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007 One by One: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Bullz-Eye continues its look back at every James Bond film, 007 One by One, as part of our James Bond Fan Hub that we’ve created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film.

You’ve seen “Skyfall,” now how about taking a look at the other best James Bond movie you’ve never seen?

Ask a hardcore Bond aficionado what his favorite 007 entry is, and there’s a very good chance the answer will be “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

We don’t necessarily want to make bold claims as to what the best Bond movie is, as it differs from person to person, but “Majesty’s” should be Top Five material for any die-hard fan of the franchise. The film is littered with all kinds of “firsts” and “onlys” — both in front of and behind the camera — but the most obvious is of course its lead, George Lazenby, and it’s with Lazenby that, for better or worse, most talk of the film begins (but should by no means end).

In the year 2013, we take for granted the changing of the lead actor within the Bond series, as we’ve now had a half a dozen different 007s, but back in the late sixties there was only one James Bond, and his name was Sean Connery. During the production of “You Only Live Twice,” Connery decided to exit the franchise that made him a household name (though as we now know today, he’d return to the character not once, but twice), however, quite understandably, the producers of the series weren’t finished telling their stories, and the public seemed far from tired of 007’s adventures.

So there was really only one option and that was to recast. The search was extensive, but in the end Bond producers decided on a complete unknown – Lazenby – a model with virtually zero acting experience. Regardless, Albert Broccoli was certain he could transform the man into his new James Bond.

The debate has raged for over 40 years as to whether or not the recasting was successful, with many schools of thought on the matter. Having viewed “Majesty’s” numerous times, we feel confident in saying that it’s a shame Lazenby didn’t give it at least one more go in the part (the decision to not return was, amazingly, his own), because as it stands, he cannot help but be somewhat swallowed up by the richness of his surroundings. One thing is for certain: Lazenby in no way ruins it, or keeps “Majesty’s” from being the best film it can be. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is a fine, fine movie, and one that deserves to stand on its own, away from the greater picture of the whole franchise, and Lazenby – as any lead would be – is at least partly responsible for its artistic success.

The Plot: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” relies heavily on Ian Fleming’s original text, the last Bond film to really do so until 2006’s “Casino Royale.” The story is two in one: the first is about Bond’s hunting for and eventual finding of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and the second is about Bond falling in love and getting married (yes, you read that right) to an initially suicidal young woman named Tracy. Her father, Draco, runs a crime syndicate, and has info about Blofeld’s whereabouts, which James requires. Turns out Blofeld is posing as a high-profile allergist in Switzerland. Bond tracks him there, and infiltrates his organization by posing as a genealogist. Once the jig is up, all hell breaks loose, and Bond finds himself on the run, and only one person can help him…

The Girls: Blofeld’s mountaintop Swiss hideaway, Piz Gloria, stockpiles quite the cache of babe-alicious flesh – including a very young Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous”) as well as the lovely Catherine Schell (“The Return of the Pink Panther”). Odd then that James zeroes in on the homeliest looking one of the bunch, Ruby Bartlett (Angela Scoular). But then again, this is also that unique Bond flick wherein James falls in love, and perhaps going for runt of the litter was the only way for him to rationalize cheating on his beloved Tracy.

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4 responses to “007 One by One: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

  • Michael Owen says:

    -A forgotten and yet superior Bond film.
    -I would have LOVED to see Connery with Bardot. The thought of that is just amazing.
    -Had Lazanby stayed and Hunt directed the next three films we would’ve seen a paradigm shift in how Bond was portrayed for the next 40+ years. Had only Lazenby stayed and not Hunt the next three Bond films would have been JUST as “ok” as they are today.

  • Ross Ruediger says:

    It’s difficult for me to picture how the series “might have been” – so much so that I’m not sure I’ve ever considered it before. It’s a HUGE shame Hunt left the franchise though, as based on this film alone, he brought an immense amount of class and cred. I’d like to have seen more from Lazenby because, as I think I said in the piece, he’s sort of overshadowed by so much of the film’s greatness. Hunt and Moore might’ve been able to do some great things together.

  • Ross Ruediger says:

    Actually, I should amend by previous statement – I *have* often considered how much different the franchise would have been if they’d adhered closer to the books over the years. The entirety of the Moore era would be a different beast altogether. Of course, it’s possible the series wouldn’t have lasted as long, too.

  • Michael Rudzki says:

    OHMSS has always been one of my favorites. I read somewhere that Fleming considered Lazenby to be as close to what Bond actually looked like as possible, in that he was handsome and charming without being especially memorable. That may have worked against Lazenby as an actor, however. I enjoyed his little part as Bond in Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and he apparently did the same in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, though I haven’t seen that.

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