on January 2, 2007
I would have to say that this is the best DVD of this latest round of release of the Bond films. The extras are certainly substantial and worth having.
My initial reaction to seeing this extraordinary film on its first release was summed up in one indelible question that I kept repeating over and over again to myself. If Sean Connery decided not to appear in a Bond film, why did it have to be this one? This film brought the series to a culmination of emotional fervor. It was the first film to address James Bond, the man. It seemed to have been made for Connery. This is the one we had been waiting for. I thought it was an excellent film, but Connery wasn't in it. Yet, I also could not get the image of George Lazenby out of my head. He looked the part and there was something very unique about his facial features. Many critics said his performance was bland. Even if they were right Lazenby still possessed the physique and physical attributes that really fit the part and again his unique looks just added to the wordily and masculine aura he exuded. I went to see the film three more times. I really liked it. I missed Connery, but I still couldn't get the screen image of Lazenby out of my head. I did some real self-analysis of this film over the next two years. I started to read the Fleming books. To my amazement they were very dry yet very interesting and appealing at the same time. Fleming single-handedly drew the reader into the world of James Bond whereas the filmmakers achieved the same result in a collective effort of talents. When I read "Dr. No" and "Thunderball" I visualized Sean Connery or someone vaguely familiar to him yet not with his sardonic humor. When I read "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" I could visualize no one other than George Lazenby. As it turned out ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is the one film closest to any Fleming novel of the same name. I began to see the merits of Lazenby. The filmmakers had gone out of their way to make this the epic Bond film. The introduction of Lazenby as Bond was a well thought out and well crafted piece of pure cinema. There is no dialogue and only the strains of the James Bond Theme in another innovative interpretation by John Barry are heard. Less dialogue is better. Let the images tell the story. In the case of George Lazenby that's what worked best for him. Early on in the film he is having a bad night at the tables and you can see the disgust on his face as he deals out another loosing hand. He breaks into Gumpolt's office and penetrates his safe with assuredness and conviction while under the clock. This well directed scene is nerve racking and suspenseful again played without dialogue. The editing, music and Lazenby's presence make this another tour de force of pure cinema. It wasn't until the release of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER that I realized that ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE was the best Bond film for me. The combined efforts of all the filmmakers and Lazenby's performance of a James Bond with conviction, assuredness and determination made this the definitive James Bond film. The film had a sense of real drive behind it accentuated by Lazenby's no-nonsense approach and the urgency of John Barry's instrumental theme used repeatedly to never let up the pace. If James Bond was ever the dedicated civil servant it was in this film. I can't even imagine Sean Connery in this film any more. The filmmakers traded in Connery's worldliness for Lazenby's energetic determination. It seems apparent that Lazenby probably looked to DR. NO for inspiration. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is considered to be one of the better Bond films in the series. It follows the directorial style of DR. NO. Sean Connery in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE continued his portrayal of the character in the Fleming literary mold, but refined his performance adding more depth to the character's worldliness, intellect, social graces and wry humor. Lazenby reverts back to the James Bond we saw in DR. NO concentrating on his resoluteness and tenacity as the man with a mission who will not be deterred until the opposition is completely vanquished. Lazenby's scenes with Diana Rigg as Tracy, his bride to be, showed genuine compassion and depth. This was Bond's only true love interest up to that point in the series. Connery had showed genuine subdued sorrow tinged with anger at the death of Jill Masterson and her sister Tilly Masterson in GOLDFINGER and again with Aki in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. However, I don't see how any actor could have given a better reaction as George Lazenby did to the death of James Bond's new bride slumped over limply into his lap. George looked like he was really hurt as he buried his head onto the Tracy's lifeless body. This Letterbox VHS version of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is excellent and does real justice to this epic film.
