“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
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…