Discussion in 'Community' started by Ender Sai, Dec 1, 2012.
Some of the Moore movies are fun. The Spy Who Loved Me comes to mind.
I'm torn about YOLT. The movie is all over the place, like the worst sequences of Doctor No, and Bond is rarely the master of his own destiny. The yellowface felt ludicrous when I first saw it twenty years ago, and time hasn't been any kind to the idea. On the other hand, the volcano lair and ninjas, and the Japanese backdrop is always a plus i my book. I do like Tiger Tanaka, but I do find Pleasance's Blofeld to be disappointing.
This movie lacks the brutality of FRWL, the novelty of Dr. No, and the roller coaster feeling of Goldfinger. It's pure cheese (not necessarily a good thing) and I can't help looking back at it with some fondness, but I can defend it as a good Bond movie. What I can say is that this movie is much more entertaining that the Thunderball borefest (yes, I'm being too cruel, but I really can't stand the underwater scenes) and I adore Nancy Sinatra's rendition of the theme, so I'm rating it higher that TB.
1. From Russia with Love
3. Dr. No
4. You Only Live Twice
Eh, I'm not a fan of this film at all. OHMSS returned the series to greatness, but it was more of an outlier than anything else. Sillyness, campness, whatever you want to call it, it had set in.
Glad you mentioned the Toyota 2000GT, though. Great looking car, and nice to see a sports car that wasn't English pop up.
I'm trying to think if there's anything I like about this film. The song, yes, but that's about it?
I really liked YOLT, and I think it's because it embraces its camp and WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? factor that comes to some of these movies.
I thought the reveal of Bloefeld was good, as I'd never seen him before and the previous movies set up well.
Connery is not particularly good in this, but I can't take him seriously for half the movie because he's in yellowface. It's hilarious.
I love the Japan setting. I think they use this location well, and did I mention NINJAS and VOLCANO LAIR? Is this the first mainstream movie in which the concept of 'ninja' appears I wonder?
This is the movie with the gyrocopter, right? That was incredibly well shot, and I was right with Bond while he was discovering that this little toy was a really awesome advantage for him.
Screenplay by Roald Dahl. That'll probably be a trivia question sometime in my life.
I forgot Roald Dahl wrote the script. Interesting.
And yet there's nothing remotely interesting about the script--probably the most uncharacteristic Dahl project ever.
Still, I can't express how much I'm drawn to the title song. If anyone knows of any good remixes, please let me know.
It's inarguably bereft of his trademark sardonic whimsy (Did I really just write that clause?), but I think it's still distinctly Dahl - the humor reminds me of the sort of humor in his memoirs.
Okay, so I wrote out a giant post and then lost the whole thing I don't even know how literally right as I was about to post it. So please bear with me.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1967)
Behind the scenes
After Connery bowed out of the franchise, the producers had to find a replacement. Australian male model George Lazenby, who had no prior acting experience except in a commercial in which he carried a giant chocolate bar, wanted the role, and went to get a haircut from Connery's barber. Cubby Broccoli was there at the same time, saw him, and liked his look in the commercial. Lazenby got an audition, and went in wearing a suit Connery had ordered but not picked up and a Rolex Submariner. In a test fight, he accidentally broke a stuntman's nose. George Lazenby was the new James Bond.
Opposite the inexperienced Lazenby, the studio wanted an experienced actress. After Brigitte Bardot passed, they got Diana Rigg -- like Honor Blackman, an alumna of The Avengers. They also recast the role of Bond's nemesis, Blofeld, after deciding that Pleasance wasn't suitable for the physical elements the role would call for. The future Kojak, American Aristotelis Savalas (that sounds more Bond-villainy than Telly, doesn't it?) was cast.
Ever since Goldfinger, Broccoli and Saltzman had wanted to do On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but something always got in the way. Now, they were finally ready to go ahead with the adaptation, which they wanted to be as close as possible to the book after YOLT's significant departure. This even extended to ignoring the fact that Blofeld didn't recognize Bond here despite seeing him in YOLT (OHMSS was their first meeting in the novel continuity). Peter Hunt, the editor of the previous films and second unit director on YOLT, had been promised the director's chair. Of all the directors we've seen on our journey so far, he's the first not to return for multiple installments, and in fact he didn't go back to working with Bond in any capacity after this.
Production was somewhat rocky, as Lazenby himself admitted that he got a big head being suddenly elevated from nobody to James Bond. He wasn't happy with the direction he got, and in one of the great representational disasters of all time, his agent convinced him that Bond was old-fashioned and his popularity wouldn't survive in the seventies. Lazenby rejected a seven-picture deal and told the producers that this would be his one and only James Bond film.
On release, the film made plenty of money, but significantly less than the franchise had become accustomed to, and did especially poorly in America. Combined with weak reviews, it gave the film the reputation as a flop, one that's slowly been rehabilitated among fans as we've moved further from Connery's departure and had time to reevaluate the film on its own merits.
Bond is passed on the road by a woman, whom he follows to the beach, where he stops her from attempting suicide in the ocean. When he's attacked by thugs, she runs off, but he bumps into her again at the casino where he's staying. After covering her debt at the tables and getting attacked again after going to her room, he manages to sleep with her, but she's obviously got some emotional issues. In the morning, 007 is abducted by the thugs and brought before Corsican mob boss Marc-Ange Draco, the father of the woman, Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo. Draco thinks Bond has what it takes to bring his daughter under control, and offers him a million pounds to marry her. He declines, but after realizing that Draco's resources could help him pursue Blofeld, whose trail has gone cold, he agrees to date Tracy.
