Wednesday, March 28, 2012
50 Years of 007 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service
A new actor plays Bond for the first and last time in one of Cody's favorites.
Sean Connery left the role of James Bond after his fifth film, You Only Live Twice, but thankfully that did not stop the film series from continuing. Taking the approach that the character is bigger than any one actor, the producers immediately started searching for a replacement. Luckily they had a little more time than they gave themselves between films in the beginning, as the 18 months between Thunderball and You Only Live Twice was basically the start of the "every two years" pattern that has continued through most of the series' run.
Many actors were considered to be the second to play Bond in the official series, there was even thought of casting Timothy Dalton. Dalton would accept the role almost twenty years later, but in 1968 he turned it down, feeling that he was too young. He would've been just twenty-two turning twenty-three during filming, so I believe he was right about that.
Five made it to the final casting sessions, as shown in pictures recently posted on Life.Time.com. The contenders were: John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Robert Campbell, Hans de Vries, and George Lazenby.
Lazenby, an Australian model whose only previous acting experience was in commercials, had pursued the role after hearing that the filmmakers were interested in him. He got a Connery haircut, bought a suit that had been tailored for Connery, and walked into producer Harry Saltzman's office for an unscheduled meeting, ignoring the protests of Eon's receptionist. He ultimately won the role and was cast to play James Bond 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service had originally been announced in June 1964 to be the movie that would follow Goldfinger. It was then announced to be the movie that would follow Thunderball. Both times it fell through because of trouble securing the required locations. The third time proved to be the charm, as the filmmakers discovered the perfect location to be the setting for Piz Gloria, a clinic atop a 10,000 foot tall mountain in Switzerland. The place they found was a restaurant atop a 10,000 foot tall mountain in Switzerland. The restaurant had been under construction for years and Eon helped get the job finished in exchange for permission to film there.
Bond series editor Peter Hunt had long been lobbying to be promoted to director. He had shot second unit on Thunderball and wanted to direct the following film. When Lewis Gilbert got the job on You Only Live Twice, Hunt decided to sit that one out and went on vacation in Japan... where he crossed paths with the YOLT crew and ended up being recruited to shoot second unit and eventually supervise the edit on that film as well. When OHMSS came around, Hunt finally got the job he wanted.
Hunt's approach was to bring the series a bit more down to earth. The movies had progressively been getting bigger and more outlandish, Hunt wanted to scale things back, cut down on the gadgets, and make his film more realistic. This vision included making the set design more naturalistic, there would be no unusually large rooms or anything as extravagant as the hollowed out volcano. Syd Cain was hired as production designer, and as noted in the From Russia with Love article, Cain's feeling was that sets should be background to the actors and not stand out too much.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the tenth novel in the literary series, is one of Ian Fleming's best works, if not the best. Hunt's goal was to keep the adaptation, with a screenplay by Bond regular Richard Maibaum, as faithful to the novel as possible.
Following Lazenby's rendition of the gun barrel shot, the film finds James Bond out for a drive along the coast of Portugal in an Aston Martin DBS. A beautiful woman speeds past him in a convertible Cougar, and of course Bond can't resist speeding up to follow her. She parks her car at the beach and Bond watches as she walks toward the ocean with an unhappy look on her face, wading into the water fully dressed. Deducing that she's attempting to drown herself, Bond rushes out to the water and carries her back onto the beach.
Bond's face hasn't been clearly seen throughout this sequence. As with the reveal of Connery in Dr. No, we don't get a good look at him until he introduces himself. He sets the woman down on the sand and says, "Good morning. My name's Bond, James Bond."
The woman doesn't get the chance to give her name, as they're interrupted by a couple men, one pointing a gun at Bond and the other holding a knife to the woman's throat. A fight breaks out between the three men, during which the woman takes the opportunity to drive away. With the attackers subdued, Bond watches her speed off. He saved her from suicide and beat up a couple guys for her, and she just ditches him. This sequence was shot late in the production, and Hunt allows Lazenby to break the fourth wall and acknowledge the recasting by repeating a complaint that Lazenby had often given throughout filming: "This never happened to the other fella."
