“This never happened to that other fellow!”
The Bond: George Lazenby
The Villain: Blofeld
The Henchmen: Irma Bunt, Grunther, and Braun.
The Bond Girls: Tracy Bond (yup,) Nancy, and Ruby
The Plan: Take over the world using biological warfare yada yada yada.
The Gadget/Car: Radioactive lint and a safecracker. “…not exactly Christmas.”
The Song: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” by John Barry and additionally, “We Have All The Time In The World” by Louis Armstrong.
*This review contains a spoiler that most people probably know about but I’m gonna go ahead and warn ya so ya don’t get your panties in a twist*
With a fresh James Bond actor at the wheel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS) was released in 1969. George Lazenby, a model with no acting experience was chosen for the role after future Bonds Timothy Dalton (who felt he was too young) and Roger Moore (due mostly to his commitment to the TV series “The Saint”) declined. What the first James Bond without Connery brings us is a thrilling adventure with our friend Blofeld, chicken allergies, skiing henchmen, and 007 retiring! Wait, what?
OHMSS is a different movie that has a different reaction by different fans of the series. Some hate Lazenby’s interpretation of the character while some don’t like the lack of gadgets. Personally I think it’s one of the best of the series and while Lazenby isn’t my favorite Bond, I like his portrayal and evidently it’s faithful to the books. He never got a real shot however and decided not to return despite being offered a seven picture deal because his agent told him it wasn’t a lucrative career choice…and we all know how well that worked out with Bond 24 in the works as we speak. After being so used to Connery, it is a little strange seeing someone else in the role and it does take a little while to get used to him as Bond and it isn’t helped, although it was funny, by Lazenby breaking the fourth-wall and saying directly into the camera that “This never happened to that other fellow!” just before the opening titles. I gotta admit, it was quite odd not seeing James Bond physically abuse a woman for once.
In this outing we begin as Bond saves a mysterious woman from committing suicide and later learns that she’s the daughter of a powerful crime boss Marc-Ange Draco. He offers his daughter Tracy’s hand in marriage and Bond agrees when Draco agrees to help him find Blofeld. The bald bad guy is eventually traced to Piz Gloria, a clinical allergy research facility on top of the Swiss Alps. He plans on using the conveniently beautiful and brainwashed women there to spread a virus throughout the world on command. A little far fetched, by fun nonetheless.
Blofeld is our bad guy again, this time played by Telly Savalas and even though the hero and him came face to face in You Only Live Twice, he fails to see through Bond’s weak disguise and recognize him. I think that Savalas’ portrayal is a step down from Pleasence’s but I do like this movie more than I liked You Only Live Twice and this portrayal fits in well with the rest of the movie.
Our Bond girl this time is one of the most interesting and best ladies in the films. Dianna of The Avengers TV series fame portrays a sad Tracy di Vicenzo. She’s unique in that she manages to make Bond fall in love with her despite the marriage arrangement being purely for Bond’s gain. She brings out a different side of Bond that we haven’t seen before: a vulnerable and emotional Bond.
The majority of the film takes place in the Swiss Alps at the facility and the cinematographer just ate up all the mountains and snow that he could. it’s a truly beautiful film and the level of care taken to show the glory of the Swiss Alps is astounding. The skiing scenes are beautifully shot and has some really great visual effects work done to help make the (real!) avalanche look more dangerous than it already was.
While OHMSS is great, it does have a drastic shortcoming: it has a terrible ending in my opinion. During their arranged courtship, Bond falls in love with Tracy and seriously asks her to marry him for real. At the close of the movie with the baddies all beaten (or were they?) and the world yet again saved, they have a wedding and Bond retires from the service. (I guess you could say he was…Off Her Majetsy’s Secret Service? Eh? Eh? No? Fine.) As they drive off to start the rest of their lives together, they’re ambushed by Blofeld in a drive-by shooting that results in Tracy’s death! Imagine that. He just got married and now his wife is dead…not just dead but killed by his nemesis! What’s worse is instead of a sad song or something for the closing credits we get the James Bond theme. It really kills the entire mood. All of this would have been fine I guess but the next movie makes no mention of it. There are subtle references to Bond being married in future movies but other than a very brief look at her gravestone in For Your Eyes Only in 1981. Obviously the film makers weren’t stupid and did plan to do something with this story-line but apparently chose to abandon it for one reason or another. I know it sounds silly to have such a strong opinion about this movie based on its ending, but I felt it was very damaging. It’s a cliffhanger that never gets solved. It’s frustrating.
All in all though OHMSS is a great addition and easily secures its spot at the top. The music, especially Louis Armstrong’s song, is fantastic, the location is beautiful, and we get a different and fresh take on 007.
Justin Davis will return…to review: Diamonds Are Forever!