Whereas George Lazenby from the otherwise tasty ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE/’69 is pegged as the James Bond who never was, this film’s Timothy Dalton, suiting up twice for the role, is the forgotten Bond. A shame too, since he’s got just about everything you’d want in the part: power, grace, saturnine looks & high-to-low social mobility. Perhaps a bit shy in the humor department compared to Sean Connery’s unique balancing act, Dalton still manages the lame witticisms without embarrassment. Perhaps it was just the Zeitgeist of the times, the skinny lapels, or the need for a major course correction after Roger Moore’s increasingly mirthless frivolity. (Bond as deflating soufflé.) Yet Dalton didn’t quite catch on. Directed by stunt specialist John Glen, the big set pieces are all bang-up jobs. With big technical improvements and an exceptional compound action-finale featuring interlocked movement between planes, horse-riding Afghan Rebels (a nice turn from Art Malik), Russian defenders & armaments, a rooftop chase in the Casbah and a scramble on an airborne cargo plane. Each step readable, even plausible in an over-the-top way, nicely supporting a human-scaled plot about smuggled guns, diamonds & raw opium. If only Glen were half as good working in tight quarters, or knew how to help his supporting cast. Maryam d’Ado gets nowhere playing the dull femme fatale/love interest. And you’d need to go back to Jimmy Dean in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER/’71 to find a bad guy as underwhelming as the split villainy of this film’s Jeroen Krabbé & Joe Don Baker. Forgotten or not, Dalton easily ranks between Connery & Daniel Craig in the Bond hierarchy.
DOUBLE-BILL: Dalton’s follow-up (LICENSE TO KILL/’89) was darker, grimmer, and not much liked. After a six-year hiatus, only the producers, Desmond Llewelyn’s ‘Q’ and Monty Norman’s James Bond theme music returned for GOLDENEYE/’95.