Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

'This never happened to the other fellow!'

 George Lazenby as James Bond, speaking to the camera in the film's famous line.

'Not this time Q. I have all the gadgets and know how to use them'.

 Bond to Q before departing on his honeymoon!!!!!!!!!!!

  You know, I saw my first Bond film in 1982 with Roger Moore in, For Your eyes Only. In the following 29 years I have seen every Bond movie ( some repeatedly ), except for one. Of course it just had to be the most maligned, criticised, and over looked film of the franchise, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It has, believe it or not, rarely played on NZ television, and both times that I remember it screening, I missed them both! So after reading Sinclair McKay's book, The Man With the Golden Touch, I decided to finally put this to rest, and borrowed the DVD from my local library.

 After watching this several cold wintry nights ago, I really can't see why it is so poorly received! It is in my opinion a very fine Bond film, not the best, but not the worst either. In fact I have read a bit upon it, and OHMSS is now regarded as the 5th best Bond film ever. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and even though OHMSS on release failed to make the same revenue as its Connery predecessor, You Only Live Twice, it was still one of the highest grossing films of 1969.

 The history behind the film is interesting and shows the impact Bond has had on popular culture. Not until Daniel Craig was announced as the new Bond was there such a hullabaloo. The cries of outrage at Craig being the first blond Bond was staggering, to the point where there even appeared anti-Craig sites appearing on the net. Poor bastard, he lands the most coveted, iconic role in cinema, and even before shooting begins he is hated! Suffice to say he gritted his teeth and has become a highly regarded Bond. I personally am a fan of him in the role. But then I'm a Bond fan through and through, and there is very little about the franchise I dislike.

 But I digress! After Connery annouced his resignation from the role, Eon Productions went on the hunt for a replacement. Roger Moore signed on to another series of The Saint after political instability in Cambodia saw cancellation of, The Man With the Golden Gun. Timothy Dalton ( the unluckiest man to play Bond in my opinion, due to studio problems ), turned down the part as he thought himself too young at the time. Then Albert Broccoli saw an unknown actor in a chocolate commercial,and the rest is as they say, history.

George Lazenby and the yummy Diana Rigg.
 In Sinclair McKay's book he states that one of the reasons Lazenby was chosen was because, as an unknown, he would come relatively cheaply. Remember that both Connery and Moore had constant battles with Broccoli over their pay. They both believed, quite fairly, that they were entitled to a bigger cut of the pie. Lazenby of course couldn't demand such a thing, and Diana Rigg, as an established star, was paid more than him even though he had the lead role!! Suffice to say Lazenby on set acted the prat thinking he was a bigger star than he was! ( Apparently there is no truth to the rumour that he and Rigg didn't get on ).

 OHMSS was the sixth film of the franchise, being based on the 1963 novel of the same name. It was initially going to be made after Goldfinger, but due to the settlement of the novel rights of Thunderball, it was postponed. After The Man With The Golden Gun was canned, OHMSS finally saw daylight. It was directed by Peter Hunt, a long time Broccoli editor, and he was given directorship after a Broccoli promise. Both he and Hunt wanted to make a Bond film that closely mirrored the original source. Hence in OHMSS the gadgets are notably dropped, and virtually everything in the novel occurs in the film.

 Interestingly OHMSS was the longest of the franchise until the release of Casino Royale. When released its critical reception was mixed, with most of the criticism of Lazenby, and not the actual film. Over time its reputation has improved although Lazenby still heavily divides opinions. Also the famous Bond score of OHMSS is regarded as possibly the finest of all the Bond films. I didn't really notice it as such, the only thing I noticed was the lack of a title song. I also wondered why they had to use imagery from the first 5 films during the opening credits. It wouldn't have done much for Lazenby's ego would it have?!!

 The thing to realise with Lazenby is he refused a 7 film contract to play Bond after advice from a friend, saying the spy film was dead, and it was best to get out of a go no where role!! He must rue that decision to this day!! But what of his performance?? For me I think he did an admirable job. I mean he followed Connery who made the role his own, and who he was going to be compared against, no matter what. The sad thing about Lazenby only making one film is that he never had the chance to grow into the role. I believe he would have become accepted after one or two films more, and with it, his performances. It seems harsh to me to judge Lazenby on just one outing. Remember that Timothy Dalton only made two films, and he was still growing into the role.

