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Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? December 27, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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I watched On Her Majesty’s Secret Service recently, all of – gulp – 43 years old now, and certainly showing its age in places. Not least in the curious sexual politics – curious, for which read in parts genuinely repellent. And yet, it’s oddly conflicted, having at its heart a genuine romance where Bond falls in love, and is the one to profess his love. There’s a rather sly and brilliant cynicism in regards to the depiction of the way Blofeld is treated by the UN and even more so in the manner in which Bond has to call upon the Union Corse to assist in the climatic battle in the Alps. Telly Savalas is… quite good. Then, of course, there’s Diana Rigg, who is a remarkably modern presence, and refreshingly so. George Lazenby, bless him, did his best and in some parts came through. There’s one sequence where he’s patently terrified after being chased through a town. Never saw that before, or after, in a Bond film. And who rescues him? Why Rigg, of course.

I probably saw it at the age of 7 and trust me, the romance, the geopolitical cynicism went completely over my head. But the helicopters, filled with Union Corse – well… gangsters, and Bond approaching the Alpine fortress/therapy clinic (don’t ask) of Blofeld at Piz Gloria (and their head telling Swiss air force aircraft to back off because of his ‘passengers’ who he claims are members of the international press accompanying a humanitarian mercy mission – yeah, that’d work in a post-9/11 world), that I liked. And even more so I liked the score. That great booming John Barry composition, an instrumental – for the very good reason that they didn’t think the title would work as a chorus. It’s descending bassline emphasised by the use of Moogs, the first time they were part of an film soundtrack.

And here it is in all its glory…

But in a way, even more interesting is this slice of euro kitsch, “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?” from Danish singer Nina. Now some think this is a deeply ironic counterpoint to the scene described above where Bond is being chased. Clever. But check out the back story here… most un-Christmassy. Perhaps that’s why this has never become known as a Christmas song…

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1. richotto - December 27, 2012

I found this film selection one of my favourite Xmas films. Its generally held by Bond fans as probably the best for the actors, the setting, script and of course the music. The writer seem to have gone to a lot of trouble to present it here. Its a pity then that the general tone of the comments seems to be damning it with faint praise. I think the comments on the “genuinely repellant…sexual politics” speaks more for a particular puritan agenda than how the film has been generally recieved as can been seen by the high number of repeats its had on TV. Perhaps “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would be more up this writers romantic Xmas tree.

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2. WorldbyStorm - December 27, 2012

Hey, I’m praising with faint damns. I’d agree with you that it’s a great film. And I’m no puritan and certainly don’t have an agenda. But I would say there’s one point, and I don’t want to generate a spoiler where someone doesn’t want to get on a helicopter and someone else does something that was pretty damn bad gender politics and there’s a few other bits and pieces that are problematic. I take it as an artifact of its time and think that for some – myself included – it will be very much enjoyed but for others not so much.

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3. Kevin Barrington - December 27, 2012

Kraftwerk goes to Hollywood

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4. richotto - December 27, 2012

Thats agreeable to me. A major selling point is I believe that it was a slightly gentler Bond here perhaps reflecting of late 60s culture. I would’nt be particularly bothered watching the ones since as it seemed played out by the early 70s. The revenue earning possibilities were just too good to turn down though. The body count is relatively small altough a low point was a violent scene ending with Bond quipping “he had plenty of guts”. On the other hand you could’nt get a more glamourous scene than with Diana Rigg on the ice rink. Telly Savalas’ voice is something also thats outstanding for me. Thanks for putting it up.

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WorldbyStorm - December 27, 2012

You’re very welcome.

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5. Ramzi Nohra - December 27, 2012

Thats interesting (the link to Frederick and Nina). I knew Fred had become a drug smuggler – he was mentioend in the Howard Marks autobiography, but hadnt realised he had been shot dead.
Merry christmas!

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WorldbyStorm - December 28, 2012

I know, it’s sort of like merry Christmas is the only response to that grim a tale. Makes the song seem even more ironic than its use in the film.

I’ve never read his book, but must check it out.

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6. richotto - December 28, 2012

One interesting thing I read was that George Lazenby was dubbed in OHMSS by George Baker who also played the small part of Sir Hilary, a genealogist in the film. He trained Bond to assume his identity in order to be given access to Blofeld.

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WorldbyStorm - December 28, 2012

It’s a very weird film, isn’t it? And I mean that in a good way. There’s lots of ways it (unintentionally perhaps) plays around with the form which make it very much of the late 1960s.

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