On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Review

OHMSS

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, otherwise known as “the George Lazenby one”, is an odd film. I’ve properly watched this three times now, once on VHS, once on DVD and now once on Blu-ray, and I think I’ve had a different opinion each time. I thought it was boring, thought it was a good spy story with a great ending, and now I’m somewhere in between the two, though leaning towards boring. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look!

Synopsis:

James Bond is still chasing after Blofeld and SPECTRE, but MI6 is having second thoughts about continuing the now cold case. Meanwhile, 007 stops a women from drowning on a beach, an act that sends him down a road he never thought he’d go down…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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New Bond, new Blofeld, same haircuts!

James Bond (George Lazenby) – MI6 agent identified as 007, Bond is chasing down the shadowy organisation known as SPECTRE and their leader Blofeld… and still sleeping around with lots of women and gambling, but hey-ho… no-one said he was a nice guy all the time.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) – Blofeld has gone back into hiding after his volcano base was buggered up by Bond. He now plans to create female sleeper agents via hypnotism at his resort in the Swiss Alps… Hey, it’s at least a bit more sane of a plan…

Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) – The daughter of the boss of the Union Corse crime syndicate. She can have anything she wants, which had lead her to want nothing. She is on the verge of suicide when she encounters a British agent on the beach…

Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) – A tough old henchwoman of Blofeld’s, she looks after the women who are being hypnotised, but is also able to defend herself if necessary…

Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) – The head of the Union Corse crime syndicate, he wants nothing more than his daughter’s happiness, even going as far as to try and pay men millions if they make her happy…

Q (Desmond Llewelyn) – The Quatermaster of MI6, giving Bond all his gadgets… although he doesn’t really do that in this film. Still, I like putting him in the characters bit because he’s such a Bond classic…

Plus many more!

The Good:

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Such a tearjerker of an ending…

I think the main thing that sticks out about this film that should be praised is how it humanises Bond. Sure, he still has various punch ups and crazy chases, but he also falls in love with Tracy and eventually gets married! James Bond decides to settle down… admittedly after he starting seeing her he slept with several women at Blofeld’s Institute, so I can’t see the marriage going well, but still! Then we get that horrible, bittersweet ending… The two are driving off in the “just married” car and Blofeld and Irma machine gun the car and Tracy is killed. Bond just holds her and says “It’s all right. It’s quite all right, really. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry you see, we have all the time in the world.” It’s a properly sad ending, and it’s a damn shame there was never any real follow up on it, for various reasons (Lazenby and Savalas not continuing on with the roles of Bond and Blofeld, and Ilse Steppat’s sudden death just days after the film came out all made it hard to there to be any actual satisfying revenge plot in the next film…)

There are some good punch ups, speaking of them, even if they do seem to suffer from over-Foley-ing (in other words, really loud and unrealistic sound effects when punching etc). There is also an extended skiing chase sequence, which is weird and fun, including explosions, a fight at the edge of a cliff and an avalanche. I also liked the when MI6 stopped being helpful Bond turned to his new soon-to-be in-laws to provide the muscle to save Tracy (and the world) from Blofeld and his schemes… though I could have done without Draco punching his own daughter out to get her on the helicopter… I’m pretty sure his men could have overpowered her and forced her onboard…

I think I kind of like Bond and Blofeld’s final fight, which ends with a punch up on a fast-travelling bobsled of all things. It’s so weird it might just be wonderful.

The Bad:

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Bond, surrounded by beautiful women, having to be as boring as possible… which must have come naturally to Mr. Lazenby!

There is no getting around the fact that while he looks the part, George Lazenby does show is lack of experience in acting. He’s very wooden, and scenes where he has to be funny or charming often come across as … well, wooden, again (I need a thesaurus…) He’s damn good in the final scene, however. I’ll give him that.

There is undoubtedly a lot of slower scenes, especially when Bond is undercover in Blofeld’s place and sleeping about trying to find answers. The phrase “ground to a halt” can be applied during this. Even the opening hour, where Bond meets Tracy and tangles with her father’s men until settling down with her, takes a long time, making the scenes where finally gets his mission to be met with a sigh of relief …“at last!”.

Speaking of Blofeld’s plot… the hell? He takes in beautiful women from all over the world under the guise of helping them with phobias and allergies but instead hypnotises them to break open a viral vial to contaminate and ultimately sterilise the world’s food supply… I’m sure there’s an easier way of doing this. Blofeld personally does the hypnotising as well, with multiple cassette players and a microphone… again, if you’ve really committed to this plan then I’m sure you can afford to get someone else to record them… I guess he has trust issues!

It also kind of annoys me the length they go to try and act like this is the same continuity as the Connery Bond films, with clips of previous films in the opening and props from the previous films (complete with old music cues playing in the background) being in Bond’s case when he’s looking through it early on. Unnecessary and amusingly the fact that Blofeld doesn’t recognise Bond when he’s undercover and interacting with him directly makes this not fit into any continuity anyway! They go out of there way to tie this in with previous films, then make a gigantic error that makes this unable to fit in with them… unless you subscribe to the “James Bond is the name given to 007 agents and it’s all one long continuity” theory, in which case I guess he was looking into a case left behind by his predecessor? Who then had to come out of retirement when this Bond, I don’t know, quit permanently due to grief? … Whatever, I’m not going down that road…

Overall Thoughts:

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Blofeld feeling the need for a bald cap…? What? Protecting him from the elements? Oh. Well, that’s not that funny then.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a strange one. It’s a closer adaptation to the book, if that interests you (personally it doesn’t) and I like some of the big action set pieces and the more human aspects of Bond, plus the ending is fantastic. That being said, so much of it is pretty slow and boring, and the lead actor himself is often not very interesting to watch on screen, which is a problem when he’s supposed to be James Bond! I guess this falls in the middle of the scale, it’s not the worse, it’s not the best, it’s just a mix of both. Average.

3 Star Watch

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