Underrated Bond

For Christmas, my son bought me the last installment of the collection of original James Bond movies (Sean Connery through Pierce Brosnan).  The package included On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with George Lazenby as Bond.  I suspect that it didn’t do well at the box office, and Lazenby did not reappear in the next movie (Sean Connery returned in Diamonds Are Forever).  I saw the movie once on the tube as a teenager: the rest of the movie seemed OK, but the ending was a terrible downer.

After my recent experience with Quantum of Solace, it was time for a fresh viewing.  And if you simply disregard the last two minutes, it turns out that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is actually a good movie.  Among James Bond movies, it’s solidly in the middle of the pack, safely above the dogs: Thunderball, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy,  and Licence to Kill.

It’s even better than the current film, Quantum of Solace.  Telly Savalas is Blofeld, a villain with a real plan for world domination, unlike the business-school wannabes of Quantum.  There’s just enough violence to make us feel the situation that Bond is experiencing, unlike the newer pictures in which Bond is the Energizer Bunny, waltzing through machine-gun fire.  And the instrumental theme music kicks ass, even almost 40 years later, while the theme from Quantum is, well, mush.

George Lazenby is actually a good Bond.  He would have been better if the scriptwriters hadn’t confused James Bond with Derek Flint.  And unfortunately, he was saddled with what is probably the lamest Bond-movie gadgets ever: an automatic safe-opener that requires a half-hour to work, and a photocopier.  But he presents himself well.  OK, he still comes in last, but he’s in very strong company.  I wouldn’t have minded seeing him again.

But the ending (or more specifically, the end of the ending) is so bad as to be throughly stupid: one of the basic tenets of the old-school Bond film is that it ends on a high note, with Our Hero saving the world yet again, and running off with the girl.  The current generation of Bond films with Daniel Craig don’t follow this convention, but at least leave one with a sense of accomplishment.

So dust it off and watch it, but find something else to do for the last two minutes.

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