George Lazenby takes a break in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1967)
One possible headline to describe this picture could read: "Connery Quits Bond, Replaced by Former Car Salesman Turned Model." With Connery out for the time being due to sheer boredom and overexposure (he would return for Diamonds Are Forever), Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby stepped in to try and fill Connery's large shoes for this sixth outing in the series. By any rights, On Her Majesty's Secret Service should have been a horrible failure given the public's strong identification with Connery as Bond. However, contrary to popular belief, this film actually did extremely well at the box office (grossing $87 million worldwide)-winding up second only to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for 1969's box office figures-and has many staunch defenders.
Lazenby is certainly no Connery, and carries quite a bit less charm - yet this one is still above average, and many Bond aficionados believe that had Connery agreed to be in this film, it might have turned out to be the best Bond film ever made (mere speculation, of course).
In a nice bit of casting that seems slightly wasted in retrospect, Telly Savalas (of Kojak fame) plays Blofeld this time, and the story offers strange twists unlike anything seen in a Bond picture before. For example, after rescuing Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, a.k.a. Tracy (Diana Rigg of The Avengers fame) from an attempted suicide at the beginning of the film, Bond eventually ends up getting married to her; she is officially his only spouse in the series, although Bond did get faux-married in the previous film - for safety reasons more than romantic. Tracy is the daughter of major crime boss Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), so of course this turns out to be a rather "convenient" match for Bond to still accomplish his intended mission (hunting down Blofeld).
Diana Rigg with Lazenby
Peter R. Hunt made his directorial debut in this film, after having served as film editor in previous pictures of the series. All of the Bond regulars, including M, Q and Moneypenny, make their usual appearances, which somehow only adds to the sense that this new guy playing Bond is merely an imposter. Even Bond's car here is not an Aston Martin DB5-it's a DBS ("S" as in Sam).
Spoiler: Hunt had planned for the death of "Mrs. Tracy Bond" to be the opening scene of the film. However, when he realized Lazenby would not be back again as Bond, he was forced to tack it on as the ending (instead of just showing them drive away happily after the wedding). This makes a lot of sense as to why that final scene is so jarring-and ultimately quite effective right where it landed. (Even more jarring is that her death is referred to in the previous Bond film-a demonstration of how the Fleming adaptations came out of order.)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
At the request of the head of United Artists, Sean Connery was offered a deal he couldn't refuse as incentive to return for one last "official" Bond picture (meaning with Saltzman
and Broccoli as producers). American actor John Gavin had already signed on as the new 007 replacement, and was still paid his full salary-though he would never be given his chance. Guy Hamilton directed for the second time after his success with Goldfinger, and Shirley Bassey contributed her second catchy theme song.
Diamonds are Forever opens with Bond hot on Blofeld's trail in order to seek revenge for the death of his wife Tracy. Charles Gray takes on the role of Blofeld, after having played Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice. Gray later went on to cult fame for his part as the Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
This picture, more than ever, had the aim of appealing to the tastes of American audiences. Jill St. John (above, with Connery) filled the role of Tiffany Case, making her the first American to co-star as the lead Bond girl. Instead of an Aston Martin, the hot car is Tiffany's 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback. The film is set largely in Las Vegas, with a plot involving the kidnapping of a reclusive multimillionaire, modeled after producer Albert R. Broccoli's real-life chum Howard Hughes. The character was renamed Willard Whyte, and played by sausage mogul and country singer Jimmy Dean, whose song "Big Bad John" had once been a number one hit in both the U.S. and Great Britain.
While overall it's arguably one of the weaker of Connery's efforts, an undeniably entertaining aspect of Diamonds is the dynamic duo of acrobatic women who serve as Whyte's bodyguards, nicknamed Bambi and Thumper (an uncredited Lola Larson and Trina Parks). They manage to get the better of Bond in a somewhat campy fight scene at Whyte's estate. Parks earned the "bragging rights" of becoming the first African-American actress to share a (very brief) romantic embrace with Bond.
Bond Gossip: Connery allegedly enjoyed a fling on the set with co-star Lana Wood (sister of Natalie, about whom she later wrote a memoir). Her character's name is Plenty O'Toole. A naked Plenty gets thrown out of a Las Vegas hotel window, only to escape serious harm by landing in the swimming pool. The DVD extras include a deleted scene that shows what happens next -- she removes herself from the pool and sneaks back into Bond's room undetected, while he is frolicking in bed with Tiffany Case.
Best Spy Gadget: Bond uses a fake fingerprint that sticks to the tip of his finger.
Live and Let Die (1973)
Enter Roger Moore as 007, previously best known as Simon Templar from the British TV show The Saint.
Moore in Live and Let Die
Moore was 45 at the time-the oldest actor yet to start playing Bond. Moore pleasantly surprises as a very passable 007, although he is never quite as physically menacing as Connery. The popular character Q was left out, but fans revolted and demanded him back for the next Bond outing (The Man With the Golden Gun). Moore's Bond also never drinks a "shaken, not stirred" martini (he has bourbon whiskey instead). Live and Let Die has an amazingly catchy theme song written by Paul and Linda McCartney that became the first Bond song to be nominated for an Academy Award.
The plot revolves around a drug lord known as "Mr. Big" (Yaphet Kotto), who turns out to be the dictator of a small country in the Caribbean named Kananga. The scenes shot in Harlem and New Orleans have been described as "pure blaxploitation," a common film genre in the early 1970s. Jane Seymour plays the alluring tarot card reader Solitaire, who has psychic powers, but only as long as she remains a virgin (unfortunately for her the crafty, and always horny, 007 pulls a fast one on her with the tarot cards that leads them to act out the card entitled "The Lovers"). Bond also has his first kissing scene with a black character-CIA double agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry).
