Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Cinema Monolith: 8/10 The Monolith
IMDb: 6.8/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ***½ out of 4

Released in the UK and the US on December 19, 1969
Rated M
142 minutes

Directed by Peter Hunt

Written by Richard Maibaum

Cast: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, George Baker, Angela Scoular, Louis Maxwell, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Catherine Schell, Yuri Borienko, Bernard Horsfall, Joanna Lumley

With Sean Connery ending his reign—temporarily—as MI6 super spy James Bond after five films, it was time for the filmmakers to find someone to replace him. And that someone was advertising model George Lazenby, who stepped into Connery’s shoes for his one and only appearance as 007, in this Peter Hunt-directed entry based on the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. And out of all the Bond films that have been released—from Dr. No to Spectre—I would say this one has garnered the most debate among fans and casual viewers alike. Do we like newcomer Lazenby, or don’t we? Is this the best Bond film of the series, or one of the worst?

First, the story. After saving a woman—a contessa named Tracy—from a suicide drowning, Bond continues on to his hotel, where by chance the two cross paths again. The next morning, after waking from their bedroom rendezvous, Bond discovers the contessa has left; some thugs then take him to meet her father, Draco, the head of a crime syndicate. Draco wants Bond to marry the troubled Tracy, but Bond will only agree to romance her…if Draco will use his influence to help locate SPECTRE nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond’s quest soon takes him from Portugal to London, and then to Switzerland, where he discovers Blofeld’s worldwide ransom plot, and finds himself falling in love with Tracy.

Oh, if only Connery had hung on for just one more film! For years I’ve considered this one of the lesser Bonds, and wondered how much more entertaining it might’ve been if Connery had starred, and if Terence Young—who’d helmed Dr. No, From Russia, with Love, and Thunderball—had returned to direct. But after this viewing, I wondered: if Lazenby had fulfilled his seven-film contract, would he have improved his skills as an actor over time, and become comfortable in the role? Would we have become used to him, like we did with Roger Moore, and even grown to like him as 007?

Though he was hamstrung from the start—he was new, he was inexperienced, and he wasn’t Connery—I thought Lazenby did just fine, as did first-time director Hunt, whose widescreen camerawork was simply outstanding. However, what really made the film such a treat for me this time around was the screen story and the cinematography. Richard Maibaum’s script stuck close to the source novel, giving us a serious, more realistic film that was thankfully light on the overboard gadgets and gimmickry, while the cinematography took full advantage of the breathtaking beauty of the majestic Swiss Alps and Blofeld’s unique mountaintop retreat, Piz Gloria.

Of course, another positive was the lovely Diana Rigg, playing the part of Tracy, who was smart, sassy, confident, and quite fun…the perfect Bond Girl, and maybe even something more. I thought she and Lazenby made for a great team, particularly during a chase sequence in and around a snowy Swiss hamlet, which to me was both exciting and romantic. And what about Telly Savalas, playing the top dog of SPECTRE? Though he was skilled as an actor in the part, I wish continuity had carried over from You Only Live Twice and Donald Pleasance had reprised his role; to me, he looked and acted more like the Blofeld I’d always imagined than Savalas did.

I have my Dad to thank for introducing me to the Bond films back in the ’70s, and we watched a lot of them on Sunday nights on ABC…but this one I never saw until years and years later, I’m guessing on home video. Why, I don’t know, but perhaps it was my innocent young mind considering anything not Connery or Moore not worthy of my time. But where do I stand now? I’d say On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ranks among the best, and is essential viewing for any Bond fan, especially for that ending you won’t see coming. And as for the ‘who made for the better Bond’ debate? In the long run, with Lazenby having starred in just this one outing, it’s still and will always be Connery for me.  (8/10)

18 comments on “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

  1. geelw
    3/29/19

    Yep, a solid film bashed initially for a lack of Connery then later thanks to that original 1976 ABC-TV edit that really chopped the pacing up, reworked the story and worse, was spread over two nights (eek!), making it a total mess. Thank goodness for being able to see the original version and appreciate it for what it truly is.

    • Todd B
      3/29/19

      I watched the Blu-ray version of OHMSS for the review, and the picture quality was just incredible; the images were so dang sharp for a 1969 film! And I’ve never heard of this ’76 ABC-TV cut…I’ll have to find some info on it, or better yet, see if I can watch it on YouTube!

      • geelw
        3/30/19

        Oh, DUH. I forgot to add this link: http://www.the007dossier.com/007dossier/post/2013/06/18/OHMSS-The-1976-ABC-TV-Version – it’ll help a lot.

      • Todd B
        3/30/19

        Thanks for that, Greg! I just checked it out…good lord, what a mess! They also did something similar with You Only Live Twice, but to a lesser degree. I also read where someone reconstructed the ABC version using the existing DVD footage, plus the audio from these old ABC clips…but $20 is a little steep for me to shell out on something that’s LAME!

