A bare fact must be faced. The superheated screen activities of Ian Fleming's supersleuth and sex symbol, James Bond, are as inevitable as sex or crime or "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," the sixth steaming annal in the sock 'em and spoof 'em spy series that crashed into the DeMille and other local theaters yesterday.
Serious criticism of such an esteemed institution would be tantamount to throwing rocks at Buckingham Palace, but it does call for a handful of pebbles. Devotees will note that Sean Connery, the virile, suave conqueror of all those dastards and dames in the five previous capers, has given up his 007 Bond credentials to George Lazenby, a 30-year-old Australian newcomer to films. He's tall, dark, handsome and has a dimpled chin. But Mr. Lazenby, if not a spurious Bond, is merely a casual, pleasant, satisfactory replacement.
For the record, he plays a decidedly second fiddle to an overabundance of continuous action, a soundtrack as explosive as the London Blitz, and flip dialogue and characterizations set against some authentic, truly spectacular Portuguese and Swiss scenic backgrounds, caught in eyecatching colors.
What are Bond's problems now? They're too numerous, as usual, to hold the constant attention of anyone other than a charter member of Her Majesty's Secret Service. What sets our bully boy off and fighting, running, shooting and loving this time is a lissome, leggy lass mysteriously bent on drowning herself in the waves thunderously crashing on a lonely Portuguese beach.
First thing you know he's involved in a battle with two toughs that is as full of karate chops and belts in the belly as a brawl in a Singapore alley. To the credit of Richard Maibaum, the scenarist, the film's tongue-in-cheek attitude is set right at the outset. Once our new Bond emerges triumphant, he turns to the audience and says, somewhat plaintively: "This never happened to the other fellow."
But it does. The lady of his life, the svelte Diana Rigg, who learned her karate chops from the British TV "Avenger" series, is the daughter of the blandly effete Gabriele Ferzetti, Mafioso-like tycoon, who likes Bond and wants to destroy that Spectre chief, Telly Savalas, his competition in world crime. That suits Bond too, and practically right off he's in Switzerland, where our villain maintains an eyrie atop an Alp.
It's an inaccessible retreat, supposedly an institute for allergy research complete with hired guns, scientific gimmicks and an international conclave of allegedly allergic beauties who are really being brainwashed by the oily, bald-domed Mr. Savalas to spread his biological destruction of the world's food supply. Get it?
Bond dallies with the dolls, of course, but the heart of the matter is a series of chases shot by the 41-year-old Peter Hunt, second unit director of the previous adventures, who's making his directorial debut with this one. The chases are breakneck, devastating affairs.
A viewer must remember what seems to be the longest ski chase and bobsled run ever, full of gunfire and spills, that even includes an avalanche. There also is a decibel-filled fight amid clanging Swiss cow bells, the jarring bombing of that eyrie by helicopter-borne rescuers and the inadvertent clashes of the escaping Bond and Miss Rigg in a slithering, bang-up stock car race. One must say amen to a colleague's observation:
"I never expected to see Switzerland defoliated like "this."
It should be reported that the producers and distributors already have rung up a reported $82,200,000 on their first five Bond issues. It is not ungallant to report that Bond marries Miss Rigg, who is gunned down and killed by Savalas on their honeymoon. So it is reasonable to expect that Bond inevitably will be loving, shooting and running again.