Monday, June 30, 2008

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

Director: Peter R. Hunt

Starring: George Lazenby, Diana "Check out my" Rigg, Telly Savalas

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: James Bond 007 is back!

Plot: James Bond woos a mob boss's daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

My Rating: 9.5 /10

Would I watch it again? Duh

Sean Connery made a great Bond but he really only had 3 excellent (of 6 total - NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN doesn't really count, if it does then make that 7) films - the first three. After GOLDFINGER they went downhill. Lazenby, though very different, also makes a great Bond. And this picture proves it.

Peter Hunt, the editor for the Bond films up to that point, knocks this out of the fucking ballpark. So much so that I have to question if some of the other film makers were even playing the same sport. OHMSS is such a departure from the previous films with the exception of FRWL. These two share a couple of things in common. They follow the Fleming novels closer than any of the other films by miles, and they're both very serious in tone; something we wouldn't see until 1981 with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

Bond's obsession with Blofeld comes to a fever pitch in OHMSS. Lazenby does a fantastic job with the action sequences as well as comedy and drama. The pre-credit set-piece is filled with mystery and white knuckle action ending with the famous ice-breaking "wink, wink here's a new actor playing everyone's favorite spy" line, "This never happened to the other fella!". It's a great way to soften the blow while introducing a new actor to this beloved role that has iconically been associated with Connery.

If I have one complaint it's this. They should've lessened the number of throw away lines/puns used by Bond. Lazenby is burdened by portraying a bit too much aloofness, something that, even though I LOVE Roger Moore's take on the character, Moore took and ran with. It doesn't work as well with Lazenby.

As for the rest of the cast, they're wonderful. Kudos to getting Savalas as Blofeld. He's a badass and for once they get someone who is actually menacing and imposing. Rigg is just beautiful and full of spunk that presents a welcome challenge to Bond's ego. Much like Pussy Galore, Rigg's Tracy is at odds with Bond and unlike Pussy, Tracy reluctantly falls in love for him. Pussy just went from Lesbian to straight with one roll in z hay. With Tracy, Bond has to actively woo and pursue her.

Their relationship is very plausible and feels legitimate. It's not as forced as in CASINO ROYALE (2006). There is true tenderness under all of these magnificent locations, action set-pieces and colorful characters. Take the following scene where, after a great car chase, Bond and Tracy find themselves taking refuge in a hay-filled barn during a raging snow storm. They both behave in ways that directly oppose how we would normally see them. Tracy is honest and knows the score. She believes that he cannot ever truly love her. He, on the other hand, feels that he could never love another. In these pictures, Bond is the one who's without emotion and it's his conquests who feel a love for a man who cannot reciprocate. Everything about this scene is brilliantly played out including probably John Barry's finest Bond score. The warm strings (playing "We Have All the Time in the World") that underscore this scene perfectly sew everything together.

Tracy: What really went on up there, James?
Bond: Um mm. Her Majesty's Secret Service is still my job.
Tracy: But there isn't anything you can do about your job at the moment, is there.
Bond: Mmm.
Tracy: Then why are you thinking about it now?
Bond: I'm not. I'm thinking about us. Tracy, an agent (chokes up) shouldn't be concerned with anything but himself.
Tracy: I understand. We'll just have to go on the way we are.
Bond: No. I'll have to find something else to do.
Tracy: Are you sure, James?
Bond: I love you. I know I'll never find another girl like you. (BIG pause as he continues to gaze into her eyes). Will you marry me?
Tracy: (another long pause) You mean it?
Bond: I mean it. (followed by a long, deep, sensuous kiss). Mr. & Mrs. James Bond.

I'm choking up just thinking about it. It's by far the most emotional moment in the entire series. I LOVED CASINO ROYALE (2006) but the only gripe I've got is I didn't buy the love story all the way. When Daniel Craig is lying on the beach saying he's going to quit and spend his life with Vesper it just doesn't have weight that OHMSS has. With Lazenby, in the scene above, you FEEL it. He REALLY means it. It's also unique in that the director, Hunt, put so much quiet time between some of the words. It's not rushed. The extra silence/contemplation only adds to the emotional impact that separates this film from all of the others by leagues.

And then there's the end. FROM SPOILERS WITH LOVE...The death of Tracy with Bond holding her in is arms is devastating. END OF SPOILERS...YARRRR... I'm an emotional mess at this point. It was the same when I first read the book. I wept and hard. The novel and the film strike an emotional chord that catches me off guard. I mean, shit, people. This is a BOND film. I've read the book a couple of times and I've seen the movie at least a dozen. It's always the same. I'm with these characters every step of the way and I care deeply for what happens to them. The film makers have succeeded in spades. That just makes everything else in the movie work even more.

While I may have more fun watching GOLDFINGER more than the rest, it's OHMSS that takes the prize for being the best. I'm kind of cheating by saying it's a tie but with each beating out the other in different areas. It's too bad that Lazenby didn't continue with the role. Everyone involved in this production nailed it and nailed it hard. With DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER the franchise took a giant leap in the wrong direction becoming it's own Bond spoof. They held solid gold in their hands and willfully let it slip through their fingers. There's no joke there, just reality.

Scorethefilm will return with his thoughts to...


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