      • geelw
        3/31/19

        Well, I bet if the other VSAH team ponied up five clams each, we’d help you buy that version (only to have you not watch it no matter who paid for it, lol. Hey, an expensive drink coaster is also a collectible, right?)…

      • Todd B
        3/31/19

        The other VSAH team members? Those cheapskates? They wouldn’t pony up one clam each for water if my pants were on fire!

      • geelw
        4/1/19

        I just so happen to have ONE clam in my freezer just for a pants on fire situation, so I’ll fork that over if I hear you’re in need. Fine print disclaimer (read this really fast): Allow 3-7 days for delivery. Clam not guaranteed to be frozen upon arrival. Additional charge for faster Fed Ex shipment packed in dry ice if you want said clam to be cool enough to apply to burning pants. Product not available for overseas shipping (Sorry, Wolf!).

      • Todd B
        4/1/19

        And wait, let me guess: Some material may not be suitable for pre-teenagers, accessories not included, member FDIC, must be a tall as this sign to receive clam, and most importantly, offer expires 4/30/98.

        On second thought, I’ll just call the fire department…

  2. Well he certainly did more Emmanuelle films than Bond. I wonder if his manager said those immortal words again after he made his first Emmanuelle “you don’t wanna get type cast George!” George flashes back to the last big cluster fxxk bad decision and signs on for 7 of them LOL.

    Still arguably one of the best Bond films imho. I do love this one. If it was Sean Connery’s Bond there probably wouldn’t ever be a debate. Shame Lazenby didn’t do at least one more though. Dare I say Bond in this one is Bond at his most human.

    • Todd B
      3/30/19

      I’ve been reading up on the whole ‘Lazenby doing just one Bond, and why’ situation, and it didn’t seem the smartest of moves. An interesting note: if Lazenby had done another one, it would’ve been Diamonds Are Forever, and it would’ve been directed by Peter Hunt, who would’ve carried over the ending to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and used it for the pre-credits sequence of Diamonds Are Forever. I just wonder how different Diamonds would’ve been, story-wise, if those two had been a part of it. And yeah, Bond is quite mortal in this one, especially around Miss Rigg!

      Ha, that would’ve been funny…seven Emmanuelle films. After turning down seven Bonds! Duuuuuumb!

      • Just in case you may of thought I was joking about 7 Emmanuelle films, I wasn’t! He made them all in 1993! No idea if he actually has any “action” scenes! But he goes by the name Mario! LOL

        That would of been every interesting to have had Diamonds Are Forever carry on from OHMSS. Miss Rigg is gorgeous 🙂

      • Todd B
        3/31/19

        Nope, I knew you weren’t joking…because why would you dare lie to me? Actually, I’d just read up on that before reading your comment…I just wasn’t aware he’d done so many…and all in 1993! Way to go, “Mario”.

        Yes, to me Diana is quite the stunner. And how neat it would’ve been to have her continue on with that character through several Bond films after OHMSS. Alas…

  3. Seen it twice and yeah the first time I brushed it off. About 6 years ago or so I rampaged thru them all with sons and we all kind of agreed it’s a fantastic movie that is only a let down in the fact that Sean isn’t there. I’ve since got it on BluRay and may have to have a third look.

    • Todd B
      3/31/19

      I’d recommend that third look…the Blu-ray print is beautiful, which surprised me for a film from 1969. And during your ‘rampage’ with your sons, which of the Bonds did you three like best?

      • I think they like both Connery and Moore equally but both are of the mind that the Dalton films are vastly underappreciated and I agree with them.

      • Todd B
        4/1/19

        I haven’t watched the Dalton Bonds since their theatrical release, but they’ll be coming up on my Blu-ray sweep-watch at some point. I remember not liking them all that much, but then again, I never liked OHMSS before either, so we’ll see what happens.

  4. Eric Binford
    4/4/19

    Great action movie. I really liked Lazenby as Bond. Rigg is my favorite Bond girl. Frankly, this would have been almost perfect with Donald Pleasance and Connery.

    • Todd B
      4/6/19

      I definitely agree with you on all points, Eric! Though it made for quite the memorable ending, I do wish Rigg could have continued on with the series. And I did a little reading up on why Pleasance wasn’t asked back; the filmmakers thought he wasn’t athletic enough to handle the action scenes!

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 222

From the Monolith: 123

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 6
1940s – 19
1950s – 35
1960s – 34
1970s – 35
1980s – 33
1990s – 6
2000s – 13
2010s – 41

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 40
Comedy – 35
Crime – 21
Documentary – 5
Drama – 24
Horror – 38
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 19
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 27
Western – 8

Movies by CM Rating

10 star – 10
9 star – 28
8 star – 35
7 star – 31
6 star – 22
5 star – 22
4 star – 23
3 star – 18
2 star – 18
1 star – 12
0 star – 3

Movies by MPAA Rating

Pre-1968 – 89
G – 1
PG – 32
PG-13 – 34
R – 58
NC-17 – 0
TV and Unrated – 8

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