On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
In which James Bond resigns his post.
And cleans out his desk.
Two weeks’ leave.
Operation Bedlam, beautiful girls cured of their curious allergies to such things as a chicken leg, say, or potatoes now devour them greedily at dinner thanks to Bleauchamp’s cure, a form of hypnosis with an auto-suggestion to perfume the world devastatingly via Blofeld’s formula for sterility.
A very harsh marriage parable, Bond’s adieu to bachelorhood (Mrs. Miniver, dir. William Wyler).
Blofeld speaks here of unappreciated pioneers, and we have to do with a film not unlike Dinner at the Ritz (dir. Harold D. Schuster) in the scale of its rapidity, its less than adequate reception (“the Bond films were bad enough”, says Geoff Andrew in Time Out Film Guide), and its genius.
Bond wears kilts on occasion, and Sherlock Holmes’ overcoat over that. ORBIS · NON · SUFFICIT is found to be his family motto, and his “expertise includes lepidoptery”—in fact, he identifies the Nymphalid M is spreading (M is an admiral and a collector), “unusually small for a Nymphalis polychloros.”
The villain is responsible for an epidemic of foot-and-mouth in England, and threatens the world, mind you. He hypnotizes girls à la The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie), and his Virus Omega is to be propagated through atomizers, if he isn’t made Count Bleauchamp.
In keeping with his style, Hunt’s allusions are short and sweet and to the point of evanescence, Hitchcock (North by Northwest, The 39 Steps), Hawks (The Big Sleep), Gordon Douglas (Young at Heart), Anthony Mann (Reign of Terror, or The Black Book), etc.
Heraldry has more play than in any other film that comes to mind. Mrs. Bond recites some verses that take off from an English poet’s drama.
Shout at the Devil
A variant of The African Queen (Huston), on the same considerably revised plan as His Girl Friday (Hawks) vis-à-vis The Front Page (Milestone).
The long slow pan that in Wild Geese II eloquently takes in the Berlin Wall here shows the meanderings of a river in Zanzibar.
Lang’s Man Hunt supplies an available opportunity let go (Fleischer in O’Flynn’s gunsight). Kramer’s The Pride and the Passion is ironically turned for the “wheels” and steel plates meant to repair the Blücher. The flying machine returns in Death Hunt on quite another theme.
Thus, in various ways on location, Hunt takes into account the sublimity of his original.
O’Flynn’s defense on the deck of the Blücher shows how Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch turns into Ritchie’s The Island.
Critics do not seem to have understood a word of it.
Hunt’s remake of David Miller’s Lonely Are the Brave exists primarily to winnow out in successive stages the knot of tragedy to a simple, comprehensible form. The long lines of thought follow yahoos, Mounties, maniacs, men of sense and various approximations of life in the wild Yukon to get the criminal seen full-face by the trammeled lawman, “a man’s a man for a’ that,” to be sure. When the posse has done all it can do to make a botch of the affair, a put-up job from the outset, and the Royal Canadian pilot has shot them up blindly aiming for the quarry, and a reward has swollen and thinned the ranks, and the complainant’s true nature is revealed, the facts stand clear between them, the Mountie sergeant and the accused trapper are a rifle-shot apart that can’t be made.
It’s a detective story that solves itself by motion. The trapper frees a near-dead dog from the sport of seeing it killed (cp. The Wild North, dir. Andrew Marton), pays the owner and nurses the dog back to health. The yahoo had to be literally stepped on for this, wherefore he rounds up his friends to raid the trapper’s cabin. It goes badly, a yahoo and the dog are dead, the owner goes to the RCMP.
Hunt builds a sumptuous picture of the savvy sergeant at home in the rough town beside the Rat River, well-drunk and situated among the “rough beards”, his new constable in a scarlet coat is an unlikely associate. The thing plays out by its own inertia in several directions at once, until the brouhaha comes down to the sergeant himself as peace officer in an unstable human mass as cockeyed as its version of events. Knowing the truth and seeing it are night and day to a policeman, a reasonable doubt obtains finally even for those in the locality who are not in a position to confidently determine the fact of guilt or innocence in this case.
Wild Geese II
A simple, obscure little joke that has always been the basis of Pabst’s Die Dreigroschenoper sets up the punchline of Wild Geese II. An American television network wants to outdo Watergate by springing Rudolf Hess from Spandau for his secrets, a Soviet agent counters this, a British colonel facilitates it, but the latter is a double agent.
The naïve American proposition is undone by Hess’s taciturnity, he wants to go back to Spandau, anyway who doesn’t know his secret of “British and Soviet deals and betrayals”? Mackie and Peachum, the elements of Schicklgruber’s combination.
A more than brilliant thriller, especially good in cataloguing the Soviet onslaught since the war.
Hunt gets himself into trouble right at the opening on the silly side of American news, and walks right into Berlin all unawares. “I don’t mind a certain amount of trouble,” says Philip Marlowe.
The Olympic Stadium is a generous reminder of Michael Anderson’s The Quiller Memorandum to ironic purpose. Frankenheimer appreciated Hunt’s film, or appears to have emulated it in Ronin.
Rose’s screenplay and Hunt’s direction emphasize where applicable the humdrum, mundane, asinine side of spying. The critics do not seem to have discerned much.
Critics have by and large observed that Assassination is not to be taken at face value. That’s all, critics being what they are. A film so tightly-inwoven as this entails a great work of analysis, and critics are not being paid to do great work, by and large.
Let’s point out to them that the flight of One Mama proceeds north and west from the nation’s capital to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (the Pickett’s Charge Motel), Kokomo, Indiana, and Lodgepole, Wyoming, before concluding in Nevada. It thus enters Indian Country progressively, and reaches the gold fields. This is really sufficient to indicate the actual structure of the film, which consists of nothing more than these signposts for the most part.
The imagery of an impotent government requiring a revolutionary approach to the new position is seconded by that of reluctant Killion and rarin’-to-go Charlie, whose role is cast so as not to put too fine a point on it.
The sort of symbolism that constitutes this film is that of Dishonored Lady (dir. Robert Stevenson), for example. Jill Ireland’s performance, in particular, excels in its apparent naturalism and grace.
The critics ought to know that keeping your hand in is not the same as having your finger on the lens.