The Maurice Binder-designed title sequence then plays out, featuring images from the previous films among the standard nude silhouettes, presumably to assure audiences that despite the new actor, this is still the Bond they know and love from the earlier adventures. The images are accompanied by an instrumental theme from composer John Barry, since the producers felt that if a song played over the title sequence then it should have the title in the lyrics, and "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" doesn't really lend itself to a pop tune. An original song that was recorded for the film plays later on.
After the titles, the film catches back up with Bond, still in Portugal, as he checks into his hotel room at a casino. In the novel, Bond was on vacation in the town of Royale-les-Eaux in France, the same setting as Fleming's first Bond novel Casino Royale, the place where Bond met his love Vesper Lynd and where she was buried. Since then, Bond has made an annual trip to Royale to do some gambling and to visit Vesper's grave. With this being set in Portugal and the titular establishment being located in Montenegro in the 2006 adaptation of Casino Royale, the (fictional) town of Royale-les-Eaux doesn't mean so much to movie Bond.
He goes to play a game of baccarat and who should appear at the table but the woman from the beach, again acting recklessly. She makes a bet and loses, but has no money. The situation is looking bad for her until Bond again comes to her rescue and pays for her loss.
Bond follows her from the baccarat table and attempts to talk to her. She's a Contessa named Teresa Di Vincenzo, although "Teresa was a saint, I'm known as Tracy." Tracy is standoffish and makes it clear that, despite Bond's interferences, she has little interest in staying alive. But she also wants to pay off the debt. She invites Bond up to her room, handing him the key.
Tracy is obviously deeply troubled, a "bird with a wing down", and in a way the fact that she's troubled captures Bond's attention more and makes him care more about her than he might for the average girl in a casino. I can understand the attraction, I have problems with depression and tend to be drawn to girls who also have issues. That hasn't worked out very well so far.
When Bond goes up to Tracy's room, she's not there. Instead there's another violent stranger lying in wait for him, and another fight ensues, during which quite a lot of damage is done to the furniture. Bond knocks out his attacker and exits the room, stopping to sample some caviar off a room service tray on his way out.
Opinions vary on Lazenby's performance, but I think it'd be hard for anyone to deny that he at least had the physicality for the role. He's quite capable in the fight scenes, and this hotel room fight has since been used to test the abilities of potential Bonds during the casting process.
The next scene has also been performed by Bond hopefuls in screen tests. Tracy is waiting for Bond in his room and points his own gun at him. "Suppose I were to kill you for a thrill?" "I can think of something more sociable to do." Bond gets the gun away from her and starts roughly questioning her to find out why he was attacked in her room. Realizing that she doesn't know why, he takes a softer approach.
Bond tells Tracy that she's an extraordinary girl and offers to talk about her troubles, but she's not interested in his opinion or in telling him more about herself. She's just there to spend the night with him. The man from Tracy's room lurks outside Bond's door, eavesdropping. Hearing that Bond isn't a threat to Tracy, the man leaves.
Bond wakes alone in the morning to find that the lovemaking wasn't Tracy's way of paying her debt, she has literally paid it by leaving behind the exact amount of money that he saved her with. He orders breakfast for two and tries to call her room, but is told that she has checked out.
As Bond leaves the hotel to go golfing, he's stopped by men wielding guns, along with the room attacker wielding a knife, and forced to take a ride in a car. He's taken to a business that appears to be closed for the evening, the only person around is a little person janitor, whistling the Goldfinger theme as he sweeps the floor. Bond is led down a row of safes to an office room door and takes the opportunity to fight off his captors, the sound design adding a cool effect of the hits echoing off the safes. There's another noisy scuffle later in the film, that one set in a room full of bells.
Taking the one captor's knife, Bond hurries into the office, locking the door behind him and crouching, prepared to throw the knife at whoever may be within the room... And he's pleasantly welcomed by the business's owner, Marc Ange Draco, a role well played by Gabriele Ferzetti. Draco Construction is one of his legitimate businesses, he's also the head of the Union Course, a European crime syndicate. And he's Tracy's father.
Bond throws the knife into a calendar on the wall, the knife sticking into the 14th of the month. Today is the 13th, but Bond is superstitious. Draco has his secretary bring them drinks, ordering a martini "shaken, not stirred" for Bond, and the men sit down to have a conversation.
The film is quite faithful to Fleming's novel, but a change in structure and some extra action does add a bit of confusion to this early portion. The novel begins with Bond saving Tracy on the beach, after which they're confronted by Draco's men. They hold weapons on Bond, but Tracy does not struggle against them. As the men lead them away from the beach, the story flashes back to when Bond first saw Tracy speeding down the road, then the casino sequence occurred with no room fight, and Bond stops Tracy's suicide attempt after their night together. The story then catches back up with the present, Bond being taken from the beach to Draco.
Draco wants to talk to Bond about his budding relationship with Tracy, because he knows his daughter is suicidal and believes that Bond could be a positive influence on her. So it's a bit unclear why Draco's men kept attacking Bond in the film. Why attack the guy who has saved your boss's daughter from drowning? Were the attacks a series of misunderstandings? Did the guy in Tracy's room think Bond was a burglar? Why did the guy on the beach hold a knife to Tracy's throat? Better off to not question these things, just let it slide. And to be honest, I never wondered about these things at all until another fan online pointed them out.
Draco gives Bond the backstory on Tracy, her childhood and the reason for her depression: her Count husband was killed in a car accident with a mistress. Draco wants Bond to romance his daughter, make her fall in love with him. He even makes an offer - if Bond marries Tracy, he'll give him a dowry of one million pounds in gold. Bond doesn't need a million pounds and he has a bachelor's taste for freedom. He feels that Tracy needs a psychiatrist instead of him, but he's not against seeing more of her. If Draco really wants to do something for him, he could use his connections to find Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of the worldwide criminal organization SPECTRE. Draco agrees that this is information that he might share with his future son-in-law...
Bond returns to MI6 in England, where he gets in some banter with Miss Moneypenny before a meeting with M. M gives him some upsetting news: since his search for Blofeld has turned up no leads in the last two years, Bond has been removed from Operation Bedlam (the codename for the Blofeld manhunt.) Bond tells his boss that Blofeld is a must for him, but it does no good. Angry, Bond exits M's office and dictates to Moneypenny his resignation from the secret service.
This is a reversal from the novel, where Bond considers resigning from the service because he's been on Operation Bedlam for so long and considers it a pointless waste of his time.
Bond goes to his office, where he prepares to pack up some items from his desk: Honey Ryder's knife belt from Dr. No. Red Grant's garrote watch from From Russia with Love. A rebreather from Thunderball. As he takes a drink from a flask, he's called back to M's office. M doesn't even look up at him as Bond enters. He hands 007 a piece of paper and says, "Request granted." Bond is hurt that M doesn't seem to care about losing him, until Moneypenny advises him to read the paper. She didn't put in Bond's resignation, instead she just got Bond two weeks leave, for which Bond and M are both grateful.
Draco has planned for Bond and Tracy to cross paths again at his birthday celebration. Tracy does not have a happy reaction to seeing Bond there, but Draco says he can tell that she likes him. Bond replies, "You must give me the name of your occulist." A line that often gets quoted on Bond fan forums.
Tracy quickly figures out that Bond is only there because he has an arrangement with her father. She demands that Draco give Bond whatever information he wants immediately and release him from their deal. With that done, Bond need have no further interest in her. Bond is able to talk Tracy out of her anger and, even though Draco has already given him a lead on Blofeld, continues to spend time with her.
The time Bond and Tracy spend together and the development of a relationship between them is covered in a montage, with the song recorded for the film playing over it. "We Have All the Time in the World" is inspired by the title of the final chapter in the novel and is performed by Louis Armstrong. It's a beautiful song. Tracy falls in love with Bond over the course of this montage. Bond is fond of her and enjoys their time together, but love is more elusive for him.
Draco has learned that Blofeld may be connected to a lawyer named Gumbold in Switzerland. Draco and Tracy drop Bond off at Gumbold's office building on a rainy afternoon, the first time Bond has been out in the rain in the series and I believe this remained the only time he was in the rain until 2008's Quantum of Solace... Fans can make some odd observations.
Gumbold is out, but Bond isn't interested in meeting him anyway. He goes into Gumbold's office to crack his safe and make copies of some papers. This is an added bit of intrigue for the film and it's a nice spy sequence with a great piece of John Barry score playing over it. While the safecracker does its job, Bond kicks back and leafs through an issue of Playboy.
Bond visits M at his home, which is called Quarterdeck, to inform him that he's still on the trail of Blofeld, hopefully with M's permission. From Gumbold's papers, Bond has learned that the lawyer has a client called Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp. A man who Bond believes is Blofeld. "de Bleuchamp" has been in contact with the College of Arms in attempt to be officially recognized as a Count. A genealogist will have to meet with him in person to determine his heraldry, and Bond will be that "genealogist".
The man who Bond will be posing as is Sir Hilary Bray. Bond has been working with Sir Hilary under the cover of researching his own family tree. This does turn up something interesting in a meeting before the focus completely turns to Blofeld: Sir Hilary shows Bond the Bond family crest, which features the motto "Orbis non sufficit", "The world is not enough." Sir Hilary will go off on vacation while Bond goes to meet de Bleuchamp at his place in Switzerland. Piz Gloria.
Bond/Sir Hilary is greeted by de Bleuchamp's personal secretary Irma Bunt, a very unpleasant woman, and escorted to the private mountaintop clinic, which can only be reached by cable car or helicopter. The time the filmmakers had to spend looking for a location definitely paid off in the end, Piz Gloria is awesome. In real life, the restaurant, which gives a revolving view of the mountain while you dine, is still open today. I would love to have a meal there someday, though I would be terrified the entire way up. As Bond says near the end of his helicopter ride, "I'll be glad to get my feet on the ground."
Under de Bleuchamp, Piz Gloria is a non-profit institute for allergy research. There are armed guards all over the place, Bunt says it's to keep away spies from the chemical companies. As Bond is led away by a guard to be given a complimentary medical examination, Bunt makes a call to the Count. When de Bleuchamp answers his phone in his office, all we can see of him is the fact that he has a bald head and is petting a white cat, sights familiar to Bond viewers. Bond is obviously on the right track.
Following his exam, Bond is shown to his room. It's quite nice and he thoroughly checks it for bugs and peepholes. Only one oddity stands out, but it's a big one - the doors can't be open by guests. The guards have to open the doors for them. Of course, Bond quickly figures out how to open doors himself and get around without the guards knowing.
Bond encounters more oddities when he dons the Sir Hilary Bray formal attire of a kilt and goes to the dining area. There he meets de Bleuchamp's allergy research subjects and discovers that he is the only man at Piz Gloria, aside from the staff. de Bleuchamp brought in twelve attractive women from around the world as his subjects and has been working on curing their allergies, all of which have something to do with food. Reactions to chicken, potatoes, corn, bananas, etc. The food item is different for each girl, but they all arrived hating the foods that are now the main course of the meals made for them individually.
The girls are curious about "Sir Hilary"'s occupation as a genealogist and Bond explains what the job entails, but when he attempts to use his cover to get more information about the girls, Irma Bunt barks out that they don't use surnames at Piz Gloria.
The Sir Hilary Bray persona isn't a ladies man, there's even some insinuation that he may be gay, if not just asexual. But this is, after all, still Bond beneath the dull act, and the girls are lacking options, so they're still drawn to him. During dinner, a British girl named Ruby (played by Angela Scoular) invites Bond to a private rendezvous by writing her room number on his thigh in lipstick under the table.
