Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The James Bond movie you probably never saw

In the midst of last months' James Bond marathon I caught ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. I don't think I've seen it since it first came out... in 1969. It’s pretty much the forgotten Bond film because it was the only one that starred George Lazenby. He had the misfortune of replacing Sean Connery and for good measure, was not an accomplished actor. He was more of a male model.

At the time he was skewered by the critics and public, and the movie essentially became the Fredo of the series.

But watching it again in retrospect, I have to say it was not that bad. In fact, it was way better than a lot of the later idiotic MOONRAKER and later Bond films. In one, Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist for Crissakes!

Lazenby was not very good, and it was hard for me to really take him seriously since he looked like a more handsome Soupy Sales, but he sure wasn’t much worse than Timothy Dalton. He tried to have fun with the role, and so what if for one movie James Bond was a little goofy?

But the plot was pretty good. It stayed very true to Ian Fleming’s book and was a lot more realistic than later 007 adventures where he’s on the moon or taking Denise Richards seriously.

Telly Savalas supplied the necessary panache required for a Bond super villain. And also the necessary stupidity to tell Bond his world domination plan and save killing him for later instead of just putting a bullet in his head and going back to stroking his cat.

The Bond Girl was leggy Diana Rigg. And anyone who grew up watching THE AVENGERS in the ‘60s was already madly in love with her.   So this perpetual adolescent was way on board in this most-crucial category. 

The film also featured that great John Barry score with all those familiar kick-ass guitar instrumentals. (Side note: Why the producers of HAWAII 5-0 don’t play that damn theme every time there’s so much as someone walking fast I do not know. That song is the ONLY reason to watch that show!)

But the best thing about ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE was that I hadn’t seen it in so long. I’ve probably seen every other Bond movie at least twice. Don’t you notice that when you come across a Bond marathon you always recognize the movie? You don’t always remember which one it is – you go “Oh yeah, the stupid Egypt one” or “the stupid Swiss Chalet” one -- but you watch the action sequence that you’ve seen already nine times. You try not to think how old that Bond girl is today, and you just resign yourself to whoever Bond is at that moment even if it’s not your favorite. (And by the way, although most people claim Sean Connery is their fave, there are a lot of folks who grew up on Roger Moore and prefer his interpretation. I can’t argue with that.) But it was great fun to watch sequences I hadn’t seen in decades. Even though some of the shots were adventures in bad blue screen -- the action, the James Bond theme, and the twenty guys after 007 all in matching uniforms shooting and missing at least 20,000 times (you’d think super villains could afford better marksmen… I mean, how much must those secret hilltop high-tech compounds that commision cost? Explosives alone have to be in the tens of thousands.) it still adds up to a real adrenaline jolt.

And then there’s the ending. I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen it or read the book, but suffice it to say this movie does not have your typical Bond in a raft with Carey Lowell wrap-up.

I’m sure there will be another Bond marathon coming this Christmas. Because ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE stars George Lazenby it’s usually buried in the middle of night. But tape it. You might be pleasantly surprised. And you can fast-forward through the miles and miles of commercials. Of all the gadgets that Q has invented, nothing comes close to the DVR.

68 comments:

Jason Crane | thejazzsession.com said...

Hands down my favorite Bond film.

Also, I've been reading this site for a looooong time without ever commenting, so here 'tis:

I love the blog!

Take care, Ken.

Jason

Bill White said...

I never minded George Lazenby that much, but if Sean Connery had appeared in this film, I'm sure it would be ranked as one of the best Bond films of all time.

I must be the only person on Earth who likes Timothy Dalton as James Bond. I think LICENSE TO KILL is one of the better films of the later Bond series. I know, kinda like being the least-smelly fart...

Phillip B said...

Diana Rigg is often named the "best" Bond girl based on this film - and because of Lazenby she is given more to do than the average eye candy role.

Still a wonderful woman to watch in motion after more than 40 years....

Rob Poodiack said...

I still haven't seen this one although I've read enough about it to know that the ending is referred to in a few Bond films down the road.

I like Timothy Dalton's Bond as well, but he had no humor at all. I thought the Pierce Brosnan ones were pretty good, too, even the Denise Richards one.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I'm pretty sure my cousins still have the old VHS copy of this particular Bond film, stored in a basement.

I'd give it a try, if I still had a VHS player. Thank heaven for DVD and the internet.

Pat Reeder said...

I love Diana Rigg. As a little kid, seeing her in this movie and "The Avengers" made me think that maybe girls would turn out to be worth associating with someday. I also liked Timothy Dalton (not in that way, of course). I thought his Bond movies were a welcome return to a grittier, more realistic style after the gross cartoonishness of the Roger Moore years (I grew up on Moore, but he's definitely my least favorite Bond. I prefer Peter Sellers in "Casino Royale" to him, although "Live And Let Die" was okay). And the Pierce Brosnan ones started out strong but soon devolved into interchangeable stunt sequences and forgettable villains, so much so that I can't even recall a specific one even when I happen across it on TV.

Anthony Strand said...

I've only ever seen one Bond movie, which was Dr. No, but this is one of the ones I always thought sounded kind of interesting.

