Movie of the Week: ALIEN³ (1992)

David Fincher directs Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dance and Charles S. Dutton in this continuation of the Ripley story where sci-fi’s hardiest final girl crash lands on a derelict prison with her old foe lurking even closer than usual.

If doing this blog over the last few year is evidence of anything, I think it is fair to say I’m far more lenient to a sequel if it carries on a story / character / concept I’m invested in with some semblance of quality and inspiration. I’ve never damned a film for merely being a cash-in if it provides decent popcorn entertainment. Never abandoned a franchise if one entry takes risks that are distasteful to the ever commenting fanbase. Never felt a further chapter in the saga is dismissible if its only sin is not being quite as flawless as the original classic. An original it was always intended to be a mutated clone of. You only have to read my entries on The Thing, Terminator: Genisys or Prometheus to know I have a lot more leeway in me if it is a series I love, a lot more blind forgiveness or open mindedness than most who bang out their petty little thoughts on blockbusters and flops. I don’t believe the hype but I certainly don’t subscribe to the hate.

ALIEN³ was probably the first film that fostered this less puritanical streak in my tastes. It met with middling reviews, middling box office and spent decades as a whipping boy for nerds to call out when bemoaning bad threequels. Whereas the film I rented on VHS in my teens was just as intense, mind blowing, amazing looking, gory, grim and badass as Alien and Aliens had been. Only by this point I had access to the strange line of licensed kids toys, Dark Horse comics and the immersive Alien War tour experience that littered the nomenclature on the early 90s. Alien Wars – a twenty minute dash around a central London basement with strobe light, dry ice, actors with pulse rifles and the xenomorph jumping out at you – in particular indoctrinated me to be a Starbeast zealot. You queued for almost two hours in a tunnel where big chunks of James Cameron and James Horner were blasted at you on a loop before you even got in. But the highlight of the promo cycle was the teaser for ALIEN³. I discovered on Earth everyone could hear you scream, maybe 60 times.

We didn’t have access to the internet back then. You saw a trailer at the cinema or attached to the front of a video rental. But once watched it was gone. Ephemeral like a dandelion clock, a beautiful thing that blowed away easily and seeded to spring up another season hence. And ALIEN³’s promo pretty explicitly suggested we were going to Earth. That seed never found fertile soil. Aliens 2 never happened. Evidence of what a troubled production the third entry had that a year before release the studio was marketing a film where they had no real fix on the content of yet. Evidence that the public’s expectations were going to be very incongruous to the nightmare eventually delivered. We were hoping for Ripley, Hicks, Bishop and Newt to be taking on acid blooded hordes on future Earth. What we got was very different.

ALIEN³ is a brutal and bleak film. It opens with the off screen but keenly felt deaths of Hicks and Newt. The action man and the saved child are cold, chewed up meat in the opening credits. We then experience a rusty prison planet teeming with lice, rape and fanaticism. Most of the cast are bald and clothed in sackcloth robes, difficult to distinguish from each other. A shipwrecked, grief stricken Ripley is treated with suspicion and detest, even when they begin to listen to her warnings about the alien they can offer no weapons to fight it with. Then an alien rapidly hunts them all down. Ripley helps capture and kill it. But she herself is carrying a damning secret that means her survival is unlikely. It pointedly isn’t a war film in space, it favours atmosphere over spectacle and the film embraces relentless stark horror over triumphant set pieces. Hardly a summer blockbuster. 

So what went wrong?

Fox and producers David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson wanted a third film following the runaway success of Aliens (a rare sequel of the Eighties that made more domestically than its first instalment, the standard being an acceptable 40% drop off in box office). Yet they had no idea of what that third film would be. Cyberpunk author William Gibson proposed a Michael Biehn centric chapter with an intergalactic shopping mall infected with alien spores. I have the just released comic book adaptation of this attempt sitting next to me as I type. The Hitcher and Near Dark writer Eric Red put in script involving a rural planet teeming with hybrid species. Renny Harlin wanted an action packed trip to the alien home planet. David Twohy essentially wrote a first draft of his later movie Pitch Black. Yet Sigourney Weaver was only willing to return if a) there were no guns in this sequel – a stance that suited her personal politics b) David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson were the credited writers c) she died at the end, and d) she was renumerated properly this time. Her $10 million payday would represent 20% of the final budget and her other wishes were ceded to.

