Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
George Lazenby as James Bond
Diana Rigg as Countess Tracy di Vicenzo
Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Ilse Steppat as Irma Bunt
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
George Baker as Sir Hilary Bray
Bernard Lee as M
Director: Peter R. Hunt
James Bond sets out a mission to defeat Blofeld, who hypnotizes beautiful women to fulfil his evil motives. Meanwhile, he also falls in love with a crime lord’s daughter.
Out of all the James Bond movies I was rewatching, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of the films I was most looking forward to. From its reputation, I had heard that it was very different for a Bond movie (even beyond it being the only George Lazenby Bond movie). Not only that, but the latest instalment No Time to Die apparently took a lot from this film, so I was curious to see the similarities. Having watched it, I can confirm that it is now one of my favourites in the series.
The plot is engaging and suspenseful, and one of the best plots in the franchise; it really is one of the only instances in a Bond movie where the story is really the main focus and importance of the film. It does seem to shy away from some of the silliness and tropes of the previous Bond movies, especially considering that it is after one of the most outlandish instalments in You Only Live Twice. OHMSS feels more grounded at times, while having some of the over the top nature of the past movies. It still follows the formula and is in line with the past movies, yet is handled with a mature sensibility and with some interesting changes. There is a greater sense of emotional weight here, and it adds a surprising amount of depth to Bond. The writing does have its issues, there is a long section with Bond infiltrating Blofeld’s clinic which goes on for a bit too long. The film is paced steadily over the course of the film and while it won’t work for everyone, I liked it generally. That said, it does slow down at times, the Blofeld clinic section being an example. It is a long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes and outside of a few moments like the aforementioned section, I do generally think it works. For all its starts and stops, the final hour of the movie is so great and satisfying. There’s also the ending which I won’t elaborate on for those who don’t know about it, but it is certainly one of the most unexpected endings for a Bond movie and is surprisingly impactful.
In 1967, Sean Connery quit the role of James Bond, leading George Lazenby to be the next Bond. Being the next actor to play Bond following Connery is not easy by any means. It doesn’t help that this is Lazenby’s first acting role, and this is his first and only time playing Bond. A lot of people’s biggest issue with OHMSS is George Lazenby as Bond, with many finding him to be wooden. I can certainly see that, and there are definitely some issues with his performance. He’s not quite as charismatic as Connery, and while he’s great in some scenes, there’s definitely others where he comes across as rather stiff. That said, I still think Lazenby is good overall. At the very least he doesn’t try to do an impression of Connery, his take on the character is more relatable and sympathetic in comparison He does very well at the drama; he’s convincingly vulnerable and empathetic, yet suave. That’s not to say that Connery couldn’t pull off the more vulnerable scenes, but it is admittedly hard to imagine his Bond playing the more emotional scene, or indeed genuinely falling in love like Lazenby’s Bond does here. Additionally, I think he is even better than Connery with the action and fight scenes on a physical level. I’d probably place him as the worst actor who played Bond, but he’s not bad by any means. A great aspect of this movie is its Bond girl Tracy, as played by Diana Rigg. She’s not only one of the best Bond girls especially with how she’s written and her involvement in the plot, Rigg’s performance is great and really adds a lot to the character and movie. The romance between her and Bond is very believable and is a highlight. Another notable aspect of the movie is Blofeld, with Donald Pleasence not reprising his role after playing him in You Only Live Twice, instead casting Telly Savalas in the part. It does make sense however since Blofeld is very physical and hands on in this movie, so it required a more physically capable actor. While I might be in the minority on this, I think this is the best version of Blofeld. It is a little weird when you consider the general portrayal of the character, here Blofeld even repurposed himself as a count. However, he is formidable and threatening despite his absurd plan, and I thought he was great.
Peter R. Hunt directs OHMSS and his work here is strong, the style is very different to the other movies in the franchise in a great way. It is one of the best-looking Bond films, at the very least it is the absolute best looking up to this point in the series. The action sequences are exciting, featuring some of the best fight scenes in the series up to that point. The ski chase scenes have a sense of scale and a lot of energy. The stunts are great, and the climax is very satisfying. As usual, John Barry’s score is excellent. The main theme is particularly great, which plays over the opening credits. Also the use of Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World” was incredibly effective.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has its issues for sure. The middle act can be a little slow and while I think George Lazenby made for a good James Bond, there definitely was some room for improvement regarding his performance. Otherwise, I think it’s definitely one of the best James Bond movies, best Bond movie at that point in the series at the very least. The more personal and emotional take with the story and characters, the direction and action all comes together to form a very satisfying and unique Bond film.