Tag Archives: The Spy Who Loved Me

Roger Moore: Baby, you’re the best

Today would have been Sir Roger Moore’s 90th birthday, my birthday is the day before and when I was younger I always used to say that his birthday was on the 13th, wanting so desperately to share the birthday of my James Bond.

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He was my James Bond growing up, he’s still my James Bond and he always will be. Thankfully my mum and dad were cinematically savvy; in the summer of 1983 it was Octopussy that became my first ever Bond film at the cinema (the old ABC cinema in Mansfield, Notts) and not Never Say Never Again.

Fittingly I was aged 007 at the time and that was the thing about the older Bond films, they were a family affair full to the brim of gadgets, girls, stunts and laughs. It was something that simply had to be seen as a collective and Moore’s Bond was perfect for the family audience.

I was bought the glossy film programme from that viewing, I must have memorised every picture and fact as I read it until it practically fell apart and became more sellotape than brochure.

Although Sir Roger is no longer with us, his cinematic and television legacy certainly is. The great thing about the latest release of Bond films (how many times and how many formats have I bought them on now?) is that all the Moore ones feature a Sir Roger Moore commentary, which are a great and informative listen. It also means you can have Sir Roger visit your house at any time.

The name Roger Moore continues to make me smile, not because of his puns or raised eyebrows, but because he always – in film, in interviews or in person – came across as a genuinely lovely man who would be top of anyone’s dinner party guest list.

And I was lucky enough to meet the man twice, once at the reading of some Rudyard Kipling poetry and for a second time at the book signing of his first autobiography, My Word Is My Bond. It all seems a bit Alan Partridge but I met him at Norwich Waterstones, outside in the queue I was also fortunate enough to be interviewed by ITV Anglia News about why I was there.

I’ve since read Last Man Standing and received Á bientôt just yesterday, on my birthday. Naturally I had to start reading it today, with a suitable cuppa of course!

man-who-haunted-himself5Don’t let him fool you that he can’t act either, not everyone can pull off the right mix of suave, funny and deadly as Bond and you genuinely believe his vulnerability when he stumbles from the simulator in Moonraker. He would have admitted though that his greatest acting role was in the fantastic The Man Who Haunted Himself, catch my review here.

My favourite Moore Bond film? It’s a constant flux, but my faves for various reasons are Live And Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and yes, even A View To A Kill. The latter isn’t the best Bond film ever, I know, but the impression it made on me as a nine year old has stuck and it is my Bond guilty pleasure. I loved it so much it was the very first original Bond quad poster that I bought.

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And Moore was so much more than Bond, so wherever his acting roles took him, I followed. He was a delight as Sherlock Holmes against Patrick Macnee’s Doctor Watson in Sherlock Holmes in New York, great playing a Bond/Moore pastiche in The Cannonball Run, kind hearted German commander in Escape To Athena (not the poster shop) and real hard ass merc in The Wild Geese, check out his opening scene with a drug dealer that is still surprising and shocking. Eat it, all of it!

Sir Roger, you’ll always be the man with the golden puns, the spy who I loved, you’ll always be my James Bond. And he’s also the reason – for the next couple of year at least – keeping the scant hope alive that I could be the next James Bond as he wasn’t announced as picking up his Walther PPK until he was 45. And that record of seven official Bond films isn’t set to be toppled anytime soon.

I’d also like to see Moore appear in the Bond main titles one final time as the last credit with a dedication. He probably wouldn’t have been bothered, but I think it is what we and his legacy deserve.

live and let die

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The Man Who Haunted Himself #30DaysOfFright

himself4Roger Moore. James Bond, The Saint, that raised eyebrow.

But between his time as Simon Templar and Her Majesty’s finest Sir Roger gave us one of his finest performance – it is in fact his favourite film featuring himself. This was as faraway from his future 007 persona as you could get. His name was Pelham…Harold Pelham.

With its early 70s London setting I often see it as a companion piece of sorts to what I regard as Hitchcock’s last hurrah, Frenzy, also set in the Capital. interestingly enough a version of The Man Who Haunted Himself made it onto Alfred Hitchcock Presents in under the title of The Case of Mr Pelham, the title of the book on which the film is based.

Things start of cheery enough with typical shots of a untypically moustached Moore driving round the sites of London with some really rather upbeat music. Then, almost without warning it is the turn of the strange as Pelham (Moore) takes his belt off and races down the M4 with maniacal grin and scant regard for those all around him.

himself2He then has the mother of all crashes and finds himself in an operating theatre as they fight to save his life. At one point two heartbeats appear on the heart rate monitor as the surgeons battle to save him thus unwittingly unleashing a second Mr Pelham on the world, a devilish, charismatic, womanising version, yet both men seem to inhabit the same world and interact with the same people, including work colleagues and lovers.

Whilst the original Pelham is mild and your Mr Average, the new version is, just like his sports car, souped up and supercharged. Ironically at one point Pelham discusses a merger, but he see it as a takeover, which is exactly the battle that rages within Roger Moore, is it a merger or a takeover?

himself1I suppose in a way you could see it as a 70s version of Face Off, minus the slow mo action and doves of course. Although highly stylised in that early 70s manner – cue jaunty camera angles, crash zooms and dubious rear screen projection but it adds to the whole atmosphere of the piece.

For those who thought Moore was just adept at punning whilst saving the world they will be pleasantly surprised at his dark side, and whilst we saw flashes of that in Bond, such as the harder edged Bond in For Your Eyes Only kicking a car off a cliff and flicking a man from his tie to his death in The Spy Who Loved Me.

We share the original Pelham’s panic when a whole host of people claim he has been in one place when he has been in other, inviting friends round when he hadn’t, all of which creates some excellent pacing as the actual Pelham begins to question his sanity when an increasing amount of people have seen ‘him’ when it is actually his doppelgänger.

himself7At certain points the audience even begins to question which is which and the pace of the film never really lets up as we eventually head onto a collision course with two Pelham’s finally meeting, giving a whole new meaning to double 0 heaven. It is an excellent tension raiser as we really feel the hysteria that Moore brings to the role and makes us ask ourselves, what would we do if it happened to us?

Bursting into his Gentlemen’s club, looking for the imposter impersonating him, Moore’s brow becomes more sweaty – we, like Moore are never really sure if it is an impostor or not. Gradually, the awful truth becomes clear. When he died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated, a doppelgänger (or “alter ego”) was released…. and now the real Pelham and his sinister double are locked in a life-and-death struggle against each other.

himself6The role(s) of Pelham ranks as a career best role for Moore who really makes us believe that he is two people, just as Sam Rockwell did in Moon.

Dated, of course, but there is no denying that this film has a certain vibe about it that is sure to see it remade in the near future. One can only hope it is someone like Christopher Nolan in the Director’s chair, who covered similar ground in both Memento and The Prestige.

himself5A supernatural tale with a sting in its tale the film had one more dark surprise to unleash, Basil Dearden, the director, died shortly after completing filming, dying in a car crash in a place that was in the ‘exact’ same location that a major character dies in the film.

An incredible coincidence and a sad loss, but Dearden’s legacy was this film that deserves to be discovered and seen by a wider audience, even though part of me is pleased that it is still something of a hidden gem.

The film can be caught in the UK regularly haunting the Horror Channel or on a great Bluray/DVD combi that also features a commentary from Harold Pelham himself (Sir Roger Moore)…or is it?