CBn readers review these two anniversary James Bond films.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
I didn’t dislike George Lazenby, but I didn’t think of him as a spectacular 007 either. Perhaps he could have matured in the role and I would have liked him better. At least he was a credible 007. Unfortunately, they dubbed over Lazenby’s voice with that of George Baker’s (Sir Hilary Bray) when Bond impersonated the Sable Basilisk of the College of Arms. When I first saw the film I was unaware of this dubbing and thought that Lazenby was a much better actor than he was.
I always felt that the casting of Diana Rigg as Tracy was a way for the producers to hedge their bets with George Lazenby. I wonder if they were thinking that they could get fans of Emma Peel and The Avengers into the theater who wouldn’t normally take a chance on the new Bond.
I also always felt that Telly Savalas, although a good actor, was miscast as Blofeld. He always seemed like a New Yorker to me and not have the Eastern European origins of Blofeld. His casting was also a surprise since Eric Pohlmann and Donald Pleasance made the character sound German. It was also surprising to see Blofeld lead the ski chase when Bond escaped from Piz Gloria. The previous film incarnations and the literary Blofeld would be too arrogant to lead his troops into battle. He seemed like more of the type to stay at headquarters and demand updates about the pursuit.
Ilse Steppat is perfectly cast as Irma Bunt and Gabriele Ferzetti’s body and David de Keyser’s voice make a memorable Draco.
Ski and bobsled chase co-ordinated and filmed by Willy Bogner is spectacular.
The France, Switzerland, and Portugal locations are also interesting.
Peter Hunt’s decision to make the film as close to the original novel as possible and Richard Maibaum’s adaption of the novel is very true to the book after the filmmakers departed from the original Fleming story in You Only Live Twice. It certainly was a gamble for the producers at the time since the story departed from the “James Bond formula”.
Raymond Benson claims in his book The James Bond Bedside Companion that the film would have been the best in the series if Sean Connery had played James Bond. But I don’t know if it would have been more of a success or “the best” with Sean Connery.
OHMSS is a mixed bag when you really get down to analyzing it. As much as Bond fans consider it one of the greatest – I consider it a good, but flawed, adaptation of Ian Fleming’s classic.
THE CAST: Perhaps this is the weakest link here. It could be said that all three of the leads aren’t that great. Lazenby is serviceable as Bond, but lacks any acting ability or direction (probably resulting from Hunt’s lack of confidence with directing actors), Rigg acts beautifully but lacks the amount of beauty necessarily for the quintessential Bond girl, and Savalas doesn’t fit the mold of what Blofeld should be.
THE SCRIPT: The script is, for the most part, one of the better ones. However, the first half could use some tightening as it drags a little bit – and also some things just don’t make sense (why do the thugs attack Bond on the beach again?!).
THE DIRECTION: Peter Hunt does a good job with directing a Bond film. Perhaps his weakness lies in giving direction to his actors (in all fairness, he had no previous experience with this), and it shows. Some of the action is edited poorly, but ultimately, it’s a very good job.
OTHER ELEMENTS: The score is wonderful, the production design is somewhat lacking in comparison to the earlier entries in the series, and the cinematography is fine.
OVERALL: The film is a wonderful great product that tells the story of Bond’s greatest love. If anything can be faulted here, it’s that the film is just too 60s for it’s own good. The Angels of Death are laughable, the brainwashing scenes terrible, and some various other things just don’t work. However, the action sequences are great and are among the best in the series – especially the final pursuit betwen Bond and Blofeld. 8/10
I think that OHMSS is one of the best Bond films, however, there are a few flaws holding it back.
- The cinematography is great, but, the style of the film seems outdated and tacky (The purple, the ruffled shirts, Tracy’s ski outfit…) I also didn’t like the quick-cut action sequences. I would have preferred to have just seen the fights straight-on.
- Telly Savalas didn’t really do it for me as Blofeld. Even though he’s a great actor, he was truly mis-cast. He does seem like a gangster type, and is more hands-on than all of the other Blofelds. For me, Vincent Price would have made a great Blofeld in this film, provided a few changes. Also, Blofeld throwing down his cat and pursuing Bond on ski’s seems too un-villain like, for any Bond film. Why would Blofeld stoop so low.
- George Lazenby seems too young for the role, considering those around him. Moneypenny is clearly older than he is. He also can’t act very well in the first half. That comment about the caviar in his Tracy’s hotel room is so dry, that it makes me want to scream. In the second half though, he really picks up, and starts to form his own character, and not to to do a “by the book” Bond.
- Blofeld’s plot is rather mundane. A pardon and Title? This is Ernst Blofeld here! Even though he’s clearly insane, why would he want a title, of all things, if he was one of the worlds most wanted criminals. It’s not like he’d be making any speeches, or cutting ribbons in public any time soon. He may be a psychotic, but he’s certainly a genius. “The distance between genius and insanity, is measured only by success.”
Other than that, the film is great, one of my favorites to watch on a rainy day.
The Man with the Golden Gun
I think its low ranking deals a lot with it departs a lot from the formula of the time. There are no armies clashing at the end or a huge objective such as stolen nuclear weapons or the threat of WWWIII. Just Bond against a super villain who is an unseen threat for a lot of the film.
In this way, it probably turned some of the audience off when it was released. And stacked against the other larger-than-life Moore films in the series, it seems out of place for casual fans of the series.
It is neglected in a lot of fan circles mainly because of the humor. I have some fan newsletters from around the time of its release and TMWTGG was disliked intensely because of the humor, Moore and Goodnight.
And please give me some good reasons, kazoos aside, of why this Barry score is so disliked so much. I think its among his strongest, much more interesting than AVTAK, which I feel is overrated. It has a lot of local flavor and appropriate scoring to coordinate with the action onscreen.
The movie is a flawed gem – I have never found it embarrassing or boring – always fun and has an excellent pace. Moore and Lee scenes are absolutely wonderful, from the time they meet at the kickboxing match, to the dinner table eating fried mushrooms.
I always found Goodnight cute, and Ekland is a terrific looking blonde – Moore really reacts well to her cutesy lines. Maud is also good looking in her dinner attire.
The car chase is one of the best ever and dare I say that I love the car twist in the air – and I don’t mind hearing he slide whistle – it’s great!
And you’re right – Bond seems very dangerous throughout the movie. He loses this danger a little in MR – but then picks it up again in FYEO.
TMWTGG is a wonderful entry in the series.
And as for Pepper – I am not sure why some hate him? I found him funny, and I couldn’t stop laughing when he’s talking to the police about Kissinger. I found it funny that this guy and his wife would travel to the Far East.
Did I mention that I like the song title as well?
I like the film, but it’s not as good as most of the others. The most notable thing it lacks are villains. There’s only Scaramanga it seems, and you can hardly count Maud Adams (I forget the character name), Nick-Nack, or Hai Fat as posing much of a threat. Compare this situation with the previous Bond film, LALD, where you had Mr. Big, Whisper, Tee-hee, Baron Samedi, and Adams.
The Bond women in TMWTGG are fine to look at, but Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight can all too often become annoying. It’s hard to imagine she could actually be a real CIA agent. I wish the producers would have toned her character down a bit. Same goes for Sheriff Pepper. I’ve no objection to him being in the film, but his voice his way too screechy at too many points. Tone it down a touch.
My favourite bit in the film is when Bond escapes from Hai Fat’s karate school, but how ridiculous is it to then watch two teenage girls beat up an entire army of ninja’s? Then, to add insult to injury, they and their uncle, having initially driven all the way to that school to rescue Bond, then drive off without him rather than wait an extra few seconds for him to open the backseat door.