Ranking the James Bond DIRECTORS (Part III): Number 7-Lewis Gilbert

Some might be wondering:

“James Bond DIRECTORS?! Who gives a shit? Especially on “philosophy blog”?!”

And to that, I say “fuck off”. Start paying me and I might write stuff that YOU want to read. Until then, keep your mouth shut and read the shit that I write for FREE. Jackass.

Alright then! The list has gone as follows:

12. Lee Tamahori- Die Another Day

11. Roger Spottiswoode- Tomorrow Never Dies

10. Michael Apted- The World is Not Enough

9. Irvin Kershner-Never Say Never Again

8. John Glen- For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View To A Kill, The Living Daylights, License To Kill

I grew up with these films. Every last one of these movies hold a special place in my heart and I love them all, even with all of their flaws. Ask and James Bond fan, and they will tell you: the worst James Bond film is better than Schindler’s List. 

WHAT?!

Well, not really. But you get the idea.

Even when they’re bad, they’re something magical. So I don’t want to demean these distinguished gentlemen (and hopefully Lady sometime soon). They did something that I’ll never have the opportunity to do, and I believe that they deserve some recognition for their efforts.

These men are the unsung heroes of the James Bond franchise. Which brings us to number 7:

7. Lewis Gilbert

You Only Live Twice (YOLT), The Spy Who Loved Me (SWLM), Moonraker

In my mind, Lewis Gilbert directed ONE James Bond film and two remakes. All of his films have the same plot: something big gets stolen which will be used to start World War III, end the human race, etc. and James Bond must stop it. It’s pretty lazy writing, BUT Bond films can sometimes be difficult to follow. It’s not uncommon to ask yourself “why is this happening?” or “what’s going on?” while watching. That’s not a problem in the Gilbert films. These movies are pretty easy to follow, generally speaking, because they’re all recycled plots.

Like Michael Apted, Gilbert had a pretty distinguished career outside of Bond. His best effort, unquestionably in my mind, was YOLT. (Although MANY others would say SWLM)

YOLT gets a bad rap nowadays…a well-deserved one I might add. James Bond is arguably at his most sexist (although Goldfinger and Thunderball might give it a run its money), unabashedly racist, and Sean Connery is totally phoning in his performance. It was of its time, and truthfully that’s my only defense. The best we can do as Bond fans is acknowledge it and incorporate it into our criticism of this film.

Sadly, as I’m getting into the Connery films, this won’t be the last time I’ll be saying this.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with this movie. Many plot devices get introduced and are quickly thrown away or don’t make any sense. Why would James Bond fake his death only to walk around in public later that day? Additionally, how were those policemen so easily FOOLED by the “death”, and how did they know James Bond? What did that policeman mean by “he would have wanted it this way”? Did he know James Bond so well that he knew that Bond would have liked to have died being gun-downed, buck-ass naked in a Hong Kong hotel room? “‘At least he died on the job’ was what the policeman said”, you might tell me. So Bond was working?! All of these questions for a scene that probably lasted less than a minute. Plus, why did Bond turn “Japanese” for no reason at all? There’s no way it could have fooled anyone. Sean Connery looked MORE Japanese BEFORE they turned him “Japanese”.  And that’s just a FEW of the problems.

But fundamentally, I blame every problem….EVERY problem…in this movie on Raoul Dahl. Yes, THAT Raoul Dahl. It might’ve seemed like a good idea at the moment, but it was a terrible decision to let him write a James Bond movie.

But despite a terrible script and a leading man that didn’t want to be there, Lewis Gilbert turned in a solid product. The film looks incredible, courtesy of the legendary cinematographer Freddie Young. Before Roger Deakins shot the HELL out of Skyfall, YOLT was probably the best looking Bond film. Additionally, the soundtrack from John Barry was wonderful as usual. But there’s a very clear intensity to this film that I didn’t feel was present in the previous four movies.

The one-on-one fight scene in the office felt very ahead of its time. Even today, a time where we have Jason Bourne and Daniel Craig’s Bond, that fight was BRUTAL and is one of the best in the series. Also, it’s clear that Bond is a murderous psychopath. I don’t know what the death toll in this movie is, but it’s got to be the highest during the Connery-era. He seemingly shoots people indiscriminately, which isn’t unusual for James Bond, but it seems quite explicit in this film….far more than at any other time during the series. It’s a violent film for 1967 standards, but it provides an intensity that I believe elevates the production.

Now it’s possible that I might just have a bias towards YOLT. It wasn’t the FIRST Bond flick I saw, but it was the first one where it all clicked for me. When I was a kid, someone gave me a bunch of old Bond VHS tapes. I only watched them because I was hoping to see some boobs. Didn’t really get any of that with Thunderball or Live And Let Die, but when I popped in YOLT…I knew that life wasn’t going to be the same for me. And I think that’s how most boys get into James Bond. So it’s possible that Lewis Gilbert did an awful job here and I’m unable to see it.

But many want to say that SWLM is Roger Moore and Lewis Gilbert’s finest hour. I disagree with both. I respect SWLM for things that it accomplished: it essentially saved the franchise from falling into oblivion. Additionally, that cold open is pretty bitchin IMO. Marvin Hamlisch’s disco take on the classic score doesn’t bother me one damn bit. And that parachute fall (which, if memory serves, was filmed by John Glen) into the Carly Simon theme still gives me chills. But that’s about all that I can remember from the film. Overall, I believe it to be one of the more forgettable in the series. To each their own I guess.

Moonraker, on the other hand…that’s a story for another day.

And I can’t believe that, once again, I only managed to discuss ONE director.

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