Bond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
After YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE came out in 1967, Sean Connery decided that he’d had enough of Bond, and called it quits. This left producers Albert R. Broccoli & Harry Saltzman in a bind. Connery had become a superstar as Bond- surely the series couldn’t survive without him? They decided to gamble on the fact that people liked Bond for Bond, regardless of who played him, and they began looking for a replacement. They ended up settling on an Australian model named George Lazenby, despite the fact that he had almost zero acting experience.
In order to compensate for their unknown lead, they decided to film one of Ian Fleming’s best Bond novels, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Editor Peter Hunt, who had revolutionized action movie editing with his work on the early Bond’s, was promoted to the directors chair, Supposedly the production was a nightmare, with Lazenby’s ego going out of control early in the production- he supposedly clashed badly with director Hunt, and leading lady Diana Rigg, and at one point was chewed out by Broccoli for demanding star treatment he hadn’t earned yet. Despite all the trouble behind the scenes, the film wrapped in time for a Christmas 1969 release, only eighteen months after YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE hit theaters. The questioned remained, would the movie going public accept Lazenby in a role so closely identified with Connery?
PLOT: Bond, hot on the trail of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, traces him to an allergy clinic located in the Swiss alps. Bond plots to infiltrate the clinic disguised as genealogist Hillary Bray, but not before falling in love with the troubled Tracy Vicenzo, daughter of Marc- Ange Draco, head of a notorious European crime syndicate.
REVIEW: Everyone loves to pick on this film. Everyone, just because it stars George Lazenby, automatically assumes it’s the worst Bond film every made, but they really could not be further from the truth. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE isn't the the worst Bond film, but rather, in my opinion, is the best Bond film. That’s right folks- none other than ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, starring George “what’s his name”, is my favorite Bond film!
I really do believe it’s a masterpiece. It’s both epic, and intimate, and tells the best (really the only until CASINO ROYALE) love story in the series. I really bought Bond falling for Tracy, as the film sets them up as the perfect match for each other, and that final scene kills me every time. Besides the love story, it also has some of the best action scenes in the series, including a wicked bobsled chase, an amazing ski pursuit, and some brief, but incredible hand to hand combat (Hunt really knew how to shoot fight scenes, and it’s a pity this was his Bond swansong). Granted, it has its flaws. Savalas is miscast and Lazenby is no Connery (or Roger Moore for that fact), but it’s still such a damn fine film, that if Connery had played Bond in this, EVERYONE would agree that it’s the highlight of the series.
This is the biggest problem with the film- Lazenby. Despite all the criticism lobbied at him over the years, Lazenby is actually not that bad. The only time his shortcomings are really apparent are in the final scenes, but no Bond (until Daniel Craig), ever had to act such an emotionally complex scene in a Bond film, so people should cut him some slack. If he hadn’t been such an idiot off-screen, he might have grown into the role over time, but alas, he got some really bad advice and quit the series before the film even got released into theaters. Look- Lazenby is no Connery, but it could have been a lot worse. It’s still unfair though, that the worst Bond actor gets the best Bond film- which really should have been with Connery, and would have been a great swan song for him, and would have been a perfect place to re-boot In the next installment.
Diana Rigg is great as one of only two women in the series that manages to capture Bond’s heart. She’s terrific, and makes a great Bond companion. You really belief that Bond would be drawn to her, as she possesses many of his skills (meaning she’s handy behind the wheel, is a judo expert, is great in the sack, and most importantly can deliver a one liner when needed).
BOND MUSIC: John Barry contributes what I believe is his very best Bond score to this film. Lazenby supposedly tried to get the score removed in favor of some pop tracks by the group Blood, Sweat, & Tears- which proves just how much of a moron he really is. The score is a masterpiece, and boasts Louis Armstrong’s last single on the soundtrack, We Have All the Time in the World.
BODY COUNT: Bond only takes out six bad guys in this one, but he dispatches them in fun ways.
NUMBER OF WOMEN BOND SLEEPS WITH: Despite falling in love, Bond is particularly randy in this one, and cheats on her like a mofo. Besides Tracy, he sleeps with at least two girls at the clinic, but if a later gag is to be believed, he actually slept with every girl at the clinic in the same night (separately). Wow...
BEST ONE- LINER: A great one. Bond tricks a henchman into skiing into a snow blower, which then spews red snow- prompting the quip, “he sure had a lot of guts!”
BEST DOUBLE ENTENDRE: [a girl writes on Bond's leg under the table, to which Bond makes an awkward face] Irma Bunt: Is anything ze matter, Sir Hilary? James Bond: Just a slight stiffness coming on... in the shoulder
BEST GADGET: Not much here- except for some radioactive lint in the teaser- which I suppose you really can never have enough of.
RECEPTION: Nowadays everyone assumes ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE was a flop, but it actually did fairly well at the box office. It grossed $87 million worldwide (compared to the $111 million made by YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), with $22 Million coming from the U.S. All in all, not a bad haul at all, just nowhere near to what the Connery Bond’s were pulling in. In the end, Lazenby only did the one Bond film, and Connery was enticed back for the next Bond film, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.
GRADE: I should probably give the film an 8 due to the big plot holes, Savalas & Lazenby, but like I said in my review- this is my personal favorite Bond film, and I love every second of it, leading me to giving it a guilt free 10/10.