Not universal, but thinking of the Dr No / Professor Dent “meeting”, the Russian High Command with Steven Berkoff going loopy in Octopussy and the Thunderball SPECTRE gathering as genuine high points of their respective films.
“Best” might not be the right word; “most memorable” might be closer to it. Either is subjective, of course.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS‘ “abduction” of Koskov comes to mind, quite the fight with that butler-thingy in the kitchen. Though it stretches the concept somewhat that a single attacker with a walkman and exploding milk bottles would be able to get so far inside the compound and waste the entire security detail without much help by either Koskov or the helicopter support.
I went with no because I think Bond is always part of the best scene in the film. However, having said that, there is probably a moment(s) in each of the films that are standout scenes without Bond in them that rival being the best, but I don’t think I would put them as THE best.
I will add that the Necros vs. Blayden Butler fight from The Living Daylights was the first thing that came to my mind when I read this question. It really is the best fight that doesn’t involve Bond in the series. But I think Bond’s fight with Necros hanging outside the plane is probably the better scene–certainly more jaw-dropping anyway.
I disagree. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is very faithful to the original source material, which is also one of the very best Ian Fleming stories. The film looks great, the stunts are solid, the acting by the supporting players are all really good, and the music by John Barry is arguably the best of the series.
Even George Lazenby, while previously a virtual non-actor outside of a handful of commercials, does an extremely credible job as James Bond. Yes, he’s not as good an actor as the other 007s in the series, however, he is a very solid Bond who proves the producers made the right decision in hiring him. He’s really good in the fight scenes, his vulnerability lends itself to the romance on screen, and he absolutely, positively nails the critical final scene, which packs a terrific emotional punch.
While not among my very favorites, I still enjoy OHMSS, and it most definitely deserves all of its plaudits.
Though it’s still a favourite of mine…there is a lot of it weird and odd about ON HER MAJESTY’S. Tonally it’s much more over the top than often given credit for, closer to DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER in many respects.
Logic is wilfully suspended not just in the second face-to-face with Blofeld but throughout the entire film, from the pts where Bond is about to be killed for saving Tracy by her father’s goons to the wedding reception at the end where the Bond family - and perhaps the entire SIS staff - are on a day out in Portugal to celebrate Bond marrying the daughter of a European crime lord and nobody seems to object. Instead, classified information is casually name-dropped.
And how can all this be? Because this is not just a Bond film but in fact the prequel to The Avengers tv series, and Tracy is really Emma Peel, and her death is just faked because she’s needed to fight alongside Steed. Or some such along these lines.
ON HER MAJESTY’S is easily one of the strongest entries in the classic run. But it deserves to be given a rest now. It’s been tried to remake this - sort of - with NO TIME TO DIE. But the strongest part of it has always been the undercover-and-escape part which delivers the suspense and centre of the story. We haven’t seen that in ages since.
I was satisfied with the way the themes were handled in NTTD, but I think you’re right about this going forward. I’d also include the references to Fleming’s YOLT. Batman has been in a similar position with The Dark Knight Returns and Year One. Both are great stories but have been overused in franchise media. Other sources need to be given attention otherwise we’re given a narrow viewpoint of the character and his world. The guts of the Bond universe would more commonly be something along the lines of Dr No or Goldfinger, meaning stories set in the middle of Bond’s career, rather than the very specific end point elements that have been receiving attention.
This is an interesting question (thanks, Jim, for never seeming to run out of them!)
For my part, I think OHMSS will always be the most deserving and dramatic case of “reputation rehab” in the series. Other entries go up and down a few notches over time, but to go from “worst” to “best” on so many lists – even if it did take decades – is a feat we’ll likely never see repeated. While championing one or another “misunderstood” Bond film has become the fad du jour in the fan community, does anyone really think QoS or DAD or even MR (which I love) will ever duplicate OHMSS’s rehabilitation in the eyes of the world?
And yet…and yet sometimes it feels like the ascendancy of OHMSS has not been 100% organic or driven from the grass roots. Sometimes it feels like there was a moment when the general public – the “great unwashed” if you will – noticed the story and decided to jump on the Bondwagon. And so today in any number of places on the internet I can find “Best Bond” lists that place OHMSS at the top, even though everything else about those rankings and the accompanying texts to me says “this person is not a fan and knows very little about Bond.” I sometimes suspect there’s just something too irresistible about the “dog to hero” story, so it’s been goosed along by parties who want a more interesting article to write. I think there may even be an appeal to placing on the throne a film so atypical of the series as a whole, from the tragic ending to the lack of gadgets to, most prominently, the involvement of a “done in one” lead actor. Celebrating OHMSS is almost a way to poke the rest of the series in the eye, to say “The only way time they got it right was when they changed everything.” Putting it at #1 might also be for some a way to finally relieve the monotony of always seeing Goldfinger there, or of looking more “hip and with it” than the next guy, going for the shock value of putting at #1 a film some authors may be convinced most people still haven’t seen.
