The first James Bond movie I ever saw was 1983’s “Octopussy,” starring Roger Moore as 007. I must’ve been about 4 or 5. What I most remember about my initial viewing of the film is when a henchman winds up with an octopus attached to his face after being thrown into an aquarium. That sort of thing sticks with a young kid. Something else that stuck with me was Moore’s performance as Bond. Although Moore was the third actor to play James Bond (after the inimitable Sean Connery and the one-off George Lazenby), he was my point-of-entry into the franchise. And so, I have a certain reverence for Moore’s take on the character.
Moore played Bond in seven movies, equal to the number of turns by Connery. Funnily enough, Connery’s final performance as Bond was in “Never Say Never Again,” an unofficial remake of “Thunderball” that was released the same year as “Octopussy;” believe it or not, Moore’s film outgrossed Connery’s in what was dubbed The Battle of the Bonds.
It’s generally agreed upon by fans, myself included, that Moore’s best Bond entry is 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me.” It was his third time out as Bond, following 1973’s “Live and Let Die” and 1975’s “The Man With the Golden Gun.” TSWLM is the first Bond film, however, that doesn’t draw anything from Ian Fleming’s books beyond its title. It sees Bond and KGB Agent XXX (Barbara Bach, not Vin Diesel) trying to locate two hijacked submarines — one American, the other Russian — and prevent a web-fingered madman from starting WWIII. Agent XXX soon discovers that Bond killed her lover on a previous assignment (during the sensational mountaintop ski chase pre-credits sequence) and vows to take her revenge once the mission is complete. There’s a lengthy battle aboard a supertanker at the climax, one that required the (uncredited) talents of Stanley Kubrick to help design the lighting; the formidable Richard Kiel as the henchman Jaws; and Carly Simon crooning “Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me)” over the opening credits. All in, TSWLM is easily one of the top five films in the series.
Moore’s Bond installments tend to be overshadowed by the gadgetry and maybe have a little too much fun at the expense of the hero. “Octopussy” goes as far as having Bond disguise himself as a circus clown, which must’ve had Fleming turn over in his grave. I’ll defend the bulk of 1979’s “Moonraker,” although the laser battle in Earth’s orbit at the climax makes “Flash Gordon” look like “Casino Royale.” The series fortunately returned to its grittier roots with 1981’s “For Your Eyes Only;” that film also has one of the best posters in the series. The absolute nadir of Moore’s run is his final Bond film, 1985’s “A View to a Kill.” Still, that film gave us the excellent Duran Duran song, so it’s not a complete bust.
Roger Moore shepherded Bond through the bulk of the 1970s and halfway through the ’80s in a diverse, 12-year run. He matched wits against the likes of Christopher Lee and Christopher Walken, he visited a man-made Atlantis beneath the ocean as well as an orbital platform high above Earth, and he even wooed Maud Adams in “The Man With the Golden Gun” and Maud Adams again in “Octopussy.” Nobody does it better. Well, maybe Connery.