Bonding with Bond, Day 7: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Community Manager Ryan Fujitani is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

Today I talk about On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the first Bond film not to feature Sean Connery, and therefore a love-it-or-hate-it entry in the canon.


On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Because I wasn't alive at the time On Her Majesty's Secret Service opened in theaters, I can only imagine how audiences would have reacted to the replacement of Sean Connery by George Lazenby as Bond. Matt, my dutiful editor-in-chief, told me it would have been something like replacing Harrison Ford with another actor, any actor, as Indiana Jones, and continuing the franchise. In other words, Lazenby had his work cut out for him. As you read the following, be forewarned once again that spoilers will abound.

For what it's worth, I thought Lazenby to be an acceptable Bond, if different from Connery. By stature alone, he is leaner, less bear-like than Connery, and in demeanor he seems to personify a slicker Bond, full of witty quips at every turn and perhaps more romantic. The cockiness is still there, but he doesn't really muscle his way into the pants of his leading ladies so much as he subtly charms his way into them. What's more, he actually weds his Bond girl, Tracy di Vicenzo, in a bona fide marriage (as opposed to his faux marriage to Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice) and even proclaims his genuine love for her, something Bond had yet to do with any of his women thus far. This was not something I was ever expecting to see, given the nature of Connery's Bond, who probably also wouldn't have been caught dead engaging in a romantic montage set to Louis Armstrong.

Lazenby's athleticism also struck me right away. It appeared that Lazenby performed many of his own stunts (i.e. the cable car machine room scene), which was nice to see. The opening fight on the beach and the hotel room fracas shortly thereafter both felt grittier, more raw than any of the fistfights I'd seen up to that point. So I wasn't surprised when I did a little research and discovered Lazenby himself was an accomplished martial artist who actually studied under (and was a friend to) Bruce Lee, of all people. I think this helped tremendously in lending the action sequences a bit more oomph, so to speak.

A couple of problems I had with the movie: Before the audience is introduced to the main plot of the movie, the story focuses on Tracy di Vicenzo's father, crime boss Marc Ange Draco, and his desire to tame the free spirit of his daughter. He takes a break from his normal thuggery to enlist the help of Bond, asking him to "dominate her, to make love to her enough to make her love him," in exchange for some info leading to Blofeld. If that's not bizarre enough, Bond actually befriends the man, asks him for help to defeat Blofeld, then marries his daughter. Let's keep in mind that Draco is head of the second biggest crime syndicate in Europe behind SPECTRE, but there he is, smiling and well-wishing at Bond's wedding right alongside M, Q, and Moneypenny.

Speaking of SPECTRE, Blofeld is back, as promised, but he too has been replaced by another actor, namely Telly Savalas. Yes, Kojak. Furthermore, he no longer sports the hideous facial scar he proudly displayed in You Only Live Twice. But perhaps the most insulting aspect of this change is that, when Bond infiltrates Blofeld's headquarters posing as a genealogist, Blofeld doesn't recognize him at all. So... the guy who invaded your Japanese base, who you had at gunpoint before getting a ninja star through the forearm, who has been singlehandedly ruining every one of your plans for world domination, is suddenly an unfamiliar face? I suppose it's possible in a world where Sean Connery can pass for a Japanese man simply by getting a haircut, but I think it probably would have been easier if they had just hired the "Continuity" guy again.

Despite these flaws, I thought On Her Majesty's Secret Service was pretty solid. I actually forgot soon enough that Lazenby was, in fact, "not Connery," and I became comfortable with him in the role. Aside from a few funny moments attributable to dated production quality, the movie was another serious entry, and that was just fine by me. Thankfully, this also wasn't the last appearance of Blofeld, as he does escape, so Connery may get his man after all. I suppose I'll find out when I watch Diamonds Are Forever tonight.

My favorite line: "I have taught you to love chickens." -- A recording of Blofeld's voice, which is played via loudspeaker to brainwash a Meg Ryan lookalike as she sleeps.

My favorite moment: Late in the movie, as Bond is making an escape on skis, he tosses a baddie in pursuit over the edge of an immense cliff. We get to see him fall all the way to the bottom, a journey that lasts for 15 glorious seconds.

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Comments

martinscorsese25

christopher cantos

i have to say i admire this film for going to the drama teritory(particularly the ending)... if connery played bond in this movie, then we may have had another classic like From Russia... But something is really wrong when Connery isnt bond(except Craig)... I mean Lazenby didnt even try to separate his bond from Connery... Pierce Brosnan did better than him... if Connery did this movie then the top 5 bond films for me, in no particular order, would have been (From Russia with Love, Casino Royale, Goldfinger, ThunderBall, and On her Majesty's Secret Service)

Oct 27 - 06:37 PM

inactive user

Jared King

My Dad dosen't like this one. And it's hard to find movies he dosen't like. But I'm ready to give all Bond movies a chance. Not only that, I don't always agree with him in movies. Good article Mr. Fujitani.

