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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

March 29, 2013

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Director: Peter Hunt
Actors: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas

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Synopsis: James Bond (George Lazenby) heads to Switzerland on the hunt for arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) – who is applying for an aristocratic title. At the same time, Bond is also courting Tracy (Diana Rigg), a gangster’s daughter, and this is one relationship that threatens to stand the test of time with Bond….

Review: In many respects, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best film in the whole Bond series. It features cracking cinematography, and there are some stupendous action sequences (from Bond escaping the Piz Gloria by night, and Bond and Tracy being trapped by a huge avalanche, to Bond and Blofeld’s climactic bobsleigh chase). Director Peter Hunt doesn’t solely excel at the action sequences though, as he creates one of the more taut scenes in the entire series with the gripping, silent depiction of Bond infiltrating a lawyer’s safe in a cold, grey, rainy Bern. Even the musical score – not featuring an actual title song as such – is perhaps the best in the entire Bond series, and the inclusion of a Louis Armstrong tune suits the uniquely romantic subject matter of the film superbly. I’d also argue that Diana Rigg is perhaps the most interesting Bond girl of all time – she’s certainly the best actress of that category – and again that befits the material, where we’re supposed to believe that Bond would actually fall in love with, and marry, this woman.

Admittedly, the film has its flaws. Although I’m not interested in jumping on the anti-Lazenby bandwagon as many fans and commentators have (in fact, I only think Connery and Craig better him as Bond), having an actor dub his sequences where he’s supposed to be imitating the ridiculously plummy Sir Hillary Bray, is rather jarring. I also think the central plot conspiracy is one of the naffer ones of the entire series. The psychedelic/hypnosis conceit is particularly lame, even by Bond movie standards, and I’m not 100% sure of the wisdom in getting different actors (and more crucially, different looking and sounding actors) to play Blofeld. (March 2013)

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