Tiffany Case and James Bond get to know every other in Diamonds Are Forever.

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The James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever opens using a tranquil scene of an unoccupied Japanese tea room. Then a man crashes by means of the paper screen plus slides throughout the floor. Bond roughs him up, challenging to know: “Where is definitely Blofeld?”

Next picture: A man in the casino tells the seller, “Hit me.” Bond spins him around, your punches him in the encounter and taunts: “Where is definitely he? I shan’t inquire you politely the next time.”

Then, in a beachy locale, 007 strides towards the camera. It’s Sean Connery, durable, self-assured, purposeful, and offering his immortal introduction. “My name is Bond. James Bond.”

I was eleven years old, sitting within the front row associated with the Fine Arts theater within downtown Portland, Maine, along with a sixth grade classmate whose mom had lowered us off for the matinee. We were upon our own and packed up with popcorn plus soda. It was your very first movie I’d ever observed without my parents.

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And I was hooked. Starting with just those couple of vivid scenes, James Bond has been launching me toward a good adolescence drenched in secret agent movies and novels. I actually couldn’t know it after that, on that afternoon within December 1971, but I’d be watching new Bond movies well into the particular next century. 

I also couldn’t know that will a decade later I’d be making a despoliation of my own directly into the intelligence field. I’d work in Berlin whenever it was still the divided, occupied city, once the Cold War split the entire world into opposing sides actually vigilant for signs associated with bad items to come.

Over his long movie profession, James Bond saved the entire world from Very Bad Things often more than. My experience was a small more down to world.

It’s not a tuxedo, but which is James Bond, within the 1971 movie Diamonds Are Forever.

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How could it not really be? Bond’s an impeccably tailored man of motion who spends quality period at swanky hotels plus casinos in glamorous locales, with unlimited resources, smooth cars and clever devices at his disposal. There’s a good number of beautiful females who like the reduce of Commander Bond’s, um, jib.

“Good to find out you, Mr. Bond,” Q, the particular armorer, says in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, Connery’s final convert as Bond after the 12-year hiatus. “Now if you’re on this, I wish we’ll have some gratuitous sex and violence!”

The Bond movies are furthermore rightly famous for his or her stunts and action sequences. The getaway in the red-colored Mustang Mach 1 in Diamonds Are Forever. The ski jump away from the towering cliff within The Spy Who Loved Me. The underwater fights in Thunderball. The intense parkour in Casino Royale plus the dangling-from-ropes fight within Quantum of Solace. The jetpack. The car chases. The boat chases. The tank chase. 

James Bond might sometimes move through the particular shadows, but mostly he is larger than life. That’s not how spying actually works. But it is definitely how some people obtain sucked into that entire world.

Take me, for illustration.

My time in army intelligence

Fresh from college, I actually made the rounds associated with military recruiting offices, considering, OK well, maaaybe. But when the Army employer talked up military cleverness plus language school and serving overseas, I began selling myself within the concept. The voice inside the head got right in order to the idea: “This could end up being some James Bond shit.” 

I spent five many years within the Army in the 1980s, about fifty percent that period in Germany performing real-world intelligence work. It was obviously a time of heightened anxiety about military conflict in Europe, including the particular potential for nuclear attacks, a grim notion that will provided a semblance associated with tension in the or else immensely frivolous 1983 Bond movie Octopussy

That’s me with the digital camera, circa 1987, and East Germany within the far side associated with that fence.

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It all started with the 007-primed penchant for secret agent lit and action films, even the cheesy types.

Let’s be honest right here: Diamonds Are Forever isn’t top-shelf Bond. It’s heavy on 007 schtick, the pacing is definitely lax, the gadgets underwhelm — and the 40-ish Connery, with gray company suit, thickening midsection plus an air of detachment, radiates been there, completed that.

But even the half-assing Connery still provides. He’s at ease within the role, royalty out there for a stroll. He remains indomitable, even whenever the flamboyantly gymnastic Bambi and Thumper are throwing his butt; even whenever, more than once, this individual cheats death and continues, flippant and unflappable. 

For 11-year-old me, it had been close to perfection.

