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

ohmss-3Having recently taken it upon myself to revisit all of the canon James Bond films in chronological order, some for the first time since childhood, one thing became very clear, very quickly: most of these films are thunderingly mediocre on every level, no more so than in their lack of interest in pushing the limits of cinematic form. From the very beginning the series eschewed artistic innovation in favour of middle-of-the-road dependability. In the Connery era, the costumes, sets, colours, gadgets, sex, and violence could evolve with the times, but the means of arranging and propelling them on screen remained prim, efficient, and more or less unchanged.

The template: unfussy and clean compositions, standard high key lighting, pristine continuity editing, rich palettes, and perhaps an occasional Hitchcockian flourish. A certain sequence here or there might allow room to play around with pacing for effect – the train fight in From Russia With Love, or the protracted dreaminess of the underwater battles in Thunderball – but for the most part, business as usual means keeping things coolly focused and more or less tied to the rudiments of establishing Bond in classical cinematic space.

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