If you ask anyone, Weaver is essential to the series. She brings gravitas, bubbling emotion and a rationality to the strange and overexcited hubris of an Alien film. People often criticise the random behaviour of the characters in Prometheus. They are the actions and mistakes of people who unwittingly have to get the silly plot of a monster story moving. But a classy lead like Ripley’s haunted yet calm survivor would have undercut all that clumsiness with a sigh, a plea and moment of heroic intervention. Like Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween saga or Liam Neeson in the Taken films, she is an actor of such in built quality that her prestige tempers and excuses the campest misteps of a genre flick. Even in the abysmal Ressurection she makes it watchable, is the hook that keep you within the sloppy manic film. She even seems to be having fun in that one, whereas ALIEN³ sees her actually acting hard… making a proper performance from a necessary evil. Even in the revered first two films, Ripley is a slave to the machinations of the plot, there just happens to be great actress strapped into the rollercoaster, imbuing the protagonist with an aloof humanity as she hurtles at velocity. Whereas ALIEN³ actually allows space for Ripley to be Ripley. She grieves for Newt, uses the charming Doctor Clemens (a quite wonderful Charles Dance) and explores her symbiotic relationship with the alien. For the first time the part truly matches the reputation of the star and character.

Those demands though do seem petulant. Someone revelling in new found power rather than caring about what is right for the series and audience. For example… her fifth demand to appear in 3 was that she could make love to the alien. In theory this still kinda happens… she is impregnated with a Queenburster… she has two intimate moments with the beast running around. One became the key promotional image. The drooling extendable jaw almost kissing her fearful cheek. Part threat, part sexual assault, (given the revelation of what is gestating within Ripley) part affectionate pat. If you can’t sell 3 on gunplay and carnage you can sell it on your star being in the most intimate peril possible. And by the shoddy fourth entry we actual get some squirmy Ripley on Xeno humping. By that point everyone had given up on quality control and just wanted to get the thing made. Let her actually fuck the alien if it gets her to sign on the dotted line.

I digressed… Weaver is essential to the series. I get the feeling ALIEN³’s just about profitable but reductive takings were due to her. Her presence got people in, her demands neutered the marketability of the product. If there are no guns there has to be a reason for that. Hence the grim setting eventually compromised on. If there are no guns what does Hicks do? Can we afford two or three expensive recurring cast members salaries if we are paying Sigourney a record payday? So Hicks needs to be written out. If Ripley is going to die then that adds a pessimistic air to the movie entire. Even if she goes out with a noble sacrifice it has to be built up and not come completely left of centre.  If she throws herself and the nascent queen defiantly into a firey pit will it be suitably epic? Yep… ending sorted take the night off. Want to catch a movie… I hear Terminator 2 is good…

The idea eventually greenlit was by arthouse director Vincent Ward. Ripley would crashland on a gothic planetoid made of wood, inhabited by monks. Some would see the Alien as a portent of the apocalypse, others a god. No weapons, no Hicks, an air of fatality hardwired in leading up to Ripley self terminating. Sets were built, the script was locked down… a teaser incorrectly suggesting the alien was earthbound was released. Then Fox hit an 11th hour stumbling block. 

Reports are messy as to what happened so late in the day. On arrival to Pinewood some executives and producers wanted to nix the costly and untested wooden planetoid, make the setting an industrial prison. Ward was only involved in the sequel to realise his fantasy vision, certainly not their revision. Ward started to be micromanaged, being sent shot lists and having his daily work being reported back to the studio by his own his assistant behind his back. There was the stumbling block of Sigourney only wanting the producers as credited writers. So despite physical pre-production almost being completed… Ward walked.

Enter David Fincher. Fincher is a modern movie wunderkind. His career of immaculate thrillers and risky blockbusters have seen him take dark, controversial subject matter and twist them into successes that please audiences and critics alike. He is to my mind the finest director working today. Clearly someone who understands cinema craft, not just his job but everyone’s – from a cinematographer’s use of lenses to an editor’s sense of rhythm. In 1991 he was a hot name director of commercials and music videos. He had started his career doing VFX for an animation studio, then honing his craft with matte work on ILM projects such as Return of the Jedi and Temple of Doom. He created memorable adverts for Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Nike… worked extensively with Madonna at her peak. You can see what attracted the producers and Fox. A hungry new visualist, who understands corporate needs as much as effects work. I’m going to guess they thought they hired someone who would toe the company line while delivering an acceptable product. If he could sell soft drinks and Michael Jackson, he could sell the alien. 

