A confluence of cinematic and natural forces is at hand. Snow has fallen and James Bond movies are 50 years old. In honor of this convergence, I give you the Bond films with the best ski scenes -- perfect movies for a hot chocolate kind of night.
• “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”: George Lazenby has huge hands. His 1969 one-off appearance of as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” has many unintentionally hilarious scenes, such as the one where Lazenby seems to nearly crush Diana Riggs’ head as he cups her face in a caring gesture. The others involve skiing.
Since this film revolves around an evil genius’ mountain-top lair, there is more skiing than in any other Bond film. And there has to be a lot of skiing, because the mountains in this movie are huge. Bond escapes the mountain-top lair, skis to a resort town, meets Riggs, and drives to a cabin. You would think they’re at a much lower elevation. Yet they wake up, somehow find skis and boots that fit, and take off down the mountain just as the henchmen locate the cabin. This is followed by a massive (and massively silly) ski sequence involving a race against an avalanche. How long can you ski down the same mountain without need of a chairlift? It’s so stupid. I love it!
• “The Spy Who Loved Me”: In 1976, Roger Moore starred in “The Spy Who Loved Me” with Barbara Bach as the Russian spy XXX. (Har). This film featured an evil genius in an underwater lair, climatic fights between submarines and soldiers, SCUBA battles, and seven-foot Richard Kiel as one of the best Bond bad guys ever, Jaws.
It is the film’s beginning, however, that is pure ski-film bliss. Summoned by M via a highly advanced ticker-tape watch, Bond finishes making out with a blond Russian double agent in a random ski lodge high in the Austrian Alps. The agent notifies a group of Russian agents on skis with a newfangled walkie-talkie that has — wait for it – an extendable antenna. Bond quickly realizes he is being chased and stylishly carves the mountain with perfect parallel turns. At one point, Bond skis backwards and shoots a Russian baddie with his ski-pole/high powered rifle. The bad guys close in and the mountain drops away into a sheer 3,000 foot cliff! Is this the end? Of course not! Bond drops off the cliff, his skis fly off, and — in what must be one of the first filmed examples of BASE jumping — a union jack parachute opens. The Bond theme starts! England rules! Awesome!
• “For Your Eyes Only”: In 1982, Moore returns to the slopes for “For Your Eyes Only.” Given the title, there are lots of awkward close-ups of the angry eyes of Melina played by Carole Bouquet. Bond helps Melina avenge the death of her parents by Russian spies. Bouquet may be one of the prettier Bond women, and her character is strong and talented with a cross-bow, but the actress is a little subdued, perhaps stoned, through most of film. Melina, in sum, is “I’m grieving. My parents are dead. Look into my angry eyes. Where’s my crossbow?”
The evil genius’ cliff-top lair is in the mountains of Northern Italy. There are ample examples of outdoors activity, but the ski chase is really the show stopper. As the evil henchmen chase Bond through a ski resort, there is a run on a luge, tree skiing, jumping on a table of skiers eating lunch, motorcycles with spiked wheels, and one talented Russian on cross country skis. This is one of the best constructed action sequences in all of Bond’s history. As with the Lazenby picture, there is the chairlift issue. They never need a chairlift. It’s a lot of skiing for never needing to go back up the mountain.
• “The World is Not Enough”: Finally, there is 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” starring the suave Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan’s Bond warms the heart of evil Elektra on the cool slopes of .... oh, whatever. This movie starred Denise Richards as a nuclear “Fizz-a-cyst”. It’s horrible. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again. Skip it. You’ll never get those two hours back.
If you are looking for a night out, the 23rd Bond movie comes out this weekend at Glacier Cinemas. “Skyfall” has received over a 90 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has broken box office records in Britain, and is rumored to have a ski scene. “Skyfall” promises to continue the excellence of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. What was once silly, formulaic, sexist, sophomoric, dumb, and weirdly innocent is now dark, artistic, and accomplished cinema. I love the new Bond.
That said, I miss Moore and Lazenby hamming it up for the camera, lurching through unconvincing fight scenes, questionable special effects, and really (really) big mountains. There is stupid, and then there is Bond-stupid — wonderful, fun, escapist Bond-stupid. With these movies, you can unapologetically lower your IQ tonight. Have fun!