Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Her Majesty's Secret Service [1969]

Going into this project, if you asked me what my favorite James Bond movie, I'd have told you it was either On Her Majesty's Secret Service or Thunderball, depending on what side of the bed I woke up on that morning.  One of the things I've been most curious about in using this Double-0 Rating system is to find out whether that opinion would be reflected by the scores I assigned.

After blogging the results up to this point, Thunderball currently holds the lead spot.  So where will On Her Majesty's Secret Service fall?  Let's find out.
 



(1)  Bond ... James Bond
The general public probably still thinks of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (to the extent they think of it at all) as "the one starring that one guy who never showed up again."  This is simultaneously understandable and unfair.  After all, the Bond series as it has developed over time has featured several actors who have been inextricably linked with the role for a period of years, and so people can be forgiven for not quite remembering who George Lazenby is.  On the other hand, is that reason to dismiss him?



Well, here at You Only Blog Twice, the answer to that question is a definitive "no."



 
Let's get the negatives out of the way first.  It has to be pointed out that Lazenby, at the time, was a non-actor.  He had literally appeared only in a commercial, but based on his looks and on impressing the hell out of director Peter Hunt, he landed what must have at that time been the most coveted role in the world.  As you would expect from a non-actor, he has moments where he seems at a disadvantage.  There are several Lazenby line readings that simply fall flat: "Please stay alive ... at least for tonight!" seems entirely too eager for Bond; "Just keep my mind on your driving!" is both poorly-written and poorly-delivered; and so forth.  Many of these lines are looped, meaning that they were redubbed by Lazenby, who would certainly have been inexperienced at looping.
 
There are plenty of other line readings which work quite well, however, including two -- "This never happened to the other feller..." and "Never mind about that; go and fetch the brandy" -- that were written by Lazenby himself (the latter on the spur of the moment in response to an unexpectedly playful St. Bernard).



More importantly, Lazenby simply carries himself as though he were James Bond.  Physically, he is perhaps not as immediately intimidating as Sean Connery, but he has a litheness and a quickness that makes his Bond seem a bit more capable in some regards.  The best moment in the film from that standpoint is perhaps the scene in which Tracy has a gun trained on him, and Bond simply grabs her wrist and disarms her.  One second he is standing dead still and the next second his arm flashes out lightning-quick and wrenches the gun to the side and out of danger; he never looks anywhere other than at her face.  It is a dynamic moment.




Perhaps most importantly of all, Lazenby has a terrific on-screen chemistry with virtually everyone he shares the screen with: especially Diana Rigg, but also Telly Savalas and Angela Scoular, and even the long-time series players like Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell.






All signs point toward Lazenby being someone who, had he continued in the role, would have quite probably gone on to do excellent work in the future.  Alas, this did not prove to be the case.  Nevertheless, I think he is one part awkward here, but four parts terrific, and 4/5ths terrific is pretty damn good in my book.  Points awarded: 007/007 (006 for Lazenby's performance, with a point added for how well the character is written -- remember, folks, it's not all about the performance in this category).







(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain:  Is it fair to say that Blofeld is Bond's archenemy?  The Lex Luthor to Bond's Superman?  The Joker to Bond's Batman?  The Moriarty to Bond's Holmes?  The Master to Bond's Doctor?

A lot of people would probably claim this to be the case, and I might be inclined to agree with them, if only in the sense that he is the only Bond villain to bedevil Bond throughout multiple films.  Of course, Bond was a literary figure before he was a cinematic one, and in the arena of novels, I think Blofeld also stands above the rest as the most formidable of Bond's adversaries.

We aren't here to talk about the novels, though.  Not yet, though that day will come.  No, we're talking about the movies, and is there any doubt that Telly Savalas is the pre-eminent cinematic Blofeld?



There is, actually; I doubt it.  In fact, I outright dispute it.  For me, THE cinematic version of Blofeld is the faceless menace we see in both From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

However, I think Telly Savalas is pretty great here, and of all the other Blofelds whom Bond must fight, he is easily the most formidable, the most interesting, the most competent.  I made no bones about how I felt Donald Pleasance came off as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (i.e., very poorly); I suspect I will be even harsher on Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever.  Those are weak, spineless performances; Savalas here seems as though he would actually be capable of putting a plot into action that would have major world consequences.  This has the added benefit of allowing Bond, as a direct result, to seem even more heroic: not merely because he is able to foil Blofeld in the end, but also because his zeal for pursuing "Operation Bedlam" is such that he will continue to do so even once he has been officially removed from the job.

I certainly rank Savalas's Blofeld as one of the best villains in the entire series, but he's not perfect.  He commits the unpardonable sin of failing to simply kill Bond when he has an opportunity.  Furthermore, why "jail" him in a room that can easily allow him to escape to the outside?  Sure, it might seem reasonable to assume that Bond won't risk trying to escape via the cables of the cable-car system.  But seriously, you do know he's a trained agent, right?

That's just dumb.  Points awarded (Main Villain): 006/007

Henchmen: The only significant henchman here is the vaguely Rosa Klebb-esque figure of Irma Bunt, played by Ilse Steppat.  Bunt is a memorable character, despite the fact that she really doesn't do much in this movie.  Except, of course, for killing Tracy at the end of the movie.  She also pops out of bed when Bond is expecting to spend some quality time with Ruby, and I'll grant you that that is nightmare fuel. 