Back in London, M takes 007 off the Blofeld case, citing the fact that it's gone cold. Bond nearly resigns, saved by Moneypenny's alteration of his resignation letter to a request for leave, to the ultimate relief of both Bond and M. Bond goes back to Draco and Tracy, where he begins falling for her. Draco tips him off to Blofeld's connection with a lawyer, and helps Bond break into the lawyer's office. There he finds that Blofeld is attempting to claim the title of Comte de Bleauchamp, allowing Bond to disguise himself as the College of Arms specialist sent to verify his claim.
Bond arrives at Piz Gloria, Blofeld's Swiss Alpine retreat, and finds a gaggle of gorgeous girls, shepherded by the rather less than gorgeous Irma Bunt, in a program for allergy research Blofeld is running. After seducing multiple young ladies, Bond is found out as an impostor by Blofeld. He's imprisoned, though not after learning that Blofeld plans to use an infertility virus spread by the brainwashed girls to extort the UN, and escapes. In the nearby town, he's pursued by Bunt and her henchmen. Unarmed and hunted, he's saved by Tracy's timely arrival to see him and escapes in her car. Hiding out overnight in a barn, he realizes his feelings for her and proposes. The next morning, Blofeld catches up, and triggers an avalanche as they ski away, burying Bond and allowing him to capture Tracy.
Bond escapes to London, where he finds out Blofeld is demanding amnesty and the noble title from the UN. The UN is inclined to cave in -- who says Bond films aren't realistic? -- so Bond goes against orders, using Draco's organization to launch an attack on Piz Gloria. He rescues Tracy, foils Blofeld's plan, and leaves Blofeld hanging by his neck from a forked tree branch. In the happy ending, he marries Tracy and they drive off to their honeymoon -- only for Blofeld, in a neck brace, to drive by, with Bunt pouring gunfire into the car. Tracy is dead. Roll credits.
Here we get a more rounded Bond. He's still the killer and ladies' man, but he's also softer, passionate and vulnerable. He's more human, a fuller character who goes through an arc rather than just being a vector for adventure. There are still some elements of the superman caricature there, such as when he bangs two chicks in one night (incidentally, giving the series its first outright nudity that I've detected, the noticeably-topless silhouettes in the credit sequences from Thunderball on not counting), then follows it up by scheduling three for the next night while the whole bevy of babes drools over him. Overall, though, what we're getting is a sort of precursor to Craig's Bond, an examination of Bond as a character.
The neophyte Lazenby plays this deeper Bond competently. He tends to default to glib, but when emotion is called for, most famously in the finale but also notably in the panicky ice rink scene, he rises to the challenge. It would be nice to see a better actor work with the material, but Lazenby doesn't really let the film down, and that's the main thing.
How it fits into the series
Overall, the film is an attempt to go deeper into Bond as a character, focusing on the character and drama and narrative, and it fits the formula elements in around the edges of that main focus. It's an approach the series would do well to emulate, but while OHMSS represents a significant change of direction from the increasing campification of the series, it's ultimately a blip in the series, not a reversal of course. It provides a prototype for a different take on Bond, but it's a prototype that, unfairly, would go unheeded for many years, though we're finally seeing its blossoming in the Craig era.
Dr. No and From Russia with Love, made before Bond became a legitimate craze, both represent films that are trying simply to be films – to be good movies. Since Goldfinger, however, we've seen the movies consciously aping the new "Bond movie" archetype. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is, I think, the first Bond movie to successfully fuse Bond as phenomenon – the Bond movie formula – with genuine filmmaking that's concerned with character and story and really works as a film standing on its own, Bond or no Bond.
OHMSS really pushes Bond as a character, focusing on him as he enters a romance and falls genuinely in love, gets fed up with MI6 and goes off on his own to rescue Tracy and stop Blofeld – it's ambitious character stuff, especially to hand to a brand-new Bond, one who doesn't even have acting experience. The thing is, the film handles it really well. There are some bumps in the early going, I think – the stuff where they're first meeting feels a little stiff, with Tracy's character not that firmly drawn – we never do find out why she was suicidal – but once she comes around on Bond, their relationship is solid, and we can see him genuinely caring about her. The montage that depicts the course of the romance is cheesy, as just about any falling-in-love montage is going to be, but the great "We Have All the Time in the World," sung by the great Louis Armstrong for the movie (the last song he ever recorded) elevates it. The fact that we go from the long romantic setup that opens the movie to Bond going off to Blofeld's and immediately trying to bang an entire roomful of women is the best. It's a great Bond moment that, even in a movie where he's softer, more romantic, shows he's still a pretty dark character. And who can blame him – Blofeld's assembled maybe the finest collection of girls in the entire film series. He then goes straight from Sex Central to proposing to Tracy, and it actually works. The film anchors the moment in Bond's desperation and fear as he's trying, unarmed, to escape from Blofeld's stronghold and finding himself hemmed in by Blofeld's agents, and then Tracy shows up out of nowhere and saves him and he realizes he loves her and wants to be with her. On the one hand, it's a romantic moment, but on the other hand, it's suitable to Bond – it's an outburst of emotion in a heightened situation, and we can be left wondering how long the emotion would hold. It stops short of establishing Bond as a definitively settled-down type.