While in Ruby's bed that night, Bond discovers that hypnosis is part of whatever's going on at Piz Gloria. An odd tone plays through speakers in the room, notifying Ruby that it's time for this part of her treatment. Colorful lights pulse in the ceiling, and Ruby goes into a trance as de Bleuchamp's deep, calming voice begins to speak to her over a P.A. system. Her cure is nearly done, but she must be taught how and when to do something special once she returns home...
Bond sneaks out of Ruby's room and returns to his own, where he finds Hungarian patient Nancy (Catherina von Schell) waiting for him. She knows how to open doors without the guards, too. And so Bond sleeps with two of the girls in one night. Well, he never did establish exclusivity with Tracy, and he's doing a job here!
One thing I find a bit awkward about the Bond-as-Bray section of the film is the fact that the actor who played the actual Sir Hilary Bray, George Baker, dubs Lazenby for the entire stretch. Bond is meant to be expertly mimicking him. Dubbing was definitely not a rare thing in the series, but it just seems wrong to dub Bond himself for such a lengthy period.
Bond/Bray and de Bleuchamp/Blofeld soon meet and even though they previously met in person in You Only Live Twice, the men do not immediately recognize each other. No explanation is given for this, it's not mentioned that either have altered their appearance, despite both characters being played by different actors than in YOLT (and Blofeld lacking the scar he had in that movie.) The filmmakers thought of dropping a line about plastic surgery into the movie at some point to explain why Bond looks different, but decided to just let it go like any other recasting. The reason why Bond and Blofeld don't recognize each other is because their meeting in the OHMSS novel was the first time they came face-to-face in the literary series, and staying faithful to the novel was considered more important than worrying about the cinematic continuity. I don't mind.
It's no hollowed out volcano, but Blofeld's office and laboratory do appear to have been built within the mountain, and it's a nice looking set.
The inexperience of the actor playing Bond was balanced out by the casting of more well known actors as Blofeld and Tracy. As Blofeld, replacing Donald Pleasence, is Telly Savalas, who at this time had been acting on screens for 10 years and already had many credits. The role he's most well known for, Kojak, followed four years later. Savalas plays Blofeld much differently than Pleasence. Pleasance was a strange little creep, Savalas is cool and suave, he really comes off as someone who would be a successful mastermind. I have a soft spot for Pleasence due to my childhood fascination with the Halloween franchise and both portrayals have their merits, but I think this may be a better version of Blofeld overall, one that seems to me a bit more accurate to the faceless version of the character in From Russia with Love and Thunderball. He also has the coolest way of smoking a cigarette that I've ever seen.
de Bleuchamp fully reveals himself as the villain Bond suspected him to be when Bond's cover is blown by a simple location mix-up during a genealogy discussion. Bond is taken captive and discovers that Shaun Campbell, the fellow agent who was shadowing him, has been executed for making the bad decision of climbing the mountain to check on the situation.
Bond is taken to Blofeld's office for one of those famous, often mocked scenes where the villain shares his plans with the hero instead of killing him. Blofeld has been dabbling in bacteriological research and has discovered a way to cause total infertility in plants and animals. His clinic patients are being sent home with samples of his bacterial breakthrough, called Virus Omega, and through hypnosis he has brainwashed the impressionable young girls, his "Angels of Death", to carry out his villainous deeds if the United Nations doesn't agree to his ransom demands.
Blofeld intends to keep Bond alive and in his custody because he'll be useful in helping convince the authorities that "I mean what I say, and I'll do what I claim." I love that line.
Bond is locked up in the gear room at the top of the cable car line at the 81 minute mark, and this kicks off what is an hour of almost nonstop suspense and action. The film takes an occasional breather for story and character moments, but it's never very long before more action starts up. Bond escapes the gear room by climbing along the lift cable, risking slipping and falling to his death or having his fingers sliced off by a moving gondola. Bond then escapes Piz Gloria itself, and has quite an ordeal getting down the mountain and away from the armed guards. Ski chases, car chases, fistfights, gunfire, crashes, and even an avalanche follow.
Bond stumbles into the picturesque town at the base of the mountain, tired, desperate, hunted, and takes a seat on a bench at the edge of a skating rink. And salvation skates into view. Tracy is here, in town because her father told her that Bond was nearby. Her driving skills come in very handy as Bond's escape continues, she even gets them out safely after they swerve off the road and into the middle of a busy race track.
