Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Ok, right now, imagine me walking into the middle of a crosshair and turning towards you and shooting you, because I'm back with yet another of my chronological series of James Bond reviews! The first five are as follows: Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice. And now on to the next one.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the sixth James Bond film, directed by Peter R. Hunt, and is truly an odd man out in the series for more than one reason. Most obviously, Sean Connery opted out of this movie, and was replaced by George Lazenby in the lead role. And secondly, this movie is one of the only Bond movies where the consequences of his actions as 007 actually spill over into his personal life.

The plot this time around follows Bond on a hunt for Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the diabolical leader of SPECTRE who eluded him at the end of the last movie. Bond finds a lead through a rich man who agrees to give him Blofeld's whereabouts if he agrees to romance his troubled daughter, Tracy (Diana Rigg). The romance gradually becomes mutual, as Bond and Tracy fall in love. Finally, the mission: Bond, undercover as a mild mannered genealogist, must infiltrate Blofeld's research institute in the Alps, where women from around the world are being brainwashed into releasing a disease in their home regions.

The movie cuts to the chase, acknowledging and addressing Connery's absence right away, by having Lazenby utter the line, "this never happened to the other guy" after a big fight. Oh, crap! Bond has become self aware. He knows he's in a movie. That's the only explanation for him to say that line, because it's given absolutely no other context whatsoever. I understand why they would want to acknowledge the lack of Connery, but there has to be a more clever way to do it.

By the way, let's talk about the lack of Connery. Why'd he quit? I'm sure at the time he felt his tenure as Bond had run its course, or maybe they just weren't offering him enough money. But why did they go ahead and make the Bond movie with one of the most defining moments of his entire life in it WITHOUT the actor who we all associate with the character? It's still a pretty cool scene at the end, but it would have packed SO much more of a punch if it had been Connery experiencing it.

You know what? That last sentence could pretty much describe the entire movie. This is a really cool, back to basics, character driven Bond movie, loaded with plenty of action, but more importantly, plenty of spying, something the last couple Bond movies had set aside in favor of action. Unfortunately, George Lazenby just doesn't cut it as James Bond. He gets the job done, I guess. He can throw punches and spout one liners as the script demands, but he lacks the charisma that made Sean Connery so iconic in the role. The lack of Connery casts a heavy shadow over the whole film.

James Moore will be back with his review of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.

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