Friday, August 10, 2012

On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Bond in Love

On Her Majesty's Secret Service - 1969

Bond: George Lazenby
Directed by: Peter Hunt
Produced by: Harry Saltzman & 
Albert R. Broccoli

I love this movie. It might even creep into my top ten favorite movies of all time, but I'm not sure if it will even make my top 5 favorite Bond films. I almost think of it as a separate little tangent, a spin-off if you will, outside of the Bond universe. It's easy to think of it that way because it's Lazenby's only turn at Bond and the film is so stylistically different from every other Bond film. Peter Hunt, the revolutionary editor of the series from the beginning, finally got his chance to direct and wanted to make something unique. He certainly succeeded.

Why do I love it? Because we see emotional depth in Bond that we never see anywhere else in the series. Whereas Sean Connery was the man's man Bond, Lazenby is the sensitive renaissance man Bond. He even asks Tracy if she wants to talk about her problems rather than make love (she doesn't of course, so they make love anyway). Connery never could have pulled this film off.

This movie is a love story, complete with Shakespearean plot twists and a sappy montage sequence done to a Louis Armstrong tune. It's so fun to see Bond in that situation and to see the woman who is finally his match. Diana Rigg is amazing in the role of Tracy not only because she kicks ass but because she is absolutely stunning. I'd say she's the most beautiful Bond girl of all, but she transcends the concept of "Bond girl". She's in a completely different league, which is the point. She had to be for Bond to fall in love with her.

Then, in the middle of this classic tale of star-crossed lovers, we have a very bizarre Bond movie tacked on. That's the part that makes this film so deeply weird. Suddenly Bond is undercover pretending to be a nerdy homosexual genealogy expert in a kilt. He's so terribly "un-Bond". Not only that, but as he's pretending to be Sir Hilary Bray, he's actually being dubbed by the actor who played Sir Hilary Bray earlier in the film. If you walked into this movie half-way through, not knowing what it was, you'd have no idea that character was supposed to be James Bond.

While undercover, Bond then uses the classic "I don't usually like girls, but I like you" line to seduce two different woman. Normally, one might find this very studly of Bond, but given that we've just watched him fall in love with Tracy, it just feels all weird. He's cheating on Tracy. He's lying to these women to sleep with them. It just feels icky. And there are no consequences to any of his actions at all. The next time he sees Tracy, he proposes. It's weird.

And when Bond and Blofeld come face to face, Blofeld doesn't recognize him. In spite of the fact that they squared off face-to-face in You Only Live Twice. Why? Because Hunt wanted to make this movie as faithful to the book as possible and the films were made out of order. YOLT is supposed to come after OHMSS. Originally they were going to say Bond had had plastic surgery to change his appearance to explain Bloefeld not recognizing him and why Bond looked different. I think that would have been worse as then they would have had to explain why Bond looked like Sean Connery again in the next film, and then like Roger Moore, etc, etc. Not to mention the fact that Blofeld looks completely different because he's Telly Savalas not Donald Pleasence.

But, once you get out of that deeply weird middle segment, the movie gets back on track and is exciting and wonderful and moving the rest of the way through.

Personal Rankings:

  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. You Only Live Twice
  4. Dr. No
  5. Thunderball
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service - I really am going to leave this one separate. Trying to compare it to other Bond films is apples and oranges. 

1969 Context
President: Richard Nixon
Queen: Elizabeth II

The Brady Bunch and Sesame Street premier.
Man walks on the moon.

Best Picture Nominees:
Midnight Cowboy
Anne of the Thousand Days
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Hello, Dolly!

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