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40 Into 007

Bond, James Bond, over the years

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It's somewhat appropriate that Die Another Day emerges as the most enjoyable James Bond movie in eons (see FilmClips for a review), since the ever-popular agent with a license to kill has two reasons to celebrate in 2002. Die Another Day is not only the 20th picture in the double-oh-series, but it also marks the 40th anniversary of the first Bond film, 1962's Dr. No. In honor of this venerable franchise (which has yet to slow down at the box office), here's a look at some of the series' highlights and low points over the past four decades.

Best Bond: Sean Connery, now and forever.

Best Bond Film: Goldfinger (1964). The third film in the series found everything coming together just perfectly, from memorable characters to exciting action sequences to that gadget-packed Aston Martin. Runners-up: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969); For Your Eyes Only (1981); From Russia With Love (1963).

Worst Bond Film: A View to a Kill (1985). Meet James Bond, senior citizen. Roger Moore (in his 007 swan song) looks decidedly tired as he takes on a gaggle of limp villains. Runners-up: Thunderball (1965); Tomorrow Never Dies (1997); The World Is Not Enough (1999); The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

Best Bond Beauty: From an acting standpoint, Diana Rigg as Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; her death at the end of the film, moments after becoming Mrs. James Bond, provided that entry with a tragic grandeur unequaled in any of the other episodes. From a yowza standpoint, Barbara Bach (later Mrs. Ringo Starr) as Russian agent Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me. Others portraying memorable characters: Ursula Andress as sensual Honey Ryder in Dr. No; Carole Bouquet as revenge-driven Melina in For Your Eyes Only; Carey Lowell as feisty Pam Bouvier in Licence to Kill (1989); Halle Berry as hard-hitting Jinx in Die Another Day.

Worst Bond Beauty: The excruciatingly awful Denise Richards as Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, breathlessly exclaiming, "I'm a nuclear scientist!" while prancing around in short-shorts. Runners-up: rancid Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill; boring Claudine Auger as Domino in Thunderball.

Best Bond Master Villain: Gert Frobe as the title character in Goldfinger. If only because he gets to utter the best line in the entire series: when a captive Bond (Connery), about to be split in half by a laser beam, anxiously asks, "Do you expect me to talk?," Goldfinger gleefully replies, "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" Runners-up: Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) in You Only Live Twice (1967); Drax (Michael Lonsdale) in Moonraker (1979); Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in The Man With the Golden Gun; Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) in From Russia With Love.

Worst Bond Master Villain: Adolfo Celi as Largo in Thunderball. This dull-as-dirt (and thoroughly unthreatening) mastermind looks like he'd be more interested in inhaling a plate of spaghetti than conquering the world. Runners-up: Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) in A View to a Kill; Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Best Bond Villainous Henchman: Richard Kiel as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me. The steel-toothed baddie was absurdly turned into a grinning good guy by the end of Moonraker, but in Spy, he was an exciting, indestructible force of evil, even taking down a shark in a one-on-one confrontation. Runners-up: Oddjob (Harold Sakata) in Goldfinger; Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) and Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) in Diamonds Are Forever (1971); Red Grant (Robert Shaw) in From Russia With Love; Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli) in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Worst Bond Villainous Henchman: Actually, a henchwoman: Grace Jones as May Day in A View to a Kill.

Best Bond Theme Song: "Nobody Does It Better" (Carly Simon) from The Spy Who Loved Me. Runners-up: The title tracks from Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey); A View to a Kill (Duran Duran); For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton); Licence to Kill (Gladys Knight).

Worst Bond Theme Song: While there have been some shaky tunes along the way, none are awful enough to warrant this title. I expect that will change, though, the minute someone like Phil Collins or Bryan Adams is tapped.

Best Character Name: Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Runners-up: Oddjob in Goldfinger; Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever; Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice; Nick Nack in The Man With the Golden Gun; Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye (1995).

Worst Character Ever To Appear In A Bond Film, Bar None: Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) in Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man With the Golden Gun. The epitome of the sort of misguided comic relief that often marred the series -- think Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit, multiply the Southern accent and blustery overacting tenfold, and you'll get an idea of the grotesquerie that ambled through these two lesser 007 adventures.


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