Friday, December 10, 2010
Movie of the Week
This merry week,
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
Starring- George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Bernard Lee
This film is what I refer to as the Christmas Bond, because a majority of the action takes place around that holiday. No, Bond doesn't foil a plot by SPECTRE to steal Christmas, he instead must stop a deadly virus from spreading while navigating a bevy of beauties, and out-skiing the bad guys with his bride to be. The film not only contains the best ski chases ever, it also features the debut of George Lazenby as James Bond. After a worldwide search for Sean Connery's replacement, producers Broccooli and Saltzman settled on the Australian model turned actor for his good looks and strong presence in the fight auditions. It was up to veteran Bond editor Peter Hunt, who was directing his first 007 feature, to make Lazenby as believable in the dramatic scenes as he was in the action scenes.
Hunt does a serviceable job in making Lazenby a strong 007, and surrounded him with gifted veteran actors to help him. Diana Rigg as the lead Bond girl, Tracy, turns in a fabulous performance. She's so good in fact that our James can't help but ask her to marry him. Menacing the happy couple is Telly Savalas as Blofeld. Savalas is a bit uncouth and too American as the super villain, but he poses a nice physical threat to 007, especially in the deadly bobsled chase. Rounding out the cast are Bond staples Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn (Q) and Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) who provide continuity, and Gabrielle Ferzetti and Ilse Steppat as Tracy's likeable crime lord father and Blofeld's nasty henchwoman, respectively. If this film had starred Connery, it would have been the best in the series, but alas, it does not. Lazenby does his best, and while not great he is not bad enough to derail a stunningly beautiful and action packed movie.
Right off the bat the story grabs you and doesn't let go until the tragic climax. In between we get treated to some witty dialogue courtesy of writer Richard Maibaum, brutal fight scenes cut together in an innovative new way by editor John Glen and groundbreaking ski action filmed by Willy Bogner and Johnny Jordan. This film did for skiing what Thunderball did for underwater work. I am still amazed by some of the stunt work in this film as Bond skis away from Piz Gloria on one ski while being chased by SPECTRE agents, or when he avoids a giant avalanche. While Lazenby is a bit wooden at times, he has some nice moments that shine through. It is a pity that we never got to see what he might have been capable of since he decided to leave the role of 007 after one film.
Many say that this film is marred by Lazenby's work as Bond and do not rank it with the best of the series, but that is unfair to Lazenby and to the film. I do put it in the top ten, and say that the shortcomings are far outweighed by the strengths. Connery would return in 1971's Diamonds are Forever and while it would be nice to see him back as 007, I can say that his return was not anywhere near as good OHMSS. So for a little holiday action and adventure, strap in and say- Merry Christmas, 007!
Things to watch for-
The janitor whistling the 'Goldfinger' theme
The stock car race
John Barry's iconic theme song
Louis Armstrong's 'We Have All the Time in the World'
"This never happened to the other fella."