The Ingrid Pitt column: shaken, not stirred

Ingrid Pitt is less than impressed with the latest incarnation of James Bond - a sliced finger? Pah!

I never have been a dyed in the cashmere fan of the 007 films. On a dark and stormy night with the snow half way up the casement window and a roaring log fire in the hearth, stretched out on the sofa with a mug of hot cocoa, I found them entertaining but not addictive. Something to do with indoctrination, I suspect. When Bond hit the screens in the early sixties I was living in Madrid. A single mother in an un-welfare state, it wasn’t easy to keep empanadoes on the table and there was no time for fripperies such as going to the movies. I was lucky. I was working as a presenter on a live TV show called Aqui Espana, had a good flow of movies like Un Beso en el Puerto and Los Duendes de Andalucia on tap and all the ‘extra’ work I could handle. So when I got home at night all I was interested in was some quality time with my duvet.

I finally caught up with James Bond and his shaken not stirred philosophy when George Lazenby was wielding the Beretta On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). It was certainly an experience. As far as I was concerned there had been nothing like it before. I was amazed that some of the critics were less than complimentary and nostalgic about Sean Connery. When I met Connery I confessed to him that I had never seen his take on Bond and he thought I was patronising him. Over the years I guess I have caught up with the of films although I still have reservations about the way Bond’s character developed post-Connery. So when I went to see Casino Royale a year or so ago I wasn’t impressed. Daniel Craig seemed all wrong. Blond, a brutal face and lacking in charm was my opinion of the actor. The film too frenzied and noisy. Over the past year I’ve warmed to Craig and read good things about the film.

I was having a meeting in Pinewood a couple of weeks ago and thought it might be nice to meet Craig. Gary Powell is the stunt co-ordinator on Quantum of Solace, a dumb title if there ever was one. Nosher Powell, Gary’s dad, is an old friend and I’ve known Gary since he was falling off his pogo stick for free. After my meeting I went to the restaurant, had some lunch and hung around there in the hope that Gary might drop by. When he didn’t I went to production office to ask if I could see him. They had a bit of a panic on. The girl in the office told me that Daniel Craig had sliced off a finger and been rushed off to the hospital. Obviously it was not a propitious time for visitors on the set.

When I got home I looked out the DVD of Casino Royale that Eon Productions had sent me for consideration at the time of the BAFTA Awards. I felt a sort of affinity with Daniel now that I had heard of his sad loss and wanted to re-evaluate. Seeing the film for the second time was no better than the first. By the time the credits came up I felt battered but not stirred. I’m not a great fan of CGI (must find out what that stands for) and one of the big selling points when the film was released was that there were minimal special effects and Craig did 95% of the stunts himself. I didn’t get that impression but if he says so who am I to cast doubt? What is beyond doubt is that the chase sequence at the beginning of the film was one of the best ever. It runs for 7.40 minutes and keeps your toes curled for the whole time. I’m not denigrating Craig’s part in this but no one can deny that the man he is pursuing, Sebastien Foucan, is absolutely marvellous. I know there is a lot of cutting during the chase but that doesn’t take anything away from the skill and audacity of some of the stunts he performs. Evidently Frenchman Foucan is one of the founders of a newish sport called Freerunning. I’d never heard of it. But then I don’t get out much.

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There are several other breathtaking stunts between the studied longueurs showing that Bond has a feminine side. But do we need to know this? James Bond is 007 is Sean Connery. Daniel is as unlike Connery as you can get and still leave a satisfactory horizon of bullet riddled bodies. If I am going to watch the unedifying exploits of a chauvinistic, hairy chested, narcissistic thug I want the Scotsman. Daniel’s smooth, well developed body, blond hair and petulant pout just don’t hit the spot. I think Daniel Craig is an exemplary actor but not Bond. For one thing he always seems to be running. I’m probably wrong but I don’t think Connery’s locomotion ever got beyond a casual saunter. He was always so far ahead of the Baddies that he didn’t need to break into a sweat. Then there is the blond hair. Blondes are beautiful. Most of the Vikings and Angels are blondes. But Not 007. And what about the clothes? Can you imagine the suave international playboy, a woman magnet and the terror of the bad guys, wearing a ultra short sleeved casual shirt? I know it is to display the biceps – but come on! In a Bond film the physical sexuality comes from the women. Bond is just the sex-vampire on the scene. So why is Craig seen coming out of the sea, a la Ursula Andress, with a lunch box that Billy Bunter would admire?

One other thing. The injury to Craig on the set at Pinewood turned out to be a slice off the top of his finger and he returned to work later the same day. As I watched Bond being, beaten, smashed, pulled out of a wreck half dead, poisoned and drowned, I had to ask myself if Bond would have even noticed a grazed finger.

Ingrid Pitt will be back with another column next week; read her last one here.