Guilty Pleasure: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I confess I am one of those few who actually likes this odd duck of a James Bond film. 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. Plus we get a bonus shootout in the luge!

I will say that I hate hate hate the breaking of the third 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. Completely unnecessary. And the scenes where Bond is impersonating Sir Hillary with the brilliant disguise of a kilt, a pair of glasses, and a squeaky voice. What is he, Superman? Ugh again. But, those bits aside, it’s really a nice little Bond 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.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Guilty Pleasure: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

  1. Um, I think that’s George Lazenby. And fourth wall. 😉

    Other than that, I mostly agree with you on this one. OHMSS is definitely not the Worst Bond Film Ever (I reserve that epithet for turkeys like View to a Kill and License to Kill – and definitely for Never Say Never Again, if you’re not a purist like me and choose to include it in the list of Bond films). I’ve never been partial to Lazenby (he always seemed more like someone pretending to be James Bond than someone being James Bond, if you know what I mean). But the story’s pretty good – and the assault on Piz Gloria and the bobsled scene go a long way toward making this movie watchable, IMHO.

    I don’t agree with your assessment of For Your Eyes Only, though. That’s one of my favorite Bond films – not so much for Moore’s Bond (and especially not for Carole Bouquet’s deadpan acting), but for the villains (Kristatos), allies (Columbo), and action sequences (especially that ski-chase and the final assault on St. Cyril’s monastery). Out of all the Moore-era Bond film’s, I personally find For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker the most watchable – in that order. (I can live without the others.)

  2. OHMSS is a bit a favourite of mine as well – it’s a nice period piece I love the look of it, the clothes, the ski chase, everything really. It’s got the best Bond soundtrack as well.

    I think the film dates from a period where the stylishness of the 60s setting is at a peak and the films haven’t yet drifted off into gadget-related silliness. Nothing in the film seems impossible (unlike in the dreadful Moore films) and it hasn’t descended into self-parody (unlike in the dreadful Moore films). The ending is great as well and probably the only real emotionally-involving event in any Bond film.

    If Connery had been in it I’m sure that it would have trumped Goldfinger to be the one regarded as the best evah.

    “He showed a lot of guts!”

  3. I’m another one of the few. I agree with all your points, although I think that I might like this film more than you. The fact that it was Mrs. Peel marries James Bond is no small part of it, of course.

    A funny thing about OHMSS that I never noticed at first, is that there is no title singer. Was that a coincidence that they lost the singer along with Connery? In any case, John Barry more than compensates.

  4. "ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE" is my all time favorite James Bond movie.

    However . . . when it comes to the worst, I usually consider movies like GOLDFINGER, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, TOMORROW NEVER DIES and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.

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