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Films: U is for...

Universal Soldier

After quitting the Bond franchise with just the one international cap, George Lazenby sank most of his earnings into this turned-on riposte to the archaic secret agent. Lazenby sported a shaggy mane and Jason King moustache as a jaded agent-turned-arms dealer, who mends his violent ways after his dog gets accidentally shot during a machine gun demonstration. Welching on a $250,000 deal with a shady African potentate, he drops out, rents a dingy basement flat from pot-smoking mum Germaine Greer (plans for Jimi Hendrix to guest star were cut tragically short). Lazenby attends an agit-prop political debate, plays Frisbee in Hyde Park, cops off with Greer’s underage daughter, and spends a great deal of time hanging about the Wimpy bars of west London with a haunted expression of existential angst. The timely peacenik point is made, but it isn’t half a dull film. Lazenby fires machine guns at cardboard Vietcong, has a desultory car chase in his Reliant Scimitar, crashes a combat hovercraft into a ditch, and rounds off with a slow-motion punch-up on a motorway verge, but action-wise, that’s it. Everything’s determinedly low-key and anti-Bond, right down to the semi-improvised mumbled dialogue – a long way from Bond’s bespoke quippage. Lazenby’s gamble that Bond was old hat in the Age of Aquarius stiffed at the box office.

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