James Bond in cinema through the summer

https://princecharlescinema.com/PrinceCharlesCinema.dll/Seasons?e=341

To get us back in the mood…

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I see FRWL is sold out already

I’d have bet GOLDFINGER would be the first to be sold out. Whoever can attend this, try to catch ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, it’s a treat.

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I have got a couple of tickets for me and a German neighbour, whose favourite film is this one, OHMSS.

Should anyone else from here be going to the same, would be happy to shake a hand, say Hi.

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Wave a hand, maybe.

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Give a knowing nod

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Shout from afar.

I anticipate wearing a hazmat suit, black and yellow warning tape all over my arms, certified as having been sanitised that very morning.

It’ll be a day out, to be sure.

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That’s how one always dresses when going up to town anyway, due to the abundance of scutters.

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I had to look it up. Consider me informed…

If things calm down a bit and I attend one or more of the screenings,I will wear one of my 007 ties

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To Bond fans OHMSS is an absolute gem. It’s the general public that I’d like to experience the film, and in the best possible way: the darkness of a cinema. I expect those who enter with no expectations would leave very differently. Much like Cubby, I’d enjoy watching the crowd’s reactions as much as the film itself.

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My mum and dad saw it at the cinema back in 1969, and when James said “we have all the time in the world” a man shouted out “no you won’t when you get shot in the head in a minute!” An usher threw him out,but it was too late ,as he had spoiled it for everyone!

When I started my Job a few years ago, one of the guys asked me about my favourite Bond film, as it became known that I was a Bond fan. He said something along the lines of " I bet it’s not that one with the guy who only did one ? it’s really bad ? " Of course he was surprised to hear that in fact it was my Favourite and No it wasn’t Bad at all .

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It’s really fascinating what became of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE over time. It went pretty much from obscurity and being almost extinguished from the canon to an insider tip and over the decades to a feuilleton and fan favourite.

Interestingly, when I became a Bond fan in ‘77, few film publications even mentioned OHMSS; and if so then more or less on par with the ‘67 CASINO ROYALE - a bad joke best forgotten. But that very year THE SPY WHO LOVED ME actually acknowledged OHMSS and its tragic ending for the first time since the last frames of the Lazenby film. An early sign of the reappraisal that was to happen.

Also noteworthy, OHMSS only barely escaped the fate of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The closeness to Fleming’s novel, the very quality most fans seem to value highly about OHMSS, came largely by happenstance. The book had been scheduled for adaptation a few times before, and the respective outlines and scripts went through all the various fads and fashions of the Bond brand. The OHMSS we got could have looked very different in ‘66 or ‘67.

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If Casino Royale and Skyfall weren’t made I’m not sure if the reappraisal would’ve been as strong. The change in tone after Die Another Day brought the past to the forefront and perhaps made people ask ‘what other Bond films are similar to these?’ Connery’s first two, Dalton’s two and of course OHMSS are going to be the responses. No gadgets? Bond in love? A nasty ending? Perceived weaknesses became strengths. The film played the long game, proving it really did have all the time in the world.

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Had not the reappraisal not begun several years before Die Another Day.

To be sure, ‘Die’ probably speeded up that process and gave it a last hurl over the hurdle but I think it all began much earlier.

As I noted in the “What movie have you seen today” thread at the time, I got to see OHMSS in the cinema three years ago, and it was an amazing experience.

For one, it was a reminder that the Bond films used to be designed to fill every inch of a big screen with gorgeous scenery and spectacle, but it also gave a different kind of “new perspective” seeing it with a audience that was surprisingly unfamiliar with the film – and maybe even the franchise – based on their reactions.

People seemed genuinely appreciative of any and all attempts at humor, but Lazenby himself got few of the laughs. The only line of his I remember going over big was the “sudden stiffness” bit and even then it’s really George Baker’s line. When Laz does the “you must give me the name of your occulist” line, it was inaudible because everyone was already laughing at Draco’s, “She likes you, I can tell.” They also laughed when he says – of his own daughter! – “She needs a man to dominate her,” and later when he punches her unconscious. They were clearly laughing AT the movie and not with it (as in, “Holy crap, did people used to really get away with this stuff?”)

The stunts and especially the ski chases are very impressive on the big screen, though when Bond knocks Blofeld’s man off the cliff, people laughed all the way through the long, long fall and applauded at the end. I think it’s because it’s so obviously a dummy, and the editor’s commitment to hold the shot through the entire fall and end it with an impact at the bottom makes the whole thing feel like a Wile E Coyote homage, if you’re in that kind of mood.

When Tracy met her fate, a woman down in front, yelled, “Oh My God!” which sparked some laughter but gave me an inkling of what audiences might have felt in 1969. I couldn’t help thinking, “Lady have you never HEARD of James Bond? Who doesn’t know he’s a bachelor? If he’s unmarried today, how could things have worked out well in 1969?” Even back then, how big a surprise could it have been? Anyone who watched episodic television – including “Bonanza,” one of the most popular TV shows in the world at the time – must have known what happens to the newlywed wives of franchise heroes?

Anyway in terms of spectacle, very little beats seeing OHMSS – or any classic Bond – on the big screen. And seeing it with a crowd of fans and non-fans is an interesting athropological exercise. But on the whole, it’s probably better, at least for me, to see these things all the way through by myself the first time, just to form my own opinions and catch things that can get lost or distorted thanks to the “participation” of other viewers.

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Interestingly, one critic at the time seemed indeed to imagine a future for a Bond & Tracy duo, mixing up the chemistry of the Bond films with that of The Avengers tv series. Even in the book Bond fantasising about marriage sounded hollow and unconvincing. For the cinematic version anything along the lines of Tommy and Tuppence was certainly out of the question.

I think it’s worth noting the tremendous significance of Rigg’s casting here. To the extent that it’s possible at all to imagine Bond popping the question or entering into a believable partnership with Tracy, it’s entirely down to Dame Diana. Anyone else would’ve been marked down as cannon fodder from the get-go, and it’s a virtual certainty no other actress would’ve been given their own solo fight scene, let alone one that borrowed the James Bond theme as it unfolded (an honor never shared by any other character in the series). If it doesn’t make her fate any less pre-ordained, it at least makes it much harder to witness, unmoved.

This is one of those rare but cherished cases where the translation from novel to screen actually improves the experience, like using the attache case in FRWL to get Bond out of danger instead of the hoary trope of a thick book stopping a bullet, or Goldfinger opting to irradiate Ft Knox instead of (impossibly) looting it. Having Emma Peel as Tracy makes the character work for me in a way the “all victim, all the time” version in the book does not.

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Very good point indeed!

I used to have my reservations towards Rigg’s casting as I never saw her as a suicidal or mentally unstable character as Fleming described her*. But Rigg playing Tracy makes the case for Bond asking her to merry him in the first place that much stronger. I never looked at it from that angle.

The literary Bond pondered marriage more or less impulsively out of the blue. In Casino Royale as a reaction of relief, seeing his male faculties restored after planning to ditch Vesper coldheartedly only a few pages before. In On Her Majesty’s as a brief listing of reasonable considerations pro marriage.

In both cases Bond seems to mistake affection and sex for love - though his musings might be authentic reflections of Fleming’s own approach towards the topic. Romantic notions probably didn’t always play the crucial part in terms of when to marry whom in Fleming’s days.

Translating Tracy into Bond’s counterpart was insofar a clever move as it changed the relationship into one of two strong characters.

*That would have been a splendid role for Catherine Deneuve.

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