October 1, 2006

On Her Majesty's Secret Service, part one

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), the sixth in the series, is the "freak of nature" among the James Bond movie series. It's the oddball, for many reasons. It's perhaps the most character-focused of the Bond films, what with the focus on Bond and Tracy Di Vicenzo; it's one of the few Bond films where the title song played during the credits sequence is an instrumental, and of course, it's the only Bond film to have a one-timer playing Bond. You're more likely to see a Timothy Dalton Bond film during those Bond Marathons on TBS, AMC, or Spike TV than you are OHMSS. The fact it's the wild card in the Bond film deck is what makes it so appealing to me.

First edition cover, the ribbon's inscription says "The World Is Not Enough"

George Lazenby plays Bond, and, of course, is well known for being the only Bond actor to carry the licence to kill just once. According to his IMDb bio, "Lazenby quit the role of Bond right before the premiere of his only film, saying he would get other acting roles, and that his Bond contract, which was fourteen pages thick, was too demanding on him." It's too bad he made that choice, because I think he would have been as good of a Bond as Roger Moore. I really like him in OHMSS. He looks right. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan were too pretty. Bond isn't supposed to be pretty.

The way he got the role is sort of interesting. From the IMDb bio:

In 1968, Lazenby was cast as James Bond, despite his only previous acting experience being in commercials, and his only film appearance being a bit-part in a 1965 Italian-made Bond spoof. Lazenby won the role based on a screen-test fight scene, the strength of his interviews, fight skills, and audition footage. A chance encounter with Bond series producer "Cubby" Broccoli in a hair salon in 1966, in London, had given Lazenby his first shot at getting the role. Broccoli had made a mental note to remember Lazenby as a possible candidate at the time when he thought Lazenby looked like a Bond. The lengths Lazenby went to, to get the role included, spending his last pounds on acquiring a tailor-made suit from Sean Connery's tailor, which was originally made for Connery, along with purchasing a very Bondish-looking Rolex watch, and an Aston Martin DB5 car, the Bond car at the time.

In a strange way, the fact his career never really went anywhere after OHMSS means he is forever stuck in the role of Bond. Unlike Connery, Moore, Dalton or Brosnan, Lazenby has never managed to be seen in any other memorable film role, or for that matter, any other memorable film. So when you see him in the part of Bond, you aren't thinking about his later films or other acting roles. Your one and only exposure to him is playing Bond. So he is Bond. James Bond.

It isn't the best Bond film, but it does have its moments...

Universal Exports (a front for the British Secret Service)

In the early moments of the film, Bond rescues the suicidal Teresa di Vicenzo, portrayed by the lovely Diana Rigg, from killing herself, à la Ophelia. While she's not my favorite Bond girl, Rigg is very good and oh, so stunning.

The movie going public's first good look at Lazenby:
My name is Bond, James Bond.

Breaking down the fourth wall:
This never happened to the other fella.

The opening title sequence serves as an attempt to make the transition from Sean Connery to Lazenby as seemless as possible by reviewing various Bond villains and Bond girls with a montage.
Welcome to Bond's world:

Bond "rescues" Di Vicenzo a second time after she is unable to pay her losing wager and he bails her out, claiming to be her partner, though his reaction is delayed: "Forgive me, my mind was elsewhere."

Tracy: Why do you persist in rescuing me, Mr. Bond?

Bond: It's becoming a habit, isn't it, Contessa Teresa?
Tracy: Teresa was a saint. I'm known as Tracy.
Bond: Well, Tracy, next time play it safe and stand on five.

Tracy: People who want to stay alive play it safe.
Bond: Please stay alive...at least for tonight.

Tracy: (standing up and throwing room key on table) Come later. I hope it'll be worth it, partner (walking away).


Tracy said...

Lazenby, feh. ;P

I can't decide if it's the hair or the chin that bugs me...hmmmm

tee hee

Chris said...

With him looking quite a bit different than Connery, imagine what it must have been like for 007 fans back in '69! I'm surprised there weren't riots (there may have been for all I know).

Cheryl said...

There will be only one Bond and his name is Connery....Sean Connery.

Chris said...

No doubt. There really is no other Bond.