By Marc S. Sanders
Director Peter Hunt was awarded the opportunity to take the James Bond franchise in a double curve ball direction with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. For the first time in the Eon Productions series, helmed by Harry Saltzman & Albert Brocolli, the role of Bond is recast with George Lazenby. Plus-what’s this? 007 falls in love????
Lazenby is serviceable in the role, seeming to have a taller and more slender appearance than his predecessor (Sean Connery), and not a huge departure in looks. Still his tongue in cheek pun delivery is no match for the original Bond.
OHMSS is a bit hit and miss. The fight scenes look great as the film starts off with Bond fending off a couple of thugs on the beach and a later downhill ski chase is exhilarating and well edited. Telly Savalas also works as a different kind of Blofeld (replacing Donald Pleasence as the cat loving villain). I just wonder why the long middle act was so cheesy, almost like a bad episode of “Batman” or “Star Trek.” The swinging ’60s might have been coming to a close but James Bond was not ready to put it behind him.
After the first third of the story establishes a love story between Bond and Tracy (Diana Rigg as the daughter of Draco, a competing criminal mastermind of Blofeld & SPECTRE), the super spy is off to Piz Gloria, a lodge located on the highest snowy mountain of Switzerland.
Bond goes undercover as a genealogist (I really don’t know why) while looking not the least bit macho in a ruffled shirt with a kilt and knee high socks adorned with red bows. It’s hard to accept James Bond in this image. I couldn’t imagine Connery adopting this get up.
At the lodge Bond uncovers a stupid plot orchestrated by Blofeld where he’s brainwashing a group of swinging girls to, I think, poison the world populace with makeup kits, or maybe bomb the population. I’m not sure exactly.
Eventually, and thankfully, Bond makes an escape in a well shot ski scene while being pursued by Blofeld and his men. It’s a fun sequence.
This film takes some odd turns. Per the prior entry, “You Only Live Twice,” Bond and Blofeld come face to face. Here, it is as if they never met before. Why the neglect for what’s already been established?
It’s also a bit curious to see Bond fall in love and (SPOILER ALERT) marry Tracy, especially when the franchise is breaking in a new actor for audiences to get used to. Were they thinking new actor means new kind of Bond?
No question OHMSS stands out from the rest of the franchise for the change in casting but also the odd story turns it takes. Not to mention, it has the most somber ending of all Bond films.
It’s worth a look even if it is not the best in the series.
I’ll be interested to see what Lazenby does in future films with the role…oh wait…. Nevermind.