We look back at the films that came out before the latest installment of the James Bond franchise – and may be informed.
By Christopher Campbell Published on October 9, 2021
Welcome to Movie dna, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of both new and classic films. Learn about film history, become a more eclectic viewer, and enjoy like-minded works from the past. This entry highlights what to see if you like the James Bond movie No Time To Die.
before Daniel Craig came, you could watch pretty much any James Bond movie on your own. But the latest era of the 007 franchise follows a continuous narrative arc for Bond. Before you see each new issue, you pretty much need to see the last one. With No time to die, Craig’s final stop on the role, you will definitely benefit from doing your homework. You need to check out Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Specter first.
The Craig Bonds are also filled with “Easter Egg” tributes to other James Bond films of the past. Such a fan service pays off better when you recognize it, but if you don’t know your way around beforehand, you can look forward to the reference afterwards. I guess I should devote this entire issue of Movie DNA to which classic Bond films are best to watch next. But I decided to only recommend the most important ones and then filled the rest of the list with other tips that I think were relevant.
As always, I will make a note of where you can see each film, if available, at the time of this column’s publication.
Armored Forces (1958)
Four years after James Bond’s first theatrical appearance and four years before the first film adaptation, Armored power came to theaters under its original name, No Time to Die. It’s a strange production, split as it is called, that the IMDb page says one thing and the Wikipedia entry says another. Also, it is inconsistent whether or not to include an exclamation mark at the end of one of the titles. Now, 63 years later, the 25th James Bond film is also known as No Time to Die. No punctuation marks.
Anyway, aside from the association with one of its names, the WWII drama happened to be from. written Richard Maibaum and Terence Young, and directed by Young. And one of its producers was Albert R. “Cubby” broccoli. All three made the first James Bond feature film, Dr. No. Young also directed two more Bonds, Maibaum worked on the scripts for 12 more, and Broccoli produced 14 more before his death (at which point his daughter took over). How’s that for little things?
Well, here are some more fun facts: the female lead, Luciana PaluzziShe played Fiona Volpe, the villainous Bond girl in Thunderball, and a Tank Force star Anthony Newley wrote the text for Goldfinger’s title track. Here’s another bite: the other maker of Tank Force, Irving AllenHe famously missed the Bond boat – he and Broccoli actually had an argument over his lack of interest in the series – so he started his own spy movie franchise in 1966, centered on the character Matt Helm.
Our man Feuerstein (1966)
Another spy film series, launched in 1966, follows the character Derek Flint (played by James Coburn). As with others in the genre of time, Our man Flint was a reaction to the popularity of James Bond and has a more comedic approach to the world of espionage. The reason I am bringing it up now in relation to No Time to Die is because it is the first action film and franchise release I can think of that starts with being a retired hero for a mission, which only he can fulfill must be brought back into the game.
Released a year later, spy film parody Casino royale also begins with its retired main character. That hero is James Bond (played by David Niven) because Columbia Pictures had the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel – which had been adapted for television 12 years earlier – and decided to turn it into a comedy instead of with him to let the “official” Bond films compete. Of course, the “official” franchise would eventually acquire the rights to the book and make its own version, which Daniel Craig’s run as Agent 007 started.
Our Man Flint can be rented digitally from your preferred VOD outlet.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The one James Bond movie I recommend is arguably the best James Bond movie of all time. There are a few allusions in No Time to Die to George Lazenby’s single stint as 007. Most notably, Craigs Bond says Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), “We have all the time in the world” just before they are ambushed in a sequence that ends with the couple’s separation. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby’s Bond tells his new wife (Diana Rigg) exactly that sentence at the very end of the film, ironically after she was killed.
And as if that wasn’t enough for the fans, the credits of No Time to Die include the song “We Have All the Time in the World”, which Louis Armstrong sang for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And the instrumental version of this theme also plays in other parts of the new film. It’s a blatant “Easter Egg” that highlights the melancholy nature of the events of No Time to Die and gives some premonitions for them. It might also seem like a red herring since you think Madeleine is the doomed one.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is now streaming for free on PlutoTV.
The Rock (1996)
If you are one of those who see The stone as the unofficial sequel to the Sean Connery series of James Bond films, then here’s arguably another 007 recommendation. Connery plays a legendary British spy who has been in American custody for decades. He was taken out of prison to assist the US government on a mission to Alcatraz to prevent terrorists from unleashing a biological weapon. In No Time to Die, Bond is brought out of retirement to help American agents after terrorists steal a biological weapon.
Connery’s character, along with a team of Navy SEALs and an FBI agent played by Nicolas Cage, also enter “the rock”, much like Bond and his friends enter the terrorist villain’s island hideout in No Time to Die. At the end of both films, the main hero (it’s actually Cage in The Rock) is in a race against time to complete the mission before military forces destroy the island with a barrage of missiles. In The Rock, however, the goal is to signal that the missiles will not be deployed. They are already on the move in No Time to Die. Ultimately, the island is hit in both stories, but only for James Bond in No Time to Die is it fatal for the hero.
The fact that I was reminded of The Rock while watching No Time to Die seemed like a coincidence until the James Bond movie reminded me too Con Air. This is Cage’s second collaboration with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, released a year later. The ridiculous plot follows the actor as an ex-army ranger, who is about to get out of jail and eventually meet his young daughter when the plane that serves as his last transport is hijacked by his fellow prisoners. There’s a toy bunny in the game, just like the climax of No Time to Die that needs to be saved. The only thing missing is Bond telling someone to put the rabbit back in a box.
The Rock is now available on FuboTV and Showtime.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
The concept of nanotechnology has been around for decades, but for most people it’s still such an abstract idea that its application in entertainment is broad, nonsensical, and seemingly unrealistic. Nanobots seem capable of anything an author needs from them. They can explain the otherwise magical regeneration of body or armor in superhero films, or they can be invisible MacGuffins and weapons in James Bond films like No Time to Die.
Mainstream misconceptions about nanobots can negatively impact actual scientific research. And it really didn’t help the field that its advances in public consciousness came about through media attention to the more widespread ideas (see Ray Kurzweil, transcendence) and villainous acts or other bad scenarios (see Michael Crichton’s novel Prey, episodes from science fiction shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who, most films with nanobots, including No Time to Die).
The first movie that comes to mind that involves nanotechnology – and for an evil plan, of course – is Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. No wonder, given that nanobots were most prominent early on in the anime, probably because live-action special effects weren’t enough to represent them for a while. Anyway, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie features terrorists unleashing a mysterious deadly new virus that turns out to be nanobots targeting the human immune system. Sounds familiar.
Related topics: Film DNA
Christopher Campbell began reviewing and covering film festivals for a zine called Read when a zine actually got you Sundance press passes. He is now Senior Editor at FSR and founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He is also a regular contributor to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is President of the Documentary Branch of the Critics Choice Association.