movies The James Bond legend turns 50. Everyone turns nostalgic about the Bond magic

“The name’s Bond. James Bond.” Six different men have mouthed, what is probably, the most famous opening line in 22 Bond movies. The agent with a licence to kill, James Bond has been at work for the last 50 years. What Sean Connery started, Daniel Craig continues. Those in between are George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, all of whom are English (Scot and Irish included).

The international media is going gaga over Bond’s 50th birthday, as also fans. “Sean Connery is the only James Bond!” declares a fan. MI6 agent number 007 has to be ‘suavest’ of them all. He is/was probably the most contemporary or modern of the Bonds’. Grin in place he went about his business of saving the world. Pierce Brosnan too. These guys made saving a few countries, or the world for that matter, look easy. Roger Moore acted in as many ‘official’ Bond films as Connery, though not as popular as Connery, who had many fans. The Net is agog with little known facts about Bond. Some are peeved that the latest Bond flick, Skyfall , yet to be released, will have Bond drinking, not vodka martini ‘shaken, not stirred’, but beer. Did you know that there’s a James Bond International Fan Club, which was founded in 1979 with members from 40 countries? If you thought Dr. No was the first film, you are right, but Bond came on TV much earlier.

Ian Fleming reportedly got $1000, selling the TV rights of Casino Royale in 1954. And on October 21, that year, CBS telecast the hour-long show with American actor Barry Nelson playing James Bond! Wait, there’s more. Before the movies, came radio too, and the only radio production was a South African adaptation of Moonraker in 1956, in which Bob Holness, gave the voice for James Bond.

The world is in celebration mode. In Central London, there’s an exhibition Designing 007 - Fifty Years of Bond Style, which has an Aston Martin at the entrance. Other Bond accessories such as dresses, jerseys, jewellery and jackets worn by Bond movie characters are on display. It is open to the public till September 5. MGM and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are pitching in, in style: They will park the Bond vehicles, one each day, so that fans can pose for photos alongside it. What is that Bond magic?

Girls and gizmos or vice versa defined them. Bond travelled exotic…Africa, Russia, Europe etc when he took on fantastically maniacal villains. As Q rightly warns Bond ( You Only Live Twice ), “If it hadn’t been for the Q Branch you’d have been dead long ago.” From jazzing up Bond cars to providing the super spy with fascinating gadgets, Q was probably why Bond lived. His cars from Aston Martin (mostly) to Lotus Espirit to BMWs, the Bond cars were fitted with amazing equipment – bullet proof windshields, oil slick dispensers, changeable number plates (with the flick of a switch), machine guns, ejector seats, car phones…the list is endless. The ‘Q Boat’ in The World Is Not Enough is the stuff of a tech geek’s fantasy. It had a jet propulsion system, torpedoes, it could dive underwater and be driven on roads. Then there were pens which alternately served as guns, cameras, recorders, bug detecting devices, then there was the gyroplane Little Nellie ( You Only Live Twice )…it is a fascinating endless list.

And if James Bond has the ‘licence to kill,’ the Bond girls have the licence to thrill.

The success of any Bond film heavily swayed on the girls who appeared alongside 007 and the whole array of villains. They command attention, capture our imagination and are as integral a part of Bond history as are his swanky cars, and the amazing gizmos.

Ursula Andress was the first ‘Bond girl’. She played Honey Ryder in Dr. No (1962), the first ‘official’ Bond film. She became the prototype of what Bond girls ought to be: beautiful, independent, confident. “Ursula Andress was certainly the best. Then there were Carey Lowell, who later married actor Richard Gere, Jane Seymour, the youngest (she was just 22) actress to play a Bond girl, and Halle Berry, who was voted the fourth toughest girl on screen once,” says Manoj Joseph, a die-hard Bond fan.

The super-villain of the series, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his marked characteristics went on to inspire similar characters in several Hollywood and Indian films.The evil genius doesn’t makes a full appearance in the first two films. Only his lower body is visible as he strokes a white cat. This has been replicated in numerous films, including Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Shakaal in Ramesh Sippy’s Shaan. From exploring relationships between a declining Britain and a rising United States, the films discussed the Cold War, space rule, energy crisis, nuclear confrontation, drugs and more. India figured in Octopussy, not only in the locales but also characters. Our own Kabir Bedi and Vijay Amritraj starred in it.

Now, back to nostalgia. Of the Bonds, the only one who disappointed fans was George Lazenby ( On Her Majesty’s Secret Service , 1969).

Rugged, cool, suave, macho, sexy…can be a tough call, even for Agent 007. Let’s see what he does, at 50 plus!

shilpa nair, k. pradeep

and prema manmadhan