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On Her Majesty's Secret Service

UK 1969
produced by
Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman for EON Productions/United Artists
directed by Peter R. Hunt
starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, Lois Maxwell, George Baker, Bernard Lee, Bernard Horsfall, Desmond Llewelyn, Yuri Borienko, Virginia North, Geoffrey Cheshire, Irvin Allen, Terence Mountain, John Gay, James Bree, Angela Scoular, Catherine Schell, Julie Ege, Mona Chong, Sylvana Henriques, Sally Sheridan, Joanna Lumley, Zaheera, Anouska Hempel, Ingrid Back, Helena Ronee, Jenny Hanley
screenplay by Richard Maibaum, additional dialogue by Simon Raven, based on a novel by Ian Fleming, music by John Barry, theme by Monty Norman, songs performed by Louis Armstrong, Nina van Pallandt, special effects by John Stears, ski sequences supervised by Willy Bogner, stock car sequence directed by Anthony Squire

James Bond, EON's James Bond, Blofeld

review by
Mike Haberfelner





James Bond (George Lazenby) saves a girl, Tracy (Diana Rigg), from trying to drown herself, then from a couple of ruffians, and later at the hotel helps out with her gambling debts - for which he thanks him by inviting him to her room. The next day, Bond is kidnapped by the ruffians from before and taken to Tracy's father, Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), a notorious crime kingpin, who makes Bond an offer, marry his daughter in return for 1 million Pound. Bond turns him down, but his interest is somehow piqued still and he starts dating Tracy - and by the by gets information out of her father in regards to the whereabouts of the evil crime organisation SPECTRE, run by Bond's arch enemy Blofeld (Telly Savalas). Eventually he learns that Blofeld has invited genealogist Hilary Bray (George Baker) to the Swiss Alps to do research on his ancestry and in essence find him a title. Bond takes over as Bray and is shipped to Blofeld's headquarters in his stead, sporting a very effeminate and clumsy exterior. And still, all the girls in Blofeld's "Allergy Research Center" Piz Gloria on one of the many mountaintops want a piece of Bond - who uses their knowledge of the base for his investigations - but its not long before he's found out, and Blofeld gloats about his new scheme to blackmail the world by using the girls from all around the world at the research center as patients zero for the worldwide spread of a virus should his demands not be met. Provided with that info, Blofeld locks Bond away, but Bond of course manages to get out and makes a daring escape to the village in the valley, always hunted by Blofeld's henchmen, led by his right hand woman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat). In the village, Bond stumbles into Tracy at an ice rink, and she helps him make good his escape by taking him in her car through a stock car race, which is enough to shake off any pursuer. Bond and Tracy are not so lucky the next day when they ski for their lives and get into an avalanche. Bond is presumed dead but Tracy has somehow survived it unscathed and is taken captive by Blofeld, who wants to make her his companion. Of course though, Bond hasn't really died, and he now wants assistance from MI6 to save Tracy and destroy Blofeld's headquarters, but MI6 has other plans, so Bond contacts Draco, and he provides Bond with enough men, firepower and helicopters to save his daughter and do enough damage to save the world on the side. Now attacking and destroying Piz Gloria works like a charm, but Blofeld gets away.

Days, weeks or months later, Bond marries Tracy, but refuses Draco's dowry/bribe as a man of honour, but heading for their honeymoon, they cross paths with Blofeld and Irma Blunt, who send a hail of bullets their way - which tragically kill Tracy.

 

Now back in the day, On Her Majesty's Secret Service was panned by critics and know-it-alls, basically because George Lazenby, a relative unknown, wasn't Sean Connery, and also because this movie dared to be a little different. And to be honest, Lazenby sure isn't Sean Connery (but neither was Roger Moore to be honest), but he does a very decent job, and he doesn't only have the 007 image down to the t but also proves to be able to cover the (for the character) uncharacteristically wide emotional range. The film as such is certainly less spectacle oriented than most other entries, boasts fewer lush exotic locations, and actually shows Bond doing more investigating and even some undercover work - that said, the action scenes are still mighty exciting and very well put together. Also Bond in love was a new concept, and Diana Rigg, fresh from her success as Emma Peel in TV's The Avengers, sure proves to be more than just a damsel in distress, fending for herself and saving Bond's life a couple of times. And to round it out, this is the only James Bond film with an utterly sad ending.

 

Now despite all the nay-sayers, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has done very good business back in the day and has since been (rightly) been rediscovered as one of the more interesting films of the series, and really provides some very good entertainment.

 

As for why George Lazenby didn't return as James Bond? Of course nay-sayers always claim that he got fired for one reason or another, but a more credible theory is that he just didn't want to, seeing the James Bond series as a whole as not terribly timely anymore in the wake of the success of anti-establishment movies like Easy Rider. And while this assumption has been proven dead wrong in hindsight, from 1969's point of view it at least makes a lot of sense.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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