The best Bond movie ever
Why “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is far better than its reputation
In 1953 Ian Lancaster Fleming created a protagonist that should soon become one of the most important icons of its age. Inspired by the name of an ornithologist he called his main character “James Bond”, not knowing what gigantic ball he set rolling. Between 1953 and 1964 he authored twelve novels and three short stories reporting the adventures of the secret service agent James Bond. Up to today there have been 22 movies published, staring six actors as the MI6 Agent, each of which introduced his own interpretation of Bond. This paper will focus on the eleventh novel and sixth movie of the series: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (OHMSS).
Published in 1963 it took six years for the novel to be shown on the big cinema screens. Released on the 18th December 1969 it was the first Bond movie featuring a new leading actor. George Lazenby stepped into Connery’s shoes, which will turn out to be far too big, according to some critics.
OHMSS is set at the Portuguese coast where Bond observes the suicide attempt of a young woman, which later on turns out to be the Contessa Teresa Vincenzo (Tracy) and prevents her from committing it. Following her rescue two villains appear and start off a fight, whereas James defends his and her life the lady decides to escape. After the fight is won and the woman gone, Bond self-deprecatingly states: "This never happened to the other feller" (a quite famous and interesting quote which I will have a closer look on in the proceeding text). Subsequently after a surprising meeting at the casino, Tracy and James spent a night together.
Back at his office in London M acquits Bond from the task of hunting Blofeld, therefore James draws his conclusions by quitting his service. A clever move by Moneypenny turns the dismissal into a two week leave. During this time he continues investigating by pretending to be Sir Henry Bray, a genealogist, while getting granular on the residence of Bleuchamp (French for Blofeld) atop Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps. This location emerges as a clinical research institute where Blofeld trains ten girls to become “Angels of Death” by carrying some virus back into their home countries. Bond’s cover blows but due to the help of Tracy he survives several attacks. The Contessa gets kidnapped by Blofeld, her father Draco in cooperation with Bond assaults his fortress and frees Teresa, still Blofeld can escape. James and Tracy get married. On their honeymoon drive another car passes, shooting the couple’s car. When James wants to go after them he notices that his wife got shot. In deep grief he responds to the concerned policeman who has just arrived, that everything would be alright, she would simply rest, they would have all the time in the world.
The sudden insensitivity of Bond, his change in appreciation of women, his empathy and vulnerability in addition to the “different Bond woman” led to an underestimate of the movie in the late 1960s. OHMSS was ahead of its times, it featured too many modern, to the audience unknown, aspects. It was overkill. Consequently it was little in vogue back then but attracts even bigger interest in today’s cutting-edge society and can by all means be considered the best Bond movie ever.
OHMSS was an immense contrast to the preceding films from the series. By digressing from the superficial sex and action without any responsibilities (Rauscher 232) it mirrored the political and social changes in the late sixties. Throughout the series the movies have always been some kind of image of its age, so when analyzing the success or failure of OHMSS it is obligatory to look at the situation in Britain at that time. Affected by Wilson the British society believed in the connection between technological, economical and social improvement (Rauscher 198). The hope that a common commitment towards the scientific-technological progress would bear down the class conflicts was dominant. During the Connery years Bond was portrayed as a working class hero with much elegance, toughness and lots of black humor. With the help of upgraded gadgets Bond managed to survive many tough situations. Doubtlessly the films depicted homage of modernization during that time and represented the belief: “dass die Durchschlagskraft von state-of-the-art-Technologie alles Übel der Welt zu besiegen vermag.” (201). The Bond movies of the 1960s were clearly affected by “Wilsons Idee, Großbritannien durch eine Allianz von Kapital, Arbeit und Wissenschaft zu revitalisieren.” (201). OHMSS was “the odd-one-out” (Chapman 137), a risk to some extent. It was new in many ways, striking the change from live-saving adventurous gadgets to the focus on personal characterization and deeper feelings, especially seen in the depiction of Tracy and James (which I will focus on later). For the first time a Bond movie tried to meet the new social tendencies (Rauscher 209). In contrast to most Bond movies its title sequence starts with an instrumental song, composed by John Barry, resigning from the usual theme. Though it featured one, namely "We Have All the Time in the World” also composed by John Barry and performed by Louis Armstrong, the producers and the director decided that it was too burdensome in order to start the movie. Contrary the title sequence of OHMSS tries hard to back the impression that this Bond film, though presenting a new director and leading actor, was “from the same staple” (a slogan from the official movie trailer). They did so by showing previous enemies and girls from the series in the title sequence and having Lazenby reintroduce some gadgets that his precursor Connery used in order to save his life. The probably most disturbing change about the movie, which led to some dismissal of the late 1960s’ audience, may be (next to the modern gender reception which will be dealt with in another paragraph) the disillusioning end. Through the, for the movies of the late sixties typical, disenchanting end director Peter Hunt expressed the deep anxiety, caused by political and social insecurity of that time.
- Quote paper
- Nathalie Gerlach (Author), 2010, The best Bond movie ever Or: Why “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is far better than its reputation, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/175800