Favorite Films of my Life: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Last time we had one of the seminal sci-fi films of all time, and this time we get one of my (but not most peoples’) favorite Bond films.

I confess I am one of those few who actually likes this odd duck of a James Bond film. George Lazenby’s Bond is, I will be the first to admit, not the equal of Sean Connery’s. But somehow, whenever I see this movie, I am able to mentally edit out Lazenby and insert Connery in most places. He’s not awful, just not as dreadful as he’s been made out to be.

Diana Rigg is fantastic, as could be expected. Telly Savalas was a good enough Blofeld (although my personal favorite is still Charles Gray, from Diamonds Are Forever), and his insidious plot was a worthy entry. I am a sucker for ski-borne shootouts in my Bond films (my favorite pre-sequence is that from “The Spy Who Loved Me”), and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint.

I will say that I hate hate hate the breaking of the fourth wall at the very beginning, where Lazenby thrashes a bunch of thugs, turns to the camera, and says “this never happened to the other fellow”. Ugh. And the scenes where Bond is impersonating Sir Hillary with the brilliant disguise of a kilt, a pair of glasses, and a squeaky dubbed voice, as if he were Superman and Blofeld (who met Bond face-to-face in the previous film in the series) would not be able to see through such a feeble disguise. But these flaws don’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the film.

I should also mention the fact that this Bond is more than just a love-em-and-leave-em guy. He marries the Contessa. The strains of Louis Armstrong’s “All the Time in the World” is especially poignant. It is, in fact, one of the only redeeming qualities of the Roger Moore-era Bond Film “For Your Eyes Only” that at the very beginning he is seen leaving flowers on his wife’s grave, and the inscription is “We had all the time in the world.” A nice bit of continuity that you don’t often see in this series.

Not the best, but definitely not in the basement, as it is often placed. Better than most of the later Moore films, to be sure.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Bridge at Remagen
  • Marooned
  • Che!

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

8 thoughts on “Favorite Films of my Life: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

  1. Sadly, Lazenby was doomed from the start. If I recall, he wasn’t an actor when cast in the role. Regardless, the fans were going to hate whomever took over from Connery, no matter who it was.
    It’s a fun film, despite its flaws.
    Too bad the franchise didn’t get license to film all of Fleming’s books, and not just the first few. They didn’t, so they ended up making up ever more identical plotlines. If you haven’t read the original stories, I highly recommend them. My favourite was The Spy Who Loved Me. Trust me when I say that most of the novels are nothing like the films that share their title.

    1. I’ve only recently started reading the novels, and only Casino Royale. But yeah, just reading the descriptions on the back of the books is enough to tell me the films diverge wildly. Still doesn’t keep me from enjoying both, though.

      It’s interesting you mentioned The Spy Who Loved Me. Ever notice how it is essentially the exact same movie as the next one in the series, Moonraker? Almost as if they did a find-and-replace with some names. 🙂

  2. Still my favorite. Final scene gets me only slightly less than Moneypenny’s reaction after the wedding – both are just big punches to the chest.

    If I’m recalling the movie-industry lore correctly, one of the reasons Lazenby didn’t get called back for a second go at Bond was because he showed up to the premier with long shaggy hair and beard, which definitely didn’t project the image the studio wanted for Bond.

    Related to continuity, there’s also a line from “The Spy Who Loved Me”, where Anya Amasova is trying to impress James with a brief rundown of his dossier. When she mentions “…married only once. Wife killed…”, he abruptly interrupts her, saying he’s sensitive about some things.

  3. I have a similar reaction to this movie, except I like the acknowledgement that this actor isn’t the same with the “this never happened to the other fellow” quote. I thought that was funny.

  4. I like the relationship he has with his future father-in-law. He is willing to make a deal with a gangster to get what he wants. Draco says that some of his men have defected to Blofeld so we know where the goons come from. He also uses Draco’s men in the raid against Blofeld’s HQ. In some respects this is a much more “real” world than most other bond films (except maybe From Russia With Love, the critics favorite).

  5. I too think OHMSS is one of the best bond films. What Bond film ends with him weeping over body of his new wife (cut to black). I liked the continuity in FYEO and litttke note : the studio at the time could not get th rights to the Blofeld name so the implied villain in wheelchair who is clearly meant to be him is never named. Also I liked in the forgettable TSWLM when XXX mentions “married … once” Bond cuts her off and she replies sensitive? “Yes about some things.” Nice reminder his character can never have the normal life that he had for just minutes before it ended.

  6. Sorry Mike Davis — credit to you should have read further re XXX and Bond showing he’s vulnerable. I always liked the continuity of Theresa’s death for a character which became flat and films downright awful before Daniel Craig reboot.

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