On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1970)
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George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Catherine Schell, Julie Ege, Joanna Lumley, Anouska Hempel, Ilse Steppat, Mona Chong, Jenny Hanley
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|Movie Review by Jarrod |
November 16th, 2010
'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' is commonly regarded as the one of the best Bond movies, some even it call the greatest, better even than Goldfinger or Thunderball or The Spy Who Loved Me. And there is a compelling case to be made for this. It is the longest entry in the series, clocking in at nearly 140 minutes. Perhaps the only drawback, ironically, is Bond himself, played by Australian model George Lazenby, whose terminal blandness brings down an otherwise exceptional picture.
Lazenby's career never went far after this; he was merely a placeholder, hired to fill in for Connery until the next official Bond actor could be found (though Connery did return for one last hurrah in Diamonds Are Forever before Roger Moore took over). At first, we don't even see Lazenby's face, but, with the recognizable Bond theme playing, we know exactly who is supposed to be onscreen, and then he is introduced, and makes an oblique reference to his predecessor, as the girl he was trying to save flees, which usually didn't "happen to the other fellow".
This is a strange movie in many ways, very atypical; most importantly, it tells a touching and tender love story, as Bond develops feelings for Tracy (Diana Rigg), the feisty, stubborn daughter of European crime boss Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti). Eventually, he will marry her, and the wedding is attended by M (Bernard Lee), and a sobbing Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), whose flirtatious chemistry with Bond spanned multiple pictures.
Bond is still pursuing the elusive Blofeld (played here by Telly Savalas), head of SPECTRE, and when M threatens to pull him off the case, because it has become more of a personal vendetta, Bond considers resigning from the British Secret Service, and defying the orders of his superiors. He discovers a hidden compound in the Alps, where Blofeld has set up an allergy research clinic, where he is turning a group of beautiful young women into brainwashed assassins. Bond infiltrates the facility by posing as a genealogist, to confirm Blofeld's claim to the title of Count de Blochamp.
Now, keep in mind that Bond and Blofeld met each other face-to-face in You Only Live Twice, so Blofeld should recognize Bond, his nemesis, immediately, but he doesn't seem to, and allows him to learn a lot about his operation. Savalas offers the most devious and compelling portrayal of Blofeld, who, this time, does not simply sit in the shadows stroking his white cat, but takes a more hands-on approach to the disposal of 007. This Blofeld is intelligent and ruthless, more dangerous than other incarnations of the character. Bond, of course, beds at least two of the clinic's female "patients" before meeting up with Tracy again.
What follows from here is mostly nonstop action, with several exhilirating action sequences, including a stunning ski chase, an avalanche, a helicopter raid on Blofeld's compound, and Bond and Blofeld battling it out on a speeding bobsled. The cinematography is frequently magnificent, with breathtaking snow-covered vistas, and there is an element of sly humor that Lazenby delivers well, with the lines supplied to him by screenwriter Richard Maibaum. Mostly, though, Lazenby relies on mimicry, imitating Connery and not really doing anything original with the role.
Rigg is wonderful, a talented actress who makes Tracy more than eye candy, and her genuine affection for James shines through at every moment. This makes the final, heartbreaking scene all the more tragic; everything seems to be over, and Blofeld appears to be defeated, and then the unthinkable occurs. Bond's happiness is short-lived, and, we can understand why later Bonds seem to be so full of anger, and even violence (specifically the Bonds of Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig).
One cannot help but wonder what this film might have been like with Connery, as it is so very good without him. I think I am often too hard on Lazenby, who had the unenviable task of filling Connery's shoes, which even Moore and Brosnan had trouble doing, but they at least had charisma and confidence, both of which Lazenby lacks. Of course, Moore and Brosnan both had lots of acting experience before playing Bond, and Lazenby was a screen amateur, an unknown from down under, when he was offered what could have been the role of a lifetime.
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