Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret ServiceI would have to say that this is the best DVD of this latest round of release of the Bond films. The extras are certainly substantial and worth having.

My initial reaction to seeing this extraordinary film on its first release was summed up in one indelible question that I kept repeating over and over again to myself. If Sean Connery decided not to appear in a Bond film, why did it have to be this one? This film brought the series to a culmination of emotional fervor. It was the first film to address James Bond, the man. It seemed to have been made for Connery. This is the one we had been waiting for. I thought it was an excellent film, but Connery wasn't in it. Yet, I also could not get the image of George Lazenby out of my head. He looked the part and there was something very unique about his facial features. Many critics said his performance was bland. Even if they were right Lazenby still possessed the physique and physical attributes that really fit the part and again his unique looks just added to the wordily and masculine aura he exuded. I went to see the film three more times. I really liked it. I missed Connery, but I still couldn't get the screen image of Lazenby out of my head. I did some real self-analysis of this film over the next two years. I started to read the Fleming books. To my amazement they were very dry yet very interesting and appealing at the same time. Fleming single-handedly drew the reader into the world of James Bond whereas the filmmakers achieved the same result in a collective effort of talents. When I read "Dr. No" and "Thunderball" I visualized Sean Connery or someone vaguely familiar to him yet not with his sardonic humor. When I read "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" I could visualize no one other than George Lazenby. As it turned out ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is the one film closest to any Fleming novel of the same name. I began to see the merits of Lazenby. The filmmakers had gone out of their way to make this the epic Bond film. The introduction of Lazenby as Bond was a well thought out and well crafted piece of pure cinema. There is no dialogue and only the strains of the James Bond Theme in another innovative interpretation by John Barry are heard. Less dialogue is better. Let the images tell the story. In the case of George Lazenby that's what worked best for him. Early on in the film he is having a bad night at the tables and you can see the disgust on his face as he deals out another loosing hand. He breaks into Gumpolt's office and penetrates his safe with assuredness and conviction while under the clock. This well directed scene is nerve racking and suspenseful again played without dialogue. The editing, music and Lazenby's presence make this another tour de force of pure cinema. It wasn't until the release of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER that I realized that ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE was the best Bond film for me. The combined efforts of all the filmmakers and Lazenby's performance of a James Bond with conviction, assuredness and determination made this the definitive James Bond film. The film had a sense of real drive behind it accentuated by Lazenby's no-nonsense approach and the urgency of John Barry's instrumental theme used repeatedly to never let up the pace. If James Bond was ever the dedicated civil servant it was in this film. I can't even imagine Sean Connery in this film any more. The filmmakers traded in Connery's worldliness for Lazenby's energetic determination. It seems apparent that Lazenby probably looked to DR. NO for inspiration. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is considered to be one of the better Bond films in the series. It follows the directorial style of DR. NO. Sean Connery in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE continued his portrayal of the character in the Fleming literary mold, but refined his performance adding more depth to the character's worldliness, intellect, social graces and wry humor. Lazenby reverts back to the James Bond we saw in DR. NO concentrating on his resoluteness and tenacity as the man with a mission who will not be deterred until the opposition is completely vanquished. Lazenby's scenes with Diana Rigg as Tracy, his bride to be, showed genuine compassion and depth. This was Bond's only true love interest up to that point in the series. Connery had showed genuine subdued sorrow tinged with anger at the death of Jill Masterson and her sister Tilly Masterson in GOLDFINGER and again with Aki in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. However, I don't see how any actor could have given a better reaction as George Lazenby did to the death of James Bond's new bride slumped over limply into his lap. George looked like he was really hurt as he buried his head onto the Tracy's lifeless body. This Letterbox VHS version of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is excellent and does real justice to this epic film.

