That’s right, with Skyfall releasing later this year I am opting to give you my thoughts on all of the Bond films! There’s twenty-two films, and when I started this challenge there were twenty-two weeks before Skyfall, sounds good to me!
I grew up in the six year drought of Bond films, between the Dalton and Brosnen Eras, so my definition of Bond is Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and License to Kill, while Goldeneye is one of my top favourites. It took me a little while to watch all of the other James Bond films, but they were regularly shown on television, and while the Brosnen films quickly worsened I would never grow to like the Roger Moore era. At least not yet.
Because there are twenty-two films I am breaking my reviews down into eras as best I can. Today’s post is all about the first major change (and public upset) in the franchise, unfortunately for many involved it was an ugly transition.
Let’s imagine all the recasting madness, narrative plot-holes, endless skiing sequences and more Blofelds than you can shake a stick at!
On her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
A radical change to a formula established over five films; a change compacted with a unique take on the series. One change would be forgivable, but there are a lot of things here that just don’t fit.
James Bond is back and hot on the heels of his nemesis Ernst Blofeld, and he works his way into the villain’s secret organisation undercover with some unofficial help.
Now I want to say straight away, George Lazenby is a good Bond, not the best but he does well given it is his first acting role; he can be stern and intense, and usually does well with the quips. The problem is the film is all too eager to remind us “This is still Bond”, a strange scene early on with Bond going through his drawer and finding objects from previous films, for example.
This was also director Peter Hunt’s first direction, having previously done editing for other Bond films, and there are errors that beg explanation; specifically when Bond and Blofeld meet (Bond being undercover, but not in disguise). They already met in You Only Live Twice… how does Blofeld not know who Bond is!? The answer, unfortunately, is due to OHMSS coming chronologically before YOLT, this was when they met for the first time. I guess they were too lazy to fix this, two-to-four years in the making?
The film feels far too long with extensive “fight scenes” as the finale, from skiing to bobsleighing (it’s like 007: The Winter Olympics), while some of the acting and writing is atrocious. Ruby, one of Blofeld’s Angels of Death, is excruciating.
Yes there is a good sense of character in this film, and it does make for a good change of pace; the first half of OHMSS is superior to the last. It sounds like I hated it, I didn’t, but I can see why people were disappointed in it, without Connery is bad enough, but slips in storytelling and quality only hammer it home further.
Just don’t take it all out on Lazenby!
Additional Marshmallows: Did you know in this film it is stated that Bond’s fictional “Coat-of-Arms” has the motto: “The World is Not Enough”, which would go on to be the title of the nineteenth Bond movie?
Diamonds are Forever (1971)
(Yes, that poster has indeed got Bond and two Bond girls being lifted single-handedly by a robot)
Paying what could only be a handsome sum of money (and most of the budget) the Bond franchise has Sean Connery reprise the role one last time, and after the “flop” of OHMSS, we are back to the silliness.
Diamonds are Forever starts out with a bang (albeit with bad dubbing) with Bond in vengeful fist-fights, looking for Blofeld after the events of OHMSS. Unfortunately, this only lasts five minutes; Connery’s vengeful streak is replaced with a quirky but sporadic screenplay that refuses to grip the audience.
I don’t quite know what has happened here… but the film feels like a mash of random action sequences and peril, and while at times it feels fun and entertaining, you will often find yourself asking “why is any of this happening again?”
The only thin thread holding it together is that Bond is looking for stolen diamonds, that’s it. We have two unusual assassins wiping out witnesses as Bond “investigates”, who are very capable and almost threatening… except when they are required to kill Bond. I say “investigate” because Bond does very little of the investigation we are used to, preferring to leap from one drawn out action sequence to the next. The Bond Girls are equally unimaginative and particularly objectified.
It has its quirks and can be entertaining, but feels incredibly long for very little story development, ultimately feeling like a rushed action-fest to erase all memory of OHMSS’s steady pacing.
And seriously, I say again, how stupid is Blofeld anyway… seriously??
What would eventually become a tradition of Bond, the changing of actors, started off very badly with a single-minded audience and a poor production decision to release the films in chronologically the wrong order! Watching these, I may not like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service exactly, but I do feel bad for Lazenby; his Bond was a unique take, and could have used a reprisal for added emotional weight after that film’s climax.
Now, Bond will return…….
As ROGER MOORE!
In… Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. This post will take a while to compile!
Here are my reviews for the previous Bond eras!