Majesty's Secret Service Review
'We have all the
time in the world'
Imagine you are Eon in 1968. You are sitting on a goldmine, otherwise
known as the James Bond series, but a certain Sean Connery has
departed. You want to make more James Bond films but with who? Who can
replace Connery? A big Hollywood star? Should the character remain in
the Connery style or be changed? You probably can't win whatever you
do, but if you want to make another James Bond film you need a new
We are probably all familiar now with the story of how a young
Australian living in London blagged his way to a screentest and broke
stuntman Yuri Borienko's nose shooting test footage. While there were
several respected actors involved in the OHMSS casting call, none had
the Bond 'look' quite like George Lazenby. He was physical, young and
looked just like a James Bond. Could his non-existent acting experience
be countered and hidden by a crafty director? Peter Hunt thought so.
The pre-credit sequence of OHMSS is a bit of a tease at first. After a
brief scene with M and Q, Moneypenny is asked by M if she knows the
whereabouts of 007. The Bond music strikes up and we see the famous
Aston Martin. Bond is following a red sportscar along a coastal road
but we don't see him immediately. The new James Bond is glimpsed only
in shadow. 007 has been tailing Countess Tracy di Vicenzo (played by
Diana Rigg as if you didn't know).
Tracey stops her car, gets out and starts walking into the sea in a
glittering dress. John Barry's atmospheric music fits perfectly. Bond
jumps out of his car and runs out to sea to rescue her. After a "My
name's Bond, James Bond" (where we get our first proper look at
Lazenby) we see that a bunch of goons have surrounded Bond and Tracey.
The fight sequence that follows shows exactly why they cast Lazenby.
This man can look after himself. Lazenby's energy and willingness to
throw himself into the fight scenes is very evident. I don't think the
"This never happened to the other fella" line was completely neccesary
but it was a nod to the fact that Connery was gone before, seconds
later, we see the hands of time being pulled back at the beginning of
the title sequence to signify a new beginning.
The title sequence by Maurice Binder is excellent. An instrumental
version of John Barry's OHMSS theme plays over film of characters from
the previous Bond films. The link to the past reminds us that this is
James Bond despite a change of actor. Barry's theme is inspired and if
you don't own it already you get should hold of Propellerheads' remix
from a few years back.
At the start of the film Bond pulls into a Hotel and inquires about the
Red Cougar parked outside. The car belongs to Tracey and they meet
again at the casino where Bond bails her out after she makes a risky
bet that she can't pay. The casino scenes in OHMSS look very lavish and
expensive. Lazenby isn't entirely comfortable in his first casino
scenes with Rigg but he is more effective when they go upstairs and
Tracey threatens to kill him for a 'thrill'. He has another brutal
punch-up ("Gatecrasher") and once again we are reminded why Lazenby got
the job. No other Bond actor can scrap as convincingly as Lazenby.
Bond wakes to find Tracey has gone although she has paid her debt in
full. Off for a game of golf, 007 has a gun pointed at him in the Hotel
lobby and is kidnapped by several shady looking characters. They take
him to an abandoned dockside warehouse. A cleaner whistles a few notes
from Goldfinger as they enter and note how Lazenby pushes the mini door
behind him so it hits the goon behind. A simple but effective moment.
We then get yet another Lazenby punch-up with great OTT sound-effects.
I disagree with people who say that the fights in OHMSS are too fast
and over-edited. I think they're great.
We meet Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti). Tracey is Draco's daughter
and he wants Bond to marry her. According to Draco she needs a man to
dominate her. I'm not sure you could get away with that line today!
Draco tells Bond that he will pay him one million pounds sterling on
the day that he marries Tracey. Bond tells Draco that he doesn't need a
million pounds or a wife, although he admits to a fascination with
Tracey ("I find her fascinating. But, she needs a psychiatrist, not
me.") This is one scene that slows the film down a bit but it is a
crucial one. It sets up the motivation of Bond and Draco and introduces
Blofeld into the plot.
Draco has an ace up his sleeve. He can find Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond
is desperate for this information and agrees to see Tracey again.
Back at Universal Exports 007 is furious when M informs him he is to be
taken off the Blofeld case. He resigns in the form of a letter dictated
to Moneypenny. "Same old James...only more so!" says Moneypenny in
another reference to the cheeky new Bond. 007 then sits in his office
and raise his hip flask to a portrait of the Queen. He takes props from
previous Bond films from his desk and we hear the music from each film.