This DVD is astounding. The restoration of the visuals is amazing. The digital sound has been laboriously enhanced for true stereo separation. You can even very clearly hear source music that was in the background. For instance, you can now plainly hear the guitar melody that was playing in the scene between Bond and Draco while they were discussing business while overlooking the bullfight on Draco's estate. The extras are very good too. This DVD contains SWISS MOVEMENT a great documentary introducing George Lazenby and showing off the entire cast and great location work in Switzerland. It remains very good to this day. Some of the other extras touting George Lazenby as the new James Bond are enticing. Peter Hunt's commentaries during the film are very insightful as was George Baker's contribution. This is a required DVD edition if you truly embrace this film.

Many years ago, long before James Bond became the high-tech hero of the movie set, there were a set of fascinating books written by a gentleman named Ian Fleming. These books were about a superior British Intelligence agent, code name 007. With due regard to Sean Connery and the equally effective Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, the star of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, is by far the closest of the Bond actors to the character of the books. There is nothing charming or even particularly likeable about the James Bond of print. He is a totally non-descript character who can easily disappear into any crowd; a cold-blooded killer who will accomplish his mission regardless of the cost. Connery came close in Dr No, Tim Dalton even closer in License to Kill but both are too physically attractive to accurately depict 007. In these regards, Lazenby excels in his protrayal of Bond.

This story is a gripping, emotional tale of an agent committing the ultimate sin, getting involved with another individual involved in a mission. All of the normal Bond components are present; gadgetry, high-speed chases, lots of explosions and lots of pretty girls. This one goes one step farther, giving us a truly malevolent villain (played brilliantly by Telly Savalas)and Bond's only true romantic interest (played equally brilliantly by Diana Rigg).

The action is non-stop, the locations are beautiful, the soundtrack one of the best. The climax is one of the most gut-wrenching ever placed on film.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service has often been placed at the very bottom of the long list of James Bond vehicles. It doesn't belong there. This is an outstanding film with a truly outstanding cast. Give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Buy On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Now

When other Bond fans first talk to me the the question they always ask is "What do you think of O.H.M.S.S. ?". The answer to that is not a simple one.

I first saw the film in the cinima in 1973 and was surprised, given all the negative reports I'd heard about it, how good it was. Although very long by Bond standards the film moves along at a fair clip and has the capacity to engage the viewer. Although several of the earlier films in the series follow the main plot lines from the novels, from which they take their names, this is the only atempt by EON to film an Ian Fleming book as written.

Watching the film on DVD all these years later was a joy. The transfer is surperb the, sound crisp and short of watching a pristine print in a film theatre this is the best vision of this film your ever going to see. The additional features particularly the director's commentry make this a must for any of the many fans that this film has.

O.H.M.S.S has a tremendous "look" and the deep purple colour that is in the opening sequence, continues in the titles and is seen through out the rest of the film in various guises. There was a kind of chic fashion just at the end of the sixties after the hippies and before the seventies gave style a bad name; this is one of the few films that captures that time. Just look at the cut of James Bond's suits or the dresses worn by the girls in Piz Gloria; it's nostalgia perhaps but I love it!

George Lazenby is element of the film that most people seem to dislike and the fact that he started out as a model is usually sited as proof of his lack of acting ability; well actually Sean Connery started out as an art college life model. At least George kept his clothes on in the "Big Fry" ads. ! But seriously, for the most part he looks great in the action sequences and when he has to play the normal affable, laughing in the face of danger, side of Bond he's at least acceptable; but when he has to step out side of that, for instance when he confronts Tracy in his hotel room early on in the film that he becomes less convincing. Compare that with Sean's Bond when he confronts Tatiana in the train in "From Russia With Love" and you'll see what I'm getting at. But actually his attempt is better than Roger Moore's confrontation with Rosie in "Live And Let Die". The only difficulty is that each line Lazenby speaks seems to be made up of several different takes, all recorded at different sound levels, which makes him sound as if he has a perminant attack of hiccups; still you do get used to it. If Lazenby lacks experience his deficiency is compenceted by the standard of acting from the rest of the cast and the superior dialogue in this film; for example, Moneypenny's devastating put down when Bond attempts to resign the Service "What did you expect, a knighthood?" is unforgetable and one of the few times Lois Maxwell's character gets the upper hand in the whole series.

