Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Me Love You Long Time… Mr. Bond

The gist: Pan Ho got screwed, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t leave her mark on pop culture. In fact, you know of the actress who played her, in a sense, even if you have never seen a James Bond movie.

When a cache of Bond movies suddenly appeared on my Netflix instant queue, I said goodbye to mostly everything else and hello to a world intrigue, firearms, sex puns and frequently contrived drama. The Bond franchise generally gets a pass in my book. Even when these movies suck, and they occasionally do, I still generally say that watching a James Bond movie is better than not watching one. I’m a sucker that way.

First on the list was A View to Kill, the only James Bond movie that I’d never actually seen before. Reading the cast list results in one of those “Gosh, the 80s truly were a different time” moments, with Christopher Walken playing the big bad with just a glimmer of the glee he’d bring to roles later in his career. And the main Bond girl is an heiress-turned-geologist played by Tanya Roberts, the raspy-voiced beauty who today is primarily remembered as either the lead in Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (depending on how much AMC you watch) or Donna Pinciotti’s mom on That 70s Show (depending on you neglect to change the channel after the occasional weekday Simpsons rerun.) Roberts was also a member of Charlie’s Angels late in the original series’s run. I wonder: Can anyone else boast about being both a Bond girl and an Angel?

Had I known that A View to Kill features one of the better teams of henchwomen in the entire franchise, I probably would have sought it out over some of the more peen-dominated films. Please meet the all-female team of bodyguards that evert megalomaniac needs patrolling his estate: May Day, Jenny Flex and Pan Ho.

Grace Jones’s May Day steals the show, and rightly so, since she’s GRACE FUCKING JONES, strutting around like some sort of beautiful, evil praying mantis alien. Additionally, May Day has one of those last-minute changes of heart that prompts her to side with Bond and die an honorable death. Jenny Flex and Pan Ho, however, eat it before they can decide that the chance at a romp with Bond is more attractive that a life of servitude under a cruel, blond Christopher Walken. And at that, the viewer only Flex’s dead body floating in flooded chamber of… the San Andreas Fault? Is that where the big fight plays out? Alison Doody, the actress who played Flex, got more screen time as a shortsightedly ambitious villainess in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but at least she joins the ranks of those lucky Bond girls whose names serve as puns. The term her name hints at — genuflect, literally “to bend the knee” — doesn’t flood the mind with sexual imagery the way that, say, Pussy Galore or Honey Rider do, but a pun is a pun. Why do you want to take more away from this woman?

Lastly, there’s Pan Ho, who gets a single line before dying. Worse, she never gets the honor of being a corpse bobbing about on screen. And the greatest insult of all: Her name isn’t even a sex pun, despite the presence of the word ho right at the end there, begging for an easy joke. I wonder if her minimal presence in the final cut of A View to Kill resulted from difficulties with the actress playing her, Papillon Soo Soo. (And yes, that’s her real name and yes, the real-life actress sounds more like a Bond girl than her character.)

But Soo Soo made a contribution to society anyway — one greater than perhaps A View to Kill itself. One of Soo Soo’s two other roles is in Full Metal Jacket, in which she delivers a line that was burned into the brain of anyone who existed around radios in early 90s: “Me so horny. Me love you long time.”

I think there’s bragging rights in this, something along the lines of “Yeah, I was in this James Bond movie, and it was cool, but then I played Nameless Da Nang Hooker in this other movie and they sampled me int this rap song that was, like, monumentally successful — certainly bigger than any of the songs that Grace Jones went on to record…. No, by the way, I’ve never watched That 70s Show.”

And that, in my book, is how Pan Ho, the little henchwoman who could, overcame the obscurity of her role in A View to Kill.

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