James Bond: 5 Great Moments of Unintentional Humor (part 1 of 2)
With the new James Bond film Skyfall coming out, I thought it would be a good time to examine a few of my favorite moments from the franchise. Not the moments that are necessarily good, mind you. I’m talking the moments that made me laugh, even though that probably wasn’t what the filmmakers were going for.
Now, as you might have guessed from reading my stuff over the years, I have a rather… offbeat sense of humor. Thanks to this, there are certain things I’m almost certain that I, and I alone find funny.
Which totally explains why I’m writing a 2,000+ word article that anyone with an internet connection and the ability to read can see.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Quantum of Solace (2008): Trashing My Buddy
In the last Bond outing, Quantum of Solace, our hero went on a roaring rampage of revenge stemming from the events of Casino Royale.
Along the way, his buddy Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) tags along, and of course, since you can never have James Bond too pissed off, Mathis ends up getting killed. He gets a touching death scene, complete with the usual long speech that we all know is completely doable when the Angel of Death is tapping his foot impatiently and checking his watch.
That’s not the funny part, though. The funny part comes when, after Daniel Craig gets his Oscar clip moment, he deposits the dead body of his friend in a dumpster rather unceremoniously, and then picks his pocket.
Hell, even the Bond Girl calls him on it, which is generally a pretty good sign that you’ve just pulled a real dick move. It’s a bad laugh in what’s a decent enough scene. It just doesn’t work, which can be said for a lot of the movie, sadly.
Goldeneye (1995): We Don’t Need No Stinking Squibs!
For something from a film that actually works, this comes from the opening of Pierce Brosnan’s fantastic debut film Goldeneye… and continues throughout the running time. In general, the violence level in the Bond films has been more or less bloodless, with the occasional dip into the grue when called for.
Perhaps making an attempt to shy away from how rough the previous movie got (shark maulings, an exploding head, Bond setting the bad guy on fire at the end), director Martin Campbell decided to take things in the opposite direction by not hooking the stunt performers up to blood squibs before shooting the gun battles. Hell, you don’t even get puffs of smoke, just an angle of Bond (or Sean Bean, in the beginning) firing at will while stunt guys do their best to replicate the Agony of Defeat guy from the opening to ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
This has the effect of making it look like Russian soldiers—fairly well trained ones, at that—are slipping on banana peels and hurtling backwards while Bond just so happens to be firing his gun wildly while sparks and ricochets are flying everywhere.
It’s pretty damned funny, especially when you consider that the body count in this one is almost on the level of the average Sylvester Stallone flick.
To be fair, it’s handled a bit better later on during a gun battle in a records archive, with tons of paper flying around to take your mind off of it.
But for the most part, this may be the one Bond film where 007 apparently gets most of his body count by way of ricochet shots off pipes and doors.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974): Bond vs. Nick Nack
Now this is the one thing on this list I can call actively bad. It’s also the one moment that probably was intended to be funny, but the fact that it’s so awful sends it back in the opposite direction. It’s funny because it’s so amazingly un-funny.
The Man with the Golden Gun is as close as the series has come to having a movie where you finish it and think to yourself, “What the hell was all that about?”
And no, the ’67 Casino Royale doesn’t count. In that case, you’re asking yourself that question five minutes in. Two totally different reactions, I assure you.
Our own Mr. Mendo has torn this movie a new ass already, so I won’t belabor the point. Let me just add that if ever there was a case of a movie being a missed opportunity, this would be it. A good alternate title would have been How to Take a Perfectly Good Christopher Lee Performance and Blow it Out Your Ass!
As to this entry, it concerns the end of the movie, in which Bond faces off against Scaramanga’s henchman Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize). Don’t ask me why the world’s greatest assassin needs a henchman, though given that he went for a dwarf with good cooking skills, it could just be that while he may be the world’s deadliest assassin, he still can’t cook for shit. I’d love to have heard the phone conversation though. I would imagine it involved much stammering and awkward pauses.
Either way, after offing Scaramanga and blowing his island up, Bond and his latest conquest escape on a boat, naturally getting ready for a session of celebratory banging.
The nookie session is interrupted by, you guessed it, the little prick in the waiter’s outfit, and Bond ends up… Jesus, I can feel my IQ dropping as I type this… He ends up chasing Tattoo from Fantasy Island around the stateroom for a minute or two, as everyone in the audience wonders, “What the hell happened here?”
To be fair, the character actually works fairly well for nine-tenths of his screentime, as Villechaize managed to bring a certain air of mystery to the character. Not menace, mind you, but he did as good with the part as anybody else would have. I kind of like the idea of a henchman whose job duties include hiring gunmen to try and kill his boss, on the off chance they’ll get lucky and leave him with the man’s estate.
The fight, though (and calling it that is generosity the likes of which one doesn’t normally find) is bafflingly stupid, as Bond ends up trapping the little guy in a suitcase after dodging a flurry of wine bottles being thrown at him, after which he puts him in a cage tied at the top of the ship’s mast.
Even when I saw this as a kid, I remember thinking, “This is not really a satisfying ending.” And when a nine year old is questioning your judgment as a filmmaker… Damn.