The 007 Series: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Ian Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)


Super-spy James Bond (George Lazenby, What Have You Done to Solange?) falls in love with a troubled Italian aristocrat, Countessa Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg, The Hospital and A Little Night Music), and they team up to fight evil mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas, Birdman of Alcatraz), who is developing biological weapons from his lair in the Swiss Alps.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“This never happened to the other fellow.”

Richard Maibaum adapts, faithfully, Ian Fleming’s 6th novel, and newcomer Peter H. Hunt, who had edited the first three Bond movies (interestingly, the film’s editor, John Glen, will also be given the chance to direct), was hired to bring the script to life.

There is a small, but vociferous minority that has always insisted that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best movie in the franchise. I think these fans are responding to the fact that this is the most ambitious and unusual of all Bond movies. It definitely introduces a host of new ideas — no other Bond movie takes as many chances as this one and that’s refreshing, exciting to see.

First, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first movie without Sean Connery. The actor got sick of the whole thing and no amount of money persuaded him to reprise the role for the 6th time. Australian-model-turned-actor George Lazenby got the role mostly because he looked a bit like Connery.

The inexperienced Lazenby is often cited as the film’s biggest flaw, but I thought he was quite good as 007. He’s not my favorite Bond by any stretch of imagination, but I liked him better than Pierce Brosnan. He was careful not to imitate Connery and he is able to make the character his own. Ironically, non-actor Lazenby stars in the only Bond movie where the 007 character is properly fleshed out.

There are a few things that really bug me about the movie. I hated its lack of continuity. Bond and super-villain Blofeld had a face-to-face confrontation in the previous movie yet they don’t seem to recognize each other. The producers toyed with the idea of having Bond go through plastic surgery in order to explain a new actor in the role, but the idea was dropped. Too bad because that would have fixed a major plot hole.

Second, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is long. The very first action sequence occurs 90 minutes into the film. That’s pretty strange for a movie of this type. But once the action (finally) kicks in, there is no reason to complain; there are some truly exciting sequences, among the best-staged in the franchise. Louis Armstrong’s love song is good, but it doesn’t really belong here. I liked Savalas’s Blofeld, but I still like Donald Pleasence’s (You Only Live Twice) interpretation more, much more.

Finally, there is one thing everyone seems to agree on: Diana Rigg is indeed the ultimate “Bond girl.” Part Elizabeth Bennet, part Lara Croft, Rigg’s Countlessa Tracy has the right stuff to become Mrs. Bond. There has been numerous “Bond girls” — some actresses were very talented, while others were super-beautiful — but none of those ladies come close to Rigg; she’s a class act through and through!

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Frankly, I wouldn’t put On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the very top. It’s a really good movie — I appreciated the innovations — but it is something that I admire more than love. I do see why so many are drawn to it; it looks and feels different — a nice reprieve from the familiar Bond shenanigans. Color, 142 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)


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