Cult Movies: George Lazenby swaps Bond for a royal bomber in 70s martial arts flick A Queen’s Ransom

Ralph revisits this Hong Kong-set martial arts thriller featuring the former Bond man alongside the actual Queen

A mustachioed George Lazenby plays a an Irish republican with a questionable dubbed accent in A Queen's Ransom
A mustachioed George Lazenby plays a an Irish republican with a questionable dubbed accent

IT’S quite a career switch to go from playing James Bond to playing an Irish republican hell bent on killing the Queen, but it’s a move made by George Lazenby with considerable style in A Queen’s Ransom, a 1976 martial arts pot boiler from Golden Harvest.

The film, making its debut this month on Blu-ray through Eureka Entertainment, was written and directed by Ting Shan-hsi. It tells the tale of Morgan (Lazenby), a firebrand Irish assassin who, along with a like-minded gang of foreign bad guys, has smuggled himself into Hong Kong with the sole intention of executing Queen Elizabeth during her state visit to the then British colony.

The gang behind the plan include a veteran of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam called Shark (Jimmy Wang Yu, of One Armed Boxer fame), a ruthless Thai boxer called Ram (Bolo Yeung from Enter The Dragon), the cold-eyed Black Rose (Judith Brown from The Big Doll’s House) and an explosives expert by the name of Miyamoto (Chan Pei Shan from The Double Crossers).

Trying to foil them is a team led by two detectives, played by Charles Heung and Ko Chun-Hsiung, who must work together with a young socialite (Tanny Tien Ni) to save the visiting monarch from certain death.

A Queen's Ransom
It's not every day that an actual royal pops up in a martial arts thriller

Lazenby looks good here, but his voice is ridiculously dubbed by another actor affecting an awful Irish accent which makes a laughing stock of the ex-Bond main man’s turn as hardcore hitman. He had turned up in a brace of Golden Harvest Asian action flicks before, and he handles the fight sequences effectively enough, giving a good account of himself in a vicious brawl with Angela Leo’s home-grown Hong Kong Queen character.

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Jimmy Wang Yu in A Queen's Ransom
Jimmy Wang Yu selects his weapon

There’s much to enjoy in this wild and offbeat political thriller, but those expecting non-stop martial arts mayhem may be disappointed by a film that aims at being more Day Of The Jackal than Enter The Dragon. That’s not to say there’s a shortage of fights, by any means, it’s just those bouts of fisticuffs don’t extend to the preposterous lengths of most Asian epics.

The 2K transfer here is impressive enough and there are an attractive array of extras on offer from commentary tracks to background material on Taiwanese director Shan-hsi along with a nifty collector’s edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by James Oliver.

The Blu-ray of A Queen's Ransom from Eureka!
A new 2K transfer is now available on a Blu-ray loaded with bonus content

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about A Queen’s Ransom, though, is that cast list. I can think of no other martial arts movie that includes the actual Queen of England in the credits, but there she is in all her 1970s regal glory: it seems Shan-hsi and his team used actual footage of the Queen’s 1975 Hong Kong visit to bolster the plot and add a little authenticity to proceedings.

Whether or not official clearance was given for the shots to be used is debatable, but it’s nice to imagine Liz boasting to her family and friends about the time she “starred” next to James Bond in a Asian action flick.

I mean, you would, wouldn’t you?

A Queen's Ransom
The Queen is in the crosshairs in this 1970s martial arts thriller