It is fair to say neither Fincher or Fox got what they bargained for. Fincher has made a career of including imagery that psychologically scars into mainstream studio products. He has a fascination with serial killers and dystopian environments. No doubt he took the Alien job on with the intention of topping the shock of the classic chestburster scene, ramping up the pessimism of the heavily armed space marine realising that it was “Game Over, Man! Game over.” Sure he made adverts. David Giler even insulted him on a production conference call stating to Fox “Why are you listening to him for, he’s a shoe salesman!” Yet the commercial he was most famous for was of a foetus smoking a cigarette for the American Cancer Society. Fincher wasn’t going to smooth the unpalatable edge off of their sci-fi horror franchise… he was going to accerbate them. 

Not that he would have an easy ride. Fincher still refuses discuss the film in interviews. Is the only filmmaker absent from the in-depth making of documentaries produced when the Alien Quadrilogy boxset was released. His sets pre-built and his cast prescribed to him before he was hired, his script constantly changing and the producers being credited with it, a release date looming and quality control oversight tightly monitored… Fincher seemingly had a Kafka-esque struggle. The studio was so adamant to limit further costs and keep the film on track that many cast and crew members joked that there were often more producers and executives on the set than actors. Fincher was allegedly fired three times. Ezra Swerdlow, Fox‘s Line producer, said of the chaotic shoot “It was a haemorrhage situation. It was just lots of small things. We had to to stop shooting.  We didn’t wrap the film. We just stopped filming.” After a disastrous assembly screening that missed shots and left US make-up guys feeling unwell, Fincher spent much of a year of post-production locked out of the process than in. His one contemporary comment on his debut film was in The Guardian 2009 “No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.”

ALIEN³ is openly repellent film at times. The bulk of the cast play murderers and rapist, they talk in thick British accents, shout “Wanker!” at each other a lot. It opens with the death of a child. Se7en style subliminal shots and suggestions of her autopsy. A difficult scene, amplified by some particularly disgusting sound effects. You only glimpse enough to let your imagination run riot. Now if you are a studio in need of a hit this sequence alone should give you pause. Like Hicks, Newt is a hinderance to this story. You can’t have her survive and wander around such a hostile environment. If you do, the world loses its threat. And let’s say Ripley somehow protects her from the animalistic urges of the inhabitants and the alien, where is she left at close of play. Ripley dead, the company taking her off to be experimented on or tied off as a loose end to protect their brand. Fincher made the right call killing Newt in the credits, and delivers his first moment of searing horror in her farewell. 

Horror defines ALIEN³. The gothic introduction on the planet surface with Frankenstein clothed men dashing around rusting monoliths with Elliot Goldenthal sonorous wail of a score adding urgency and mystery. Like Weaver’s performance and Fincher’s daring shock, Goldenthal’s score is another perfect element of the film. His uses of very fast French horn passages with bending tones and whining more than holds it own with Jerry Goldsmith’s atonal desolation and James Horner militaristic triumph. Roger Ebert called ALIEN³ “one of the best looking bad movies he’s ever seen.” Thanks not solely down to Fincher. You have to give credit to Norman Reynolds’ epic set designs. They are so grand, so gorgeously layered. Watching the Assembly Cut on the big screen you notice Victorian tiling, scratchy graffiti, fin de siecle stained glass. This prison has had many lives. It is more than just a set of corridors to run around in. It is a haunted house with a deep long history.

The Assembly Cut also reveals an infamous sequence, severed out of the original release. Paul McGann plays a dangerous simpleton called Golic. In the original release he survives an early alien attack but is blamed by the warden and placed in a straight jacket never to be heard from again. In the longer cut he plays a more significant role. He believes the Alien to be an angel, tying into the apocalyptic religion the prisoners have adopted but he misunderstands. The first extended action sequence involves the prisoners and Ripley trying to corral the alien into a silo using fire. In the theatrical cut this proves unsuccessful, but in the Assembly Cut they do trap it. Only for a Golic to escape, go on a killing spree and release it to his own demise. The producers axed this middle act fearing a trapped alien robbed the iconic monster of its fear factor. So Golic’s subplot went with it. In terms of protecting their brand maybe the right call was made, but in the absence of anything else it left the middle section of the film relatively actionless and bloodless. 

