Thursday, August 30, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Some fans have this entry near the top of their favorites. Others think it is perhaps the worst film of the bunch. The truth is perhaps a lot less extreme. This is a middle of the pack choice. It is not nearly among the worst, and yet things keep it from really being among the best of Bond. What it is is absolutely unique. Beyond being the only Lazenby entry, it has some of the best fights, perhaps the best girl, the only real love story but also some of the worst acting, amongst the worst of the enemies, and the biggest downer of an ender.

It actually could have been done in a way that it would have been the best. (In many ways “Casino Royale” would take many of the good elements of this film and improve upon them.) In the last film, Bond appeared tired of it all. Connery was, in fact. Here, Bond is indeed tired of going through the motions, the orders, and the women. He is a different man wanting to do things for other reasons than simply Queen and country. He is ready to quit it all and settle down with someone to love. And then the bottom drops out.

This ending feels more like a film from the late sixties. Optimism was not in fashion. Ironically, this ending is also a better reflection of the Bond in print. If Lazenby had carried the role forward, we may have had a Bond that was more in tune with the books and the times. For better or worse, we’ll never really know.

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