Well, time may not have been too kind to George Lazenby since he assumed the tailored suits of James Bond for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but considering how well Daniel Craig did in Casino Royale, and the basic storyline is the same for both films, why do people still want to bash Lazenby now? Is it because he wasn’t a carbon copy of his predecessor, Sean Connery? Who knows?
As for the film itself, Lazenby was as unknown as one could get for the job, as this was only h…s second film and it was the first for Director Peter Hunt, who previously worked as an editor for the first four Bond films. In this one, James is given a proposal by a businessman named Draco; marry his daughter Tracy (an appropriately cast Diana Rigg from her time in The Avengers). However James has an added investment in this, as Draco has business ties with SPECTRE and Blofeld (this time played by Telly Savalas, The Dirty Dozen), so there’s a little give and take involved.
The story itself is damn good I think. James’ conflicts with MI-6 allow for him to want to leave the government and pursue happiness with Tracy. But I think the thing that I’d find fault with is Lazenby’s execution. He did provide the elements of philandering and ruthlessness that Connery had. And sure, he might not be as photogenic as Connery, but the tools were there to take this franchise into the stratosphere back then, and conflicts on set between Lazenby and producers Harry Saltzman and “Cubby” Broccoli limited his run to just this film. It would certainly have been an interesting dynamic if they actually decided to go with Timothy Dalton or Roger Moore earlier on in the franchise (as was their indication), and to see Brigitte Bardot in place of Rigg would maybe have been different, though not necessarily for the better, as Rigg for my money is the best Bond girl there’s been.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation given to the film is a little bit erratic at times, with images not retaining a lot of clarity. For the most part though, things look good, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying this is probably the best this film will look.
This is the sixteenth different time I’ve had to say DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, so you get the idea by now. Having said that, things aren’t too bad here, with strong surround panning and the occasional hint of subwoofer activity, but by and large, everything is in front of you anyway.
The commentary from the Special Edition was held over for this Ultimate Edition, featuring a cavalcade of cast and crew members, including Hunt, Alec Mills and Peter Lamont, to name a few. John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation serves as the “host” of the track and Hunt sounds an awful lot like John Hurt for some odd reason, but he seems to remember quite a bit about the production and is the main person on the track. These old British guys are really dry in delivery so it’s been tough to listen to, and in terms of information, not too much is gained from it.
Moving on to Disc Two, the “Declassified: MI6 Vault” brings the newness, starting with “Casting On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” which features narration by Bond producer Michael G. Wilson and has about two minutes’ worth of publicity footage. “George Lazenby: In His Own Words” is just that, featuring dated interview footage from the press announcement of his new gig. There’s also some interview footage with him several years later, with long hair and a beard, as he gives a rebuttal to the gossip said about him at the time of the film’s production, and discusses candidly how he seemed to be compared to Connery during many of the scenes. Flash forward three decades later, and a graying Lazenby recounts his times as a foolish kid. Ten minutes’ worth of interesting stuff. Moving on, there’s some footage of the production’s arrival in Portugal, and “Shot on Ice” shows off the car chase in the film, with a lot of on-set footage showing off what stunt drivers did on the shoot, running for about ten minutes. “Swiss Movement” covers the production’s time in the land of watches and chocolate, including interview footage with the cast and some of the Bond girls. “007 Mission Control” has the standard interactive guide for the Bond icons, and the “Mission Dossier” has the old extras. Kicking things off is “Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, a detailed look at the production itself with narration by Patrick MacNee. It features some participation from Lazenby and he recalls how he got the part. Most of the surviving crew (save for Rigg) provide their own memories about things to boot. The bad blood between Broccoli and Lazenby is recalled in detail. And as is the case with the other material, the stunt work is given some love and attention here as well. It’s not too bad because its frankness is surprising, and well worth checking out. Want to go “Inside Q’s Lab”?, because this piece is a retrospective on the work of Desmond Llewelyn in the Bond films, and he shows off some of the props from the more recognizable films for ten minutes. “Above it All” is an on-set piece flying around and over the Swiss Alps for five minutes. The “Ministry of Propaganda” section has a trailer, 5 TV spots and 7 radio spots (4 of which are interviews with the cast and crew) and the “Image Database” has, say it with me, the stills from the film.
For those who dismiss this out of hand purely because Lazenby is starring in it, I’d hope you reconsider, as the primary concept of James quitting the British Secret Service, falling in love and getting married is something that Casino Royale echoed four decades later. If there was one film to “reinterpret”, this may be it, but as it stands, this is damn good storytelling and maybe in the Top 5 of quality Bond films.
Special Features List
- Cast and Crew Commentary
- Casting Featurette
- Interview Footage
- Interactive guide
- On Set Featurettes
- Making of Documentary
- Trailer/TV Spots
- Still Galleries