 
Steppat was once rather a beauty.  Here's proof:


Ilse Steppat in Marriage dans l'Hombre

And this has been Objectification Moment by Bryant.

Issue of her attractiveness left aside, Steppat is quite good here.  As I've indicated, she doesn't actually have a whole heck of a lot to do, but she exudes an air of menace and also of competent command; in short, she seems like someone who could plausibly hold the position of importance she clearly holds within S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

As for the rest of the henchmen, they wear orange coats and get beat up a lot and ski into trees and off cliffs and whatnot.  They are strictly run-of-the-mill goons, and I deduct a point for that.  Points awarded (Henchmen): 005/007

Total points awarded (SPECTRE): 005.50/007

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:  Say, remember a second ago, when I was objectifying women and stuff?  Well, if that offended you in any way, you'd better prepare yourself; this next section may be a bumpy ride, because I'm about to objectify the hell out of Diana Rigg.  To an embarrassing extent, perhaps.  If that bothers you in any way, feel free to leave me a nasty comment below.

The James Bond series, it must be stated, has never been at a loss for hot women.  From Eunice Gayson in Dr. No to Olga Kurylenko in Quantum of Solace, it's been fifty years worth of highly desirable women in this series.  Nothing terribly unusual about that; in a way, it's a major part of what makes movies work as an art form, and it's hardly the Bond movies' sole province.  For whatever reason, though, it's one of the elements of the series that people tend to focus on.  Including, obviously, yours truly.

And I'll tell you this much about that: in the entire fifty-year history of Bond films, there is no more desirable female figure than Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  Some may disagree with me; some of them may do so vehemently, in fact.  You folks are welcome to do so, just as I am welcome to realize the truth: which is that someone as stubborn, resourceful, intelligent, spiteful, temperamental, patently crazy, devoted, and (yes) beautiful as Diana Rigg's Tracy is really about as appealing a vision of femininity as the Bond series has yet to conjure.

Rigg has an abundance of great scenes in the movie, among them the scene in which Emma Peel Tracy very plausibly beats the shit out of one of Blofeld's goons.  I'm also a big fan of the scene in which she is driving madly through a stock-car race as she and Bond try to escape Bunt and the goons.  Rigg plays the latter scene marvelously, and Tracy is obviously having the time of her life.





 
Rigg is so hot in that scene that it's 100% plausible that not too long thereafter, Bond is proposing marriage.  Frankly, it's the only sane response.

I suppose it might be possible to criticize the character for the way in which she is introduced: as a suicidal woman who evidently needs Bond to "save her," in more ways than one.  The backstory, as it is given to us, is that Tracy is a spoiled high-society jet-set type who falls in love with a count, who later dies in a car crash, leaving her bereft.  I don't think there is anything particularly objectionable in the idea that as a result of that, Tracy would go a little bit crazy.  The subtext of her meeting Bond is that she probably takes him for a walking erection, and an uninteresting one at that; but that she decides to go to bed with him just for the hell of it.  Presumably this is not exactly an isolated incident.  However, she is then simultaneously intrigued by the idea that no matter how much crazy she throws at him, he just keeps on coming, and also the idea that here is a man possibly as wild as herself, one whom she might theoretically be able to tame.

I don't think Tracy gives up any ground to Bond at all, not once.  I think she instead sees him as something of a kindred spirit.  And I think she also sees him as someone who needs to be saved, just as much as she herself needs to be saved.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  You will now pardon me while I serve up to you a small gallery of the proof of just how hot Diana Rigg is in this movie.












 
Best Bond Girl ever.
 
Points awarded (Main Bond Girl): 007/007

Secondary Bond Girls:  You know who else I like in this movie?  Ruby Bartlett, played by Angela Scoular.





I remember being weirded out by Ruby when I was a child, for some reason.  Something about her shrillness, maybe, I don't know.  Times have changed, I suppose; she no longer weirds me out.  Instead, she seems kinda awesome.  In her own way, she's as resourceful as Tracy is, and you can almost forgive Bond for cheating on his new girlfriend seemingly the second "Sir Hilary Bray" arrives at Piz Gloria.

I'm less enchanted by Catherine Schell, but clearly, she too has her charms:



 
All things considered, it's a fine group of secondary beauties.  Yeah, it's a little offensive for them to all react to "Sir Hilary" as though he were the new lord of their harem, but hey, it IS a Bond movie; that's probably not much of a defense, but it's good enough for me.  Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls): 006/007

Total points awarded (Bond Girls): 006.50/007

(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best films in the series as far as action goes, and that is saying something.  A lot of that is made by the editing, which is credited here to John Glen. Glen would go on to become a major member of the Bond family (he directed five straight films in the series, starting in 1981), and undoubtedly made key contributions here, but it seems likely that much of the editing was dictated by director Peter Hunt.  Hunt, as you may recall, edited Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger, and was consequently a major force in shaping the feel of the action scenes which made those films so influential.