Most Memorable Scene: Bond escapes a deadly situation at an alligator farm in the Louisiana swamplands by jumping across the backs of several gators.
The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
The Guy Hamilton-directed picture The Man With the Golden Gun is one of the lesser Bond vehicles (and one of the lowest grossing), although it is still quite entertaining and has a fine supporting cast that includes Ian Fleming's real-life cousin Christopher Lee as the title character Francisco Scaramanga. He is a well-known KGB assassin who uses a golden gun with custom twenty-three-carat golden bullets, and has threatened to eliminate Bond (Roger Moore in his second appearance) by sending him a golden bullet engraved with "007." One of his henchmen is played by the dimunitive Hervé Villechaize, and if you put Lee's Scaramanga side by side with Villechaize's Nick Nack, you might be reminded a bit of Fantasy Island.
"Da gun, boss, da gun."
M's sweet-natured secretary Miss Moneypenny - who was an amalgamation of several secretary characters in Fleming's
books - enjoyed a flirty but unconsummated relationship with Bond, as she reminded him in Goldeneye when he wondered what he'd ever do without her, "As far as I remember, you've never had me."
(Note: three Ian Fleming Publications' sanctioned novels, written by Samantha Weinberg under the pseudonym Kate Westbrook, entitled The Moneypenny Diaries, a trilogy from the point of view of Miss Moneypenny.)
Played by Canadian actress Lois Maxwell from the first Bonds with Sean Connery all the way up through A View to a Kill; Maxwell was also a long time friend of Roger Moore.
Followed by Caroline Bliss for the two Dalton
films, The Living Daylights
and Licence to Kill
(and Pamela Salem for Never Say Never Again). Lovely Shakespearean actress Samantha Bond became the new Moneypenny in Goldeneye, and would play her through all the Brosnan films.
The movie could also be titled "The Man With the Third Nipple," as Scaramanga can only be identified by this peculiar physical trait, since no known photographs of him exist. His character (sans extra nipple) was probably based partly on the infamous East German Cold War-era spy Markus Wolf, who was known as "the man without a face" because he never allowed himself to be photographed (Wolf died in November of 2006). Bond utilizes a false rubber nipple at one point to convince Scaramanga's Chinese bankroller Hai Fat (Richard Loo in his last film) that he is actually Scaramanga. Incidentally, Oscar winner Jack Palance (who also passed away in November of 2006) was first offered the role of Scaramanga before the part went to Lee. Two Swedish actresses appear in this film -- Britt Ekland as lead Bond girl Mary Goodnight and Maud Adams as Andrea Anders. Adams appeared in a total of three Bond pictures, including the title role in Octopussy.
Most Memorable Scene: Watch for the famous stunt known as the "javelin jump" where a car (a modified 1974 Hornet X) does a spiral loop in midair as it jumps over a river-this was accomplished in one take and had to be shown in slow motion, because it happened too fast in real time.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Not to be missed, this is surely Roger Moore's best outing as Commander Bond, and one of the very best films in the series. Part of the reason this one turned out particularly well was that producer Albert R. Broccoli (this time without partner Harry Saltzman) took extra care in crafting the film after the disappointment of The Man With the Golden Gun. Bond's relationship with the Russian spy Agent XXX (a stunning, scene-stealing Barbara Bach) has more depth to it than usual for an action thriller. One of the best cords of tension that runs throughout the film is her perceived threat that she will avenge the death of her lover, a fellow Russian agent, which makes things tense, especially given that the audience knows Bond is the culprit-although of course, as Bond points out to her in a revelatory scene near the end, "it was either me or him."
Directed by Lewis Gilbert, The Spy Who Loved Me features an inspired ski chase at the opening and, just as memorably, a remarkable spy car (a Lotus Esprit) that turns into an underwater submarine with plenty of useful gadgets built in-including a periscope and mini-torpedoes. Marvin Hamlisch contributes a powerful score, while Carly Simon's haunting song "Nobody Does It Better" sets the romantic tone. The villain of the moment is Karl Stromberg (the splendid German actor Curt Jurgens), and his number one henchman is the inspired, metal-mouthed character known simply as Jaws, played with quiet menace by the 7'2" Richard Kiel. During one fight sequence aboard a train, Bond uses a rather shocking method to fight back against Jaws (and his teeth). Of course, the film also has a shark tank scene that would later be parodied in Austin Powers, but no doubt seemed fresh at the time.
It is Moore at his funniest and most charming-along with the ability to add an element of seriousness when needed-which he'd never completely recover again, and which pushes the film into elite company in the Bond pantheon.
Best Setting: The night scene in Egypt amid the Great Pyramids, with Bond in a white dinner jacket-and Jaws out for his blood.
Best Line: When asked by M where Bond is at the moment, Moneypenny replies: "He's on a mission, sir. In Austria." M responds, "Well, tell him to pull out. Immediately." Cut to Bond making love to a woman.
Top Five Best Early Bond Films
- From Russia With Love: Still the model, and yet to be surpassed.
- Goldfinger: Full of memorable moments, Connery's second best.
- The Spy Who Loved Me: Easily Moore's best Bond outing; great supporting characters, locales and for once a solid storyline.
- Dr. No: The first has to have a soft spot in our hearts; still entertaining, and Andress remains the best Bond girl ever.
- Live and Let Die: A solid if imperfect Moore effort.
Walt Opie is a writer and photographer living in Oakland, California. He has an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts, and wrote GreenCine's Sports Movie primer. He's also written for Camerawork Journal, artdish.com and Amazon.com.