Does OHMSS deserve its move from dustbin to pedestal? Absolutely. Is it the best of the series? Entirely debatable. Is it perfect? Far, far from it.
NTTD’s exploitation of OHMSS’s popularity takes away a lot of the fun. Just as they decided to milk the GF teat by overusing the DB5, now they’ve said, “Oh, look, that one’s the most popular now, so what can we steal from that?” If even Eon now admits that OHMSS is the “best” Bond film, then perhaps a backlash is the logical next step, and there will be a movement to knock it off its perch as was done to GF. We’ve gone full circle now from “OHMSS sucks” to “OHMSS ain’t so bad” to “You need to look again, this film is wonderful” to “OHMSS is the surprise new favorite” to “Everyone knows OHMSS is the best Bond ever,” which inevitably leads to “OHMSS is so overrated, it’s time to take it down a peg or two.”
I have to take Jim’s question in two parts: has the OHMSS love perhaps been overdone? Is that love perhaps even insincere and faddish right now? Could be. But are there other films that deserve that some kind of astonishing rise from the bottom of the list to the very, very top? Nope.
Random thoughts on a great question and responses:
Was OHMSS downgraded because of Lazenby’s one-and-done status (and mildly wooden performance), and then upgraded when the film was looked at in the context of its immediate predecessor and successor?
Did the increasing fame of Diana Rigg over the decades of her career help raise OHMSS’ stature? In other words, the consensus best Bond girl (and overall superb actress–her Medea was thrilling) must be in one of the better, if not best, Bond films.
From Vincent Canby’s 1971 review of DAF: “A lot of things have changed since ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967), the last real Bond adventure.” He thought OHMSS the worst Bond, while Andrew Sarris thought it best (they both adored DAF).
OHMSS seems a quintessential 1960’s film/artifact–a movie to see even if one does not like Bond films, but wants to savor the zeitgeist of the late 1960’s. Does its 1960’s time capsule aspect help its case?
If only Nixon could go to China, was it only Lazenby Bond who could get married, and then be widowed in the space of minutes?
Was Lazenby not making another Bond movie a key first step along the path to OHMSS being eventually anointed as best Bond ever?
Savalas as Blofeld as Mafia don/American gangster. Is his Blofeld the most accessible/enjoyable of all of them–a status that confers a shine to the film itself?
Your questions are probably rhetorical, but since when has that ever stopped me?
I think there was a resistance to OHMSS initially because Lazenby wasn’t Connery and too many people couldn’t think “Bond” without seeing Connery. Over a longer period, though – and certainly when I got into fandom in the 70s – I think OHMSS was dismissed because Lazenby only did one, and surely if it had been a “successful” performance it would have led to encores, right? If they never asked him back, that must be an admission that the whole enterprise was a failure. You could be on “Team Roger” or “Team Sean,” but everyone could agree that the dumbbell who couldn’t even make it past his first outing wasn’t in their league, yes? Over time, though, I think it’s sunk in that despite his limitations as a thespian, Lazenby remains the only Bond with a 100% success rate in terms of great films, and in that sense maybe quitting was a shrewd career move after all.
Did her fame really increase that much over time? Was she a bigger deal in 1989 or 2009 than she had been in 1969? I’m not so sure. I will say maybe the appreciation for a well-done female character increased over that time period. In 1969 I’m not sure how interested viewers were in seeing Bond, the girl-in-every-port batchelor fall hard enough for one woman to “put a ring on it.” If anything, they may have resented her for it. Now she stands out more than ever in a huge field of Bond women worth only a casual fling, and even if there are still fans who don’t want to see Bond settle down, I think even they can agree that if he has to do it, at least Tracy’s more deserving than Madeleine freaking Swann.
I can tell you that when I saw it a few years ago on the big screen, all the “retro” attitudes, at least, got a warm response. But usually “warm” in the sense of “can you believe there was ever a time when you could get away with that?” In particular the “spare the rod and spoil the child” and “she needs a man to dominate her” lines got big laughs in the spirit of “Oh no, you didn’t!” If that stuff was in a contemporary film, there could be rioting but in a film from 1969, the reaction was just a shake of the head, as if you’d found that old high school senior photo of yourself sporting a home perm and a plaid dinner jacket.
Maybe, but it’s too bad he did it all, because ultimately that made it easier to just dismiss it. If it had been Connery, folks would have had to just find a way to make it work, however radical it seemed. Since it was some other guy, they could just say, “Nope, doesn’t count.” They weren’t challenged to expand or adjust their view of the character, and Bond didn’t have to grow or evolve.