Rinaldo said...

This is seriously my favorite of all the Bond films, and has been since it came out.

It has the best villain (Telly Savalas), the best "Bond girl" (Diana Rigg), 3 or 4 world-class chase scenes, and lots of good suspense. With all that going for it, it really doesn't matter much that Lazenby isn't very interesting. It's a great piece of entertainment.

peterj said...

Looking at IMDb, it seems Lazenby made a mini-career of playing "not James Bond". I remember a funny episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" in the late '80s where the gag was that every time he said his character's last name a noise (gunshot, telephone, train whistle, etc.) would drown him out.

Brian Phillips said...

This was one of those movies that my parents bought the soundtrack to, so I heard that many times before actually seeing the movie.

According to Danny Peary in Cult Movies 2, the Broccolis (guess what vegetable their family introduced to the U.S.?) and Connery parted ways and they said they could make a Bond film with anyone-but-Connery and it would still be a hit. Having hired Lazenby, they upped the ante in many other aspects of this film, so this Bond holds its own quite nicely.

Lazenby, thought that this was going to make his career and it didn't. My brother was appreciative of his fighting skills, but Hollywood wasn't, so he and his ego were essentially shown the door.

Brian said...

Thanks for the tip Ken. Its also on Netflix streaming.

Exick said...

"Tape it?" Oh, Ken, you're such an adorable old fuddy duddy.

Ref said...

I'm sort of handicapped in that I read the books first. I liked Connery. I really like Daniel Craig's take on the character.

Eric said...

I think once Daniel Craig is done with the character, they should do a set of period-piece Bonds. Cold war setting, equal parts high-stakes action and fun and frivolity, Don Draper with an accent, a gun, and a license to kill.

Marco said...

OHMSS is definitly underrated since it has some just awesome ski stunts any many more (Diana Rigg being just one of the treats of this movie). In Germany, the same voice actor who dubbed for Connery also dubbed Lazenby which improves his performance in this movie in my opinion. Compared it to the original audio several times (when I watched the movie while in the US or UK) and he loses a lot of this unwanted goofiness due to the good voice actor.

Neil D said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one here who likes Timothy Dalton. I thought he brought an edge and intensity to the role that none of the others had (and wouldn't again until Daniel Craig). More than any of the others, he seemed like a guy that would kill you without a moment's hesitation if he thought he needed to. Now the movies themselves weren't that great, but I always felt that was in spite of Dalton rather than because of him.

R said...

Agree with the chap who said if this had starred Connery it'd be regarded as the best Bond film. I rather enjoy the Daniel Craig as Bond, although Casino Royale was a much better film than Quantum of Solace.

Before they rebooted the franchise, I thought a great idea for the ultimate Bond film would be to reveal that James Bond is the Dread Pirate Roberts of spies. That the reason we saw Sean Connery, Lazenby, Moore, et al., was not that they changed actors, but that the British Secret Service used the name James Bond and his designation of 007 much as the Dread Pirates Roberts used theirs. Some global crisis would arise and M would need to call together all the generations of Bonds to solve it. But the reboot (and the ever-advancing age of the principals) has scotched the idea.

WV: Beraph - having had all of one's angels taken from them.

Tim Dunleavy said...

OHMSS ran at a revival house in my area not long ago, and the local arts weekly gave it a two-sentence review: "Only one thing prevents this from being the best James Bond movie ever. See if you can guess what that is."

Blaze said...

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" wasn't bad, and I won't heap all the blame on Lazenby at all. There was just a lazy, flacid quality to it. Either the director and crew were second string quality, or first stringers just coasting.

In the same way, I don't put all the blame on Roger Moore. Anyone who watched "The Saint" knows he has the Bond chops. But no actor could make some of those cartoon plots succeed.

In point of fact, all the Bond actors were solid casting choices, with George having the weakest acting resume. But no actor can cut an impressive figure if forced to swim thru a pool of crap.

Dan Tedson said...

This entire review applies to On Her Majesty's Secret Cervix too. Just replace George Lazenby with Ron Jeremy, Diana Rigg with a tatted midgette, fire hose everyone with whiskey and regret, keep "Shaken not stirred," forty minutes in the oven and you're done.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those people that is able to find at least one I enjoy by each Bond actor, simply because there are so many Bond movies. And I've always liked the Dalton ones.

That being said, OHMSS is simply a great movie; some of the photography in the Alps is breathtaking. And for a guy with ZERO acting experience at the time, Lazenby is pretty darn good.

But: to echo what Bill White said, if Connery had been in it, it could've been the best of the bunch. Certainly a better swan song for him than You Only Live Twice or Diamonds Are Forever (the "unofficial" Never Say Never Again notwithstanding).

Matt D said...

Whenever I come across a hard core Bond fan, they insist this is among the best of the lot. Must revisit.

Ron said...

I'd guess the Bond movie you probably never saw was the 1967 Val Guest version of Casino Royale starring Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles ad nauseum. This film resulted in a long running copyright dispute over Casino Royale rights between Sony & MGM.

scooter said...

