It’s 1969, Sean Connery has hung up his suit, in steps Australian actor George Lazenby as the British super spy James Bond.
At the start of this film Bond is in Portugal trying to get some information on S.P.E.C.T.R.E, who have been a thorn in Bond’s side over (most of) the last few films. While going about his business, he prevents a woman, Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), from committing suicide, and somehow ends up paying some of her debt. The woman turns out to be the daughter of a crime boss (Draco), and after some discussions Bond ends up dating the woman. When he returns to his job in London he is confronted by his boss “M”, who thinks that Bond’s pursuits of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. number 1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) has become too much of a personal obsession. He tells Bond to stop the hunt, but Bond decides to quit his role to continue the hunt instead. Miss Moneypenny hands in a leave request instead of a resignation – meaning that Bond can continue the hunt all the same. On returning to his new girlfriend, Bond gets some information that might help him track down Blofeld, off he goes to Bern in Switzerland. Finding information there leads him back to London where the trail gets hot – finally Bond has a solid lead on Blofeld. He takes the information back to “M” who agrees that Bond can continue the hunt after all. Back to Switzerland under a fake identity, Bond manage to get into Blofeld’s Piz Gloria lair, which is an allergy research facility which is curing woman of issues they have. Bond manages to meet some of the woman, and bed them too, before uncovering the Blofeld’s intentions. He is planning to use hypnosis and then toxins to threaten the western world. Escaping from the lair he meets Tracy again, the two go on the run, during which time Bond proposes to her. Once able to, they escape restarts but Blofeld uses extreme measures to trap the pair. He kidnaps Tracy and leaves Bond for dead. Returning to London, Bond tries to persuade “M” to launch an assault on Blofeld, but he will not do it for diplomatic reasons. Instead Bond turns to Tracey’s father Draco for assistance. An assault is mounted on Blofelds’s lair, Tracey is rescued, and Bond is but a bobsled distance from capturing Blofeld. Everything kind of gets resolved as Bond leaves Blofeld for dead hanging in a tree. The climax of the film sees Bond getting married to Tracey, and because that’s a spoiler in itself let me go one step further and say that on their wedding day she is gunned down because Blofeld was not actually dead after all.
Peter Hunt steps up to the director role on this film, having worked in other roles on other Bond films. Richard Maibaum returns to a writing role and is joined by Simon Raven – of course it would be criminal not to mention that Ian Fleming obviously write this and other Bond novels too. John Barry continues to lead the musical score with his iconic sounds complimenting the film exceptionally.
After the cartoonish “007: You only live twice” (1967) this Bond film was an attempt to get back to being serious. It had a new Bond and wanted to take things in a slightly different direction with having a new Bond lead actor in Lazenby. This film had, and still has, audiences divided, some people loved it and think it was the best of the Bond films; while others hated it and don’t even consider it an officially entry into the franchise. There are of course the middle-of-the-road audiences, which I belong to. I neither love it, nor do I hate it – It is just what it is.
There is plenty of action and adventure, but there is also lots of cheesy and foolishness to it. A lot of the green-screen is ridiculously dated now, and a lot of Bond’s exploits not acceptable in today’s world (bedding people randomly while he’s in a relationship, slapping women around… hang on, in retrospect that is like the world is now according to the media) – but it’s a fun adventure film. If anything, slightly darker than “007: You only live twice” (1967), especially the end of the film – something well ahead of it’s time as it was only really Daniel Craig versions of Bond that had that darkness in them.
The darker elements aside, this was another of the films which Austin Powers parodied from the Bond world. As this film was made in 1969 you have a lot of the iconic 60’s looks, fashion and mentalities – at the time it was probably on-point; however, looking back from almost 50 years in the future, a lot of it looks a little dated and camp now.
Lazenby does OK as Bond, without really fully exciting me. There are times where he seems to be trying to be like Sean Connery’s delivery, but then there are times where he does good with his own stylistic approach. He succeeds in humanising Bond, making him appear less than a super-hero – which is the best part of his performance. The stand-out in the film for me though is Diana Rigg – she commands attention in all her scenes. Even more so than Telly Savalas, who I expected to be the big star. Diana Rigg outshines the lot of them, but then she had screen experience in a similar role from “The Avengers” TV series as Emma Peel. Savalas does have a lot of experience by this time, but he’s also a jobber having played lots and lots of various role types. This Blofeld just felt a little empty and weak. In addition, Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee and Desmond Llewelyn are back as Miss Moneypenny, “M” and “Q”.
I would recommend this film to Bond enthusiasts. In the world of cinema, it is not a stand-out-experience and there are better swinging-sixties spy capers that score better in the world of film. It is still enjoyable though. It’s relatively family friendly, but there are moments where the action isn’t that fast so it may drag in parts for younger viewers.
Title Song: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – The John Barry Orchestra & We have all the time in the World – Louie Armstrong
In terms of Bond films this is a 6 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 5 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking