It’s gotten too quiet around here. I need to find something to blog on. The Shakespeare Project is still going but I’ve gotten pre-occupied with the Millenium trilogy (which I’ll post on) so haven’t finished Labours yet.
However, my wife recently bought a treadmill so I can get my sorry ass into shape. I’m using it every night but I get terminally bored with exercise, so I usually drag down a computer and pop in a movie. And, right now, I’m going through the Bond films. So I though I’d put up a post on them. Actually, a series of six posts, one for each of the six bonds (Connery, Lazeby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig).
I’m under no illusions that Bond films are art or “feeelm”. But they’re enjoyable. I think Roger Ebert put it best in his review of The World is Not Enough: Bond films are like wine. Some years they’re good, some years they’re not so good but you can always get drunk on them (actually, I’m not sure that’s quite what Ebert meant). You judge them as they are — for coolness, for Bond, for Bond girls, for action sequences. I don’t think they have any deeper meaning; that’s the fun.
I’ll dive right in with the Lazenby “era” since it’s short (one film) and I’m watching them in order so need to watch Diamonds are Forever before talking about Connery.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is criminally under-rated (IMDB has it at 6.8, #9 among Bond films), mostly because Lazenby is criminally under-rated. He’s no Connery, true. But he’s utterly competent, comfortable in the action scenes and makes the finale one of the best scenes in the series. The story is very good, mostly because it sticks closely to Fleming’s solid novel (which I’ve read) and because of Diana Rigg’s excellent performance. Actually, Rigg is essential to the movie, which drags quite a bit whenever she is not on screen. The way she deals with Blofeld is marvelous and watching her tangle with his thugs makes one wish she’d been in a slightly different role — one that would have seen her as a sidekick in multiple bond movies.
Actually, I want to explore that last point. SPECTRE only made one appearance in the novels before Bond basically destroyed it. Most of the actions of SPECTRE were, in the novelizations, done by SMERSH. I’m guessing the producers felt that making SMERSH the primary enemy would make the films feel like anti-Communist propaganda. But the decision to move SPECTRE up to the point where it dominated the first seven films was a wise one, giving Bond a recurring enemy that the Moore years sadly lacked and the Craig years are trying to re-create.
How might the films have been different if Tracy had been introduced earlier, being a recurring Bond Girl as Sylvia Tranch was intended to be? Their eventual romance and her death in Service would have been elevated to an epic tragedy.
Anyway, Service is one I really like and I rate it an 8. It would be a 9 but … really … Telly Savalas? Ilse Steppat was awesome as Bunt, bringing the fierceness of Rosa Klebb. Her early death prevented her from reprising the role. But Savalas really didn’t do it for me.