Oct 27 - 06:41 PM

BatsInTheBelfry

Derek Meadors

Great movie. One of the 5 best Bonds, in my opinion. The ending is so heart breaking, especially because "We Have All the Time in the World" is playing during the end credits.

Be prepared though, not only will Blofeld be played by yet another actor in the next one, but the films will also take a turn for the silly factor in Diamonds and get continuously sillier until the Dalton movies.

Oct 27 - 06:48 PM

Boyo

Raymond Hopkin

Hey Ryan, see if you recognise Blofeld when you watch Diamonds!!

The ski chase is one of my all time favorite movie scenes, and has the greatest music ever put onto an action scene! (Later used in The Incredibles, to great effect!)

Batsinthebelfry - couldn't agree more, really heartbreaking. I think the reason people disliked this movie so much is because Bond shows his softer side - something that ruins it for those men who watched the Connery Bonds and wanted to be Bond!

Oct 27 - 07:31 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Oh yeah, that was awesome when the teaser for The Incredibles used the song, which btw is the best teaser ever.

Oct 27 - 07:34 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

I absolutely love this film except for one line from Lazenby which has angered legions of Bond fans: "This never happened to the other fella." Some have interpreted that line to mean that James Bond is actually just an alias that is assumed by the top 00 agent, which implies that Lazenby's Bond is a different character altogether from Connery's. Clearly though, the studio wanted continuity judging by the flashbacks during the opening credits and when Bond is picking up treasured items at his office so that is why that line has been denounced.

Otherwise, OHMSS is an excellent film. The action scenes, especially the ski chases, were awesome. Diana Rigg gave by far the greatest performance from a Bond girl, and her character has a surprising amount of depth. Telly Savalas was the best of the Blofelds. And Lazenby added a new emotional dimension to the character than I'm not sure Connery could have pulled off, although I can't deny my curiosity to see what could've been.

This is only one of two Bond films that I own the soundtrack to, and it is a great one from John Barry. It contains the greatest title song of the franchise, which appropriately is instrumental-only. I am even a fan of the Louis Armstrong song, which is played to heartbreaking effect at the end of the film.

But be prepared for a major shift in tone with Diamonds are Forever.

Oct 27 - 07:32 PM

Ryan K.

rkbond Last

I believe I've read somewhere that an earlier version of the script involved Blofeld undergoing plastic surgery, and then Bond also underwent plastic surgery so as not to be recognizable (also goes along with having different actors).

If nothing else...remember that the movies are not made in the same order as the books where written (and stray away from the books as well). I'm sure that if they had planned ahead far enough (knowing how OHMSS would come together), they would not have introduced Bond to Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

Oct 27 - 07:34 PM

jerome s.

jerome santa

hi sorry its kind of late to reply but thank you to point the facts about the books nowadays people critizies movies like this one without realizing they were books before and writen in specific order!!!.

Dec 3 - 09:26 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Oh yeah, that was awesome when the teaser for The Incredibles used the song, which btw is the best teaser ever.

Oct 27 - 07:34 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Glad to see you enjoyed this one; one of my favorites! As for Blofeld and Bond not recognizing eachother, that's because the filmmakers decided to stay true to the book its based on, since that's where the characters actually met for the first time. Ironically, the book version of You Only Live Twice is actually set after the book for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, all with Bond going after Blofeld for revenge! Shame they messed that up!

Oct 27 - 07:50 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Actually, at the end of Thunderball, it said "James Bond will return in On Her Majesty's Service", but for some reason the studio chose to do You Only Only Twice instead. This set up a scenario where being faithful to the book meant sacrificing continuity in the franchise so with OHMSS they were screwed either way.

Oct 27 - 07:58 PM

TheDoctor5018

Patrick Clark

First off, as a lifelong bond fanatic, I am thoroughly enjoying living vicariously through your viewing of all the films in consecutive order, Ryan--that is a marathon that I have not gotten to enjoy in many years (I now just rely on the annual television marathons despite having all of them on vhs and dvd, no big deal). I agree with the general sentiment here that this is not only one of the most underrated Bond films but also one of the all-time bests when you are able to overlook the flaws which let's be honest almost all of them have to some degree or another.

Obviously the two biggest have already been mentioned: Blofeld not recognizing Bond and Bond breaking the fourth wall in the opening sequence with that line about the other fella. I just chalk all of these up with the fantasy realm of Bond which has no answer to the question of how has Bond remained the same age from the Cold War to the present? Which is why we all love the gritty new reinvention that is Casino Royale because it resets the whole story and adjusts it to a modern and frankly more believable setting (e.g. no crazy gadgets).

So right, Lazenby. Big fan. Not only was he incredibly proficient in martial arts but he was also an expert skier so yeah he definitely did almost all of his own stunts in the film. AND the guy wore a kilt and that puffy shirt and still rocked it bond style!

Connery
Craig
Brosnan - not his fault that 3 out of 4 scripts of his films were atrocious.
Lazenby
Dalton - also incredibly underrated, especially considering he originally did exactly what Craig is doing now--bringing Bond back to how Fleming wrote him.
Moore - Ugh, don't get me started.