This is a wonderful moment. As too is the next scene where Bond
discovers that Moneypenny has changed his letter from one of
resignation to a request for some time off. Both M and Bond are
relieved at the outcome and we see how important Moneypenny is to both
In Portugal Bond is confronted by Tracey. Tracey has discovered the
deal between Bond and Draco and demands that Bond should receive his
information and leave. 007 chooses to stay and becomes closer to
Tracey. The musical montage with 'We Have All The Time In The World' is
another classic moment. The romance is developed in OHMSS and not
compressed. This means we feel more empathy for Bond and Tracey.
The safe-cracking sequence (absent from British television prints for
years) is another classic slice of sixties Bond. Lazenby is very cool
as he flips through a copy of Playboy and then leaves in a very laid
back almost Connery like manner.
Blofeld is attempting to lay claim to the title 'Comte Balthazar de
Bleuchamp'. This angle fits in with the casting of Telly Savalas who
isn't as aristocratic as other Blofeld actors. Bond is put in contact
with Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker) at the College Of Arms in London. M
gives Bond permission to pose as Sir Hilary and visit Blofeld's
mountain top clinic in Switzerland. Was there ever a cooler or more
spectacular location in the Bond series than Piz Gloria?
Blofeld has set up a clinical research institute at Piz Gloria where a
number of young women are being treated for allergies and phobias. In
reality the girls have been brainwashed and can be used as Blofeld's
agents to spread his (Infertility) Virus Omega into the world.
The helicopter ride up to Piz Gloria is another illustration of the
scope of the film. It really does look glorious on DVD. Blofeld does
not recognise Bond despite their meeting in the last film. Continuity
was never rigid in the series so it doesn't really bother me. I like
the Sir Hilary section a great deal and we get a few choice
double-entendres as Bond starts seducing the patients to gain
information. Lazenby is dubbed for this part of the film by George
Baker. Angela Scoular is fun as Ruby Bartlett and you may spot a young
Joanna Lumley among the girls.
Bond is eventually rumbled. "No no no, Mr. Bond. Respectable baronets
from the College of Heralds do NOT seduce female patients in clinics!"
says Blofeld. He has a point I think!
Bond escapes and we the first classic ski chase in the franchise. From
here on in OHMSS is action-packed and as good as a Bond film can get.
He seeks refuge in the snowy village below where a festival is in full
swing and, after a loud fight in a shed full of bells, he moves through
the crowds aware that Blofeld's men are moving in on him. He sits by
the skating rink and appears to be out of ideas and places to run. The
skaters whirl around the edge of the rink and flash past. Suddenly one
stops abruptly in front of 007. The camera pans up and we see Diana
Rigg as Tracey! A classic moment.
They take Tracey's car and we have one of the most exciting sections of
the series as they try to escape. Eventually they gatecrash a stockcar
race on ice! "Looks like we've hit the rushhour!" says Bond. John
Barry's music is the perfect background to this section of the film.
Bond and Tracey spend the night in an old barn as a blizzard rattles
the doors outside. 007 decides to quit MI6 and marry Tracey. After
another great ski chase Tracey is captured by Blofeld and Bond is
presumed dead in an avalanche created by Blofeld. Back in London Bond
stares out of the window lost in thought and an image of an unconscious
Tracey being dragged out of the snow is projected on the window. OHMSS
is full of great little moments like this. I love the sweep of Barry's
music when, earlier in the film, Bond's car enters the grounds of M's
Bond is told to keep his beak out by M but he enlists Draco's help.
"I'd like to interest you in a demolition deal that requires certain
aerial activity to install equipment." The great thing about the
classic Bonds is the BIG ending. The spectacular battle scenes with
Bond in the middle. OHMSS is hard to beat for this. We have alpine
soldiers, explosions, flamethrowers. Bond chases Blofeld through a lab
bathed in psychedelic colours. Lazenby is every inch James Bond here.
Bond and Blofeld end up having a bobsleigh chase in what seems like the
third or fourth climax to the film. In OHMSS Bond is more human and
uses less gadgets but the film is as action-packed as any in the series.
The downbeat ending was a brave move and Lazenby deserves much credit
for the way he handles the scene. You couldn't imagine Connery's Bond
as a broken man like Lazenby is here. Lazenby's basic acting range and
youth work in his favour a lot in OHMSS. It's a shame that people who
have probably never even sat through OHMSS probably think he was
terrible. Diana Rigg's casting in the film was an inspired move. She is
head and shoulders above the other Bond women and I like Telly Savalas
too as a different sort of Blofeld.
Overall, how would I sum up On Her Majesty's Secret Service? The best
James Bond film ever made!