On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Hungarian Potato Casserole

Year Released: 1969
Directed by: Peter Hunt
Starring: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas
(PG, 140 min.)

"My name is Bond…James Bond." Ian Fleming

This Bond classic stands apart from the pack just as Daniel Craig’s does. Serial seducer Bond breaks form and falls hard and fast for a countess in this most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel. The gadgets are few and far between, the action is more hard hitting and authentic than ever, and the ending certainly not the light fluff we have come to expect.

As for Bond himself, George Lazenby, an Australian neophyte, former used car salesman and mechanic, getting the role seems almost as improbable as 007 freeing himself from a conveyor belt just before his cranium meets the circular saw.

There’s still plenty of the Bond mystique here, though. We haven’t finished with SPECTRE and its chief baddie, Blofeld, played here with just the right amount of diabolical relish by Telly Savalas. And the glamorous girls are here, too. But Bond girl Diana Rigg isn’t just a pretty face; her Countessa Teresa di Vecenzo brings sophistication and savior faire as well, putting her head and shoulders above many of her counterparts. Maybe that’s why 007 asks her to marry him.

Of course, the ten “Angels of Death,” allergy patients at Blofeld’s mountaintop clinic secretly programmed to deliver biological mayhem via hypnotic suggestion, are the usual not so bright bimbos, all vying to lure Bond into their boudoirs. Part of the humor and irony here is Bond having to go incognito as the very prim Sir Hillary Bray, the genealogy expert Blofeld consults to prove his claim to the nobility.

As such Bond dresses in kilts and a shirt so lacy most self-respecting ladies would shun it. Lazenby, at that time the highest paid male model in all of Europe – he was even the European version of the Marlboro Man – manages to pull it off with his virility in tact, probably due to his good legs and devil may care confidence.

The song is also memorable, but ironically, “We Have all the Time in the World,” was the final recording of an ill Louis Armstrong, giving all the more poignancy to its lyrics.

The action sequences are terrific. Twice Bond has to flee from the Blofeld Clinic, actually as restaurant atop the 10,000 foot Schilthorn Mountain in Murren Switzerland. Once he does it on bobsled and once on skis. Here the back-story is almost as interesting as the adventure itself, where the cameramen shot scenes with hand-held cameras as they skied down the treacherous slopes backwards. In one case, the ski specialist, Willy Bogner, Jr, actually “held the cameral between his legs as he flew downhill.”

The fight scenes are top notch as well. In fact, one reason unknown Lazenby landed the role was his screen test fighting former wrester Yuri Borienko, where Lazenby was so into the moment that he actually broke the stuntman’s nose. That’s when co-producer Harry Salzman told him, “We’re going with you.” 

Actually, Lazenby was a former martial arts instructor who had studied with Bruce Lee and possessed more than one black belt. And he was only 29 at the time, another reason his hand-to-hand combat makes some of the other Bonds’ stuff look staged.

In fact, this debut for Lazenby as 007 is good enough to make one wonder why it was his only outing as such. According to Lazenby himself, he was offered a seven film contract, but turned down the offer on the advice of his agent who thought the Bond series had tapped out, that it was too macho for the times, when peace, love, Peter Paul and Mary and the make love not war crowd ruled the scene. Almost fifty years and at least 16 films later the Bond franchise gets the last laugh.

Of course, there were enough rough spots in the filming and its frank star to indicate that the parting was probably a bit of a relief to his producers. Off screen, the chemistry between Diana Rigg and Lazenby was anything but sizzling. When she drove her car erratically in one scene, he purportedly told her she had been guzzling too much champagne with her lunch, while Rigg announced that she’d just feasted on garlic before their kissing scene.

To make matters worse, the director literally gave Lazenby the cold shoulder during filming and continued it as he found that the actor’s resentment came through on film, giving his character just the right edge that he needed. Lazenby repaid the favor by donning Beatles bangs and a beard for his American media tour promoting the film, and then becoming surly when the team opted to have Rigg do it solo. 

The years do not seem to have mellowed the blunt and rebellious Australian, either. Commenting on the latest 007, Pierce Brosnan in the 1995 GoldenEye, Lazenby said, “If Pierce Brosnan walked into a room, I doubt anyone would look up. But this is the '90s and women want a different man, a man who shows his feminine side. Pierce definitely has that.”

Which probably tells us that Lazenby’s Bond, rebellious and a bit brutal, has more in common with the 007 icon than his more refined and amiable counterparts.

Post Script: If you're looking for the antithesis to this glamorized spy world, you might want to see this classic: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

All of the patients at Blofeld’s clinic have food allergies. Not only does the head of SPECTRE “cure” their allergies, the girls now love those same foods that caused them break to out in bumps. Their dinners now consist solely of the once taboo food. Not exactly your food pyramid, the plates are all bananas for one, just fish for another, corn for a third, or just rice, pork, beef, chicken, potatoes, or so on.

For Nancy from Hungary, one of the two to lure Bond to her bed, the choice is potatoes. We’ve come up with a perfect Hungarian Potato Casserole, with some onions, cheese, eggs, and cream to pay at least some lip service to the other food groups, and making it nothing short of delicious as well.

Enjoy, but if you hear a hypnotic voice streaming into your bedroom later in the evening, do not be lured into any SPECTRE schemes for world domination, no matter how dulcet the tones.

Hungarian Potato Casserole

 Ingredients

  • 5-6 large potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter or canola oil for frying
  • 2 cups heavy cream or sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and sliced (optional)
  • 3.5 ounces (100 grams) yellow cheese (optional)

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat water until boiling. Add potatoes in their skin. Return to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until a knife can be easily inserted (approximately 35 minutes). Do not cook the potatoes until they are too soft to slice nicely. Drain. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Chop onion. In a frying pan, heat butter or oil. Sauté onion until translucent. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit (180° Celsius). Grease a baking dish. 
  4. Peel and slice potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. In a bowl, mix onion, cream, salt, paprika and pepper. Gently combine the potatoes with the sour cream mixture. 
  5. In the baking dish, arrange half the potato slices in a layer. If desired, layer hard-boiled eggs slices on top of the potatoes and then yellow cheese on top of the eggs. Then cover with the rest of the potatoes. Sprinkle paprika on top.
  6. Bake, uncovered, at 350° Fahrenheit (180° Celsius) for 45 minutes.

Recipe Source: About.com