The quick-cut style present in the editing of those films carries over to the editing on the action scenes of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and it is really quite simple to draw a direct line between what is done here and the editing style of modern action films such as the Jason Bourne movies.  And frankly, the modern films could learn a thing or two from the scenes here.  The editing here is frantic, but only as punctuation, never as the sentence itself; we always know exactly what is going on in terms of the geography of the fights, and in terms of who the players are; the cuts are used to emphasize specific moments, making them feel more impactful.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service has at least ten major action sequences, and they are all classics: the fight on the beach at the beginning of the film; the fight between Bond and a Draco henchman; the fight outside Draco's office; Bond's fight with the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. guard outside the elevator; the ski sequence in which Bond escapes Piz Gloria; the fight in the cowbell room; Bond and Tracy's stock-car race; the ski sequence that culminates in the avalanche; the raid on Piz Gloria; and the bobsled sequence.  The only one of those I would say anything bad about is the fight outside Draco's office; that scene has some extremely odd impressionistic sound effects that are misplaced.

The stuntwork throughout is marvelous, and whoever doubles for George Lazenby -- this was probably Vic Armstrong -- is absolutely tremendous.  Check out how badass he looks in this screencap from the fight scene outside the elevator at Piz Gloria:




That could be a panel from a superhero comic!

All of the hand-to-hand combat scenes in the movie are terrific, and the larger-scale ones all follow suit.  The ski sequences are perhaps the most notable.  Filmed in large part by Willy Bogner, an Olympic skier whose facility for capturing dynamic ski footage on film was apparently something that landed in the producers' laps out of nowhere, the action on the slopes here remains thrilling to this day.  For heaven's sake, half of the first ski sequence involves Bond having to make do with a single ski.  This stuff is simply stellar; it's as good as the underwater sequences in Thunderball, and maybe even moreso, since it moves so much faster.




I also love the stock-car race, which has excellent editing, a great performance from Diana Rigg, and very good sound design.

All in all, action movies don't come much better than this, and action movies from the late sixties come no better.  Points awarded (Action/Stunts): 007/007

Editing:  As the previous section made abundantly clear, I am a big fan of the editing on this movie as far as the action scenes go.  It's quite good in non-action scenes as well, however (particularly the safe-cracking scene in Gumbold's office, which is a masterful suspense scene).  The scenes toward the beginning in which Bond tries to resign from MI6 are also good examples, as is the scene at Draco's birthday celebration.  Really, the whole movie is an example of excellent scene construction.

My personal favorite bit of editing involves a great use of the song "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?"  This song, which taken on its own merits is my least favorite of all the Bond songs John Barry ever wrote, plays twice during the film, seemingly as source music.  The first is as Bond arrives in the village beneath Piz Gloria, and the second is while he is in the same village attempting to make his escape from Blofeld's henchmen.  The escape isn't going well, and Bond has , in desperation, taken to a bench on the edges of a skating rink.  He sits with the collar on his stolen coat turned all the way up, his head bowed toward the ground.  All he can see are the legs of the skaters as they go whipping past, and things seem awfully bleak for our hero.

Beneath all of this, the song is playing, asking its insipid questions: "Do you know how Santa gets around?" it asks, and then answers, "He needs snowflakes and reindeer, sunshine and raindrops," (cut to Bond's POV of passing skaters, then back to Bond, then back to the skaters) "friendship and kindness," (montage of skaters, Bond, and the pursuing henchmen) "and most of all," (a pair of skates stops in front of Bond and the owner turns toward him) "he needs love" (cut to Bond's face, reacting to the person, who as the camera pans up is revealed to be Tracy).

This short sequence is pure gold.  Does credit go to editor John Glen, or director Peter Hunt, or to John Barry?  Some combination of the three?  Someone else altogether?  Doesn't matter; it works perfectly.  It's one of the most successful emotional moments in the entire Bond series.  Tracy here is like an angel, appearing from nowhere to save Bond.











 








Now, that, folks, is editing.  Points awarded (Editing): 007/007

Costumes/Makeup:  The costumes in On Her Majesty's Secret Service come courtesy of Marjory Cornelius, whose only other credit on IMDb is for a movie called Genevieve.  Well, I've never heard of Genevieve, but based on her work here, it is a true shame Cornelius didn't work in the movies more.  The costumes are both numerous and excellent, ranging from the beautiful dress we first see Tracy in to the gorgeous outfit she wears during the bullfighting scene.




Tracy has numerous other outfits, too, all of them smashing, but Cornelius's finest achievement here might well be the kilt Bond wears as Sir Hilary Bray at Piz Gloria.  Amazingly, it looks both comical AND badass, and Lazenby wears the hell out of it.




Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup): 007/007

Locations:  I've got little to say here, except to note that the movie's locations are stunning.  There's a lovely dawn-lit beach at the beginning, and a tremendous villa in Portugal that stands in for ... uh, for wherever Draco lives.





The real treat here, though, are the locations in the Swiss Alps.









The production filmed at an actual restaurant that was under construction atop Piz Gloria.  In the big dinner scene, you can see the sun setting outside.




That, sir or madam (as the case may be), is production value.  Points awarded (Locations): 007/007

Total points awarded ("Oh, James..."): 007/007.  It doesn't get much better than this.

(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  I know nothing about actor Gabriele Ferzetti, who plays Marc-Ange Draco here, but I'll say this: he's one of THE best ally-figures in the entire Bond series (second only to Topol in For Your Eyes Only, and perhaps Pedro Armendariz in From Russia With Love).  He is so good -- and the rapport between him and Lazenby's Bond so immediate and complete -- that the scene in which the two characters meet is a complete success.  It could very easily have gone the other way; a major new character is introduced, and must simultaneously be likeable AND menacing, but must also plausibly be able to explain Tracy's erratic behavior AND then plausibly try to convince Bond to -- for money! -- start a romantic relationship with her.  In no way should it work, but thanks to Ferzetti (and to director Peter Hunt), it does.  Hats off to you, sir!





