The poor bastard who had to replace Sean Connery as James Bond was always going to be under immense pressure to fill his tuxedo. Nowadays the years of speculation on […]
The poor bastard who had to replace Sean Connery as James Bond was always going to be under immense pressure to fill his tuxedo. Nowadays the years of speculation on who will be the next Bond is commonplace – even as far back as Skyfall we’ve had “who will replace Daniel Craig?” articles aplenty. So who did Bond producers pin their hopes on? A previously unknown actor George Lazenby, an Australian model who they felt had the look and attitude they needed for a Bond. Lazenby would be signed for seven films. He did one. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would go down as an odd spot for 007, and at the time the critics were not super convinced but over time a level of fondness has been lavished upon the black sheep of the Bond family. OHMSS was Peter Hunt’s first directorial effort for the Bond series having been an editor for all of the previous five. It made $82 million on a $7 million budget – almost $30 million less than You Only Live Twice. Joining Lazenby was Diana Rigg playing Tracy, Bond’s love interest, and Telly Savalas taking up the role of Blofeld.
The overall plot of OHMSS revolves around Bond’s never-ending search for Blofeld and SPECTRE. Despite searching for a couple of years Bond has failed to find his arch-nemesis. At the very beginning of the film he saves a woman from drowning herself before bumping into her in a casino. The woman turns out to be a Countess, Theresa, and Bond gets her out of a jam or two. This being a Bond film she shows her thanks by giving him her hotel key and because this is a Bond film there is a big strong boy in there looking to get beat up by Bond. After taking care of that business he finds Theresa (or Tracy as she prefers to be called) in his room. The scene fades to black and he wakes up to find no Tracy and also no gun in his drawer.
He is eventually taken captive by a bunch of goons working for Marc-Ange Draco – a crime lord and also Tracy’s father. Draco agrees to share information he might have on Blofeld and in exchange he wants Bond to spend some time with his daughter in the hopes that love might make her calm her life down a little. Bond reluctantly agrees but in a shocking twist they end up falling in love. Bond gets the information he needs and after infiltrating the offices of a Swiss lawyer, finds that Blofeld has hired the talents of a genealogist to back up his claim on the title of ‘Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp’. So Bond disguises himself as the genealogist and stays at Blofeld’s research station to try and figure out his new evil plan. His new evil plan is to CURE ALLERGIES! The bastard.
In reality he is brainwashing a bunch of women who came to him for help curing their allergies to unleash a bioweapon that will essentially render the entire world infertile. His only demands are to be recognised as the Count de Bleuchamp and forgiven for all his old crimes. Bond’s penis gets him caught when he tries to sleep with one of the girls in the complex for a second night but he managed to eventually escape the facility and the town with the help of Tracy. There they spend the night in a random barn where Bond asks her to marry him. She says aye!
The next day they are chased via skiing by Blofeld and his pals but after the evil, bad man causes an avalanche and buries Bond and his wife-to-be, he kidnaps Tracy but just assumes that James F’n Bond just died. What a fool. Bond is all ready to go gung ho and attack Blofeld’s base but M is all like “no, Bond, we’re just going to give him what he wants, soz bbz” and Bond is all like “whut but no I’m gonna go anyway!”. So he gets a ride from Draco and his men to attack the base. They are successful in rescuing Tracy but Bond and Blofeld are too busy fighting to make a quick enough escape from all the explosives. Bond and Blofeld then compete in a fight involving bobsleighs, which makes OHMSS the second best bobsleigh movie behind Cool Runnings. However Blofeld is left hanging after banging neck first on a branch and Bond gets away.
We cut to the wedding of the century as all of Bond’s friends (all three of them) attend his wedding to wish him luck in his new life. The happy husband and wife drive off to plan their life together “now we have all the time in the world” when Bond gets out of the car to remove the flowers. A car driven by Blofeld pulls up and performs a drive-by assault on their car. Bond survives but as he goes to flee he turns to find that Tracy has been shot in the head. Bond is distraught as the credits hit.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is an interesting Bond film, it has all of the elements of a normal Bond film – the cars, the guns, the women, the espionage, the smarmy British guy, not a lot of gadgets but a lot of nameless bad guys dying in horrific ways. However, it does feel like everything is just a little different. Lazenby is not a strong actor – this is his first film it’s not totally his fault – but he is surrounded by a great cast. Diana Rigg was already well established by this point due to her role in The Avengers (no, not THAT Avengers) but she ends up being a very strong character who is more than a match for Bond – Tracy really ends up being the kind of person who could tame James Bond. Her tragic end ends up being a catalyst for a different side of Bond in the future – she is referenced a few times in films to come and her death always seems to weigh heavy on his mind.
Lazenby not being a great actor is a weakness of the film – he has the look and attitude of Bond but it never feels like he has the true natural confidence of a Bond. However, this works to his advantage during the finale. I could not in a million years imagine Connery’s Bond trying to show a sad emotion. Lazenby’s Bond could have been a more vulnerable character to take the series into the 70s. Sadly we would never know just how he would have grown because he chose to leave the role almost immediately after finishing OHMSS.
There is a little theme going on about the legacy of Bond films and whether Lazenby will continue it or if this would be the end of the series. The title sequence has little snippets of the previous films, he finds various items from said films at one point while cleaning out his desk and there is a little joke in the beginning after Tracy runs away from him they have Lazenby turn to the camera and say “this never happened to the other fellow”. It feels like they are closing the door on the past of the series and the end of the film was to set up the beginning of the next but because of Lazenby leaving and Connery coming back for one more, this theme doesn’t quite pan out in the long run.
Production wise this is a good film on a technical level, they manage to pick some incredible scenic locations to film in and the score should get a lot of credit too. There is no title track but the closest thing would be the Louis Armstrong original “We Have All The Time in the World” which is a nice track but John Barry really put out some of his best composition of the entire series here.
Other than Lazenby, who I still feel did the best he could considering he wasn’t a seasoned actor, the only true complaint I have about OHMSS is that it is pretty long and there are a few sequences that probably could have been cut down a little. Also while I like Blofeld’s overall plan, his demands are super weak – this is nitpicky but it feels like he doesn’t want enough in order to prevent destroying the world’s ecosystem. It’s a small thing overall though.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would have been a fine way to close the book on the 1960s era of James Bond if Lazenby hadn’t immediately left the series and they were forced to backtrack a little bit. The film is good, the cast is good, the production is good, the action is good, everything is good except maybe the performance of our inexperienced leading man. The love this film has increasingly got over the years is well earned and I definitely enjoyed my time watching it – just I don’t think it grabbed me as much as From Russia With Love or Goldfinger did. It is 100% in the essential Bond viewing camp as it is an interesting watch and real life issues aside, this was a good way to end the decade for Britain’s most famous spy.
FINAL SCORE –