Chronicles of the Underrated: James Bond Film

by Mike Monroe on January 31, 2014

in FILM, LISTS

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

So you want to make the best James Bond movie ever made.  You start with the book which most Bond book fans believe to be Ian Fleming’s best.  You need to find the perfect Bond villain.  Who better than Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE?  Find the perfect actor to play him.  He’s a bald badass with an intimidating presence, so in the late sixties the perfect actor was obviously Telly Savalas.  He can pet the white Persian cat with the best of them.  Next, you need the perfect Bond girl.  In 1969, Dianna Rigg would come to mind.  She’d been cutting her chops for years as Emma Peel in the popular spy show “The Avengers”.  She was charming and witty with a heaping helping of butt kicking ability.  The perfect foil for Bond.  So put in the best ski and snow action sequences in any James Bond movie ever, add a song by the great Louis Armstrong and the best orchestral score of any Bond movie, a mountaintop hideout full of sexy girls, and there you go.  Best Bond movie ever, right?

Well, not exactly.  You’ve forgotten one important thing.  Who’s gonna play Bond?  Sean Connery, of course!  Hold your horses, bud.  When this movie was made, Connery had retired from the role of Bond and was reportedly not on speaking terms with the people pulling the strings.  So if not him, then who?  George Lazenby!  George Lazenby?  Who the hell is George Lazenby?  And there, folks, lies the problem.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

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That, in a nutshell is why “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was not the best James Bond film ever.  Though Sean Connery would come back to sleepwalk through an ironic portrayal of Bond in “Diamonds are Forever,” he wasn’t available for the sixth Bond film.  So they turned to an unknown Australian model named George Lazenby.  Lazenby actually wasn’t an awful action actor.  He was muscular and athletic and was great in the action sequences.  He was maybe a little chipper for Bond.  He didn’t have the nonchalant wit of Sean Connery, the silly charm of Roger Moore, the serious focus of Timothy Dalton, the debonair style of Pierce Brosnan, or the rugged toughness of Daniel Craig.  What he did have was, well, the best of everything else surrounding him.

So if Bond had been played by Connery, or even Daniel Craig, in this writer’s humble opinion, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” would have been the best Bond film ever made.  With Lazenby, I’d rank it fifth on my list after “From Russia With Love”, “Goldfinger”, “Dr. No”, and “Casino Royale.”  I’ve never been a big Roger Moore fan so stop your huffing and puffing.  Regardless, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is easily the most underrated Bond film ever.  Best Bond girl, one of the best villains, best snow and ski scenes, and best score.  The plot’s good and the movie adapts what’s considered by many to be the best Bond novel fairly diligently.  Plus the ending is quite interesting.  I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say it’s definitely not what you’d expect from a Bond movie.  So there you have it, an awesome twist, too.  That, in and of itself, makes “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” worth watching.

Most Underrated James Bond Film = On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

And bracing for the backlash, though Rotten Tomatoes has my back on most of these…

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Ranking the Bond Films:

(on quality, not irony or silliness, and forgetting about “Never Say Never Again”)

1. From Russia With Love– Okay, even if “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” had Sean Connery, it would have a rough time topping this gem.  The crown jewel of the Bond franchise.

Tomato meter: 96%

2. Goldfinger– An awesome main villain, Oddjob, the Aston Martin with all the gadgets, and more great scenes than you can shake a stick at, the quintessential Bond film.  Man, it was tough choosing between 1 and 2.  I think it depends on which side of the bed I get up from in the morning.

Tomato meter: 96%

3. Dr. No– The one that started it all, and a great movie, too.

Tomato meter: 98%

4. Casino Royale– Bond is back!  This movie renewed my faith in the franchise, and it did so for a lot of other people, too.

Tomato meter: 95%

5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service– Read the article again if you don’t know why “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is #5.

Tomato meter: 81%

6. Thunderball– The Bond franchise was starting to get a little too big for his britches with this one, but it’s still awesome.  Bad guy with an eye patch, redhead femme fatale, killer sharks, what more can I say?

Tomato meter: 85%

7. Skyfall– Not quite “Casino Royale”, but better than “Quantum of Solace.”  Cemented Daniel Craig as my second favorite Bond.  And it has a flamboyant Javier Bardem.  Leaves lots of potential for the next one.

Tomato meter: 92%

8. Goldeneye– Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond movie was his best.  It all went downhill from here, but it wasn’t his fault.  He was wasted in some bad movies.

Tomato meter: 82%

9. The Spy Who Loved Me– My favorite Roger Moore movie.  That car/submarine was awesome, and there are some memorable scenes.  Jaws was a great villain.

Tomato meter: 78%

10. You Only Live Twice– Good movie, but Sean Connery posing as an Asian man?  Not so sure about that one.  Also got a little out of control in the end for my taste.

Tomato meter: 71%

11. The Living Daylights– I thought Timothy Dalton had some potential after watching this.  He was a little different from the other Bonds, but for some reason he never fully settled into the role.  It was a pretty good story, though.  Not bad, just not great.

Tomato meter: 75%

12. Quantum of Solace– Another one in the not bad, just not great category.  I love Daniel Craig, but this wasn’t as good as his other two.  It felt like filler.

Tomato meter: 64%

13. For Your Eyes Only– Decent Roger Moore effort, but the old man with young girl thing seemed a little creepy to me.  Still, good action and decent enough story.

Tomato meter: 73%

14. A View to a Kill– Not a good movie in any sense of the word, but Christopher Walken was an awesome villain.  That alone pushes this one up for me.  I just wish he was in a better movie.

Tomato meter: 36% (must not be Walken fans)

15. License to Kill– I didn’t buy the whole Timothy Dalton as James Bond out for revenge thing.  It wasn’t awful, but it didn’t feel like a Bond movie at all to me, even with Q playing a bigger role.

Tomato meter: 74%

16. Diamonds Are Forever– The worst of the Connery Bonds.  I liked this when I was a kid, but it was too ridiculous for the older version of myself.  Felt like a comedy at times.

Tomato meter: 65%

17. Live and Let Die– Bond was on the express train to corniness at this point.  This movie would have been better if it more closely resembled the book it was named after, without the racism of course.

Trivia question for Bond fanatics: Which other Bond movie borrowed heavily from the book Live and Let Die?  See answer at the end of the article.

Tomato meter: 65%

18. The World is Not Enough– I love Sophie Marceau, but Denise Richards was a major drag on this one.  Sort of boring and forgettable, too.

Tomato meter: 51%

19. Tomorrow Never Dies– This movie just wasn’t very memorable for me.  I had to go back to Wikipedia to remind myself what it was even about.  I’m a big fan of Vincent Schiavelli, though.  I think he’s the only thing I remembered about this one before looking at Wikipedia.  He’s little more than a cameo, so see if that scene’s on Youtube.  Otherwise, no need to watch this one if you haven’t seen it yet.

Tomato meter: 57%

20. The Man with the Golden Gun–  Sheer ridiculousness.  The whole haunted house thing wasn’t cool.  Nick Nack brought back memories of “Fantasy Island.”  Not something you should be daydreaming about while watching a really bad Bond movie.

Tomato meter: 46%

21. Die Another Day– What in the Hell did I just watch?  I remember that was my reaction to this one.

Tomato meter: 57%

22. Octopussy– How can an action movie with a British superspy be so boring?

Tomato meter: 43%

23. Moonraker– In the first scene two people have a fist fight while falling out of an airplane.  Later, there’s an epic space shuttle battle with laser guns.  Plus Jaws falls in love with a short, dorky girl.  Sound cool?  Maybe for an action comedy or a Star Wars or Star Trek film, but not in a Bond movie and a poorly executed one at that.  Did you read my note about not counting irony or silliness?  If you’re talking so-bad-it’s good silliness, this is definitely #1.

Tomato meter: 62% (I must be a prude or something…)

Ranking the Bond Actors (note: a good Bond can be in a bad movie):

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Pierce Brosnan
  4. Roger Moore
  5. Timothy Dalton
  6. George Lazenby

Answer to trivia question: License to Kill

 

Mike Monroe

Michael Monroe was born in Baltimore, MD and has lived there most of his life. He’s a poet and fiction writer whose preferred genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy, and he’s always had a thing for Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. His poetry has been published in Gargoyle Magazine, nthposition, the Lyric, Scribble, the Loch Raven Review, Foliate Oak, Primalzine, and various other publications.

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