James Bond in Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Part One

In 1967, Sean Connery left the series, due to being typecast and also the strain of too much publicity and paparazzi. In an unexpected move, the producers then cast George Lazenby, an Australian model and commercial actor, in a controversial choice, which only became more controversial with rumors of trouble on the set and then Lazenby bowing out of the role as the film premiered (While the film didn’t do as well as the Connery films, Lazenby still had a chance to do six more films-but declined. He wasn’t fired).

 

OHMSS starts with an interesting gunbarrel, which, like the Dr.No Gunbarrel, pauses to briefly bring up the producers. The theme has changed a bit-it’s certainly a bit less grand, and the spanish guitar is pretty much gone (although it would show up again in the next film).

 

We open on Q and M, oddly enough, with Q showing off some new magnetic lint that can be used as a tracking device…. (Q by the way, doesn’t do too much in this film, as it’s fairly light on the gadgets) but M wishes he could put a tracker on 007, who seems to not be up to much. Turns out, since the events of You Only Live Twice, MI6 has put into effect “Operation Bedlam”-an attempt to track down and capture the SPECTRE leader before he strikes again. But the trail’s gone cold.

We cut to Bond on some beachfront somewhere, driving a new Aston Martin DBS (Which bears some cosmetic resemblance to the later Valante used in The Living Daylights). He’s wearing Bond’s trademark hat, what appear to be sunglasses and smoking a cigar, but he’s mainly obscured in semi-darkness (Dalton and Brosnan would have similar slow reveals)

A woman in a red car cuts him off. Wouldn’t be the last time, as “Goldeneye” proved…(although Xenia Onatopp was far, far more nefarious than Tracy here)

 

Although instead of a race, she just wants to get to the ocean. Bond, intrigued, uses his scope to check her out-until he realizes’s she is in fact trying to drown herself. The gallant Bond saves her, although it’s a reluctant rescue for her-and Bond does his trademark name catchphrase-revealing Lazenby for the first time in full.

 

…and of course, this being a Bond pre-credits sequence, there’s got to be action…and in this case, Bond and the woman are quickly surrounded by armed men, who seem to want to take her away. Bond quickly gets free though, and we’re given a fairly chaotic fight on the beach and in the waves, a bit hampered by the dark early morning setting (You can’t really make out too much going on). There’s a lot of fast cuts and sped-up shots-Peter Hunt, the director, after all edited a lot of the other films and seems to have pretty much been given more free reign here, although if I’m not sure the edits are to show Lazenby’s weaknesses as a fighter or what (He’s certainly better than Moore at it though). This Bond seems to use a lot of judo as well.

In all the chaos, the woman slips away, using Bond’s car to drive up to her own and then escape, but leaving her slippers behind. Picking them up, he remarks “This never happened to the other fellow!”

 

 

It’s sort of a meta-joke about Sean Connery, although in the context of the movie, it’s probably intended as a reference to Prince Charming from Cinderella (hence the slippers). Although it’s certainly spawned about a gazillion “Bond is really just a code name!” theories to explain the change in actors throughout the series.

We then come to the title sequence, which is really brilliant. A martini glass also functions as a bit of an hourglass, and Bond hanging from a clock arm also deals with the concept of time. One of the themes of the movie is “We have all the time in the world”-but it’s kind of clear that time may not be on Bond’s side with the draining of the hourglass/martini.

The opening credits also use various stock footage from the first five films, in part perhaps to sell that this is the same Bond we’ve known for the past decade-there’s villains, girls, actions and some other elements. Of course there’s also shots of the union jack, the crown (Given the movie’s title after all!), and of course the silhouetted  girls.

 

…..and then there’s the theme, which has no lyrics and is pretty much the best non-Bond theme instrumental theme in the series. It’s influence can certainly be felt in the score for the (Far inferior IMO) View To A Kill, and one of the trailers for SPECTRE likewise used a version of the tune. It was also memorably used in the 2003 teaser trailer for the Disney/Pixar film the Incredibles:

 

 

 

 

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James Bond in Review: Casino Royale Part IV

Now the games begin. Although I’m not a poker player myself and have very little interest in card games, the music, editing, and the acting helps to make things somewhat tense regardless.

