Posts Tagged ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’

Channel-surfing’s a bitch. I’d decided to put the current painting project on hold, sit down and try to do some proper writing (this doesn’t really count, does it?), when what should I come across on ITV4 but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This isn’t a Bond movie of the upper echelon, as I’m fond of saying, but it is an interesting one.

It obviously goes without saying (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one) that the main distinguishing feature of this particular Bond is Lazenby. Berating the guy for not being Connery is of course unfair, but the movie does go out of its way to remind you that a change in personnel has occurred – the previous movies all get referenced through props, music and images, and the punchline to the pre-credits sequence is our hero saying ‘This never happened to the other feller!’ I used to be entirely disparaging about Lazenby’s performance, but he’s actually not too bad. ‘Think of me as woman you’ve bought,’ says the leading lady at one point. ‘Who needs to buy?’ replies Bond, in an understated but entirely appropriate way.

The Connery deficit is a very real problem though, in that the thing that really should make this film special – the fact that this is the one where Bond’s character actually goes through some fairly serious changes – sort of gets sidelined as a result. The change in character gets eclipsed by the change in actor so the climax of the film loses a lot of whatever power it might have had with Connery on board. Having said that, the plot of this film is rather absurd inasmuch as it revolves around two characters who met in the previous movie not recognising each other in this one! The fact that they’ve both been recast makes this a bit easier to ignore. (My in-depth research – okay, Wikipedia – tells me that the original script Bond was to have plastic surgery, thus explaining the change in actor and fixing this problem in one fell swoop.)

Beyond not retaining the big milkman (or casting Oliver Reed or Ranulph Fiennes in his place), it’s a bit difficult to see quite where the producers went wrong here. In the form of Diana Rigg they have a formidably talented (probably the only ex-Bond girl to star in Brecht at the National Theatre, but I’m open to correction on this) and very hot foil (Joanna Lumley and Julie Ege are kicking around in there somewhere too) – but then there is the fact that she only needs to use about 10% of her talent to blast Lazenby off the screen. John Barry’s score is distinctive and unusually heavy on the harpsichord in places. (I am ashamed to admit that it’s only just occurred to me that the reason why this movie has an instrumental theme is because – well, can you imagine what the lyrics of a song called ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ would sound like? Something by Betty Boo, I’d wager.) The script is pretty decent, if shading a touch towards Carry On territory in places – various puns on balls and stiffness get wheeled out which certainly wouldn’t get house-room nowadays.

If Richard Maibaum’s script has a particular problem it’s that, if anything, it sticks too closely to Fleming’s original novel – it would be nearly 40 years before anything so faithful appeared again. After all the extravagances and absurdities Roald Dahl put into his script for the previous movie – which, in many ways, defines the templates and iconography of the Bond formula like no other – this inevitably feels a bit lacking in the epic by comparison.

So I’m sort of getting the sense that I may have been overly harsh about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the past. In terms of dealing with the initial recasting of an icon, it’s certainly not Power of the Daleks – but then George Lazenby is no Patrick Troughton. And James Bond isn’t a chimerical, almost-infinitely reimaginable character like the Doctor. He behaves, interacts and solves problems in certain, very prescribed ways. Given that, this movie was always going to receive a hospital pass unless it did something very special indeed. It’s tempting to compare this movie with Live And Let Die, a much more fun and groovy Bond debut, which succeeds partly because it whole-heartedly jumps onto the coat-tails of blaxploitation cinema – but we’re off into different territory there. Anyway. Sorry, George. I’ve been dissing you unfairly for years. Still glad you didn’t do another six, though.

In other news, I am excited to reveal this blog has received its first spam! (Or so the comment filter seems to think.) Recently I used the internet in Nevada and ever since I have been receiving 30+ junk emails a day from everybody from Psychic Tara to SluiceYourBoat.com, so you would’ve thought I would be used to it. But apparently not! My new friends are Worldwide Newsflash, who’ve linked their Kyrgyzstan coverage to my article on UK domestic politics because, er, it has the word Kyrgyzstan in it once, and Blog Interviewer who have apparently linked to me and would like me to return the favour (I would consider it should I actually be able to find this supposed link). It’s only a matter of time before the Gambian Space Agency gets in touch with an exciting investment opportunity for me.

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