Film Review – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

My second Christmas film choice was a James Bond classic…

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969, United Artists, USA, 142 mins, Technicolor, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Spy Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Tracy), Telly Savalas (Blofeld), Gabriele Ferzetti (Draco), Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), George Baker (Sir Hilary Bray), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Bernard Horsfall (Campbell), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), Yuri Borienko (Grunther), Virginia North (Olympe), Geoffrey Cheshire (Toussaint), Irvin Allen (Che Che), Terence Mountain (Raphael).
      Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman; Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Richard Maibaum (Based on the novel by Ian Fleming); Director of Photography: Michael Reed; Music: John Barry; Film Editor: John Glen; Production Designer: Syd Cain; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Set Decorator: Peter Lamont; Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius

On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969The first Bond film not to feature Sean Connery proved to be a return to basics, eschewing the smirking humour and excessive scope and gadgetry that had sneaked into the last entry in the series, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Here, James Bond (Lazenby) woos a mob boss’s daughter (Rigg) and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld’s allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

This Bond film has an emotional centre and it stands out as the most authentic adaptation of Ian Fleming’s source material in the whole series. Much has been made of Lazenby’s debut by critics, but they overlook the fact that it is by using Lazenby the makers have managed to capture the true essence of Fleming’s story. The film simply would not have been as successful had Connery remained in the role. That is not to say Lazenby is a better actor or a better Bond, merely that Connery had become so closely identified with the part, he would not have been able to add the vulnerability and sensitivity required without audiences becoming suspicious.

Diana Rigg is excellent as Tracy, the girl who Bond wants to spend the rest of his life with. Savalas’ Blofeld has more charisma than Donald Pleasance displayed in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The photography in the Swiss Alps is stunning and John Barry provides his best score of the series. The ski scenes are well shot and dramatically played. The heart-breaking finale is unforgettable.

The result is possibly the best Bond film of all and one that deserves re-appraisal. It is a shame Lazenby did not continue in the role as the producers shied away from authenticity and went for self-parody in Connery’s comeback, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER – an approach that would dog the Bond films for more than a decade.

Film Review – GOLD (1974)

GOLD (1974, Killarney Film Studios, UK, 120 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: 12, Action Drama) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer).
      Producer: Michael Klinger; Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi (Technicolor); Music: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky, Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius.

Gold_(1974)An overlooked film from the 1970s, this conspiracy action adventure story based on Wilbur Smith’s novel mixes exciting sequences underground with standard plotting and characters above it. Moore plays Rod Slater a mine manager who is set up as the fall guy by Dillman and his team of crooked investors. Their scheme is for Moore to flood the mine with water, whilst he believes he is drilling a new area for gold, and thereby raise the price of gold so Dillman and his crew can cash in.

Moore is excellent as Slater instilling more energy and emotion into the role than in his James Bond movies of the same vintage. In fact many of the Bond crew are on hand here. Peter Hunt, who directed one of the very best Bonds in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, livens the film with his trademark fast editing, supported by future Bond director John Glen, during the action scenes and significantly heightens the tension. The finale is particularly well staged as Moore and Sabela battle their way through the flooding mine in an attempt to seal it with explosives. The supporting cast is strong too with York good as Dillman’s wife and Moore’s love interest; Milland suitably grumpy as the mine owner and Dillman conniving as the director of operations. Gielgud, however, is wasted in a smaller role as the head of the investment syndicate.

With grippingly authentic and well filmed mining scenes making up for those above ground, which sometimes drag, this is a neat movie that deserves some re-appraisal.