Elsewhere, Bernard Horsfall does solid work as the blond guy who helps Bond out in the safecracking scene, and then later gets murdered by Blofeld's thugs.  George Baker is similarly good as the real Sir Hilary Bray, and he loops for Lazenby during the scenes in which Bond is posing as Bray.

Series stalwarts Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell are on hand as M and Moneypenny, and they are at their absolute best, Maxwell in particular.  Both actors have evident chemistry with Lazenby, and it is another point in his favor (and theirs) that they respond so well to the newcomer.




Desmond Llewelyn puts in his customary appearance as Q, but the quartermaster has no real work this time out, only two brief scenes that add very little substance to the film; Llewelyn is on hand for continuity's sake only, it seems.  On the whole, though, this is a thoroughly excellent outing for Bond from a standpoint of his allies.  Points awarded (Bond's Allies): 007/007

Direction:  A big part of the reason why this movie works for me so well is due to the quality of Peter Hunt's direction.  He was able to keep the movie grounded in realism despite some of the sci-fi mind-control elements; he was able to keep the movie fun despite also keeping it dour enough that the shocker of an ending didn't feel out of place; he was able to consistently keep the character interactions vibrant and witty.  Visually, he knew where to place his camera and what to do with it once he got it there.  His career as a director never took off, and that seems like a real shame to me; because this movie is the work of a gifted director.  Points awarded (Direction): 007/007.  The only real downside is that I wish Lazenby's voice was used during the Bond-as-Hilary-Bray scenes; but I don't mind enough to deduct a point.



  
Cinematography:  Lensed by Michael Reed (a cinematographer whose long career is filled mostly with projects I've never heard of), this movie looks fantastic, from beginning to end.  There is some excellent day-for-night work; at least, I think it's day-for-night.  Elsewhere, Reed breaks out the old soft-focus gambit for the scene in which Bond proposes to Tracy.  It's never been more appropriate.





I don't know whether Reed gets the credit, or whether it should go to some second-unit laborer, but the pre-dawn raid on Piz Gloria by Draco's unit has always been a favorite scene of mine.  Check out these magic-hour helicopters in flight:




Points awarded (Cinematography): 007/007

Art Direction:  This movie is a bit more low-key than previous Bond films as far as the art direction and set design go.  No Ken Adam this time out, designing his mad-genius volcano lairs.  Instead, we get Syd Cain, who does reserved work, but work that is no less gorgeous than what had come before.

One of my favorite bits of design is in the hotel, shortly after Tracy has invited Bond to come to her room to claim his reward.  There is a prominent red light, which underlines the seediness of the union Tracy has just proposed, but also foreshadows the danger awaiting Bond from Draco's henchman.




Draco's office is also a feast for the eyes:




Piz Gloria also looks terrific, and there is a running motif of flowers associated with Tracy that pays off big-time in the wedding scene:




From a standpoint of art direction, this probably wouldn't be the movie in the series that sprang to mind the quickest; for that, you might need to look to You Only Live Twice or The Spy Who Loved Me.  In its own way, though, the design of this movie is sublime.  Points awarded (Art Direction): 007/007



Special Effects:  There is an avalanche that looks pretty awesome (except for the patently fake "people" escaping from it), and a few solid explosions toward the end, but otherwise, there isn't a heck of a lot of effects work here.  Points awarded (Special Effects): 005/007

Gadgets:  Gadgets?  What gadgets?  We don't need no stinkin' gadgets!

There might not be any gadgets here as we think of them (e.g. an Aston Martin with an ejector seat, or a helicopter in a suitcase), but there is a cool one in the scene at Gumbold's office.  That combination safecracker-and-photocopier is more than a bit dated now, but viewed through the proper context, it's nifty as hell.  So all in all, it's not a strong installment from a gadgets standpoint; but I give the movie credit for knowing it didn't need to shoehorn them in just for the sake of having them.  Points awarded (Gadgets): 005/007

Opening Credits:  Aided immensely by a tremendous bit of theme music courtesy of John Barry (more of which in a bit), the Maurice Binder opening titles are fairly excellent, especially if you enjoy jutting nipples, and really, why wouldn't you enjoy jutting nipples?




There is an hourglass motif running throughout the sequence, which foreshadows the song "We Have All the Time in the World," but also -- with the hint that the sand is running out -- sets a more ominous note that is an obvious foreshadowing of Tracy's murder.




It's a pretty great sequence, all in all.  I'm not overly fond of the use of footage from the previous films in the series, though, and to be honest, I'm not sure why that is.  The footage is there, obviously, to make us aware that despite Sean Connery's absence, this is the same character from the previous films.  (Take that, you champions of the idea that "James Bond" is a code-name designation used by different MI6 agents through the decades.)  It's a functional idea, but it makes me grumpy for some reason.  Points awarded (Opening Titles): 006/007

Total points awarded (Q Branch):  006.29/007

(6)  Mission Briefing

The only bad thing I have to say about this movie's screenplay is that it suffers from a very occasional lack of clarity.  For example, I have no clue who the thugs are at the beginning who attack Bond after he pulls Tracy from the ocean.  Are they some of Draco's henchmen?  That's the logical assumption, but the movie never bothers to make it clear one way or the other.

