Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The 007 Project: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

 


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The head of the Corsican mob asks Bond to woo the mob head's daughter, Tracy, and Bond and Tracy fall in love. Meanwhile, Bond tracks down a lead on Blofeld in Switzerland, and he gets into Blofeld's compound by pretending to be a genealogist. After Blofeld discovers his true identity, Bond escapes and meets up with Tracy, and the pair are hunted by Blofeld's men.  

Memorable Quote:
This never happened to the other fellow.  ~Bond

Highlight:
The thrilling nighttime ski scene where Bond is racing down the mountain toward the town with Blofeld's men in hot pursuit, all to the tune of the great OHMSS theme song.

Lowlight:
The relationship and chemistry between Bond and Tracy is lacking. For starters, there's no context for the opening where he rescues her in the ocean -- why is she trying to drown herself, why is he there, how does he know who she is, and why is he trying to save her? With their casino/hotel encounter, I'm still trying to determine how they know each other and what their motives are, and their rapport at the bullfight turns from frosty to lovey-dovey at the drop of a hat. The lack of chemistry might be partly due to the tension between the actors or by Lazenby's lack of acting experience, but nevertheless the script could have been better in that regard. 

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Having secured a suit ordered but uncollected by Sir Sean Connery and getting a Rolex and haircut like him, George Lazenby talked his way into meeting producer Albert R. Broccoli, producer Harry Saltzman, and director Peter R. Hunt. After bluffing his way through the meeting and falsely claiming he had wide acting credits, he secured a screentest. Lazenby then confessed to Hunt that he had made it all up and that he wasn't an actor. Hunt laughed and told him, "You just strolled in here and managed to fool two of the most ruthless bastards in the business. You're an actor."

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The whole George Lazenby story is really interesting, and if you want to learn more about him, I recommend the movie Becoming Bond, which is like a documentary with reenactments. The cliff notes version is that Lazenby was a model and had no acting experience whatsoever (other than commercials) before landing the coveted role of 007. He caught the eye of the producers with his looks, physicality, and arrogance. After making the movie, he turned down a deal for multiple Bond movies and a huge payday because it wasn't what he wanted. His performance in this movie is ok but not great -- he doesn't have the "it" factor, and his acting often seems clunky (not surprising since this was his first movie). I found this clip of him in Gettsyburg where his acting seems quite good, so it's possible that he might have grown into the role. And does his story mean that despite my total lack of acting experience, my dream of playing Bond is still alive?!
  • The fight scene in the beginning seems ahead of its time with the rapid camera cuts. 
  • 21:15 mark - the janitor is whistling the Goldfinger theme. 
  • 28:55 - fun scene at Bond's desk where he takes out artifacts from previous movies like Honey Ryder's knife and Grant's watch. 
  • 46:07 - a mention of Bond's family motto, "The World is Not Enough."
  • Lazenby's voice was dubbed when doing the impersonation of Hilary Bray, which makes me wonder what the point of Bond disguising his voice is if he's not disguising his appearance.  
  • 49:57 - Bond's compatriot is a bit obvious following behind on the deserted road in his beetle bug. 
  • It doesn't follow that Blofeld wouldn't recognize Bond considering they met in You Only Live Twice, and so it would have made sense for Bond to have a disguise. Also, it's surprising that an international criminal mastermind cares about getting a title certified by a genealogist. 
  • Telly Savalas (aka Kojak) is a great actor and villain -- much better than the Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.
  • 1:18:30 - this part startled the hell out of me where Irma Bunt surprised Bond in Ruby's bed. 
  • 1:23:14 - weird for Blofeld to lock up Bond in the big room with all the gears. 
  • Switzerland is one of the stars of the movie -- it looks like such a happy, Christmas-card kind of place, the tons of SPECTRE goons notwithstanding.
  • 1:33:58 - love Blofeld throwing the cat down on the desk after getting the call that Bond has escaped. 
  • A little too convenient that Tracy is ice skating and finds Bond so easily when he's trying to hide in the crowd. 
  • 1:53:56 - what a great moment where Bond and Tracy are skiing to the sound of happy music and then it suddenly turns to the ominous main theme.  
  • 2:05:49 - risky move by Draco's men shooting through the windows considering that Tracy could have been shot (she hits the deck along with Blofeld). 
  • Great acting from Lois Maxwell in the wedding scene -- she captures the bittersweetness of the moment perfectly. 
  • The ending is one of the most poignant scenes in any Bond movie. 

Final Analysis:
I didn't remember this movie one bit, and I have to say it's really good. There's a sense of realism and grittiness, in part due to the lack of gadgets, and the Bond/Tracy relationship gives the movie some depth that most Bond movies don't have. The Swiss locale is fantastic, the theme song is memorable, and there are great performances by Telly Savalas, Diana Rigg, and Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt). And the film is able to survive a mediocre performance from Lazenby, who is at least likable; in fact, his likability is notable given that the producers were impressed by his arrogance in the audition process, and yet he doesn't come across as overly arrogant. Ranking this as my #1 movie thus far. 

1 comment:

  1. I've always been curious about this movie but never did see it as it's never readily available in Bond marathons and was never broadcast on ABC in the 80s and 90s and the others in the franchise were. I've read very mixed reviews of it over the years, with some saying it was one of the best of the franchise and others not being able to get past the ho-hum performance of Lazenby. I definitely need to give it a look sometime. Crazy story of Lazenby conning his way into the job yet still being offered the opportunity to do more. Crazier yet that he turned down the offer to be James Bond beyond one movie! The only other show or film I've seen Lazenby in was a stint on the late 90s series "The Pretender", itself something of a "MacGyver" stepchild.

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