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The Living Daylights – A Look Back

tld bondBy Robert Baum

Timothy Dalton makes his debut as superspy James Bond in the newest cinematic mission marking 007’s cinematic silver anniversary. The Living Daylights begins a new era with a new Bond (number four) rugged enough to take on those who seek to conquer the world. Unlike Roger Moore, Dalton is not one for humor but for getting the job done. Handsome but deadly, Dalton’s 007 is something of a throwback to Sean Connery.
Bond’s mission: aborting a plot that might start WWIII–of course. Being a Bond film, there is a lovely lady (Maryam d’Abo) who succumbs to the charm of the British agent–who happens to be played by Welsh-born Dalton–incredible stunts, exotic locales, and an adversary (a rather blustery and not very menacing Joe Don Baker), with an army of goons.
Of course there are an incredible array of spectacular stunts, especially in the opening sequence when Bond and a few fellow agents drop in to commence a training exercise on Gibraltar. The opening offers the greatest action in the film. To his credit, Dalton does many of Bond’s stunts himself. We get to see an updated Aston Martin, the wheels Connery utilized in Goldfinger (and Thunderball). It too offers a few surprises which are employed as Bond and Kara (d’Abo) are chased by the Czech army. He explains–with deadpan delivery a la Connery–to Kara, “I’ve had a few optional extras installed,” options like a laser blowtorch that Bond uses to disable a pursuing car, missiles to blow up a road blockade, and a rocket engine to escape pursuit.
Bond’s nemesis, an arms merchant named Brad Whitaker (Baker), is something of a joke. He has a chameleonic Red Grant knockoff named Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) do his dirty work, which is often done while the brute’s Walkman plays the Pretenders’ “Where Has Everybody Gone” and notes from the song are threaded through the compositions by John Barry whenever the thug is onscreen. Whitaker is always at his villa in Tangier (supplied by tycoon Malcolm Forbes) playing with his toy soldiers. He also has a collection of mannequins that include Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon (an obvious allusion to Christopher Lee’s funhouse in The Man with the Golden Gun) which almost resemble the wily Whitaker. When first seen, Whitaker is standing with them as he no doubt fancies himself a great warrior in his own right. Or maybe just a dummy.
While making a brief appearance, Bond’s CIA chum Felix Leiter (John Terry)–the part was last played by David Hedison in Moore’s first 007 adventure Live and Let Die and recently by Bernie Casey in Connery’s return to MI6 in Never Say Never Again–turns up to help him, though the part seems little more than a cameo. The wonderful John Rhys-Davies is General Leonid Pushkin, head of the KGB, whom the British are led to believe by one of Pushkin’s subordinates (Jeroen Krabbe) is responsible for wanting to destroy the world.
While Dalton is not the charmer his predecessor Roger Moore was, he is a presence which is believable when it comes to getting the mission accomplished–with or without his PPK. Some might not be keen on Dalton’s deadpan delivery as he adopts a no-nonsense approach which might make Jack Webb’s followers thinking the former Joe Friday is eloquent. Thus making Dalton the second Jack Webb impersonator of the summer. Dan Aykroyd was first in the big screen adaptation of Dragnet. His deadpan is a virtual flatline and needs defibrilation to give it a spike. Dalton’s 007 has been described as the most deadly Bond on the teaser posters which have been displayed in theatres. Dalton clearly has what it takes to play the role: a commanding presence, looks that kill, and now a license (or licence in his case) to do so. He injects a suaveness that has been absent from the Bond films for a long while. Definitely a far cry from Moore’s swan song A View to a Kill.

25th Anniversary Look At Licence To Kill

Timothy Dalton actor as Bond  July 1988 dbase MSI

By Robert Baum

Timothy Dalton makes his second time around as Ian Fleming’s James Bond in the sixteenth 007 screen adventure, Licence to Kill. This film is more influenced by the sort of mega-action blockbusters produced by Joel Silver and not prior Bond efforts by producer Albert Broccoli. Dalton’s 007 is tough-as-nails and takes on a very real adversary: a cocaine kingpin (Robert Davi, who appeared in Silver’s Action Jackson and Die Hard).

The previous Bond picture The Living Daylights–which marked Dalton’s 007 debut–seemed typical 007: nifty gadgets, lovely ladies, a slew of exotic locales, and an incredible assortment of stunts. This time we see a Bond unlike prior Bonds (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, or Roger Moore). In the course of the film’s 133 minute running time we get to glimpse but a few locales. While the primary female (Carey Lowell), formerly in the army and CIA, is attractive she doesn’t seem credible as a veteran operative accustomed to working in hostile territories.

Helmed by John Glen, who has directed the Bond films since 1981s For Your Eyes Only, this installment has no moments of laughter or levity in any way whatsoever. For the first time in his career 007 is on his own. No mission this time. This time the matter is a personal one.

En route to the wedding of longtime friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison, who makes a return to the role he first portrayed in 1973s Live and Let Die), he and Bond stop to capture drug lord Franz Sanchez (Davi) as the film opens. The opening sequence offers a chance for us to witness an amazing display of jaw-slackening stunts.

Unlike prior Bond tales, Felix Leiter plays a pivotal role in the story. Actually what happens to him is taken from the Fleming novel Live and Let Die. Though Hedison is about two decades older than Dalton, they seem to have some rapport. This hasn’t really been apparent with Leiter’s other appearances, or any other Leiter–save Jack Lord and Hedison–for that matter. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much here. Hedison seems little more than an extended cameo, a pity.

Bond’s love interest Pam Bouvier could have been more interesting but she isn’t. While she makes for a far more better 007 ally than Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill, Lowell is not a great beauty like Dr. No’‘s Ursula Andress or Live and Let Die‘s Jane Seymour. Lowell makes Britt Ekland, who played Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun) look like Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Lowell looks as if she’d be more at home as a comely coed in an Animal House type of film. Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto), Sanchez’s mistress, exudes a stronger presence than Pam Bouvier. Despite being only 22, Soto exudes an exotic sensuality that makes her seem more mature. Even if she is merely little more than an ornament.

As Sanchez, Davi is quite a convincing foe. His presence makes for perhaps one of the few times in the series that Bond has faced an opponent who possesses a very real threat to him. Davi brings a suave and menacing charm to the role and is likable in a perverted way. His Sanchez is a villain to be feared. We know it. Davi knows it.

While the film is far from perfect, it is far from the typical Bond films, particularly those of recent years. But in an era of Indiana Jones and high body count, testosterone-laden, jingoistic protagonists often essayed by Sylvester and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dalton shows that when it comes to action, no one does it quite like 007.