December 16, 2017

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

 A truly confounding James Bond movie. It's hard to put my finger on what's wrong with it.
My guts tell me the screenplay is dull, but I'm reluctant to completely blame the limp, passive plot because they've cast a random guy as James Bond, so it's difficult to assess the quality of the whole project when the lead role is played by someone not Sean Connery. Watching George Lazenby stroll through this movie my inner monologue went "Wow this guy is fit! And handsome too! Is this what Sean Connery would be like in this scene? Are all Bond movies this boring and we're just used to it?"
I hadn't seen OHMSS in maybe 20 years when I tried it out in 2017. Forty-five minutes later I had to concede I didn't understand a lot of the dialog, and I had no idea what was going on. The next day I finished it with the subtitles on.
This movie was released in 1969, and I could see the counterculture creeping in around the edges of the stodgy Bond franchise. All the girls in Blofeld's mountaintop retreat are boldly contemporary. Bond spends half the movie in a formal Scottish kilt disguise - but otherwise his clothes are mostly classic Bond. There's one very Mod outfit, in mustard and orange, with a big pull-ring zipper on the tunic!
I enjoyed the exciting, dynamic editing, taut fight scenes, and generally lively direction throughout. Makes the first five movies seem stiff by comparison.
The cold open/Lazenby introduction is a lot of fun: after he is spurned by the mysterious woman whose life he's just saved, I appreciated the "This never happened to the other fella" comment...followed by the worst Maurice Binder title sequence ever. I liked that they showed iconic images from the previous Bond films, to try and build some continuity with the previous Bond films, but beyond that: just random swirls of color and silhouettes of naked ladies.
I always enjoy Bond movies for their IRL driving scenes, and there was a plethora of rear-wheel-drive cars of all types spinning and sliding through sand and snow throughout.

Diana Rigg as Countess Tracy has vaulted to the top of my list of all Bond Girls. She's gorgeous, grown up, Bond treats her as an equal, she saves Bond's bacon in a truly surprising reveal late in the movie. She's a gorgeous adult. This is what happens when you cast an actress as a Bond girl. It also helps that all her dialog wasn't replaced by another actor, which happens in the Bond films all too often. Rigg is also 13 months older than George Lazenby (his Bond, BTW, is the youngest Bond ever: Lazenby and Rigg were 30 and 31 when the movie came out.)
Telly Savalas is fine as Blofeld. Could have been much worse.
I was truly moved by Moneypenny's tears at the wedding, especially when Bond tosses her his hat for one last time.