It's Bondmania on From the Mind of Tatlock and the trend continues, with a review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond may look different, but the cool, suave and deadly agent is on his 'A' game in this one. Line this review up in your sights and take the bloody shot, by reading on...
Short nitty-gritty plot description from IMDb is as follows: James Bond woos a mob boss's daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.
Let it be known that I think On Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS for short), is a fantastic Bond movie and the one time Bond, George Lazenby, is rated high up on my list of favorite actors to don the tux. After watching the Blu-ray of said movie, a Blu-ray that looks absolutely gorgeous by the way, a feeling of sadness washed over me, not because of the tragic and tear jerking ending, but because I knew that this would be the only movie with this amazing actor portraying Bond. It wouldn't be until Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig, that we would get a more serious Bond. In fact, Daniel Craig has a lot of similarities to George Lazenby's style, with the rough hand to hand fighting and several brutal actions, often mixed with a cold demeanor. At the time of filming, the crew wanted Lazenby to mimic Sean Connery's acting and he felt that it wouldn't be right, with that I agree. In all honesty, I'm not sure if Connery would've worked in this film, as some of the lines and actions would've came off as smarmy or worn out coming from Connery, based on his last performance, You Only Live Twice, in which Connery pretty much gave up on the role of Bond, which is even more evident in his returning role in the disappointing Diamonds Are Forever. If there was ever a need for the invention of time travel, it would be to travel back in time and slap Lazenby in the face and tell him to smarten up and not quit the role so early. To think how awesome it would've been had he stayed and also how amazing it is, that Lazenby's only other acting experience was a few chocolate commercials.
Now, lets discuss the movie for a bit. OHMSS is noted as one of the few movies to closely follow the book of the same name. Besides a few changes in character names and appearances, the overall story is exactly the same. I really liked the book and it's no surprise I feel the same for the movie. The incorporated love story is touching, with a slow build up, that helps slam home that ending. The setting for Blofeld's "lair", a ski resort atop the snowy mountains of Switzerland, is beautiful and the "Angels of Death" that reside in the resort, are even more beautiful. James Bond is definitely at home when going undercover as the genealogist, Sir Hilary Bray and infiltrating the lair and bedding several women to find out the truth behind Blofeld and his deadly plan. The film does take it's time building up the story and for the first hour or more, it can come off as being a little slow. I personally loved it and the slow burn it was bringing. However, once you do get to the resort, that's when most of the action comes forth, such as a gun fight while skiing down a hill (with a great kill scene involving a long drop off a cliff), a massive avalanche, a car chase that ends up at a stock car race and finally, the eventual raid on the mountaintop resort. OHMSS is certainly no slouch in the action department come the later half of the movie, which has a total run time of 143 mins (one of the longest Bond films).
Besides the wonderfully talented performance from George Lazenby, you also surprisingly get several other great performances. Diana Rigg of The Avengers (TV series) fame, plays Tracy, the woman Bond eventually falls in love with. She's not like most of the early Bond girls, this girl is strong and doesn't fall for Bond right away. She only sleeps with him to pay off a gambling debt and slinks away the next day, without even a kiss goodbye. Of course, it's only inevitable that she does fall deeply in love with him later on. The movie shows the couples romance growing, by showing scenes between Tracy and Bond shopping, horseback riding and playing on the bench. These scenes don't come off as corny or over the top, but rather feel touching and natural.
Telly Savalas plays the evil Blofeld and he does a great job. He's calm, cool and collected, even when he figures out that Sir Hilary Bray is Bond (a slight mistake considering that Bond and Blofeld already met previously in You Only Live Twice). He also has an interesting way of smoking a cigarette. Seeing how this is a movie with barely any gadgets, Desmond Llewelyn's 'Q' is hardly present, which is sad. Still, the scenes we get with him are always a treat, as are the scenes with Bernard Lee's 'M' and Lois Maxwell's Miss. Moneypenny. Rounding out the cast is, Gabriele Ferzetti as Tracy's father, Draco, a man who believes that a woman should know her place in a relationship, which seems to be firmly in the kitchen, or the bed. I also thought his scene where he punches his daughter and quips "spare the rod, spoil the child, eh?" was pure brilliance. Finally, fans of Rosa Klebb (From Russia with Love) will instantly take to Ilse Steppat's Irma Bunt, a Russian hag with a serious attitude problem. Whew! That's a lot of people I've listed and I didn't even touch the gaggle of beautiful women, who funny enough think Bond is gay, due to his impersonation. Of course, he makes it his duty to show them otherwise, often using the same corny line on several different women.
John Barry returns to bring us a wonderful score for OHMSS. Not since Dr. NO, the opening credit sequence uses a instrumental song instead of lyrics and it's fantastic. It's often used throughout the movie and really does a great job at making the action scenes even better. We also get the song, "We have all the time in the world", sung by Louis Armstrong. Used during the romantic scenes with Bond and Tracy, it helps sell the new love that is blossoming. Also, don't fret, Monty Norman's wonderful James Bond theme is ever present.
If you couldn't tell by my massively long review (for me that is), I absolutely love On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond is in stellar form and it manages to follow Ian Fleming's novel very closely. The slow burn story and inevitable action is fantastic and the acting from everyone involved is top shelf. People don't give this movie and Bond actor enough credit. They see it as a one off and black sheep of the series, but it's the complete opposite. If you happen to be one of those people who think of it as that, you're only doing yourself a disservice and missing out on one of the best Bond films in the 50 years it's been around. If you agree or disagree, please leave a comment below and if you happen to give this movie a watch after reading this review, let me know, as I would love to hear what you think.