Friday, February 15, 2013

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

So, where You Only Live Twice let me down since the last time I saw it, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has gone the other direction.  I remember when I was young, we sort of scoffed at it.  Maybe now we’re just used to Bond being played by many different actors.  Anyway around, George Lazenby’s only outing as Bond is a quite enjoyable film, and I think he does a fine job in the role.  What I like in a Bond, he provides.  He’s got the right arrogance, the right confidence, the right physicality.  Is he Sean Connery?  Of course not, but he’s a credible Bond, aided by a solid script, with solid direction, possibly the best John Barry music of the entire series, fabulous scenery, and some of the best action sequences in all of Bond.

And so, yeah, I really like this one nowadays.  I love the Bond/M/Moneypenny dynamic that just gets stronger with each film, regardless of the actor playing Bond.  I can’t say enough for Bernard Lee’s work as M.  He’s the only character who isn’t intimidated or outwardly impressed by Bond.  He is the only one who can take Bond down a peg with a mere look, and yet backs him implicitly when anyone but himself questions Bond.  And in this movie, there’s the great sequence where Bond angrily dictates his resignation memo to Moneypenny, only to have her quietly change it to a leave of absence request before she passes it to M.  Great scene.  Throw in Q, and those four have just about the best “office” relationship ever.  And I love that Bond actually has an office in this film.  With a desk and files and everything.

As opposed to the You Only Live Twice rather sedate Blofeld, Telly Savalas’s version is quite amazing.  This is not a villain who sits back and pets his cat and lets others do his dirty work.  This guy is right in the thick of things!  I mean, when Bond escapes from Piz Gloria?  Sure, he sends his men after him, but that isn’t enough for him.  He jumps on his own skis and pursues – at night, over dangerous terrain with precipices, etc.  He sets off avalanches, he tries to escape Bond at the end in a bobsled!  This is one seriously active Blofeld, and it quite fun.  This is a return to Largo’s style of bad guy, and I love it.  His obsession with his name/title, and his plans with his hypnotized/programmed girls are a bit daft, but I suspect he probably could have pulled it off.

I also really like Draco, Tracy’s father played by Gabriele Ferzetti, who Bond turns to for manpower and tactical support when he can’t get the same officially from M.

And then there’s Tracy, played by Diana Rigg.  She’s beautiful, a bit troubled, strong-willed, and more than holds her own in a fight with one of Blofeld’s bad guys in the end fight.  She really is a good match for Bond.  She’s got the right vulnerability to make him feel needed, but she’s independent enough to stand by him as a partner.  They save each other’s lives in this movie more than once.  I love the scene where she skates up to him, and the camera pans upwards.  Of course, if Bond finds the perfect mate, he’s not going to be allowed to keep her, and I admit I can get teary at the end when Blofeld takes his revenge.  I love Lazenby’s reaction to Tracy's death, and how he sells it.  It works for me.  Add on Louis Armstrong's end title song, "We Have All the Time in the World," and it's a very sad ending.

Favorite parts:  Bond’s angry, violent reaction to British agent Campbell’s death.  That’s the human side of Bond I just love seeing, and that moment is my favorite part of the whole movie.  Of course, I’m also extremely fond of Campbell, (even if Campbell is too impatient and brings his demise upon himself), so Bond’s reaction is my reaction.

Other favorite parts: Cable car!  Bobsled chase!  Amazing ski chases!  The “Escape from Piz Gloria” cue, my favorite John Barry Bond action cue of them all, out of a whole series of great Bond scores.  Bond in a kilt.  The wedding at the end and Tracy’s lovely dress.  Moneypenny’s tears at the wedding, and Bond throwing her his hat.  Draco making up stories on the radio to cover their helicopter approach to Piz Gloria.  The gorgeous mountain scenery.  “This never happened to the other fella.”

Music:  Awesome
Theme song:  Love it – instrumental and works great
Credit sequence:  okay
Bond girl:  I love Tracy, and I also love that I always start out not particularly liking her, and she wins me over every time.
Bad guys:  I always have a bit of a hard time remembering he’s Blofeld and not Telly Savalas.  But he makes up for it for by jumping into things.
Overall personal rating:  4 out of 5 stars


  1. This is a great review of my personal favorite Bond film, and you covered the high points well and with good humor. I'd go so far as to say the direction (by Peter Hunt) is not just solid, but the best of the series. And I couldn't agree with you more about John Barry's music. Just sublime.

    1. It really is a fine movie! Nice to see someone else not only enjoys it, but ranks it as their personal favorite! Very cool.

  2. I have never seen this because my dad couldn't stand Lazenby, so... off to see if the library has this one too! Thanks!