On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.
Summary: In which Blofeld plans to hold the world to ransom with an infertility virus via pretty girls, while Bond proves he’s a Time Lord, breaks the fourth wall, pretends to be a gay genealogist, and gets married.
Alex: Let me deal with each of the points above in order.
Once again we’re back to SPECTRE doing evil things, but this time Bond deals exclusively with Blofeld. In the course of trying to bring Blofeld down in the interests of “of course I would”, Bond discovers that Blofeld is running a not-for-profit centre dealing with severe allergies. Which sounds surprisingly philanthropic until it’s revealed (partly via a very acid-trip/hypnotism colour sequence) that the patients have all been tasked with spreading a nasty virus that will render anything it comes near – including humans – infertile somehow. Exactly how? No idea. But it will, honest! Unless the UN grants him… immunity!! (Wha-?)
All of the patients are very pretty young girls. This allows for some gratuitous shots of women in crazy/skimpy clothing, lounging around. It reminded me a lot of Castle Anthrax.
Bond, however, is not Bond. Or rather, he is Bond but his face has changed, not that anyone notices. Connery hung up the Walther PPK after five films and Broccoli et al went with George Lazenby instead: an Australian who, before this, had only ever done chocolate commercials. And the first sight I got of him this time, all I could think was: Look at that chin! You could hurt someone with that chin. The prologue introduces both main protagonists, as Bond gets into a high-speed car-flirtation with a woman who then tries to walk into the ocean. He rescues her, ends up getting decked by thugs, and then – after defeating them – she’s gone. At which point Bond picks up her shoes, comments “This never happened to the other fellow” and looks straight at the camera. I’m honestly not sure what I think of this level of meta in my Bond. It’s a bit weird, frankly, and is matched by the “all the girls I’ve loved before (and the villains who’ve failed to stop me)” montage in the credits immediately after – and the souvenirs, matched with appropriate musical stings, that Bond finds in his desk when he’s back in London. (Bond has a desk! Who knew?)
Lazenby often gets panned in the “who’s your favourite Bond” discussions and look, this is not the greatest Bond film. But I don’t think that’s entirely Lazenby’s fault. In fact, when Bond is facing off against Blofeld – now played by Telly Savalas – I think Lazenby is excellent. Despite being in a kilt (another thing that never happened to the other fellow. Also, I don’t think Connery would have been shown flicking through a Playboy and nicking the centrefold). It’s not Lazenby’s fault that the script is a bit weak; the montage of riding horses through dappled light is utterly eye-rolling, despite the presence of Diana Rigg, and would not have been improved by Connery (or, dare I say, Daniel Craig). Plus, I’m not sure whether it’s because of Lazenby or changing expectations of film-making, but I think the fight scenes were slightly more realistic and definitely more aggressive than in most of the previous five films.
I’d like to point out right here that Bond and Blofeld met in the last film, so the idea that Bond could try to fool him by posing as someone else – even a gay genealogist with the College of Heraldry – is ludicrous, unless we accept that You Only Live Twice is retconned out of continuity?
Anyway, Blofeld wants his position as the real count de Bleuville accepted, which is how Bond gets into his clinic, by posing as the genealogist who will investigate his claim. (He has his own coat of arms investigated to brush up on heraldry. His family’s motto? “The world is not enough.”) This leads to ‘amusing’ scenes of boring pretty young ladies absolutely stupid with discussion of lions couchant and bezants. Did I mention that one of these young ladies is Joanna Lumley?
Speaking of ladies, so far I’ve only hinted at the primary Bond Girl in this film, and she’s the most famous of these first six: Diana Rigg. She also has a sensible name! – Tracy. And Tracy is a match for Bond – ruthless, somewhat careless about sex (by traditional standards – she sleeps with him partly because she thinks she ‘owes’ him after he stumps for her at the card table), stubborn and independent… well, that’s what she’d be like today. She doesn’t entirely get to be that here, not least because her father – second only to Blofeld in European crime but still very much a frustrated and concerned father – decides to bribe Bond to woo her, because “what she needs is a man to dominate her.” To his credit, Bond protests that what she actually needs is therapy… but in return for Blofeld’s location, he will indeed get more involved with her. Of course it all ends up gooey and sentimental and they fall in love, and they get married at the end of the movie. There are royalty present, apparently. Moneypenny cries.
And then, as they leave on honeymoon, Blofeld – who should be dead – drives past, and his 2IC shoots at the car, and Tracy dies. Tracy, the Bond girl least involved in Bond’s machinations to this point, is killed not in a fight or as a hostage or a statement of ruthlessness, but because the villain can’t aim properly. I hate this ending so much.
Racial issues: there’s only two non-white characters, by my reckoning; an Asian woman who only appears briefly, and a black man working for Tracy’s father, who fights well but only gets to grunt, never speak.
Louis’ version is lovely, but having only known Iggy from his Stooges days and then doing insurance ads… well, this is a revelation.
James: The credit girls have improbably pointy boobs in this film. The cast seem to be wearing too much foundation, but perhaps that’s just the high-res scans and retouching of the original films. I enjoyed the ski scenes and everyone loves a mountain top fortress. The plot and script is the weakest of all the film so far. Lazenby isn’t good, but I’m not sure he’s as bad as he gets portrayed either. Not a gadget to mention in this film. 2 Martinis.