Signs of studio interference litter ALIEN³, whichever version you watch. The alien changes size and shape depending on what the sequence demands. The mixture of CGI and puppetry that chases them down tunnels is starkly different from the humanoid giant that leaps out of the shadows occasionally. I’m surprised there aren’t conspiracy theory fan articles suggesting there are two different xenomorphs on Fiorina 161. Also the movie gets stuck in a repetitive loop just as the final act is warming up. We get various scenes of Charles S Dutton making the same speech to the same characters… we have to fight to survive. Now Charles S Dutton makes an excellent orator but the third time he goes over this old ground you start to notice the incongruous product placement Coke bottles and the flat framing…. and… and… Are we sure Fincher directed this clarifying scene or a nervous producer?

We end on a big chase and a choice. My wife’s assessment of ALIEN³ is “Solid entertaining film. Too many closing doors.” And the final action sequence is essentially the survivors using themselves as bait, being pursued and cutting off the retreat of the alien so they can douse it in boiling hot lead. Visually it is a compelling set-piece. The steadicam flips 180 degrees as we enter the monster’s POV. Slow motion and fish eye lenses are deployed engagingly. It does suffer from many of the runners being barely established characters, once again often indistinguishable to each other on an initial watch. Yet in the moment the tension of an alien nipping at your heels, and antiquated steam punk doors and pistons unreliably lurching into life is compulsively thrilling. 

Once the alien is defeated we are left with a final problem. Ripley has an alien queen growing inside her. The company have arrived to claim it for their weapons division. They come in the form of Bishop (possibly another android, possibly the human the android was based on… it is open to debate).  Knowing just how dangerous her cargo is Ripley decides to self terminate. A poetic end to the Lieutenant’s recurring nightmare. The movie ends on a note of mournful triumph. The prison planet is shuttered, the company snubbed, Ripley finds peace in the firey depths that consumed Hicks and Newt earlier. Not a happy ending but a fine one.

What went wrong then?

Absolutely everything. Yet to my mind the warts and all end work outshines its flaws and reputation. It is dankly beautiful, consistently disturbing piece of big budget horror that gave us David Fincher the moviemaker and shifted Sigourney Weaver into an acting headspace rather than a going through the motions as a mere action hero. Those scars of a problematic production these days just feel like wood grain, evidence that a real ambitious movie was produced against all odds. ALIEN³ is a personal favourite of mine that holds it own with the more beloved predecessors.

10 (Assembly Cut)

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The Big Red One (1980)

Sam Fuller directs Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill and Robert Carradine in this WWII movie following the 1st Infantry from the Africa campaign to the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Based on Sam Fuller’s own combat experiences this episodic series of manly vignettes is very entertaining. I would wager that this is the last Hollywood studio release to treat war as an adventure, finding gallows humour in the camaraderie as often as it finds futility in the constant death. Lee Marvin turns in a fantastically gruff lead performance, one of his very best. 

9

Seven Samurai (1954)

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Akira Kurosawa directs Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Keiko Tsushima in this samurai epic about a destitute village under threat from bandits who hire seven warriors to defend them. 

I watched a YouTube visual essay called Every Frame a Painting about Kurosawa’s use of movement earlier this year. Just the additional knowledge of how he uses motion in the foreground and background and pivots characters in shifting dynamics opened this film up massively to me. Supreme artistry aside, it is a magical adventure full of cool moments and true moments. A lot more entrepreneurial in its playfulness when assembling the team in the first half (the final battles prove a tad drawn out from an action perspective). Mifune’s wildman wannabe is a marvel of improvised erraticness. He makes a good counterbalance to Takashi Shimura worldly wise leader. Both are proper distinctive cinema stars who act as accelerants to the rest of a firey ensemble. This is rich epic, still well worth investing a day into. Although I do personally prefer the colourful and shorter charms of The  Magnificent Seven… if you forced me to choose.

