Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Lion in Winter (dir by Anthony Harvey)


(With the Oscars scheduled to be awarded on March 4th, I have decided to review at least one Oscar-nominated film a day.  These films could be nominees or they could be winners.  They could be from this year’s Oscars or they could be a previous year’s nominee!  We’ll see how things play out.  Today, I take a look at the 1968 best picture nominee, The Lion in Winter!)

“I don’t much like our children.”

— Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn)

“Oh God, but I do love being king.”

— King Henry II (Peter O’Toole)

“What family doesn’t have its up and down?”

— Eleanor of Aquitaine

To be honest, it’s tempting to just spend this entire review offering up quotes from this film.  Based on a play by James Goldman and featuring a cast of actors who all specialized in delivering the most snarky of lines with style, The Lion In Winter is a film that is in love with the English language.  As visually impressive as the film and its recreation of the 12th Century is, it’s tempting to close your eyes while watching The Lion In Winter and just listen to the dialogue.

The year is 1183.  England has a king.  His name is Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and he’s held power for a long time, through a combination of willpower and political manipulation.  He’s married to Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), though he long since had her imprisoned.  Before marrying Henry, Eleanor was the wife of Louis VII.  Now, Henry’s mistress is Alais (Jane Merrow), the daughter of Louis and his second wife.  In order to get Alais’s dowry, Henry has promised her half-brother, Philip II (Timothy Dalton), that she will be married to the next king of England.  Philip, incidentally, is the son of Louis’s third wife.  To be honest, it’s confusing as Hell to try to keep up with all of it but that’s medieval politics for you.

Of course, everyone knows that Henry II will not be king forever.  He’s already 50 years old, which is quite an advanced age for 1183.  Being king means that everyone, even his own family, is plotting against him.  It also means living in a remarkably dirty and drafty castle.  (If you’re looking for a film that celebrates the splendor of royalty, this is probably not the film to watch.)  Henry has three sons, all of whom feel that he should be the rightful heir.

For instance, there’s Richard (a young Anthony Hopkins).  Richard is Henry and Eleanor’s eldest son.  He is a fierce, outspoken, and judgemental man.  He describes himself as being a legend and a poet.  He looks and acts like a future king.  Of course, he’s also a bit of a pompous ass.  Richard is Eleanor’s pick to be king, though Richard is always quick to equally condemn both of his parents.

And then there’s John (Nigel Terry).  Early on, John is described as being “pimply and smelling of compost.”  For some reason, John is Henry’s favorite.  He’s also a sniveling weakling, the type who is never smart enough to know when his father is being honest or when his father is bluffing.  Halfway through the film, he comes close to accidentally starting a civil war.

And finally, there’s Geoffrey (John Castle).  Geoffrey is the smartest of the princes and the most manipulative.  Of the three princes, he’s the only one who is as smart as both Henry and Eleanor.  However, whereas Henry and Eleanor enjoy their complicated lives and manage to maintain a sense of (very dark) humor about it all, Geoffrey is bitter about his place as the middle child.

Christmas has arrived and Henry has temporarily released Eleanor from prison so that she can spend the holidays with him, his sons, and his mistress.  Also coming over for the holiday is King Phillip II, eager to either take back his sister’s dowry or to attend her wedding to the next King of England.  What follows is a holiday of politics, manipulation, and shouting.  In fact, there’s lots and lots of shouting.

It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film, one that expertly mixes British history with domestic drama and dark comedy.  Obviously, the film’s main appeal comes from watching two screen icons, Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, exchanging snappy dialogue.  Hepburn deservedly won an Oscar for her performance as Eleanor.  O’Toole should have won an Oscar as well but he lost to Cliff Robertson for Charly.  In fact, O’Toole and Hepburn are so good that they occasionally overshadow the rest of the very talented cast.  Anthony Hopkins and Nigel Terry both make indelible impressions as Richard and John but my favorite princely performance came from John Castle, who is a malicious wonder as Geoffrey.  As easy as it is to dislike Geoffrey, it’s hard not to feel that he does have a point.

