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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [1969)

Lazenby.

Not Connery.  Not Moore.

After the bloated disaster of You Only Live Twice, my expectations were not very high.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This is perhaps the best Bond movie up to this point in the series.  I know it is blasphemy to say so.  I love Connery.  I adore Moore.  The achievement in question is perhaps best attributed to the director (new to the series in this capacity):  Peter Hunt.

Telly Savalas is masterful as the cat-petting Blofeld.  He adds a depth to the character which was missing in the previous depiction by Donald Pleasence.  It is interesting to note the similarities of Blofeld’s allergy institute (a cover for brainwashing) to the CIA’s dirty program Project MKUltra which was headed by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb.  The ghastly “research” was administrated from 1953 onwards by Dr. Gottlieb.  Blofeld’s methods in this film bear a striking resemblance to those of MKUltra’s head experimenter Dr. Ewen Cameron.  The world can thank CIA agent William Francis Buckley (“Bill”, but not the one of which you’re probably thinking) for blowing the whistle on this dark, dark period in CIA misadventure.  Buckley observed the deplorable results in Montreal at McGill University.

But back to fun stuff 🙂  High-speed chases!  The Bond series from Eon Productions redeems itself with a great ski chase down Piz Gloria (atop which is Blofeld’s “clinic”).  While not as epic as the underwater battle in Thunderball, it is much more entertaining that the autogyro sequence in You Only Live Twice.

I really must compliment Lazenby.  His was no easy task.  It was the right decision for him to not speak in an affected Scottish accent after Connery.  Lazenby could have been a great long-term Bond.  Thankfully he contributed this one fine performance to the annals.

Peter Hunt is to be equally (if not more so) congratulated.  This was a unique ending for a Bond movie.  It was handled deftly and had just the right amount of suspense to keep the incredulous at bay.  I’m speaking of course about 007 getting married.  You’ll have to see it for yourself to find out just how Eon Productions managed to finagle a continuance of the series after this “blow” to the womanizing lead character.  Of course, in today’s world marriage wouldn’t be a hindrance at all in a similar dramatic case.

This film is really an odd duck, but it should stand as an example for the series.  It is a bit humorous to hear John Barry give the famous 007 guitar line to a harpsichord in the opening credits.  The effect is similar to “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”  Louis Armstrong even sings a song especially recorded for this film!  He was near the end of his life and it is as touching as Billie Holiday’s album Lady In Satin.  Armstrong never recorded another song (dying two years later from a heart attack).

 

-PD

 

 

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