OHMSS and the 60s

TripAcesTripAces Universal Exports
edited January 2016 in Bond Movies Posts: 4,062
While doing some research on my latest Bond article, I came across a fascinating (to me) piece from the NY Times, Feb. 1, 1970. "What Sex! What Violence! What Else Is New?" In it, J. Marks has a take on On Her Majesty's Secret Service that is worth reading. Search for it if you have a NY Times account. I'll post this short section of the piece:

"Why was I so disturbed by the lavish violence which had previously amused me so much? Was it possibly because I had been in Chicago and seen real people and real friends bashed and battered? Was it because I had seen young Bob Kennedy cut down in the pantry of a Los Angeles Hotel and the Hell’s Angels brutalize a crowd at a rock festival in Altamont, Calif., or because I was desperately sick of the useless obscenity of death in Vietnam?"

I love this stuff. I like the fact that we have here a preserved artifact of the times and culture from which OHMSS came, as well as that cultural response to it. I am certain Hitchcock's Frenzy was met with a similar response: all that violence in the 50s and 60s seemed just fine. The 60s counterculture changed everything, not just in movie-making and the creation of ratings, but also in the tastes of the audience.

Oh what an era for OHMSS. It's fitting that in that era of change, Bond too changed, from Connery to Lazenby.

Comments

  • Posts: 3,052
    Why not post the entire article, Trip Aces?

    I, like the majority here, do not hold a NY Times account. Otherwise, this nugget of info is just an appetizer and, perhaps, should be posted on one of the many other OHMSS discussions.

    You still have time to save this thread, Aces. :D
  • TripAcesTripAces Universal Exports
    Posts: 4,062
    bondsum wrote: »
    Why not post the entire article, Trip Aces?

    I, like the majority here, do not hold a NY Times account. Otherwise, this nugget of info is just an appetizer and, perhaps, should be posted on one of the many other OHMSS discussions.

    You still have time to save this thread, Aces. :D

    It might be illegal for me to do so? X_X
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 13,926
    I'd be very grateful you could PM or email this to me, @TripAces.
  • Posts: 3,052
    That's a shame, @Trip Aces. Though, surely if your provide a link at the bottom of the complete piece, does it not provide some legitimacy to repeating the infomation? Shame, I was hoping to read the entire article.
  • doubleoegodoubleoego #LightWork
    Posts: 11,090
    Well, it's understandable that sometimes people's attitudes to things can change, especially in light of cultural and social events. When real life becomes too real and too close for comfort, the fantasy that once romantacised can become superfluous. More is expected from entertainment and a longing for something that resonates with audiences becomes more apparent even on a subconscious level to some degree.

    This OHMSS issue would evidently go on to be the start of similar cycles that the Bond movies would have to go through. I'd be very interested to be able to read the rest of the article.
  • edited February 2016 Posts: 2,181
    TripAces wrote: »
    It might be illegal for me to do so? X_X

    That's never stopped me!
    Here you go everyone:
    What Sex! What Violence! So What Else Is New? (Feb 1, 1970)
    By J. MARKS

    Those of us who spent our most formative years during that decade which we already refer to with nostalgia as the sixties celebrated the New Year by jettisoning all kinds of paraphernalia. We unloaded all the great childhood gadgets and emotional trinkets which couldn't make it into the seventies without showing signs of appalling age.

    Danish modern didn't make it, for instance. The hippie ideal of building a good life in the ghettos didn't make it either. Prop airplanes didn't make it; nor did railroads or cigarettes or the aspiration of making it and leasing an apartment in a luxury building with a doorman. Also on the list of things we thought we dug but ended up ditching are Brooks Brothers suits, booze, big new cars, haircuts, parlor pianos, opera subscriptions, spin the bottle, etiquette, cocktail parties, fountain pens, caviar, small talk, neckties, Peggy Lee, white linens, cuff links, corsages, calf-bound books, Broadway shows, dates, postcards, contraceptives. Monte Carlo, Fort Lauderdale, movie stars, heroes, chicken soup and mamma, buttoned-down shirts, underwear and James Bond.

    Which brings us to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - the sixth and possibly final installment in the adventures of 007. Do you remember 007? Do you recall May of 1963 when "Dr. No" had lines around the block at your local movie house? And James Bond, played by that rough-cut sophisticate Sean Connery--the ultimate kitsch hero who could identify a woman's perfume at 50 feet and knew his caviars and wines from Provence all the way to the Caspian Sea! Wow, the epitome of chic! What every young man wanted to be when he grew up!