 

Mathis and Vesper watch from the sidelines, with Mathis sort of providing some commentary, sort of some exposition that will help audiences (like me) who are unfamiliar with the game know what’s going on. It’s a beat of a narrative cheat, but I’ll let it pass. We also get the debut of Bond’s favored martini, the “Vesper”:  ‘Three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.’ Usually the other movies just use the “Vodka martini,Shaken not stirred” order, but this is more detailed, like it’s original description in the novel.

 

The whole next half hour isn’t entirely the game of course. First Le Chiffre gets a visit from Obanna, who has discovered his money’s gone and isn’t too happy about it-and there’s a tense scene where he threathens Le Chiffre and his hench-girlfriend. It’s rare to see Bond villains so concerned and helpless against anybody but Bond.

 

Bond of course needs to protect Le Chiffre in order to extract him-he only wants him to lose, not to die-so he takes on Obanna in another brutal fight. It’s particuarly nasty.

 

The fight leads to Bond bloodied and and somewhat messed up. We see him come to his hotel room to unwind and clean himself up. The scene of Bond’s slightly haunted look in the mirror is in stark contrast to the earlier swagger of the dinner room scene, which also involved the mirror. While we see the debonair side of Bond in the earlier scene, here’s the more cold-blooded (but somewhat damaged) man once again revealed.

 

Vesper however is in a state of shock, and Bond comforts her in a very tender scene.

Returning to the game (after Mathis has disposed of the bodies), Bond-perhaps being a bit too overconfident-loses this round, and doesn’t have enough to buy back into the game. Trying to take Le Chiffre by force, he’s stopped by ” his brother from Langley”-the new Felix Leiter, played by Jeffrey Wright, and here we see a new beginning to their friendship. This is also a very clear indicator that this is a fresh continuity, as Connery’s Bond met Felix in Dr.No under very different circumstances. Basically, Felix will get Bond back in the game, on the condition that Le Chiffre is given to the CIA instead of MI6. We also get another Bond deconstruction, where Bond, asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, says “Do I look like I give a damn!?”

Bond manages to gain a bit more of an upper hand, but Le Chiffre gets his girlfriend to poison Bond’s drink, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. Here we see one of the film’s only gadgets, the medical kit.

Bond accidentally fumbles the defibrillator due to the poison,but thankfully Vesper is able to fix that and shock him back to life.

 

For the final round, Bond is able to defeat Le Chiffre.  Bond and Vesper celebrate over dinner, although  it’s clear that something’s bothering Vesper on her cell phone. Bond also figures out something about her necklace, it’s an Algerian love knot, and holds special significance for her. We also see the two of them starting to fall for each other even more so than before, especially since he named the drink after her-not because of the bitter aftertaste,  but “after you’ve tasted it, that’s all you want to drink.”

 

After Vesper leaves to meet with Mathis, Bond realizes something isn’t quite right-and soon Vesper is captured by Le Chiffre, with Bond pursuing in his Aston Martin (not the DB5 but an another one) to save her. Which leads to a spectacular wipeout as Bond swerves to avoid Vesper who was being held in the middle of the road.

 

Le Chiffre captures the injured Bond and takes him to an old dock warehouse (revealing it was Mathis who sold them out), and of course we’ve got an infamous torture scene with the carpet beater, which was one of the key scenes in the novel (Bond gets tortured a lot more nastily in the novels than in the films). We see Lechiffre lose more of his former cool here, trying to get the code to Bond’s money, but Bond’s reaction is partially played for comic effect, although it’s clear he’s terrified of what’s happening with Vesper. Like the rest of the film, this is more brutal then what we’re used to from Bond film-wise.

Bond however, has an unexpected savior in Mr. White, who states that Le Chiffre betrayed his organization’s trust. He’s then shot dead (presumabely, White also disposes of Le Chiffre’s henchmen as well).

And now we’re about to enter the film’s final act, in my next part….