(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)
This was the only Bond movie I never really saw as a kid. I saw clips of it, and maybe a scene here or there on television, but I actually never sat down to watch it until 2006. To put it bluntly, I hated it. It was just all wrong to me. But if you’ve been reading all of my Bond reviews so far, you will know that my tastes have been changing throughout the years, so I sat down to re-watch this with a very open mind, especially since this IS highly regarded amongst hardcore Bond fans.
Okay, this plot is kind of all over the map, so I’ll do my best here. Bond meets Tracy when he just so happens to be passing by as she attempts suicide by walking into the ocean. It turns out this crazy chick is the daughter of a mob boss named Draco. 007 decides to use his connections to find the notorious leader of Spectre, Blofeld. But Draco wants Bond to marry his daughter because… well, there really never is a good explanation other than she needs a dominate man to take charge of her. Whatever…. Anyway, Bond goes undercover as a homosexual (though it was unclear at first) allergy expert in a secluded hideout in the Swiss Alps. Turns out Blofeld is hypnotizing slutty girls with allergies. And the reason is…. well, something to do with world domination, I guess. Of course, Blofeld finds out about Bond’s true identity and big chases scene ensue until the inevitable Bond Finale with tons of explosions.
The pre-title sequence is probably the best thing in the movie. It starts off with M looking for Bond, then it shows the secret agent driving a car only to be passed by a car driven by a beautiful woman. This is Tracy, whom stops the car and walks into the ocean. Bond chases after her. While trying to revive her, 2 thugs attack. The fight scene is cut very rapidly, and most of the time the shots match. It has a rhythm that puts the viewer on edge, as it’s not smooth. It’s messy fighting, so the quick cutting sort of fits. Then it ends with Tracy driving away, while George Lazenby says, “This never happened to the other fella”, and then breaks the fourth wall by smirking into the camera. Then Bam! John Barry’s ultra-energetic score blasts its way onto the soundtrack. Not a bad way to introduce the world to a new Bond (though why the bad guys attacked them doesn’t make any sense if you actually think about it).
But, the movie has to have a plot, which I found quite ridiculous. The first half was a bit better in the story department, because the whole plot wasn’t known yet. Bond is introduced to Tracy in typical fashion playing cards, then of course he beds her. But there are also a couple of fist fights in the first 30 minutes. Again, they are fast, furious, and exciting, but the quick cutting makes it sloppy. When the shots do match, it’s rousing. When they don’t, it’s distracting and becomes very jarring. Then after Draco tries to get Bond to marry Tracy by offering info on Blofeld, we’re treated with some pretty out-of-character (for a Bond movie) mushy montage sequences between 007 and Tracy that would have been more at home in something like LOVE STORY. This IS a James Bond movie, right?
The second half has our hero posing as a gay doctor. First of all, no one really says he’s gay. In fact, I didn’t realize that he was posing as gay until one of the girls characters said, “I thought you didn’t like girls?”. It’s a plot point that didn’t really need to be in there. But there are some okay action set pieces. One is an extended ski chase and has a few thrills. Oh yeah, there is another ski chase during the daytime too. The finale when all hell breaks loose has some neat moments, though when Bond shows up out of nowhere sliding like a penguin on his belly across ice, it made me face palm. I did enjoy (to a certain extent) the bobsled fight between Bond and Blofeld. It’s so ridiculous that it’s hard not to like it.
But, yeah, I still didn’t like the movie! To put it plainly, this it’s a mess. Where should I start? Well, I guess we can start with George Lazenby. This was his first and only turn as Bond, replacing Sean Connery. This would be no easy feat for the greatest of actors. But Lazenby isn’t even a GOOD actor. He may look the part, but that disappears as soon as he opens up with mouth, with his voice sounding like his nose is constantly plugged. There were many moments where I had trouble understanding him. And he’s boring. He’s more like James Bland. I would gladly take Connery’s lazy performance from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE over Lazenby ‘s any day of the week. Diana Rigg is an odd choice for a Bond girl. Sure she’s pretty, but she looks and sounds too much like Julie Andrews. Do you think Julie Andrews would make a good Bond girl? I didn’t think so either. All of Bond’s other conquests aren’t very sexy or interesting. The short-haired English girl was especially annoying. And then there’s Telly Savalas as Blofeld. Now, I love Telly, but he’s just NOT Blofeld. He’s just playing Telly. It wouldn’t be so bad if Blofeld wasn’t already an established villain in the series. With the exception of his cat, there’s nothing even remotely the same about the master villain. He should have been called someone else.
Which brings me to my next gripe. In the last movie, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Blofeld meets Bond and barely escapes with his life. In this one, when Blofeld meets Bond (who is undercover) he doesn’t even recognize him! And wouldn’t Bond be the least bit worried about being recognized? This is a glaring flaw that bugged me throughout the whole movie. Another thing. Blofeld has always had an army of master villains working for him. He more or less acted like a General as the other bad guys did the dirty work for him. In this one, Blofeld uncharacteristically works controls, actively hypnotizes people (he would normally have his cronies do this, I would think), skis while shooting an automatic machine gun, jumps, runs and is an expert Bobsled driver. I don’t know what he’s like in the novels, but what I gathered from the previous films was that he was a mastermind. He wouldn’t really do anything physical unless it was absolutely necessary. Maybe I’m looking too much into this, but it bothered the shit out of me throughout.
Now the romance: I’m sure it was all in the novel, but from watching James Bond bang countless chicks in the first 5 flicks, him falling in love was hard to swallow. I guess if we saw some genuine chemistry between Lazenby and Rigg, but we don’t. She doesn’t seem any more special than any other Bond girl, so I didn’t really understand why 007 pops the ultimate question. That’s right. He proposes to her. Something I don’t think Bond would ever do. It come completely out of left field. But if it’s in the book, I guess I have an issue with the book too.
Peter Hunt, who was the editor of the previous Bond films, steps in as director this time. He’s not very good. The editing is all over the place and the camera placements don’t make a whole lot of sense at times. The script doesn’t make much sense either and is out of character with the rest of the series. I will say this. John Barry’s score may possibly one of his best, using some extra jazzy riffs and some late-60’s electronic bass themes. It’s terrific!
I’m about to go into spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know how the movie ends (I won’t go into detail, but just the manner of how it ends), stop reading.
I will give the filmmakers credit for doing something incredibly ballsy at the very end. Even though it’s quite abrupt and is a bit silly if you think about it, I appreciated how dark it was. For a big budget action film, it’s super downer of a way to end the film. This scene also contains Lazenby’s only moment of real acting, and it’s surprisingly effective.
Even Sean Connery wouldn’t have been able to save this one, though it would have been better by a smidgen. But the movie has bigger problems than just Lazenby. The plot didn’t make sense to me in the Bond universe, the direction is sloppy as hell, and Blofeld doesn’t act like Blofeld. I’m starting to regret my decision to go back and watch all the Bond movies. After 6 movies, I can only recommend 2 of them fully. Maybe I like the idea of bond more than I like the actual movies? These early ones were supposed to be the best I thought. This is the first one, though, that I would say is flat-out bad. Besides not being a terribly good Bond entry, it’s also a poorly made film. ★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Originally rated M for Mature, but would be rated PG-13 today for violence, sensuality and brief nudity (from a Playboy magazine). Oh yeah, and innuendos.
– Running time: 2hrs 21min.