Monday, April 20, 2009

Saturday is Bond Day #6: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

This was the hardest yet of the Bond movies to find; I ended up getting a VHS tape from a library after Netflix, Blockbuster, and several other libraries failed to get me a DVD on time. And that makes sense; On Her Majesty's Secret Service is easily the most obscure of the Bond movies and features George Lazenby's one-off appearance as Bond.

I also found it the longest and dullest of the movies so far; this may in part have been because there were two squirming boys on the couch opposite...but those squirming boys were also reacting to the movie, and hadn't squirmed like that for any of the previous films.

Lazenby isn't bad as Bond, but he's much more stolid and uninspiring than Connery was, and doesn't seem as lethal or focused as Connery could be. He's not quite carved out of a block of wood, but he might as well have been.

Telly Savalas picks up the role of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and I didn't think he did it well at all. Savalas is essentially American, which doesn't suit Blofeld. He's also much too straightforward and hot-headed; Blofeld is a conniver and a schemer, always in the background and always two steps ahead. (Charles Grey, in the otherwise much worse Diamonds Are Forever, gets that part of Blofeld right.) Blofeld, to mention just one thing, would never ski down a mountain after Bond -- that's what minions are for.

Secret Service has two essentially separate plots, which touch each other only in occasional and unlikely ways: Bond falls in love with Countess/mob daughter Tracy (Diana Rigg, the best thing about the movie), and Bond pursues Blofeld, who has a silly plot to conquer the world through hypnotized gorgeous young women in an Alpine allergy-research facility. And they both take too long, and are unconvincing. Secret Service does end well, I must admit -- the last five to ten minutes are the best thing about the movie.

I suspect some Bond fans like Secret Service because it was the last of the serious Bond movies for a good twenty years, and because it's a plausible counter-intuitive choice as "best in the series." But it's really not all that good -- if it had Connery and Pleasance, a tighter hand on the screenplay and about twenty minutes cut out of it, it could have easily been the strongest Bond movie, since the material was there. But the Secret Service that was made squandered its potential, and the movie that actually exists is minor and bland in a dozen ways.


Unknown said...

Interesting comments...I've long said that this was my favorite movie, but it's been a long time since I've seen it.

I would expect that "From Russia..." and "Thunderball" are both better (to me) now.

Not sure about some of the others..."Diamonds..." I think just doesn't work.

I do have fond memories of "The Spy Who Loved Me"

Anonymous said...

One of the problems I had with ...SECRET SERVICE was that Lazenby had to play a crashing bore pretty early in the movie (iirc). You really don't want to introduce a new actor playing a canonical character in a way that makes him look bad.

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