sort of survival tale of a man from high society trying to deal with the situation of being in a ship full of smelly pirates who either treat him badly or sympathize with him.
While the film dubs over their dialogue (Like all Italian Exploitation films of that time), Chuck Connors as Captain Wolf is amazing. He’s got the best & most badass lines in that film. There was a moment in that film when Humphrey is invited to his cabin & Humphrey sees all these books stacked in the shelves which leads Wolf to say something along the lines of “What? You’re surprised too see all these books? Books aren’t just for the rich, you know.” Then you have Humphrey who doesn’t become an action hero archetype when put in the situation. Humphrey is a gentlemen from high society & while he evolves a little after experiencing death & violence at sea, he remains a pretty relatable character. Then you get Cookie, a comic relief who is always seen tending to Captain Wolf’s plants or getting into some visual slapstick comedy. I forgot to mention, this film is based off a Jack London book, so I have no clue if Cookie is a character in the novel or if the Italian production company thought the story needed some comic relief. It does nothing for the film, not a laugh or a chuckle came out of me when he appeared. Overall, this movie is decent, not the best thing ever made. While the dialogue is alright, some scenes drag on way too long, especially the scene when the boat is caught in the middle of a rainstorm. Expect a lot of shots of a boat in water. Not sure if it’s a faithful adaptation of a book written by the guy who wrote ‘Call of the Wild’, but I’ll say this movie makes me want to track down the source material & give that a read. How many Italian exploitation films can you say made a person want to read some Jack London? Hell, how many Italian exploitations films can you say are adapted from books. Honestly, I was expecting zombies to pop out in this book, it seemed apt.
This movie shouldn’t even qualify for a ‘Before They Were Bond’ DVD set, but I’ll give it a pass.
Yeah, that was some hard edged action in this DVD disc. Nothing like Love Triangles, obsessive men & pirates. What the fuck!!!!! We’re not done yet, there is another disc in this set & I did not have high hopes. Will the second disc be worth the $5 dollars I paid for or will it be a huge complete waste?
Tune in next time for the conclusion!!