Postscript: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971) is where Bond goes full camp for the first time. The film is arguably one of the least iconic efforts in the series. Rather than embracing, or consciously playing with, the well-established formula of action, espionage, and allure, it merely apes it through a set of moments that look, yet rarely feel, like a James Bond film. Originally conceived as a follow-up for George Lazenby, the film brings back Bond original Sean Connery to make for some of the franchise’s most memorable behind-the-scenes developments. Lazenby opted out of a seven-film contract, Connery donated his £1.25 million to charity, and actor John Gavin, considered as Lazenby’s first replacement, was paid in full by United Artist.

The production background is what I find most compelling about the film and its overall role in the series. Many of the film’s scenes were actually shot in the United States, particularly in the area around Las Vegas and Palm Springs, the set design mirroring the baroque art deco style of the time. A few shots were filmed at the Universal Studios lot which ultimately proved responsible for one of the most glaring continuity errors to ever occur in a car chase scene.       Continue reading “Postscript: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)” »

Blog 008: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

I will admit that I’ve always liked Diamonds Are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971) even if it’s not a “good” movie by any standard. Following the relatively risky On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969), this one seems to play it safe. One-time 007 actor George Lazenby chose to not return/was let go before Diamonds Are Forever went into production, and previous series star Sean Connery was lured back with a purportedly record paycheck (which he donated to charity). While I’m glad that Connery returned to the role he originated, it’s a shame we never got a proper, Lazenby-starring follow-up to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Continue reading “Blog 008: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)” »

Postscript: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969) occupies a special position within the Bond canon. George Lazenby succeeded Sean Connery as the iconic secret agent and he only played the part once. Furthermore, the movie, while indulging in many of the series over-the-top trademarks (hypnosis-driven warfare being chief among them),  struck a more serious tone, deepening the character of Bond by raising the emotional stakes. The womanizer got married and his wife Tracy fell victim to an assassination orchestrated by Bond’s eternal nemesis Blofeld.

A divisive movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service still routinely ranks among the best Bond entries in the series. The movie’s legacy has turned it into a distinctive deviation from the norm, an outlier that is often cited as a fresh take on the conventionalized formula. The love story is touching and genuine. The action sequences are immersive and adrenaline-fueled, especially the night-time ski chase in Switzerland. And, yet, I am unable to embrace the movie as a successful take on the mythology of Bond. It is simply that I do not buy George Lazenby as James Bond. Compared to Connery, his portrayal may be more nuanced as a rounded character, but he does not sell the action convincingly. It may be sheer force of habit, but each film’s success depends on the actor at the center. Continue reading “Postscript: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)” »

Blog 007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Like From Russia With Love (Terence Young, 1963), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969) was one of those movies that, as a kid, I remember learning was a fan-favorite. Unlike From Russia With Love, however, it was one I enjoyed when I first saw it. Admittedly, this was the last of the already-released James Bond films that I saw because I had assumed that it must not have been very good if George Lazenby had only played 007 once. In the years since, the reputation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has continued to be held in high regard, with a Steven Soderbergh essay attesting to this. Continue reading “Blog 007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)” »

Postscript: You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967) is nothing like the source material it takes its name from. Scripted by novelist Roald Dahl, the movie is an over-the-top adventure that has Bond immerse himself in Japanese culture, train with Ninjas, and drop a henchman in a pool of killer piranhas. This is where Bond enters the stage of camp, but that does not detract from the movie. You Only Live Twice does not completely shed realism in favor of cartoonism, as some of the later films would. While the backdrop is unabashedly silly at times, Connery’s Bond is more suave and sleuthing than in Thunderball, displaying the most accomplished detective and spy work to date. In this regard, the movie signals asynchronous shifts in the Bond canon, hinting at the title agent’s more professional skill, while making the plots more absurd and byzantine. Continue reading “Postscript: You Only Live Twice (1967)” »

Blog 006: You Only Live Twice (1967)

As M (Bernard Lee) tells James Bond (Sean Connery) in You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967), “This is the big one.” To this day, this remains one of my favorite 007 movies and my favorite of the Connery era. I distinctly remember renting a VHS copy in fifth grade and enjoying it immensely. Not only are there non-stop action set pieces, and not only does the climax take place in a hollowed-out volcano lair, but this is the Bond movie that demonstrated exactly what Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Jay Roach, 1997) was spoofing. Continue reading “Blog 006: You Only Live Twice (1967)” »