9

Shoplifters (2018)

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Hirokazu Kore-eda directs Lily Franky, Sakura Ando and Maya Matsuoka in this drama about an extended family living hand to mouth and on the nick, who take in a bruised 5 year old left out on her parents’ balcony every night. 

A very ingratiating humanist drama. There are seductive modern day echoes of Dickens, Oliver Twist in particular. A makeshift family grift and subsist together. Enviably close in practice yet the joins of the low level con team prove to be less predictable than you first assume. They have achieved a loving harmony in their poverty, one that their “kidnapped” new ward flourishes within. Life is better with stolen gluten cakes and fun on the beach than beatings and abandonment. When the second act closes on such a coddling high point (fireworks excitedly glimpsed from the slums) you wish we could just press pause and leave the inhabitants of Grandma’s bungalow in their simple happiness. Reality comes crashing in, we lose sweet emotions for a brutal comedown that is just as miserable as Loach, De Sica or The Dardennes at their most polemic. Powerful stuff about people living in the financial cracks of modern society but the romantic in me wishes we could have avoided realism. Why can’t the fairytale triumph occasionally?

7

Shirkers (2018)

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Sandi Tan directs herself, Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique in this documentary about three rebel Singapore teenagers who worked on a colourful road movie only for their mentor / the film’s director to disappear with the footage after the wrap for decades. 

Lemonade out of lemons. A really colourful and enkindling documentary slightly undone by a narrator who is quite simply (and self acknowledgedly) full of herself. The footage of the film she worked on as a teenage is naively seductive, the hook of its stunted production fascinating. Yet you get the feeling the whole story is actively being avoided. The kids lost control of a project they worked on in secondary roles on. Sexism or the natural order of indie filmmaking? Attempts to suggest their loveably amateurish Jim Jarmush pastiche was a lost classic or an echo of #metoo #timesup abuse just ring hollow. They met an enigmatic, dishonest weirdo who directed their / his film and he kept the footage when the money or workforce disappeared. Shirkers is a far better doc when about young female empowerment in 1990s Singapore and the inspiring punk energy to make a cool outsider film. The mysteries of the fallout, while marketable, are not particularly high stakes if viewed rationally. Delightfully watchable if suspect in its unguarded manipulations.

7

Private Life (2018)

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Tamara Jenkins directs Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn and Kayli Carter in this droll drama about a middle aged New York couple jumping through endless scientific hoops when they cannot conceive, who take in a wayward neice who might be the answer to at least one of their myriad problems.

Very astute and warm indie drama about a creative couple going through infertility woes. Pleasingly broad at times but never forsaking an emotional intelligence that mirrors Woody Allen’s finest. Giamatti is in his element as a man permanently suppressing eternal frustration. But we already love Giamatti… so here it is the female ensemble that shines through with brave wit and natural vitality. Hahn is gifted her most expansive showcase yet, fittingly she is generous in scenes with others, scenes where she could easily walkway with the audience. Newcomer Kayli Carter more than holds her own as the surrogate mother / surrogate child who finds herself adrift in the leads’ miserable wake. In years to come this will be seen as all three actors’ key film. Mature, accessible yet fulfilling. Entertainment for adults.

8

Movie of the Week: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre / The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1974 / 1986)

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Tobe Hooper directs Marilyn Burns, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, Caroline Williams, Dennis Hopper and Bill Moseley in this very black and gory horror series with growing shades of satire… the Sawyers are All American grave robbing cannibals who keep getting intruded upon by outsiders.

The first part is THE lurid thrillride, the sequel a camp OTT parody. Hooper wants to warp and reflect ridiculous American values. Whether he is treating kids as cattle or spoofing the lust and greed of a hard working, capitalist family. The first film is truly disturbing, relentless when it gets going. The second has three stretched out scare and torture sequences framed by a detective revenge story incongruously involving a DJ. The films don’t really correlate, don’t feel a piece. But when the excess comes it feels related though. Screaming, squealing, dirty, nasty, sweaty, pointed shock imagery.

The sight of Leatherface appearing from around the corner for the first time, braining an annoying hippy, then slamming the door to his world shut on us again almost instantaneously is one of the finest moments in horror cinema. Jump scare, joke and tease to even bigger grimness all-in-one.

