Today marks the release of the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, and with it a character remake that has thrown me into a reflective mood.
When I was growing up in Argentina, Friday nights were my favorite nights, because on Friday night, from 10:00 to midnight or 12:30, Telefe, an Argentine television network, would broadcast, dubbed into Spanish, a James Bond film of its choice…and my folks would let me stay up and watch it. And I loved it. I watched Thunderball, Goldfinger (Do you expect me to talk? No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.), The Man with the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die (a personal favorite, which is ironic, considering the subject of this post). I met the evil Blofeld, the sinister Oddjob with his deadly bowler, and the voodoo boss Kananga. I became acquainted with the double entendre in all its untempered glory (can anyone say “Pussy Galore” like Sean Connery?). One of my first cassette tapes (yes, I know, I’m old) was a collection of Bond title songs, beginning with the unforgettably brash John Barry Orchestra theme, which stands as one of the best-known pieces of music ever to come out of the film industry, and deservedly so.
Why did I love these movies so much? Some may assume it was the ridiculousy overdone testosterone blast of it all. My wife assumes it was because of the ladies (and there were plenty of those, to be sure). Maybe at heart, like all boys at some point in their lives, I just wanted to be a spy. Maybe. But I don’t think any of these reasons really explain my affection for the Bond franchise. When it comes down to it, I adore gadgets. I like cigarettes that fire poison darts and pen-bombs that arm with a double-click, or key-chains that release gas when one whistles Rule Britannia. And because I love the gadgets, my love for the films boils down to one word (one letter, really): Q.
Desmond Llewelyn, ladies and gentlemen. A tinkerer like no other. If M was the boss, then Q was the father figure, chiding, bantering, providing the humanity in the MI-6 organization. “Don’t be stupid, 007!” The eye rolls, the weary sighs, and the obvious devotion to our hero made his portrayal of the character one of a kind, and the films have suffered since his departure. Llewelyn died in an auto accident in 1999, at age 85, but not before filling Q’s inventive shoes over a dozen times.
As the new Q debuts today, my memory is filled with scenes from movies I watched as a child and teenager, and my heart with hopes that this incarnation will do justice to the original. But Llewelyn will (can) never be replaced. And he has lived up to his character’s final line, delivered with the twinkling grin so well known to Bond fans: “Always leave them wanting more.”