Viking Night: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
By Bruce Hall
December 6, 2017
Bond points out that married life wouldn’t really be his jam, but he’d be perfectly happy to string Tracy along for a while in exchange for information. Bond is itching to bring down the terrorist organization SPECTRE - a much greater threat than anything Draco might be involved with.
So basically, Bond’s reply to the offer of marriage to a brilliantly talented, fantastically wealthy Contessa is basically:
“Don’t really want to marry her but I’ll show her a good time, if you make it worth my while.”
Friends, that is a baller move. Can you imagine saying that to a girl’s father, let alone a man who may very well own a scorpion pit?
Not only that, but this is the “B” story. The main plot involves Bond hunting down Blofeld (Telly Savalas), leader of the aforementioned SPECTRE. A quick thinking 007 makes assistance with the case a prerequisite of his deal with Draco, who readily agrees. Next thing you know, Bond is well on his way to settling a longstanding grudge with his arch enemy. And, his not quite on the level relationship with Tracy eventually drags the Contessa into the middle of it.
OHMSS (as it came to be called be people who have to write about it) is an unconventional Bond film that pushed boundaries in many ways, aside from the choice of lead. This is a more serious film than the previous two, and Lazenby’s Bond is more businesslike (though no less randy) than his predecessor. There’s also somewhat more of an emotional investment here, and while it doesn’t manifest itself until late in the film, it’s more than worth the wait. Bond finds the female version of himself and wouldn’t you know it - falls in love.
It’s an emotional side of Bond we wouldn’t see again until many years later. I’m not saying I need to see the man in love, I just tend to appreciate it when he takes some time to lick his wounds. It makes him feel more like a vaguely interesting hero and less like a flippant sociopath.
On the whole, OHMSS is easily one of my top three favorite Bond films. And, Lazenby is one of my top three Bonds. He’s no worse an actor than Charles Bronson, and with much of the last half of the movie being a pair of super badass action sequences, I am never not amazed at how well he excels in that area. He’s easily the most physical Bond prior to Daniel Craig.
And for my money, OHMSS contains some of the most satisfying action in the franchise.
Savalas would seem a curious choice for Blofeld, taking the character from a squat, pale British guy in the previous movie to a slightly taller dude with a stupendous tan and a faint New York accent. Still, he’s suitably sinister and the personal flourishes he adds to the character make me miss him as much as I miss Lazenby. Diana Rigg’s Contessa is every bit Bond’s equal and the time she gets to shine in the film’s closing half hour makes her the most underappreciated of all Bond’s interests.
Special commendation must be issued to Ilse Steppat as Irma Blunt, the spiritual successor to From Russia With Love’s Rosa Klebb. She is a truly formidable henchwoman, and it’s a shame she passed away before she could reprise the role.
Folks, don’t pass on Lazenby, and don’t pass on On Her Majesty’s...oh, you know the rest. I wish Lazenby hadn’t walked away, but if nothing else he gave us a taste of the Bond we might have had. A more grounded, interesting and physically dominant Bond franchise than we have even today.
Godspeed, Mr. Lazenby. It was fun while it lasted.