Wednesday, 10 January 2018



I'm a fan of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It has one of the best Bond girls in Diana Rigg, fine villainy from Telly Savalas, one of John Barry's best 007 scores, terrific action sequences, general fidelity to the Ian Fleming's novel (a surprise coming after You Only Live Twice, which retained the principal locale and a handful of character names and threw the rest of the book away) and a still-startling ending. But I'm not so blinded by the good stuff that I can ignore the film's problems, which include [1] the fact that Blofeld doesn't recognise 007 from the previous movie despite him wearing absolutely no disguise at all, and [2] the intergalactically horrible song "Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown", which makes the average piece of tinkly lift muzak sound like Motorhead turned up to twelve. And, of course [3] that George Lazenby bloke.

In fairness to Lazenby, he's actually pretty good in OHMSS sometimes, particularly in the quieter and more romantic moments, and some of the physical fighting stuff is still impressive nearly half a century later. But there are times when he absolutely isn't any good: times when he's clearly not an experienced actor, but some good-looking Aussie wearing one of Sean Connery's suits who just happened to catch the right person's eye at the right moment and who then blagged and bluffed his way to the biggest and best job in the movie world. And then walked away from it, turning down a cash payment of a million pounds (more or less a whopping sixteen million in today's money) and a contract to play Bond for another six films.

Becoming Bond is a semi-documentary, a dramatised reconstruction of key (and some off-key) moments in Lazenby's life, from his childhood and early jobs as a car mechanic and salesman to his relationship with a girlfriend waaaaay out of his social league, all narrated by Lazenby (sometimes with the actors lip-synched to the voice-over). All very well but, like James Whale lamenting that "you only want to know about the horror films" in Gods And Monsters, we only really want to know about getting the Bond gig and I'd have liked a lot more since, let's face it, this is still what Lazenby is and will always be known for. There are already dramatisations with stand-ins for Peter Hunt and Harry Saltzman, why not with stand-ins for Savalas and Rigg?

For hardcore Bond fans there probably isn't very much that we don't already know: about how he was arrogant and big-headed and how he acted The Great I Am all the time. Strangely, there's also an unhealthy chunk of stuff that we most likely didn't know already, and I rather wish I still didn't. I don't really want to hear about the time Lazenby couldn't get an erection or cheated on his girlfriend or had half a dozen colourful diarrhoea attacks the night he was planning to sneak into her bedroom for a cheeky shag. Thanks for sharing, George. If only in the name of good taste (and not even because we might not think too highly of our hero) those wacky anecdotes should perhaps have been left out as they sour the tone a little.

It also left me slightly baffled as to how much Eon and the current Bond producers (and their lawyers) might have had to say about it. Presumably enough of it is true (as Lazenby says, how could could he remember it if it never happened?) and already on the public record, and the stuff that isn't well known is more about Lazenby himself and not the producers. Still, it's amusing enough in parts with Bond references and quotes scattered through (and a cameo from an actual Bond girl). And like all the best film documentaries, it did leave me wanting to rewatch the movie(s) in question; I need far less prodding to rewatch OHMSS than I do for Moonraker or Thunderball. Worth a look as a curiosity.


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