George Lazenby was the second James Bond, and the only one to hold the role for just a single film. Born in Australia, Lazenby was a male model and martial artist whose only acting work had been in TV commercials. Regardless, he impressed the Bond producers when in his audition he accidentally punched and knocked out a stunt coordinator, showing the producers that he had the aggression and power for a more realistic take on Bond. They wanted to pursue this avenue after Sean Connery walked away from the role. Stories differ on why Lazenby left after only one movie. Some say he was fired after lackluster box office and reviews of his single outing. Others (including Lazenby himself) say he walked away from the role as he envisioned Bond becoming a fossil in the age of the hippy. Either way, Connery would return to the role and the only glimpse we get of Lazenby as Bond is in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
New Bond: In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service we get the first Bond regeneration from Connery to Lazenby and, surprisingly, one the best Bond movies. This was a Bond film that always had a bad reputation. It was said to be awful, and Lazenby was criticized for being a terrible Bond. But the opposite is the case, and luckily it seems that movie fans are beginning to realise that. Lazenby’s acting is a little wooden, but he is charming, funny, dangerous, and he looks the part to boot. With his background in modeling and martial arts, he makes a good-looking Bond who also looks like he can genuinely hurt people. This is the hard line that the Bond character balances upon. He must be half charming, worldly ladies man and half unrepentant thug. Other Bonds excel in one of those fields, but Lazenby manages to have it both ways. He is vicious to his enemies but also has the looks that would lure people to his side. He lacks the smugness of later Bonds, probably because of the nerves of this being his first outing and it helps his portrayal because his vulnerability makes him likable.
The First Move: The film itself is usual Bond fare. There is a villain, Blofeld, who has a plan to brainwash a cadre of beautiful women from around the world to kill for him. Bond must foil him using gadgets and charm while beating up thugs and bedding women. What separates this from lesser Bonds is that the villain’s plan, while outrageous, actually makes sense, and that this movie introduces the wonderful Teresa di Vincenzo played by Diana Rigg. Rigg is an able foil for Bond and doesn’t descend into ‘Oh James’-ness at the drop of a hat. Actually, for a Bond film it is nice to see that in terms of the female characters, they tend to make the first move on Bond after he’s been a bit charming and cool. A frustrating thing in Bond films is that they get to a point where as soon as Bond meets a woman sex is assumed rather than, for want of a better word, earned. Lazenby’s Bond is charming, self-deprecating, and for the ladies in Blofeld’s mountain top lair, the first man they’ve seen in months. It is a nice touch that they come on to him rather than him forcing himself on them.
Overall: Even if it is a little bit too long, this is definitely one of the top-tier Bond films. Its music is fantastic, its fights are realistic, 60s Diana Rigg is a goddess, and its ending is as brutal as movie endings go. It is a shame that this was Lazenby’s only entry. It would have been nice to see him really grow into the role and make it his own. And it would have been nice to see Bond deal with the aftermath of this movie’s ending instead of re-introducing Sean Connery and effectively forgetting it ever happened.