Meet the New Bond: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, & Telly Savalas

George Lazenby (an Aussie car salesman/part-time model) steps into the role of James Bond (after Sean Connery refused). Bond meets the 2nd most powerful leader of a criminal org, Marc-Ange Draco (Italian actor Gabriele Ferzetti), and becomes close w/ Draco’s daughter, Tracy (British TV star Diana Rigg). She was 38 y.o. at that time; she looked classy and confident. Bond then heads off to hunt down Ernst Stavro Blofeld (now played by a American TV star- Telly Savalas) in Switzerland, posing as ancestry expert/professor, Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker). The remote facility (supposedly for allergy research) is heavily guarded and managed by a German woman, Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat). Anglophiles will get a kick out of seeing a V young Joanna Lumley as one of Blofeld’s international ladies; she went on to comedic fame in Absolutely Fabulous.

Actors considered for Bond included Americans and Brits: Adam West (Batman), Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes), John Richardson (a conventionally handsome up-and-coming actor), Oliver Reed (who went on to have a great career- his last role was on Gladiator) and Roy Thinnes (who I know from One Life to Live). Having secured a suit ordered, but uncollected by Connery, and getting a Rolex and haircut like him, Lazenby talked his way into meeting producer Albert R. Broccoli, producer Harry Saltzman, and director Peter R. Hunt. After falsely claiming he had acting credits, he got a screentest. Lazenby then confessed to Hunt that he wasn’t an actor. Hunt laughed and said, “You just strolled in here and managed to fool two of the most ruthless bastards in the business. You’re an actor.”

As of 2021, Lazenby is the youngest actor to portray 007, as he was only aged 29 during filming. We see the only signature gun barrel sequence where Bond drops down on one knee while shooting at the audience. The theme song We Have All the Time in the World was the last song that Louis Armstrong recorded; he died 2 yrs later. Lazenby wanted to do most of his own stunts, but the studio wouldn’t allow him. During one of the stunt scenes, Lazenby broke his arm, delaying the filming of many of his later scenes.

Though Lazenby doesn’t have as much charisma as Connery, he looks good in the outfits and carries himself w/confidence (no doubt b/c of his experience as a model). You can tell that he hasn’t acted before- for sure! Many viewers noted that Lazenby has good chemistry w/ Rigg in their romantic scenes. Savalas (best known as Kojak) does a fine job in his villain role. As for Draco- ugh- he’s a misogynist who thinks his daughter needs to follow his ideas. He tries to arrange a marriage (no joke) between Bond and Tracy- yikes!

What I liked about it, that we’ve tried to emulate in this film [Inception], is there’s a tremendous balance in that movie of action and scale and romanticism and tragedy and emotion. -Christopher Nolan (filmmaker)

There is a freshness and energy here, unlike most of the previous franchise films. It also looks a lot better; it had a $7M budget, a shooting schedule of 9 mos. (half on location), and a crew of 120. These filming techniques appeared for the 1st time: slow-motion (Bond is knocked out in his bedroom), flashback (Bond remembering Tracy being captured), and “breaking the fourth wall” (Lazenby looking into the camera after saying “This never happened to the other fella”).

[1] …this is my vote for the best James Bond film. No, it’s not because I am a George Lazenby fan. Despite this Aussie not being right for the role, this movie deserves kudos for being so intelligently written–possessing a depth that was never equaled in any other Bond film. Bond, for the first time, was human. Another reason I loved this film is because it was a very long and complex film–making it seem leisurely yet exciting throughout.

There are two plots in the film that run concurrently. First, Bond happens upon a very spoiled and confused lady (Diana Rigg). She is an emotional mess and she needs stability in her life. In a very odd choice, she drifts towards the usually irresponsible and shallow Bond–who in his own way needs her as well. Second, Blofeld is back again and he’s up to something–but what this diabolical scheme is, no one knows.

In addition to the exceptional plots and writing, this film also had amazing but appropriate stunt-work. The skiing scenes were amazing…

[2] It is not the best Bond but it is light years away from the worst. George Lazenby may be a tad inexperienced and the least charismatic of the Bonds, but he is still likable and does try hard, that I can see. (…) Terry Savalas is great as Blofeld, and Diana Rigg is splendid as Tracy. The cinematography and scenery are beautiful, and John Barry’s score and Louis Armstrong’s theme song are simply terrific. In conclusion, better than I thought and dare I say underrated.

[3] I’m not going to put 100% of the blame on Lazenby but I really wonder what the hell the producer’s were thinking. I’m sure they did screen tests or something and at some point they must have known that the actor simply couldn’t pull off anything in the role. He didn’t have the look to believed as a sex symbol and he didn’t have the acting talent to pull off some of the darker, more serious moments that the film goes for. I also thought his comic timing was downright horrendous and made for some really embarrassing moments…

[4]Rigg is every spy’s dream: a madly attractive woman with plenty of intelligence and also spirit, as she reveals in the climax when she tackles a thug.

The movie also benefits from some decent, fast-paced action scenes and genuinely funny humour. This was the first time Bond went skiing and his antics on the slopes easily beat those of Moore. The snowbound locales make for plenty of inventively staged set pieces, like the car chase taking place in a stock car race or the high-rise antics around a cable car.

-Excerpts from IMDB movies

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