April 20, 2012


As reported, the Castro Theater in San Francisco is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films with a three-day marathon of classics. I went today with a couple of my students to see my favorite in the series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Although I've watched the film many times in my life- I even made audio cassette recordings off the TV as a kid so I could listen to the film like a radio drama, I had never seen it on the big screen. 

While the world embraces the personal viewing bubble of iPads and streaming content, today was a great reminder of how a shared, cinematic experience can pack a bigger punch. The Castro is screening all eight classics this weekend in glorious 35mm prints and my fave 007 film never looked better. The cinematography was gorgeous! I noticed artful qualities that had never translated onto the small screen. The action seemed hard-hitting, but not gruesome or gratuitous. And the intimate scope of the story really drew us in like an irresistible mystery tale. 

I've always said that the film's pace and soundtrack sets up the viewer for an emotional climax at the end. Bond is not a superman in this story. Rather, he is a talented operative who falls in love and, briefly, imagines that he might grow and redefine his life. It is not to be. The set-piece is his long and desperate escape down a snowy mountain at night. By the time he reaches the bottom, vulnerable and afraid, he is saved by the woman in his life- Diana Rigg (The Avengers). The film ends with a famously down-beat note. I could feel the audience today really sitting with that long and silent tragic ending. I wasn't the only one who choked up. I always felt empathy for the characters in this movie, but the big screen experience brought it to a new level. I was also surprised how moved I was during the wedding scene, where Bond and Moneypenny share an emotional look as he bids her farewell. It's a true moment of friendship and affection that only the big screen can translate effectively.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was played straight, a choice that makes Bond's eventual revenge during the campy start to For Your Eyes Only ultimately disappointing. I'd love to see more 007 films like OHMSS- beautifully shot, international but intimate, free from empty action and dazzle, and emotionally satisfying. I encourage Spy Vibers to see more of the marathon this weekend if you are in the area. Classic 007 on the big screen is not to be missed! And re-visit On Her Majesty's Secret Service when it comes out on Blu-ray. Castro poster art info here.


  1. So what did the students think???

  2. one of them said he got really emotional at the money penny scene. a good sign when a high senior can admit that :)


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