The structure of this film is very different from the others in the series; Bond spends the first half of the film meeting and falling in love with Tracy. He then locates Blofeld, discovers his plan and only then does the film shift up into the frenetic pace that we more normally associate with the Bond films. The ski and car chase sequences that follow are terrifically exciting and compare favourably with the best in the series. Then we have the final confrontation with Blofeld and inevitable distruction of Piz Gloria. Incidentally Lazenby's encounter with the St. Bernard dog after the bob sleigh chase was apparently ad-libbed and for an untrained actor he does it better than many RADA graduates I can think of.

Peter Hunt, more than anyone else, was the man brought this film together as a first time director it is a brilliant debut. For instance his choice of Simon Ravan to add dialoge to the scenes between Blofeld and Tracy lifts the whole film. Almost every shot seems to reflect his feel for the book. It is only fitting that the opening shot of the film, absent form the VHS version, which containes his reflection in the brass name plate of "Universal Exports" has been restored to this print.

Many action film fans dislike this picture well they'd better stick to "Things Keep Exploding III" which at least is better than "Things Keep Exploding II" although not as good as "Things Keep Exploding" although it lacks the characterization of the other two. The rest of us can enjoy the most literate of the James Bond films. It's not better or worse than any of the others just different.

Read Best Reviews of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Here

To say that ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE has grown on me is an understatement. The first time that I saw it a few years ago, I can remember laughing with my friend about how awful Lazenby was as a replacement for Connery. But after a recent second viewing, my tone has changed dramatically. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is now one of my favorite Bond films. Of the first six movies, I would definitely place it in the top three and it certainly beats out its predecessor YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, both in its "watchability" and its ranking as a Bond film. What is it about ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE that is so good? Well, it seems that director Peter Hunt (the fantastic editor of the previous films) wanted to return Bond to his roots, emphasizing story and characters over action and gadgets. Indeed, the gadgets are absent in this film. Instead, we get a good old story of espionage as Bond infiltrates the secret mountain-top lair of Ernst Blofeld, posing as a famous genealogist. Lazenby is a superb Bond. Though he doesn't handle women in the same smooth way and his charm and refinement are noticeably lacking, Lazenby does deliver some terrific action sequences. Furthermore, Lazenby handles the scripts "love interest" quite well, showing us one of the most emotional Bonds ever. Understandably, fans either loved or hated this new Bond, and the film went on to be less of a success as the Connery films. Still, one has to wonder what might have become of the series if Lazenby had kept the role for a significant run.

After the opening "gun barrel" sequence, we are greeted with the pre-credits teaser. M and Moneypenny are at a loss of where exactly 007 is located. We have no problem finding him. We watch as Bond chases after a girl, whom we later discover is Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), and saves her from near suicide, only to be attacked by an enemy. A great fight sequence in the waves is played out, with Lazenby delivering in fine style. It's been a while since Bond has been this fit! The girl escapes Bond during the commotion, leaving him alone on the beach. Lazenby, firmly set in his new role, winks at the camera and says "This never happened to the other fellow." In breaking the fourth wall, Lazenby and the Bond team let us know that James Bond is not Sean Connery; James Bond is James Bond. This line kicks off the titles, another Binder work, this time without a popular singer belting a song. Perhaps after the awkward lyrics of THUNDERBALL, the producers decided that trying to work ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE into a song would just be too difficult. The titles are a classic Binder work, involving shifting images through an hourglass and elaborate silhouettes.