(Of course, in real life, both Richard and John would eventually serve as king while Geoffrey would die, under mysterious circumstances, in France.  Reportedly, Philip II was so distraught over Geoffrey’s death that he attempted to jump on the coffin as it was being lowered into the ground.)

The Lion In Winter was nominated for seven Oscars and won three, for Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay (James Goldman), and Best Music Score (John Barry).  It lost best picture to Oliver!

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 4.13 “Werewolf Concerto” (dir by Steve Perry)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we present to you the 13th episode of the 4th season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!

Werewolf Concerto originally aired on September 9th, 1992.  It deals with what happens when a group of hotel guests believe that there might be a werewolf in the area.  Fortunately, Timothy Dalton is also in the area and he claims to be a professional werewolf hunter!

Or is he….?

You’ll have to watch to find out!

Enjoy!

The Savior of the Universe: Flash Gordon (1980, directed by Mike Hodges)


Flash GordonLife on the planet Mongo is not easy.  Aided by Darth Vader wannabe Klytus (Peter Wyngarde) and the sadistic General Kala (Mariangela Melato), the evil Emperor Ming (Max Von Sydow) rules with an iron fist.  All of the citizens are heavily taxed and kept in a state of perpetual war in order to keep them from joining together and rebelling.  Those who attempt to defy Ming are executed.

There are many different races living on both Mongo and its moons. The Arborians, also known as the tree people, live in a jungle and are ruled by Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton).  Until Ming overthrew his father, Barin was the rightful heir to the throne of Mongo.  Barin is also one of the many lovers of Aura (Ornella Muti), Ming’s rebellious daughter.

Barin distrusts the Hawkmen, a group of winged barbarians.  Led by the boisterous Prince Vultan (the one and only Brian Blessed), the Hawkmen live in a palace that floats above Mongo.  Both Vultan and Barin share a desire to overthrow Ming but neither one of them can set aside their own dislike and distrust of each other.

Ming grows bored easily but Klytus has found him a new play thing, an obscure planet in the S-K system.  “The inhabitants,” Klytus says, “refer to it as the planet Earth.”

It all leads to this:

You may have been too busy listening to Queen’s theme song to notice (and I don’t blame you if you were) but I have always found it strange that, even though Ming had never heard of Earth before Klytus brought it to his attention, he still had a button labeled “Earthquake.”  Whenever I watch Flash Gordon, I wonder if I am the only one who has noticed this.

With Ming plaguing Earth with tornadoes, hurriances, and “hot hail,” it is up to three Earthlings to travel to Mongo  and defeat him.  Dr. Zarkov (Topol) is an eccentric scientist who was forced out of NASA because of his belief in Mongo.  Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) is a reporter.  And, finally, Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) is a professional athlete.  Because this movie is a fantasy, Flash Gordon is a superstar quarterback for the New York Jets.

The character of Flash Gordon was first introduced in a 1934 comic strip and was played by Buster Crabbe in several classic serials.  Among Flash’s many young fans was a future filmmaker named George Lucas, who would later cite Flash’s adventures as being a major inspiration for the Star Wars saga.  After the unprecedented success of Star Wars: A New Hope, it only made sense that someone would try to make a Flash Gordon film.

That someone was producer Dino De Laurentiis.  (Before writing the script for Star Wars, Lucas attempted to buy the rights for Flash Gordon from De Laurentiis.)  To write the script that would bring Flash into the 80s, De Laurentiis hired Lorenzo Semple, Jr.  Semple was best known for helping to create the 1960s version of Batman and he brought a similarly campy perspective to the character and story of Flash Gordon.  As a result, the film ended up with scenes like this one, where Flash interrupts one of Ming’s ceremonies with an impromptu football scrimmage:

It also led to Brian Blessed’s entire performance as Prince Vultan, which is especially famous for the way that Blessed delivered one line:

(That also makes for a great ringtone.)

Sam J. Jones and Melody Anderson often seem to be stranded by Semple’s script but Max Von Sydow, Topol, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, and Ornella Muti all get into the swing of things.  Seen today, Flash Gordon is entertaining but too intentionally campy for its own good.  On the positive side, the images still pop off the screen and the soundtrack sounds as great as ever.  When you listen to Queen’s theme song, you have no doubt that “he’ll save every one of us.”

