Film Review: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
In 1969, Peter R. Hunt released On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, as the sixth film in the franchise. Starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Bernard Lee, Gabriele Ferzetti and Ilse Steppat, the film grossed $82 million at the box office.
Bond must once again stop Blofeld, who is threatening to sterilize the world’s supply of food with a group of brainwashed women he calls his angels of death. However, along the way, he falls in love with Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, the daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the crime syndicate, Union Corse.
While On Her Majesty’s Secret Service gets a bad reputation due to how Lazenby replaced Connery, the film is actually pretty decent. Lazenby isn’t all that bad of a Bond and the initial problem seems to stem simply from the fact that he’s not Sean Connery. It is true that Connery was simply irreplaceable even with the dull performance he gave in the previous film, Lazenby wasn't so much as replacing him as he was carrying on a legacy. Further, it's interesting to note that Lazenby was sold short by his agent who believed that there wasn't any future to spy films and talked him into refusing a seven movie contract.
Despite all that, Lazenby gives a great performance and is a good Bond due to the fact that he knows what he's doing. Though it was his first serious acting role, he was already a commando, expert skier, expert martial artist, accomplished horseman and racer. With all this experience, everything Lazenby does throughout the film doesn’t seem like it’s acted and his fighting prowess helps to make the fistfights some of the best in the series. As a result, Lazenby may not be the best, but he's far from the worst.
Blofeld’s plot also makes a pretty good amount of sense. Unlike a grand scheme to start World War III or convoluted mess involving stealing something in order to steal it back, he actually created a virus which would make plants and animals sterile and plans to unleash it through brainwashing. The only way he won’t do so is if he’s granted amnesty and an acknowledgement of a claim to nobility. It makes sense that because he’s making such a grand gesture due to the fact that he has to make one in order to be taken seriously. Plus, he’s no fool and goes through with the creation to show that he can and will carry everything out. The only problem is in how he goes about executing his plan. Brainwashing people to not be afraid of their phobias is very silly, and it leads to some very odd statements
Yet, he almost succeeds and the world is about to meet his demands. The only thing that stopped him is Bond quitting MI6 and teaming up with a crime lord, an idea that no one could have conceived of him doing.
At the same time, Blofeld isn’t completely smart either, choosing to keep Bond alive because it may be useful during negotiations. This is kind of a switch in his modus operandi after killing a henchman in the previous film because she failed to kill him. On the other hand, it could be justified because killing Bond might make the world change their minds and Bond is the only witness to know that he’s not bluffing.
The music in the film is also pretty good, especially the opening piece. Unlike previous films, where it was a hit song by a famous singer, this one is completely instrumental and shows scenes from previous films. It seems like what was aimed for was a sort of nod to Connery’s work and acknowledging that his legacy was being furthered. Its done well and might have had more of an impact had Lazenby been around for more than one film.
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Golden Globe Awards
- Most Promising Newcomer - Male (George Lazenby)
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards
- Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection)
IGN Summer Movie Awards
- Best Movie Blu-Ray (for the "Bond 50 Box Set)
Golden Satellite Awards
- Best Classic DVD Release (for "The James Bond DVD Collection," volumes 2 & 3)