Skyfall about to catapult the world's greatest spy back into tuxedoed glory for the twenty-third (official) time, one casts a glance back at the fifty-year history of the franchise. I will, to my dying breath, defend Connery as the quintessential Bond, the Bond from which all other greatness sprang. He is simply magnetic, burning with charisma and a casual menace that defined the character, the franchise, the action genre and left an indelible stamp of the collective imagination forever. But looking back at his Bond movies, it is fascinating to see how they are a tribute to a sort of epic story-telling that belonged to a different era. Their primary presentation of spectacle, their main mode of thrilling audiences, was to show them exotic things: a laser beam! People fighting underwater! The Bahamas!
When you get right down to it, it is George Lazenby's single and often-reviled Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service that holds up the best from that era, if not the entire franchise. The film proves to have an unusally strong script and great craft behind it with an engaging plot, highly enjoyable supporting performances (by Telly Savalas and Diana Rigg), an unusual emotionally-charged story for Bond, bruising fights (particularly the climactic hand-to-hand match with Blofeld on the toboggan) and tense suspense set pieces (Bond's escape from the cable car engine room is great). It is, in many ways, the most modern of the films and simply the most exciting, from both an action standpoint and a character standpoint, though I grant that Casino Royale and -- from advanced word Skyfall -- could give it a run for its money on that count. And, just for good measure, it has a fantastic score, including its wordless title song.
For the next Bond film, we can discuss how Timothy Dalton's interpretation of Bond was far ahead of its time and blazed the trail that Daniel Craig is currently negotiating so successfully.