James Bond: The Connery Years

We take a look at Sean Connery's time as James Bond in The Connery Years...

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movies, Roobla is proud to present a potted review of all 22 Bond films so far, including a special Pesky Pig for each one. Here we look at Sean Connery’s time as Bond, James Bond…

Dr. No (1962)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Dr. No played by Joseph Wiseman

The historic first James Bond film featured a relatively unknown Connery in his first starring role. Fleming was not keen on the choice, preferring Cary Grant – a casting decision which, if made, would have sent the franchise into a totally new direction. For its time it was stylish, fast-paced and, in the titular villain, Wiseman set the precedent for every Bond nemesis that followed.

Memorable scene: Ursula Andress appearing from the sea, the definitive Bond girl.

Fleming wanted Christopher Lee to play Dr. No. Lee would have to wait a further 12 years for his villainous role.


From Russia With Love (1963)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Red Grant played by Robert Shaw

The second Bond hit the ground running and introduced the famous gun barrel opening scene. From Russia With Love continued to show Bond in a grittier way that was more in keeping with the original novels. It also, in Robert Shaw, had a villain who was Bond’s equal. Before the onset of gadgets and one-liners Bond, in this film, had to rely more on his wits which made the threat more genuine.

Memorable scene: The fight in the train carriage between Bond and Grant.

Desmond Llewelyn first appears as Q although he is credited here as Major Boothroyd.


Goldfinger (1964)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Auric Goldfinger played by Gert Frobe

Probably the most celebrated Bond film of all. The humour in Goldfinger was broader and set the tone for almost all of the films that followed. Goldfinger is a memorable villain, Shirley Bassey’s theme remains the standard and, thanks to Pussy Galore, the Bond girl became an iconic element for the rest of the series. All this and we haven’t even mentioned the DB5 with its fully functional ejector seat. This is the Bond film that all of the others aspire to be.

Memorable scene: ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ ‘No Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!’

Frobe later appeared as a villain in another Fleming source movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


Thunderball (1965)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Largo played by Adolfi Celi

Goldfinger was a hard act to follow so the approach to Thunderball was bigger, louder and hopefully better. It was certainly wetter, with the plot involving much underwater action. This aspect dilutes (pardon the pun) the action somewhat but the film is still bombastic fun. Largo is a disappointing villain compared to his predecessor but Connery is still on top form.

Memorable scene: In the pre-credits sequence Bond escapes danger by flying off with a jet pack strapped to his back.

The only Fleming title owned by anyone other than Brocolli and Saltzman, the movie was remade with Connery in 1983 as Never Say Never Again.


You Only Live Twice (1967)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld played by Donald Pleasence

Connery was getting bored with the role by the time this fifth movie went into production. As a result he mainly coasts through this romp which is set almost entirely in Japan. The budget had clearly increased as the sets are enormous and the special effects unparalleled at the time. The most notable aspect of this movie was the introduction of Blofeld who, up until now, had only been glimpsed in previous outings. Here he is fully realised in the form of Donald Pleasence who makes a good claim to be the finest villain in the series. Unfortunately it is now impossible to watch without having Austin Powers in mind as it took all of its influences from this Bond movie.

Memorable scene: ‘Little Nell’ is assembled in front of a disbelieving Bond’s eyes.

Children’s author Roald Dahl provided the screenplay.


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Bond: George Lazenby
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld played by Telly Savalas

The new James Bond was played by an Australian who was picked purely on the strength of a chocolate advert. He looked the part that was for sure, but the producers had such little faith in him that the rest of the movie was ramped up to compensate. Big name co-stars such as Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas were recruited and the action was turned up considerably. The emphasis was more on rough housing with this Bond, not the ruthless sophistication that Connery had brought to the role.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had the potential to be the best of them all; the locations were spectacular and there was to be real emotional resonance in the relationship Bond formed with Diana Riggs Countess. The only downfall was that it needed a Connery to anchor it. Lazenby tries really hard and he brings a real charm to the role and sense of humour that would be mirrored and honed to perfection in the Moore years. Unfortunately the public were not ready for it at this point. If Lazenby had continued with the role no doubt he would have matured and grown with it. Inexplicably, his manager persuaded him to turn down a multi picture deal, consigning Lazenby to the ‘where are they now’ file and numerous pub quizzes.

The general consensus is that if Connery had starred in this outing then this would have eclipsed all of the previous Bonds. In itself it has a loyal fan base, Christopher Nolan has gone on record to state it is his favourite, but ultimately it will go down as a Bond curio.

Memorable scene: The final heart-breaking moments when Lazenby showed how good he could have been.

This was the only Bond movie to have an instrumental theme. Louis Armstrong sang All the Time in the World during the movie.


Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld played by Charles Gray

After the George Lazenby débâcle, Connery was tempted back for one last go at the role (of course he did come back again, unofficially). The style of the movies had started to shift with You Only Live Twice to a more comical tone. This carried on with Lazenby whose character was better suited to it. By Diamonds Are Forever the films had become camp. Connery’s Bond was not suited to this change of pace and he looked like a relic, despite being only 40 at the time.

Things got worse with the depiction of the villain of the piece, Blofeld. Played with a chilling undertone by the masterful Donald Pleasence and a sinister viciousness by Telly Savalas, by this film, one of the greatest movie villains of all is reduced to a farcical baddie who at one point dresses in drag to escape the law.

Definitely the poorest Connery led Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever is probably one of the worst of the whole series. Connery’s tenure was up, now it was time to introduce a Bond for the 70’s.

Memorable scene: Bambi and Thumper getting a soaking.

Charles Gray had already appeared as an ally of Bond in You Only Live Twice.


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