MOVIE REVIEW | ***BOND WEEK*** On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty's
“There’s always something formal about the point of a pistol”.

So now I’m three ‘official’ Bond movies in, and even with the first change in the series to its main actor, this is still the same old, same old that I got from Dr. No and Goldfinger. Now, while I don’t get it, I guess that sameness finally makes me realise why this series is so unkillable. Since audiences seemed to like the Connery movies so much, and since changing your lead actor is already a big enough risk, it’s understandable that the producers would try to keep as much as possible the same, and nice and familiar for their audience with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

On a beach in Portugal, James Bond (George Lazenby) saves Tracy (Diana Rigg) from committing suicide by drowning. His association with Tracy leads to Bond being kidnapped by her father Draco (Gabrielel Farzetti), the head of some sort of crime syndicate. A bit if a small fish, Bond uses Draco to get to a much bigger criminal, Telly Savalas as Ernst Blofeld, the leader of Spectre, the group Bond has been up against in several movies before this one.

As seems to be the custom with Bond movies, according to the two Connery outings I’ve seen before this, James Bond spends a fair whack of the movie being held captive by his enemy. Always rather gentlemanly, and always in some cool lair, this is no exception. Once Blofeld’s involuntary house guest is high atop the Swiss Alps, Bond learns of his host’s plan to destroy the world’s agriculture by hypnotising some hotties. Yep, the movie’s plot makes about as much sense as that sentence. Then it’s action packed chases on ski slopes as Bond and Tracy do their best to escape and stop Blofeld’s ludicrous scheme.

As Lazenby’s one and only crack at the James Bond title, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service immediately has an edge of curiosity over the others I’ve seen. The story is by the numbers, derivative and determined to tick every predictable box conceivable, but the fresh air added by the new Bond made it a lot more compelling than Dr. No and Goldfinger.

The stories online seemed pretty mixed about why Lazenby never reprised the role after this. Did he quit because he thought the series was exhausted? Did the producers sack him because he was a pain in the ass to work with? Whatever the reasons, it’s a shame, because in my limited experience with the franchise, George Lazenby brought a great new energy to the character, while still keeping the aloof charm that Connery introduced.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is as corny as I have always expected a James Bond movie to be, although I think I’m in for some new levels of cornball when I get to the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan years. But the difference between the chore of watching Dr No and Goldfinger, compared to the slightly less feeling of hard work that came here, is all George Lazenby and Telly Savalas. Lazenby more than delivers with his take on the character, and what’s not to love about Kojack bob sledding down a mountain. Oh yeah, I probably should have mentioned that earlier. Kojak totally bob sleds down a mountain in this movie.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Directed By – Peter R. Hunt
Written By – Richard Maibaum

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