It has one of my favourite bond quips:
Isn’t the outfit in the teaser poster the same he wore for the last act of the movie, just with the suede jacket?
It’s a good quip , as the I shall cut out white bread sir
Thing is , there’s something (s) to love in every Bond film , which imho is unique in a film series
I will see your clips and raise you one nurse scene…
Recycled from an episode of the 1970s BBC series Porridge
Yep, I know.
I try like hell to find something to like about NSNA every time I watch it; but I usually end up with nothing (KMB aside)
Surely Fatima Blush is a plus… Famke Jansen serves Fatima straight up with a twist in Goldeneye
Does OHMSS still count as underrated? It seems to be well regarded now by many a Bond fan.
I think it’s safe to say that for fans on the whole OHMSS is right near the top…
I think, even for non-fans, OHMSS is rated much higher today.
OHMSS was very ill-received at the time largely for one reason: Connery wasn’t Bond. And the audience wasn’t willing to accept this in 1969. We’ve seen numerous different Bonds since, so Connery’s absence isn’t that big a deal any more. Today, people are already fairly used to different portrayals of James Bond and Lazenby isn’t a dealbreaker any longer.
The second big problem OHMSS had was the marriage, something that seemed entirely beyond film Bond at the time (although we’ve seen Bond marry in YOLT before that). This element has seen its overdue revision, largely, as far as I can tell, due to fans of the literary canon who claimed for long years OHMSS was one of the most faithful adaptations period. Gradually, this verdict seeped into the realm of mainstream critics, it would seem. I think it’s safe to say OHMSS is appreciated today by both hardcore and casual fans.
About critics, generally I don’t think they understand Bond. They on certain aspects that are seen as not-Bondlike I suppose, such as the clown scene at the end of Octopussy and use that as evidence that the film isn’t good. For a long time, they considered Dalton a poor Bond because he only did 2, despite not ever mentioning that it wasn’t his fault he only did 2. Personally, I don’t care what critics say, I only care what I think. The 2 Punisher films are universally hated by critics and yet I think they are terrific films. Whereas, critics seem to love Interstellar (and really most of Chris Nolan’s catalogue) and I can’t for the life of me see why. Point is, enjoy the films don’t worry about the critics.
Conversely, NSNA was very well-received for one reason: Connery WAS in it. I’d argue it has almost nothing else going for it, and indeed a lot of the same folks who were wetting themselves over how “great” it was in 1983 now consider it very weak.
I view OHMSS and NSNA two sides of a coin proving timing is everything. OHMSS was a fine film, but for the most part not what audiences were ready for in 1969 on the heels of three consecutive “spectacle” Bonds that accented high adventure, care-free sex and a hero who was, increasingly, an infallible superhero unperturbed by anything that happened to or around him. To suddenly be presented with a Bond who could fall in love, threaten to resign his job in frustration, look genuinely scared at points, walk the aisle and end the film in tears was more than they might have tolerated even with Connery in harness, but with him out of the picture there’s no way they’d stand for it.
On the other hand, in 1983 there were enough people tiring of Moore’s long tenure, and enough surviving old-timers who still hadn’t finished griping about losing Connery in the first place, that with Sean back under the toupee, NSNA could wobble along with all manner of shortcomings in every other department and still be declared the best Bond in years. The content of the film was almost irrelevant; the key was it arrived when people wanted it.
All of which is to say, being appreciated depends as much on the audience as it does on the film. It’s all well and fine to make a great movie that’s innovative or clever or formula-changing, but the key is to do it when audiences are ready for it. All the artistry in the world doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sell tickets. Casino Royale got the timing just right; people were hungry for a sea change, and EON was canny enough to recognize it even though DAD had made a ton of loot. They get major props for that. LTK was too much too soon; a noble effort but not what audience were ready for, yet. AVTAK missed an opportunity, delivering more of the same when folks were ready to move on. And so on.
The interesting part is that the individual films are frozen in time, but the audience is not. OHMSS and NSNA are the same movies now that they always were, but audience perceptions, tastes and tolerances have shifted. And they will again. To some extent, every entry in the series has its virtues and eventually all of them will have their moment. EON’s job, in balancing commerce with art, is always to make sure the NEXT entry fits the cultural moment in which it’s released. In retrospect, it’s fairly astonishing just how often they’ve gotten it right.
This is a great post and I want to come back to it when I have more time!!
David, I enjoyed reading your comments very much. However, my thinking of why On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was initially not well received is somewhat different from yours. You argue that OHMSS “… for the most part not what audiences were ready for in 1969 on the heels of three consecutive “spectacle” Bonds that accented high adventure, care-free sex and a hero who was, increasingly, an infallible superhero unperturbed by anything that happened to or around him.” I have problems with each of those explanations.
