Sean Connery calls it quits after You Only Live Twice, so EON carries on with an unknown in George Lazenby as 007. The result is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby’s only outing as James Bond.
The movie is full of nods and winks to previous installments and Connery’s departure, beginning with the pre-credits sequence. After fighting off some thugs and trying to save Tracy di Vencenzo from suicide by wave. Bond, of course, dispatches the baddies while Tracy flees. Bond is left standing on the beach and breaks the fourth wall by saying, “This never happened to the other fellow.” And we’re off.
The movie is quite different from previous Bonds, even the Hitchcockian Doctor No and From Russia with Love. Like the first four films, OHMSS follows its source novel rather closely. As a result, the movie is dependent more on the storyline – Bond making a questionable deal to track down the missing Ernst Stavro Blofeld in exchange for marrying Tracy, a deal she is not happy with – than gadgets, quips, and Bond himself.
The result is SPECTRE as a bona fide terrorist group/crime syndicate instead of almost comic legion of villains. Bond is ready to quit when he is taken off Operation Bedlam, the worldwide hunt for Blofeld. Thanks to intervention by Moneypenny, his resignation is accepted by M as a request for two-weeks leave. Bond returns to France to cut a deal with Tracy’s mob boss father Draco. When Tracy shames her father into giving 007 what he wants, Bond returns to duty with a lead and a plan, much to M’s chagrin. He finds Blofeld in the Swiss Alps posing as an allergy specialist. Bond himself poses a British heraldry expert researching Blofeld’s claim to a French title. Of course, this is Blofeld, so parts of his mountaintop clinic look suspiciously like a hollowed out volcano (Spoiler alert: There are no volcanoes in Switzerland. But apparently Blofeld likes the decor. Early Supervillain. I here Marvel villains like it, too.) There’s also a sinister blackmail scheme to earn Blofeld a full pardon instead of the typical…
Because this is a new Bond, they focus more on the story as a whole. M is a frustrated but fair chief of intelligence. Moneypenny shows how she keeps the wheels of MI6 turning. We see Bond’s office for the first (and last) time. Q has two scenes, mainly Desmond Llewellyn walking on and waving. And Bond’s car is just… A car, an impressive Aston-Martin with no gadgets, weapons, or bullet shields.
Tracy Bond is the ultimate Bond girl, a tough, independent woman we don’t really see again until Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin or Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. (Maybe Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead in Moonraker, but her name is a lame attempt to recall Pussy Galore.) Reckless and manic in the beginning, she has a brief affair with Bond sparked by her father but conducted on her terms. Letting Bond in stabilizes her, and not in an “I need a man” way. It’s more a matter of letting someone into her life, and Bond is perfect for her. Why? Because Bond, without actually saying it, needs it, too.
Lazenby had never acted before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. For a novice, he isn’t bad. His performance foreshadows Roger Moore’s lighter approach. He had to, as did Moore. How do you follow Sean Connery in that role? Lazenby’s Bond is more prone to quips, gentler with women. In fact, he’s rather monogamous in this outing. And while posing as genealogist Sir Hillary Bray, he manages to convince his SPECTRE hosts that he’s afraid of heights during a helicopter ride. However, I don’t think Lazenby was acting in that scene.
Among the reasons Lazenby did not continue the role was that his agent said the franchise was finished. EON offered him a ten-film deal, which might have seen Lazenby as Bond in Licence to Kill. Ten films might have been a bit much, but I sincerely hope he fired his agent once Roger Moore established himself in the role.
Lazenby is not the best Bond. In fact, he’s kind of treated like William Henry Harrison among Bond actors. Harrison died a month after becoming president, and Lazenby walked away after one Bond film. Timothy Dalton, who had two outings, left a much more of a legacy. However, the combination of an unproven Bond and more emphasis on the source material makes this one of the