James Bond: Classic, Cheese or Crap? – “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

1969

Bond: George Lazenby

Classic, Cheese or Crap?: CRAP

In 1967, Sean Connery “retired” from playing Bond for the first time. After five enormously successful films, the role of James Bond was recast for the very first time.

The new actor? George Lazenby.

The movie? “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

The result? Crap.

In spite of George Lazenby widely being considered the worst actor to play Bond ever (one of the few things in Bond fandom that approaches unanimity), “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is a divisive film for Bond fans. Most hate it, due to Lazenby and the emphasis on the romance in the movie. Others love it, citing the quality action sequences in the latter half of the film, the “Dark” ending, and the fact that it adheres more closely to the Ian Flemming novel than most of the movies in the series do.

I fall squarely in the former camp. This movie is a rough outing.

Lazenby is a terrible actor, and a terrible Bond. While I’ve made pretty clear my distaste for Roger Moore as Bond, I have to make distinctions here… I’ve never had problems with Moore’s acting, and in fact I feel as though he’s very talented. He was just too old for the role, and never struck me as possessing the kind of attributes I would expect a world class secret agent/ladies man/quasi superhero would have.

Lazenby, though? Ouhhhff.

Thank GOD his agent was an idiot, because he was actually offered a seven picture deal. Can you imagine? George Lazenby, James Bond, all the way through “For Your Eyes Only”?

Compounding the Bond problem is that the villain of the film is one of the weakest in the entire series. As much as I love Telly Savalas in other things – “The Dirty Dozen”, “Kojak”, “Battle of the Network Stars” clips on YouTube – he’s awful here. Not 100% his fault, but the recasting of Blofeld in this film was almost as egregious as the recasting of Bond. For the first four films, Blofeld was name dropped and hinted at and then finally revealed in “You Only Live Twice”. Donald Pleasance created an indelible character with very little total screen time to work with (a god given talent the man had). Savalas comes across entirely differently. And not in a way beneficial to the film or the series.

As in many of the Bond films, the villain’s plot is Lame with a capital L. He’s brainwashing women to poison the world’s food supply. Atop of being lame, it’s always confused me. At the risk of being sexist, if you’re super rich and you have armored fortress on top of a mountain and you’re already brainwashing a dozen gorgeous women of international persuasions, each of whom are half your age… uh, what else do you need?

The movie focuses heavily on Bond’s romance with Tracy di Vicenzo, played by Diana Rigg. I have no problem with Rigg… she’s lovely and talented. But unlike most Bond movies, which feature brief flirtations leading to “hit it and quit it” affairs, in this movie Bond falls in love, replete with love songs, long walk montages, and a wedding. It’s just not what I watch Bond for. It’s not the ticket I’m buying. Granted, in 1967, the Bond series wasn’t as formulaic as it would eventually become, but… if the next Die Hard movie (and Die Hard 5 is coming, if you’re not aware) featured John McClane falling in love and getting married… and not like in a Keanu saves Sandra Bullock from the Speed bus/train and now they’re in love type of way, but in a real like “Love Story” kind of way… wouldn’t people rip it apart?

All of these things combined add up to make a movie that, while not as laughably bad or cheese riddled as some other entries in the series, is still one of the worst in the series to me. If you’re a fan and you’d like to mount a defense, I’ll grant you that there are some terrific action sequences in the final third of the movie. Aside from that? You have your work cut out for you on this one…

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18 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese or Crap? – “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

  1. For once we agree on a Bond film, 100% to all your reasons above!! Good job!!

    What made Casino Royale such a great film is that they took care of the “falling in love” and all that stuff in the beginning. It made for such a better story. With OHMSS, the movie was just setup to be an epic fail. No way would Bond decide to get married after 5 films of hitting the skazins with every woman that crossed his path. At the time, the cast was probably top of the line, but Lazenby and Savalas did have the script to really sell the Bond and Blofeld we know. The action and feel was there I think but the story wasn’t.

    • Well, seeing as you think “Casino Royale” is a great film, we’re destined to agree at least once more. LOL.

      I guess that that’s a good point… There’s a love story segment there too. But I guess Bond and Vesper had been through the “Keanu/Sandra Bullock fall in love because of the bus situation” drill, so it’s acceptable.

      Plus, that movie was chock full of awesomeness, so by then I wasn’t going to complain about anything…

      Don’t worry Jay, we’ll disagree again soon!

  2. It’s so craptastic I only have the vaguest memories of this film. Good thing too – I need my brain for more important memories!

    I thought Lazenby was just awful. Lacked any screen charisma or presence. I appreciated the darker ending but everything else was so bad I just couldn’t let that make the film any better.

    Best left unseen!

  3. Can’t say I disagree with your assessment here, other than to say that there’s enough mitigating good stuff in this movie to maybe put this one on the top of the crap pile. Lazenby was bad, Savalas was bad in this role, the plot was as paper thin as most Bond plots, but Rigg was great and otherwise I feel like this is one of the best *looking* Bond films of all.

