BONDAY

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE

Director Peter Hunt
Year 1969
Starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee
Run Time 142min
Age Policy

18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with a parent guardian. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.

More Info IMDb

In 1969, former model and commercial pitchman George Lazenby landed what would be the biggest job of his career: stepping into the role of James Bond, which had just been abandoned (temporarily, as it turned out) by Sean Connery. Tired of being known almost exclusively for playing 007, Connery departed the series after YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, forcing the producers to launch a wide-scale hunt for a replacement.

The winner was Lazenby, an Australian who was best known at the time of his hire for appearing in a British TV commercial in which he delivered a crate of Turkish Delight to a bevy of harem girls. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE would be Lazenby's only portrayal of Bond and proved to be certainly the most high-profile film he ever starred in (unless you're a fan of STONER, WHO SAW HER DIE? or THE DRAGON FLIES).

Stuart Heritage of The Guardian (London) summed up most fans' reaction to Lazenby: "Lazenby isn't Connery. He lacks the swagger, the element of constant danger that his predecessor (and successor, since he returned to the role for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) made his own. His voice is a bit all over the place, like someone trying to do an impression of Tom Hardy's Bane. It doesn't help that he spends a huge portion of the film pretending to be a bespectacled, milquetoast man called Hilary Bray, nor that he was partially dubbed by George Baker.

"But what Lazenby does have, when he's allowed, is brute strength. Less slender than Connery, he is better equipped for stuntwork, like in the pretitle sequence where he basically bodyslams a baddie into a tent. His awkwardness, too, ends up being his major strength. None of the other Bond actors could do vulnerability very well but, whether intentionally or not, Lazenby is an open sore. He's ruffled more easily, caught out more. He even displays palpable fear at one point."

Whatever reservations critics had about Lazenby -- and honestly, who could have substituted for Connery and pleased the public? -- they were largely ecstatic about ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, which pits Bond against his longtime nemesis Blofeld (played this time around by none other than Telly Savalas), who has brainwashed beauties from around the globe to assist him in a germ warfare plot. Director Peter Hunt won great praise for his handling of the movie's elaborate action scenes and Diana Rigg was heartily applauded for her work as Tracy diVicenzo, the woman who finally (gasp!) lures 007 to the altar. 

Audiences were slightly less receptive: ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE wound up doing only half as much business as YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, which must have given producers Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman a few sleepless nights. Although they offered Lazenby a seven-picture contract prior to the movie's release, they must have been relieved when he turned it down; apparently, Lazenby's manager was convinced the Bond series was on the wane. Lazenby left the franchise on a sour note when he attended the SECRET SERVICE premiere with a scruffy beard and shoulder-length hair, looking decidedly anti-Bond.

But here's a twist: The critics were right. "In the 45 years since it was released, it stands out as one of the best 007 films ever," Heritage wrote. "Possibly even the best. It has the best soundtrack. It pushes the character into difficult new places. And that ending: that's not just a great James Bond ending, it's probably in the top 10 film endings of all time. If you've never seen ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, you should watch it. If you've seen ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE before, you should watch it again." (James Sanford)

 

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