There's more to Bond than just his romance, too – his vulnerability during his escape from Piz Gloria is really impressive, as he's stranded without resources, on the run, closed in on, and feeling terrified. It's just a tremendous sequence, really showing off how jumpy he is when he's freaked out by bumping into the guy in the polar bear costume, who keeps recurring surreally as an insert of his disturbing laugh throughout Bond's struggle through the crowd. Bond genuinely panicking is something pretty new, and shows a film confident in showing character instead of caricature. Bond's breakdown at the end is of course equally memorable and vulnerable. It's a real sucker punch, and a hell of a way to end the film. But there are some nice smaller character notes, too, like Bond coming into conflict with M and putting his own judgment of his duty ahead of the bureaucracy's, a trait we'll see recur. I especially like the glance Bond throws at his painting of the Queen when deciding to strike off on his own with Draco's help – a sort of mix of apology and loyalty: "Sorry, Your Majesty, but this is what you really need me to do."
Tracy herself is, for the franchise, a very strong female character. She's not just another sex kitten – she's an assertive heiress, capable enough when pushed into action but not an action-girl type. Bond "rescues" her from self-destructive tendencies that aren't fully explained, so we're not talking aggressive feminism here, but she's got a personality, she's got her own agenda and she's assertive about it, and she's very well acted by Diana Rigg, one of the loveliest Bond girls.
Behind Bond's relationship with Tracy is her father, Draco. The fact that he's a crimelord and is fine with Bond marrying his daughter, and Bond's fine with him is a little odd, but it makes for a fun, quick joke with M at the reception, and it gives him the resources to help Bond find Blofeld and give Bond the help that MI6 won't in the finale, in which he really shines as he bluffs past air traffic control and commands the operation. The best thing about him is how hilariously inappropriate his machismo-heavy parenting style is – recruiting Bond to marry his daughter for money because "What she needs is a man to dominate her, to make to her enough to make her love him," and best of all, punching her in the face to knock her out in the middle of rescuing her, because she doesn't want to leave Bond and, hey, he's a hurry here, man.
The other major character you have to talk about is Blofeld. Telly Savalas's Blofeld is tremendous. The film lets him down a little at times – the skullcap he wears when skiing just makes him look like a giant penis, but more importantly, the whole plot element of Blofeld's trying to seduce Tracy is just misguided. Because he's the villain, he suddenly wants to marry Bond's girlfriend? It's the cheesiest sort of Saturday-morning-cartoon element, and it serves no purpose within the film. But those are only minor distractions from a great performance. Savalas is smooth, commanding, and menacing. He still appears the sophisticated mastermind of the earlier movies, but he brings something Pleasance didn't, which is physical presence. He's a big, physically commanding guy, one who feels like a match for Bond in every dimension and who exudes menace, potential danger, and dominance in a way Pleasance's soft little bureaucrat didn't. Every scene that puts him up against Bond is great, and shows him truly worthy of his status as Bond's archenemy. Savalas does a great job, even in little scenes. There's a quick insert of Blofeld looking back at his base as it blows up, and rather than looking angry or scared or just reactive to the explosion, he looks genuinely distraught, like a man watching his dreams go up in flames. His dream, of blackmailing the UN by threatening to release an infertility virus via brainwashed allergy-clinic patients, was silly, but not silly enough to get in the way of the movie, and I really appreciate the fact that what ultimately brought him down, allowing Bond to get back on his trail after two years of searching, was his desire to become recognized as a count. It's such a wonderful little character indicator – the villain is undone by his hunger for social status. He could plan to retire rich, and Bond never would have beaten him. But he just had to enter the nobility, he had to feel important and socially recognized.
We get some nice moments for Moneypenny, too. Her close connection with Bond was emphasized more in the early Connery movies; here we see less direct flirtation, but she gets a great scene when she saves Bond (and M) from actually resigning. It's a character moment for all three of them, showing Bond's intensity but also his loyalty under the flareup, M's brilliance and warmth under his demanding exterior, and Moneypenny's incredible competence and unfailing loyalty to both men. Seeing her reaction at Bond's wedding is necessary, and seeing her cry is heartbreaking, but the moment of Bond throwing his hat to her is perfect and really does justice to their relationship when it would have maybe been easier for the filmmakers to run away from it.
A few other assorted observations from the film: it opens with Bond's face concealed in shadows as he drives. I'm not really a fan. I understand that the transition was scary, but I think Saltzman and Broccoli ultimately hurt themselves more by staying scared of it and running away from it than by acknowledging it and moving on. Having the confidence to just show George Lazenby being Bond and move on would be a better note to start the film on, I think, and I could do without the winking reference to "the other guy" leading right into the credits that play clips from the previous movies, as if desperate to remind you that this is still a Bond movie. Have some confidence in yourselves. The one real standout feature of the intro, I think, is the way Bond busts into action to save Tracy. The fact that he sees her wandering toward the sea and, before much happens, figures out that she's attempting suicide, really shows off a bit of Bond as detective, which is a facet the movies could stand to emphasize more.
