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007: Best & Worst Of Lazenby – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

James Bond - Best Of George Lazenby - On Her Majesty's Secret Service

To mark the release of Spectre, myself and fellow Movie Moron contributor DalmatianJaws are delving into the massive catalogue of movies to bring you joint reviews covering the franchise’s highs and lows. We’ll be discussing the most critically acclaimed and the most critically derided movie of each Bond actor (we originally posted this in 2012 but it’s just as relevant now). Up for debate this time is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only outing as Bond for Australian actor George Lazenby. Here’s the original trailer:

DNWilliams: I wanted to make a brief point about the gun barrel sequence which I’d neglected to mention up until this point.

DalmatianJaws: Okay, shoot. See what I did there?

DNW: Well played. What I wanted to draw attention to was how nonsensical it is. I mean, it’s graphically striking to the point of genius, but it makes no sense. This isn’t something I arrived at on my own, it was brought to my attention as a kid: what we’re looking through at the beginning isn’t an iris of some kind, it’s rifling inside the barrel of a gun. Blood wouldn’t get inside like that. That’s it, that’s the whole thing.

DJ: I was honestly only vaguely aware it was a gun barrel. I always figured it was a telescope or something … didn’t think about it too much, which is probably a sign that it is genius. Another viewpoint: Bond can make guns bleed.

DNW: Haha, I like that take. As a little kid I’m sure I used to think it was an opening to a safe or vault or something. Or yeah, some kind of scope.

DJ: It really is a brilliant opening. No matter how bad the movie gets after that, the openings are always great.

DNW: So, on with the show? First new Bond we’ve looked at. This is his only movie, and therefore simultaneously his best and worst: Mr George Lazenby.

DJ: ‘Cause, God bless ‘im, he does NOT deserve to be called Bond.

DNW: Aw, poor guy. He didn’t make a good first impression on you then, I take it?

DJ: Not at all. Now, to be fair, that opening sequence at the beach doesn’t help much. The blocking is awkward and in general directing alternates between dull (too many static wide shots) and trying WAY too hard (all the zoom ins for no reason). Plus how they speed up the film looks like a Benny Hill comedy sketch. And then that damn joke that breaks the fourth wall is so on the nose. I’m all for a little quip, but work it in organically, don’t just have him look to the camera for no reason. All that, and he has the charisma of a slug. Very bad combo.

DNW: Okay, I’m going to go a lot easier on Lazenby than you by the sounds of it, because first off: I think the intro is pretty cool. One of the best parts of the movie, even. Much like the intro for Connery in Dr No, they shy away from showing his face at first, instead showing him doing Bond-like things – smoking, driving fast, etc. I think it’s a good choice. Not only is it introducing the character enigmatically (as it should be) but it’s easing you into the idea of a new Bond by keeping things familiar. It’s prolonged, but to a certain extent reassuring. And I thought the water rescue and fight were great. I agree about the quip though, too meta.

James Bond - Best Of George Lazenby
DJ: I’m being way too harsh for the sake of jokes. I need to tone myself down and save my vitriolic rants for Roger Moore, who is worse. Lazenby is definitely boring compared to Connery, really a bad choice for Bond, but Roger Moore is like a practical joke compared to Lazenby. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself in the series. As for the opening: I agree the concept is sound (hiding Bond’s face, a fight on the beach and a rescue in the surf) but the execution is horrible. In my opinion, anyway.

DNW: I like the lighting for the fight on the shore a lot. I like the tussling in the surf and the improvisational weaponry that is the boating equipment. And we have another Bond girl associated with water from the get-go – Diana Rigg of Avengers fame as Tracy di Vicenzo!

DJ: See, I hating the lighting. It’s so obviously shot at noon with a lame blue filter slapped to the camera. To be fair they didn’t have the film stock to handle magic hour at that point, but still.

DNW: I’m cool with day for night, mostly.

DJ: It’s interesting you compare Lazenby’s entrance to Connery’s entrance in Dr No, because in the next bit he’s playing the same card game as the beginning of Dr No.

