Saturday, July 31, 2004

Bond Addendum

The Bond movies were also a product of a time when the British film industry was being called upon to do things that American movies could no longer do. The Bonds were financed by an American company, United Artists, and were made in large part for the American market. But they were British-made movies, and they offered all the elements that had once been common in American adventure movies: lavish set design, exciting action sequences and editing, a sense of high-quality craftsmanship in all departments. The '60s were mostly a terrible time for American movies, creatively (in case anyone thinks I'm a nostalgia-monger, let me say right now that I think American movies are much, much better today than they were in the '60s), and with the breakup of the studio system, American movies no longer led the world in terms of technical polish and professionalism. This left a void to be filled by European movies; it's no coincidence that the dark age of American movies coincided with a boom in the quality and popularity of French, Italian and English movies.

And it was the British film industry, more than any other, that became the world leader when it came to craftsmanship. The best studio technicians were in England; the best special effects were being produced in England; English movie studios were cheaper to work and build in, and attracted many American filmmakers to cross the sea and make their movies at Pinewood or Elstree studios. Think of Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Strangelove, 2001; English or English-made movies all, and all better-produced than what an American studio could have done at the time. The Bond movies were the first indication that England was where the action was, literally and figuratively, in the movie industry. The American movie industry rebounded, of course, and the England's new Golden Age didn't outlast the '60s. By the '70s, the Bond movies were no longer leading the world's movies, as they had in the '60s when the French, Italians and Americans were all imitating them; instead, the producers were trying desperately to ape the new trends in American movies, going for camp (Diamonds are Forever), blaxploitation (Live and Let Die) and sci-fi (Moonraker).

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