ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE

The Bond of Holy Matrimony (1969)
With George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell
Directed by Peter Hunt
Reviewed by JL and JB

    Australian model George Lazenby made his only appearance as James Bond in a film largely ignored back in '69 by a public that either missed Sean Connery, or to whom Bond films had become passé.  Today, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is recognized by fans as one of the high-water marks of the series, with Lazenby as one of its main assets.  Lazenby may not have had the most polished acting technique, but he succeeded in playing 007 as a flesh-and-blood human being, rather than a cartoon hero.  Diana Rigg, widely acknowledged as the greatest of Bond girls, is more than up to the challenge of portraying a woman with enough smarts, savvy, looks and physical prowess to be credible as a genuine love interest for Bond, rather than just another one of his bed partners.  

     The film itself offers more character study than is the norm for Bond films, but there's no shortage of action sequences, conspicuously free of gadgets though they may be.  It took some time before the film and Lazenby could shake the bum rap they received at the time of the film's release, but ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE now ranks a strong third on many fans' lists of Greatest Bond Films (behind GOLDFINGER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE), while Lazenby is now regarded as one of the all-around best Bonds.  4½ - JL


The Nehru Jacket? Hey, I may be evil but I still love the Beatles!     The first non-Connery James Bond film has the best Bond girl, the best Blofeld, and the best Connery substitute available at the time.  The theme song is also superior, and thankfully, it is an instrumental (imagine trying to write lyrics for a song titled "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"!).  The plot, when the film finally gets around to revealing it, is absolutely ridiculous.  Blofeld will wipe out all life on earth unless he is granted amnesty and a phony title?  There's got to be easier ways to go legit.  But that's what makes Blofeld a "super villain", an "evil overlord" or, if you will, a "wacked out loony tune".  In any case, Telly Savalas makes for one of the most oddly likable Bond baddies, his suave and sophisticated handling of the dialogue playing nicely against his thuggish looks.

     George Lazenby has admitted letting fame and fortune go to his head, which, along with public disappointment with the film, led to this being his one and only Bond film.  If you ignore the undeniable fact that he is not Sean Connery, he is quite good, especially in the action scenes.  Occasionally, but not often, you get the feeling that he is in a bit over his head.  If only he had been given a chance to grow into the role, then perhaps things would have been different.  But it was not meant to be.  After Sean Connery's one-shot return in the silly DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, the Bond films when into a rocky, through profitable, period that would have been described by poet John Greenleaf Whittier thusly: "For all sad words of James Bond lore, the saddest are these: Roger Moore." 4- JB

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The Secret Vortex

HOW TO TALK LIKE A BOND VILLAIN

"In a few hours, the United Nations will receive our Yuletide greetings.  The information that I now possess, the scientific means to control, or to destroy, the economy of the whole world."


THE BONDWAGON - MOVIE EDITION

    When the world began going Bond crazy, somewhere around the release of Goldfinger, it didn't take long for movie  producers to jump on the Bondwagon.  From 1964 to 1966, France's Gaumont Film Company released three Bondian spoofs starring Jean Marais in the dual role of the villain Fantomas and the hero Fandor. In England, Richard Lester followed up his successful Beatles film A Hard Day's Night (1964) with Help! (1965), which put the Fab Four in a comic adventure that had many Bond overtones.  In the U.S., James Coburn starred in two comic spy films, Our Man Flynt (1966) and In Like Flint (1967), while from 1966 to 1969, Dean Martin sailed his way through four goofy films as superspy Matt Helm from 1966 to 1969.  Even Hanna-Barbera got into the act with the animated parody The Man Called Flintstone (1966).

    The mother of all Bond parodies was 1967's Casino Royale, a "royale" mess of a comedy helmed by not one, not two, but five different directors, each responsible for a separate section of the film.  Despite a cast featuring Peter Sellers, David Niven, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen and Orson Welles, the film was not well received.  It still retains its bad reputation today, although it has its fair share of clever dialogue:

"You're crazy. You are absolutely crazy!"
"People called Einstein crazy."
"That's not true. No one ever called Einstein crazy."
"Well, they would have if he'd carried on like this."

    Most filmmakers who wanted to cash in on the popularity of the Bond films opted for spoofs, figuring, perhaps correctly, that they could not compete with the Bond films themselves, which were almost self-spoofing.  However, films like The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and The Ipcress File (both 1965) showed a more realistic view of the world of espionage.