Lois Maxwell

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, Peter R. Hunt)

There’s a lot of good stuff in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, some of it really good. Director Hunt and editor John Glen have a great time with the fight scenes. The film opens with a hurried, though a playful introduction to George Lazenby in the title role, then moves immediately into one of the frantic fight scenes. There’s a lot of sped up film in Majesty, but it only ever works for the fight scenes. Glen cuts out extra frames, forcing the viewer to hurry up. It’s awesome.

Otherwise, technically, the film is somewhat uneven. Hunt’s direction isn’t bad and he clearly likes shooting the exteriors, but they’re the only time (other than those fight scenes) there’s much energy. Cinematographer Michael Reed has a questionable handling of day for night shooting, a technique the film needs a lot and Reed never gets it right. Some excellent music from John Barry, some not so excellent music.

So, overall, uneven technically.

As for the story, again, uneven. Lazenby finds himself romancing Diana Rigg, sort of against his will, in his question to destroy villain Telly Savalas. Savalas comes off as campy, not villainous. Lazenby might bring some camp to the Bond role, but he combines it with actual charm and likability. Not so for Savalas. He’s often just silly.

Rigg’s great. The movie underutilizes her, ignores her, but she’s still great. She even makes it through some of the more misogynistic dialogue (directed at her, not from her).

Majesty is also a little weird with its willingness to make Lazenby’s Bond such a shallow pig. Getting distracted from a mission to look at “Playboy” magazine, for example, doesn’t seem particularly responsible for a secret agent. The plot keeps him away from the MI6 regulars (Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn) for much of the film. In a lot of ways, Majesty feels like a spoof of itself.

Still, the action’s good–save Reed’s “nighttime” photography and Glen giving up on doing anything interesting with the editing in the last quarter–and the film moves. It’s occasionally excellent, usually decent.

Then it closes with a tone deaf, way too long ending and Majesty collapses.

It’s unfortunate. It should be better. Most of the necessary pieces to make it better–to make it good–are readily available in cast and crew.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Peter R. Hunt; screenplay by Simon Raven and Richard Maibaum, based on the novel by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Michael Reed; edited by John Glen; music by John Barry; production designer, Syd Cain; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.

Starring George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Tracy), Telly Savalas (Blofeld), Gabriele Ferzetti (Draco), Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Bernard Lee (M), George Baker (Sir Hilary Bray), Angela Scoular (Ruby) and Desmond Llewelyn (Q).


Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick)

The first half of Lolita is a wonderful mix of acting styles. There’s James Mason’s very measured, very British acting. There’s Shirley Winters’s histrionics; she’s doing Hollywood melodrama on overdrive but director Kubrick (and Winters) have it all under perfect control. And then there’s Sue Lyons as the titular character. She’s far more naturalistic than either Mason or Winters–and certainly more than Peter Sellers in his supporting role. The second half of the film loses that mix. Instead of Mason playing off other styles, he’s mostly left to his own hysterics.

And Winters was better at them.

Lolita is a difficult proposition as Mason, as a supreme pervert, has to be somewhat sympathetic. Winters, who should be sympathetic, has to be a villain. Lyons, who is a victim, has to be villainous. And what about Sellers? He has to not run off with the picture, which he almost does every time he’s in the movie.

That first half, which Kubrick tells in summary, is gloriously well-paced. It moves in short sequences–sometimes just a shot with actors entering and leaving–and it moves it lengthy scenes. It’s far more interesting stuff than the second half of the film, which is a Hitchcockian thriller without any thrillers.

Great music from Nelson Riddle, great photography from Oswald Morris.

Everything sort of falls apart in the third act as Kubrick rushes to find a conclusion. The second half, with Mason’s outbursts and arguments, can’t compare to the sublimity of the first.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Stanley Kubrick; screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov, based on his novel; director of photography, Oswald Morris; edited by Anthony Harvey; music by Nelson Riddle; produced by James B. Harris; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring James Mason (Prof. Humbert Humbert), Shelley Winters (Charlotte Haze), Sue Lyon (Lolita), Jerry Stovin (John Farlow), Diana Decker (Jean Farlow), Lois Maxwell (Nurse Mary Lore), Bill Greene (George Swine), Marianne Stone (Vivian Darkbloom) and Peter Sellers (Clare Quilty).


