The frantic pace of the Bond franchise – five films In just over four and half years – saw no sign of letting up with this oriental tale of global domination.
The first movie where the film-makers turned away from Ian Fleming’s source novels, Alfie
director Lewis Gilbert fashioned an explosive sushi platter of action which hinted at the excesses to come.
A major draw was the establishment of Blofeld – only tantalisingly glimpsed in previous Bonds – played with malevolent magnificence by Donald Pleasance sporting a painful scar around his eye.
(Czech actor Jan Werich had actually been cast and was filming when Gilbert replaced him with the sinister-looking Pleasance, a veteran of The Great Escape.
One of the best pre-title sequences featured Bond faking his murder while attending to a Hong Kong honey – he’s gunned down through the mattress of a fold-up bed - only to be picked up from the seabed after a burial at sea.
He’s despatched to Tokyo to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an American spacecraft while in orbit by a rogue craft – probably Soviet – over the Sea of Japan.
Hooking up with Japanese secret service leader Tiger Tanaka, he discovers Blofeld’s plot to lethally play the Soviets and America by skyjacking their craft from his volcano base. (The scene where an American astronaut is left stranded in space to composer John Barry’s haunting Space Walk still chills to this day.)
With a generous $9.5m budget, Gilbert could afford some stunning setpieces and these included a splendid scene when mobsters chasing Bond have their car plucked off the highway by helicopter and are dropped into the sea.
The heavily-armed autogyro “Little Nellie” also puts in an appearance although the stunt was marred when a cameraman had his foot severed by a rotor blade during filming.
The concluding setpiece featuring Bond and Tiger’s ninja assailants abseiling into Blofeld’s lair – a $1m set built at Pinewood Studios - was the most impressive in a 007 film yet.
You couldn’t get much further away from the lean, spare Cold War economy of From Russia With Love
and this signalled the new “big bangs for your bucks” gadget-reliant direction Bond would go until the preposterous Moonraker
and Die Another Day
Unfettered by the plots of his novels, this wasn’t Fleming’s James Bond anymore…but a strange, suave superspy who would later become nothing more than a well-tailored composite of clichés.
In its favour, the series still had Connery – hard, resourceful, educated, ruthless – but that was all about to change with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.