Seeing as this is Oxford, and we are all over-privileged geniuses, you’d think interesting things would happen more often. Well, on Friday 22nd January 2012, ground was broken, a trail was blazed and sacred cows were exploded, by Matthew Cliffe of Merton College.
Through an incomprehensible feat of technology, Mr. Cliffe showed all twenty-two James Bond films. At once.
As foreplay, Mr. Cliffe (lavishly bow-tied) treated us to an introductory lecture, featuring a pie chart of ‘Bond villains by nationality’ (‘Bond villains who are foreign’ versus ‘Bond villains who are not foreign’) and his top five Sir Roger Moore facts. (Did you know that Sir Roger received an Oscar for Best Actor in 1973, after Marlon Brando refused his and Sir Roger took it home by mistake? Or that Sir Roger used to collect towels from hotels until a newspaper branded him a ‘towel thief’?) That’s not to mention the free martinis kindly laid on, and shaken, by Merton MCR.
Our first warning was the rattle of our seats as the T. S. Eliot Theatre trembled in front of the combined roars of twenty-two MGM lions. Then it began. A shifting wall of innuendo, sharks, explosions, chest hair, Bernard Lee’s disapproving face, glinting metal teeth, phallic symbolism, and Bond constantly coming round from one kind of unconsciousness or another. A Rubik’s Cube of wrestling gypsy girls, gambling, things built into watches, cats, more sharks, lasers, rockets and rubber pythons.
The sound rotated between the films every thirty seconds and frankly saved my sanity. The sight of twenty-two James Bond films at once is something not meant for this plane of existence, but mind and body could be kept together by focusing on the audio and the moments when it would switch from innuendo (‘I love an early morning ride.’ ‘I’m an early riser myself.’) to a fist fight, an explosion, a shootout, more innuendo, a curious accent (‘I am an outstanding pistol marksman, take my word for it, ja?’) or an inexplicable period of bird song.
The first walk-out was quarter of an hour in. About a hundred and twenty-five minutes later, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale were still hanging on. As, indeed, was what was left of the audience. Finally, as we emerged red-eyed into the cold Oxford air, we swapped wordless glances and walked into the night, each knowing that our life would never be the same again.
Still, at least it was better than Quantum of Solace.