It's my second favourite Bond, after Goldfinger, the template on which so many of the following movies were built. Agreed that if Connery were in it, it'd be judged the best, although I like Lazenby, and he was really in a no-win situation.

Peter Hunt's shooting and editing are terrific; as is so often the case, you have to see the movie widescreen to really appreciate it. Chopped for TV it's a different, more flaccid beast. And Maurice Binder's "sands of time" credits use the Brittania iconography in a kinky yet official way.

Sammy B said...

I feel the need to chime in w/ my support of Timothy Dalton as well. He played him way more ruthless & cold than either Moore or Brosnan...closer to Daniel Craig for sure. I've heard Living Daylights was initially intended for Moore, so some of that cheeky-ness remains. License to Kill was tailored to Dalton and certainly benefits from that.

A shame that UA was in such a mess during that time period or we might have been able to get a 3rd Dalton film.

Note: My favorite bond movie remains "Live and Let Die"...had some of the 1970s cheese been kept out of his later movies (and he quit before A View to a Kill) I think Moore would have more fans.

Max Clarke said...

Not my favorite Bond -Thunderball, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice- but OHMSS is in the second tier.

But they almost ruined the movie in the first scene, after Bond pulls Diana Rigg from the water. Lazenby looks right at the camera and says, "This never happened to the other fellow." Let's see, broke the fourth wall, check. Made a reference to the previous actor, check.

The soundtrack John Barry produced for OHMSS was quite good, I have "Ski Chase" on my iPod. Well, that silly song "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?" isn't Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger," but I think it was background music.

The ski chases were excellent, the sunrise helicopter attack on Blofeld's fortress was well-done, and the end of the film was surprising for a 007 movie.

It was popular to poke fun at Lazenby, but I think time has been kind to the movie. The germ warfare plot is more relevant than in 1969, also.

And Diana Rigg. Very much in the top tier, along with Honor Blackman from Goldfinger.

Gary Mugford said...

Add me to the list of OHMSS fans, enjoyed the most for the obvious reasons; Rigg, scenery, action, the ending that defines the rest as not enough, Rigg... (The resplendent Ms. Diana deserves double billing to all the youn'uns who think Denise Richards is/was hot). Gave the complete set (minus the then most recent one) of the Bond films to my brother last Christmas. The only one I stayed and watched throughout was OHMSS. ALL of them have their clunker moments. Enjoying the good, moments makes this movie an entertaining experience that needs to be revisited if you haven't seen it (ever, or) in a while.

Ken Misch said...

Timothy Dalton rocked as James Bond. He was a more rugged Bond, in the Connery tradition. That Remington Steele guy? Whatever.

Jake Mabe said...

I am so glad to see somebody stand up for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." It has long been my favorite Bond film, for all the reasons you and the others have said -- Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Diana Rigg, the Swiss Alps, Diana Rigg, a believable plot (for once), a fantastic John Barry score, that haunting Louis Armstrong song, and Diana Rigg.

I think Lazenby could have grown into the role given time. It's too bad that didn't work out.

This film is an easily-dismissed gem and the book on which it is based is Fleming's best.

I used to think Timothy Dalton was total crap until I saw the later Brosnan Bond films and "Quantum of Solace," which was a disappointing follow up to the fantastic Daniel Craig version of "Casino Royale." Suddenly, "The Living Daylights" and "Licence to Kill" didn't look so badly in the rear-view mirror.

Stuman714 in Indy said...

I set through OHMSS twice when it was released right before Christmas that year, and loved it. I also cried at the end!

Thanks for mentioning one of my childhood favs (and crushes!)

Mike 'Stu' Stuhler
Indianapolis

Kevin Jq said...

I recently watched To Live and Let Die, I had literally never seen it, even as a kid, and holy shit, that was some bad Bond. I agree with others though, awesome 70's style, and some weird New Orleans jazz funeral/murders, dark even for a Bond film.

I saw Never Say Never a few months ago, I had remembered it as a return to form for Connery, but it really did suck.

Diamonds Are Forever is still my favorite.

Nelly Wilson said...

I believe the producers were quite happy with George and thought he would grow into the role, so they offered him a seven movie contract, he turned it down, had Connery done it his growing laziness and indifference would have dragged it down as happened in the following movie. I also read that originally Oliver Reed was to replace Connery but the producers chickened out at the last moment because of concerns over Reeds public image, Reeds greatest career regret apparently, I think he would have been an awesome Bond.

Loosehead said...

"This never happened to the other fellow." got a HUGE laugh in the cinema when my dad took me to see this. Acknowledges that its a different actor, acknowledges that he isn't Sean Connery, very clever.

So what order do we put our Bonds in? Not the movies, but the Bond - if we could rank the actors in the order of who, in his prime, captured the character best. I'll start:
Daniel Craig
Pierce Brosnan
Timothy Dalton
Sean Canary
George Lazenby
Roger Moore

How said...

I thought On Her Majesty's Secret Service was one of the better Bond films.

The new Hawaii 5-0 has at least one thing besides a great tune--Grace Park. The old one was great though. Jack Lord was cool, bad-ass. The new guy (don't know who he is) doesn't even come close. Perhaps the show was timed right for the 70's and just doesn't work for the 2010s.

