With Sean Connery increasingly restless as James Bond, Eon Productions traded him out for George Lazenby for ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969). For some, Lazenby’s one shot at the role represents a sad waste, a road not taken. I’m with those who say we were better off with Roger Moore. There are flashes where Lazenby connects with the role — when he’s confronting Diana Rigg in an early scene, when he’s fleeing from SPECTRE and it looks like his time has run out — but most of the time he’s as bland as can be. It’s a shame because most of the movie is good. But a good movie with a bad Bond is not going to be a good Bond movie.
In the teaser, Bond saves Tracy (Diana Rigg) from suicide—drowning herself—only to get attacked (by her father’s goons, apparently). He beats them but Teresa’s gone, leaving Bond quipping “this never happened to the other guy.” Cue the theme, which affirms series continuity by showing clips from the previous films between the silhouetted girls.
It’s been two years since You Only Live Twice and two years in the series too. At the start of the film, M pulls Bond off the hunt for Blofeld (“A license to kill is useless if you can’t set up a target.”). Bond dictates a resignation letter to Moneypenny but to the relief of both Bond and M, she switches it to a request for vacation.
In Europe, Bond encounters Tracy at the baccarat table, pays off her debts and suggests she be more careful. Tracy: “People who want to live play it safe.” She invites Bond up to her room, where a goon jumps him again, then she meets him in his own room where a now-suspicious Bond slaps her around before they make love.
Tracy leaves the next morning but her father Draco, a crimelord, meets with 007 and suggests marrying Tracy could cure her self-destructive urges (the assumption sex with Bond is a cure for suicidal tendencies is the film’s weakest point). Bond values his single-guy freedom and says no.
With Draco’s help, Bond locates Blofeld hiding in a fortress in the alps, and infiltrates it posing as a herald from Britain’s college of arms (we learn during this film that the Bond family motto is “the world is not enough.”). Blofeld is obsessed with proving himself a nobleman by blood and wants to show the college his documentation. Despite the two having met in the previous film, Number One doesn’t recognize him (Dahl ignored film continuity in adapting the book, which was Blofeld’s first meeting with his nemesis). The clinic has a cadre of beautiful patients, who despite thinking Bond isn’t interested in girls (I don’t know what 1960s subtext I’m missing that gives them that idea) hit on him and soon discover otherwise. It turns out Blofeld has brainwashed the women to unleash sterility-inducing into crops and food animals all over the world, getting amnesty and the title in return for the cure. He locks Bond up but 007 escapes (it’s a very good sequence) and with Draco and Tracy’s help, thwarts Blofeld. James and Tracy admit they love each other and marry. Bond retires from MI6 but as he and Tracy drive off on their honeymoon, Blofeld pulls a driveby. Tracy dies. As one of my Bond books says, if Connery had played the scene (“There’s no hurry you see—we have all the time in the world.”) there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house. Lazenby not so much.
Like the later For Your Eyes Only and Living Daylights, this comes across as a back-to-basic film after the previous two Conneries. 007 has no gadgets (other than a kind of portable photocopier he uses to copy information from a safe at one point), the chase sequences are free of gimmicked vehicles and the fights look relatively realistic (though much longer than the previous films). Diana Rigg is irresistibly charming. On the downside, Bond’s visit to the clinic is very draggy and Telly Savalas’ Blofeld seems more the level of a Big Apple crimelord than an international threat.
The movie had potential, but between casting and plot-holes, most of it goes unrealized.