For any George Lazenby haters out there, this won’t be your favorite post.
. . .AS IAN FLEMING’S JAMES BOND 007: George Lazenby
SETUP: Bond prevents a mysterious woman’s ocean suicide, then fights off her bodyguards. Later, Bond meets the same woman (Diana Rigg) at a casino and saves her again, this time from a gambling debt. The woman’s father, a smuggler, approaches Bond and makes him an offer: if Bond “tames” his daughter, he will help Bond locate the elusive criminal mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas.)
BUT IN REALITY: Blofeld has taken over the Swiss mountain resort of Piz Gloria, and schemes to blackmail his way into a noble title by unleashing a virus on the world’s livestock. Bond wrecks Blofeld’s plans, but finds himself actually falling for the smuggler’s daughter, Tracy. When the danger has passed, Bond marries Tracy and retires from spy work, but Blofeld takes his revenge by shooting Tracy just moments after the ceremony. The film ends with a weeping, devastated Bond holding his dead wife and talking about how they have “all the time in the world.”
VILLAINOUS DISFIGUREMENT: Blofeld’s disfigurement changes each time he appears in the series. Here he tries to masquerade as a member of a lost line of nobles by taking on their traditional family trait: missing earlobes.
THE MUSCLE: Irma Bundt (Ilse Steppat) is den mother to the brainwashed patients at Piz Gloria, which fronts as an allergy clinic to hide Blofeld’s true plans. She spends much of the movie as a shrieking chaperone, keeping Bond from getting too close to the girls, but shows some talent in the murder department when the need arises. In fact, it’s Bundt that takes the fatal shot at Tracy Bond while Blofeld drives the getaway car. And she never even pays for the crime.
BOND GIRL AND FEMME FATALE: “Teresa was a saint. My name’s Tracy.”
Teresa Di Vicenzo lost her mother when she was a child and spent the rest of her life rebelling against her father. She’s educated, strong, well-traveled, has a flair for gambling, drives fast cars, and flaunts a scandalous past. In short, she’s perfect for Bond. When the story begins, Tracy is just an assignment. By the time she’s saved his bacon in Switzerland, she’s his fiancee. The plot requires Bond and Tracy to fall in love mostly during the chase scenes, but her death still hits with an emotional gut punch, something that the Casino Royale filmmakers wish they could say about Vesper Lynd. But that’s another review.
“PAY ATTENTION, 007”: Q barely shows up in the film, mostly just to satisfy continuity, but for the first time in the series he’s allowed to act like Bond’s friend. He attends the wedding and seems generally pleased to be invited… but then breaks down and complains about Bond’s handling of government property.
MOST EMBARRASSING CULTURAL MOMENT:
OK, Lazenby does kind of rock this outfit, but the kilt doesn’t really represent the look that Connery’s Bond was famous for, and is maybe a subtle dig at Connery, an actual Scotsman, for bailing on the character. Worse, this outfit is part of Bond’s alias at Piz Gloria, the effete intellectual Sir Edmund Hillary. Bond plays the role, dubbed, as a gay man and seduces girls at the retreat by convincing them he just needs a good snuggle under some LSD lights to change to his mind. By far the worst sequence in the movie, and about 10 minutes too long.
BOND’S BEST ONE-LINER: “This never happened to the other fellow.” Bond’s first line of the film after Tracy’s bodyguards rescue her from being rescued, which Bond follows immediately with a direct smirk at the camera. See, Bond’s not played by Sean Connery anymore, so…
WORTH MENTIONING: Lazenby was a complete unknown when he was hired for the role and the public, in love with Connery, had a hard time accepting him in the role. The box office suffered. Lazenby still had an offer to return, but the actor declined, believing that the Bond character would become obsolete in the 70s. Connery returned for Diamonds are Forever and Lazenby never quite achieved the career his performance in this film seemed to promise… Bond’s last line — “We have all the time in the world.” – is one of the most famous quotes in all of the Bond series. It’s the name of the film’s love theme, and appears as the epitaph on Tracy’s grave in the opening few moments of For Your Eyes Only.
OVERALL: What a bizarre, uneven, wonderful film. The only Bond movie that truly embraces the “psychedelic” 60s (the film was released in 1969), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is at times just as unwieldy as its name, yet still delivers some of the most memorable moments in the film history of the character.
George Lazenby gives a criminally underrated performance, asked both to fall in love and to suffer crushing tragedy in between gunfights, ski chases and an absurd(ly awesome) bobsled finale, and he actually sticks the landing. Yet, for some reason, he’s thought of as the punchline, Johnny No-Name who kept the seat warm for Connery and, eventually, Roger Moore. Even today, there are fans who dismiss this movie based just on its star or its premise.
This is insanity.
OHMSS is the first film in the series to allow weakness anywhere near James Bond, and he’s stronger for it. By the end of this film, Bond is no longer the unthinking superman he had been under Connery. His decision to quit, and the inevitable result, give the character some necessary depth (incidentally the same depth Connery had been looking for before he quit.) The films have used this as a jumping off point for the Bond character, looking to this event for the answer to why he drinks, womanizes, and detaches himself via witty one-liners. After this film, Bond makes sense.
OHMSS is definite top five material and fans who love classic Bond should give it another look, although I just can’t rank it any higher while the uncomfortable Piz Gloria seductions weigh down the middle. Tracy so would have disapproved.
11. Dr. No
14. Live and Let Die
15. Licence to Kill
22. A View to a Kill