Glen Dowen said...

I Know someone who saw Lazenby at a park recently with his very young child, says he looked great, and most likely to win a fight out of all the Bonds.

Jim said...

I guess the number of responses so far suggests that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service isn't quite as obscure as all that. So if really want a Bond film that no-one has heard of you have to look a bit further afield and be a bit sneaky about it.

For some reason that I don't know, George Lazenby resigned as Bond after OHMSS. And instead of running after him, begging him to come back, the producers just said OK and went looking for a new name. The person they picked was American actor John Gavin who had recently appeared as American secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, aka OSS 117 in the French film "OSS 117 Murder for Sale". Just on the strength of that film he actually signed a contract with Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli to appear in Diamonds Are Forever. But then the top bods at UA decided that what they really wanted, and at any price, was to have Connery back. And in the end they got their way, and Gavin was left paid up in full for nothing. So if you want to see what might have been, an almost Bond movie with an almost Bond then you have to track down a copy of "OSS 117 Murder for Sale".

And if the name OSS 117 sounds maybe a little familiar, that's because the French brought it back to life a couple of years ago, with the same group of people who have just made "The Artist" a modern silent film. Both the recent films are well worth the trouble of tracking down, because they are everything that e.g. the recent Get Smart wasn't. Watch this collection of split screen scenes to see that technique used for great story telling, not just pointless playing with effects.

D. McEwan said...

On Her Majesty's Secret Service has looooong been one of my favorite Bond films. I don't have to record it as I have a nice DVD of it, as well as an old-but-letterboxed VHS copy. (Which replaced my even older, non-letterboxed VHS of it , which went into the trash. Owning this film has long been a priority.)

First off, no question, Best Bond Girl Ever! Sure she was called "Tracy," and she was unhappy and suicidal until Bond gave her an orgasm, but still, we all knew she was Emma Peel. Only Mrs. Peel could become Mrs. Bond.

Secondly, the book was my favorite of the entire series of novels, all of which I read between the ages of 13 and 16, the perfect ages for them. And they actually shot the book fairly closely. In fact, it's the last Bond film to actually be an adaptation of its title story until the Daniel Craig Casino Royale

Thirdly, I was all right with Lazenby. No, he was no Connery, but he is VASTLY preferable to the atrocious Roger Moore. (And count me among those who liked Timothy Dalton's Bond, especially License to Kill which I also have on DVD. And which was also an almost believable one. No world domination through fem-bots, just a nasty Central American drug runner.)

Notice that Q and the gadgets take a back seat. There are none. Q shows off his "radioactive lint" which is not used, in the opening scene, and is never heard from again. No gadgets.

Joanna Lumley!!!! Okay, she only has one line, when she thinks Bond is gay (Hard to be more wrong), but still, Joanna Lumley!

Then there are the action scenes. The movie was the first ever directed by the man who had edited all the previous Bond films. Pauline Kael, hardly a big Bond fan, erupted with joy over this movie for the way the action scenes were shot and edited, like nothing before, like everything since.

Also notice this rare trait, pretty much the only Bond film besides Dr. No with no title song. The credits run over an instrumental piece, and later, Louie Armstrong (By himself, another reason to love this movie, Louie Armstrong!) sings We Have All The Time in the World over the Bond-finally-falls-in-love sequence. "We have all the time in the world" was the song title, the last line of dialogue in the movie, the last line of the novel, and the title of the last chapter of the novel.

And contrary to the common belief, no one, not even the studio, blamed Lazenby for the film's poor showing. (He wasn't fired. He quit on what he now admits was incredibly bad career advice) The ending, identical to the novel's, and essential to motivate the following story, was always blamed for the box office drop.

It's better than any Roger Moore Bond film.

D. McEwan said...

Correction: I said that Q is not heard from again after the opening scene in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This, of course, is an error on my part. He re-appears in the final scene, when Bond tells him: "This time, I have the gadget," which was pretty much the film's entire approach. The director just HATED the gadgets, and ruthlessly did away with them. (But they're coming back. There will be a new Q in the Bond film currently shooting.)

A Helpful Citizen said...

I think you'll find that OHMSS actually enjoys an excellent reputation among hardcore Bond enthusiasts; it's the casual fan who remembers it as a punchline, if at all. Similarly, most of those same Bond diehards (myself included) likewise have plenty of time for the Dalton era Bonds, for one simple reason: The orphan Bonds tend to have more of the whiff of Fleming about them than the big, daft blockbuster ones. They're still daft, mind you, in the way that all Fleming spy fantasies are (John Le Carre he wasn't), but there is a tougher quality about them, a mean streak, and more latent intelligence, even if they do compromise it from time to time. "Licence To Kill", for example, may have had a bit of an 80s also-ran drug baron villain (admittedly well played by Robert Davi), and that inexcusably weird Wayne Newton sidebar, but in most other respects it is miles better than the Brosnan era shite that followed. Fleming's Bond wasn't happy about killing, but that didn't stop him from choosing it over simply incapacitating someone most of the time. Dalton's Bond had that same cold, bitter quality that simply doesn't exist in most of the smirking, wanker-in-a-tux movie versions.

