On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) United Arists/Action-Adventue RT: 142 minutes Rated PG (language, violence, sexual situations) Director: Peter Hunt Screenplay: Richard Maibaum Starring: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, Angela Scouler, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn. Opening Song: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (composed by John Barry)
The first James Bond adventure without Sean Connery is a bit of a letdown, partly because Australian model George Lazenby cannot act. He doesn't bring the same charm, wit and sophistication that Connery did. However, the main reason that On Her Majesty's Secret Serviceis such a disappointment is because the storyline is really slim. But I'll get to that momentarily, I'd like to start by mentioning the opening scene, which actually contains the best line in the whole picture. After rescuing a woman (Diana Rigg) who's trying to drown herself in the surf, Bond gets attacked by two thugs. After he beats them, the woman drives away. Bond looks at the camera and says "This never happened to the other chap". I kind of liked how they went ahead and broke the fourth wall with that line, it's a shame the rest of the movie doesn't live up to that potential.
James Bond 007 has been on the trail of Ernst Stavros Blofeld (code name: Operation Bedlam) for about two years, trying to track down the head of SPECTRE. He encounters the woman from the beach again (her name is Tracy) in a Portugal casino and follows her to her room, where is attacked by one of the beach thugs. Long story short, she is the daughter of Marc-Ange Draco (Ferzetti), the leader of one of Europe's most powerful crime organizations. He agrees to lead Bond to Blofeld if he will marry his troubled and troublesome daughter, plus he'll throw in a dowry of one million pounds. Back in London, M (Lee) has called off the operation, stating that this has become too personal for Bond. So taking two weeks leave, he returns to Portugal to accept Draco's offer, but Tracy knows about the agreement and wants no part of it. Furthermore, she demands that her father tell Bond where he can find his arch-enemy. It's at this point that Bond and Tracy start having a romantic affair, complete with a montage set to Louis Armstrong's We Have All The Time In The World. Draco refers him to a lawyer named Gumbold and Bond breaks into his office and finds letters from Blofeld to the London College Of Arms. It turns out that Blofeld is operating a clinic in Switzerlad that claims to cure people's allergies to various things. Posing as one of the college's delegates, Bond goes to the clinic/compound in the guise of investigating Blofeld's claim to the title Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp of Switzerland. It isn't long before Bond's cover is blown and he's taken prisoner by Blofeld (Telly Savalas).
Up until this point, On Her Majesty's Secret Service moves at a snail's pace, not too much of interest has happened, not even when Blofeld reveals his latest scheme to extort money from the UN. It has something to do with bacterial warfare, if Blofeld isn't granted immunity for all of his crimes, he will unleash a bacteria (disguised as a cure for all allergies) that will render every living thing on Earth infertile. Okay, so what next? Bond manages to escape from custody and that's when the movie kicks in to action mode. Unfortunately, it's only the final 45 minutes of the flick and, by then, most people may not even care. The action sequences, which include two ski chases and one spectacular car chase that puts Bond and Tracy smack in the middle of a stock car chase, are very well done. They are legitimately exciting scenes. Of course, the goopy and unconvincing romance between Bond and Tracy (who mysteriously showed up at just the righ time to rescue Bond) resumes and he asks her to marry him, a proposal that she accepts because she truly loves the secret agent.
I don't usually like to spoil the endings of movies, but in this case, I will make an exception, only because it lays the groundwork for future conflicts with Blofeld. After the happy couple are wed, Blofeld and one of his hit-women Irma Bunt (Steppat) kill Tracy while they are on their way to their honeymoon. Of course, this is a sad development, but what's even sadder that is the weak plot of this long movie. I'm not saying that every James Bond adventure has an awesome plot, but it seemed like they weren't even trying here. Lazenby is the worst Bond of them all and thankfully he only played the role this one time. He had a contract for seven Bond films, but on the advice of his agent, he decided not to continue playing the superspy because they felt that Bond would become archaic by the 70s. Lucky for us they were wrong! Even luckier for fans, Lazenby stepped out of the role and Sean Connery returned for one more "official" Bond movie. Diana Rigg's character is the most interesting person in ON Her Majesty's Secret Service, besides being beautiful, the psychology of Tracy could make a movie of its own. On the other hand, Savalas is not a good Blofeld, he doesn't possess the same menace as Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice) or Charles Gray (Diamonds Are Forever). As for the score, John Barry's classic theme (when Bond, Draco and his men attack Blofeld's compound) isn't even heard until the two-hour mark, until then it's just some forgettable action/adventure type music.
Overall, On Her Majesty's Secret service is one of the worst Bond adventures in the series. Aside from the good (not great) action sequences, there's nothing about this flick that's particularly memorable. Sure, the spy with the healthy libido gets to sleep with a few of the female patients at the clinic, but that doesn't count for much in a picture whose plot is weak and the hero (as portrayed by Lazenby) can't even deliver his dialogue in a convincing manner. When Connery had to use a disguise of some sort, it looked believable. That's not true of Lazenby, you can tell that he's some kind of government agent from the start. Ordinarily, I would advise you to skip this particular entry but since the final scene is so significant, I'm not too inclined to do that. It's hardly a recommendable movie, but you don't have to go out of your way to see it.