Friday, August 20, 2010
Friday Film Buff: Better With Age
No, you haven't. And if you have met someone claiming such rubbish you should really check their closet for a giant pod husk. Seriously.
Everybody loves Sean Connery. While not everything he touches turns immediately to gold (The Avengers, Zardoz), Connery can pretty much be counted on to give a performance that you'll be imitating to your co-workers the next day in your best growling Scottish brogue.
While there may be some contention about who was the worst Bond, there's a pretty clear majority that agrees that the best Bond was and will always be the first Bond. Sure, some of the younger film-goers may laud Craig or Brosnan as their favorite as they are the most recently associated with the role, and I even once knew a guy who made a compelling argument in favor of Lazenby, but few can dispute that no one captured the essence of Bond quite as well as Mr. Connery. By the way, if you ever meet anyone who claims Roger Moore was the best, well, you know: Pod husk. Go check. Right now.
It was during the Moore era that Sean Connery finally felt compelled to return to the role he'd walked away from twelve years earlier to make the non-EON Bond film Never Say Never Again (a remake of Thunderball) in 1983. Some critics have poked fun at the aging Scot playing Bond again in that film, and a certain weekly magazine focusing on entertainment recently even went so far as to refer to that film as "Grumpy Old Bond" and mocked Connery's receding hairline. However, had they used the specialized journalistic tools at their disposal (uh, dudes: Google), they might have discovered that Connery has worn a toupee as Bond since Dr. No as he began to lose his hair as a teenager, and they might also have learned that the official Bond of the time, Roger Moore, is three years older than Connery.
Personally, I like Never Say Never Again. It may not stand up to a Goldfinger or even a Living Daylights, but it's a darn sight better than what EON produced that same year (Octopussy) or two years later (A View To A Kill).
This would mark the second time that Connery had been enticed to return to the role of Bond. The first was Diamonds Are Forever. Connery had said goodbye to Bond after You Only Live Twice, his fifth time as 007, in 1967, because he wanted to do other projects. During this time, he made one of my favorite movies, The Molly Maguires (1970).
After George Lazenby inexplicably decided to abandon the role after his only outing in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), a number of actors were considered including Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes), and Adam West (Batman), but, ultimately, the decision was made to return to Connery with a good deal of pleading and a hefty chunk of change. Connery agreed. (It's nice to be wanted.)
Connery famously said that he would never play Bond again after Diamonds Are Forever, and - even more famously - was told at the time by his wife, Michelle Roquebrune, to "never say never again." (She got a production credit for her contribution to the title of the 1983 film.)
During his second break from Bond, Connery added several great films to his catalogue, including Robin and Marian, The Wind and the Lion, The Man Who Would Be King, The Great Train Robbery, Murder on the Orient Express, and today's Friday Film Buff selection: Outland (1981).
Often described as "a western in space," writer/director Peter Hyams created this film as an homage to (and loose adaptation of) High Noon.
Connery is O'Niel, the new Marshal at a remote mining outpost on one of Jupiter's moons in the not-too distant future. After breaking up an illegal drug operation, O'Niel finds himself standing alone against the corrupt mining supervisor (Peter Boyle) and a group of hired assassins arriving on the next shuttle. Connery is great in this film, supported by James B. Sikking as a loyal but pragmatic deputy and the always wonderful Frances Sternhagen as the sardonic station doctor.
Cool flick. Check it out if you haven't already.
Connery would go on to play a leading man/action hero in over twenty more films - well into his seventies - before finally announcing his retirement after his difficult experience filming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) and that film's disappointing returns at the box office.
However, Connery has worked on a few voice-over projects recently including a return to the role that started it all, voicing James Bond for a video game version of From Russia With Love.
I do sometimes hope that we'll see Sir Connery step back in front of the cameras, but I hear he's enjoying his retirement, and I'm glad of that.
Like the saying goes: "Bannocks ar better nor nae kin o breid," (roughly: "Half a loaf is better than no bread at all") and I'll always be grateful for the "breid" that's there: 50 years' worth of great films.