On Her 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 James Bond.

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 of them.

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 home.

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!

- Jake


c 2007 Alternative 007