DNW: Yeah, they’re very interested in keeping the spirit of Bond alive. They don’t seem to have faith in people accepting a new Bond, and so they take a lot of opportunities to remind us that this is part of the same series and this is the same guy. The opening titles recap Connery’s adventures, the card game recreates a Dr No scene…

DJ: All that did was remind me what I was missing. I just wanted to watch Connery instead.

DNW: I’m not opposed to tying the movie to the franchise, and we have to remember the context, but they do overdo it. There’s a considerable amount more to come later.

DJ: Oh joy.

DNW: But the fact that they ARE trying to evoke the same feelings as Dr No and the previous Bond movies actually made me even more annoyed at the whole Diamonds Are Forever situation, where they tried to put the genie back in the bottle with Connery and turned Bond into a joke in the process.

DJ: True. Best to move on and adjust the tone accordingly. Which is what they did with Moore, Brosnan, and Craig. Dalton is a throwback to Connery’s era and it doesn’t work. But again, looking ahead. After the opening titles it’s the card game and hotel attack, right?

DNW: That’s right. He meets up with Tracy at the hotel, who he’s taken with after preventing her suicide.

DJ: Did you notice that when he gets attacked in his hotel room, the entire floor is made of wrestling mats decorated to look like the hotel floor? It’s a big bouncy house. Every time they hit the floor you can see it clearly.

DNW: I didn’t! That’s a shame. I do think he handles the physicality of the role rather well though.

DJ: Yeah, the story is he was hired when he punched out someone during the audition. But I think he was a model, not an actor, and it shows.

DNW: Well, Connery was a bodybuilder, there was precedent.

DJ: True.

DNW: And dude has a great voice in my opinion. He’s a little goofier looking than Connery, his hair seems too big, his ears stick out, but it seems silly to complain about, especially with Daniel Craig is our current Bond.

DJ: Craig is not a handsome man, but he looks tough as nails. Lazenby looks like a homeschooler with his hair done that way and his dopey ears.

DNW: You’re not wrong. Anyway, after the card game and the scuffle Bond hooks up with Tracy, but not before grabbing her wrist and slapping her in the face. Is it just me, or does it seem WAY more vicious here than instances of violence against women in the Connery movies somehow? Maybe it’s because this is the main Bond girl and it’s really damn casual.

James Bond - Best Of George Lazenby
DJ: Yeah, that took me less by surprise because I watched Diamonds are Forever first, but if I had watched them in order, totally.

DNW: So then Bond is kidnapped…

DJ: In the most homoerotic fashion. The line is “We’ll give it to you outside.” Followed by “Why not, perhaps we can make it a foursome.” The double entendres are so out of control I’m not even sure the screenwriter is aware of them.

DNW: I think that gave me pause too. We’re so used to innuendo in Bond that nothing is ever going to be taken at face value, no matter how innocent the intention.

DJ: That’s true. In Bond movies, the cigar is NEVER just a cigar.

DNW: It’s an EXPLODING cigar. A Freudian one.

DJ: HAHA

DNW: Alright, so what we get after the kidnapping is, again, something I quite enjoyed from Dr No, and which happens pretty much all the time in Bond, which is a civil conversation with the villain. Or at, least not a completely squeaky clean guy. I mean, Draco is the head of a crime syndicate, but Bond seems to get pretty freaking cosy with him in this movie.

James Bond - Best Of George Lazenby
DJ: Bond villains are always millionaire businessmen. I want to see him go up against a street gang or Middle East terrorists for a change. Someone who doesn’t want to talk his ear off and be all civilized.

DNW: It would add a little variety, but at the same time, how would Bond fare in that kind of situation? I mean, I’m sure as a character he’d handle himself, but how would the audience respond to seeing him in the situations that would arise from that kind of threat? There are already those who whinge about Craig’s Bond being too Bourne-like.

DJ: Fair enough. But keep in mind there are 22 movies, and all of them (as far as I know) have the same sort of villain. I remember all the villains from the Brosnan era being the same. They could stand to mix it up a few times, they’d still have like fifteen movies with the businessman-type villain.

DNW: Judi Dench would have made an awesome villain if they never made her M. That’d be something of a change. There’s always Helen Mirren…

DJ: That’s a great idea.