The action in the movie is generally solid. Sometimes, most obviously in Thunderball, there have been problems keeping up the intensity of long action scenes, especially ones centered around a gimmick. The long skiing chases, though, stay intense and enjoyable and never let up, and feature some great stunt work and a remarkably convincing avalanche for the technical limitations they were working with. I'll still be glad for the end of rear-projection insert shots, though. The bobsled fight with Blofeld, too, is long and even a little repetitive, but the intensity never lets up, and it stays brutal and desperate and engaging the whole way. I also have to applaud the scene of Bond choking Blofeld's skier, trying to keep him silent as Blofeld's forces pass by. It's brutal, intense, and intimate, one man desperately trying to kill another who's struggling for life. The way Bond isn't even looking at him, instead watching Blofeld through the trees, really drives it home. And then it ends with the man thrown to his death after a long, long struggle, with no pun forthcoming. I think that stands right up there with Professor Dent in the archive of impressively brutal action scenes. They also get a solid, classic-style sequence out of Bond escaping the room full of tram machinery, though one wonders how Blofeld doesn't have an actual prison cell available to him. The one problem I've got is with Hunt's tendency to slightly speed up action shots. It doesn't add intensity; it just makes them look off-kilter, annoying, and silly. During scenes that could be great fistfights, this incredibly distracting effect really takes you out of them. I've said it before: I'll be so glad when they get off this fast-motion kick.
OHMSS is absolutely remarkable, a film that manages to mix the big spectacle and outlandishness of the Bond formula with genuine depth and character. It's a gold standard the series should have been chasing ever after. It's not perfect – it goes cheesier than it needs to in a few areas, and you can always nitpick – but it's ambitious and impressive filmmaking that puts most of the rest of the series to shame while showing how to do the Bond formula right.
From Russia with Love
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
You Only Live Twice
Ultimately, I could have gone either way on the top ranking. It's essentially a tie. I gave FRWL the nod based on Connery's stronger performance as Bond, Red Grant and the great train fight, the tight thriller format that doesn't rely on formula to work, Kerim Bey, and just a personal gut preference. They're both great films, but they're both very different styles of film, which makes comparison difficult. Each is a near-perfect example of how to do Bond in a different way. I didn't want to start doing ties, but it's probably best to accept that the distinction between numbers one and two here is largely meaningless.
OHMSS is legitimately my favorite Bond movie, and has been for years, not sure I can add anything else that you haven't said.
Slow down! I can't rewatch the movies that quickly!
Now this is a movie that was panned years ago but that has improved with time. A return to form (the first two fisticuffs would have fit right in FRWL) and an attempt to get away from the overuse of gadgets and the cheesiness of YOLT. He manages the gadgets part (to the fury of toy producers, I guess) but, well, there you have Blofeld's "Angels of Death". Bond himself is intriguing, the old mix of toughness and glamour but with a new layer of vulnerability that we probably wouldn't see again until Casino Royale. The movie is directed with gusto and the script, other than the excessive cuteness of the many references to the Connery films, is crisp and more than appropriate.
Havac's review is extremely thorough, so there's little I can add to it. I'll sum up as: not as good a movie as contemporary reviews make it to be, but Lazenby plays a much better Bond that popular culture says he does.
1. From Russia with Love
2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
4. Dr. No
5. You Only Live Twice
My Dad was a big fan of both this book and film, which is why my name is Tracy.
I wasn't a fan of the Connery-referencing. The clips of the old movies in the credits feel rather desperate, like people are going to forget it's a Bond film if you don't build up all these reminders, or that they felt so insecure that they had to flog the "Hey, remember how much you like our movies? Remember? Like this too!" element. The scene where Bond takes a laundry list of implausible old souvenirs out of his desk while haphazardly-edited musical cues from the corresponding movie play was absolutely pathetic. The harder they try, with this sort of stuff, the more they show a lack of confidence in their move, the more noticeable the transition becomes, and the less natural it feels, so they're ultimately sabotaging their own effort.
On the gadgets, they do avoid them remarkably well, but the one gadget that does work its way in is particularly bad. Just in YOLT, Bond broke into a safe using a gadget that helped him by lighting up when he hit the right number and saving that number. That kept Bond involved in the process, and made for a good, tense scene. It was a tool that Bond used, not a replacement for Bond. Here, when Bond wants to break into a safe, he has Draco's crane lift him a giant gadget that he attaches to the safe, and then he kicks back and "reads" a Playboy while he waits forever for it to do his work for him (and he later takes the Playboy out into the public hall, centerfold still open as he stares at it, which is kind of pervy). It diminishes Bond's role and turns what could have been a tense espionage scene into what's essentially a gag about Bond getting absorbed in a Playboy and gives us a superman Bond who's above doing anything and just has a gadget for the situation, and never has to get involved in real tension. It's a moment that shows that the weaker sensibilities still haven't disappeared from the creative department, and it's indicative of the low-stakes, gadget-as-gag, always-above-the-situation direction the series would go.
Superb review, Havoc.
1. Fifty years, twenty three installments, and OHMSS remains the only truly "epic" Bond film. The characters are finely drawn, the central locale majestic, the score unparalleled, the proceedings imbued with honest-to-God themes ("We have all the time in the world" contrasted with that mercilessly-ticking title sequence stopwatch, etc.). If you don't completely embrace this movie, it's rather hard for me to accept you as a Bond fan.