This DVD is astounding. The restoration of the visuals is amazing. The digital sound has been laboriously enhanced for true stereo separation. You can even very clearly hear source music that was in the background. For instance, you can now plainly hear the guitar melody that was playing in the scene between Bond and Draco while they were discussing business while overlooking the bullfight on Draco's estate. The extras are very good too. This DVD contains SWISS MOVEMENT a great documentary introducing George Lazenby and showing off the entire cast and great location work in Switzerland. It remains very good to this day. Some of the other extras touting George Lazenby as the new James Bond are enticing. Peter Hunt's commentaries during the film are very insightful as was George Baker's contribution. This is a required DVD edition if you truly embrace this film.
on December 6, 1999
Many years ago, long before James Bond became the high-tech hero of the movie set, there were a set of fascinating books written by a gentleman named Ian Fleming. These books were about a superior British Intelligence agent, code name 007. With due regard to Sean Connery and the equally effective Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, the star of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, is by far the closest of the Bond actors to the character of the books. There is nothing charming or even particularly likeable about the James Bond of print. He is a totally non-descript character who can easily disappear into any crowd; a cold-blooded killer who will accomplish his mission regardless of the cost. Connery came close in Dr No, Tim Dalton even closer in License to Kill but both are too physically attractive to accurately depict 007. In these regards, Lazenby excels in his protrayal of Bond.
This story is a gripping, emotional tale of an agent committing the ultimate sin, getting involved with another individual involved in a mission. All of the normal Bond components are present; gadgetry, high-speed chases, lots of explosions and lots of pretty girls. This one goes one step farther, giving us a truly malevolent villain (played brilliantly by Telly Savalas)and Bond's only true romantic interest (played equally brilliantly by Diana Rigg).
The action is non-stop, the locations are beautiful, the soundtrack one of the best. The climax is one of the most gut-wrenching ever placed on film.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service has often been placed at the very bottom of the long list of James Bond vehicles. It doesn't belong there. This is an outstanding film with a truly outstanding cast. Give it a try. You won't be disappointed.
on July 30, 2000
When other Bond fans first talk to me the the question they always ask is "What do you think of O.H.M.S.S. ?". The answer to that is not a simple one.
I first saw the film in the cinima in 1973 and was surprised, given all the negative reports I'd heard about it, how good it was. Although very long by Bond standards the film moves along at a fair clip and has the capacity to engage the viewer. Although several of the earlier films in the series follow the main plot lines from the novels, from which they take their names, this is the only atempt by EON to film an Ian Fleming book as written.
Watching the film on DVD all these years later was a joy. The transfer is surperb the, sound crisp and short of watching a pristine print in a film theatre this is the best vision of this film your ever going to see. The additional features particularly the director's commentry make this a must for any of the many fans that this film has.
O.H.M.S.S has a tremendous "look" and the deep purple colour that is in the opening sequence, continues in the titles and is seen through out the rest of the film in various guises. There was a kind of chic fashion just at the end of the sixties after the hippies and before the seventies gave style a bad name; this is one of the few films that captures that time. Just look at the cut of James Bond's suits or the dresses worn by the girls in Piz Gloria; it's nostalgia perhaps but I love it!
George Lazenby is element of the film that most people seem to dislike and the fact that he started out as a model is usually sited as proof of his lack of acting ability; well actually Sean Connery started out as an art college life model. At least George kept his clothes on in the "Big Fry" ads. ! But seriously, for the most part he looks great in the action sequences and when he has to play the normal affable, laughing in the face of danger, side of Bond he's at least acceptable; but when he has to step out side of that, for instance when he confronts Tracy in his hotel room early on in the film that he becomes less convincing. Compare that with Sean's Bond when he confronts Tatiana in the train in "From Russia With Love" and you'll see what I'm getting at. But actually his attempt is better than Roger Moore's confrontation with Rosie in "Live And Let Die". The only difficulty is that each line Lazenby speaks seems to be made up of several different takes, all recorded at different sound levels, which makes him sound as if he has a perminant attack of hiccups; still you do get used to it. If Lazenby lacks experience his deficiency is compenceted by the standard of acting from the rest of the cast and the superior dialogue in this film; for example, Moneypenny's devastating put down when Bond attempts to resign the Service "What did you expect, a knighthood?" is unforgetable and one of the few times Lois Maxwell's character gets the upper hand in the whole series.
