On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) Director: Peter R. Hunt

A man in a dinner jacket on skis, holding a gun. Next to him is a red-headed woman, also on skis and with a gun. They are being pursued by men on skis and a bobsleigh, all with guns. In the top left of the picture are the words FAR UP! FAR OUT! FAR MORE! James Bond 007 is back!

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first Bond film not to star Sean Connery. After his decision to retire (Connery was not on speaking terms with producer Albert Broccoli), Eon replaced him with an unknown Australian male model, George Lazenby. He was the only non-European actor to portray James Bond (as of current information). However, Lazenby greatly disliked playing the role and decided against reprising it. Bond was his most notable role. Amusingly, Timothy Dalton was initially offered the role of Bond but he turned it down, believing himself too young for the part. Connery returned to reprise his role after this Bond film. The picture is mainly known for its tragic ending.

Unlike the previous Bond film, You Only Live Twice, the producers (Albert R. Broccoli) decided to produce a Bond film that closely follows the plot of the Ian Fleming novel. The film opens with Bond rescuing a suicidal woman on a beach in Portugal. They play cards at the casino and she invites Bond back to her room, but he is attacked by an assailant, meanwhile she is waiting for Bond in his room. Her name is Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (played by Diana Rigg). The next morning, Bond is kidnapped and taken to a head European criminal gangster named Marc-Ange Draco who reveals to Bond that Tracy is his daughter. He offers money to Bond if he marries Tracy, but Bond prefers a deal if Draco can help him discover the whereabouts of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond begins a romance with Tracy and he tracks down a law firm with whom Blofeld has been in correspondence via a scientific research institute. Bond poses as a posh English scientist and goes to visit a scientific research institute high up in the Swiss alps (focused on “allergy research”). It is run by Blofeld and, predictably, it is filled with twelve young, beautiful women studying their various “allergies” (I recognized Catherine Schell as one of them from her role with Peter Sellers’s The Return of the Pink Panther). In reality, the women are being brainwashed to distribute bacteria for chemical warfare on behalf of SPECTRE. Blofeld wants to hold the world ransom by using the brainwashed women to threaten global agriculture. Bond is eventually outed and he skis down the mountain in escape, when Tracy suddenly shows up. Then a blizzard comes and traps Tracy and Bond together. He proposes marriage to her (an unusual move for Bond’s character) and the chase continues the following day. Tracy is captured, and Bond escapes from an avalanche to rescue her. Bond and Draco (Tracy’s father) destroy the facility but Blofeld escapes. Bond and Tracy get married and drive off. The film with a surprisingly tragic twist in which Tracy is killed in a drive-by attack from

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the sixth Bond film in the series. Yet another unique aspect of this film is that the theme song is not sung by anyone, but rather it is a composition of John Barry (the soundtrack is notably terrific in this film).

Review

★★☆☆☆

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another forgettable and, at times, painfully awkward James Bond film. The only memorable, or perhaps unique part of the film, is Bond’s surprising marriage followed by his new bride’s sudden and tragic death. It is certainly a unique Bond film for portraying a less hokey and more “human” Bond character, and the film is even widely celebrated among Bond fans, but ultimately it is nothing spectacular. The pacing is odd and also the larger goal of Blofeld in this film is questionable – why destroy global agriculture or cause widespread infertility? Why is this worth ransom money to Blofeld? One of the better parts of the film is when Bond is fleeing down a mountain on a single ski (I believe this was performed by an Olympic skier). The vast shots of snow-filled mountains are beautiful.

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