Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reverend's Reviews: For Our Eyes Only - An GLBT Expose of the Bond Films

It is a remarkable character who can continue to command audience attention after 45 years, 22 films and six actors in the role. James Bond, Ian Fleming’s British secret agent with a license to kill, is that character.

What gay man among us hasn’t lusted after 007 as personified by Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan or the current Bond, yummy Daniel Craig, whose latest adventure, Quantum of Solace, opens November 14? What lesbian woman hasn’t had the hots at one time or another for such provocatively named Bond girls as Pussy Galore, Tiffany Case or Holly Goodhead?

Upon initial recall, one might conclude there hasn’t been much overt gay or lesbian sexuality depicted in the Bond films, at least thus far. But Bond has always been willing to do whatever is necessary in his defense of queen and country. It would seem if sex with a man was required, he’d be up for the task. Craig is on the record as saying he wouldn’t mind taking 007 in a more bisexual direction. The last movie in the series, 2006’s Casino Royale, which marked Craig’s debut in the role, includes a brutal scene of a naked Bond having his genitals tortured by the villainous Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen was quoted upon the film’s release as believing Le Chiffre was sexually attracted to Bond.

GLBT sexuality was hardly swept under the rug in earlier Bond movies, although it is almost exclusively represented by the bad guys and gals. From Russia with Love (1963) revealed its dagger-shoed villainess, Rosa Klebb (an unforgettably nasty Lotte Lenya), as having a more than professional interest in leading lady Daniela Bianchi. The same film boasts a buff Robert Shaw, as Bond’s chief adversary, clad in nothing more than a thigh-length towel in one scene.

Without a doubt, the gayest of all the Bond movies to date is 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. Not only does it show 007’s arch-nemesis, Blofeld (played here by Charles Gray), trying to evade capture by dressing in drag, but it introduced viewers to Blofeld’s gay assassins, Mr. Wint (Bruce Cabot) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith). Viewers are still startled today when this diabolical duo walks off hand-in-hand after offing someone early in the film. Not to leave the ladies disappointed, Diamonds Are Forever also features the athletic, seemingly-Sapphic Bambi and Thumper (Lola Larson and Trina Parks), who give 007 a harsh reception when he gets too close to uncovering Blofeld’s latest scheme.

Bond’s primary enemies — Blofeld, Dr. No, Goldfinger, et cetera — have historically been power-mad tycoons significantly older than he; more recently, there has been an effort on the part of the filmmakers to make the Bond villains the agent’s contemporaries. This has also had the effect, whether intended or not, of upping the homoerotic tension between Bond and such nemeses as Franz Sanchez (License to Kill), turncoat agent Alec Trevelyan (GoldenEye, which co-starred Famke Janssen as the sadistic, bisexual Xenia Onatopp), Renard (The World is Not Enough), the cosmetic surgery-loving Gustav Graves (Die Another Day) and the aforementioned Le Chiffre.

Then there’s the kinky duo Max Zorin and May Day in A View to a Kill (1985). Played respectively by Christopher Walken (although the role was reportedly written for bisexual actor-singer David Bowie) and Grace Jones, the Nazi-engineered Zorin and his Amazonian accomplice conspire, wrestle, play dress-up, make love and ultimately betray each other. It could be argued they have more in common with a gay or lesbian couple than a straight one. They even take trips to GLBT meccas Paris and San Francisco!

Of all Bond’s adversaries, though, one man stands out in my homosexually-oriented mind as the most luscious. As Necros in the 1987 entry The Living Daylights (in which Timothy Dalton made his debut as Bond), chiseled blonde actor Andreas Wisniewski sported tight polo shirts, transparent milkman pants and, in one scene, a tiny blue Speedo while doing the dirty work of chief villains Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) and Whitaker (Joe Don Baker). Necros doesn’t fail to take my breath away more than twenty years later.

An GLBT review of the Bond series wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the films’ title songs. Boasting frequently campy lyrics and overwrought singing by the likes of GLBT favorites Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Duran Duran, Sheryl Crow and Madonna (although Elton John denounced Madonna’s theme from Die Another Day for not being campy enough), some became chart-toppers upon release and endure as standards today. They’ve also inspired more than a few drag acts through the decades.

As the end credits of 007’s adventures traditionally assure viewers, James Bond will return. When he does, whether in Quantum of Solace or subsequent films, he’ll likely be more aware than ever of his GLBT devotees.

Article by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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