Friday, 16 March 2012

Who are you? You're not James Bond

George Lazenby has inherited the role of Bond and it's an impossible task. It's not that George is that bad in the role it's just that he's had to follow Connery. Poor sod. It's as if the producers didn't want to acknowledge him as most of the marketing was about Bond and some pieces even blacked out Lazenby's face. Strange seeing that they'd apparently given him a seven picture deal. If only Sean had decided to retire after this one rather than come back for Diamonds Are Forever.

This is a serious Bond film, and certainly one of the best. We're back on the trail of Blofeld who wants to sterilise food crops around the world using his 'Angels of Death' controlled from his Alpine base. Gone is the globetrotting, this is the only Bond film entirely set and filmed in Europe. Bond is essentially AWOL before M removes him from his official hunt for Blofeld, this leads Bond to quit the Service and the retrospective scenes in his office are great.  It's OK though, that scamp Moneypenny has changed his resignation into a holiday request. R and R with Dian Rigg is next up on the agenda and ex-Avenger Rigg is a masterstroke of casting.  Rigg is strong and classy, more than a match for Bond and yet is more personable than her Avengers predecessor in Goldfinger. Perhaps this is because Rigg as Tracy is central to this story. Rigg makes Tracy and Bond's romance all the more plausible and it's end more poignant. Until now Bond had been charming but ruthless, arrogant and hard. Lazenby is tasked with making Bond softer and more vulnerable and he manages to pull it off.

Unofficially, Bond continues his hunt for Blofeld using the world's largest safe breaking machine and a copy of Playboy, before getting a gig impersonating Inspector Wexford as a genealogist. You see, as well as extorting huge piles of cash from world powers, Blofeld wants a bit of respectability and is set on proving his heritage as a mid-European Count.

The change in Bond also sees a change in Blofeld. He's no longer the hiding, pussy stroking evil genius. Now he runs about and does a lot of shooting. He also has a strange way of holding a cigarette.

How to use a cigarette as punctuation. Rule 1

Bond is soon amongst the Angels of Death and Irma Bunt, who all seem to be under the spell of a young Joanna Lumley, and on the way to stopping Blofeld again. Seeing that Blofeld and Bond had a coming together in a volcano not too long ago they show a remarkable lack of recognition for each other. We're left to enjoy some now typical ski and car chases mixed up with a little hanky panky before we get down to the nitty gritty. OHMSS is the only film where Blofeld and his right hand man/woman make a getaway after their plan is foiled. This allows for the most tragic ending.

It took five days to film Bond and Tracy's nuptials and we're all set for another happy ending before the brief return of Blofeld and Bunt.

Bond's goodbye to Tracy was filmed twice after the director told Lazenby that 'Bond doesn't cry'. Bond might not but I was bloody welling up. The sadness deepens when you later find out that the title song was the last thing Louis Armstrong ever recorded and that Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt) passed away shortly after the film's release.

Lazenby may well have been a one hit wonder with Bond but On Her Majesty's Secret Service is up there as one of the best and we are about to witness a steep decline.

James Bond will return in the 1970s, with his old face but this time we'll see him going in a different  direction and we'll see that the decade will not be kind to him.