Similarly, how do Blofeld and his goons find Bond and Tracy after they escape?  Better yet: why are Bond and Tracy out skiiing?  Even more better yet: why does Blofeld not try to find Bond in the avalanche?  Wouldn't the natural assumption be that if Tracy was basically right on top of the whole thing, that Bond would be, too?  Dumbass Blofeld.

Otherwise, though, this is a solid screenplay that sticks very close to the Ian Fleming novel.  The series was -- after the excesses of You Only Live Twice, and in the wake of Connery's departure -- trying very hard to find its footing again, and going back to the source was probably the right call, even if it didn't pay off in a big box-office bounty.  There is wit, there is intelligence, there is fun; most of all, there is a story that feels as if real people could exist within it.  It works quite well, on the whole.   Points awarded (Mission Briefing): 006/007
 
(7)  The Music

Title Song:  Since there is no title song, we are going to pretend as though "We Have All the Time in the World" is one, and proceed from that point.  You got a problem with that?  I didn't think so.

It's a marvelous song, and somebody -- John Barry, presumably -- had the stroke of sheer inspiration to hire Louis Armstrong to sing it.  Armstrong had had a major hit the previous year with "What a Wonderful World," and this is nearly as good.  That marvelously craggy voice...!  The song is lushly romantic, and Armstrong sings it beautifully, but the melody is really quite sad, and John Barry uses it to devastating effect in the film's final scene.




Points awarded (Title Song): 007/007

The Score:  I suppose this is probably my favorite James bond score.  There are several other contenders (all of them also by John Barry), but I think in the end, this is the one that takes the cake.  From the outstanding opening-credits theme (reprised during the ski-chase sequences) to the tense music during the safecracking scene to the lush flight-to-Piz-Gloria scene, it's one victory after another here for John Barry.

I'm also a big fan of a jazzy romantic piece (called "Try") that can barely be heard playing in the background as Bond first arrives at the hotel where he will meet Tracy for the second time.  It's a shame that piece wasn't featured more prominently, somehow.  You can hear it on the soundtrack, though, and I highly recommend that you do so.




Points awarded (The Score): 007/007

Total points awarded (The Music): 007/007



Double-0 Rating for On Her Majesty's Secret Service:  06.47/007, which means that we have a new points-leader.  Part of me feels as if Thunderball should remain in the first-place spot, but either way, OHMSS remains a romantic, tragic, thrilling film, one of THE very best in the series.


the Bond family crest (that's Latin for "The World Is Not Enough," by the way)

 
The tally so far:

006.47 -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service
006.37 -- Thunderball
006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
004.76 -- Dr. No
003.09 -- You Only Live Twice 

You Only Blog Twice will return in . . . Diamonds Are Forever.  Which, I may as well tell you up front, is one of my least favorite movies in the series.  Can it possibly score lower than a 002.38?  As Lulu sang: We sha-all see!

21 comments:

  1. This is a great overview of what is still a criminally underrated entry in the Bond series. I don't have too much to say, here, except "My God I agree completely," which is perhaps not all that interesting a comment to leave, but so it goes! I totally need to watch this again.

    I'm so happy you picked some of the images you did, particularly that pre-dawn raid on Piz Gloria.

    I really need to see this again. I've only seen it once or twice, actually - it remains my least-seen Bond movie. I loved it both times I saw it, though, and am happy to see that impression re-enforced via the Double-O-Rating System.

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    1. "My God I agree completely" might not be all that interesting, but it is ALWAYS welcome around here! ;)

      The movie is definitely underrated, although I feel as if the internet era has boosted its stock quite a bit. In some ways it's a curiosity that doesn't entirely fit in with the rest of the series, but I don't think that's a bad thing, and actually it almost makes it appropriate that Lazenby went one-and-out. I wish he hadn't, but if that was what was going to happen, this was the right movie for it to happen with.

      I saw him speak at a sci-fi convention once, by the way. He was cool as hell. The way he told the story, he bowed out of the series due to bad advice from his agent, who had him convinced that the Bond series was a sinking ship, and that he should get off while the getting was good. Other versions of the story say that he was fired because somebody high up in the Bond camp thought he was unprofessional and simply didn't like him. OTHER versions insist it was all a bit of a misunderstanding: that Lazenby's agent said something negative about Lazenby returning that ended up in the press, and that the producers saw that and assumed it was coming from Lazenby himself and decided to give him the heave-ho in retaliation. The truth is probably some mix of these various stories.

      Seems a shame.

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  2. Yeah it does seem a shame. I like the way Moore handled the Bond mythos for his League of Extraordinary-verse, but it might have been interesting to just focus on Lazenby. Give him at least one timeline where he is the one and only Bond - of course that might have created some story problems, what with Emma Peel already in the series and all. Maybe she was Tracy Bond's twinner.

    I'm getting a lot of streams crossed here... probably my cue to stop, haha

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    1. You've been victimized by one of Alan Moore's spells, most like. It happens!

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  3. "ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE" is my favorite Bond movie of all time. Hmm . . . enough said.

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    1. I always have a hard time deciding whether this or "Thunderball" is my favorite. Not goin' wrong either way, really.

