Words About Bond: Part III

My reviews(with spoilers) of the various James Bond films continue:

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Words About Bond, 1-3
Words About Bond, 4-6

7Casino Royale
Bonds: David Niven, Terence Cooper, Woody Allen, Joanna Pettet, Peter Sellers
Villain: Le Chiffre (Orson Welles)
Bond Girls: Ursula Andress, Deborah Kerr, Barbara Bouchet, Daliah Lavi

In 1967, a spoof of the official Bond series was released, bearing the same name as the first Bond novel, as well as the television adaptation. The film had five different directors, and the stark changes throughout the film from one director's segment to another's is obvious. Niven's Bond is drawn out of retirement and becomes head of the spy agency, where he meets Moneypenny's daughter(Bouchet) and decrees that all agents be known as 007 James Bond to confuse their enemies. The same applies to viewers, and by the time Peter Sellers walks out on the movie, splicing in an outtake and other footage to explain his departure is par for the course. Notably, the first Bond girl Ursula Andress plays a prominent role, and there are a few funny moments. I particularly liked Woody Allen as Bond's nephew, explaining to a firing squad that he was allergic to bullets. Any one of the five segments, including Sellers and Welles in the only scenes taken from the source material, would have worked fine on their own, fleshed out to a full movie. I think Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond, the illegitimate daughter of James Bond and Mata Hari, was a character and a concept that definitely had merit on its own. I got an Alias vibe from her story, at least until she's abducted via flying saucer. Then I checked both how many minutes were left, and whether or not Ed Wood's name was in the credits.

8On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Bond: George Lazenby
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas)
Bond Girl: Teresa “Tracy” di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of my favorite films in the series, and one that caught me by surprise. I'd heard the name Lazenby in passing, and knew he had only one Bond film to his credit, and thus I'd discounted the movie without seeing it or knowing much else. As Timothy Dalton would prove nearly two decades later.

With Connery leaving the role, casting for the sixth official film proved to be a challenge. Dalton, only 21 at the time, was among those considered, as was Adam West. Dalton's wise decision that he was too young paved the way for him to return when he was more seasoned, while West deciding an American was not right for the role spared us all the sight of Burt Ward as a Bond Girl. Holy bullet dodging! The part was also offered to Roger Moore, still committed to The Saint, and so it was not yet his time to be Bond.

After the opening sequence of the film, after Lazenby rescues a woman from drowning herself and is subsequently accosted by her bodyguards, who have the wrong idea, he quips, “This never happened to the other fella!” Just as the Casino Royale spoof featured many agents using “James Bond” as a code name, so do some fans use this in-joke line as a basis for a similar theory. If every actor playing Bond is not in fact the same character, it explains how he stays roughly the same age while his allies get older and the world progresses. The filmmaker's official stance is that this is not the case, but it's a fun theory nonetheless.

The woman Bond saves, Teresa di Vincenzo, Tracy to her friends, is the daughter of a wealthy European crime lord. Bond falls in love with her throughout his mission to take down Savalas' Blofeld. There are other girls along the way at the mountain headquarters of the villain, but his involvement with them is strictly to maintain his cover, and maintain one of cinema's greatest fantasy jobs.

The film includes a breathtaking chase down a mountain on skis, a setting that would be revisited in future films with variations. For the most part, it's an average Bond story, right up until the end. Bond and Tracy wed at the end, as Moneypenny cries. Driving off, they pull over to remove some of the flowers from their car. At this point, Blofeld and his henchwoman drive by and fire on the pair. Bond ducks behind the car, then leaps into action as the villains flee. He jumps inside, asking Tracy to follow them, and discovering a horrible truth along with the viewers. Cradling her as a police officer pulls up, he tells her lifeless body, "We have all the time in the world."

If you're a casual viewer and Bond's wife or hatred of Blofeld were mentioned in any of the films you've seen, this is the origin of that. It's a powerful event, and after seeing it I wondered how much it influenced Knight Rider's unofficial series finale. Lazenby may only have played Bond once, but it was one of the most significant chapters in the series.

9Diamonds are Forever
Bond: Sean Connery
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld ( Charles Gray)
Bond Girl: Tiffany Case (Jill St. John)
Henchmen: Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd

With Bond's wife murdered, there's only one thing to do: bring back the original star and send him on a rampage. Before the opening credits to Connery's final official outing, he shakes down one lackey after another until he finally finds Blofeld and gets his revenge, drowning him in a boiling pool of mud. With that loose end taken care of, he's free to get back to work and uncover a diamond smuggling operation. He goes undercover as a smuggler himself, and is nearly incinerated at a funeral home by the (possibly homosexual) duo of assassins, Wint & Kidd. Bond fares better than others in the chain to encounter the pair, and eventually traces the diamond plot back to Blofeld, who faked his death by surgically altering someone else to look like him. Replacing a reclusive millionaire, he used his resources to procure the diamonds for a giant laser. Bond rescues the real millionaire, fighting a pair of acrobatic women known as “Bambi” and “Thumper” and defeating them in a pool. He stops Blofeld's plot and ends up with former diamond smuggler Tiffany Case, enjoying a quiet meal on a cruise, when Wint and Kidd show up, posing as waiters. Connery defeats them in short order, sending them and their concealed bomb overboard, leaving him with the girl for one last time.

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Words About Bond will return!



Blogger SwanShadow said...

OHMSS is, far and away, my favorite of the Bond films. It features the most tightly written script in the series, delivers the greatest emotional impact, and displays Bond at his most realistic and vulnerable.

I actually believe that having a less iconic actor as Bond works in OHMSS, because we need to see 007 humanized when Tracy is killed. As good an actor as Connery is, his screen presence at times overshadowed Fleming's character. This is the one place in the series where that presence would have hindered the effectiveness of the film.

Despite criticism from Connery partisans (and I consider myself one), I also believe Lazenby does a fine job here. Given the opportunity to continue in the role, I think he would have grown into an excellent Bond. As it is, he's still the man on camera during Bond's most powerful moment.

10/10/2006 8:23 PM  

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