In the mid-1970s, following the baptism by Diamonds, We were all in with regard to anyone playing Bond. The Roger Moore era was getting underway in theaters, and am was actively playing catch-up with all the Connery Bonds since they popped on TELEVISION, along with the 1 007 movie with George Lazenby. There was 1967’s Casino Royale (a misbegotten spoof) and Operation Kid Brother (an Italian ripoff starring Connery’s younger sibling Neil). I read every single spy book I can get my hands upon. My commitment was 100%.

James Bond, the Roger Moore edition, gets prepared to shoot this out with Scaramanga, the particular man with the fantastic gun.

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There was a lot to take in! Starting in 1962, the 6 Bond movies from Eon Productions leading up to Diamonds Are Forever had been box workplace gems, and Connery’s period in the role experienced made him a superstar. Success inspired imitation plus variation: Movies and TELEVISION shows in the sixties were gloriously rife along with spies, and spy-adjacent outdoorsmen, from Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer and Dean Martin’s Matt Helm to bumbling Maxwell Smart, six-gun-slinging James West and the authentic Mission: Impossible crew.

Much since the action and vision in Bond movies become a huge hit in my experience, I was furthermore fascinated by the more dark, more skeptical stories. Like Marathon Man (speaking of diamonds). Like 1975’s Three Days from the Condor: After his co-workers are usually all gunned down, the particular hero, Turner, a bookish type working for the particular CIA, has to kind out who he is able to believe in. (Even decades later, I actually would still think regarding Turner’s chance escape through death pretty much every single time I’d go out through the office to obtain lunch.)

By comparison, my Gen Z kids have raised up with the particular Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars sagas, the Fast and Furious movies. They’ve seen the few Bond movies, which usually they liked well sufficient, when there’s a suave, steely, gadget-adept action leading man who stands apart above most for them, it’s Tony Stark.

James Bond, ‘relic of the particular Cold War’

Bond is a working warrior within the service associated with the crown; there’s certainly not any real doubt he could complete his mission. He has integrity and also abilities. He’s a champagne plus caviar snob.

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And whenever it comes to sexual intercourse, he’s a midcentury illusion of male dominance through the midcentury peak associated with pulpy men’s magazines plus Playboy clubs. Pussy Galore within the hayloft? Subtle a lot? Just listen to individuals theme song lyrics. Look at those old guide covers and movie paper prints.

For a teenage son within the ’70s, it has been titillating — if not really exactly a great lifetime lesson.

But even right from the start, there were women within the Bond movies which knew tips on how to look out there for themselves, to consider charge. That undercurrent grew to become a riptide in 1995’s GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s first trip as Bond, when the particular formidable Judi Dench stepped directly into the role of 007’s boss, M. She squandered no time in establishing the record straight: “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.”

The Bond movies, which as well often seemed deeply dedicated to recycling old materials, were evolving all things considered. It’s something I like in order to think I was performing at the same period — growing up.

I wasn’t in Maine, or even junior senior high school, anymore. I’d earned a bachelor’s diploma and survived basic teaching. I’d spent time upon a big Army article in Texas with the particular Defense Language Institute in California.

And I was having the Cold War experience of the own.

In Berlin, in which the notorious wall still stood, plus seemed like it may last till eternity, I actually interviewed refugees from Poland — at that period on the wrong part of the Iron Curtain — about their own backgrounds, their activities and who they will knew. Russian apparatchiks would certainly sometimes park on the particular street outside the workplace to take pictures associated with the facilities and associated with us.

In another workplace, in a corner associated with West Germany that intersected each East Germany and Czechoslovakia, I actually translated reports of Warsaw Pact military convoys and some other suspicious activities on the particular other side of the particular border (which made myself kin to Condor’s Turner, somewhat sorta). My colleagues plus I once debriefed the Russian soldier who’d attached his listening post within the particular middle of the particular night and jumped the fences to obtain away.

By coincidence, it was around the particular same time that Bond was helping the KGB officer defect across a central European border, within 1987’s The Living Daylights.

To secret agent or not to secret agent?