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  4. I'd never seen this one all the way through before. I agree pretty much with your assessment. Lazenby does a decent job, he's good with the emotional scene at the end & he makes the fight scenes look pretty real. The snow scenes & action scenes are really done well. Amazing to learn how they achieved the ski chase, the avalanche, & the car chase in the commentary. And I guess a lot of the interiors are sets, including the lobby/hallway of the lawyer's building (really fooled me). Definitely one of the better films, it holds up well. It's a shame they didn't let Peter Hunt direct another Bond film. This was ahead of its time. With a sad ending, I suppose it's the kind of film that can only get popular with home rentals over time.

    The moment when Bond disarms Tracy is great. I love it in the films when he shows he's efficient & steely cool under pressure.

    I was quite surprised by how good the ski chase scenes are. I thought I'd be jaded by the ski stunts of For Your Eyes Only. Aside from the great single ski part, the music & the camera work really make this exciting. Willy Bogner skiing forward & backward with the camera between his legs & Johnny Jordan filming from a harness suspended from a helicopter cover it well, putting us in the action & also giving us sweeping overviews.

    The score is great. The main theme & the love song have been playing in my head for days. Having seen the courtship scene a couple times now, I get so moved by Tracy's tears going right into their montage. I don't think the song is something I'd normally like but Louis Armstrong's low rough voice contrasted by the soaring strings playing to the visuals of the couple's happy times, knowing their eventual fate, it raises the whole scene into a higher level, so magical. I also like them smiling at each other in the car as Draco sitting in between looks at one, then the other. It's just the kind of thing a couple in love would do. If that song played over the wedding scene where Moneypenny cries & Bond tosses his hat to her, it would have the same effect. Great song.

    The way Barry's voice gets emotional in the commentary when he talks about Louis Armstrong is quite touching. I've officially become a sentimental idiot. Happy holidays!

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    1. This movie makes me a sentimental idiot every time I watch it, so don't feel bad. Heck, I'm feeling a bit sentimental even thinking about it right now.

      The Armstrong song is just perfect. It's a great song no matter who's singing it, but his voice is filled with a very particular sort of sadness. It's sadness that almost doesn't know how sad it is, if that makes any sense; sadness that is SO sad that it's become resigned to its sadness. I had not thought of that until reading your comments, but you're absolutely right to hint that the tone of that voice means something rather haunting in light of how the movie ends.

      I kid you not, I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.

      I'd love to visit the parallel universe where this movie was an enormous hit just like the previous Bond films had been. What might have happened next? Six or seven more Lazenby movies? Peter Hunt directing one or two and then maybe going on to become a serious, Oscar-calibre director? What might the Bond series have become after that?

      We'll never know, but it's fun to consider.

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    2. Hunt's commentary sounds like he was very pleased with himself as more & more people regarded this film as one of the best ones. He seems quite proud & deservedly so. Totally unrelated to anything but I just realized Peter Hunt's name can be a double entendre for something that could've been his hobby. I recall an interview with sound editor Norman Wanstall where he said Hunt was gay. In any case, we're in his debt for him sticking to his conviction to stay close to the book, including the fatal ending.

      What you've just said really makes me appreciate John Barry's writing & arranging so much more. The way he can write such a great love song & at the same time create the rousing main theme really is genius. And they're so catchy. To continually come up with great music for each film is pretty amazing. Hal David's lyrics are also great.

      I'm sure part of the emotion in Armstrong's voice came from his weakening health, having spent a year in the hospital for heart & kidney trouble. So when he sings "We have all the time in the world," it's so sad because he perhaps was feeling he was near the end. This was the last song recorded by this great artist that Barry idolized.

      From http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2014/10/45-years-of-we-have-all-time-in-world.html
      "'All the Time in the World' is my personal favorite," Barry said. "I think that might have a lot to do with the experience we had in New York with Louie Armstrong and that afternoon we recorded it. It wasn't the popular choice at the time, because we always used, you know, the Tom Joneses, the Nancy Sinatras. And I said, 'Look, it's about a man singing about the September of his years.' And I thought Louie Armstrong singing 'We Have All the Time in the World,' it just rung true and [producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli] loved the idea, there were no arguments. But to work with this guy in the studio, he was the sweetest, humblest guy."

      When he arrived to the studio, he remained ever the professional, even though his health was precarious. Lyricist Hal David remembered, "He was a sick man at the time. After he did his first take, he came over to me and, you know, 'Did I do it good? Don't be afraid to tell me, I want to do it good.'"

      In the end, Armstrong was more than good. Barry was right; Armstrong was the ideal person to sing the sentiment of the song, especially with everything he had gone through the previous year. His voice was now "burned to a husk" in Gary Giddins's phrase, but that just lent a deeper emotion to the performance.

      Armstrong loved the song and was happy to have had the opportunity to record it. "He came across and he thanked me for asking him to sing the song in the movie, which--I mean, I was in such awe of the gentleman that the fact that he took it upon himself to sing the song for us, we were so honored that he should come across and very gently say, 'Thank you,'" Barry remembered. "It was a testament to the gentleman, the kind of gracious gentleman that he was."

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    3. I'll see your Peter Hunt and raise you a Roger Moore.

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  5. "The editing here is frantic, but only as punctuation, never as the sentence itself; we always know exactly what is going on in terms of the geography of the fights, and in terms of who the players are; the cuts are used to emphasize specific moments, making them feel more impactful."

