The sixth Bond movie saw a temporary change of leading man, with Sean Connery (the one true Bond) departing, and odd-Bond-out George Lazenby making his only appearance as 007.
After five gruelling movies in six years, Sean Connery was sick of playing Bond as the Sixties came to a close. He clearly told the series’ bosses that he would not return for another go-round after 1967’s You Only Live Twice.
This put the producers in the unenviable position of needing to replace the man who was largely responsible for making the series work.
A thorough search ensued, and the result was that Australian male model and ex-car salesman Lazenby took the role for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in his screen debut.
Lazenby is one of many people’s main criticisms of OHMSS, and for good reason; his lack of experience really shows. Granted, it would have been hard for any actor to take over the role, but Lazenby seemed ill-prepared for the role, and his weak acting often hurts the film.
OHMSS is one of the most unusual Bonds of all and deviates from the standard path in several ways. It has an oddly paced plot and comes across as three different films in a way – Each act seems almost unrelated to the others, and this inconsistency is jarring.
In the first, Bond starts to develop leads to capture his personal enemy and chief of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas, pictured above), but he meets and falls in love with Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg), which takes up much of this section of the film.
During the second act, Tracy completely vanishes and Bond poses as genealogist Sir Hillary Bray to infiltrate Blofeld’s Swiss “Institute of Physiological Research”, a place stocked with babes who believe they are having their allergies cured.
Bond learns that the institute is a cover for another of Blofeld’s insane attempts to take over the world – this time employing biological warfare. The girls are being brainwashed to carry back to their individual countries deadly germs to induce plant plagues in the chief agricultural products of their nations.
Not only is Tracy not seen, but Bond – who apparently made an intense connection with her – does his usual thing and puts the moves on as many of these women as possible.
The film moves toward its conclusion with Bond’s identity being revealed, his escape from Blofeld’s lair and his reunion with Tracy.
But it is the events of the final minutes of the movie that set it apart from other Bonds. James Bond’s marriage (!) and Blofeld’s subsequent murder of his new wife humanise Bond – but is that really a good thing?
Much of the film was shot in the beautiful Schilthorn region of Switzerland. Some of the most colourful sequences were filmed in the Alpine Room of the Piz Gloria, a luxurious establishment at the top of the 10,000-foot peak of the Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps, which doubled as Blofeld’s headquarters in the movie.
In the halcyon pe-Health & Safety obsessed days, former Alpine ski champion Willy Bogner Jnr skied backwards down the mountainside with a hand-held camera filming skiers travelling at high speed behind him, and cameraman John Jordan was suspended 18 feet below a helicopter in a harness while pilot John Crewsdon buzzed mountain peaks and glaciers. Jordan was killed in 1970 while filming Catch-22 over the Gulf of Mexico.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Sir Hilary Bray