First, the initial part of OHMSS is rather quiet action wise for a Bond film. However, once Bond escapes Blofeld’s lair, we have two ski chases, a chase at a stock car rally, an avalanche, the aerial assault on said lair, and a bob sled chase, all with only a few brief slower periods. This is from the December 1969 New York Times review: “… the heart of the matter is a series of chases….The chases are breakneck, devastating affairs.” So with its great action sequences and, I will add, its lovely cinematography, I would argue that OHMSS is one of the “spectacle” Bonds.
Next, concerning there being less “care-free sex” in OHMSS, that would only be true if we ignore Bond’s night with first Ruby and then Nancy.
Now, comes the issue of Bond. Was OHMSS not well regarded at the time because its Bond was not an “infallible superhero” or was it because Bond was, for the first time, not played by Sean Connery? I will go with the later. Why? First, I am an old guy and saw OHMSS back in 1969, and while I loved the film, when I saw some Connery films in rerelease a year later, I felt like a was seeing the true James Bond. Hence, I can imagine how people might have felt going from Connery to Lazenby. Second, I did find a couple of reviews about OHMSS from when it came out and while they both mention the new Bond neither mention Bond being more vulnerable. Third, I do have distant memories of news coverage from the time when the film came out and what I remember all concerned the new Bond.
I would be interested in any additional thoughts that you might have on OHMSS, especially if have memories of when it came or if you read any articles from that period.
I tend to agree with this. Lazenby’s reception has warmed in the years since 1969. His performance is still wooden, but I personally can’t see anyone playing Bond in OHMSS…
I certainly didn’t mean to imply that OHMSS is an action-free snoozefest. If anything, it’s argubaly the best entry when it comes to practical stunts, and a clear inspiration for franchises like Indiana Jones. By “spectacle” and “high adventure” I mean over-the-top elements like jet-packs, massive underwater battles, hollowed out volcanoes with monorails and rocketships, etc. By the end of the Connery era, 007 was about 30% Fleming and 70% Buck Rogers. OHMSS, in comparison, was comparatively “down to Earth,” though in fairness only by Bond standards. My point was where the franchise had evolved into something of a three-ring circus of amazing, dazzling, “just when you thought we couldn’t top ourselves” spectacle, OHMSS took a step back to something closer to “reality.” If audiences came for gadgets, wild vehicles and outlandish sets, they’d have been largely disappointed.
In the sense of cinematography, with the gorgeous shots of Piz Gloria, the opening sequence on the beach, etc, OHMSS has some of the best natural “spectacle” in the series.
As far as “care-free sex,” I wasn’t saying there was any shortage of rutting going on. But where Connery’s Bond never seemed particularly attached to his partners, and was always on the lookout for the next one, Lazenby’s Bond fell hard for Tracy and seemed willing to trade his swinging lifestyle for domesticated bliss. I have often argued that Lazenby was needed here, if only to pull this off. For the life of me, I can’t imagine Connery convincing me in the proposal scene.
(As an aside, I think it’s a weak point of the film that Bond is so attached to Tracy he’s willing to marry her, but not so attached he’s going to pass up the chance to sleep with as many girls as possible at Piz Gloria. He can’t even argue it’s necessary to the mission, as in fact it’s what blows his cover.)
I think we’re arguing the same thing from different angles. By 1969, Connery was so identified with Bond that audiences were going to resist anyone even slightly different, yes. But among the things that defined Connery’s Bond were his near-infallibility, his immunity to emotional attachments and his imperturbable cool. If Lazenby had duplicated those traits, people would have said, “He doesn’t do it as well as Connery,” but to the extent he goes in a different direction they say, “Connery would never have done that!” So while Lazenby does just what Fleming said Bond is supposed to do: falling for Tracy, suffering a loss to Blofeld, etc, nobody cares because it’s not what “the other fella” would have done. They can’t imagine Connery in that proposal scene any more than I can. By 1969 it’s already irrelevant what Fleming wrote; the yardstick everyone measures Bond by is Sean Connery.
Sorry, I can’t share any thoughts of OHMSS from 1969, as I was only four at the time, and wouldn’t find the film until the abysmal ABC-TV chop job. I’ll definitely cede you the point that Lazenby was rejected due to the obstinate close-mindedness of movie critics (I am old enough to remember them childishly whining about Roger Moore for years, for the same reason), but I would argue that we’re on the same page: to the extent OHMSS was rejected, it’s because it wasn’t what people expected. But it wasn’t just Connery’s face and voice, it was his approach to Bond as a British superhero. For the millions upon millions of people who met 007 in the person of a Scottish actor and not on the printed page, there was only one way to do Bond “right.”