Bond Pretitle Sequences: The Living Daylights
Simon Pitt |
Sunday 21st July
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
The Living Daylights
The Living Daylights used to be on a lot when I was little. Either that or I had it taped. As a child I seemed to be forever watching repeats of The Living Daylights and You Only Live Twice. I remember it as one of the best Bond films with some great set pieces: the fight on the back of the aeroplane, the battle with the model armies, the car chase on the ice.
In particular, I always remember the pre-title teaser as being good fun. And you know what? It pretty much lives up to my memory of it. The film itself has dated badly. It feels actually quite sexist at times, and the dialogue is frequently stilted. It’s Dalton’s first outing as Bond and he comes across as a bit sex-crazed. In the scene at the opera, he keeps checking out the girls. He’s like a horny teenager.
Before we get to all that, we have the pre credit teaser. The opening gun barrel has a bizarre purple tint to it that other Bond films don’t have. Either they lost the normal gun barrel photo for this film, or someone has messed the colour filters up.
We open on a beach in Gibraltar, littered with giant noughts and crosses board. It’s like the beginning of Die Another Day. In the air, M is briefing his team. “It’s a matter of pride that the double-oh section has been chosen,” he says. I’m reminded of the opening of Tomorrow Never Dies, with the subtle jostling for position between M and the military. This M person is all about their career. If he/she spent as much time doing their job as they did worrying about their pride, maybe we wouldn’t have as many terrorists and KGB agents running around.
The back of the plane opens and all M’s papers blow away. “Oh blast!” he hisses, rushing to get them. It never seems to have occurred to him that they might blow everywhere. Maybe going to all that effort to relocate his office to the back of the plane wasn’t worth it after all.
I’d forgotten about this, but putting recreations of M’s office in unusual locations is a running joke throughout the Bond series. It started in You Only Live Twice. M’s Office pops up across the world; most of the defence budget must go on wood panelling effects. “M’s office” here in the back of a plane is perhaps the peak of the silliness. I mean, this is a training exercise. Paul Stock, an academic who writes about Bond, suggests that M's office is a metonym for England and a stable point from which Bond departs on a mission. It’s one of those typical academic arguments, and I suppose it’s quite nice, but I think it misses the point that this is a running joke that got out of hand. M’s office has appeared unexpectedly in increasingly bizarre locations over the years, culminating in this one. After this film, we don’t see M’s office much anymore. Judi Dench’s M was too busy getting herself kidnapped (in The World is Not Enough and Skyfall). The closing scenes of Skyfall, though, suggest Ralph Fiennes may have renewed MI6’s wood-panelling contract.
The three double-oh agents parachute down, but someone is waiting for them. Watching this, I can’t help but think that at least two of these double-oh agents really aren’t very good. The first one gets stuck in a tree, and then “shot” immediately by a guard. He looks so angry when he’s shot.
004 and 002 are played by Frederick Warder and Glyn Baker. This is quite a neat bit of casting. Warder has a look of George Lazenby about him, and Baker of Roger Moore. As I’ve said before, the first reveal of Bond is a special moment in Bond films, especially when it’s a new actor playing Bond. Here, even though everyone knows Dalton is Bond, the casting plays with the audience; we're waiting to see Bond and keep getting mislead.
All is not going well. The Imposter has a real gun and has knocked 004 to his death. Another observation about the competence of the double-oh section. I’m not sure why 004 is climbing up this cliff. Even if the Imposter hadn’t killed him, he would have been caught by the SAS guard at the top. M’s confidence and pride seems to be misplaced.
Bond hears more gunshots and a variant of The Living Daylights theme kicks in. I really like this theme. The way it mixes in the fake “pop music” that the assassin listens to is a good touch. I don’t really get what the Imposter is trying to do here. I mean, why get in the jeep? Where is he going?
Bond is off running down the road in a not particularly flattering jumpsuit. He looks a bit tubby here actually. That harness isn’t doing good things for him either. For those counting, there are two Dalton films and two cases of Bond wearing a harness; a 100% harness hit rate for Dalton.
I love the way Bond ignores the “game” at this point and shoulder barges the soldier. “Hold on, you’re dead!” the man calls plaintively. Bond, however, has other ideas and jumps onto the top of the van. The only thing better than a fight on a train is a fight on the back of a speeding van, I think. It’s a great scene this one. And, although, if you watch carefully, you can see they’re just driving round and round on the same road, it’s very well done. Apart from the occasional bit of obvious fake background work.
