Plot Quality: Had we done these ratings twenty years ago, OHMSS would have been near the bottom of the list. The film was seen as a mistake, a wrong turn in the series done by an actor with no business trying to replace Sean Connery. But over time, perceptions have changed. A great many people now recognize that Lazenby wasn’t as bad as he seemed when the wounds of Connery quitting were still so raw. And with the benefit of hindsight, the plot doesn’t seem as weak as it once did either. In fact, comparing this film to what was to come over the next ten years, this film actually comes across as quite solid.
To prove his claim, Blofeld wants Sir Hilary Bray of the London College of Arms to come investigate. Bond now impersonates Sir Hilary to get close to Blofeld and he travels to an allergy research institute Blofeld is running in the Swiss Alps. There he meets a group of women who are being treated for allergies (it actually seems to be more aversion than allergies). Bond passes himself off as Sir Hilary while simultaneously suggesting to the women that he’s gay. He then proceeds to fool around with several of the women as he discovers that Blofeld’s secret plan is to send these women back to where they came from, brainwashed so they will release bacteriological warfare agents which will destroy food sources.
Bond then contacts Draco, who attacks Blofeld’s chalet along with Bond and his men. They free Tracy and injure Blofeld. Bond and Tracy then return to Portugal, where they marry. As they leave the wedding, Blofeld drives up next to Bond’s Aston Martin and pumps it full of bullet holes. He kills Tracy and the movie ends.
As I said, this film has a growing legion of fans. What they are responding to is the feel of the film. This film was made in 1969 and thus is the last film made in the same vein as the Connery films before it: same film quality, same acting styles, similar dialog, similar types of action, similar costumes. By comparison, each of the films that follow will be creatures of the 1970s and will become increasingly ridiculous. It is, therefore, easy to see this film as being of roughly similar quality to the early Connery films. That is what has gotten the film ranked as high as it has.
Further, how silly is the idea of using these women to release bacteriological agents. Wouldn’t it make more sense to send dozens of trained SPECTRE agents all over the world than it does to send supposedly hypnotized women, each of whom can be found very quickly because each will have a visit to Switzerland on their passports and each of whom will have bragged about being at Blofeld’s institute. Hell, put Blofeld’s picture on the tube and ask anyone who has seen him to call the cops. These women would call in unless Blofeld could somehow activate them first. Also, it’s not clear why Bond pretends to be gay. Is this meant to confuse Blofeld or is it meant to confuse the women he finds? “Well, he sure looks like Bond, but he says he’s gay, so it can’t be him.”
Each of these ideas sound like they are potentially interesting ideas on paper, but none of them were developed before they were thrown into the film, and the result is a film which leaves you wondering why the heck no one seems capable of spotting the obvious things right before their noses. This is why OHMSS has peaked at number 0010. From hereon out, the rest of the films simply hold together too well for this one to rise any higher.
Villain Quality: Who loves ya, baby? The villain here is Kojak as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Casting Telly Savalas as Blofeld was actually a good call. He brings both a real maniacal twist to the role and a serious level of menace, which fits with the insane plan he’s concocted. He is both larger-than-life and yet believable. In many ways, Savalas was the 1960’s version of Christopher Walken and he made any film he was in better. Between Savalas and Rigg, this film has a strong cast.
Ultimately, this plan is rather silly. While it’s possible such biowarfare agents could be invented, and that would be fertile ground for blackmail, a chick-based deliver system is not the recommended way to release this. But then, this never really seems to be the point to the movie. In this instance, Blofeld’s plot actually feels like a MacGuffin intended solely to give Blofeld and Bond a reason to play cat and mouse in the Swiss Alps. Even his desire to claim the title feels like a pretext to give Bond a way in... the real Blofeld couldn’t care less about such an honor, and neither do you. Nevertheless, as MacGuffins, these things work to give the veneer of a purpose to the film, even if the audience doesn’t really take it seriously.
To sum this one up, the film is not nearly as bad as it seemed when people were still upset about the casting of Lazenby. Comparing it to what was to come over the next ten years, and then some, this one at least felt like one of the early Connery films. Thus, it has moved up in many people’s estimation and I think a ranking of No. 0010 is appropriate. But the film is seriously flawed and simply doesn’t have what it takes to rise above the better films above it, and it may actually fall again a bit over time, probably below Skyfall and Quantum of Solace. In the meantime, it has peeked at No. 009 of 0023.