    But of course in those days boys didn't grow up; they simply went from Christmas office party to office party. And today many boys don't get a chance to live long enough to grow up. But in 1963 popcorn still cost a dime at the movies and the world was beautiful. Ah, yes, the world of James Bond was the world of the early sixties. There he stood, Brooks Brothered to death in a dark blue serge or getting kinda gamey in a terry-cloth jumpsuit. Daredevil gentleman, with expertise in absolutely everything, even a nonchalance which permitted him to seduce superduper double spies on a whim. Ah, the world of 007! Where the enemy was either an exotic samurai with a lethal black derby or six dozen fold-outs from Playboy magazine. And people always died so beautifully in a James Bond movie. The explosions were the biggest darn explosions we had ever seen. The blood was redder and the sounds of fists in faces were crisper and crunchier than ever.

    Even technology was fun in a Bond movie--the lethal gadgets killed with ultra-comic book flamboyancy. Death was always so intricate in the World of 007. That astonishing automobile with its deadly cargo of special effects. That attache case! What magic! What imagination! What spectacle! What violence! What a bore...

    So, while I was standing in line on a recent weekend at the Waverly Theater to see the latest Bond bundle, I noticed that I was not the only die-hard 007 fan. It was a young crowd which went into the theater smiling and came out looking perplexed. The formula didn't make it any more. And it wasn't merely a question of whether the new Mr. Bond--George Lazenby--was as effective at his bits as Connery had been or whether the latest Bond thriller was as thrilling as its predecessors. It was essentially a matter of change. But the change was in us and not in 007. Like Superman and all other good super-heroes, James Bond had not changed. But since 1963, when all of us first caught sight of the dashing Mr. Bond, our heads had gone through more changes than you could shake a joint at. And it was astounding to realize how different we were at the start of the seventies!

    I sat there during the movie recalling how incredible the sensation had been during "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love" and "Goldfinger" and '"Thunderball" and ''You Only Live Twice." All that karate and all those bloody noses had really been a thrill. Now, as the entrails of a "nameless" enemy geysered out of a snowplow and Bond quipped, "He sure had a lot of guts," I was roundly turned off. The fists smashing into faces were grotesque and vicious. The "baseball game" in which bodies were sent flying over a cliff was cruel and humorless.

    Why was I so disturbed by the lavish violence--which had previously amused me so much? Was it possibly because I had
    been in Chicago and seen real people and real friends bashed and battered? Was it because I had seen young Bob Kennedy cut down in the pantry of a Los Angeles hotel and the Hell's Angels brutalize a crowd at a rock festival in Altamont, Calif. or because. I was desperately sick of the useless obscenity of death in Vietnam? I don't know. I only know that the idea of seeing a Follies of sadism turned me off.

    And what about James the man? Well, he seemed something of a drag. A rather pompous dirty old man who asserts his moribund concept of masculinity by cruising every chick who passes. The covey of allergic ladies in the film comes on as the ultimate male self-deception. A lady on the hour, every hour, is the phallic fantasy of the middle-aged man. He's not
    up to the mere physical labor, let alone possessing the sexual prowess. What Bond used to do as our surrogate adulterer he can't do for us any more. We would rather do it ourselves because we do it so much better. 007 gets zero for sexual conduct. Bond is masculinity according to Madison Avenue.

    Intellectually, he's also fraudulent. Spectre--that diabolical world organization of sin and corruption--seems less corrupt than Bond himself, not to mention his heartless superiors who license 007 to kill. Meanwhile, the enemy is an enigma. We aren't told why we must hate the enemy but only that we must at all costs HATE the enemy. But it doesn't work. We are enlightened young men and women who have learned the importance of knowing the enemy--and we have learned to know him well in real life. In fact, we are downright intellectual about the enemy. And we aren't buying any hate propaganda; so the evil that lurks behind the gullible shadows of childhood doesn't frighten the activist-oriented kids of the seventies. We don't get our jollies from sitting in dark theaters and hating prescribed enemies.

    Bond is fighting a shadow in a shadow play. Ultimately it's all fake. However, it is not harmless because it's essentially sadistic and cruel and last-ditch expression of that confounded militant egotism which used to be the trademark of the normal middle-class male.

    Rest in pieces. James Bond. Rest in PIECES!