Where I'll part company with other Bond fans is in saying that I actually don't think that OHMSS was simply one Sean Connery away from being the best in the series. I think it already *is* the best in the series, and furthermore, that Connery was starting to wear out his welcome by that point. Yes, he was the definitive screen Bond, but as we saw just two years later in the abysmal "Diamonds Are Forever", he was too tired and too bored with Bond to have invested OHMSS with what he would have brought to it in, say, 1965. He also would have looked kind of ridiculous battling it out atop Piz Gloria (see also "Diamonds Are Forever"), whereas George Lazenby brought a real physicality to it, as he did all of the other fight scenes. Yes, Connery would have excelled opposite Diana Rigg, but credit where it's due: Lazenby played the crucial last scene absolutely beautifully. If there are scattered amateurish moments throughout his performance, there certainly aren't in that last scene. Had Lazenby been given as many chances to grow into the role as Roger Moore had, I have little doubt that he would have developed into a truly outstanding Bond (also worth noting is that, although he certainly didn't look it, he was only twenty-nine when he did OHMSS. Roger Moore, by contrast, was forty-five when he did his FIRST Bond, "Live And Let Die"). As it is, I think he acquitted himself very well in the role, particularly for a rank novice. A damned sight better than that arseclown Moore, certainly...

In other news, Peter Hunt should have been given a shot at directing more Bonds. He's miles better than Guy Hamilton, or his apprentice, John Glen. And Telly Savalas is the best of the Blofelds---not as iconic as the weaselly Donald Pleasance, but far more menacing. Pleasance and Charles Gray played Blofeld as a hapless ponce. Savalas played him as kind of a badass with poncy affectations. I mean, could you imagine Donald Pleasance skiing down a mountain after Bond, or beating his ass on a bobsled traveling at about seventy miles an hour? Me neither.

DJ said...

I also thought Dalton was a very good Bond; he brought the "hard man" aspect of the character back after a very long time.

In a sense, the best thing for Brosnan was that the producers of Remington Steele held him to his contract. If he'd had taken the role when first offered, he would have been a bit too pretty-boy in looks and callow in demeanor. Those extra years he waited served him well.

gottacook said...

Oddly enough, this was my first James Bond movie in a theater (or on TV for that matter), age 11 or 12. It wasn't until 15 or 20 years later that I discovered the Diana Rigg years of The Avengers on my local PBS station - unfortunately followed by those final, rather wretched Linda Thorson years.

D. McEwan: "Only Mrs. Peel could become Mrs. Bond." Absolutely, yes indeed, a most astute observation.

Finally, this topic gives me the chance to ask: Does anyone here know the Sol Weinstein "Israel Bond" novels, such as Matzohball and Loxfinger? Those are the two we had around the house when they were new in the 1960s, and I still have them somewhere.

Please Don't Eat Me said...

"I hope there's a tinge of disgrace about me. Hopefully, there's one good scandal left in me yet." ~ Diana Rigg

Hard to believe Diana Rigg will be 74 years old soon.

D. McEwan said...

A Helpful Citizen, I have to agree with pretty much every word of your on-target tirade. I would only take small issue with two of your points:

1. I found the Wayne Newton sidebar excusably weird, and highly amusing.

2. Charles Gray is my favorite Blofeld. I can't really defend him in the role, but I enjoyed his Blofeld most, though the whole of Diamonds Are forever pretty much blows.

I do wish that they had filmed You Only Live Tice as written by Fleming, and after OHMSS instead of before. The book is just do damnedly, hilariously weird.

The real weirdness Fleming sometimes gave out are missed in the movies. I still want Dr. No's giant squid, which blew my 13 year old head when I first read it, a week after seeing the then-just-released movie of Dr. No. Knowing nothing about film financing then, I was just outraged that the movie had ommitted that fantastic, bizarre scene where Bond defeats a giant squid using just a long wire. Connery just jumps out of a ventilation shaft.

I saw Dr. No when it opened, the weekend I turned 13. I think puberty hit me AS I watched the movie. I came out with a lower voice, blue balls from the 100 minute erection I'd had watching the film, and a deep desire to be as cool as Bond was.

I failed to ever be as cool as Bond was, but by the time From Russia With Love came out, I'd read every Bond book then in print.

Phillip B said...

Just as a point of information, Diana Rigg was born in 1938 - the same year as Natalie Wood...

Nelly Wilson said...

Apart from Oliver Reed and John Gavin, other almost Bonds include Clint Eastwood who supposedly turned it down, James Brolin and Michael Billington, who was like a reserve Bond for a dozen years, closest he got was as the Russian Bond in the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me. Keep an eye out for Angela Scoular in OHMSS, bond girl with short blonde curly hair who beds Bond, very sadly ended her life horrendously in april, she also played Buttercup, the lovely lass in the bath tub with David Niven in Casino Royale.

cshel said...

