Thursday, 11 February 2016

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

"This never happened to the other fella!"

Well, a couple of days ago I praised You Only Live Twice to the skies and queried whether it would ever be topped. Has it, with the very next film? Well, it's impossible to say. This is an excellent film, but it's so completely unlike its predecessors that I simply wouldn't be comparing like with like.

First things first, though: George Lazenby. Well, I quite liked him. Oh, his acting is awful- his line deliveries are dull and clearly not thought through. And yet.. he hadn't got charisma exactly, but he has presence and is likeable, albeit a softer presence than Sean Connery, even when slapping Tracy across the face...! He was blatantly just cast for his looks, he can't act, but against all the odds he manages to carry the film. Never mind the very odd fact that all his lines when pretending to be Sir Hilary Bray are dubbed by George Baker...!

Speaking of George Baker, this film is extremely well-endowed (er...) with British character actors, boasting James Bree, Bernard Horsfall, a very young Joanna Lumley and Catherine Schell. But it's Diana Tigg, fresh from Mrs. Peel, who dazzled as Tracy, and Telly Savalas is similarly superb as Blofeld.

But this is a very strange Bond film. It may reassure heat the start with the reassuring faces of M, Q and Moneypenny before we see the new Bond, but it's not just Lazenby who's odd here: it may be magnificent, but this is a bloody weird Bond film. There are action sequences, yes, and bloody good ones, but they're surprisingly infrequent. Instead we get romance- we even have an extensive montage where Bond and Tracy fall in love. The middle of the film is an extensive farce sequence with a kilted Bong ("It's true!!!") and a sequence of nubile young ladies. And Bond gets married!!! The ending of the film is truly tragic, with Bond in a state of denial that his beloved is dead from the bullet of Blofeld's pet fraulein.

The sexual politics here raise a bit of an eyebrow ("What she needs is a man to dominate her" says Tracy's doting father), which is typical Bond. Otherwise, though.. c'est magnifique. Mais ce n'est pas James Bond. This is one of the finest films in the series, but one that stands aloof.

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