    Whew!
    Mr. Marks strikes me as a gigantic ninny and an insufferable prig. He's also a terrible writer--witness his over-reliance on leaden sarcasm--and a terrible thinker. He relies on the old trick of deciding that the reactions of some (we never know how many) people in the audience are those of the entire mass audience. And like an egomaniac he decides the mass audience thinks exactly the same he does--wrongly. Audiences were not, after all, tired of James Bond, as the grosses for Diamonds Are Forever and Live And Let Die demonstrated. And if some audience members "came out looking perplexed," it was probably because of something Marks never bothers mentioning, perhaps because it would capsize his argument about the film's supposed sadism.

    Marks whines a good deal about "lavish violence" and confuses stylized violence with the real thing. He reminds me of those well-intentioned fools who complained about Horror comics in the 1950s and how their violence would lead to juvenile delinquency. In this case, sensitive Mr. Marks can no longer distinguish between Bond and Vietnam. But while he endlessly whines about the film's supposed sadism, he is completely silent when it comes to discussing the most significant act of violence in the entire film, an act no one could take pleasure in, aside from Blofeld himself. The end of OHMSS confronts the viewer with bloody violence that cannot be laughed off or enjoyed. For Marks to not address that, even in a veiled form to avoid spoilers, shows that as a critic he is a fraud.

    The rest of his screed is even more simpleminded and smug ("We would rather do it ourselves because we do it so much better"--sure). But it shows how distraught some people were by the end of the sixties--so distraught they projected onto Bond everything they hated about the world: Madison Avenue, the Vietnam War, middle-aged men, etc. As it turned out, the rest of the country didn't share his opinions. Neither did his generation. And while Mr. Marks is now no more than a forgotten journalist, OHMSS enjoys a higher critical reputation than ever, and is acclaimed as a classic even by people who aren't hard-core Bond fans.
  • TripAcesTripAces Universal Exports
    edited February 2016 Posts: 4,062
    @Revelator FTW!!!!!

    Indeed, Marks come across as a bit sheltered. But I like that what we have here is an authentic take on the film, preserved in time. By our standards today, OHMSS is pretty tame.

    I think it is difficult to divorce OHMSS from the times. Lazenby certainly couldn't, and his "free love" lifestyle and "hippie" hairstyle did not sit well with Cubby and Saltzman (at least from the accounts I have read). Lazenby even admitted in Everything or Nothing that he didn't want to be associated an "old fashioned" secret agent, because it made him seem like a square (I'm paraphrasing here).

    Of all of the Bond films, I find OHMSS to have the most compelling cultural backdrop.

  • Posts: 2,181
    TripAces wrote: »
    Indeed, Marks come across as a bit sheltered. But I like that what we have here is an authentic take on the film, preserved in time. By our standards today, OHMSS is pretty tame.

    I could be wrong, but even at the time the violence would not have been egregious--1969 was also the year of films like The Wild Bunch, which was literally blood-drenched. But your larger point is correct: from a counter-cultural perspective, Bond stood for militarist warmongering, slick, violence, soulless materialism, etc. A modern Marks would undoubtedly be savaging the films for misogyny, racism, neoliberalism, etc.
    Lazenby even admitted in Everything or Nothing that he didn't want to be associated an "old fashioned" secret agent, because it made him seem like a square (I'm paraphrasing here).

    Yes, and his mistake, along with Marks's, was in presuming that every young person felt the same, when in fact the "silent majority" was still eager to see Bond. Moreover, it was the very familiarity of Bond that they liked, embodied by Connery's return and the formulaic quality of that and the ensuing Moore films.

    By the way TripAces, just what is your latest Bond article and where will it be published? You've whetted my appetite.
  • Posts: 3,052
    Great post and critique of J. Mark's piece in the NY Times, @Revelator. It's clear that the journalist completely misjudged the audience that night after the showing. And even if he did have a intuitive understanding and insight into what the audience thought afterwards, just how did he manage to equate one performance at one cinema as a universal barometer to make such a missguided analysis?

    Thanks for posting the entire article, @Revelator.
  • Posts: 2,181
    Ah, but there's more, and by God is it weird!

    I posted the NYT article at the Commander Bond forum as well, and forum member Glidrose uncovered some very surprising information about Mr. Marks.

    In short, at first glance our journalist friend looks like a very respectable figure. It turns out he was a charlatan, a truly great one!
  • suavejmfsuavejmf Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
    edited February 2016 Posts: 5,119
    Mr. Marks doesn't even really talk about the film. He comes across like a jealous/ sheltered wimp. Not to mention he was totally wrong.....Bond is more popular than ever BECAUSE he is an unaltered iconic character.
Sign In or Register to comment.