17/01/2012

BlogalongaBond Week: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)


It's almost an entire year since the evil, cat-stroking bastard named The Incredible Suit decided to dream up BlogalongaBond and convince far too many people that watching a Bond film every month for 22 months was a great idea. 12 months in and all those involved have witnessed the many ups and terrifying lows of the Bond franchise, and as much as I've tried to keep up, a few months managed to fly by without me wasting a Saturday afternoon watching Roger Moore make an idiot of himself. So because of that, this week I'll be watching and reviewing the films I've missed: On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Man With The Golden Gun and For Your Eyes Only, along with this month's instalment, Octopussy. Yup, I'm regretting it already. FYI, if you follow me on Twitter you might as well get used to reading stuff like this.


If you cast your mind back to the glorious time known as June 2011, you'll remember that Sean Connery quit being Bond after You Only Live Twice and left the door wide open for a new face. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman claimed to want to reboot the series and make a more realistic film that actually resembled the source material and from the opening scenes, it's clear why they chose Aussie model George Lazenby. He got the coveted role after impressing the powers at be with his stellar dramatic work in a Fry's Chocolate Cream advert (??) but unwittingly set himself up for a lifetime of ridicule. He has the height and looks we associate with Bond and at some points he actually looks like Connery (something Lazenby did on purpose, even as going as far as to wear his uncollected suit and get his hair cut by the same barber), but while he looks the part he certainly doesn't have the charisma of any of the other Bonds (Moore included) and a tree trunk could've probably delivered his lines with more authenticity.

As Lazenby's name is only ever used as a punchline, it's easy for those who haven't seen OHMSS to assume that it's pantaloons but guess what, it's actually quite good. While I've never found Blofeld as a particular interesting or menacing baddie, screenwriter Richard Maibaum gave Bond a reason to hate him with a shockingly sombre final scene which leaves his bride dead and the audience agog.


From the opening scene in which she tries to commit suicide in the most glamorous way imaginable, Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) is the best and most complex Bond girl since, well, ever. Trying to convince an audience - who's seen nothing but flagrant womanising in the previous five films  - that Bond is actually capable of loving someone other than himself and sustaining a healthy relationship was never going to be easy, but their courtship is both believable and sweet, and the romantic montage with Louis Armstrong crooning in the background is a standout scene for all the right reasons. It also helps that costume designer Marjory Cornelius put Rigg in an array of magnificent outfits that made my eyes lubricate with joy, unlike Lazenby who borrowed his shirt from Jerry Seinfeld.


OHMSS has benefited from the gift of hindsight as there's not that many things worse than double-taking pigeons and invisible cars, but unfortunately Lazenby is still distractingly pants.

Tomorrow: The Man With The Golden Gun