2. I've never ruminated on the "What if Connery..." query. Sure, his presence may have elevated the film even further (if his remarkable 70s performances are any indication), but it's just as likely that he'd coast. I'd take a vulnerable Lazenby over an uncommitted Connery any day. Nicely done, George.
3. The underlying tragedy to the ending, beyond the obvious, is that Peter Hunt's noble aim to bring dignity to a (creatively) crumbling franchise failed to take root. From here on out, the Bond movies would not only forsake Fleming's tone, but actually destroy the brain cells of the viewer. If you're looking for a proper follow-up to OHMSS, you'd have to wait twenty years, for License to Kill.
1. From Russia With Love/On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Tie)
2. Dr. No
5. You Only Live Twice
The one Connery what-if that I think would be interesting is if they'd made it right after FRWL, if they'd have had a more engaged Connery and kept him more engaged in the franchise. The Connery of this era, though, is so checked-out that it's not worth speculating.
Anyway, because I didn't do questions, here are some to stimulate discussion:
1. OHMSS -- great Bond film, or greatest Bond film? How do you rate it?
2. On the other hand, what are your nitpicks?
3. How well was the romance developed? How do you feel about Bond getting married, and does it change your view of the character?
4. Opinion on the Bond-formula elements -- the girls, the cars, the villain, the locations?
OHMSS is a film I only started to re-evaluate since coming to TFN; I first saw it on tv back in the early Eighties and wasn't impressed, and I don't think I made a serious attempt to re-watch it until hearing its praises in the Amph thread. Now I've watched it pretty much each time its been on tv, meaning I've seen it maybe seven or eight times, and I have found much to love.
The plot is a big plus-point, giving 007 actual character development in an adventure that has an actual storyline rather than being a series of set-pieces strung together with quips and girls. The musical score is one of the best ever in the series, and it's got We Have All the Time in the World, too. The skiing action scenes are exciting and iconic, and Diana Rigg is excellent in a role that would be insulting to describe as a "Bond girl" - Tracy is an interesting character in her own right rather than being merely there to demonstrate Bond's virility. The film also has several scenes that are right up there in the Bond series' top ten: obviously the final scene is famous, but my favourite is Bond cold, alone, and scared at the ice-rink, until a pair of skates stop in front of him and he looks up to see Tracy - just a wonderful human moment of the sort that we rarely get in the Bond movies. And Lazenby's performance in those scenes is spot-on.
However, the film is no masterpiece, imo. Lazenby, while showing signs of being a decent actor, is no Sean Connery. In fact, I seem to recall my sister once describing him as "a charisma vacuum", and unfortunately this is most obvious every time he tries to be cool or sell a funny line. And there are lots of lines trying to be funny in this 007 installment, which is something that Bond fans determined to paint OHMSS as a serious antidote to the jokier entries in the series tend to ignore. There are more quips and double entendres in this film than in Thunderball, which deliberately threw them thick and fast as part of its formula, and while OHMSS does jettison the gadgets, the one-liner part of the formula is unfortunately very much intact. It's not that I dislike humour if it's done well, but Lazenby doesn't have the comic timing or charisma to make this stuff work, and the dialogue in this film doesn't make things any easier for him. The whole section set in the chalet is very much out of a Carry On... movie; in fact, if you recast the roles with Jim Dale as Bond, Barbara Windsor as Ruby, Sid James as Blofeld, and Hattie Jacques as Irma Bunt, you could keep the exact script for the chalet scenes and have the basis for what would be a classic Carry On film entry, and it would probably work better that way too. Probably my least favourite line is near the end of the film where Bond tells Q: "This time I've got the gadgets, and I know how to use them". I really could have done without that line, as I think even Connery wouldn't have been able to make it work, and I think it makes Lazenby's Bond look like a tool.
I'm also not as impressed with the action as some. The skiing scenes are good, but the fights... Lazenby may have the physique and the moves, but I hate what the director does with them. We've got speeded-up footage (which is something that never works, at least for me) and what I think must be some bad editing (I really don't know enough about directing and editing to give a proper term) that stops the fights from flowing, and makes them feel jumpy. Whatever the cause, I just don't like it. Similarly, the bob-sled chase suffers from a combination of back-projection, speeded-up movement, and an unfortunate choice of headgear for Blofeld, making the scene in which he fumbles for the grenade unintentionally funny, at least for me.
Havac has done a really good job of listing the problems with the film clumsily trying to inform you that this IS an official Bond film even though it doesn't have Connery, so I won't bother recapping what he said.
So overall, I think OHMSS is a mixed bag, with the great music, story, and iconic moments winning out over the bad in the film. Lazenby's lack of charisma hurts the film for me, but I think the scenes where he gets to emote show he could have been good if they moved away from the humour and played to his strengths more. I like this better than Thunderball, but definitely less than Goldfinger or Dr. No, my favourite Connery Bond films. Quite where I'd put it in relation to the others I don't know - I just find it so mixed.
It's probably the most satisfying Bond film until Goldeneye came around.