As Flash Gordon himself put it after he saved the universe: “YEAAAAH!”

Yeah

Penny Dreadful Season 2 Trailer


penny-dreadful-logo-penny-dreadful-new-posters-and-a-new-character-trailer

“When Lucifer fell, he did not fall alone.” — Vanessa Ives

It would be an understatement to say that Showtime’s Penny Dreadful was my favorite new show of 2014. I can honestly say that it was the best new show of 2014.

John Logan was able to create a show that probably sounded like a Victorian gothic version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on paper, but once seen ended up being both mesmerizing and hypnotic for those willing to travel down the dark, shadowy twists and turns the series took from beginning to end.

We now have the latest trailer and a release date for the second season premiere of Penny Dreadful and it looks like it’ll continue the storyline about Vanessa Ives’ past of demon-possession and exploring it’s ramifications further. We also get the return of a bit player from season 1, Madame Kali, returning to a much more expanded role and if the trailer was to suggest or hint at her role we might be seeing the series’ version of Countess Bathory (I pray to all the fallen angels that this becomes a reality).

If Penny Dreadful season 1 was just the opening appetizer course then here’s to hoping that season 2 will be a satisfying and meatier course.

Penny Dreadful season 2 will have it’s premiere on Showtime on April 26, 2015.

Scenes I Love: Penny Dreadful


Episode 102

2014 has been a very good year in the realm of great television. We have the perennial stand-outs like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Justified and The Americans. Some shows that have been brought down a peg or two in seasons past made a resurgence in quality and consistency with The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.

Yet, it is with the new kid on the block that I pick my latest “Scenes I Love” and probably the most memorable scene on TV all year. The scene I speak of is the “seance” scene of the second episode of Showtime’s gothic horror series Penny Dreadful. This scene wasn’t even the big reveal in the episode but it ultimately set the tone for what’s to come for the rest of the series’ inaugural season.

The scene focuses on Eva Green’s character, Vanessa Ives, as she attends and participates in a seance held by Madame Kali in the home of renowned Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle. It’s a powerful performance from Eva Green who has become an actor with a penchant for pulling off bravura performances in the small and big screen.

Green’s Ives has several more performances such as these during the rest of the season, but they all didn’t come with that first shock and awe this scene gave the episode and the series. It’s actually a shame that Green’s work on Penny Dreadful hasn’t garnered as much, if any, year end accolades. Her work as Vanessa Ives was that good.

James Bond Film Review: Licence to Kill (dir. by John Glen)


Licence to Kill, which was initially released in 1989, was the 16th “official” James Bond film.  It was also the second and the last one to feature Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond.  This is the one where Felix Leiter gets eaten by a shark, Bond resigns from MI6, and ends up going to Central America in search of revenge.  Sad to say, it’s also one of my least favorite of the Bond films.

Licence to Kill starts out with Bond in Florida, attending the wedding of his best friend, Felix Leiter (played by David Hedison, who previously played the role in Live and Let Die).  However, before going to ceremony, Felix and Bond take a few minutes to arrest notorious drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).  With the help of a crooked DEA agent (played by a wonderfully smarmy actor named Everett McGill), Sanchez escapes from custody.  Accompanied by his psychotic henchman Dario (Benecio Del Toro), Sanchez gets his revenge by killing the new Mrs. Leiter and feeding Felix to a shark.  When Bond discover the barely alive Felix, he also discovers a note that (in a scene borrowed from the novel Live and Let Die) reads, “He disagreed with something that ate him.”

Investigating on his own, Bond discovers that Sanchez’s partner in Florida is the wonderfully named Milton Krest (played by a brilliantly sleazy Anthony Zerbe).  Soon, James Bond is on a mission of vengeance that involves tracking down and killing every member of Sanchez’s organization.  However, M (Robert Brown) doesn’t like the idea of his best secret agent killing the entire population of Florida.  Bond responds by resigning from the service and heading to Central America on his own.

