Friday, 26 October 2012

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby’s only time in the legendary tux, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sees Bond tracking his nemesis Blofeld to Switzerland where he is engaged in a plan to destroy the world’s food crops. Along the way, Bond falls in love with a troubled young woman named Tracy. But will this be a happy ever after for 007?

The opening credits show clips from the first five films. It’s almost as if, with a change of lead actor, they needed to affirm that this Bond is the same Bond as in the previous ones. There’s a similar scene later on when Bond’s clearing his desk out and certain props and musical cues from the previous films are used. This back-referencing doesn’t help Lazenby to create his own take on the character- sadly, the spirit of Connery looms too large.

I just have to get it out there. Lazenby’s ‘Well, this never happened to the other guy’ still rankles. It’s totally unnecessary. Also, Lazenby doesn’t have the same wit and charisma that Connery had so the one-liners and quips fall somewhat flat. A lot of the tough-guy stuff seems a little forced with Lazenby too- he’s certainly not as macho as Connery. However, one thing Lazenby does have in his favour is vulnerability: the proposal scene is played very nicely (and there’s a lovely chemistry between Rigg and Lazenby)

Diana Rigg is pretty good as Tracy, alternating between fragile and determined. She is nobody’s fool, cottoning on very quickly to her father’s plans. Draco’s plans are incredibly suspect- suggesting his daughter needs a man to dominate her and offering information on the basis that Bond will marry Tracy. Their courtship takes a back seat when Bond goes to Switzerland to track Blofeld down and it seems a bit of a contrivance that she happens to be in Switzerland when he needs help, even though the car chase is occasionally thrilling (if it goes on too long)

Blofeld’s plan, masquerading as a philanthropist hoping to cure allergies, is to use the female patients as carriers for a virus to contaminate the world’s food supplies. Even as Bond villain plans go, that has to rank as one of the most ridiculous and overblown plans in the franchise. Savalas’ performance as Blofeld falls a lot short of the iconic performance by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice. There is one issue which is troubling: why doesn’t Blofeld recognise Bond when they first meet? Granted both men have changed appearance but if they are the same characters then that recognition should be there. Ilse Steppat is a formidable presence as Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s henchwoman, a stern matron in the Rosa Klebb mode.

The film is at least half an hour too long; there are lots of scenes (especially within Piz Gloria) that feel like extraneous padding. The various chases- by ski, by bobsled- just keep on and on. It would have been better to have reduced Blofeld kidnapping Tracy and kept the storming of the base as the final act set-piece.

Despite what you may think about this film, it is important within the Bond franchise for the final scenes- Bond marries Tracy and is prepared to leave MI6 behind. There’s a nice moment between Q and Bond where they affirm their friendship. Bond and Tracy drive off… only to get ruthlessly gunned down by Bunt and Blofeld. This is also rare within the Bond franchise as neither villain nor henchman is punished or killed. I defy anyone not to be moved by Lazenby’s performance as he cradles his dying wife.

A mish-mash of a film, some good bits but for me it's an entirely so-so movie.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


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