Hopefully Ender_Sai and Rogue1-and-a-half will comment, but we'll be moving on to Diamonds Are Forever soon, so watch it if you want to watch it. I'm looking at you, Dave.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Behind the scenes
James Bond entered the 1970s with Diamonds Are Forever. And if you paid attention to that poster above, you'll notice that he did so played by Sean Connery. After Lazenby pulled out of the franchise, Broccoli and Saltzman were left looking for a new Bond yet again. Orders from United Artists were to get Connery back, but he'd left for a reason and wasn't particularly interested in coming back. Meanwhile, as happened all too frequently, Broccoli and Saltzman kept flirting with terrible choices for Bond, being interested in American Adam West and even signing American John Gavin. Throwing money at Connery, however, turned out to work, as a then-outrageous one and a quarter million pounds combined with an agreement to make two pictures of his choice lured him back. It didn't hurt that the shoot would essentially be a working vacation -- Connery spent all day gaming, golfing, and taking in shows in Vegas, as they shot at night. Gavin's contract was still honored, and he was paid despite doing no work.
Also back was Guy Hamilton, director of Goldfinger, as the producers responded to the perceived flop of OHMSS by trying to run back to their first big success. Longtime scriptwriter Richard Maibaum wrote the first draft, which was rewritten by Tom Mankiewicz, who would become a regular himself. Originally, the script featured Goldfinger's twin brother seeking revenge, but thankfully, this was dropped after Cubby had a dream that his buddy Howard Hughes had been replaced by an impostor, and decided to make that the movie instead. Make your own comments.
Blofeld was once more recast, this time with Charles Gray, who had already appeared as murdered MI6 asset Henderson in YOLT. Maybe he was Blofeld the whole time! Jill St. John and Lana Wood became the first American Bond girls. Also considered for the Tiffany Case role were Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, and Jane Fonda, so . . . let's all mourn what could have been.
Kevin McClory had earlier sued after the Thunderball script he had worked on with Fleming before the Bond movies were made fell through, and Fleming adapted the discarded script as a novel, which was then itself later adapted for the screen, along with elements first introduced in Thunderball such as SPECTRE and Blofeld. McClory claimed that SPECTRE and Blofeld were his additions to the script, and as such he had intellectual property rights in them. As part of the settlement to that lawsuit, Eon licensed the rights to Thunderball, SPECTRE, and Blofeld for ten years, which would run out in 1973. As a result, after Diamonds Are Forever, Eon lost the rights to SPECTRE and Blofeld, making this the last film in which these classic elements would appear.
The film was commercially successful, returning to an over-one-million-dollar box office, though still less than Thunderball or Goldfinger. Critics, however, weren't generous, even with Connery's return.
The film opens with James Bond throwing people through walls and otherwise beating his way across the world, in pursuit of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He catches up with him in an underground facility, where he drowns what he thinks to be Blofeld in a mud bath, only to find out that it was a man in the process of being turned into a body double. The presumably real Blofeld then comes out, and Bond drowns him in mud too.
After the credits sequence, Bond is assigned to a diamond-smuggling case. As assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd kill their way along the diamond-smuggling chain, Bond impersonates Franks, a diamond smuggler captured by British Intelligence, and makes contact with smuggler Tiffany Case in Amsterdam. After killing an escaped Franks, 007 smuggles the diamonds to Las Vegas with Case and the assistance of Felix Leiter. Bond takes the diamonds to the drop-off, but Wint and Kidd try to kill him there. He's only saved when the next link, old-time comedian Shady Tree, realizes Bond has switched the diamonds with fakes. He's released with the command to turn over the real diamonds or else.
Bond goes to the Whyte House casino, where Wint and Kidd kill Shady Tree, and picks up Plenty O'Toole -- who is herself picked up and thrown out the window in Bond's suite, where Case and some thugs are waiting. Bond agrees to let Case pick up the real diamonds, and of course there is sex. At the Circus Circus, Case makes the pickup, but eludes Leiter's men, who were supposed to follow her after the handoff. When she comes home, Bond is waiting for her, along with a dead Plenty O'Toole, whom Wint and Kidd killed, thinking she was Case, while she waited for her own revenge on Tiffany. That convinces her to have a change of heart, and she helps Bond trace the diamonds she handed over, with reclusive Whyte House owner Willard Whyte's top man Saxby taking possession of the diamonds and then driving out to a desert laboratory. Bond infiltrates it, and finds Whyte's men building a laser-shooting satellite with the diamonds.
Bond sneaks into Whyte's penthouse, where he's remained out of contact for years, and finds that Blofeld has taken over, impersonating Whyte. Faced with Blofeld and another body double, Bond chooses wrong, killing the double, and Blofeld has him taken out to the desert by Wint and Kidd. Bond escapes the laziest death trap ever, then uses the same voice-altering technology -- Q's already invented it himself, and uses it to amuse the grandkids -- to call Blofeld posing as Saxby and find out where Whyte is being held. He rescues Whyte and raids the laboratory, where he finds out that the satellite is already in orbit. Blofeld, who has captured Tiffany Case, is using it to destroy nuclear stockpiles and extort a bribe from one superpower to retain sole nuclear capability.
Bond and Whyte figure out that Blofeld is hiding out on an oil rig, and raid it. Blofeld tries to escape in a midget sub, but Bond gets at the controls of the crane lowering it into the water and instead batters it into the control room, then leaves Blofeld hanging in it as the oil rig explodes, presumably killing him. Bond and Tiffany escape, and end up taking a cruise ship back to the UK, on which they're ambushed by Wint and Kidd. Bond kills them -- happy ending!
