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On Her Majesty's Secret Service (January 11/00)

George Lazenby. The name alone instantly produces chuckles. This is the man who had the James Bond franchise right in the palm of his hand...and then lost it.

But what a surprise it is, then, that Lazenby is actually pretty good as Bond. He's no Sean Connery, but the same could be said about any of the Bonds since. On Her Majesty's Secret Service follows Bond's attempts to stop Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas of all people this go-around) from unleashing a biochemical agent that threatens to wipe out an entire continent. Meanwhile, Bond's proposed marriage to his latest girlfriend and their doomed relationship forms much of the emotional quotient of the film.

The biggest problem with the movie is sheer overlength. With a running time nearing two and a half hours, the film contains several scenes that go on much longer than they have any reason to, and several subplots could have easily be excised. For instance, there is a lengthy segment that sees Bond undercover at Blofeld's "health resort," where he (of course) seduces not one but two patients there. This sequence goes on for about 40 minutes, whereas 15 minutes would have sufficed.

But there are several great action set-pieces which more than make up for some of the lulls in the story. I only wonder if it was really necessary to film the fight scenes with that usual 60s flourish (you know what I'm talking about; that thing they did back then with quick zooms and even quicker cuts). Fight scenes that would have been exciting come off as rushed and confusing. And what's with those cheesy jump-cuts every time someone gets knocked down? One second they're standing, the next they're on the ground. I have to assume this had something to do with safety for the stuntmen (or maybe it was actually a stylistic choice?), but whatever it was, it was distracting.

It's a shame Lazenby never got a chance to grow into the role, though some would argue that just wouldn't have happened. In ranking the Bonds, Lazenby would certainly come last - but perhaps he wouldn't have had he been given another opportunity to tackle 007.

out of

© David Nusair