Oct 27 - 07:57 PM

indiefilmfan2

Brandon R

Actually, at the end of Thunderball, it said "James Bond will return in On Her Majesty's Service", but for some reason the studio chose to do You Only Only Twice instead. This set up a scenario where being faithful to the book meant sacrificing continuity in the franchise so with OHMSS they were screwed either way.

Oct 27 - 07:58 PM

TheDoctor5018

Patrick Clark

nice call python, that's what I always figured but then was confused by the scene where Bond is clearing his desk, damn those big shot producers!

Oct 27 - 08:02 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Of course. I notice they reference every previous film, except YOLT. I'm betting that was intentional to avoid the obvious clashing. Of course clips of YOLT made it in the main titles, but any Bond fan would know Maurice Binder always worked very late on main titles on purpose prevent the filmmakers from making him go back and redo them.

Oct 27 - 08:43 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Speaking of Python, it's Mr. John Cleese's birthday. And I assure you this parrot is DEAD! No, no, it's pineing for the fjords!

Oct 27 - 08:11 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Of course. I notice they reference every previous film, except YOLT. I'm betting that was intentional to avoid the obvious clashing. Of course clips of YOLT made it in the main titles, but any Bond fan would know Maurice Binder always worked very late on main titles on purpose prevent the filmmakers from making him go back and redo them.

Oct 27 - 08:43 PM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

WHile not the best Bond movie, I still feel it's one of the most underrated ones of the series. I think, similar to the Dalton ones, this one got easier to watch as the years went by.

Oct 27 - 08:53 PM

rt-ryan

Ryan Fujitani

I wasn't really sure what to make of Bond breaking the fourth wall in the beginning... It was just a little too cheeky to match the rest of the movie, in my opinion, but it almost felt like they threw it in as a way to say "Yeah, we know, this isn't the same guy who's been playing James Bond, but now that that's out of the way, let's get on with it."

I also noticed the allusions to the previous films in the opening credits and the "packing up" sequence in Bond's office. That almost felt as if the producers were saying, "Okay, let's put that old Bond in the past and go in a new direction." A little unnecessary, I thought, but whatever.

I did hear that the movies didn't follow the books very closely, for the most part, but in my opinion, wouldn't that also allow them more freedom to have Blofeld and Bond recognize each other in OHMSS? It was apparently a higher priority to have OHMSS stick closer to the book than it was to maintain continuity in the series. Then again, I don't know if they really intended for there to be any real ongoing storyline in the films, so maybe it was an afterthought.

I'm thinking I should try reading all the books when this is all over, but as it is, I'm enjoying watching the movies with an untainted eye. I feel like I might have been sorely disappointed if I had read all the books first.

Thanks again for all of your insights and encouragements. It's very inspiring to see.

Oct 27 - 09:06 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

More or less, the Connery films were pretty true to the books, in some cases improving flaws that were in the books (Goldfinger nuking gold instead of stealing) or adding characters to stretch out the stories for cinema appeal (the addition of Professor Dent in Dr. No). You Only Live Twice was the first Bond movie to have almost nothing in common with the book version other than the location setting, villain and having Bond trained as a ninja. That's it. On Her Majesty's Secret Service gets back to the books, I like to think of it as more as the successor of Thunderball. Starting with the 70s films, that's when they really start to stray from the source material. It wouldn't be until the 80s that they would try to incorporate the short stories into the films.

Oct 27 - 09:15 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Oh yes, you should check out the books if you ever get more interested in Bond. I was a long time fan before getting into the books, but after reading the Fleming novels I now have new found appreciation for all things Bond. :)

Oct 27 - 09:19 PM

Pranabesh S.

Pranabesh Sinha

Aha!! A very common misconception with regard to OHMSS namely the continuity glitch.
OHMSS is actually a part of a trilogy which starts with Thunderball continues with OHMSS and ends with You only live twice.
Thunderball introduces Blofeld but Bond and he only meet in OHMSS, and after the end of OHMSS Bond goes on an all out revenge on Blofeld in You only live twice. Something similar to what seems to be the agenda of Quantum of Solace.
Why EON botched this fine trilogy is another story.
I guess even Connery would have felt happy to emote a bit as Bond, somethinng that Bond only does in OHMSS.

Oct 27 - 09:44 PM

Trent K.

Trent Keck

Ryan been loving the reviews! The only thing I can say is Bond breaks the freaking *** forth wall, and right as the movie starts. "That never happen to the other fellow". Killed me, hated the hell out of that ,but overall I agree with you, Lazenby is serviceable.

Oct 27 - 09:59 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Lazenby was a weak actor, however given the circumstances of him having no acting career prior to OHMSS, I'm impressed he turned out that well. Imagine being in his shoes, having no acting experience and having to replace Connery as James Bond, which at the time was universally considered sacrilegious. I personally don't know if I could have handled something like that big, I doubt anyone can.

Oct 27 - 10:38 PM

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