Connery doesn't really care anymore, and it shows. He's on a working vacation, and while he performs the basics expected of him, he doesn't appear to be enjoying or challenged by the role. He's going through the motions, and this film really doesn't tell you much of anything about Bond, except that apparently we were wrong and he's not all that bothered by Tracy's death after all. The change of actors back really kills that plot thread. For as hard as they tried to run away from OHMSS, Bond's marriage remains the single most-referenced piece of movie continuity within the series by far, but not here. It's sort of nodded at in the beginning and then basically ignored.
How it fits into the series
DAF is in the supremely awkward position of being a Connery film sandwiched between Lazenby's replacement of Connery and the Moore era. It's an odd man out that doesn't belong anywhere, a lame last gasp at bringing back the Connery magic after they'd already tried to move on and before they finally moved on for good and with confidence. It diminishes OHMSS's standing in retrospect, reinforcing the perspective that it was a mistake to be retreated from, a weird one-off interruption in the Connery run. What's more, it's written essentially like a Moore film, a cheesy, slapdash collection of lazy gags and self-parody. It reflects weirdly on everything else and doesn't sit comfortably anywhere.
(Yes, that's James Bond pretending to make out with himself)
We can see the escalating role of cheesy weirdness and screwy jokiness, and the diminishing role of Bond as an actual character rather than a self-referential figure to be steered through a "Bond movie," and that's ultimately the most informative thing in the overall picture. The Connery era has finally ended, for the second time, and Broccoli and Saltzman are ready for the Moore era. A balance between formula and serious drama that had been getting away from them, only for OHMSS to suggest a possible arrest of the slide, is now well and truly away from them, and we're stuck in the land of inadvertently self-parodic Bond movie formula now.
The other main point of significance is that, as mentioned in the behind the scenes section, this is the last appearance of Blofeld and SPECTRE. That era is over now, unfortunately. Though it's wrapped up weakly, it at least is wrapped up (which it never would have been had they stuck with the original plan to bring in Goldfinger's twin). The distinctive resource for big, evil schemes and serial storytelling is gone after having appeared in only six films, despite how well-remembered it is as part of the franchise. We're going to be in the land of random millionaires with overblown world-altering schemes now.
Well . . . I like the title song? Some few parts of Diamonds Are Forever are more on the serious side, executed with competence, even good. Some parts are corny and/or bad. But all the parts are boring. When the previous film ends as OHMSS did, it really demands a driving, Bond-on-a-rampage followup. DAF kind of nods lamely at the idea of Bond being driven in the ineffective pre-credits sequence, then just settles back into a leisurely diamond-smuggling investigation that never elicits any particular emotion from him. Partly it's because he thinks he's killed Blofeld in the pre-credits, but the movie can't get away with that; you don't just off the archvillain in the opening sequence to get him out of the way. It's not giving us anything. But even when Blofeld shows up, Bond's just not that motivated. Connery can't muster up a lot of passion for the role anymore, and Hamilton doesn't seem inclined to drag it out of him.
It's not that the film is bereft of positives. The elevator fight early in the movie is great, another brutal close-quarters struggle that has plenty of energy and is well-choreographed. I like Wint and Kidd – they're a campy, jokey touch that works. The offbeat, unnerving, self-amused gay assassin partners are the kind of strange that plays well as flavoring in the movie. There are a couple other solid touches like that – Willard Whyte's throne throne was legitimately funny, as was Q meticulously dominating the slots. I'm also not ashamed to admit that I absolutely loved Jimmy Dean as Whyte ("Tell him he's fired!" got a giant laugh out of me) and the unspoken joke that, yeah, he's lived as a hermit for three years in a penthouse apartment, but actually he's perfectly normal and there's nothing detectably wrong with him is great.
It's just that the movie is overflowing with negatives. Apparently Connery's super-salary came directly out of the SFX budget, because the special effects are absolutely rock-bottom terrible. They look like a five-year-old pasting explosions over pictures with MS Paint. They just could not be worse at all.
And while some of the gags are funny, most of them aren't. WHY IS THERE A SHOT OF AN ELEPHANT PLAYING THE SLOTS? Too often, it's just weird for weirdness's sake. What the hell are Bambi and Thumper even supposed to be? Why are there these weird women who backflip everywhere and why is Thumper always hissing and clawing with her hands like she's supposed to be an animal or something? Look, Wint and Kidd are good strange; they have their own sort of internal logic and logic within the film. Bambi and Thumper are bad strange; they're strange for its own sake, nothing about them makes actual sense internally to what the characters are doing or externally to what their relationship with the rest of the film is, and there's nothing about their strangeness that's really enjoyable.
And don't even get me started on the moon-buggy nonsense. Bond stumbles across a moon scene for no reason, steals a ridiculous, cheap-ass-looking moon buggy, and busts through the wall into the desert, where an insanely dull chase follows. Some cars wipe out leisurely in the desert, then some guys on asinine-looking trikes come out and wipe out too, and then Bond steals a trike and drives in the other direction. And the score sucks the whole time, too. This leads immediately to the next scene in Vegas, in which Bond gets into another chase, in a car this time. It, too, is interminably dull. There's no energy, no flourishes, nothing to it at all. The best thing about it is that it starts with the sheriff, who gives absolutely terrible line readings, declaring, "There goes that sonofabitchin' saboteur!" That line on a loop for two hours would be better than the whole movie. Some of you may be going, "But isn't this the car chase that ends with the famous stunt where the car goes through the alley on two wheels? How can you say there's nothing to the chase?" The thing is, while the stunt is technically impressive, it doesn't really look like anything on film. So the car goes up on two wheels and goes through an alley. It's not enough to save a deathly-dull car chase (and in fact, the famous continuity error, and the hilariously dumb shot meant to correct it, aren't even necessary – consulting the deleted scenes, the "unusable" footage in which it comes out correctly is perfectly usable, they just have to cut before the car gets to the intersection).
