Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jenna Caderas
Professor Hammond

The Birth of Action Films: Bond, James Bond

            Action films are on everyone's movie shelf at home, and can always be found in theaters.  Action films began with the class action-western film The Great Train Robbery in 1903.  This genre originally started with the silent era which is around the time that The Great Train Robbery first premiered.  The genre began to explode in popularity during the '80s and '90s.    Action films are very popular because they allow the general public to experience an aspect of life that they will most likely never be a part of.

            Very popular films that most of America has probably seen are the James Bond – Agent 007 series.  James Bond, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the most profitable and largest movie of all time, even though it was recently passed by both the Harry Potter and Star Wars series.  The movie series is somewhat based on a series of books, 12 total, written by Briton Ian Fleming.  The first appearance of James Bond was on TV in 1954, with the first novel that was made into a film being Casino Royale.

            The beginning of each Bond movie from 1962-2006 is the same.  It starts with a circle, moving from left to right across the center of the screen.  Boom!  It turns into an eye that the viewer is looking through, and follows Bond across the screen now from right to left.  Bond suddenly realizes and turns, points his gun at us (the viewer) and shoots.  It is then that from the top to the bottom of the eye (and screen) that it turns red, like dripping blood.  The eye then starts to sway back and forth and down, implying that Bond has shot us and we are dying.  This opening scene has remained the same throughout all of the movies for the 40 years stated above.  This opening, coupled with the Bond theme song playing in the background, has become somewhat of a "Bond" trademark.

            While searching this particular sequence (since it is one of the best parts of the movie) I found a video showing the different starting scenes for the first 40 years of the movies.  In each one, the music starts off differently.  Each film has a particular way that the theme song starts and at what point it starts during the shooting scene.  It seems to be that each particular director and composer did it their own way.  With a total of 11 directors and music by more than 5 composers, it came together to be individualized for the specific movie.

            As shown in this clip, it is evident that each introduction was intended to be tailored to the movie itself.  In each one, there is different tempo used and in many there are different octaves, setting the mood for what the viewer will feel.  Faster tempos normally create an upbeat, excited or anxious feeling, while slower tempos make the viewer feel sad or worried.  It is interesting to note that starting with Thunderball in 1965, instead of letting the eye hole close, the directors started making that into the first scene.  Before 1965, the eyehole closed and the movie began after the introduction.  Along with this introduction, Dr. No (the first Bond movie) started with the standard shooting introduction, and then went straight into the credits.  This was different because most movies do not begin with the credits, but end with them.

            Two movies that are among my top five favorite James Bond movies are Dr. No (1962) and Goldfinger (1964).  For both of these films, Sean Connery played James Bond.  Dr. No was the first James Bond film that was produced by MGM.  Before that, the Bond movie (Casino Royale) was only premiered on TV.  For this film, the production budget was $1.2 million; the film made $16 million  domestically and $60 million worldwide. This was a tremendous achievement for not only the Bond movie “name” but also for United Artists.  Another Bond "trademark" are the Bond "girls"; those sexy actresses that always appear in every Bond movie.  In Dr. No, there were two bond girls, Eunice Gayson and Ursula Andress.  With these Bond girls, there were 3 love scenes, which is always a much anticipated as well as popular facet of the Bond movies.

            In Goldfinger (1964), there were many more Bond girls, and 4 love scenes.  In this film, the gun-barrel sequence that was in the beginning of the film was similar to Dr. No, and designed by Maurice Binder.  This film had a production budget of $3.5 million, revenue of $51 million domesitcally and $125 million worldwide.  This was much greater than Dr. No and was and even bigger success.

            James Bond has a reputation to uphold; he’s the superhero that never dies, the spy that is never caught, and the ladies man that never fails.  A terrific example of this is in another more recent Bond film that is also a favorite indeed.  In Die Another Day (2002), Pierce Brosnan plays Bond's witty character.    Other than being a spy that is never caught, Bond is also known for the gadgets he has, which are every mans dream.  In this chase scene there are many different gadgets that save Bond from dying and / or being caught by the enemy.
            The first gadget that is brought into the scene is the ring that breaks glass.  To my understanding, it sends out a high enough frequency sound, which creates sound waves that shatter the glass.  This is the first time Bond escapes during this scene and makes it out alive.  The second is the electric harness and rope that pull him to safety onto the roof of the building.  Once off the roof, he turns on his car and retrieves it from a hidden location using the remote control.  The car is invisible, so it is unseen by anyone, especially enemies.  The high-tech gadgets get better and better, continuing  through the movie, and Bond continues to cheat fate and survive.  Not only do these gadgets save him, but they allow the audience to experience and “live” in the moment, experiencing the fantasy of Bond's world where cars are invisible, and death is forever escapable.   The viewer can enter his unrealistic world and enjoy all the joys and suspense of life, coming out unscathed and feeling exhilarated!
            James Bond was a true milestone in the start of the action film era.  The longevity of the series and the continued success of each film, couple with the huge fan base that still exists after 40 years, make the Bond series a once in a lifetime success story!

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