The plot is back to the good old days and adds a love angle, allowing for some character depth on the part of Bond. The first part of the film opens up on that angle. Bond encounters Tracy again (Teresa di Vicenzo) and makes a more "formal" introduction. After their brief encounter, Bond is suddenly kidnapped and taken to see Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), head of Europe's second largest crime syndicate (second only to SPECTRE). There it is revealed that Tracy is Draco's daughter. In a weird spin, Draco desires Bond to continue to woo his daughter, ultimately marrying her for a personal dowry of one million pounds. Tracy has had a troubled past (as we have witnessed) and Bond is just the sort of thing she needs to save her. Bond refuses the proposal, but agrees to continue to see his daughter in exchange for information about Ernst Blofeld's whereabouts. Upon returning to MI6, Bond is promptly kicked off his current assignment of tracking down Blofeld. Bond is so irritated that he tenders his resignation, only to have his resignation covertly changed to a leave of absence by Moneypenny. Realizing that he can continue to pursue Blofeld on his vacation, Bond heartily accepts the vacation. After some good old spy work, Bond finally learns that Blofeld is attempting to lay claim to a royal title, under the French surname Bleuchamp. Posing as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, Bond gains access to Blofeld's new hideout--a "research institute" sitting on top of the Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps. Once there, Bond learns that Blofeld has developed a bacterial weapon that he plans to distribute throughout the world. The weapon is so powerful that it is capable of destroying vital species of flora and fauna--unless, of course, Blofeld is granted amnesty for all past crimes and given his new title. Will Bond be able to stop the crisis before it is too late?

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE displays many characteristics of the great Bond films. Its plot is intricate and involves good old-fashioned spy work. Bond is a character of great depth in this film, portraying both a recklessness and arrogance towards MI6 and the establishment, as well as great love for his leading lady. Finally, the action in this film is great. The famous downhill ski and bobsled fights are fantastic and do not lack for any excitement. Unlike Lewis Gilbert in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, director Peter Hunt decided to keep the film as close to Fleming's novel as possible, yielding a film that many fans of the books describe as the most accurate Bond adaptation ever produced. It's a shame that it has the negative reputation that it is sometimes branded with.

George Lazenby, as mentioned before, does a find job as Bond. While he certainly doesn't have the same style and class as Connery (who does?), Lazenby is more than adequate in the action sequences and handles the fights wonderfully. Moreover, he turns in one of the more complex Bond performances, culminating in the film's final sequence. I was startled to see a scene like that in a Bond film and welcomed its arrival. Diana Riggs also turns in a good performance, providing us with one of the more complex and dominant female leads ever to show up in a Bond film. Telly Savalas's rendition of Blofeld (the second actor to play the visual part) is one of my favorites. His Blofeld is not quite as pathetic as the one we first meet in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and not quite as quirky as the one we will soon meet in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. While he doesn't live up to the menace of the character originally heard in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, he is certainly a more capable, worldly, and interesting villain than the rest.

Ultimately, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE feels very different from the rest of the Bond films. For my tastes, it was a refreshing return to the source before the Bond series would take on its inevitable Roger Moore phase. The Ultimate Edition looks very crisp and sounds wonderful. It is also packed with plenty of extras, including a "Making of" documentary, films about the casting of the new Bond, interviews with Lazenby, and all of the usual assorted material. BINDER DOCUMENTARY? If you like the novels or are a fan of the early Bond films, you can't go wrong with ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. Just promise to give Lazenby a chance.

Want On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Discount?

All I can say is it's about time this movie has been available as a single DVD. Ever since its initial release this remarkable film has had to deal with the regrettable and entirely undeserved stigma of being a lesser and forgettable footnote in the Bond canon. Nothing could be further from the truth.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a masterpiece, both as a James Bond movie and as an adventure movie in its own right-and it is far and away the best Bond movie that has ever been made thusfar. The reasons for this are manifold. For one thing it succeeds marvelously on both an artistic as well as an escapist level-imho it's the only Bond film so far to achieve this. Secondly it features what is easily the greatest score in a Bond movie, and possibly the greatest action theme music ever--the ripping instrumental theme still excites me every time I hear it after 25 years and more listens than I could possibly hope to remember. Thirdly it features one of the best ensemble casts of all the Bond movies-every part was perfectly cast (yes even Bond) and they all played off each other wonderfully. Last but not least it was directed but arguably the best of all Bond directors, Peter Hunt.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is unique among the Bond movies in so many ways, most notably in that it stars the criminally underrated George Lazenby as Bond. Lazenby was a fight instructor with the Special Forces, a championship skier and swimmer-all of which contributed to him having a remarkable physical grace, as well as the sort of radiant magnetism, confidence and swagger that simply can't be faked. In short, where most of the Bonds have been actors trying to be action heroes, Lazenby was an action hero trying to be an actor-and as far as I'm concerned this gave him a distinct advantage over everyone else who has attempted the role. And he was bloody cool. So cool, in fact, that to this day, more than Connery even, watching Lazenby makes the 12 year-old in me want to run out and save the world. Topping everything off the man was a model and absolutely adored by women. In short he was, to my mind, far and away the most naturally qualified of any of the actors who have ever played Bond. Yes, he was a little rough around the edges in the acting department, but by God he had it where it counted and was diamond in the rough. It is one of the great tragedies of action cinema history that we didn't get to see him develop as Bond.

