Listening the various James Bond themed podcasts over the years, one gets to know which shows have hosts (and guests) that know 007 practically inside and out, and those made by people that obviously enjoy the series but sometimes either get their facts crossed or suffer from the occasional brain fart, it’s difficult to say which is which through audio. A running theme in some that I’ve had the pleasure listening to pertains to the famous pre-title sequences. Someone will comment on how so-and-such film’s pre-title sequence ‘is one of the few that bears no relation to the rest of the movie’, or ‘one of the few that bleeds directly into the movie’s plot, or ‘the only one to not feature James Bond himself’.
Honestly, after 24 official films, some of which we watch less frequently than others for reasons of preference, one can be forgiven for having a hazy memory on such matters. I’m sure some people rightfully recall the brilliant stunt work of a pre-title sequence, but not the actual plot that drove it or whether said mini-story influenced in any shape or form the remainder of the film. I stopped myself the other day and tried testing myself on the subject and, truth be told, didn’t remember each and every one’s plot as clearly as I’d have liked to boast. Nobody’s perfect.
In an attempt to do away with these cognitive inconsistencies, the blog uses this week’s entry to settle the matter once and for all, aka my own interpretation of the pre-title sequences and whether they relate directly or otherwise to the entire film’s plot. In other words, maybe things won’t be completely settled by the article’s conclusions, but I for one shall sleep a little sounder at night.
Dr No. Trick question. The first official 007 adventure doesn’t have a pre-title sequence. The movie jumps from the famous gunbarrel to the titles themselves.
From Russia With Love. Not a trick question but the answer is open to interpretation. I’m inclined to say yes. It presents Red Grant in full training for his mission to assassinate 007 and help S.P.E.C.T.R.E. discredit British Intelligence. That said, the action itself doesn’t really affect the rest of the film. Of note, although Sean Connery features, but he isn’t really playing 007.
Goldfinger. Among the more recognized of the pre-title sequences, this one actually has nothing to do with the film’s overall plot. Interestingly, that’s probably what makes it such a delight. It only lasts a few minutes yet encapsulates almost everything that Bond films are about.
Thunderball. No. Bond exacts revenge on colonel Jacques Bouvar, a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. assassination responsible for the death of MI6 colleagues. Yes, Bouvar works for the enemy that comes into play later, but it’s tangential at best. Amendment: Sort of. An injury sustained by Bond in the pre-title sequence lands him at Scrublands. Small detail. Thanks to @TheSpyCommand on Twitter.
You Only Live Twice. Yes. We witness the capturing of an American space shuttle by S.P.E.C.T.R.E., although we don’t know them to be the culprits at the time. There’s also the matter of Bond’s faked assassination, a ridiculously short plotline that’s concluded barely a few minutes after the titles themselves, but nevertheless.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Yes. Bond meets the woman who will capture his heart, rescuing her from a suicide attempt.
Diamonds are Forever. Sort of. Bond kills who he and the audience believe to be Blofeld. The surprise being that the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. leader still lives and has surgically created duplicates of himself. I imagine can fall into the ‘yes’ column if red herrings count.
Live and Let Die. Yes. We witness the murder of MI6 contacts in two U.S. cities and another on the fictional island of San Monique, all of which will serve as the launching pad for Bond’s mission. Of note: no James Bond sighting.
The Man With the Golden Gun. Yes. It introduces Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous antagonist, and alludes to his fascination with 007. Of note: Roger Moore appears, but not really as James Bond.
The Spy Who Loved Me. Predominantly no, except for the fact that Bond kills Anya Amasova’s lover. Most of the set-piece does not influence the rest of the plot, but that death proves pivotal later on.
Moonraker. I have to say no. Jaws makes an appearance and is hired by Hugo Drax later on, but ultimately it’s a standalone adventure. Amendment: Actually yes. The Moonraker space shuttle is hijacked in the pre-title sequence. Thanks to @bondblog on Twitter.
For Your Eyes Only. No. Great stunt work, weird Blofeld appearance that takes a shot at the EON-Kevin McClory dispute, but still no.
Octopussy. No. Awesome mini adventure that could serve the same purpose as GF’s pre-title sequence for newcomers, but independent of the film’s plot.
A View to a Kill. Yes. I answer in the affirmative despite that I can never remember precisely how the little microchip Bond recover’s from the frozen cadaver of a fellow double-0 bleeds into the rest of the movie. Bet you can’t tell AVTAK is not one I watch often.
The Living Daylight. Yes, albeit subtly. In a blink and you miss it moment, one of the double-0s killed on a seemingly routine exercise mission is served a little card that reads ‘smiert spionam’, ‘death to spies’, the modus operandi of SMERSH, an old Soviet and secretive assassination branch that is used as a mirage to throw British Intelligence off Koskov’s trace.
Licence to Kill. Yes. Bond and Leiter capture the drug lord Franz Sanchez, which proves fateful very shortly after the titles.
Goldeneye. Yes. Generol Ouromov is introduced and we witness the fake death of 006, Alec Trevelyan, who turns out to be the head honcho behind the Janus crime syndicate.
Tomorrow Never Dies. No. Pretty cool sequence though. Amendment: Actually yes, albeit rather tangentially. We meet Gupta and the GPS scrambler at the arms bazar Bond infiltrates. Thanks to @TheChrisRhodes on Twitter.
The World is Not Enough. Yes. Elektra King’s father is killed, and an allusion to one of the film’s main villains is made.
Die Another Day. Yes. Bond’s failed mission in Korea sees the apparent demise of Colonel Moon, only for the latter to resurface later on under a vastly different guise.
Casino Royale. This one is wildly open to interpretation. Some will say yes because Bond earns his double-0 status, and as a wild, young recruit learns valuable lessons throughout the rest of the film. Others will say no because earning the double-0 status doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the plot. Plot or theme? Even I’m not 100% certain, but I’ll say yes anyways.
Quantum of Solace. Yes. While under unbelievable duress, Bond escorts Mr. White for an interrogation session.
Skyfall. Yes. There is the matter of the stolen hard drive with the identities of MI6 agents and Bond’s apparent death, a device that serves both plot driven and thematic importance for the entire film.
Spectre. Yes. Bond’s ‘Day of Destruction’ (love that newspaper headline) is the first step on a journey to discovering the existence of Spectre.
There you have it. While I admit that some of these can be debated, most are open and shut cases. The tally:
24 films. 23 with actual pre-title sequences.
Those that have bearing on the overall plot: 20
Those that do not: 3
Those that do not feature Bond: 3, albeit in two cases, FRWL and TMWTGG, Bond actors are seen.
Those in which Bond is not featured in any shape or form:1