Friday, July 03, 2020

The Making of OHMSS, by Charles Helfenstein

The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, by Charles Helfenstein
I've long coveted this huge, exhaustive history of the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), having first heard about it from my mate Samira Ahmed. Helfenstein details the history of the book, the drafts of the script, the day-by-day production on the movie (and pieces together some missing scenes), the release and legacy - including promotion and merchandise.

It is chock full of extraordinary images and insight. I shall be haunted by writer Richard Maibaum's obsession with scenes involving monkeys, which he tried to get into various Bond films and was thwarted each time. The material filming on 2 February 1969 of Lazenby chasing a villain down the Peter's Hill steps with the St Paul's Cathedral behind him echo the invasion by Cybermen, filmed on 8 September the previous year; the conclusion of the chase involving an underground train seem finally to have surfaced in Skyfall (2012).

My baby brother, who kindly bought this for my birthday, described it as the "Andrew Pixley of Bond", and I can think of no higher praise. I think the difference between Helfenstein and Pixley is that the latter rarely interviews cast and crew himself - thank heavens, as otherwise I'd never be asked to do anything. Helfenstein has endeavoured, over years, to speak to everyone involved and the book is a much a record of his friendships with key personnel such as director Peter Hunt. A last spread of images of the author with these people or visiting the locations shows how much this has been an epic labour of love.

If I don't share the author's passion for this particular movie, it's made me want to revisit it. I'm even more covetous of the follow-up volume on The Living Daylights and find myself picking over which title I'd want to subject to such study...

(Since you're asking, You Only Live Twice to cover Connery's dissatisfaction, the volcano-base set and all the stuff happening in '67, which would dovetail with my book on The Evil of the Daleks.)

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