Connery is out, and George Lazenby is in, as my 007 Marathon continues and we come to 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the best Bond film since Goldfinger.
I’m of course familiar with the fact that 007 has been played by several different actors over the years, but that didn’t stop the Connery/Lazeby switch from being pretty jarring. The film waits as long as it can to reveal the change in the cold-open, which I thought was great; but then the movie goes out of its way to make it even more awkward by having Bond break the fourth wall and say, “That never happened to the other fellow!” What? What??
As far as Lazenby’s Bond goes, I didn’t love him, but thought he did an okay job in the role. He has the charm, but lacks the machismo factor that Connery brought to the role. While I totally bought the moments where Lazenby thinks his way out of situations, I never quite found him intimidating. The movie almost feels like a farce at times, giving him the weird Sir Hillary character to disguise himself as to infiltrate Blofeld’s resort, all the while dressing him in ridiculous outfits (that would later become Austin Powers costumes).
My favorite aspect of the film is the relationship between Bond and Tracy. She’s the best Bond Girl since Pussy Galore, and I totally bought into their chemistry. That just makes the film’s ending all the more heartbreaking, as Tracy is killed by Blofeld minutes after marrying 007 (Lazenby really fumbles that final scene, in my opinion. Totally undercuts the film’s emotional arc). I definitely felt some strong similarities between Tracy and Casino Royale‘s Vesper Lynd – perhaps my favorite Bond Girl. I found Tracy to be someone worthy of marrying James Bond, and refreshingly capable of holding her own in tough situations.
Another thing I loved is the attention payed to Blofeld in this film, who was revealed in You Only Live Twice but gets a lot more screentime here. I found the actor switch confusing at first, but really liked Telly Savalas’ performance. He’s intimidating but understated – not the cat-stroking, diabolical madman I was expecting. The entire SPECTRE organization is one of my favorite things about these Bond movies, so I’m really excited to see what they do with it in future films.
All in all, I found On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a refreshing change of pace from the Connery entries, especially the let-downs that were Thunderball and, to an extent, You Only Live Twice. OHMSS is slow to start, but I liked the character-driven stuff between James and Tracy and the shift from world domineering to pure espionage. It reminded me a lot of From Russia With Love, though I liked From Russia a lot more. Honestly I’m glad Lazenby never did more Bond though. He’s a fine substitution, but not someone I’d like to see in the role for subsequent films. We’ll see if I feel the same way after watching Connery return in Diamonds Are Forever…