Tag Archives: Timothy Dalton

The Living Daylights (1987)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Living Daylights</strong> (1987)

(Second or third Viewing, On Blu Ray, November 2018) By the time Timothy Dalton took over the James Bond role from Roger Moore in The Living Daylights, the ground had shifted a bit underneath the Bond franchise. Suddenly, the womanizing wasn’t as appealing, and dozens of other movies were aiming for the same thrills as the Bond series. As a result, The Living Daylights attempts a light retooling of the character. There’s only one woman for Bond this time around and the film goes back to its spying roots in delivering an authentic late-period Cold-War thriller that has a ring of authenticity to it. Dalton has his best movie here—still relatively charming compared to his much-darker follow-up License to Kill, but hard-edged enough to ensure that we wouldn’t mistake it for another Moore entry. I remembered only a few things from a previous viewing sometime in the early 1990s, but one of them is the incredibly cool Walther WA 2000 sniper rifle used early in the film. The other is Maryam d’Abo as one of the best Bond Girls up to that point, and a relative rarity in the pantheon as a Bond Girl portrayed as a complex skilled character (a cellist) but not an enemy agent equally able to match Bond’s fighting skills. The film’s opening half is a bit better than its concluding act, which suffers from some contemporary weirdness in heading to Afghanistan and fighting alongside the anti-Soviet pre-Taliban Mujahideen. (To be fair, Rambo III ended up in the same place for the same reasons at about the same time.) Still, The Living Daylights remains a step up for the series, and it’s still remarkably good watching even today as we’ve grown accustomed to a much dourer Bond during the Craig years. Alas, Dalton would squander much of his accumulated goodwill in the follow-up film…

Flash Gordon (1980)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Flash Gordon</strong> (1980)

(On TV, July 2018) Oh wow. I’m not sure you can actually describe Flash Gordon without sounding certifiably insane, so wholeheartedly does it commit to its campy style. 1980 was like a parallel universe when seen through the campy mind of director Mike Hodges, and I’m not sure where to start in order to give you a taste of the film’s built-in ludicrousness. Maybe Queen’s soundtrack with its eponymous FLASH! (Ah-ah-Aaaah) ? Maybe the prologue where a bored supervillain decides to destroy the Earth out of spite? Maybe the hero, a football star thrown in galactic conflicts? Maybe the unrepentant use of musty clichés such as the scientist and his daughter? Maybe the gaudy visual design of the film? Maybe Max von Sydow and BRIAN BLESSED hamming it up, along with such notables as Timothy Dalton and Topol in other roles? Maybe choice quotes along the lines of “Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!”  I don’t know. Flash Gordon has a messy production history, and the fairest assessment you can make of it was that Dino de Laurentis thought it was a good idea to resurrect a 1930s comic strip, except that the people tasked with writing and executing the project found the thing so ridiculous that they left the throttle firmly struck in the “parody” setting and the result got away from them. Or they all played along. No matter how you see it, Flash Gordon is a terrible big brash loud movie that feels as if it’s an hours-long hallucination. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

The Rocketeer (1991)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Rocketeer</strong> (1991)

(On DVD, November 2017) For proof that “old-fashioned” in no insult, look no further than The Rocketeer, a glorious throwback to the adventure serials of the 1930s and a highly enjoyable comic-book movie from a time well before the current glut of comic-book movies. If this film has a secret weapon, it’s charm. The kind of quasi-goofy, rather comfortable charm that you get with a morally upstanding square-jawed hero (Billy Campbell), a curly brunette heroine (Jennifer Connelly), a scenery-chomping villain (Timothy Dalton), a fun piece of technology (a rocket backpack!) and a voluntarily retro setting that pays affectionate homage to the best features of the era. Here we are at the heroic age of aviation, with Gee-Bees barnstormers, Hollywood glamour, Nazis lurking at the edges of the screen and Howard Hughes coming up with fantastic inventions. It’s certainly not challenging, but it’s a lot of fun. Director Joe Johnston has proven time and again his ability to deliver straightforward adventures, but The Rocketeer still stands as one of the highlights of his career. The special effects aren’t particularly good, but who cares when the script, and the film, have this scene-to-scene watchability that will keep viewers glued to the screen. A similar movie would probably do better today (The Rocketeer is definitely a spiritual ancestor to Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger), and as it turns out there are steady rumblings about a sequel any time soon. I’m looking forward to that.