Plotwise, the film is weak, too. As I said, the opening just isn't strong enough. The interrogation sequence is badly composed and edited, and the confrontation with Blofeld is cheesy rather than meaningful. The whole plot structure fails as a followup to OHMSS. We then get the conceit of Bond impersonating a diamond smuggler, which is a solid idea they actually follow through with (this is the second of the four Bond movies I hadn't seen before starting this run through them, and for the first half hour or so I was thinking this might actually be better than its reputation), but it sort of falls apart once he gets to Vegas and meets yet another boring Leiter. Most of the sequences lack any real zip, and we get lots of dumb moments, like Blofeld having his archenemy killed by . . . not shooting him when he has a gun on him, but instead sending him into an elevator that emits gas that . . . doesn't kill him, only knocks him out, and then has Wint and Kidd . . . not kill him, just drive him out to the desert and leave him inside a pipe, aboveground, and hopefully it will be put underground before anyone notices that there's a guy inside the pipe they're lowering, and . . . he won't die, just have to crawl a ways to find a hatch and get out. INGENIOUS. Oh, and apparently Blofeld had some workers come in and add his secret hideout to the map underneath Whyte's floor, just so that he could be caught or something. And we've now devolved from having leftover villains at the end to have to dispose of quickly to having leftover henchmen who have to be disposed of in a cornball finale.
As for the other characters, the Bond girls are weak in this one. Plenty O'Toole is sort of amusingly classless and obnoxious, but she's barely in it and gets thrown out a window before she and Bond even get anywhere. Tiffany Case could be solid, being that she's a professional criminal and could prove a solid complement and foil to Bond, but instead, after hinting at competence, she just kind of devolves into being bad comic relief.
Blofeld here is a step up from Pleasance but a step down from Savalas. You can take Gray more seriously than Pleasance and he has more real presence, but he doesn't have the presence that Savalas brought to the role. Gray just sort of cruises through the movie, and he's competent but unexceptional. There's not much there in the script for him to work with, though.
The whole movie feels like Connery: going through the motions to get a payday and a working vacation in Vegas. The plot never gets into gear to make anything interesting happen, and the performances don't stand out. There's no sense of the exotic, no sense of adventure, no energy to it. I've never seen a Bond film feel so workaday and unambitious. Usually, if they go bad, they at least have fun doing it. I may think YOLT is a silly mess, but at least it was entertaining, it was fun, it had high production values and the sense that people tried to make a big, entertaining picture even if I don't like the direction they took it. This is just bad Bond any way you slice it. It's dull, it doesn't feel like anyone invested any passion in it on either side of the camera, and it's a sad (second) end to the Connery era.
From Russia with Love
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
You Only Live Twice
Diamonds Are Forever
I dig Diamonds Are Forever--so bat-guano insane that it renders Austin Powers irrelevant. If you're looking for a franchise-destroyer installment, go with this one, instead of the just-plain-depressing Moonraker or Die Another Day.
Question: How the heck did Connery age that considerably in the mere ten-year interim between Dr. No and DAF? Too many Jimmy Dean sausages?
Diamonds Are Forever is the first Moore movie and it... wait, it's a Connery film? Awkward.
Connery just doesn't care. He got the money and gave it to his little school for Scottish actors that don't want to mix up with the English, and he was done with the series.
Other than the classic elevator fight and some stunts in the Las Vegas car chase, this movie fits right with the Live And Let Dies and the Moonrakers. Jill St. John plays a supremeyl dull Bond girl. Bambi and Thumper raise the WTF levels to the infinite. And Wint and Kidd could have been pretty cool if they had avoided the slight homophobic undertones.
So, yeah, not a fan at all.
1. From Russia with Love
2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
4. Dr. No
5. You Only Live Twice
7. Diamonds Are Forever
This movie was so insane and bizarre that it makes the Moore era look tame. I don't know if I should commend it for that or deeply despise it.
Diamonds Are Forever is **** insane. It needs to be said.
I liked Wint and Kid. And...the only other thing I can remember is Connery outside of the hotel room walking around the building.
Not good at all.
1. From Russia With Love
2. Dr. No
3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. You Only Live Twice
7. Diamonds Are Forever.
I don't look forward to having to figure out where the Moore films figure into my list.
I like the theme-tune, but it's all down hill after that. Oh, and I hate that stupid "You've just killed James Bond!" gag - how is it that an American smuggler has heard of a British secret agent, and expects her colleague to also be familiar with him? This kind of meta-humour is not welcome.
I find some of the Moore efforts at least have a sort of goofy charm that makes them their own thing, but this... it's just a horrible parody of what had gone before. Utterly charmless.
For a secret agent, James Bond seems to be very widely known, at least to certain elements. Which makes you wonder why he uses his real name so often.
Given the uniform beating this is taking, I'll ask: is this the worst Bond film, or is there one even worse?
I think that depends on whether you prefer complete left-field badness or simple rote laziness in your terrible movies.