The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise)

What makes The Haunting so good–besides Wise’s wondrous Panavision composition–is the characters. Yes, it succeeds as a horror film, with great internal dialogue (Julie Harris’s character’s thoughts drive the first twenty minutes alone and the device never feels awkward), but those successes are nothing compared to the character interactions.

The Haunting chooses to be both definite and understated with the truth behind its supernatural elements. Gidding structures his conversations about the supernatural very carefully, leaving the viewer to constantly question previous events, creating a palpable uneasiness.

In that uneasiness, Gidding is able to create these evolving character relationships. The one between Harris and Claire Bloom is, for example, the practical backbone of the entire picture. It allows Harris’s character to, for lack of a less cute term, bloom. But the relationship is in constant flux, especially since the audience hears a lot of what goes on in Harris’s head–but not Bloom’s. It’s very interesting to see what Gidding is going to come up with, in the dialogue, next.

The structure of the opening–the film starts with Richard Johnson introducing the haunted house aspect of the story, then moves entirely to Harris for a while–gives Wise and Gidding a fine opportunity to introduce the characters to each other and they fully utilize it. There isn’t a single character without a unique dynamic with another–lots of the Haunting is four people in a room talking (Russ Tamblyn being the fourth).

Also superior is Humphrey Searle’s score.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Robert Wise; screenplay by Nelson Gidding, based on a novel by Shirley Jackson; director of photography, Davis Boulton; edited by Ernest Walter; music by Humphrey Searle; production designer, Elliot Scott; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.

Starring Julie Harris (Nell), Claire Bloom (Theo), Richard Johnson (Dr. John Markway), Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sanderson), Fay Compton (Mrs. Sanderson), Rosalie Crutchley (Mrs. Dudley), Lois Maxwell (Grace Markway), Valentine Dyall (Mr. Dudley), Diane Clare (Carrie Fredericks) and Ronald Adam (Eldridge Harper).


You Only Live Twice (1967, Lewis Gilbert)

My wife walked out on You Only Live Twice. She got up and left about forty minutes in. I finished it because I figured forty minutes was halfway and I could make it. It was tough.

The film’s memorable because of the beginning, where James Bond dies. It’s an interesting scene, even though it’s never explained. The ninjas are sort of memorable, but not specifically, because it’s a lame scene.

What stunned me about the film was how sexist it is. For a James Bond movie to be stunningly sexist, it has to be really sexist. The lack of distinguishable personalities for the two female leads–who, incidentally, were both in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Then there’s the scene where Bond’s Japanese counterpart makes a nasty remark about Moneypenny and Bond doesn’t defend her as a colleague. Also, there’s a lengthy sequence about Bond refusing his mission because he doesn’t think he’s going to get a pretty fake wife.

There are some cool sets at the end. It’s amazing how big Pinewood is–I can’t think of any other film, except maybe Eyes Wide Shut, making the studio seem so big.

Sean Connery’s bored.

Lewis Gilbert’s direction is lousy. I got excited when I saw Gilbert’s name too; he must have learned subtlety later in his career.

The music’s okay.

The action sequence with the helicopter is good.

The plot lacks any movement, with Bond hanging out in Japan the entire runtime.

It’s boring me even to talk about it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lewis Gilbert; screenplay by Roald Dahl and Harold Jack Bloom, based on the novel by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Freddie Young; music by John Barry; production designer, Ken Adam; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.

Starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Wakabayashi Akiko (Aki), Hama Mie (Kissy Suzuki), Tamba Tetsuro (Tiger Tanaka), Shimada Teru (Mr. Osato), Karin Dor (Helga Brandt), Donald Pleasence (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Charles Gray (Dikko Henderson) and Chin Tsai (Ling).


Thunderball (1965, Terence Young)

Thunderball is real boring. The problem is two-fold. First, the opening is heavy. After the pre-title bit (which is goofy with the jetpack), it’s a pseudo-Hitchcock, with Connery off in a spa. He sees strange things going on and gradually romances his masseuse. Intercut with these scenes are the bad guys preparing to do their bad things. Terence Young’s a fantastic director–even when Thunderball is sleep-inducing–so all of these scenes, especially the ones in the spa, look great. They’re just not going anywhere.

