Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 255: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

PG, 2 hr. 24 min.  Directed by: Peter R. Hunt.  Release Date: December 18, 1969. DVD Release Date: May 16, 2000.

This is probably the singularly most critic-blasted film in the Bond franchise, and I think there are a number of reasons for that, some of which aren't fair.  I know at this point, something went on behind the scenes that ended up with Sean Connery no longer playing James Bond.  Normally, I'd have done a little research and tried to learn what all happened to require the change, but I wasn't feeling inspired to do that today, so sorry.  Connery was a fan favorite, and plenty of people talk about the beating post-Connery Bond movies take from the critics simply because our favorite Scotsman wasn't around to play the lead role.  There are; however, a number of problems that contribute to the negative reaction this movie got, both from the press and from Bond fans alike.

  1. George Lazenby.  James Bond is an action hero, right?  He's supposed to be the kind of thing that most men would either like to be or would have liked to have been at some point during their lives.  Knowing that, why would I approach this character with such a schoolmarmish outlook and demeanor?  Even the fight scenes have this kind of "I say!  Dreadfully sorry about that old boy." feeling to them that is less than entertaining.  I'm willing to blame direction, but Lazenby comes off as the Ben Stein of the Bond world.  It's no wonder Connery was back in the film to follow at record-setting salary
  2. Double-oh romcom disaster.  Bond fans are used to the super spy following his tackle like a divining rod throughout a movie.  We're not so used to Bond getting serious with a woman, (and if he was going to it should have been Moneypenny, dammit) even more, we're less used to more than half the Bond flick set up in what are obviously supposed to be romantic venues and Ray Charles (I think) singing the same nauseatingly sweet song.  In a remake, I vote Sandra Bullock should play Tracy... sheesh.
  3. Enter the Sandman.  From start to finish, this Bond film is filled, one might almost say REPLETE with tedium.  The action scenes are dull and lifeless, the story even more so.  Because of the way the film wanders back and forth across Bond's burgeoning romance (and eventual marriage -- I'm letting that cat out of the bag for folks who haven't seen the half-dozen or so movies that reference Bond's wife) and the caper of the moment, the action would start revving up in this polite, very British way, and then BAM, Bond pauses for time to take a stroll along a picturesque stream with his lady love.  Utter crap.
So, blaming Lazenby is unfair.  Blaming a lack of Connery is more unfair, but if this had been done by Connery, I'm guessing Bond would have been a bit more rough and tumble and a bit less... appropriate.  The allergy clinic scenes had tons of places to slip in a Bond pun and we got nothing.

All in all, this was a very disappointing (and long) experience.  You may want to skip this particular assignment and find other Bond films from the 60s to watch.  I held off on watching this one for about fifteen years before I finally caved and watched this out of curiosity and I don't feel like I suffered for the waiting.