On Her Majesty's Secret Service Reviews
OHMSS was the first in the franchise to attempt the depiction of a more-vulnerable James Bond and this movie also breaks one of the franchises biggest cliches at this point...James Bond gets married to the Bond girl!
This movie has a lot of good things going for it. The cast is very well-rounded. Diana Rigg plays Tracy, daughter of a mobster and the woman that Bond falls in love with, and she is fantastic. Equally fantastic is Telly Savalas, who replaces Donald Plleasence as Bond's arch nemesis Blofeld. I think Savalas is my personal favorite actor to play Blofeld because he feels more like a person that can exist in real life.
The ski-chase action set pieces are also a joy to watch and first-time director Peter R. Hunt does a pretty decent job, at times giving the proceedings a very 60's trippy vibe.
Not only that, but John Barry offers some of his best music compositions for this entry.
It's just a shame about Lazenby though. Lazenby's lack of acting experience really sticks out like a sore thumb and in a way, perfectly demonstrates the fact that playing 007 is not as easy of a feat as one might expect. Despite having a decent chemistry with Rigg, Lazenby's performance just left me cold due to his lack of one-screen presence and it doesn't help that most of his dialogue was awkwardly dubbed in post-production due to his heavy Australian accent. The only time Lazenby displays any sincere acting chops is in the film's heart-breaking ending.
Despite Hunt showcasing decent prowess for a first-time director, his weakness lies in filming hand-to-hand fight sequences because the editing gets so choppy and the bizarre camera angles really brings unintentional comedy to some fights scenes. Also this movie was just way too long for me and could have used a better editor at the helm because I found myself bored a few too many times, especially during the drawn-out second act in which James Bond is undercover in Blofeld's lair.
In the end, a part of me deeply admires how much this film attempted to shake things up with the franchise but in the end it's unique elements never end up combining into a satisfying whole.
The film also apparently sticks really close to the novel, and strives for a sense of greater realism, with little to no gadgets being used, as well as greater focus on a strong plot as well as wonderful character development, with Bond legitimately falling in love.
What makes this film notable is that is marks George Lazenby's sole outing as Bond. Here's the deal: he's not THAT bad. He's mostly just a little stiff, underwhelming, and a tad bland. It also doesn't help that he didn't seem to have his heart in it, and that he mimics Connery too often, somethiong future Bonds pretty well avoided. Had he stayed on for more films, I think that Lazenby could have been a pretty decent Bond and made it his own. As it stands he's just so-so. Fortunately though, his presence is really the only major issue with this film. Granted that's no small thing, but still. I will give him some credit and say that he does good with the action elements and does manage to pull off the final scene nicely, which would be a challenge for anyone, not just him.
I loved the cinematography, enjoyed the fact that they tried to do some different things this time around, including having the touching love story and the ballsy final scene. The love plot is well done and believable, and the plot doesn't seem all that silly or outlandish. Also, the action's pretty well done, and the bulk of the third act is filled with several chase scenes, fights, and shootouts. The music is probably the real highlight though, and John Barry once again puts in some terrific work, especially with the main title theme. Louis Armstrong's performance of "We Have All the Time in thew World" isn't too bad either.
I do have some minor gripes, but unlike Lazenby, they aren't quite as big an issue. Those are the sometimes choppy editing (mostly during close up fights), the occasional speeding up of the film (noticeable during some fights) which comes off as a bit silly and distracting, and the fact that the end credits shoulsd have either featured somber music or none at all. As is, the Bond Theme, no matter how classic, is jarring compared to the emotional impact of what preceds it.
Overall ,I think this is a wonderful film that deserves more attention, and that Lazenby deserves a bit of a break. I do think that the film would be less maligned had Connery done it, but I don't know if the love story and the ending would have worked as well as they do. His Bond was more superhuman, whereas Lazenby's is a bit more human amd vulnerable. You should give it a chance, because it is quite well done and does a lot of great things. It would be better had Lazenby had more time to make the role his own. I will say that you should probably pass on this if you don't like the idea of Bond growing and changing by falling in love instead of being just a suave ladies man. The film is one of the longest in the series, so yeah, if you can't get into the many scenes where the film takes a break to let the plot and characters develop gradually, then again, give it a pass, otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy one of the strongest entries in the series.
Wasn?t blown away by the storyline and of course it quite evidently missed out on the presence of Sean Connary. George Lazenby, didn?t really come across as a suitable replacement at all, perhaps that shows why he only did one film as James Bond.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is Lazenby's only Bond film, sandwiched in between two Connery films (You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever). It's main plot is that a gangster (Gabrielle Ferzetti) is willing to pay Bond one million pounds to wed his indulgent daughter. The film follows their budding relationship while Bond investigates Blofeld's (Tell Savalas) allergy clinic and what it's a cover for.
