43 hours of Bond: Diary of a record attempt (1999)

FEATURE

During the weekend of 5 to 7 November 1999, BioCity Odense screened all of EON Productions' by then 18 Bond films in a row. The goal was to secure an entry in Guiness' Book of Records, and this writer ["Brie" from James Bond•O•Rama.dk] perservered to the bitter end with notepad in hand

By Brian Iskov

Friday, 5th November, 7:08 PM – The screen in BioCity's Cinema 1 is said to be the largest in Denmark, even bigger than the one in Imperial in Copenhagen. On the other hand, the theatre only seats 433 people, and around a fifth of the seats are empty to ensure proper spacing between the audience members. It's a sound arrangement.

The manager of the cinema informs us that 55 kilometers of celluloid await us, that free coffee will be served ad lib, and that a local brewery is serving Christmas beer (the latter bit of news sets off the weekend's first roar of approval). Two Funen reporters will be present as adjudicators for the Guiness' Book of Records. Along with the projectionist and two customer service assistants, they will show solidarity with the paying customers and hang around until the projector spits out the last bit of film on Sunday afternoon.

9:07 PM – "Dr. No" (1962). The very first glimpse of Sean Connery's tuxedo-attired back makes the crowd go wild, and the applause thunders as he introduces himself for the first time: "Bond ... James Bond". It turns out that every time this line is repeated, it has the exact same effect. During the intermission, jaunty renditions of ”The James Bond Theme” are whistled in corners, and in a small group by the door, someone asks the question: "When does Q turn up?"

11:14 PM – "From Russia with Love" (1963). And then he came. Q, the quartermaster with the delightful technological gadgetry, receives a hearty welcome. In the span of just one year, Connery has improved significantly as an actor; Terence Young's staging is a lot more refined too than in the previous film. Even now, the audience tends to cheer the male chauvinist remarks that once in a while pass Bond's lips up there on the screen.

Ticket for the James Bond maraton showing at BioCity Odense 5 November 1999
Ticket for the James Bond maraton showing at BioCity Odense 5-7 November 1999


Saturday 6th November, 01:16 AM – Skipping "Goldfinger" (1964) for tactical reasons, taking a nap instead and chatting with the two lads who are tending the bar in the lobby. Alas, they're all out of sandwiches; the baker screwed up. The theatre already looks surprisingly ravaged, with mountains of popcorn on the floor and jackets tossed nonchantly between rows.

03:35 AM - "Thunderball" (1965), a somewhat sluggish and long-winded affair that doesn't get any better when watched in the dead of night. Judging by the sporadic clicking noises from the Bond prop guns that the patrons have brought into the theatre, audience members are now noticeably more restless and fidgety than when they arrived. An ”energy drink” is served in the lobby; it tastes like carbonated coffee with a splash of Cherry Coke. Not exactly Dom Perignon '55.

05:45 AM – A tired, indolent Sean Connery wades through "You Only Live Twice" (1967) like a zombie on Zolpidem, but it has to be said that the film gains from being seen on a big cinema screen that showcases the crisp CinemaScope visuals and Ken Adam's decadent production design to their full advantage. Humans cocooned in sleeping bags are scattered all over the theatre.

08:00 AM – Energy drink my butt. Another favourite Bond, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969), must yield to some much needed shut-eye. Judging by the reactions heard during the last half hour of the film, the inhabitants of Funen don't care much for the ”human” 007, George Lazenby; the brutal killing of the newly-wed Mrs Bond in the final scene brings down the house. For breakfast, one roll per head is served.

10:52 AM – The marathon's biggest storm of applause yet: Sean Connery returns in "Diamonds are forever" (1971). On the other hand, his CIA buddy Felix Leiter also merits a round of applause, which tells me that people might just be clapping to stay awake.