    So true. And as you say elsewhere, this is still great action-movie editing, but for its era, nothing was better.

    (Watching this one tonight and as has been my practice, got the YOBT overview open...)

    All the kudos on that Lazenby-punch superhero-comic screencap. Perfect. I actually TRIED to get the very same screencap for my own overview and just couldn't get it. But there it is! I should've just nicked yours.

    You're so right about how effective that "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown" business is. Damn it's a shame we never saw Lazenby in any other Bonds. Imagine if he stayed with the role through "A View to a Kill?" Who knows how it'd all have turned out, of course, and I'd never vote for removing the Moore Era from our universe, but still. This film is such a fascinating glimpse into "What If?" terrain.

    Something that only jumped out at me on tonight's rewatch: some of the sound editing for the grunts and physical-exertion side of the fight scenes remind me of "Evil Dead 2." I mean this affectionately, but it's something I never associated before.

    Theses Peter Hunt/ Roger Moore jokes in the comment made me lol.

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    1. A coworker of mine who's in his early twenties enjoyed "Spectre" and bought himself all the movies on Blu-ray. He was iffy on "Dr. No," but loved the next three. I warned him about "You Only Live Twice" and sure enough, he thought it was terrible.

      Then I warned him about "Majesty's" and said that he'd either love it or hate it. After he watched it, he told me that he thought Lazenby was cool as hell.

      He wasn't wrong.

      I think Lazenby had what it took to do well in the role on an ongoing basis, BUT . . . Moore's approach fit his era so perfectly that I'm not sure Lazenby would have ever found the sort of success Moore did at the box office. I suspect the Bond movies under Lazenby would have become smaller in scope and focus, and while I think they could have thrived in that capacity, I'm kind of glad that didn't happen. Oh to be able to see it somehow, though!

      My secret on the screencaps, by the way, is to go frame by frame on occasion. I'm not too terribly meticulous, and that's a time-consuming approach; but it occasionally yields pure gold, like that punch of Bond's.

      Happy New Year, by the way!

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  6. Another great review! This movie ranks sorta middle of the pack for me. Admittedly, I've only watched it twice (once 30 years ago and again recently), but I enjoyed it a lot more the second time. The first time I watched it, it didn't really fit my perception of what made Bond movies so enjoyable to me, and I guess it never really shook that feeling of otherness.

    Of course, at the time, Bond was mostly seen as a two horse race between Connery and Moore. It felt like Lazenby had been pretty universally dismissed. Now it's usually seen as one of the better, indeed best, Bonds. And yet, for me, that feeling of otherness persists. However, watching it again as an adult, I really was struck by how much better it was than I remembered, and I certainly liked it more than I expected to. Some of the scenes you mentioned were absolutely captivating, especially the opening beach fight and the raid on Blofeld's headquarters at dawn.

    And what's more, I was particularly surprised at how much I liked Lazenby as Bond. My memory from childhood was that he was almost an embarrassment, but upon my recent viewing of OHMSS, it was clear to me that nothing could be further from the truth. I wonder what he could've done with the lackluster DAF (looking forward to your deconstruction of that one, I can tell from its score that it's not one of your favorites, to say the least), or even what he might've done beyond that. Of course, I wouldn't trade Moore for anyone, but I could see Lazenby doing well in LALD and TMWTGG. After that, I think Moore's touch was needed for movies like TSWLM and Moonraker (I could totally see Lazenby killing it in FYEO, though), and to be sure, I prefer that Moore started when he did, but it is interesting to think about Lazenby in some of those roles.

    And yeah, Diana Rigg is pretty much the ultimate Bond Girl. Stunningly beautiful and given more in the way of character than most of the others.

    One last thing that I simply must mention is your choice for favorite Blofeld. Just a couple weeks ago, I was watching Thunderball and it occurred to me that it had my favorite film version of Blofeld, which in turn made me chuckle at how somewhat ridiculous it seemed that I preferred the faceless Blofeld to the ones who appeared in later films. When he gives that dude the shocker.... Wait, that sounds bad... What I mean is, when he electrocuted that dude, that was so cold, it always stuck with me and probably went a long way towards making that my favorite Blofeld. And that voice! He sounded so calmly cutthroat and evil. Anyway, I just thought it was funny to read you held the faceless Blofeld in such high regard, too, and to read so soon after I came to that conclusion myself. I mean, I guess I probably always felt that way, I had just never really thought that hard about it until a couple of weeks ago.

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    1. I like Savalas as Blofeld a lot, but otherwise, yeah . . . the "faceless" Blofeld is by far my favorite. I liked that they made a feint in that direction in "Spectre." It was the only thing they got right about that character!

      I remember feeling a bit the same way as you about Lazenby when I was a kid. I think it was that he was SO different than Moore, but without the benefit of being Connery. I'm convinced he'd have been completely accepted with a few more films in the role, though.

      It had never occurred to me, but what if they had brought Lazenby back for "For Your Eyes Only"? Moore considered stepping away from the role after "Moonraker," and if that had happened, it would have been awesome for them to go back to Lazenby. I mean, it stood literally zero chance of happening; but it would have been very cool. He'd have been great in that movie.

