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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

May 8th, 2007 · 1 Comment

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While driving leisurely through Portugal, James Bond (George Lazenby) comes across a woman drowning herself in the surf. He rescues her, and is attacked by two thugs. He fights them off, but the mystery woman disappears. Bond later recognizes her at a hotel casino. She is Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) and after an evening of frolicking – and another fistfight with a thug – she vanishes on him again.

Bond is taken before a construction magnate and gangster named Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti). In a long exposition, Draco reveals that he is Tracy’s father, and that what his wild daughter needs is a man to dominate her and make her love him. Bond doesn’t feel he’s the ideal candidate for this position, but Draco insinuates that he may know the location of criminal mastermind Ernst Blofeld.

Returning to London, Bond’s superior M (Bernard Lee) tells him that after two years of hunting for Blofeld, he’s calling the operation off. Bond resigns in disgust, but with the intervention of Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), he’s given a two-month leave of absence instead. Bond returns to Portugal, and accepts Draco’s offer. Quickly and unexpectedly, he finds himself falling in love with Tracy.

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Learning that Blofled has employed the College of Arms to establish claims of a royal title, Bond impersonates a genealogist and gains access to a mysterious mountain facility in the Swiss Alps. There, he discovers that Blofeld (Telly Savalas) is conducting allergy research. With the assistance of a dozen attractive female test subjects, Blofeld has hatched a biological plot to threaten the world’s agriculture.

After immortalizing Ian Fleming’s super spy in five hugely successful films, Sean Connery had grown tired of playing James Bond, particularly the constant media attention surrounding the character. Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli initially considered casting Roger Moore – who was busy doing the TV series The Saint – and Timothy Dalton, who at age 23, felt he was too young to take Connery’s part.

Instead, an Australian model named George Lazenby – who had never played lead in a film before – was selected to assume the role of 007. During production, Lazenby’s manager convinced the actor that Bond was out of touch with the liberated ’60s, and by the time the film was released, Lazenby announced he would not return. The movie turned out to be a hit, and the studio lured Connery back for one more turn in Diamonds Are Forever.

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Despite Lazenby’s notoriety as a one-hit wonder, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is noted for being one of the most faithful adaptations of Ian Fleming’s books. Director Peter Hunt and screenwriter Richard Maibaum closely adhered to the story Fleming laid out in his 1963 novel. There are no gadgets, and the twist that 007 falls in love and gets married have prompted some to suggest that if Connery had appeared, this would have been the best Bond film of all.

Relative to the spy movies of the day, this one isn’t bad. The film looks fantastic. The lighting, editing, and the second unit action directed by John Glen are all top notch. Diana Rigg – taking a role Brigitte Bardot turned down – is fun to watch, and the portions of the film set in Switzerland had a certain ambiance that I liked. There’s no title song, but Louis Armstrong provided vocals for a good love theme, “All The Time In The World.”

That said, Lazenby is stiff and uncharismatic as 007. Rigg more or less plays a trophy bride, and the speed at which Bond “falls in love” with her is unbelievable, almost as unbelievable as Blofeld’s plot to take over the world. All that may have worked in the early ’60s, but can’t help but be laughable today. The pace of the 144-minute film could be considered “leisurely” by some, but I found much of it boring. I think this for Ian Fleming purists only.

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Tags: Based on novel · Femme fatale · Hitman · Sequel · Shootout · Train · Woman in jeopardy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Becca // May 13, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    For Ian Fleming purists only!

    This is one of my favorite Bond films; I really liked Lazenby and I think he gets a bad rap. Diana Rigg is also wonderful, I always enjoy her acting she has a puckish nobelity that shines thru in all of her performances and especially here.

    Aside from the acting there is also one of Bond’s most important emotional archs; he allows himself to fall in love, a vaunerability that causes him alot of grief and it’s that pain that brings him back to the shallow womanizing he thought he had given up.

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy the movie! And since we are talking about Bond, if you haven’t seen it already, skip Diamonds Are Forever! Such a waste of Sean Connery’s return!

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