DNW: So, we get the basic setup of Draco wanting Bond to romance his daughter for information on Blofeld – which is a little bit much to ask the audience to accept as plausible if you ask me, it’d have been much better if Bond was trying to get to Draco through his daughter at the behest of MI6 – followed swiftly by some obligatory flirting with Moneypenny. We then get a medley of old Bond themes and Lazenby reminiscing over his old adventures, which was way too much for me, and the point at which I decided I’d had enough of the call-backs. There’s a souvenir for each movie, it’s just silly.

James Bond - Best Of George Lazenby
DJ: Haha. I honestly don’t remember that. I was SO BORED by this point I only caught the highlights. I think I blacked out and when I came to Lazenby was shopping with a girl on his arm, at which point I vomited and blacked out again. It’s a half-hour long romantic sidebar, the likes of which we didn’t see again until Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.

DNW: Right, a serious love montage to the sound of Louis Armstrong. This song is a big deal in terms of Bond canon, I think. It was made for the movie, they reference it in the dialogue, the final episode of Alias and the fourth Spy Kids movie are named after it…but it’s just doesn’t fit Bond. And the romance does not occur naturally at all. The fact that it’s a montage is a telltale sign: it’s just lazy. There’s a bit where Draco is sandwiched between the couple, he looks how I feel.

James Bond - Best Of George Lazenby
DJ: Haha, so true. And it’s all forgotten once he gets to the snow fortress, they just do all that so they can kill her in the final moments of the movie.

Part 2 (Of 2) >

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10 Comments »

  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    I’ve still never seen OHMSS from beginning to end, but I find the behind the scenes fascinating. After watching several documentaries it’s clear that Lazenby was an arrogant asshole who almost everyone important on the set grew to resent, and that’s the main reason he lost the job. One example of this was that he refused to shave off his big beard for the promotional tour. They said, understandably, that they wanted him to look like Bond, not some hippy. But he wouldn’t do it, for no good reason. So they sent Diana Rigg on her own. He also fought bloodymindedly for his difficult-to-include ideas about the script, despite it being his first acting job. He verbally attacked Diana Rigg for not driving the car on the ice to his satisfaction. He demanded to be treated like a star from day one. The examples go on.

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  • G said

    I think this is the most interesting film of the Bond franchise. What other Bond film has anything like Bond getting hitched and then loosing her to a murderous revenge plot by his arch nemesis? None. Its the only one where they put some decent character development into the Bond character. It makes a much more personal film.
    That being said, and with no offense to Australians, but an Aussie shouldn’t be Bond. Its just not cricket.

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    • dalmatianjaws said

      ” Its the only one where they put some decent character development into the Bond character”

      G, I totally agree in concept, but in execution it’s a whole other ball game. They just kind of play lip service to it. I would LOVE to see it get remade though … but I guess we already did see that arc remade in Casino Royale …

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      • G said

        Yeah I don’t think its particularly good. Just the most interesting. Casino Royale is the only other one who’s attempted to bring some depth to Bond. The rest are just the same formula over and over again. Not that there is anything wrong with that if that’s your thing. But if they took the formula they did with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the whole franchise could of been something bigger and better. But that’s why I’m sitting here typing and not green lighting blockbusters from the deck of a yacht.

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  • gd smith said

    I think Lazenby was a pretty good Bond and it does have We Have all the Time In The World as the theme song. To be honest my least favourite Bond is Brosnan, coz he always looks like someone in an advert pretending to be someone a bit like James Bond,

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    • dnwilliams said
      dnwilliams

      Interesting that you’d feel that way about Brosnan of all people, I can see that being applied more easily to a couple of the other actors. With the number of guys that have played the part now though, it’s so easy for people to have quite different images of what makes Bond who he is in their mind.

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  • The Host said
    The Host

    You guys plan on doing something like this for the next STAR WARS movie by any chance?

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    • dnwilliams said

      That is very unlikely to happen unfortunately, Host! I’m flat-hunting at the moment (thought that’ll have to be sorted soon) and although I haven’t checked in with DJaws I know he has an exciting new job that is demanding all of his attention, so that would rule him out of contributing for the foreseeable future. Unless you can spare the time late-Nov to be my new partner in crime?

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