In typical Bond film fashion, James Bond manages to infiltrate Sanchez’s organization and Sanchez soon takes a liking to the man who has vowed to kill him.  Along the way, Bond romances both Sanchez’s abused mistress Lupe (Talisa Soto) and an ex-CIA agent named Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and the viewers learn that Sanchez’s criminal enterprise not only involves drugs but also a crooked TV preacher (played by Las Vegas mainstay Wayne Newton) as well.

Let’s start with the positive.  Robert Davi, playing the role of Franz Sanchez, makes for a memorable villain.  Along with the silky charm and hints of madness that we’ve come to expect from Bond villains, Davi brings an almost perverse edge to the character.  Every line of dialogue that he delivers is practically dripping with decadence.  Whether he’s doting on his pet iguana, his main henchman Dario, or poor Lupe, Sanchez makes for a dangerously charismatic and compelling villain, one that feels like he would have been at home in one of Ian Fleming’s original novels.  Wisely, Davi plays his role almost as if he was playing James Bond and, as a result, the scenes that he shares with Dalton all have a crackling energy to them that is missing from the film as a whole.

In fact, almost all of the villains are compelling in this film, from Franz Sanchez all the way down to the lowliest henchman.  As played by a very young Benicio Del Toro, Dario is all smoldering intensity and arrogant swagger.  Smuggler Milton Krest is played by veteran character actor Anthony Zerbe and he gets one of the bloodiest death scenes in the history of the series.  However, I have to admit that my favorite bad guy was Sanchez’s business manager, Truman-Lodge (played by Anthony Starke).  Truman-Lodge is just so enthusiastic about the business opportunities that came along with allying oneself with evil that it’s rather infectious.

With such a memorable collection of bad guys, it’s a shame that the film didn’t provide them with any goals worthy of their evil talents.  In previous (and future) Bond films, far less interesting villains have still come up with plans to allow them to take over the world.  Even Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax was able to overcome his lack of personality and come up with a diabolical intergalactic scheme.  Meanwhile, Franz Sanchez — one of the most complex and impressive Bond villains of all time — is simply content to sell drugs and feed people to sharks.  It feels almost disrespectful to Davi’s performance that Sanchez’s goals are, ultimately, so boring.

And, in the end, I think that’s the main problem that I have with Licence to Kill.  The film feels so predictable.  There’s nothing about it that makes it comes across as a story that could only have been about James Bond.  Instead, it feels like the type of standard action/revenge film that always seems to come out every summer.  The film’s hero might be an Englishman named James Bond but he could just as easily be an American named Jake Sully.

According to Sinclair McKay’s invaluable history of the Bond franchise, The Man With The Golden Touch, Licence to Kill was specifically written to compliment Timothy Dalton’s more “realistic” interpretation of the Bond character.  As Dalton played Bond as grim and serious, Licence to Kill is a grim and serious film.  Innocents and villains alike die in bloody agony and, the few times that Dalton does smile, the expression looks so unnatural that you worry that his face is about to split in half.  Unfortunately, along with being grim and serious, Dalton’s Bond is also remote and uncharismatic and, with the exception of Robert Davi, he doesn’t have any chemistry with anyone else in the cast.  (Carey Lowell brings a lot of energy to the role of Pam but Dalton’s Bond never seems to be that into her.)  Dalton simply doesn’t make for a very compelling hero and, as a result, Licence to Kill ends up feeling like an empty collection of occasionally impressive stunts.

Licence to Kill holds a few dubious distinctions.  It was the least financially succesful of all the Bond films and it was also the last Bond film to be produced by Albert Broccoli and directed by John Glen.  It was also the last to feature Robert Brown in the role of M and, of course, it was also the last to feature Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond.  (That’s not all that shocking when you consider just how miserable and bored Dalton seems to be in this film.)  Over the next six years, the Bond franchise would be mired in a lawsuit between Eon productions and producer Kevin McClory and when James Bond finally did return, he would do so in the form of Pierce Brosnan.

We’ll be taking a look at Goldeneye tomorrow.