Twitch in Bondage: Bonded By Blood

Sean Smithson, Contributor
Because the Bond films have been around for so long and have been wildly popular, they become representative of the times in many ways. The films mark the moments and eras in which they were made -- geo-political relations, attitudes towards violence, attitudes about women, trends in music and clothing, and the cultural shifts represented in greater pop culture.

To that end, many Bond films can be called "The Something Bond"; like Live And Let Die is the Blaxploitation Bond, Moonraker is the Sci-Fi Bond, The Man With The Golden Gun is the Kung Fu Bond. Even though the Bond films change with the prevailing trends, one thing stays consistent: Bond films are filled with elements of horror. Some are hinted at and some are outright, but they are always there. The elements of horror even follow prevailing genre trends ... everything from Gothic to slasher and even a little torture porn. We (Nate Allen and Sean Smithson) will try to scare up the best moments of horror in Bond's 50 years on the screen. Enjoy and feel free to comment to add your own favorite Bonded by Blood moments!

DR. NO - Spider Terror!
In the initial Bond film we see the first element of horror. While Bond (Sean Connery) is in bed there lurks something unseen, crawling under the sheet. It awakens Bond as it moves up his body and then we are shown a series of back and forth shots, from Bond's sweaty face, to the mysterious crawling thing, and back to Bond, who is obviously paralyzed with fear. When the spider appears from under cover and starts its way up Bond's arm and towards his neck, Bond gets sweatier, the close-ups get tighter and the music keeps ratcheting up the tension until it builds to his jumping out of bed and beating the spider with his shoe. Terence Young directed this very Hitchcock-ian scene and you could easily see Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in the same position. The moment is even scarier because it feels like with the dark room, moonlight and pale colored sheets and pajamas, that the scene was filmed in black and white. There are lots of these Hitchcock-ian scenes ... nearly one per movie, many of which contain an animal, reptile or insect. As a result it does become something of a standard device to easily add tension to the films. It's worth adding here, that yes indeed, the legendary rotund director was in fact bantered around as a potential director of a Bond film.

from-russia-with-love-giallo.jpgFROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - Giallo-esque!
Here we have the film opening, in a heavily shadowed night-scape on the grounds of a mansion, as two men (Bond and baddie Grant, played by Robert Shaw) prowl through the dark hedges and ornate fountains and statues, in a silent game of cat and mouse. The clincher is when the black gloved Grant, face unseen, pulls out a length of nylon wire, and coming up from behind, wraps it around 007's neck and strangles him. To death? Not even. It does, however, seriously evoke the standard giallo-style killing, slick ebony leather mitts and all. The giallo it most closely resembles to us is Mario Bava's Blood And Black Lace, which was also made in 1963, the same year as From Russia.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE - Dr. Phibes Would Be Proud!
Another Hitchcock inspired sequence in which an assassin is trying to kill Bond (Sean Connery) with poison that drips down a string hovering over his mouth. Again with increasing tension, we see back and forth shots of the poison slowly dripping down the string and Bond's sleeping face. At a couple of points, Bond even opens his mouth slightly, which increases the feeling of danger even more. As the scene ends, Bond rolls over and is safe yet again, but his lover Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) rolls over to cuddle and the poison drops onto her lips.

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - Buried Alive and Creepy Carnies!
When Bond (Sean Connery) visits the Slumber Mortuary to deliver the diamonds, he wakes up - from a knock on the head - inside a coffin that itself is inside the cremator. The scene is very Italian horror - weird, church-like music, increasing amount of smoke in the coffin, shots of the flames outside the coffin and a tension that builds to ... Bond's inevitable escape. Another example in Diamonds Are Forever comes when we're treated to a spook show attraction, the likes of which don't exist today except for the rare carnival appearance. "Zambora: The Strangest Girl Ever Born To Live," features a doctor with a fake European accent (really a Yiddish accent) who sets the stage for an experiment that will turn a woman into a gorilla. The woman is fake, of course, but the gorilla (at least the guy in the gorilla suit) is real and jumps out at the kids after breaking out of his cage. It must also be mentioned that the most horrifying thing in Diamonds Are Forever (or any Bond film for that matter) is the amount of back hair Connery displays.

live-and-let-die-voodoo-350.jpgLIVE AND LET DIE - Hoodoo Voodoo Devils!
As we said in the introduction, Live And Let Die is "Blaxploitation Bond" movie, but it really is the "Horror Bond" movie as well. Kananga's (Yaphet Kotto) drug empire is built using the assistance of voodoo practitioners: both tourist/fake voodoo (to keep employees, competitors and the law away) and very real practitioners in Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) and Solitaire (Jane Seymour). This movie is steeped in horror, which is declared early in the pre-credits sequence when a creepy and intense voodoo ceremony ends with the death by snake bite of a government agent. The opening credits, some of the least sexual of the Bond films, are filled with images of flaming skulls and arms in seemingly orgiastic religious fever. One of the primary narrative threads in the film is the tarot and future sight abilities of Solitaire. While working for Kananga, her powers are used for evil, but as always, Bond's sexual prowess ends both her virginity and her powers of the Obeah. Near the climax of the film, Bond (Roger Moore) witnesses and is an unwilling participant in a large voodoo ceremony. Who can forget Baron Samedi rising straight up out of a grave during the ceremony? It doesn't matter that Samedi is a mannequin and the grave ends up being an elevator from Kanaga's secret base, it is still chilling. Even more so when the second time it is not a fake Samedi but the very real, singing and laughing high priest. The whole ceremony sequence is quite fascinating and scary. Finally, the last scene of the film into the end credits: As the train speeds off into the night, Baron Samedi, thought dead in a coffin full of snakes, is very much alive and laughing, as he bids adieu to the viewers.

