I grew up in the age before on-demand and downloadable movies, so we watched what we could get from the local video store. We taped things off TV, Dad bought lots of cassette tapes of iconic 80s movies. I watched almost every James Bond film, and for me, Goldeneye starring Piece Brosnan was, and remains, the best Bond film on the whole. It was made during the golden age of film making, in the 1990s when digital technology became far wider in its scope to producing incredible visuals, and storytelling was reaching peak intelligence with many great, sophisticated new books (eg. Tom Clancy, Thomas Harris) going virtually straight to film adaptations. All of that writing talent and infrastructural sophistication led to Goldeneye, one of the peaks of the Bond franchise as a total work. Pierce Brosnan was made for the role, he’s fantastic. It’s a pity the scripts got worse and worse for him. But he’s not the best Bond. He’s second best, in my opinion, after Connery. Third in my opinion, perhaps surprisingly, is George Lazenby. (Moore was always just a parody of Bond to me, and Daniel Craig is obviously homosexual and hates himself pretending to be a ladies man. He has no chemistry with anyone, ever. He’s unwatchable).
I never bothered to watch the George Lazenby one as a kid. Most people seemed to agree it was the dud, and Lazenby was the dud, and the one-film arrangement was because of his failing as Bond. But having recently watched it, and done a little research, I can tell you it is not so. Lazenby himself decided not to repeat the role because he believed his career would grow bigger and more diverse. He made a business error.
George Lazenby is, in my doubtless controversial opinion, the quintessential Bond! He fits the part better than every other actor who has played him, except in ONE IMPORTANT WAY! His voice. George presents an awkward British accent, with his Australian lilt creeping in too much, and breaking our suspension of disbelief. Sean Connery never had this problem, because he has never bothered to use any voice other than his own. The result, much like Morgan Freeman, is one of the most iconic voices in Hollywood history. Connery left VERY high standards, and Lazenby really lives up to (most of) them. He is devilishly handsome, physically impressive, fights like a beast, makes mistakes but responds rapidly and always thinks on his feet, changes gear like an F1 racer, and can’t help himself but use his sexual superpower on every woman he meets. His voice is just sadly a bit lame compared to Connery’s, even though he really tries to provide a true British accent as Bond would have. They also give him too many corny quips, instead of smart ones, and Lazenby doesn’t deliver them with the detached black humour that Connery conveyed. You can tell Lazenby gives a shit, bless him. Connery had no shits to give, or at least that was how his Bond seemed.
The film itself is the quintessential Bond film, and one of the most gripping I’ve watched. It feels a lot like the Daniel Craig films in pace and mood (plus a generous slop of 60s campiness), and they have clearly borrowed much from this film and the 1960s era of Bond films, with plotlines and characters directly lifted from this film. The gadgets are very minimal, Bond relies primarily on his wits, secondarily on whatever resources are at hand. The film has EVERYTHING in terms of action, the fight sequences are brutal and believable, the stakes are supremely high, there is some great (almost prophetic) writing about the Klaus Schwab archetype, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, planning to unleash dysgenic diseases on the world that he will control with vaccines! Seriously, check it out.
Tracy Bond is THE Bond girl. You can totally believe why he falls in love with her. They meet with him rescuing her from suicide. She then proceeds to put him through some very expensive shit-tests, and he passes every one. He is persistent, but totally unperturbed by her hypergamous bullshit; he knows he is the chad and she is his. He knows. And she knows he knows, but she wants to fight him a bit. It’s one of the best on-screen examples of Alpha/Sigma male behaviour in the sexual dynamic with women. Dame Diana Rigg (the wizened Matriarch in Game of Thrones) was an absolute babe in 1969 and is absolutely gorgeous throughout the film. She is every bit Lazenby’s and Bond’s match.
I think this film would have been saved from ridicule if they had overdubbed Lazenby with CONNERY! Just got him in for the voice alone. The mistakes and cringe-inducing bits of the film are mostly anachronistically cringe-worthy, because this was the 1960s. Most of the dialogue is plot-moving, and some of the quips are great. Some of the twists in the action are intentionally hilarious too. This movie also has all of the borrowed archetypes and tropes of the Austin Powers franchise. It’s astonishing to see how much the forgotten Bond film has been centrally influential to the canon.
I would love to watch a supercut of JUST the fight scenes. They are almost as intense as the Daniel Craig ones, and the editing style is jarring and throws you into the adrenaline rush of combat. Bond is FAST and decisive, and always creative. He never shies from the physically strenuous, and takes some enormous, ballsy risks.
In closing, I regret having overlooked Lazenby’s Bond for so long, and have been delighted to be more impressed than I expected to be. Check out On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But for God’s sake, do bench-presses or sit-ups while you watch. Don’t sit on your butt letting Lazenby and Rigg do all the work for you. That’s gay. Move your ass.
You can find James Fox Higgins at Foxgrams, and purchase his books here and here.