FAR UP! FAR OUT! FAR MORE! JAMES BOND 007 IS BACK!
The opening sequence provides a poignant moment in this sixth James Bond flick. It features our superhero chasing a woman in a flashy sports car, then saving her from drowning herself in the ocean. After introducing himself, two troublemakers show up and a terrific fistfight ensues. After Bond neutralizes the bad guys, the woman quickly gets back in her car and drives off. Bond delivers the immortal line, “This never happened to the other fellow”, and looks into the camera, smiling. Cue John Barry’s outstanding music theme. There is a new fellow indeed and the film he happens to appear in is one of the series’ most emotional.
When he was hired to replace Sean Connery who had grown tired of playing James Bond, George Lazenby worked as an Australian model. He was not really an actor and one gets the feeling that he was primarily hired because of his slight resemblance to Connery. There was an outcry among the fans who did not appreciate the new guy, but they chose to ignore just how good this film is. Lazenby has his ups and downs. His deliverance of the ”Bond, James Bond” line could be the worst of the series, but he’s quite charming in other sequences (a predecessor to Roger Moore) and handles himself pretty well whenever something physical is required of him, possibly thanks to the work of director Peter R. Hunt.
What about the story? Well, Bond is still searching for his elusive arch-enemy, Ernst Stavrou Blofeld (Telly Savalas), and he has found a way of getting close to him. Crime boss Marc Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) wants him to marry his adventurous daughter, Tracy (Diana Rigg), the girl 007 rescued in the ocean, and he agrees to it so long as Draco helps him locate Blofeld. It turns out that SPECTRE:s leader has created a fancy hideout in the Swiss alps, so Bond goes there under the name of Sir Hilary Bray. Blofeld has a new alias as a count and hopes to have the title confirmed by Sir Hilary; the agent discovers that the villain is planning biological warfare with some assistance from several beautiful women who stay at his clinic. Eventually, Bond’s true identity is exposed and he’s forced to escape from the clinic.
Hunt was the brilliant editor of the first three 007 flicks and this was his first effort as director; he has made an overlong, but consistently engrossing film. One great advantage is the action sequences, which are fast-paced and exciting; the ski chases, for instance, belong to the series’ most advanced, created with the help of a former Olympic athlete. The snowy Swiss locations are another advantage; it’s a gorgeous-looking film.
Savalas is not as scary as Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967), but he’s nevertheless quite good as Blofeld; Ilse Steppat is also effective as his forbidding assistant, the matron who keeps a watchful eye on the young ladies at the clinic.
And then there’s the romance. Bond agrees to marry Tracy, but he certainly doesn’t love this complicated woman who tried to kill herself and seems to be fiercely independent. But something happens. There’s a lovely sequence where the agent gets to know her to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World”, and the two do subsequently fall in love – and marry. It doesn’t end happily; the ensuing tragedy is one that will haunt Bond for the rest of his life and give the character some complexity in future films. It’s quite moving, really, and a poignant moment in an unusual chapter of the series.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969-Britain. 140 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli. Directed by Peter R. Hunt. Screenplay: Richard Maibaum. Novel: Ian Fleming. Cinematography: Michael Reed. Music: John Barry. Song: “We Have All the Time in the World” (performed by Louis Armstrong). Cast: George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Tracy Draco), Gabriele Ferzetti (Marc Draco), Telly Savalas (Ernst Stavrou Blofeld), Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell… Desmond Llewelyn, Joanna Lumley.
Trivia: Future Bonds Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were allegedly considered for the part as early as this film. Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve were allegedly considered for the part of Tracy. Followed by Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
Quote: “This never happened to the other fella.” (Lazenby after a fight, referring to his predecessor, Sean Connery)
Last word: “It was Peter Hunt’s [idea to say ‘This never happened to the other fella’]. But I’d been saying it for a long time, so I guess it was both of us. Peter made me do all my own stunts and stuff, which Connery didn’t have to do, and I always said ‘I bet the other guy didn’t have to do this!’. Some days I was doing stunts for nearly 16 hours, going from the first unit to the second unit, and I kept giving him that line. And then when we were filming in Portugal, he came out with ‘Just say that line of yours!’, and I said ‘What’s that?’, ‘This never happened to the other fella’. So take it from there. It was his idea, but my line.” (Lazenby, SwindonWeb)