I've never been a James Bond fan. I've only seen a couple of the movies. But awhile back I came across one on TV with Sean Connery, and I wish I could remember the name of it. Talk about how fashion has changed since that era. There was a freakin' hilarious scene where Connery is walking around a hotel swimming pool wearing a pastel, terry cloth, hot pants onesie. I nearly died laughing as he still attempted to exude the manly Bond cool, even though he was dressed in something a two-year-old little girl would wear. All you Bond fans, keep your eyes open for that one. It's quite a treat. : )

GMJ said...

From personal experience, I disagree with the title. I do remember having a crush on Diana Rigg when she was Emma Peel on The Avengers. In addition, I do remember going to the movie theater with one of my parents to watch On Her Majesty's Secret Service at the very impressionable age of seven!

It's been several decades since I watch the movie in its entirety and the movie's climax still crushes me.

On another matter, in spite of Lazenby's underrated job as Bond, Sean Connery will always be 007. (To expand on that thought, Roger Moore will always be The Saint and Pierce Brosnan will always be Remington Steele!)

chrome letters said...

George Lazenby had a burden up his shoulders to fill in Sean Connery's place ! his misfortune indeed :D !I mean Connery was and is the best bond .Must say Diana Rigg made a perfect bond girl though.

cadavra said...

I have little to add--McEwan pretty much said it all--but it should be noted that the main title theme still resonates today; in fact, Pixar used it to score the first teaser for THE INCREDIBLES:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU6Djgf0gNo&feature=related

WV: "cappin"--What a sailor on novocaine calls his skipper.

EnvyYou said...

I agree: MAJESTY'S is better than its rep. The haunting usage of Louis Armstrong's "We've got all the time in the world" (written for this film) is a final chord that sustains long after the stupidities of the film are forgotten. In the final scene even Lazenby is convincing. Both Dalton Bonds were awful (in VIEW he listens to a nagging cellist - AND the villain gets *gasp* ARRESTED...), and MOONRAKER, EYES, as well as - yes, taunt me for the following - TWICE are low points.

AntoBlueberry said...

I think this is Chris Nolan's favorite Bond flick and one of the best to me. You can see mirrors of the chase scene in the snow in Inception. anyway i don't think they used blue screen at the time, probably back projections.

Barry Traylor said...

The only actor I can recall seeing as bad as George Lazenby was a guy by the name of Klinton Spilsbury in The Legend of the Lone Ranger back in 1981.

Paul Duca said...

I surmise that one of the issues that may have resulted in the Connery to Lazenby switch relates to CASINO ROYALE. The performance rights to the first title in the book series were sold in the U.S., and resulted in an adaptation for the TV anthology series CLIMAX in 1954. (If anyone asks, the FIRST Bond was the Americanized version in this, played by Barry Nelson).
Columbia Pictures got those rights and that's how the original CASINO ROYALE was made.

Because of its box-office success, when YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE came out a few months later in 1967, it became the first (true) Bond movie to earn less than the one before it--and it wasn't until MOONRAKER that one outgrossed the previous leader, THUNDERBALL (whether it was real dollar or adjusted for inflation figures I don't know)

That issue certainly had to be a conflict between the star and the producer.


P.S. Broccoli proffered an offer to Peter Lawford in the late 1950's to play Bond on the big screen, which he rejected.

Tony said...

I'd just like to add that OHMSS is simply a great film. It would succeed as a film even if the main character wasn't called "James Bond". The (at the time I assume unique)fast editing racks the excitement level up way past 11.

And, yes, Timothy Dalton is very much unjustly maligned. Until Daniel Craig, he was the only actor who played him closest to the Bond of Fleming's books.

gottacook said...

Paul Duca - Was the 1967 Casino Royale indeed a big hit? It's hard to imagine, having tried to watch it and imagining being stuck in a theater having to absorb the whole thing in sequence (I can only take about 10 minutes at a time, this despite both the Casino Royale Theme and "The Look of Love" being among my favorite Bacharach compositions).

Also, it must have been expensive to produce: five directors, a few pricey actors, location shooting, etc. So I would appreciate documentation on its box-office success - although I'm prepared to learn that it really was what the hippie-wannabe audiences of 1967 wanted.

Kirk said...

The best thing about the 1967 Casino Royale was Woody Allen, who is seen briefly at the beginning, and then, after a 90 or so minutes of unfunny parody, shines in the film's climax. I read that Allen wrote his own dialogue, which is why his scenes are much funnier than the rest of the movie.

Paul Duca said...

gottacook...according to the book I read, CASINO ROYALE was the #3 box office draw for 1967--although like many later films, the first few weeks were really strong, but word of mouth became to take over. Of course, films had a longer life in theaters back then, as well.

D. McEwan said...

Cshel,
The obscure Bond movie you are struggling to remember is Goldfinger, the most-famous Bond movie of all. Yes, the powder blue terrycloth outfit hasn't aged well, but it was hot THEN, and I thought Sean looked great in it at the time.

What aged very badly in those early Goldfinger scenes is Bond's anti-Beatles joke: "That's worse than listening to The Beatles without earmuffs." Oh they quickly regretted that "gag." Nothing less "hip" than dissing The Beatles in 1964. Five movies later, Paul McCartney was writng the Bond movie title tune. (For the execrable Live and Let Die, a song much better than the movie.)