While interesting the story is a little lackluster with the entire "Marry my daughter" storyline feeling a little pushed. The cast is adequate, though being a child that remembers Kojak it's a bit difficult for me to see Telly Savalas as Blofeld. The film ends up being an average Bond/espionage film that delivers on action (Lazenby is probably the biggest ass kicker out of all the Bonds). Even with Connery I don't think OHMSS would have been better than Goldfinger or From Russia With Love.
Which brings us to Lazenby because any review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service is essentially a review of Lazenby as Bond. Is he better or worse than Connery? The answer is he's different. Just like Roger Moore was different. And Timothy Dalton. And Pierce Brosnan. And Daniel Craig. And Barry Nelson. And David Niven. Bonds are like General Motors. Yeah, there's a bunch of different styles and makes, but they're all built essentially on the same frame. The character is the frame. The actor is the one who fills it out.
If Sergio Leone, maker of those gritty '60s spaghetti westerns, had ever made a 007 film, it would look like OHMMS. (That's a compliment.)
The sixth installment in the James Bond film franchise is the most experimental of the lot. It's cinematography, with an abundance of close-ups and quasi-surreal quick-cut editing, makes it a uniquely visual movie. It even has a built-in music video for the song "(We Have) All The Time In The World" sung by the great Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong.
The producers' most obvious experiment was casting. This is the first 007 film without Sean Connery. The coveted role went to George Lazenby, a rugged square-jawed Australian who does a very competent and believable job as the secret agent, and does a lot of athletic action never seen done by the older actor he replaced.
Connery announced while making the 1967 film "You Only Live Twice", that he was walking away from the character that made him world-famous. Hoping to do Oscar-worthy roles with far less pop culture publicity, he swore to hang up his tuxedo and never do another 007 film. His loss. OHMSS is a great script.
Connery messed up by not doing OHMSS for it doesn't have the exaggerated super-hero space-race gadgetry that he's known to have despised about some of the previous Bond movies.
OHMSS is a rough & tough thinking-man's espionage thriller with a lot of heart.
But the film, and Lazenby, first in a long line of other Bond actors, arrived with mixed reviews.
The movie-going public of 1969 were not so pleased that Connery was gone. Plus the film's running time (2 1/2 hours) scared many people away from the theaters.
A Christmas holiday winter theme in its third act, and having a real love story develop and unfold throughout the whole thing, were elements foreign to the established 007 style people expected. It isn't a Bahamas summer beachparty bikini/scuba type of film. Far from it.
It's Autumn...It's Winter...It's Cold. The One Romance Noir, and The One Dark Drama, of the whole 007 canon.
Oh, it has humor, enthralling chase sequences, and a great music score, and those familiar faces of M, Q and Miss Moneypenny, but it has a grim underbelly to its epic-sized bastion of cloak & dagger pursuits.
Only in hindsight, as time has passed, has OHMSS received the appreciation it deserves.
Lazenby, unfortunately no second outing as 007, did a job well done for Her Majesty's Secret Service, and he can take pride in doing an original Fleming story, and not a spy-composite new script like the Bond films since 1985.
The OHMSS script was a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming's 1963 book, a book Fleming wrote, incidentally, at a time when he already knew what a fan that President Kennedy was of the Bond books/films.
Had Fleming, who died in 1964, lived to see OHMSS, he might've been very happy with the resulting film. No matter who played Bond.
Of course, it wouldn't be a true 007 film without sexy girls. And decorated with a bevy of beauties, they are relevant to the plot:
Young female patients in a high-security Swiss Alps allergy clinic are being brainwashed. They're becoming naive pawns who'll secretly traffic pocket-sized WMDs into their homelands.
It's a biological warfare scheme orchestrated by the sinister evil genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Bond, undercover and unarmed (no Q gadgets either), infiltrates the mountaintop complex by invitation. Masquerading as a geek-like geneologist, Bond is intent on capturing Blofeld after a two-year search for the elusive criminal mastermind.
Telly Savalas (as Blofeld) is a dry macho villain, a sharp contrast to the effeminate squeaky-voiced Blofeld of the previous Bond film.
Personally this is one of my favorite films out of the James Bond film series. A series that for me is more miss than hit.
The direction moved the film at an even pace. The action set pieces were impressive and Diana Rigg was hot. Telly Savalas was excellent as Blofield, he gave the character a suave touch. But you call tell that underneath his mack daddy act he was all business, and violent business indeed.
Everything about this movie had a cool aura to it. The stunt scenes were amazing (for it's era) and the cinematography was beautifully shot. I had one bone to pick with the film. The in jokes got a bit heavy handed. Other than that it's a fun film. Too bad George Lazenby was demoted to B-Movie hell after this flick (at least he got a three picture deal with Golden Harvest where he made three classic action films).
I have to give this movie a high recommendation. If you love the James Bond series you'll enjoy this one.