Replacing Sean Connery in the role of James Bond was like trying to outshoot Jerry Miculek. And Roger Moore knew it. So he made the role his own. I’m not saying Moore did it better, he just did it differently.
Drawing on The Saint TV series and his license to arch an eyebrow, Moore was Bond, James Bond, from 1973 to 1985. During the twelve-year run, over the course of seven Bond films, Moore’s 007 depiction showed flashes of cool — before descending into self-parody, slapstick and camp.
As a teenager who’d found the original Connery 007 the coolest thing in the world, who grooved on Moore’s character in The Saint, who reveled in Moore’s brilliant pairing with Tony Curtis and an Aston Martin DBS in The Pursuaders, I followed the decline with increasing alarm and dismay.
In his swan song, 1985’s A View to A Kill, the elderly secret agent (he was 57) made Bond girl Tanya Roberts a soufflé while wearing an apron, then pulled a blanket over her soft focus sleeping form rather than…you know. I knew it was past time to stick a fork in Moore’s Bond. He was well and truly done.
From a gun point-of-view, Moore’s Bond’s gunfighting skills became increasingly irrelevant. Gunplay was overwhelmed by ever-more-fantastic stunt scenes, starting with the swamp boat chase in his debut Live and Let Die. Which wasn’t half as awesome as Bond simply skipping on crocodiles’ heads to escape a pond of crocs.
By the time Moonraker hit the screens (1979), the Bond franchise had become downright silly. But hey, what do I know? It was the highest grossing Bond film up until Goldeneye.
You will notice, of course, that all the Moore Bond posters (save the cool, creepy ones for Live and Let Die) feature 007 holding a gun. And even though Moore’s gun was overshadowed by special effects, the firearm remained integral to his character.
Not to put too fine a point on it, James Bond without a small, elegant firearm would be like a Clint Eastwood character without a scowl.
In fact, I’m glad Moore’s Bond didn’t stray too far off the reservation firearms-wise. It kept his films centered on the Bond dry wit, his cunning and resourcefulness, rather than John Wick-like operator operating operationally nonsense (yeah, I said it).
In that sense, I don’t think Moore’s Bond had much effect on gun sales or, indeed, the gun culture. Why would it? It didn’t glorify guns. His guns were almost a fashionable accoutrement; the secret agent could, and frequently did, use just about anything lying around to git ‘er done (as they say at MI5).
I’d like to say that Moore’s Bond made or at least kept guns cool. But, IMHO, Moore’s Bond wasn’t cool. He was suave and debonair, but he never ascended to the ranks of Sean Connery or, for that matter, Steve McQueen. I think the same failure applies to all the subsequent Bonds (ducks).
In fact, the cinematic Bond has taken a turn toward the dark side. He’s become cruel. Which is much more faithful to Ian Fleming’s literary creation, but nowhere near as compelling to this student of cool.
Anyway, I’ll say this much about Moore’s depiction of 007 and his guns: he kept the ballistic flame alive in his own special way.
R.I.P. Roger Moore. You’ll always be a saint to me.