Dalton did the stunt scene on the back of the van himself, with the van actually driving at quite a high speed. Most of this scene is very realistic, partly because they filmed it on real military installations.
Bond cuts his way into the jeep, and goes in headfirst as if he’s trying to get to the back of a cupboard. I’m not sure that’s a great tactic. They have a fight over the steering wheel, Bond’s legs flailing in the air.
Inside the jeep, Bond head-butts the villain. I always think of the head-butt as the idiot’s fighting move, but maybe that’s unfair on Bond. Or maybe this is just a much more brutish Bond.
It’s the end of the road for the Jeep, however. The music comes to a finale as the jeep crashes through the wall and goes over the edge. For no adequately explored reason the jeep blows up as Bond parachutes away. Wouldn’t it have been better to have it at least hit the water first, and then explode? Or just sink. It’s a shame about that, but then this was the era of stuff just blowing up on its own I guess.
Conveniently, there’s a boat passing by, and Bond aims for that. On board someone is talking to her friend, Margo. “There’s nothing but playboys and tennis pros. If only I could find a real man.” As a child, I used to find this line quite memorable. I’m not sure why. I think it was the rhythm of the line. It often use to run through my head, and I’d parade through the house mimicking and changing it. “If only I could find a real doughnut!” I’d say, going into the kitchen.
“There’s no doughnuts for you, real or otherwise,” My mum would say, “if you’re hungry have an apple.” I think I regarded apples in a similar way to this woman’s opinion of playboys and tennis pros.
I suspect one of the things that caught my attention about this line is the fact that it is so clearly dubbed on. Funnily enough, the trailer to The Living Daylights opens with the pre-dubbed version of this line. She has a much deeper voice, and a rather strange accent.
Bond flips onto the boat in quite a neat little move. “I need to use your phone,” grabbing it he says, “she’ll call you back.” The way he says “back” has a real Welsh twang to it. It’s like this Bond is from the valleys.
“Exercise Control, it’s 007 here. I’ll report in an hour.” The offer of champagne makes Bond pause, “better make that two.” He enunciates this line carefully. Maybe Dalton was told off for the way he said “back” in the previous shot. But with that we cut really tightly into the titles.
I’d never really thought about this before, but why does he say he’ll report in an hour? I mean, two or three men have just died on a routine training mission and a jeep has smashed up Gibraltar and crashed into the ocean. Bond’s the only one who knows what’s going on, but he doesn’t tell them anything. What was he planning to do for the next hour? Just relax a bit and watch TV?
I can forgive the corny joke about “better make that two,” because, as Alan Partridge would say, “Yes, he’s with a lady.” But his initial comment is pure silliness on Bond’s part. He could at least have said, “We were attacked by an unknown assailant. I’ve eliminated the immediate threat, but I recommend a tightening of security. I’ll provide a full update in an hour. No I can’t give a full report now. I really need to go do a big poo. Yes, damnit, it will take an hour! Actually, better make that two.”
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- Double-oh section is mentioned, at the start
- Bond introduces himself to the woman on the Boat as “Bond, James Bond.” When she asks who is his. I think he might have missed the point here; she wasn’t asking him what his name was, but why had he parachuted onto her boat and then nicked her phone.
- On the phone, Bond identifies himself as 007
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- There aren’t any quips here, or much dialogue at all. There were some good opportunities as well. When the SAS guard shoots the imposter and says “you’re dead,” he really should have replied and said, “no, you are.”
- Bond’s line when he snatches the phone and says “She’ll call you back,” always makes me smile. But it’s not really a joke
Listen Carefully 007
- The Imposter dies when his jeep goes off the edge of the cliff. I think that probably is Bond’s fault really.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- Double-oh section have been chosen for a training exercise with the SAS. M seems quite proud about this, which makes me wonder if double-oh sections reputation has dropped in recent years. Looking at the calibre of staff they’re recruiting though, I don’t wonder at it.
SP will return…
- Bond has a parachute with two chutes in it. I guess he’s still wearing the reserve shoot.
- 004 has a grappling hook. It looks like there have been budget cuts in Q Branch.