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His sexual awakening in Part 2 is sweet. He’ll put a fresh severed face on you and show you his moves. The lad.

He dances frustratingly with his Chainsaw in the dawn by the end of 1. Just another monster we leave behind as we head shellshocked back to civilisation. By the end of 2 it is the final girl is doing the Chainsaw mambo (a winning Caroline Williams… the acting is better in 2 by country miles). She is defiantly the top of the food chain now. Just as deadly, just as angry. It lacks the grotesque pure art of the original’s finale, but it seems to fit nicely. We start the series in a reflection of America, we end in its comic book fantasy. One where Leatherface is a romantic interest, Chop Top (Moseley wins as the freakiest ghoul) is comic relief and “Just the Cook” resembles a certain president.

10/7 

The Changeling (1980)

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Peter Medak directs George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere and Melvyn Douglas in this classy horror about an urbane composer who moves into a haunted mansion.

If the was just 90 minutes of the brilliant George C Scott being terrified by bumps and distractions I would have been happy enough. The plot goes off piste at the midway point taking in supernatural conspiracies and ageing senators. That stuff isn’t quite as focussed but we do get a cracking seance set piece.

6

My Top 10 George C Scott Movies

1. The Hustler (1961)

2. DrStrangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

3. Hardcore (1979)

4. They Might Be Giants (1971)

5. Patton (1970)

6. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

7. Petulia (1968)

8. Malice (1993)

9. The Changeling (1980)

10. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Halloween (2018)

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David Gordon Green directs Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Nick Castle in this redacted sequel that imagines what happens 40 years after the original Halloween if you ignore all the follow ups and reboots. What happens: lots of masked murder.

Perfectly adequate if rarely very scary. There’s a good reintroduction to Myers and his first new suburban massacre viewed through a series of windows and doorways is neat. But Jamie Lee (the real selling point) feels under utilised in the middle section. And all the kids look the same. Really… they all have the same cheeks and noses and complexions. Cut them up, Michael. Cut them the fuck up! John Carpenter’s retooled score does a lot of the grafting here.

6

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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Peter Hunt directs George Lazenby, Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas in this 007 adventure where a strange looking and sounding Bond falls for a mafia boss’ daughter while Blofeld is programming international beauties to cause genetic destruction.

One of the very best Bonds, happens to star easily the worst actor to take the lead. Lazenby is handsome and competent but that’s about all you can say for him. The film around him however is magnificent. It should have been young Roger’s first or Sean’s swan song. It is almost as if they knew their lead couldn’t smoothly grab the baton from Big Tam so made damn sure every other element was perfect. Diana Rigg is one of the very finest Bond girls. Tracy is resourceful, complex and stunning. She rescues Bond more often than not and keeps her cool head in a series of escalating set pieces. No wonder 007 had to marry her. There hadn’t been better. No wonder the producers had to kill her off. Audiences might have preferred her next adventure to Lazenby’s. That ending though… brutal. “We have all the time in the world.” We are not used to emotion in Bond.

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A moment’s silence.

Two banging themes. Louis Armstrong’s contribution is now a standard, it has outlived and outgrown its association with the franchise. John Barry’s Moog infused action theme is amazing… I prefer it to Monty Norman’s Bond signature tune. If I’m ever doing anything remotely active, this is the score to my movements playing in my head. And when it comes to action OHMSS truly delivers. It takes over an hour for the large scale set pieces to kick in but once they do they come fast and furious. A gruelling cable car mechanism escape. Two epic stunt ski chases (edited very modernly). A dogged pursuit through a winter market where you genuinely fear for Bond… he’s explicitly paranoid, hounded and exhausted… James as you’ve never seen him… desperate. The sunset raid on the Alpine institute, a finale so good Christopher Nolan cribbed from it for Inception. Then a bonus toboggan chase… Cool Runnings meets Speed! I could make sarcastic comments about the cheesy fashions and set dressings, the awkward undercover persona Lazenby chooses to infiltrate Blofeld’s lab, the racism and sexism inherent in the diabolical plan as presented, the uncertain fourth wall denting attempts at fan service. But in a way they are part of the 1969 charm. One of the most confident, riskiest, romantic and spectacular of the early Bonds. It really only is superseded by Goldfinger in terms of quality.

10