To be clear, I wasn’t a spy, or working with spies (that I know of), even if We were an active-duty soldier who got to dress in civilian clothes. It wasn’t covert ops — we could tell people we were in the US Army — but it was useful to be inconspicuous. Even so, the local folk in that West German town sometimes joked about us being CIA. (At least, I think they meant it as a joke.) 

The Berlin Wall, as it looked in November 1985.

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But I did get to thinking: I liked living life out in the open, without a cover story or even elaborate layers of deceit. I knew that sooner or later in intelligence work, you’re likely to have trouble sorting truth from lies, the good guys from the bad. Because real life is rarely as clear-cut as Bond good, Blofeld bad.

I realized, too, that there was a lot of really good intel right out in plain view, in public channels like newspapers and TV broadcasts. I’m sure spies do get information of value that’s not available some other way. But even back then, long before social media taught us about filter bubbles, it felt like the intelligence community could be its own closed loop of skewed perception.

Honestly, there was also a fair amount of tedium, too. Did I mention I was in the Army?

You don’t learn that from Bond movies. There’s nothing like the pall of mistrust and drab drudgery in John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the many angles of betrayal in The Americans or the amped-up machinations of the Condor TV series on Epix.

As a 22-year-old, I’d signed up for the Army and military intelligence in part because of all those spy novels and movies I’d devoured growing up. Heading toward 30, I decided not to make a career of it. I wasn’t really the James Bond type after all, or George Smiley, for that matter.

Moore, Dalton and Brosnan, oh my

Six decades on, James Bond has become one of the most indelible movie characters of all time. The Bond movies continue to inspire spoofs and homages, from Austin Powers to Johnny English to the Kingsman series. But invariably, movie franchises run out of steam, take a wrong turn or just need a pick-me-up. Sean Connery couldn’t have played Bond forever even when he’d wanted to. 

Audiences age out too — well, at least I did.

The Roger Moore Bond movies, charmingly goofy at their best, had wheezed well past their expiration date. Timothy Dalton brought back an edge, but there was only so much his gravitas and scowl could accomplish. Licence to Kill? I’m sorry, but that’s just an ’80s cop revenge movie. 

GoldenEye took a big step in the right direction, but it didn’t last. To me, Pierce Brosnan is the Derek Zoolander of Bonds, all smirks, pouts and poses, snuggled with smarmy product placement and just plain stupidity (looking at you, invisible car).

I was deep into my 30s and sliding inexorably past 40. Mortgage. Kids. Did I really still need any of that?

James Bond will return in…

Then along comes the reboot, the Daniel Craig era. After riding the Bond formula train for years, Eon Productions actually started over. With the rights to Casino Royale (Ian Fleming’s debut Bond novel) finally in hand, the franchise in 2006 gave all of us Bond’s origin story.

There’s always time for a drink in a Bond movie, including the upcoming No Time to Die.

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It was spectacular. One hell of a first impression. Grittier than any of the preceding Bond movies, and with a tempo to match Jason Bourne and Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Craig’s Bond is stone-faced to good effect, and he’s up for the athletic challenges, but there’s also an emotional tension we’d never seen in 007 before. There’s more at stake for Bond personally.

For my money, this’s one of the very best Bond movies of all time. The ensuing Daniel Craig movies have been a mixed bag, but satisfying on the whole. 

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond does track down Blofeld, and exacts justice. I actually wouldn’t recommend Bond’s interrogation methods from those opening scenes — getting high-quality answers usually takes more subtlety and patience — but yeah, they do feel right for this hard-bitten character.

Then Blofeld, a fixture of the early 007 movies, essentially disappeared until Spectre all the way in 2015. That movie brought a whole new backstory twist to the Bond-vs-Blofeld saga, and No Time to Die — now scheduled for Oct. 8 after a series of pandemic-driven delays — seems likely to build on that. Bond, meanwhile, is apparently ready for retirement; Daniel Craig, too.

But as Bond fans know, Blofeld has a habit of reappearing. Bond himself has a way of bouncing back, the same in essence but changing with the times as well. 

After No Time to Die, that’ll be the next mission for 007. It’s been a long time since I actually sat in the front row at a theater, but like 11-year-old me, I’m looking forward again to more Bond adventures.

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