It’s been going strong for over half a century and shows no signs of letting up. I saw my first James Bond film, Doctor No (1962), at the Nugget Theater in Hanover, New Hampshire, when I was a freshman at Dartmouth College. I saw my most recent 007 epic, Spectre (2015), at the Village Cinema in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, last month.
When I was a grad student at UCLA, I wrote a feature article for the Daily Bruin entitled “James Bond in Vietnam,” about how the technologically superior U.S. military were losing to the Viet Cong—that we were, in effect, hypnotized by the gadgets of war furnished by our military’s equivalent of Q.
What amazes me is that, during its long run, the James Bond franchise has maintained a high level of quality despite the fact that not all of the subsequent Bonds were up to the level of Sean Connery. When you go to see a Bond film, you know what you’re going to get: a high level of action and entertainment. The sophisticated British secret agent with his taste for martinis that are “shaken, not stirred” makes all of us peasants wish that we were as suave as he is.
Over the last six months, I have been reading the Ian Fleming Bond books in succession, having just finished Doctor No, the sixth in the series. The books are good, but not quite up to the level of the films.