When the movie finally starts–the spa adventures almost feels like a short story glued on to a three-act narrative–it’s mostly Connery romancing again. This time it’s Claudine Auger, who’s not very good. Luciana Paluzzi is far better as the bad girl. Adolfo Celi’s eye-patched villain is weak as well. The Bond regulars sparsely show up and Desmond Llewelyn’s scene is practically in the second half and is, of course, excellent, so it makes up for a lot.

But the other, far more damning problem, is the conclusion. It features a too silly for Bond closer and a missing scientist (the movie forgets about him). But those aspects aren’t really too influential. The end fails because, after making the viewer sit through a fifteen minute water ballet slash fight scene, all Young’s got for a conclusion is a speeding boat. Except the boat’s only speeding through sped up film. Thunderball uses the technique, which looks terrible, quite a few times… but the entire ending is running double-speed and it’s atrocious.

Then the end comes and ruins what would otherwise have been a boring but competent Bond outing.

Connery’s got some great one-liners in here, but most of them come at ludicrous plot points. For example, he’s got some witty line after he harpoons a bad guy to a tree. Auger’s not at all surprised (or horrified), which seems unlikely, since her character is supposed to be naive innocent.

One real interesting thing Thunderball does–and gets an incomplete on–is give Bond a team to work with. They’re only in a few scenes, but it’s interesting to see him work with other people. They should have been in a lot more.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Terence Young; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, based on a screenplay by Jack Whittingham and a story by Kevin McClory, Whittingham and Ian Fleming; director of photography, Ted Moore; edited by Peter R. Hunt; music by John Barry; production designer, Ken Adam; produced by McClory, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.

Starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Claudine Auger (Domino), Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo), Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe), Rik Van Nutter (Felix Leiter), Guy Doleman (Count Lippe), Molly Peters (Patricia Fearing), Martine Beswick (Paula Caplan), Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Roland Culver (Foreign Secretary), Earl Cameron (Pinder) and Paul Stassino (Major Francois Derval).


Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton)

How can a film, with such a beautiful, awe-inspiring fight scene (Bond and Oddjob), have such terrible editing overall? In fact, how can the technical side be so contradictory… terrible direction from Guy Hamilton on most scenes, but fine or excellent when he’s on set. Terrible editing for most of it, but then the rest of the time, perfect editing. Or the rear screen projection. All the rear screen projection is atrocious, but the second unit photography is inspired. The only non-contradictory production element is the music. John Barry’s score is a masterpiece of effectiveness. The sequences where it overpowers the scenic audio are… they’re amazing. It’s like watching a scored sequence the way it should be.

Oddly, I have nothing but good things to say about Sean Connery too. He plays his role with a smile and a great deal of athleticism. He’s just a lot of fun to watch and he does great with his co-stars, particularly Gert Fröbe and Cec Linder. Fröbe and Linder, besides Harold Sakata’s fantastic performance as Oddjob, are the two best in the supporting cast. Problematically, the romantic interests in the cast leave a lot to be desired… Shirley Eaton is probably the best, with Honor Blackman not doing particularly well, but much better than Tania Mallet, who is awful.

Unfortunately, the movie is unaware of its own silliness (in terms of plot)… but once Bond is done using all his gadgets, it gets real good… starting with a great scene between Connery and Fröbe. That scene, though too short, comes after one of the film’s worst… when Fröbe meets with all the American gangsters (they aren’t called them the Mafia, of course, which makes it both dated and hilarious). That one good scene kicks off the last part of the film, which does very, very well….

And even though the last scene is poorly paced, Goldfinger comes off fine (thanks to Sean Connery of all people, which I find… given his work post-1970, rather amusing).

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Hamilton; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, based on the novel by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Ted Moore; edited by Peter R. Hunt; music by John Barry; production designer, Ken Adam; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.

Starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Gert Fröbe (Auric Goldfinger), Shirley Eaton (Jill Masterson), Tania Mallet (Tilly Masterson), Harold Sakata (Oddjob), Bernard Lee (M), Martin Benson (Martin Solo), Cec Linder (Felix Leiter), Austin Willis (Simmons), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Bill Nagy (Midnight), Michael Mellinger (Kisch), Peter Cranwell (Johnny), Nadja Regin (Bonita), Richard Vernon (Colonel Smithers), Burt Kwouk (Mr. Ling), Desmond Llewelyn (Q) and Mai Ling (Mei-Lei).


Scroll to Top