James Bond Declassified: Father’s Day Dossier

It is the 50th anniversary of James Bond’s first theatrical feature film this year.

That alone would be justification enough to write my special series in which we review each and every film in the official James Bond franchise so far, but I must confess a more personal motivation at work here.

1977 was a big year for me in terms of figuring out my tastes as a filmgoer.  It was obviously the year that “Star Wars” was released, and that film was like a lightning bolt someone fired directly into the top of my head.  It was also the year that “Smokey and the Bandit” was released, and in some ways, that film was like my dad’s “Star Wars,” a movie that seemed to be almost specifically engineered for his pleasure.  It made a huge impression on me, seeing him laugh like that, seeing how completely he handed himself over to it.  My dad is cut from that same sort of pure cowboy cloth as Sam Elliott, and growing up, his stoicism was one of the things that defined my idea of manhood.  Watching him laugh so hard he cried was uncommon, but it did happen on occasion, and I made careful note of what did it to him.

There was another film that opened in 1977 that I saw theatrically, and that trip was one of the rare moments when it was just me and my father together.  He took me to see “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and on the way to the theater, we had our first real conversation about James Bond.  I felt like I was being offered up some of the secrets of the universe, like he was letting me in on something.  James Bond meant something to him, and as a result, James Bond instantly meant something to me.

Not everything my father loves translated to me feeling the same way.  But it did at least make me willing to try things out.  I wanted to understand the things that were important to him because it meant that I understood him in some way.  I think we spend much of our lives trying to understand our parents as people, real people who are more than just the role they play in our upbringing.  In the case of James Bond, we immediately bonded over the rules of that world, the touchstones that make the series such a familiar sort of experience every time out.  And I have spent much of the rest of my life not only watching the films but reading the books and also reading about Fleming and why he wrote what he wrote.  I’ve tried to understand the context of when the books were written, the context of how the films were made, and the way the series evolved over time.

So this series isn’t just about the anniversary.  It is also my attempt to make sense of something that has always been what I consider my shared passion, something I inherited from my father, and something that I’m guessing I’ll be passing on to my own little film nerds soon.  After all, Toshi’s turning seven in a few weeks.  That’s how old I was in 1977.  And when I think of how much we’ve already shared through Film Nerd 2.0, and how much there still is that we’ll be sharing in years to come, it pleases me enormously, because I know what it meant to me.

I still remember sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, my dad driving next to me, the early August sun beating down on me as we drove to the Countryside Six.  I remember standing in line, I remember the posters, and specifically I remember the “Sinbad and the Eye Of The Tiger” poster.  I remember all of these details, and at the center of those memories, I remember my father, right there with me, sharing something that was important to him.  That’s what I’m trying to share with all of you as we count down to the release of “Skyfall,” and to that end, we need to get the series back on track.

This week, I’ll be covering three different films, and this represents the moment where the franchise came the closest to going completely off the rails.  We’ll look at the first attempt to replace Sean Connery, his return to the series for one last film, and then the transition to Roger Moore.  After this, we’ll be doing the series one per Friday from now until “Skyfall,” with a few key weeks off for things like Comic-Con and the Toronto Film Festival.

In case you haven’t been reading the series so far, here’s what we’ve already published:

“Dr. No.”
“From Russia With Love”
“You Only Live Twice”

James Bond will return.