The NS guide to self-indulgence - James Bond movies

Dum didi dum dum dum der der; dum didi dum dum dum DER-DER, der-der-der. Thirty years after my first James Bond movie, that signature tune can still send a shiver up my spine. From Doctor No (1962) to the latest, Tomorrow Never Dies, the Bond movies are wall-to-wall loony rubbish - offensive, juvenile, over-stuffed with silly boys' gadgets and reeking with hilariously stilted sexism. And yet they're so watchable. You know exactly what you're going to get. You know you won't be stretched, challenged, surprised or over-stimulated in any way. Whoever the star is, whenever the film was made, whatever the plot, all Bond movies are essentially the same Bond movie.

The "new Bond" is about as unpredictable as the latest McDonald's restaurant. You can compare them, but it's a bit like comparing different versions of scrambled eggs on toast. This, I think, is the joy. Like all the best self-indulgences, Bond films are familiar, easy. Compared to a lot of what is offered they are about as frightening as reruns of Morecombe and Wise. Now, in case you've missed it, there's a big James Bond revival going on.

ITV is showing a whole series of golden oldies: Diamonds Are Forever, You Only Live Twice, The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy - the litany of past thrills goes on. Unlike those other heroes of our youth who didn't age well, such as the Avengers, the Pretenders and the Men from Uncle, Bond still entertains. Revel, then, in the special effects, the car chases and the superb villains from Scaramanga to Blofeld to Jaws. And don't worry about the insidious effects on the next generation. My nine-year-old son and his friends - who can quote the stars, the plots and the dates of most Bond movies - turn away screaming "yuk!" when the smoochy bits come on. Old feminist that I am, I feel a bit the same way.

This article first appeared in the 14 June 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Kosovo: a rich and comfortable war