1:02 PM - Roger Moore is greeted with an overwhelming sense of apathy and a single, meek ”boo”, until someone suddenly tries to raise the temperature of the proceedings after two minutes of Moore screentime. The film is "Live and let die" (1973), and the very vocal expressions of sexism heard in the cinema has taken a turn for the coarser. A quick view of the crowd reveals a 99 % predominance of males.

The original schedule for the James Bond marathon at BioCity Odense 5-7 November 1999
The original schedule for the James Bond marathon at BioCity Odense 5-7 November 1999

3:15 PM – The skittish clicking of toy guns are starting to get out of hand – and we aren't even halfway through the event. Very few participants have fallen by the wayside, even during the two tame and colourless films of Moore's early tenure. An unfortunate element of slapstick farce has snuck into "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974).

5:20 PM"The Spy who Loved Me" (1977). The atmosphere is getting increasingly more misogynistic.

8:01 PM – The mood, frisky as it is, gets bumped up a few notches by the arranger's promise of more Christmas beer. One dreads to think what course the remainder of the night will take. The crowd's chattering threatens to drown out the film's soundtrack, but considering that the film in question is the unmitigated disaster "Moonraker" (1979), it's not much of a loss. During the meal break, the cleaning personnel bravely force their way through oceans of popcorn and styrofoam cups.

10:38 PM – Way too many gun clicks and desperate, caffeine-induced remarks during ”For Your Eyes Only” (1981), otherwise one of the highlights. The theatre falls surprisingly silent during the climax – has everyone fallen asleep? Between films, I overhear that someone has been keeping tabs on Bond's womanizing exploits. He's up to 27 by this point.

Sunday 7th November, 00:54 AM - "Octopussy" (1983). One sequence incites a massive cry of protest, as an animated map on the wall of the Soviet ministry of war shows tiny Denmark being invaded by communists! Around a dozen guys in the theatre are wearing tuxedos and claim to be extremely comfortable. A small contingency have brought a complete Martini set with drinking glasses, a table and a shaker. How very stylish!

03:24 AM - ”The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” wrote Ian Fleming in his very first Bond novel. I am now beginning to understand what he meant. Cinema 1 in BioCity Odense finally resembles the mixture of battlefield and run-down school camp that has plagued our nostrils for many hours, and staying awake for ”A View to a Kill” (1985) is an inhuman endeavour at all hours of the day.

05:41 AM"The Living Daylights" (1987). A fine film indeed.

08:06 AM – The room climate is unbearably sickly, and revisiting ”Licence to Kill” (1989) turns out to be a disappointment. Timothy Dalton is far too grim and unpleasant. And by now it finally dawns on me how stupid Maurice Binder's title sequences really are.

10:47 AM – Slept like a baby during the entirety of "GoldenEye" (1995). But hey, there's only one more film to go now ...

This diploma was handed out to the participants in the James Bond marathon at BioCity Odense on 7 November 1999
This diploma was handed out to the participants in the James Bond marathon at BioCity Odense on 7 November 1999

12:52 AM – The end credits for ”Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) flicker across the screen and are met with standing ovations by a relieved and overexcited audience. We have passed the test of manhood and emerged on the other side, into the bright daylight that searchingly reaches out to us from the parking bay on top of the central station. A chant of ”One more time” fills the room; spirits are so high that someone even calls for the event manager to take his kit off. He politely declines and instead hands out diplomas to all who have survived. Gravity seems to have increased while we revelled in cold war fantasies and boyhood dreams.

What can be gleaned from 43 hours of Bond? That the rear projection work is just as bad in ”Dr. No” as in ”Licence to Kill” 27 years later. That Q is very nearly the most popular character in the series. That Bond's core audience is made up of cheeky male chauvinists in their 20s. And that yours truly will hopefully never again be tempted to spend a whole weekend sitting in a cinema while sleep-deprivation and malnutrition eats away at his body.

Sure it was a blast. But not quite to the bitter end.

This feature was previously published in Danish on Scope.dk (November 1999) and Bries Blog-O-Rama (October 2012)

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