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN - What's Dracula Doing Here And Why Does He Have Three Nipples?
Speaking of haunted houses, we'd be remiss if we didn't discuss Scaramanga's (Christopher Lee) haunted house, which he uses as a training facility. It is full of jumps, scares, flashing lights and most importantly it is full of Christopher Lee! Throughout The Man With The Golden Gun, Lee just oozes evil and dread like he did as Dracula in the Hammer films. We also have the "human oddity" device, with a very creepy Herve Villechaize channeling Tod Browning's Freaks as the terribly small, yet incredibly threatening and vicious cohort imp Nick Nack, who is even at times more dangerous than Lee's Scaramanga!. Nowadays using a midget -- a term Villechaize preferred -- in such a way would be a big giant no-no, which again serves to illustrate what a time capsule this franchise really is, and how much society has changed. If anything, we are more apt to see a little person put in the hero role these days. I can just see Peter Dinklage now, popping his collar and bedding the latest starlet to be a Bond girl. Or, rather, Bond woman.

MOONRAKER - Still Yellow After All These Years ... Giallo-esque 2!
While Bond (Roger Moore) takes a leisurely gondola trip through the canals of Venice, a hearse boat floats by. The coffin on the top of the hearse slowly opens and a wide assortment of knives appears. The gondolier is killed and Bond's gondola turns into a speedboat and later a hovercraft. Only in a Bond film, or a giallo, would a knife-throwing assassin make his entry (and exit at the steady hand of Bond) in a Gothic coffin.

OCTOPUSSY - Bond Is A Dapper Cadaver!
There is a "haunted house" cheap scare in Octopussy in which Bond (Roger Moore) is being held captive in the Monsoon Palace of Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan). To escape, he hides in a body bag and waits to be carried out with the other bodies to be disposed of. At the last minute, he sits bolt upright and makes a B-Movie evil laugh and scares away the henchman. Another great scene appears at the beginning of the film when Agent 009 (Andy Bradford) is wounded and being chased by a knife-wielding maniac through the woods. With the POV from the victim and shots of the knife glinting in the moonlight ... this is pure 80s slasher.


All Bond films have some element that can be massaged into being called "horror." From nature run amok -- with rats, sharks, mutant octopi, and so forth all taking their turns menacing our beloved (and unkillable!) hero 007 -- to the constant threat of an apocalypse brought on by yet another megalomaniac madman, who, especially in the earlier films, would more often than not exhibit some serious "mad doctor" traits. Maybe after reading this you too can suss out the more macabre components of what on the surface seems to be just gadget filled action. But there is indeed blood on Bond's cuffs, and screams in the air. You just have to listen. Happy almost-Halloween Twitchers, now it's time to go pour yourself a red martini and relax ... because after reading this you may be a little shaken or stirred! *slide whistle*
Around the Internet:
  • marshy00

    Two of the most enduringly scary moments in the Bond series for me were, firstly - Jaws hunting down Aziz Fekesh at the Great Pyramids during the sound & light show, and secondly - when Drax sets his dobermans on Corinne Clery for her betrayal.

  • marshy00

    I should have added - in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER respectively - though I'm sure everyone knows that.

  • Ard Vijn

    The most horrific scene in a Bond in my opinion is the "death by decompression" in LICENSED TO KILL.

    Although the almost-castration-by-laser of Bond in GOLDFINGER made me wince in a PIT AND THE PENDULUM sort-of way...

  • Sean Smithson

    Oh man, we are on the same page big time here Ard. I actually had a Goldfinger/Pit reference in the first draft. ABSO-freakin'-LUTELY.

  • mightyjoeyoung

    "Terence Young directed this very Hitchcock-ian scene and you could easily see Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in the same position."
    Young went even further with the Hitchcock influences, later on in his career when he directed Wait Until Dark (1967), a very nice thriller.
    Nice list, Mr Smithson & Allen......Licence to Kill (1989) is what I would add....Anthony Zerbe can´t take the....(wait for it!)......PRESSURE!!!!

  • Sean Smithson

    Totally MJYoung. There are many more moments to be counted as semi-horror in the franchise. Name some more? I love hearing the thoughts, it really broadens my knowledge. I LOVE movies but I am not a know-it-all *see faux pas in our previous Bond piece, which we left to illustrate that point. Mistakes are made, and when politely corrected can be enlightening as all get out. LOVE IT!*

    These pieces are hopefully a basis for discussion. Sure is fun writin' 'em too!

  • mightyjoeyoung

    Well.....Mr Smithson....I wouldn´t call myself an know it all on James Bond or....film in general.
    But politely correcting things have never been my style....hahahhahahha...I thought the Twitch crew would have learned by now......
    Semi horror......well....I always thought the underwater scenes in Thunderball (1965) was creepy, lots of dead bodies, close ups of dead pilots and stuff.
    But nothing beats exploding Zerbe head......I think.

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​