And then there's the film itself. In addition to a fantastic lead it also contains one of the best villains of the series-Telly Savalas' Blofeld. Egotistical, charming, entirely self-centred, brilliant as well as menacing and physically imposing, he was the perfect counter to Lazenby's Bond. You could literally sense the urgency and drive behind his egocentric madness-clearly he was a villain to be reckoned with. And there was that cool way he held his cigarettes. Furthermore, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has what is probably the best story of the series. It struck just the right balance between the absurd (the mountaintop fortress and plan to destroy the world's crops) and the serious (the character development and lack of gadgets and over-the-top fantastic elements) as well as touching on some quintessential male fantasy elements: a bevy of beauties atop a mountain hideaway on the one hand, and the delectable Tracy on the other. Let it be said here and now that as ridiculous as the idea of hypnotizing a group of beautiful women to go out and do your bidding really is, it must be noted that the whole concept is fantastically cool on the level of fantasy on which Bond films have always had their true niche. If Ian Fleming were alive to day I would give him a good pat on the back for that one.

Let us now consider the action scenes-some of the best of the entire series-not the least of which are the stellar fight scenes: brutal and personal, not to be approached in awesomeness until Casino Royale two years ago. And then there are the ski scenes-utterly fantastic. The Piz Gloria escape is easily the single most exciting scene in the whole series, and it culminates so beautifully with Bond lost and alone at the ice rink, unsure what to do before lo! his guardian angel appears. I would go so far as to say that from the moment Bond is imprisoned in the cable-car room right through the end of the movie, we have perhaps the best extended action sequence in any Bond movie, perhaps in any action movie ever-and it's scored brilliantly by the incomparable John Barry.

Above all, however, one gets a definite sense watching On Her Majesty's Secret Service of how much went into it. Starting with Goldfinger and culminating with You Only Live Twice the Bond movie producers went quite over the top and shifted the focus of the films away from character and depth into the realm of big budget spectacle-to the point that the character of Bond was reduced to a cheap toupe adorning all the nonsense going on around him. By the time On Her Majesty's Secret Service was made they evidently decided to direct the series back to its roots. One thing that stands out to me more every time I watch this film is how much it is apparent that everyone involved with it put their heart and soul into making the "epic" Bond film. It broke all the standard Hollywood success rules-it blew the then just-established formula to smithereens, it was the first one to really address James Bond as a human being, it was the first to give Bond a chance to fall in love, to have him register genuine fear and emotion, and so on.

Looking back it's almost as if some higher power intervened, realigned the planets and allowed the fireworks and spectacles to be put on hold for one movie so that the filmmakers could make a movie from their heart, so they could tell a story without sacrificing its integrity on the altar of crazy gadgets, whimsical plotlines and futuristic sets-and I think it is this quality that gives OHMSS its true pulse, that quality which, to me, makes it stand out more and more as the best film of the series with each viewing. Goldfinger and Thunderball may have embedded Bond firmly in the collective popular consciousness, but On Her Majesty's Secret Service captured perfectly the soul of Bond-and it hasn't been topped since.

To paraphrase a tribute once given to a great historical personage: To a traveler standing near a mountain range many eminences seem to have approximately the same altitude; it is difficult to disengage Everest from its lofty neighbors. But as the range recedes in the distance, the highest peak lifts more and more above its fellows, until it alone fills the horizon. So it has been with On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

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