Written by Ian Fleming, Richard Maibaum, and Simon Raven
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Now it doesn’t seem much of a big deal that various actors have taken on the role of super-spy James Bond. However, no one was really sure how an actor other than Sean Connery would be received in the role. George Lazenby went to great extents to be cast in the role, and while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service might be the best story in the Bond franchise, the general consensus is that it would have been much better had another actor been in the lead role.
George Lazenby takes over the role of James Bond in this sixth film based on Ian Fleming’s character. There’s a pre-credit action sequence that has the super-spy rescuing Tracy DiVicenzo (portrayed by Diana Rigg) essentially from herself and almost getting himself killed in the process. At one point, he turns to the camera and states “this never happened to the other fellow.”
If that’s supposed to let the viewer know that everything has changed, it does.
Bond then checks into a luxurious casino-hotel and meets up with Tracy again. He goes to her suite believing they are about to have a tryst when he is attacked again. Tracy is waiting back in his suite, and their conversation gives us some hint that Tracy is a troubled woman. Her father has Bond brought to him. Publicly, Marc Ange Draco (portrayed by Gabriele Ferzetti) is a construction magnate. In actuality, he is also a ruthless crime boss.
As if that’s not enough, M (portrayed by Bernard Lee) is distressed over the fact that Bond has not yet captured Ernesto Stavros Blofeld (portrayed by Telly Savalas). Blofeld is Bond’s arch-enemy of sorts and the head of SPECTRE. M removes Bond from this assignment. Upset by M’s attitude, Bond hands in his resignation and proceeds to clean out his desk containing a wide variety of spy gadgets. Miss Moneypenny, however, changed his request to two weeks off rather than a resignation and that is granted.
At a birthday party for Draco, Tracy learns of the deal her father has cut with Bond in exchange for information on Blofeld. She demands her father give Bond the information, no strings attached. This casts Tracy in a new light in Bond’s eyes, and their romance truly begins.
With the information from Draco, Bond manages to track Blofeld to a mountaintop hideaway in Switzerland. He infiltrates the alleged allergy clinic and learns it’s actually a guise for Blofeld’s germ warfare development. Eventually, Tracy meets up with him and more than holds her own alongside her lover. They do seem a completely compatible team. However, the enemy must be defeated before their relationship can be addressed, and Blofeld seems to have a knack for resurfacing even once it seems he is defeated.
There were more than a few problems I had with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. First of all, there were problems with Bond’s character. Where he has usually been suave and so sophisticated here he comes off almost as a bully at times. At one point the slaps Tracy, which was shocking to me. In this day and age, seeing James Bond slap a woman is off-putting. When Bond is at Blofeld’s lair, he is surrounded by beautiful women, arranging to sleep with up to three women in a night. While there might be some vindication in this being his undoing, it’s hard to believe that he has such deep feelings for Tracy when he’s sliding into bed with all these women when she’s not around.
Then there’s George Lazenby. Part of the problem for me is that George Lazenby is not an actor I know immediately upon sight. On more than one occasion throughout the film, I was confused as to what was going on simply because I had the characters so confused. Having a recognizable face like Sean Connery in the role would have worked better in this regard for me, or any of the other Bond actors who are more familiar. I would venture a guess that this might be a problem for others who watch this movie as most of the other actors who have portrayed Bond are familiar to them.
Diana Rigg is excellent. In the first few scenes she was in, I wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel about her, but she grew on me as her character grew through the movie. In the beginning, she seems to be a wilting violet in need of protection. As time goes on her character seems to strengthen until she proves to be more than a match for Bond.
Savalas is a good villain, although my prejudices from remembering him as Kojak sometimes make it hard for me to totally buy him as Blofeld.
Traveling to snow country instead of a tropical island would seem to minimize the sex appeal, but it’s actually handled quite well and I liked the scenery and cinematography quite a bit. The ski chase scene is great, but there are more than a few shots where it was definitely done in daylight and tries to look like it’s nighttime. In fact, the majority of the scenes in the chase look this way. It would have been better to make it just at dawn or as the sun was setting – at least it would have been more convincing. While the music is generally great as usual, with the way the film ends, playing the James Bond theme music afterward doesn’t really fit.
So would I recommend On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Yes, because the story here is a deeply personal one for Bond. It gives a lot of information about his character going forward and fills in moments that are deeply personal which turn up later on. It explains why Bond will never let his guard down and have someone in his life. Though Lazenby was wrong for the role, Rigg makes up a lot to hold the story together. Fans of the series need to watch it for continuity, and although there are many negatives, it still isn’t a horrible film.
• Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
• Inside Q’s Lab – The Gadgets of 007
• Audio Commentary with Director Peter Hunt and members of the Cast and Crew
• Above It All
• Release Trailer
• Television Spots
• Radio Spots & Open-Ended Interviews
• The On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Gallery
Previous movie in the series (link): You Only Live Twice
Next movie in series (link): Diamonds Are Forever