Seeing how well Tracy handles herself in these circumstances, this is when Bond truly falls in love with her. I fall in love with her. Who wouldn't fall in love with a beautiful girl who can save you from a dire situation and keep cool even though she's totally out of her element? The novel describes Bond realizing that she's got everything he ever looked for. She's adventurous, brave, resourceful, exciting always. She loves him, and she needs him.
Bond and Tracy take refuge in a barn for the night, where Bond professes his love... and more. "I love you. I know I'll never find another girl like you. Will you marry me?" He plans to quit the secret service and find something else to do so they can have a life together. She's acceptive of his proposal.
Tracy is played by Diana Rigg, who at the time was very popular from her role as Emma Peel on the TV series The Avengers, a British show that also aired during primetime in the United States. She makes a wonderful Bond girl and Tracy is a great character. I fully support Bond's decision to make her the girl that he marries.
The action continues the next morning, when Bond and Tracy ski away from the barn - her Cougar had taken it all it could handle - and find themselves again being chased by Blofeld's guards. At one point in the chase, the skiers have to jump over a road which is being cleared by a snowblower. One unlucky henchman falls right into it and ends up a chunky spray. Seeing this, Bond quips, "He had lots of guts." Probably the most uncouth, grossest joke in the series, and I love it. This sequence ends with the aforementioned avalanche, which separates Bond and Tracy. She gets captured by Blofeld, he's left for dead in the snow.
Bond returns to MI6 in London with hopes of being part of an official raid on Piz Gloria to rescue Tracy, stop Blofeld and destroy the virus and his communication center so he can't trigger his Angels. But M's hands are tied by bureaucracy. A raid on Piz Gloria is considered too risky, the United Nations intends to just agree to Blofeld's demands. Blofeld isn't asking for money this time, he wants amnesty. His crimes will be pardoned and he will be recognized as Count de Bleuchamp. Operation Bedlam is dead and M will not approve Bond going to Piz Gloria to get Tracy.
So Bond seeks help from a man who's equally interested in Tracy's safety, a man with the connections and weapons to put together their own raid on Piz Gloria. Draco.
There are more problems for Bond in the film than in the novel, where Tracy was not kidnapped and the only reason Bond has to recruit Draco to join him in a raid is because M figures that the Swiss government would get in the way of an official one and waste time. M still backs Bond's actions. Here he has to go rogue.
As Draco's helicopters approach Piz Gloria in some beautiful dawn shots, we are shown that Blofeld is at least keeping Tracy comfortable. Quite comfortable, as he appears to have fallen for her himself. He says he'll be able to provide her with whatever she wants, and offers her a second try at being a Countess. Tracy is not receptive to his ideas. Some of the dialogue between Blofeld and Tracy was written by novelist Simon Raven, who Hunt asked to punch up these scenes and make them sharper, more intellectual.
The raid begins and the Bond theme kicks in on the soundtrack. Draco's men and Blofeld's guards have a shootout, Tracy handles herself in a one-one-one fight with a guard, and Lazenby gets an iconic action shot during the attack, sliding down an icy ramp on his stomach while firing a machine gun. Eventually, Bond and Blofeld engage in a chase and fight while speeding down a bobsleb track. It's a great sequence, in fact all of the action in this film is great, perhaps the best in the series so far.
With Blofeld's plans ruined, Bond goes on with his life with Tracy. They get married and among the wedding guests are M, Q, and a teary Moneypenny.
I was shocked when I saw this wedding during my first viewing. I had never heard that Bond ever got married, and not a fake marriage like in You Only Live Twice (the fact that he gets married in this is another reason why I don't like the fake wedding in YOLT), but for real. Unfortunately, I soon found out why I never heard mention of Bond's wife.
Not only hadn't I heard that Bond was once wed, until I bought the entire series in a VHS set in 1995, I had never even heard of this movie or George Lazenby. As far as I knew then, the only actors to have played James Bond were Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton, with Pierce Brosnan's first movie soon to come out.