      The sense of otherness you describe is familiar. I feel it too when I watch the movie. Makes sense; Fleming's novel is a bit of a departure, and then add in both a new Bond and a new director, and it would have been surprising if it had ended up feeling anything but "other." I feel much the same way about "Casino Royale," too, actually. It's not a bad thing, necessarily; I approve of them shaking things up every so often. How could you not?

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  7. I constantly find myself feeling sad that so many people simply regard this movie as "The one that has Lazenby in it" and also still find myself hearing people say things like "Lazenby wasn't a real Bond".. I then have to struggle to convince them that, if only they saw past that, they would find that this is easily one of the best Bonds of all time, only for them to assume that it is some sort of hipster notion ("He's probably just saying that because everybody hates the movie and he wants to seem alternative")..
    Thankfully every single serious Bond fan I've met seems to be in complete agreement that this movie is great!
    Just like From Russia With Love, this movie for me has aged incredibly well and has me on the edge of my seat watching even today!

    I haven't really got tons to say about Lazenby, he is a good, effective Bond, and his physical presence no doubt is one of the reasons why this film has some of the best fight scenes in the series.
    But really, what lifts the movie is that everybody else involved seems to have upped their game, and I suspect Lazenby could have been the reason for that, seeing as he was a newcomer, it wouldn't surprise me if the Production Crew knew that they were gonna have to really dial up the effort to disguise the fact that Connery was no longer Bond (certainly John Barry has hinted as much).
    To their credit, it works amazingly well, a good story, fantastically directed by Peter Hunt, a great supporting cast who all give top performances, as well as one of the best Bond scores ever not only elevates the movie, but I think it elevates Lazenby as well, as I never get the sense that he is a newcomer, or somehow "unfit" for the role!

    As for my ideal Blofeld, Telly Savalas is it.. He is imposing, but yet charming at the same time, ruthless but smart.. Whilst the "faceless" Blofeld sounds kind of older compared to the three.. I can buy him and Savalas as the same character, which can't be said for Pleasance or (shudders) Gray..

    I kinda wish I could add more about Tracy, but you sum it all up pretty well, and I must say I had never noticed the clever bit of editing during the "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?" scene, but after you pointed it out, I enjoy the scene a hundred times more! Kudos to you, sir!
    Part of me also can't help but smile at the thought that Oscar Winner Sam Mendes and serious-actor-thank-you-very-much Daniel Craig completely fall on their faces trying to sell Bond actually falling for someone in "SPECTRE".. whereas here, Peter Hunt and George Lazenby, two men who, in the wider history of cinema/Hollywood, are more or less complete non-entities get it right.. On their first try, no less!!

    Draco is another of my favourite characters, and continues my personal belief that the best allies come from the Kerim Bey mould (charismatic, charming, colourful).
    Also, when I first saw the movie, when Campbell showed up, I found myself wondering whether this was yet another new Felix Leiter, wonder if I was alone in that..

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    1. The music once again is of course top notch, as you would expect from John Barry, but really this is one of his very best, the credits song, especially ooozes Bond.. And is one of my all-time favourites..
      Barry has said about OHMSS: "That score is probably the most Bond-ian of them all, 'cause I just poured EVERYTHING in there since it was a new person"
      That quote comes from the documentary "James Bond's Greatest Hits" which is a fine documentary for both music and Bond fans, it's not amazing, but does contain some interesting and occasionally wonderful stories about the Bond theme tunes, including in this movie's case, some very touching memories courtesy of lyricist Hal David about Louie Armstrong and him recording "We Have All The Time In The World". The best bit about it though, is definitely John Barry and his tales.. Check it out if you haven't seen it, nothing extremely relevatory in there, but Bond fans should enjoy it! ;)

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    2. If it makes one a hipster to be a fan of this movie, then I guess I'm in that boat with you. Gimme some skinny jeans and let's watch 007 get married.

      I totally agree that everyone seems to have upped their game, and that extends to the regular castmembers, such as Lois Maxwell. Part of the reason that I'm so positive on Lazenby is that for my money(penny) [sorry] he has terrific chemistry with all those folks. The Bond-and-M scenes are some of the series' best, for example.

      That's a good point that Savalas and the faceless Blofeld seem like they could be the same character, whereas other Blofelds do not.

      When I noticed how that edit to "Christmas Trees" worked, I was very pleased with myself. It's not any sort of genius on my part, but it made me feel that paying closer-than-normal attention to these movies really is a worthwhile effort. In a few cases, it's arguably made me like the movies less; but I think it's been far more common for my enjoyment to be deepened by the process (silly scoring system and all).

      That's a great point about Mendes/Craig vs. Hunt/Lazenby. Oh, "Spectre," how I loathe thee... And I'm a HUGE "Skyfall" fan! Ugh.

      You are absolutely NOT alone in thinking Campbell was Felix. I remember thinking that when I was a kid!

      I feel like I may have seen that "James Bond's Greatest Hits" doc -- is it on the Blu-ray of one of the films? If not, point me in the right direction so I can find it.

      As for the score...yeah, as good as they get.

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    3. Not sure, if it's on a DVD.. If it is.. It has to be Casino Royale, as it was made right around the time "You Know My Name" was released!

      Here is a link to a chopped up version!
      https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL58085ACA400D37A2

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    4. I watched the first thirty seconds or so, and it doesn't seem familiar at all. This means I'm in for a treat, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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    5. You're welcome! Let me know what you thought of it!

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