George Lazenby and Telly Savalas.
 As a Bond film everything is there, from the exotic settings ( here in the Swiss Alps ), a bevy of Bond girls ( with a young Joanna Lumley ), ad lib lines, humour, action etc, etc. What isn't to like!Telly Savalas puts in a star turn as the Bond's deranged nemesis Blofeld, and Diana Rigg ( my teenage fantasy!! those tights pants in The Avengers where hell on a teenaged boy!!! ), is a fantastic Bond girl, even becoming Bond's wife, true to the novel. In fact the ending is very novel like, as it mirrors the bleakness Ian Fleming often brought to Bond as a character.

 OHMSS has a marked datedness about it though. It is fairly noticeable, but no more than any other big budget action film of its day. The special effects, especially noticeable when Blofeld's Alps lair is destroyed, have dated badly. When I saw it I wondered why a model mock up wasn't used, as it was the standard effect of the era. The ski scenes are dated too, but again standard for the era. Also some of the fight scenes are edited too quickly. To be sure it was to add a dynamic feel to them, but today they do look jerky and dated. But otherwise the action is typical Bond, and some of the best of the franchise.

 So overall I believe OHMSS is a very good Bond film. I really think George Lazenby is far too maligned, as one outing as the the iconic James Bond, is not enough to really judge him on. If he came back and made a second film, and didn't improve, then the criticisms could be more valid. Of all the Bond films OHMSS is the only one that followed its novel counterpart. For me, after having read most of the Bond novels, I could feeI Fleming's creation more than in any other Bond film. The thing here is the only criticism is Lazenby, and nothing else.

 He was in a no win situation as he followed the tough act of Sean Connery. But then all the actors, except Connery, have had to follow on from another actor, and it takes time for them to get established and accepted. For me that is the only criticism I have of Lazenby. He didn't return and show that he was or wasn't ever going to be Bond. But hey, he did play James Bond in one film, and no one can ever take that way from him!

 Without doubt a good Bond film. Opinions are divided, but as stated only as regards to George Lazenby. Everything else is pure Bond, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service is in my opinion, one of the best of the franchise.

Click here for a synopsis and more:

And here for more:


  1. Agreed: some of the editing and effects work date this one badly, but Lazenby's performance is nowhere near as bad as many critics allege. And Diana Rigg is fantastic - easily one of the best, if not the best, Bond girl.

  2. I've always liked Diana Rigg! The Avengers was a great series and I think the benefit of that showed in OHMSS. Unlike many of the other Bond girls she could act and is still in the industry today.
    I really can't understand the hatred towards Lazenby. It was his first serious acting role and he was quite accomplished for a new comer. I just think the following Connery shadow is the factor in play rather than Lazenby himself.
    Dated yes, but still a quite Bond film.

  3. Always enjoyed it as a movie, never had too much of a problem with Lazenby as he was better than Moore and Dalton.

  4. That's the thing with the Bond films, everyone has a favorite film and actor. I like Pierce Brosnan the most.
    I liked Lazenby in this and it would have been interesting what wuold have happened had he stayed on in the role.

  5. Very interesting write up Brent, I've seen a handful of Bond films, mainly Moore's films but I'm alway intrigued by the history of the franchise.

    I recently saw a documentary on Aussie Cult films and Lazenby working on those kind of films because he'd been blackballed by most of the major studios after the Bond role.

  6. Diana Ross is wonderful as a Bond girl. George Lazenbery's acting is not that bad as it seems. I agree that the special effects were out of date.

  7. Yeah Daniel Lazneby shot himself in the foot by not coming back as Bond. He never recovered and his name became mud. I really wonder how he feels about his decision today!!

    James. Diana Rigg was a fantstic Bond girl. Like I say as a teenager she was the hottest female my young lustful eyes had ever seen !! Lazenby isn't as abad as he is made out to be. The effcts have dated and that is all that I could fault in an otherwise excellent Bond film.

  8. Brent, he regretted it, still does to this day. During the documentary they were talking about this scene;

    Which he went on to discuss about how he was actually set on fire for it and then how he's lived regretting his decision about Bond.

  9. Bugger! I don't have a set of speakers for my computer!! He was given bad advice that swung his decision to give up the role which he must be bitter about. I mean if had made the seven films of the contract he was offered he could have made enough money to virtually retire on.
    I mean Roger Moore, even though he had pay disputes, never really worked after the Bond films...didn't need to!

  10. Guys do any of you happen to know where/when the next screening of OHMSS is likely to be or where I can find out? thanks James