Cadavra,
The Incredibles "sampled" a good deal of the Goldfinger score for all their supervillain's jungle island hideout sequences, very deliberately, to evoke the parodistic feel of a mid-60s Bond film. And I know you, Cadavra, know all about making parody work on film.

Antobluberry,
Actually yes, they did use blue screen quite extensively (Blue screen and yellow screen process work dates back to the early 1950s or earlier) for those jarring close-ups of the stars stuck into the Bond Movie action scenes to try and make us believe that the other 95% of the action scenes are not stunt men performing while the stars get a massage. You don't get those horrible hazy blue matte lines around the actors using rear-screen projection. (CLose-ups of Roger Moore is his awful Bond films often made it look like Moore had some sort of force field radiating around him that seperated him from his surroundings - Top of the Eiffel Tower, top of The Golden Gate Bridge, etc. - making him look like a special effect.

Gottacook, no, the 1967 Casino Royale, which I had the misfortune to pay money to see in a theater in 1967, was not a success, rather, an astounding flop. Well, given how wretched it is, there's nothing astounding about it flopping, but everything else about its bloated excess is astounding. Making essentially five unrelated movies with many directors, and then stapling the mess together, a leading man (Peter Sellers) who simply walked off the set mid-shoot, never to return because Orson Welles intimidated him (And also because he was psychotic), so the STAR had to be written out mid-way through the shoot, this movie has more wrong with it than pretty much any other movie ever made.

I have the DVD of the 1967 Casino Royale, but only because it includes the 1954 TV Casino Royale as a bonus. That bizarrity makes James Bond an American CIA agent and Felix Leiter becomes a British Secret Service man. I have it because one of my idols, Peter Lorre, plays Le Chiffre, making Peter Lorre the first-ever Bond villain. Lorre's performance is the only reason to watch it.

(And because it was live TV, there's a moment when Peter Lorre has just been shot and is slumped, dying, against a wall, when he suddenly pops up to his feet and strolls casually out of the shot. The director missed his cue to cutaway to the scene you can hear being acted elsewhere on the set, off-camera when it should be on-camera.)

D. McEwan said...

I said earlier that there were no gadgets in OHMSS other than the never-used radioactiuve lint. I was again in error. There is the combination safe-cracker/Xerox-machine Bond uses to break into the lawyer Gumbold's safe and copy correspondence from Blofeld. It's delivered to him by his doomed MI-5 associate, so it must be a gadget from Q. It has no ejector seat.

Bob said...

I was prepared to be the only person to stand up for Timothy Dalton, but was pleasantly surprised to see that I have quite a bit of company. Maybe we should form a support group.

I've never seen any of Daniel Craig's Bond movies, but I was impressed by a little-known movie he did called "Layer Cake," in which he played a middle-management drug dealer beset by a dumb, thuggish boss.

WV: attelluc - What George Lazenby's agent told him about the likelihood of appearing in another Bond movie, i.e., "Sorry, George, you're attelluc."

Mike said...

George Lazenby's fight scenes are cartoonishly bad.

Does the opening scene outright break the 3rd and 4th walls?
I remember it as he is looking not directly at the audience but a bit to one side, and is making a comparison to Cinderella.

Matt Patton said...

Flat out one of my favorite movies of all time.

And one of the best looking of all of the Bond films; Michael Reed's photography is quite beautiful at times.

Telly Savalas is great as Blofeld (and a lot closer to the character that Fleming wrote. This film is also part of that interesting trend of American actors who had never quite scored in Hollywood giving their careers a major boost by working in Europe during the 1960's. The most prominent recipients of the trend were Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, who made themselves into movie stars in films shot in Italy and Spain and came home with box-office clout they hadn't had before. For Savalas, the route to fame came through television (Kojak was a spin-off from a well-received television film called The Neiman-Marcus Murders), but you wonder if that would have come about if Savalas hadn't been doing films such as this one, the very funny action comedy The Asassins Bureau (Ltd.)[Diana Rigg again, and released the same year], and various thrillers in Italy (he gave a very funny performance in Mario Bava's utterly incomprehensible movie Lisa And The Devil; the scene where he apologizes to a corpse before breaking its legs so he can stuff it into an undersized coffin lingers in my mind years after I first saw it.

cadavra said...

McEwan: Thanks. I'd forgotten about the sampling in INCREDIBLES. Time to haul that sucker out again. (Thanks also for the fine compliment.)

bevo said...

OHMSS was my favorite Bond film until the Daniel Craig series came out. George Lazenby was in a no-win situation and he does the best he can with the material.

Diana Rigg was amazing in this film and in the Avengers (another favorite of mine).

Goldfinger was my second favorite. The last two Bond movies, though, have been really good stories that strike the appropriate balance between action sequence and story ala the Bourne series.

I grew up on the Roger Moore Bond and still like his take as the whimsical Bond. However, he is not true to the book.

The Craig Bond is as close to the book as possible.