I started watching On Her Majesty's Secret Service, George Lazenby was introduced, and my first impression was not positive. After he spoke the "This never happened to the other fella" line, I told my grandmother - who I was watching the movie with, and also did not know who George Lazenby was - "I don't like this guy." She wasn't impressed, either. Making a judgment on the actor by the time the title sequence was starting was a bit hasty, I warmed up to Lazenby more as the movie went on. My opinion of him has really gone up since that first moment. I do like this guy, and think he made a very good Bond. It doesn't hurt that he had his one turn in this particular movie.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a fantastic film, one of the best in the series and certainly one of my favorites. While my personal ranking of the films is constantly changing, I have a solid top 3 and OHMSS is right up there with Goldfinger and another we'll reach later.
It's a big movie that plays on a personal level. The heart of it is the well told tragic love story of Bond and Tracy, and even the Blofeld plot has a personal slant. Blofeld's scheme could cause the extinction of species of plants and animals, destroy the world economy and, left unchecked, eventually even end the human race... But that's sort of on the periphery, and Blofeld doesn't intend for it to go very far, he knows the United Nations wouldn't let it. He just wants his pardon. And Bond has to stop him, regardless of what he's doing.
Peter Hunt got the job he wanted when he was hired to direct the movie, and he proved that it was a job he could handle perfectly. I wish he had directed more of the Bonds. With cinematographer Michael Reed, he made a great looking film.
For his editor, Hunt brought on a man named John Glen, who also directed second unit and would go on to play a very important role in several future Bond films. Hunt and Glen worked together well, and despite this being the longest Bond film yet at 141 minutes, it moves along at a good pace. The cutting of the action is impressive, and it's amusing now to look over the reviews of the film that were written in 1969. While there's a belief that OHMSS wasn't well received critically, the reviews I've seen have been mostly positive. The main issue critics seemed to have is that the action was cut so fast that they couldn't keep up with what was going on. 12 years before MTV, they weren't quite prepared for what Hunt and Glen had to show them.
Another great thing about this movie is that it's a Christmas movie, with the Piz Gloria scenes occurring around the holiday. There's even an original Christmas song with music by John Barry playing in the background during scenes in the town below the clinic. Performed by Nina, it's a catchy little tune called "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?" and lines from it are perpetually stuck in my mind. One specific line - "Do you know how Santa gets around?" - demands that I sing it out loud many times throughout the year. The Virus Omega samples are included in Christmas presents given to the Angels of Death, and while Blofeld lays out his plans to Bond, he's also messing with the tinsel decoration on his Christmas tree. While others tout their yuletide viewings of Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, OHMSS is my holiday action movie of choice.
OHMSS is perceived as a box office failure. While it didn't make nearly as much as its predecessors, it did make a healthy profit. Some think that Lazenby was fired. He wasn't, he was contracted for more. His contract was either for seven films or however many films they could fit into a seven year span. I'm not sure which, he says it both ways in interviews.
Lazenby was young when he was cast. Twenty-eight when he made the deal, turning twenty-nine right before filming began. At 28 myself, I can't imagine someone my age playing Bond now. But in 1969, Lazenby had a good look for the role and he pulls it off on screen. His age didn't work out as well behind the scenes, where he often acted immature and irresponsible. He even chased Bernard Lee (M) around on a horse, causing the poor man to run into a rose bush. Ridiculous. He had growing up to do in life, but if he had stuck around in the role, I think he could've been a great Bond. I wish there were more Lazenby Bond films.
Times were changing in 1969, though. The counterculture movement was becoming huge, and Easy Rider was one of the biggest hits of the year. Lazenby's manager/advisor convinced him that in the age of hippies and Vietnam, the public would have no use for a suit-wearing government agent with expensive tastes. Bond's time was over. So Lazenby quit.
Eon Productions, however, did not agree that Bond's time was over, and began searching for a new Bond yet again, sticking to the plan of getting another movie out two years later.