    In the end, I’d probably rather watch OHMSS before Diamonds Are Forever, A View To A Kill, or either of the Dalton Bonds.

    • That’s an interesting way of looking at it… Of course, for me, if I did the “I’d rather watch” game, I think this one goes straight to the bottom of the pile.

      Honestly, I think I’d rather watch “The Man With the Golden Gun”…

  4. I hate this movie. I’m glad that there is at least one other person out there who thinks this Bond movie is a shitfest. It probably would have sucked even with Connery in the role. It was just that badly written.

  5. Alright, I’m gonna stick up for what I think is a solid Bond film. First off, Lazenby gets way too much crap for the film. Is he as good as Connery? Of course not. Is he the weakest Bond? Possibly. But I still like him in the role. I also really like Telly Savalas, in fact, I think I like him more than Pleasence. Diana Rigg makes for a great Bond girl, and I really like the falling in love angle. I think the story would have been stronger with Connery in the role, but still, I dig it. It’s something new, and it brings more depth to the character. And as it’s been mentioned, the action scenes kick ass.

    I will admit, I hated this film when I first saw it, but it’s really grown on me since.

    • You go, PG! Way to be!

      Gotta support you here… Not on the movie itself, it’s a raw crapfest. Lol.

      But you came in gloves up, and let us hear it. You knew it was a tough crowd. Didn’t stop you.

  6. Shitiest Bond film ever… until Quantum of Solace (Have I mentioned how much I hate that film? I think we’ve discussed this already. lol ). Diana Rigg is definitely the only redeeming thing about this film, and even then, only if you turn the volume down so as not to hear the insipid dialog…

    … but she is easy on the eye.

    • Wait, what’s wrong with Quantum of Solace? I like that one…

      I kid! I kid! Don’t get started… It’s ok, we get it we get it.

      (Remember folks, I AM a trained professional, don’t taunt the Gelfman at home!)

  7. Damn, I was just about to go to bed when I found this. OHMSS is solid spy film, and a good Bond film. It has a wonderful music score, an OK song (although I could live without the semi-obligatory montage while the song plays) and a dynamite third act.

    The romance story is one of two serious relationships that Bond had in the original books. Tracy is a fully formed character, Bond’s chivalry was what brought them together, and somewhere in the stories you need a reminder once in a while as to why Bond can’t really ever settle down.

    The heraldry angle to get Bond hooked up with Blofeld was also from the book. Since the story is being told from the original perspective of the novel, where Bond and Blofeld have never met, and Bond has to pass himself off as an expert to infiltrate the suspected Blofeld’s lair, it makes sense to recast Blofeld so we are not quickly reminded that in “You Only Live Twice” they have already crossed paths face to face.

    The biological attacks planned by Blofeld are a nice change of pace from the usual global warfare storyline. The goal is really just money and station. The girls as the delivery system for the toxins where fun and a chance for Bond to flirt to his hearts content. The location in the Alps is new for most audiences and the clean white background makes the photography look very different from most of the other films in the series.

    Lazenby is the weak link in the film admittedly. He looks right in the part, he handled the action scenes pretty well, but he was a novice actor and it showed. I suspect he would have grown into the part had he continued, but I will not say he was ever missed by me. I do think they handled the changeover with one of the best throwaway gags in the whole series. It does take you out of the story for a moment but it was a good solid laugh.

    The whole escape from the fortress, with the cable car, skis , and car chase was excellent. The henchman in the snow-blower is one of the grimmest images from any of the Bond films, along with the murder by drowning of the pilot in Thunderball, it still haunts me a little to this day. The music during the ski chase down the mountain worked in a modern way even though it still uses some cheesy electronics to get the effect. Tracy showing up and participating in the car chase made her even more relevant to the plot. Finally there is the attack on the piz Gloria, with Bond sliding prone on his stomach, machine gun in hand , moving down the curling ice. What a great shot. The melancholy ending was shocking and perfect. It was a unique Bond Film in many ways. It may be slightly less than classic but it is far from crap and not really cheesy.

    • I dont think we could just call Lazenby a weak link in the chain. If it were an ensemble film, say, then that’s a fine term to use. But its not, its a Bond film, and the fact that he’s weak means the movie is weak.

      Also, I know the love story is in the books, but that doesn’t mean it makes for a good movie, especially for the modern viewer, like myself, who’s come to expect certain things from a Bond film. It also misses a lot of the emotional weight it would have carried if Connery had played the role, and we had a continuous character. We don’t. Instead, we have a new Bond, and a alove story, both at the same time. It’s too much to accept at once.

      I’ll grant that the action once he escapes the fortress is good to great, but that’s all this movie has going for it in my opinion. One of my least favorites, with extreme prejudice. CRAPPPP!!! :D

  8. Sir, I salute you. I have finally found someone (like me) who doesn’t like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However I would disagree on you with the whole Roger Moore thing

  9. Pingback: Ranking the Family of Bond | It Rains… You Get Wet

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