Far up! Far out! Far more! James Bond 007 is back!
In celebration of today's much-anticipated (by me, at least) debut of the new Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, I'm throwing my two cents in for the James Blog-a-thon at Lazy Eye Theatre (which I found out about via Electronic Cerebrectomy).
This is a reposting of an entry from August 13, 2004 (which is why there is no mention of Daniel Craig or the new Casino Royale). It's my defense of perhaps the most-maligned entry in the Bond series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Enjoy!
Not only do I disagree with the apparent majority opinion that OHMSS is the worst James Bond film, I actually think it's one of the best -- top three, at least. (And how anyone can think this is the worst when A View to a Kill exists is beyond me.) If Sean Connery had stuck around to star in it, I think everyone would agree it was the very best.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: George Lazenby is no Sean Connery. I know that. He's not my favorite actor, either. In fact, he's almost certainly the worst actor of the five to have played Bond in the series (the "official" series; I'm not counting the Bond spoof Casino Royale). I personally liked Roger Moore less in the role than Lazenby, but judging purely on acting skills, Moore was better. Lazenby was a novice actor in a high profile gig taking over from an incredibly popular predecessor, under a great deal of pressure to fill an iconic role. He couldn't possibly meet such expectations, even from those who bothered to give him a chance. That said, Lazenby wasn't terrible. He actually wasn't half bad -- certainly not as bad as some people want to believe he was. He definitely had the look, and, though wooden at times, he musters enough charm and competence to get by.
The Bond girl, on the other hand, was excellent. Diana Rigg had already made her name on The Avengers, and she's great in this film, playing a similarly strong, smart, dangerous, beautiful woman. Who eventually caves to Bond's seduction, sure, but what kind of a Bond film would it be without that? The fact that Bond actually gets married to her sets a milestone in Bond's character development, and the development of the series as a whole. No other Bond film has had such an emotional core to it.
Blofeld is the ultimate Bond villain, and he exacts the ultimate vengeance against Bond -- by killing his wife, Blofeld takes away the only thing Bond has ever loved. James Bond, for all the women he's gone through, has never cared for any of them. He's at heart a cruel and selfish man. The fact that he allows himself to fall in love in this film marks a real change in the character, which makes her death all the more powerful. And Telly Savalas is great as Blofeld.
The film's snow chase is also one of the most spectacular stunt scenes in any Bond film -- which makes it one of the best stunt scenes ever filmed. Ah, for a return to the days when actual people performed stunts, rather than computerized images!
The film has its faults: Blofeld's evil plan is kind of dopey, but then, so are the plans of most of the Bond villains. And Lazenby's looking at the camera at the beginning of the film and muttering a complaint about "the other guy" (meaning Connery) was a jarring, awkward, integrity-breaking way to get things started. But the film makes up for it in so many ways, from the scenery and music (yes, even the music is great) on up. If you like the Bond films, but have always had something against this one, I say give it another chance -- this time, without thinking every other second, "Connery was better". Of course he was. But thinking like that keeps you from enjoying a great film.