That said, to this day I can’t imagine Sean making it work. He was phenomenal at what he did, but romance was not it. (The closest he came to pulling it off was Robin and Marian, and I’m not sure it counts)
See above. I think it certainly helps that it was such a one-off. The only Lazenby Bond, Peter Hunt’s only shot at directing, the only Mrs Bond, the only sad ending (for a long time), plus various little continuity issues that keep it from fitting in anywhere at all. If Laz had stuck around long enough to romp around Vegas or inflate Kananga and sink the Liparus, we’d have maybe had time to get tired of him, and eventually his hit/miss ratio would’ve been comparable to all the others. As it is there’s a mystique to the film, like it slipped in sideways through a portal from another reality where the Bond series played out differently. It’s neither fish nor fowl, a square peg, and that gives it an allure the other films can’t manage.
Savalas’ Blofeld may be the least faithful to his literary roots, but there’s certainly something to be said for a villain tough enough to personally go toe-to-toe with Bond. This has become less rare in Bond foes over time, but in 1969 it was radical and maybe even too different to be welcome; the rough stuff was supposed to be done by the flunkies. I’d say audiences have definitely come to prefer a more bare-knuckled, rough and tumble version of Bond, and this version of Blofeld helps tip OHMSS in that direction.
I think Dame Diana was a much bigger thing over time. She had a modest movie career, but her stage and television careers were significant (especially her theatre work), and all of her acting awards are post-Bond. I think that when OHMSS is watched now, evaluations of Rigg’s performance benefit from her subsequent glory.
Not at that point in his career and as that character. His Robin Hood is in some ways a 15th century variation on his Bond (I adore ROBIN AND MARIAN).
Well said, and I think that sometimes/often the allure is mistaken for quality.
Thanks for confirming and deepening what was just a vague idea in my head.
Well, that’s set the bar a bit early in the month; not sure anything else in the upcoming repertoire will generate quite that level and quality of discussion! Let’s have a look… favourite ankles of the 1970s…no… least distracting carpet in a John Glen film… no… Is Brosnan’s GoldenEye hair sentient?,. maybe that’ll work… and as an example:
For September 3:
No Time to Die relies heavily on some folks’ knowledge of OHMSS and equally so some folks’ lack of knowledge of it, to see in both cases what it can get away with. Cakey-cakey, eaty-eaty. Not entirely sure any of the OHMSS references are actually to No Time to Die’s advantage or whether any of them are truly necessary for the film to deliver.
However, OHMSS in abundance isn’t the only callback. What’s your favourite / least distracting of the following? Can choose up to seven, I think.
Vesper still on his mind
Binder-esque dots in the title sequence
Familiar Spectre faces from, well, Spectre
Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Hat toss / identity card toss in Moneypenny’s office
I think that OHMSS is such a perfect snapshot of the time it was made it can’t help but be raised up in status, it’s the last Bond film to set it’s own agenda. The editing, the filming, the framing of the picture make it a classic outside of Bond. Just as FRWL is a great spy film period, OHMSS is a great piece of cinema without it having to be prefaced as a Bond movie
Well, “favourite” and “least distracting” can two different things, yes? I guess my favourite was the dots, which looked great and brought a smile to my face.
Least distracting would have to be the “safari suit on 007” since it took me a full two minutes to figure out what you meant. It can’t be too distracting if I never notice it at all, right? In second place, the Delectado cigar, which it only took me half as long to figure out.
I love the Vantage, but its inclusion is the opposite of “not distracting.” It’s a welcome break from the (sigh, again?) DB5, but neither of them can be explained in Craig’s world. At least the Vantage doesn’t display any gadgets, so I can tell myself it’s “A” Vantage and not “The” Vantage.
I have a love/hate thing with the Adam-esque sets at the end. On the one hand, it’s a welcome sign that the producers remember the old days and it may even be a tiny teaser of a pending return to that kind of OTT spectacle. On the other hand, as executed in NTTD there’s a definite joylessness to what used to be a delight. Where Adam’s lairs were often constructed of gleaming steel and teeming with crowds of extras – pulsing nerve centers for global evil that sometimes gave off a “cathedral” feel – Safin’s lair is more brutalistic, formed of dull, dead concrete and with an “abandoned” feel even when you do see people moving around. It’s a repurposed missile base, so it looks backward, not forward. It looks like an abandoned prison. And maybe it’s supposed to: Adam-like design + prison-like atmosphere = a representation of the “prison” of the past, ie all the baggage attached to the series over the years. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to compare it to a tomb. Adam’s sets, upon reveal, promised that spectacular, explosion-filled battle scene we knew would close out the show. Safin’s lair promises only death: it’s dead when Safin finds and repurposes it, he fills it with more death between the virus and the garden, and the only feeling it inspires in us is dread; we know, even if Bond doesn’t, that this is the place he’s going to bow out. I don’t know, sometimes I think Eon is determined to bring back all the elements I loved and miss but always in a way that takes the joy right out of them. It’s almost like they’re saying, “Oh, you want more of ‘x’? Well, here it is and I hope you choke on it.”
I like the ID card toss and hadn’t considered it a callback to the tossed hat. But it was very distracting because all I was thinking for the next minute or so was, “I wonder how many tries it took to get that right? Is that something you can do with CG?”