Warning! Spoilers Below.
When this film was released it got a mixed reaction from audiences. Nowadays, there are many that come to its defense. After watching it I can tell you, it doesn’t deserve any such defense. This is a bad film, plain and simple. Although, I will admit that it had potential to be more. I have much to say on this. My goodness, where do I begin?
To say On Her Majesty’s Secret Service moves at a leisurely pace is being kind. It takes us over twenty minutes to be introduced to anything resembling a plot. It takes nearly an hour to be introduced to the antagonist, and by an hour and twenty minutes in we are finally told what the central conflict is about.
The plot, once we finally learn what it is, is bafflingly stupid. Our antagonist’s scheme is so ludicrous that it doesn’t make any sense if you think about it for more than two minutes. It revolves around brainwashing a group of women to distribute a virus to sterilize the world’s population. Why spend so much time and effort when you could just hire some assassins or agents to do this? It would probably cost lest money. This isn’t even the biggest problem with this movie, nor is it even what we are meant to focus on.
Bookended by the only semi-interesting thing going on in this movie, the beginning and end concern a romantic subplot involving Bond. The first half hour is devoted to Bond falling in love with a woman named Tracy. We aren’t given a good reason why this particular woman, among Bond’s many sexual conquests, would be the one he would want to settle down with, apart from a montage of dates set to the movie’s theme song. She disappears for most of the film until she turns up again without explanation near the end. Bond pops the question because he apparently loves her so very much. Except for the fact that prior night he had sex with not one, but two separate women. I’m going to have to go into spoilers here, but Bond and Tracy do get married only for her to be killed at the very end. I struggled to care. None of this really amounts to anything, but it could have.
This one frustrates me because it has so many elements that could have been interesting, but they are absolutely wasted. For instance: Bond is taken off the case to pursue Blofeld. He is incensed by this and tells Moneypenny to deliver his resignation. The next scene, Bond is packing his belongings, some of them being souvenirs taken from the events of previous Bond films, putting into perspective what he is leaving behind. It’s a good scene. Too bad we are allowed only two minutes to pass believing that Bond quit MI6 before we are told that Moneypenny only delivered a request for two weeks leave. What a wasted opportunity!
This film could have been something special. Imagine if only the film had opened with M telling Bond that he was being reassigned from the Blofeld case, causing him to quit. As a civilian he would meet Tracy and then fall in love with her. Then the scene where they are driving from the wedding where she is killed by Blofeld, which happened at the end of the film, happens at the beginning. Bond has personal reasons to go after Blofeld now, and he has to do it on his own, without a license to kill, because he is no longer ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. You see? Now the title means something. Bits of this have been in later Bond films, but this was an opportunity for all of it to coalesce into a single package, and it would have been a great way to follow up Connery’s entries.
On the man himself, George Lazenby is an oddity among Bonds, and not just because he’s in only one film in the series. He has a tendency to crack more jokes and crack more heads. His fighting style seems tad more brutal than Connery, knocking people over the head with desk and chairs and such, but I believe this was to cover something up. You see, those fights are hard to watch, not because of the brutality, but because of the horrible editing. The editing in these fights is some of the worst I’ve seen, but I’m not sure we can blame the director or the editor. In all the action sequences that don’t involve Bond fighting hand to hand, the editing is not nearly as bad. That tells me all those cuts were to hide Lazenby’s shortcomings in his ability to be convincing in fight scenes. This may also be why he chose to only do one movie. In the acting department, overall Lazenby is serviceable, but I’ll give him credit for that very last scene in which he has to portray a grieving Bond. It’s a subtle and not at all overstated performance, but that’s exactly what the scene needed. For that brief moment, Lazenby may have out acted all of the Bond actors before and since. That’s really the best thing I can say about him, or this movie.
All in all, this movie is a disappointment because certain elements presented here are tantalizing, and so spectacularly wasted. I can understand why some would choose to defend this movie, but as I stated before, It really doesn’t deserve it.