On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – So I’ve come to this one… George Lazenby. This is the one and only time George Lazenby played James Bond. Other to be in multiple movies, even Timothy Dalton got two (Dalton was actually offered this movie but turned it down as he felt he was much too young for the part; it was eighteen years before he took the role in The Living Daylights). George Lazenby got one. That doesn’t bode well for his performance. Then again before him the only Bond in the (official) series was Sean Connery, STILL considered to be the best of the bunch. Anyone who took the role would have faced a pretty difficult comparison. Who can measure up to Connery? Lazenby was mostly a model before this movie. He was not an experienced actor. Still, the story was taken from Ian Fleming’s books so why shouldn’t On Her Majesty’s Secret Service be as good as most classic Bond?

James Bond saves a woman from committing suicide on the beach. Then she promptly runs away. He meets her again in a casino. She is the Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg, who famously played superspy Emma Peel on The Avengers). They sleep together and then Bond is kidnapped by a Eurpean crime syndicate run by Tracy’s father, Marc-Ange Draco (Gabrielle Ferzetti). Draco offers Bond a ton of money to marry Tracy and he feels Bond is the kind of guy she needs so she’ll stop doing silly things like trying to drown herself. Bond initially refuses but then decides it may be worth it when Draco offers the whereabouts of supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas, replacing Donald Pleasance from You Only Live Twice). Blofeld is posing as the heir to European nobility and running an allergy clinic in the Swiss alps with a bevy of attractive women. Bond poses as genealogist trying to verify Blofeld’s claim while he tries to figure out what the evil genius is up to.

Although they are both played by different actors this time around, it is never quite explained by Blofeld doesn’t recognize Bond after they met face-to-face in You Only Live Twice. (Also  it should be said that Savalas lacks the sophistication of Pleasance in the role… though if really pressed I suppose I can’t think of anything especially sophisticated that pleasance did other than talk with an English accent.) Oh well, there’s a rather healthy dose of suspension of disbelief that goes along with any Bond movie. The movie has an awesome ski chase and a pretty decent plot, complete with a tragic ending that is referenced in future films as a major turning point for Bond. None of that quite overcomes the fact that George Lazenby is not a particularly good James Bond. He lacks the rogue-ish nature of Sean Connery, the sly humor of Roger Moore, the intensity of Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig, or the suaveness of Pierce Brosnan. Plus while impersonating the genealogist he doesn’t even speak his own dialogue. His voice is dubbed by George Baker, who plays the actual genealogist. In the next Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever, we got Sean Connery back for one last (official) outing as James Bond. The good plot and exciting action scenes render this movie worth seeing, but Lazenby’s tenure as Bond is not itself much worth remembering.

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