Back when I was newly-retired an old friend from my college days and I were discussing James Bond films and I mentioned that somehow the viewing public never noticed how weak so many of the Bond title sequences. They were really sappy and not up to the quality of other aspects of the productions.
One of the disadvantages of not having children is that you cheat yourself of having a second childhood, at least as far as entertainment goes. Well, for small children it would not do you much good anyway. Who wants to watch Barney with their very young children? Not many, I admit. But when the children start getting older you take them to see the Disney animated films. And you tell people you are just going to watch the kids, but after a few minutes it is "Daddy, I wanna go home." "Sh-sh-sh-sh, Daddy's watching the movie. Wow, look at that dragon the witch turned into! That is SO COOL!"
But not having children Evelyn and I missed all that. I think we also carelessly passed up having mid-life crises, which we really were entitled to even without children. In my case it was because I have always been mathematical and knew years in advance about when mid-life would likely be. It did not catch me unawares and so we didn't suddenly feel we had to act like 20-year-olds. Or perhaps we have been acting like 20-year-olds all along (minus the beer and the hang-gliding, of course). But I do admit that with the advent of DVD players we have been revisiting the adventures of my teenage hero, James Bond. When I finally acquired YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, I finally realized it should really be YOU LIVE ONLY TWICE. But that is an example of what has been happening. I expect to be drawn into these films and I can see why I liked them, but I also see flaws I missed when I first saw them.
One of the things I am looking at is the song lyrics. To the best of my knowledge nobody really has done an appraisal of the songs of the James Bond films. I might as well do it, albeit superficially. I used to love the Bond songs. I would sing them to myself when I was mowing the lawn. Now I look at them and see how silly they were.
Take the title song from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. (I will take the songs in order but will skip over DR. NO. It did not really have a title song. For the title music it used the wordless James Bond theme and a calypso version of "Three Blind Mice.") The lyric of the second Bond film goes:
From Russia with love I fly to you, Much wiser since my goodbye to you. I've traveled the world to learn, I must return from Russia with love.
I've seen places, faces and smiled for a moment, But oh, you haunted me so. Still my tongue-tied young pride, Would not let my love for you show In case you'd say no.
To Russia I flew but there and then, I suddenly knew you'd care again. My running around is through, I fly to you from Russia with love.
First of all it loses points because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot of the film. This guy singing is no James Bond. Barney Fife is a bit closer. It is a song written by someone returning from Russia to his previous girlfriend. He has been a world traveler but all it has taught him is that he should return to his girlfriend. But it must be returning from the right place. It won't work if he is returning from someplace like a dull Belgium or Denmark. Warm countries are right out. Apparently his girl wants to be returned to from Russia. Why, we never find out. Now the plot thickens. He has been traveling around since they split up, but he keeps remembering her and wishing he had been more romantic with her. He really did love her but the fear that she would reject him so unhinged his fragile little mind that he could not speak up. This guy's not ready to cross a street much less journey around the world. Well then he took a plane to Russia. Here he is sightseeing and in the middle he has a sartorial experience. Something like, "The Kremlin, onion domes, the snow and ice, fur hats, borscht. Hey wait. OF COURSE she'll love me again." Now there is an air of mystery added. Apparently she loved him at one time and stopped. Why? We never know. But that is why he is afraid to say that he loves her in case she rejects him a second time after once loving him. Now this wimp suddenly knows that he can make her love him again because he is returning from *just the right country.* This guy is too diffident to be any sort of lover. My advice>? Lose him. And I hope he remembers to bring her one of those little nested dolls.
I mean after I listened to what this guy was really saying in his love song I find myself shaken and not stirred.
Well, let's move on to GOLDFINGER. A piece of this lyric goes:
Golden words he will pour in your ear, But his lies can't disguise what you fear, For a golden girl knows when he's kissed her, It's the kiss of death from Mister Goldfinger. Pretty girl beware of this heart of gold This heart is cold.
This song was clearly "written to spec" by someone who had not seen the film. It tries to be about the character in the film, but misses by a mile. I mean the words describe Goldfinger sweet- talking a lady. I tell you that Gert Frobe really looks like one hell of a lover, doesn't he? So here he is whispering sweet nothings into some lady's ear. But he isn't fooling her. Why not? Because she has already been painted gold and is dying of skin suffocation. I cannot say much for his tastes. At this point no amount of sweet-kissy-face is going to win her, no matter how cute Frobe/Goldfinger is. Well, leave us face it. She had to be after his money from the beginning.
So, those were the title songs from the early days of the Bond films, when they were still deciding just what to do with the character and the series. They were creating the Bond formula, songs and all. Next time I will talk about what the filmmakers did from that point on.
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper