Are the villains effective?
Roger Moore’s take on Bond is basically “what if a trigger-happy civil servent had bad knee caps, an empty head, and a lot of luck.” Unfortunately, none of the villains of this era really complement Moore’s unique brand of heroics. There are the baddies who are too self-serious to contend with Moore’s foolishness: Julian Glover’s vengeful arms dealer Aristotle Kristatos and the affluent eugenicists Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) and Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens). As for Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), and General Orlov (Steven Berkoff), they flirt with camp but fail to fully commit. In the end, the only baddie that comes close to Moore’s goofs is Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin, but even then, Max is just a pawn for a bigger, less interesting baddie. The only evildoer who truly conjures up any veritable chemistry with Moore is Jaws. But for all of Jaws’ many, toothy boons, he’s only a henchman. And in the end, not a very loyal henchman. I wanted…Moore from the villains, as it were.
The greatest villain in the Roger Moore era is any viewer who tries to take these films seriously instead of embracing them as they are: campy, ridiculous, and, often, delightful. As a result, the antagonists work best when they’re also a little over the top. This is one of the reasons I love to dig my heels in about A View To A Kill being good, actually. Christopher Walken rings every last drop of campy indulgence out of Max Zorin, and the film is all the better for his devilish antics. And speaking of chewing scenery, while Jaws is a henchman turned ally, his time spent as a baddie is one of the highlights of Moore’s tenure. He’s fun, feisty, and I’ll never get tired of his chompers.
On the slightly more serious but still very fun side, Yaphet Kotto and Christopher Lee deserve major points for their villain roles in the first two Moore films. Both talented actors, they bring a lot of commitment and charm to Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun, respectively. They’re slick as hell and both are willing to lean into the gimmickry of this era without going completely cartoonish.
Which film will you re-visit first?
I understand that people relish the “campiness” of this era. And while all the Moore films definitely have their campy moments, Moonraker is the only one that fully realizes a genuine, open-hearted love of being ridiculous. The other entries in this era try to make a fool out of Bond while maintaining a degree of integrity. But Moonraker knows better. If you’re going to make Bond a clown, you can’t half-ass it. And Moonraker is a whole ass kind of film. It’s good because it’s awful. Bless this mess.
While Live and Let Die is my personal favorite of the era, the one I’ve seen the most and will probably rewatch next is A View To A Kill. I love every bit of this bonkers movie, from Bond snowboarding while the Beach Boys play on the soundtrack to Walken chowing down on the scenery. There’s no other Bond film like it and there probably never will be. Many would argue that’s a good thing For me it’s a tragedy.