Bond Pretitle Sequences: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Simon Pitt |
Tuesday 13th August
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
There’s a common misconception that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a failure. Like all common misconceptions, this isn’t the case. The film did very well. It topped the North American box office, and was the highest grossing film that year in the UK.
Part of the reason people think it was a failure is because George Lazenby never returned as Bond. Saltzman and Broccoli had wanted a seven-film deal, but Lazenby’s agent had shaken his head and convinced the fledging actor that secret agent films would be archaic in the 70s. Lazenby’s attitude caused problems for the producers too. Broccoli was irritated by his cockiness, particularly on one occasion when he went off skiing on his own, fell over and broke his arm. When the film was released, Lazenby arrived at the premier with a beard. He was Bond, for crying out loud. The only time Bond has a beard is after years of torture. It further strained relations with the producers. Lazenby quit as 007, saying:
Bond is a brute. I've already put him behind me. I will never play him again. Peace - that's the message now.
Dianne Rigg, however, thought it was “a pretty foolish move”.
With Bond so firmly associated with Sean Connery, it was a difficult role to take on. Connery, of course, would return in Diamonds are Forever, when the producers offered him enough money. Funnily enough, the producers considered Timothy Dalton for Bond in 1969. And again in 1979, but it was only in 1986 that he was finally cast. They did this quite a bit. Pierce Brosnan was considered in 1986 (when Dalton was cast), but he was tied into Remington Steele. Roger Moore was offered the role as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service too, but didn’t want to be the man that replaced Connery.
There aren’t that many people that can play Bond. My girlfriend, Lindsay, and I were discussing who should play Bond after Daniel Craig. “Oh no, Christian Bale, can’t be Bond,” Lindsay said angrily, when a website suggested him. “Idris Elba would be good, but people would just keep going on about him being black.” We ponder a few other people. “Mark Strong?” I suggest. “You can’t have Bond bald,” Lindsay says. “And Tom Hardy has a funny face.”
In the middle of the night, she wakes up with a start. “Richard Armitage,” she says, shaking me awake, “Richard Armitage could be Bond.” A brief Google, however, reveals he doesn’t look great in a dinner jacket. “You do kind of need to be able to wear black tie to do the job,” I say. Lindsay is disappointed. She still thinks he could do it.
One thing you don’t have to be able to pull off anymore, though, is a hat. You did in 1969. Hatted, Lazenby strolls onto screen at the start of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Strangely, he seems to be walking on the spot for a few seconds before the gun barrel starts moving. He also seems to keep moving after he comes to a halt.
“What on Earth is he doing?” Lindsay laughs as Lazenby goes down on one knee to shoot. “First he marries Bond off, and then he can’t even turn and fire properly,” I sigh. “Maybe he’s kneeling because he’s the Bond that gets married,” Lindsay suggests.
We open on the headquarters of Universal Exports, the MI6 cover company. It’s the second time we’ve seen this in a Bond pre-credit teaser (a helicopter has the branding on the side in For Your Eyes Only). Inside Q is talking to M. Q won’t appear before the credits again until The World is Not Enough, and he’s looking a lot younger here. In some ways, the Bond films chart the aging of Desmond Llewelyn.
Q is explaining about some new gadgetry that will allow MI6 to track people. M’s not bothered by all this though, “What we want is a location fix on 007,” M dismisses Q’s great ideas. “The PM wants to be informed, personally, when we find 007.”
It’s not entirely clear why they’ve lost him. He’s just bumming around in his car. I don’t really understand why the Prime Minister is so interested in the minutia of the day-to-day running of MI6 either. Are the cabinet like this with everything? “The foreign secretary wants to know personally when Q finds his hole punch?”
This is the first time Bond has not been Sean Connery, and it’s a while before we see Bond’s face. We see his hands on the steering wheel, we see his hat, but little more. There’s a shot of his mouth as he lights a cigarette, with a dramatic zoom. It’s a different Bond than Brosnan. He knocks someone out for smoking in his vicinity.
Behind Bond, a girl is hooting him. The sequence is reminiscent on the post-title sequence in Goldeneye when Xenia Onatopp overtakes Bond. This time, however, Bond doesn’t really try to chase her. Bond arrives at the beach and sees her down at the edge of the sea, preparing to go for a dip. Rather creepily, Bond checks out her legs with the scope of a sniper rifle. Seeing her running into the sea, Bond panics, and drives his car over the beach (Ignoring the risk of salt corrosion) and runs in after her.
I’ve never got this sequence. She seems to pass out in his arms, and I don’t understand why. As soon as he picks her up, she just passes out. It’s like putting a sheet over a parrot’s cage. When he eventually gets her back to shore, two men appear from nowhere and try to kill them. What’s going on.
Having said that, I like this fight. There’s something understated about it. Later on, Bond fights “half the world’s terrorists”, or armies of Russian soldiers. Here, there are just two men.
One thing you never know in Bond films is whether a villain is going to be knocked out with one punch, or take minutes of battling. It’s not just Bond films that suffer from this. There’s a strange bit in Taken 2, where Liam Nesson seems to realise one man is going to be a boss fight. The two of them spend ages preparing the room before they have their fight, clearing away bowls on the floor, in case either of them fall and hurt themselves.
There’s a strange bit here where Bond and the villain start struggling on the edge of the shore, and then, inexplicably, are up to their waists in water. Either the tide has come in very suddenly, or the continuity man was eating a sandwich.
Other than that, the fight sequence is well choreographed. It’s interesting to see how movie fighting styles change over time. We’ve seen the magic karate chop of the 1970s, the smooth dancing of the Brosnan films, and the rough, Bourne-inspired speed of the Craig films. Here, it seems the stunt men have been trained in Judo, as all they seem to do is throw each other over their shoulders.
The future Mrs Bond, jumps in Bond’s car and drives off, in a clearly sped up sequence. Lazenby smiles into the camera and mutters to himself, “this never happened to the other fellah.”
It’s a strange line. It supports Lee Tamahori’s later (and incorrect) theory that Bond is a code name. What’s strange is the film then goes out of its way to show that this is the same Bond as before: the title sequence is filled with clips from previous Bond films to tie the continuity together. At one point, a caretaker even whistles the theme from Goldfinger. Lazneby’s remark here, though, seems to undermine all of that. In the original script, Bond underwent plastic surgery to disguise himself from Blofeld. Somewhat ironically, Blofeld tries a variant on this tactic himself later in Diamonds are Forever.
In many ways, this Bond film is at the heart of the Bond series. Bond gets married, and Blofeld kills his wife. Similarly, it showed that someone else could be Bond other than Connery. Lazenby might only have been in one film, but it changed the course of the Bond series.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- ”Good morning. My name is Bond. James Bond,” Lazenby says, grinning like a loon.
- “Hands up, Mr Bond.” The villain says immediately, pointing a gun at his head. Never give them your name, George. You’ll learn this.
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- Bond only really makes one quip “This never happened to the other fellah,” he says. It’s a strange breaking of the fourth wall. li>
Listen Carefully 007
- Bond knocks both men out, but I think we have to assume that neither of them actually die.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- Bond has changed. He doesn’t look the same as before, but is meant to be the same person as before.
SP will return…
- Bond has a car with a disassembled sniper rifle in the glove box. Other than that, no gadgets .