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The most comprehensive look behind the scenes of a James Bond movie EVER
on 28 March 2010
There have only been a handful of "Making of" James Bond books, and being official publications, they have not always provided a very satisfying look behind the scenes. Eon Productions do not open their doors very wide, something that Bond fans know all too well. In fact, the last two "making of" books have just been a collection of set photographs. That is why Charles Helfenstein's The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service is true manna from heaven for the James Bond fan. This is the most comprehensive look behind the scenes of a James Bond movie EVER.
Here is the complete story of the making of this particularly fascinating and unique James Bond film (now generally regarded as one of the best of the series). The author starts with the writing of the original 1963 novel, uncovering much never-before-revealed information from various Fleming archives and dispelling a few long-held myths (Bond's Scottish heritage was not a nod to Sean Connery). He also tracks the lengthy script development, which spanned many years as OHMSS was twice considered for production and then postponed. There's even a gatefold breakdown of all the scripts and their changing elements -- something you certainly will never find in any official "making of" book.
Casting of one-time Bond George Lazenby is covered in great detail, as is all aspects of the production. There is just too much here to go into, but know that there is, literally, a major revelation on every page. There is more information contained in the photo captions than you'll find in the entire text of most "making of" books. Even if you're not a James Bond buff, seeing the day to day production of a movie made in the swinging '60s is a real treat. The book is also jam-packed with never-before-published photographs, publicity material, and OHMSS collectibles. Visually, it's a mind blower!
If the book has a fault, it could be that the author doesn't really examine all that closely the conflicts surrounding star Lazenby and his legendary "bad" behavior on and off set (Lazenby, inexplicably, announced mid-way through production that he would not make another Bond film). Not that the legendary incidents aren't covered, but they are presented without much added information or embellishment (but also without judgment). The author spends more time explaining the challenges the production faced in getting a generator to work at the Piz Gloria elevation, which, actually, I found fascinating! So maybe this isn't a fault after all. All the "drama" of making OHMSS is presented in proper measure. Frankly, the generator might have been a bigger headache to the production crew than the antics of a wild star, which, the author speculates, may have been exaggerated by the press once Lazenby forsook the series.
The author completes with a chapter on the legacy of OHMSS, and just when you thought you heard it all, here comes another wave of tantalizing bonus info. Diamonds Are Forever pre-titles sequence with Irma Bunt. Photos of Pierce Brosnan's 1986 screen test using OHMSS scenes. And how about the original plot of Octopussy, using elements from a rejected OHMSS script, which has never been revealed...until now.
Expensive? Not when you understand and appreciate what this is. This is a life's work by THE leading expert on OHMSS -- a meticulously researched, rare gift to Bond fans and movie buffs that doesn't come along all that often. And because it is a small publisher (self-published?), it might not be around for all that long. It will, unquestionably, become one of the most hotly collectible James Bond books ever produced (I'm thinking of grabbing another copy as an investment). In fact, if you are reading this review and this book still shows as being available, consider yourself lucky. For all these reasons and many more you will discover on your own, The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service is an essential buy.