Transport is a big part of the James Bond world, with its signature globetrotting between exotic locations. The Kapeesh team have put me on a special assignment this time, which is to look at the relationship between trains and Bond, as you will see I am sometimes labelled the Bond 'expert' on our podcasts. It is a tag I have learned to live with.
The truth is that trains have played a big part in Bond and some of the greatest scenes have actually taken place onboard or around them. And usually it involves him being attacked in some way! If you had only seen the Sean Connery films, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is a pre-requisite for our Secret Service man to always finish his adventure with a young lady in his arms on a boat, in the middle of the ocean. In fact, there is only one of Seanny Boy's six outings (Goldfinger) in which this is not the case.
What is for sure is that travel is an important ingredient in the 007 canon and I thought it would make for an interesting article to look at the railway angle, as it is a particular interest of mine. I thought it would be fun to rank them as well and I actually thought we had a convenient number of ten sequences, until I discovered an eleventh. Note these are just my own rankings and do not represent the overall opinions of the whole Kapeesh team. To hear our feelings on each of the films in more detail, check out our Bond Daft Project podcasts, available through Spotify and Apple Podcasts (see links at the top-right of the page).
WARNING: Contains spoilers.
11. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Okay, this particular train sequence is mere seconds long, but is listed for sake of completeness. It sees George Lazenby's Bond arrive near Blofeld's mountain retreat Piz Gloria, masquerading as Sir Hilary Bray from the Royal College of Arms. Interestingly, Lazenby spent a lengthy portion of the film dubbed by actor George Baker (who played the real Bray) for the scenes he was impersonating the character. Hardly the best scene but a highly underrated movie in the Bond catalogue.
10. Skyfall (2012)
In the first of two scenes from Skyfall, the decidedly creepy villain Silva (played by Javier Bardem) is pursued by Daniel Craig's 007 into the depths of London's Underground railway. Some of Daniel Craig's best humorous scenes are here ("Oh good, here comes a train") but to see the main antagonist prance around in a police uniform is frankly ludicrous. The coup de grace is the pathetically-bad CGI, when a subway train ploughs randomly through a tunnel wall towards Bond. Not the best.
9. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Brief, but a hilarious example of the lavish style the early Bond era was famed for. The head of Japan's Secret Service, Tiger Tanaka, introduces Sean Connery's 007 to his own private train, which he confesses is his prime mode of transport to get from A to B in the streets of Tokyo. Inside there is the obigatory liquor cabinet (but of course) and the two enjoy a glass of sake. In a humorous exchange, Tanaka actually presumes Bond's superior 'M' has an equivalent private train of his own in London.
Well, it saves the rush hour queuing at Asda.
8. Skyfall (2012)
Here we see one of the franchise's most scarcely believable stunts, as agent 007 falls hundreds of feet off a viaduct, into a raging torrent of a river. And Miss Moneypenny seemingly on a mission to do her best for product placement ("He's in the black Audi!", "VW Beetles!"). Yet, Skyfall's pre-titles sequence is one of the most tense and action-packed in the series. A fight on the roof of a moving train always makes for an electrifying movie sequence and this one follows a most Bondian trail of destruction, with stunts galore.
7. Live and Let Die (1973)
In Roger Moore's debut movie, we get that familiar trope of the series when the main henchman comes back right at the end; made redundant with his boss dead but the character still hell-bent on stopping Bond. Tee Hee (Julius W. Harris) somehow fits inside a mailbag and makes his way out for one last punch-up with our double-O hero. Not exactly a brutal fight but more a chance to enjoy the metal-armed thug snicker relentlessly as his strength proves too much for Bond. As ever, 007 uses split-second ingenuity to hoist the villain by his own petard, locking Tee Hee's arm on the window and tossing him outside.
6. Spectre (2015)
One thing Spectre has in spades is references to previous 007 movies. The train carriage fight between Daniel Craig's Bond and Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) is an old-school brawl with an old-school henchman, which has even more throwbacks within, to old scenes mentioned in this very article. Bautista's character brought a refreshing change and reminded us how much we love seeing 007 going up against a much stronger adversary, even if it is let down by a puerile ending. Following this, Bond and Madeline Swann disembark from the train in a remote location on their way to Oberhauser's base.
5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The Spy Who Loved Me is Roger Moore’s finest hour for many and one of the most popular 007 movies . It drew plaudits all-round from the Kapeesh team in our review and we highlighted the menace of Stromberg’s henchman Jaws, played by Richard Kiel. Here, he terrifies the audience when he appears suddenly in Anya Amasova’s wardrobe onboard a sleeper train. A well-choreographed fight follows between him and Bond, with the massive, steel-toothed thug absolutely dwarfing Rog' (who stands at 6ft 1in, while Kiel is 7ft 2in).
