When great Bonds are mentioned his name is rarely featured. When great Bond movies are suggested, the only one he ever made is hardly given a fair hearing. It is over 40 years since the film’s release and if history has been softer and more sympathetic it has not completely removed the negative vibe associated with one Bond wonder. Was it that bad? Was he that bad?
By the fact that Bond films are on TV at least once a year, I’ve been able to watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service quite a few times. That in itself should suggest that it wasn’t all that bad. I’m sure it’s likely to appear on TV again real soon with the Connery Bonds currently on in recent weeks. I probably will watch it again when it comes on. Judged on the merits of an action movie OHMSS is a passable film. It is relatively topical, there numerous action set pieces that kept the pace of the film going and it did not feel overly long. Lazenby offers the screen something of interest and was not awful on screen. At times he could be dapper and delivered his odd quip here and there with aplomb.
Sadly, however, OHMSS and Lazenby are not just an action film with an action star. They are a part of a series and a franchise popularised by a certain approach from a certain star. Even though it would have been silly to expect Lazenby to be like Connery the hope was that he would be a strong replacement. It’s one thing to have your take on a familiar character, it’s another for that take to be so distant from what was familiar. Lazenby appeared to be hamstrung from the start and it wasn’t helped by the feeling that forces conspired against him – the script, co-stars, his own flaws as an actor for this character. Though OHMSS is watchable it does not have a strong Bond or even a strong reason for believing the romantic story that threads through it. I did not have a problem with a vulnerable Bond, but that was difficult to believe in this film.
So poor George Lazenby’s goose was cooked. Not that he has ever sought sympathy. He admits himself that it is no great movie and he was content to walk away from the franchise afterwards such was the experience at the time. For all that he and his one Bond movie were not a huge blot on the series. It was a lesson learnt as to how far you can take bond, especially in the cultural context in which he finds himself.