The Sean Connery Bond is meh. Overacting and a lot of scene chewing. His Bond comes from the William Shatner School of Leading Man. Pass.

The Pierce Brosnan Bond was more corporate pitchman than anything else. Tom Cruise is playing the same character in the cartoonish Mission: Impossible movies.

The Timothy Dalton Bond is the most constipated Bond ever. No man ever has had so little fun playing the lead character. He wasn't dark. He was empty as the night.

Halfway through the turgid The Living Daylights, I fully expected someone from the studio to pop out, apologize for this awful piece of shit and offer a full refund.

OTOH, if those fucks at NBC including Warren Littlefield had not renewed Remington Steele, then Bond fans would never had been subjected to Dalton. Instead, Brosnan would have taken over as Bond for The Living Daylights.

And the world would be a happier place.

D. McEwan said...

"Mike said...
George Lazenby's fight scenes are cartoonishly bad.

Does the opening scene outright break the 3rd and 4th walls?
I remember it as he is looking not directly at the audience but a bit to one side, and is making a comparison to Cinderella."


I could not agree less. The fight scenes in OHMSS (and thanks to this posting, I've watched it again, just yesterday) are brilliant, done with then-new cutting techniques Hunt had perfected. They are great.

In the pre-credits scene, AFTER the fight is totally over, Lazenby does indeed break the fourth wall (Don't blame him though, he didn't write or direct it after all), and holding Diana Rigg's shoes, says: "This never happened to the other fella." It's the sort of winking bit that George Reeves used to do as Clark Kent at the end of episodes, when he'd say something like: "Well Lois, I'm no Superman," looks at camera, winks with a smile.

This is not a reference to Cinderella. "The other fella" referred to is Sean Connery, as it was a wink about the change in Bonds. They were tremendously concerned that having a new James Bond would confuse and disorient the audience. "Is this James Bond, or someone else?"

Mind you, changing Tarzans never had people confused or disoriented. No ever went "Who's this guy?" when a Charlie Chan got changed. And the change of Bonds had had huge worldwide publicity for two years, but still.

They put shots from the previous Bond films into the opening credits, had him pack up props from the earlier movies when he's resigning. (Why he had Ursula Andress's knife belt I still don't understand. Did he find it in his luggage when he returned from Jamaica?) Honestly, we got it. A new actor is playng James Bond. How stupid did Broccoli & Saltzman think we were? I guess we should just be grateful we didn't get this exchange:

M: "Bond, I see your new face graft has taken. Why did the surgeons install an Australian accent also?"

Bond: "Now when I meet Blofeld face-to-face, he won't just say: 'You're not sir Hilrary Bray. You're James Bond. Your face is just the same as when I met you face-to-face in Japan two years ago.' Clever, don't you think?"

M: "Now, about your acting...."

Think about it. Bond and Blofeld meet face-to-face in You only Live Twice, then in OHMSS they meet face-to-face again, with Bond's "disguise" consisting of a pair of glasses (Like Clark Kent) and a dubbed voice, AND BLOFELD DOESN'T RECOGNIZE HIM!. There is no logical reason presented why Blofeld does not instantly recognize Bond. In the book, they've never met before, so it's not an issue, but in the movie they have. They sort of sail on past it by the fact that both characters are being played by different actors (If only Blofeld had also gotten to say: "This never happened to Donald Pleasance.")

Mind you, Bond does recognize Blofeld instantly, yet Blofeld HAS had plastic surgery, to cut off his earlobes (Though they look like they've just been folded under and glued), and fix the gigantic scar down his face that he had when he was Donald Pleasence, that combined with his bald head, made him look like an egg that had cracked while you boiled it.

Mike said...

DMcEwan, been a long time since I've seen the movie, but I disagree about the 4th wall. Note I emphasize OUTRIGHT breaking of the 4th wall. Yes, I get that he was referring to a new Bond. However, I think that is a second meaning for the audience, while in the movie it is a reference to Cinderella. That's how I understood it the first time I saw it.

I just remember the fight scenes as really bad. Where it just isn't believable that Lazenby coud knock these guys out, and they fall over so easily. I realize now that Connery was knocking people out with one chop.

D. McEwan said...

It's an outright breaking of the fourth wall. Lazenby looks right into the lens and smiles at us as he says it and just after, over the big laugh the line always got in theaters. I just rewatched the sequence a few minutes ago, to make sure my quote was correct, and he didn't say: "This never happened to the other guy" or something like that. The DVD is still in my machine. Trust me, he intentionally and unmistakably breaks the 4th wall.

He is holding Diana Rigg's shoes, so I suppose it could read visually as Prince charming holding Cinderella's slippers. The association has never occured to me before, but I see now how you could take it that way.

The fight scenes are great. Period.

Nat Gertler said...

I feel silly answering a comment months later (on a blog I regularly read and post to!) but gottacook asked about the books Loxfinger and Matzohball -- and not only do I know of them, with my publisher hat on I recently reissued them, as well as the two other books in the Israel Bond, Agent Oy-Oy-7 series. They're available in print and ebook, with the first one coming soon to audiobook. Details at Oy-Oy-7.com