Make no mistake, ‘Spy’ is heightened-reality Bond. Not a gritty thriller like Licence to Kill or Casino Royale. Hence we see Jaws bite into a piece of wood for no apparent reason and 007 dispose of him with a two-footed kick, which sends him smashing through the glass window outside.
Longtime Bond stunt man Bob Simmons doubled for Jaws and actually threw himself through a plate glass window for this shot. He was an even shorter man than Moore, so it just goes to show what can be achieved with clever use of camera angles.
4. Casino Royale (2006)
Casino Royale thoroughly revitalised the Bond franchise and was another movie which thoroughly impressed Team Kapeesh (see our podcast). And the brilliant dialogue between 007 and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) absolutely laid waste to similar scenes in the previous adventure Die Another Day.
In the Ian Fleming books, Bond would make instant calculated thoughts about people when he first looked at them. In this film, Bond is introduced to Vesper on the train to the casino in Montenegro and quickly tells her what sort of person he thinks she really is (an orphan, insecure, etc). Vesper replies by doing the exact same to him. A simple but very effective scene.
3. GoldenEye (1995)
While the previous entries have mainly stood out for great stunts and dialogue, GoldenEye's train scene is particularly impressive for its model work; being the last 007 movie to utilise the skills of the late Derek Meddings, who died shortly before its release. For certain shots, he built a realistic miniature version of the real Soviet missile train that was used as Janus' mode of transport.
The full-size version was created by converting a British Rail Class 20 locomotive and carriages at the Nene Valley heritage railway near Peterborough. Its ominous shape will be familiar to anyone who played the classic Nintendo 64 game GoldenEye 007 and at the time, a railway magazine described its appearance as "the embodiment of evil".
There is so much classic Bond material packed into the whole train sequence and our man Steven Barry was especially impressed by the delightful ensemble of villains all packed together into the one scene, headed by Sean Bean's Alec Trevelyan.
2. Octopussy (1983)
Roger Moore's penultimate 007 movie almost comes out on top for train scenes as it really is the full package, mostly due to its sheer length. Bond is attempting to stop Kamal Khan and General Orlov in their quest to plant a nuclear bomb in East Germany, under the cover of Octopussy's circus train. There is tension, Bond being sneaky, one of the villains falling to his death, but most of all, it is an absolute tour de force in stunt performance.
The men who doubled for Bond throughout the years had balls of steel. While Bond is on the carriage roofs, he has to leap with split-second precision to avoid an overhead pipe and duck to avoid dangerously-low road bridges; carried out for real by Paul Weston. Richard Graydon and Wayne Michaels threw themselves off the roof of the speeding train as they doubled for Bond and henchman Grischka. But top plaudits must go to Irishman Martin Grace, who dangled low off the side of one of the coaches, but had a nasty accident when it turned out a particular section of track had not been properly surveyed. Grace fell into a line-side post and fractured his pelvis, spending several months in hospital. Thankfully he made a full recovery and was back on the set for the next film A View to a Kill for yet more hair-raising activities!
Like Goldeneye, Octopussy utilised the Nene Valley Railway, which proved ideal for film-makers over the years with its continental steam locomotives and rolling stock. Incredible aerial filming also brought the film to life in scenes such as this.
1. From Russia With Love (1963)
From Russia With Love beats all the others in this ranking for the way in which it was rooted in the real spy world. Robert Shaw is excellent as Spectre psycho assassin Red Grant, who stalks Sean Connery's 007 throughout the movie. It is a rare occasion where the audience is one step ahead of Bond for a long period and we are just waiting for the moment the two come face-to-face.
As Grant holds Bond at gunpoint, it is a simple but profound moment where all hope seems lost and we are left wondering how in hell he will get out of the situation. In a moment which set the template for so many more to come in the series, his life is saved by Q branch, as 007 uses his wits to - in turn - leave the killer at the mercy of his explosive attache case. The fight that follows is brutal and frantic; one of the best in the series.
The confrontation with Grant is just the finale to a quite lengthy and enthralling train sequence, in which the audience is left thinking that anything could happen. John Barry's musical score is dated but helps build the tension, which is already at fever pitch, as we have seen Bond get through most of the film relatively unscathed, but in the knowledge that Spectre have set a trap waiting for him ahead. The sounds and visions of the steam locomotive up front enhance it even further. But I will return ultimately to the presence of Robert Shaw's character, as he watches Bond from a distance, waiting for his moment. A thrilling sequence. Old man.
Let's not forget the villain's monorail. The ultimate megalomaniac's lair is never complete without one.
I hope you enjoyed reading my railway articles for Kapeesh. As previously mentioned, I am the author of four railway books (right). For more info, please head to my publishers' sites thehistorypress.co.uk and amberley-books.com