The structure of this film is very different from the others in the series; Bond spends the first half of the film meeting and falling in love with Tracy. He then locates Blofeld, discovers his plan and only then does the film shift up into the frenetic pace that we more normally associate with the Bond films. The ski and car chase sequences that follow are terrifically exciting and compare favourably with the best in the series. Then we have the final confrontation with Blofeld and inevitable distruction of Piz Gloria. Incidentally Lazenby's encounter with the St. Bernard dog after the bob sleigh chase was apparently ad-libbed and for an untrained actor he does it better than many RADA graduates I can think of.
Peter Hunt, more than anyone else, was the man brought this film together as a first time director it is a brilliant debut. For instance his choice of Simon Ravan to add dialoge to the scenes between Blofeld and Tracy lifts the whole film. Almost every shot seems to reflect his feel for the book. It is only fitting that the opening shot of the film, absent form the VHS version, which containes his reflection in the brass name plate of "Universal Exports" has been restored to this print.
Many action film fans dislike this picture well they'd better stick to "Things Keep Exploding III" which at least is better than "Things Keep Exploding II" although not as good as "Things Keep Exploding" although it lacks the characterization of the other two. The rest of us can enjoy the most literate of the James Bond films. It's not better or worse than any of the others just different.
on March 22, 2009
All I can say is it's about time this movie has been available as a single DVD. Ever since its initial release this remarkable film has had to deal with the regrettable and entirely undeserved stigma of being a lesser and forgettable footnote in the Bond canon. Nothing could be further from the truth.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a masterpiece, both as a James Bond movie and as an adventure movie in its own right-- and it is far and away the best Bond movie that has ever been made thusfar. The reasons for this are manifold. For one thing it succeeds marvelously on both an artistic as well as an escapist level-- imho it's the only Bond film so far to achieve this. Secondly it features what is easily the greatest score in a Bond movie, and possibly the greatest action theme music ever--the ripping instrumental theme still excites me every time I hear it after 25 years and more listens than I could possibly hope to remember. Thirdly it features one of the best ensemble casts of all the Bond movies-- every part was perfectly cast (yes even Bond) and they all played off each other wonderfully. Last but not least it was directed but arguably the best of all Bond directors, Peter Hunt.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is unique among the Bond movies in so many ways, most notably in that it stars the criminally underrated George Lazenby as Bond. Lazenby was a fight instructor with the Special Forces, a championship skier and swimmer-- all of which contributed to him having a remarkable physical grace, as well as the sort of radiant magnetism, confidence and swagger that simply can't be faked. In short, where most of the Bonds have been actors trying to be action heroes, Lazenby was an action hero trying to be an actor-- and as far as I'm concerned this gave him a distinct advantage over everyone else who has attempted the role. And he was bloody cool. So cool, in fact, that to this day, more than Connery even, watching Lazenby makes the 12 year-old in me want to run out and save the world. Topping everything off the man was a model and absolutely adored by women. In short he was, to my mind, far and away the most naturally qualified of any of the actors who have ever played Bond. Yes, he was a little rough around the edges in the acting department, but by God he had it where it counted and was diamond in the rough. It is one of the great tragedies of action cinema history that we didn't get to see him develop as Bond.
And then there's the film itself. In addition to a fantastic lead it also contains one of the best villains of the series-- Telly Savalas' Blofeld. Egotistical, charming, entirely self-centred, brilliant as well as menacing and physically imposing, he was the perfect counter to Lazenby's Bond. You could literally sense the urgency and drive behind his egocentric madness-- clearly he was a villain to be reckoned with. And there was that cool way he held his cigarettes. Furthermore, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has what is probably the best story of the series. It struck just the right balance between the absurd (the mountaintop fortress and plan to destroy the world's crops) and the serious (the character development and lack of gadgets and over-the-top fantastic elements) as well as touching on some quintessential male fantasy elements: a bevy of beauties atop a mountain hideaway on the one hand, and the delectable Tracy on the other. Let it be said here and now that as ridiculous as the idea of hypnotizing a group of beautiful women to go out and do your bidding really is, it must be noted that the whole concept is fantastically cool on the level of fantasy on which Bond films have always had their true niche. If Ian Fleming were alive to day I would give him a good pat on the back for that one.
Let us now consider the action scenes-- some of the best of the entire series-- not the least of which are the stellar fight scenes: brutal and personal, not to be approached in awesomeness until Casino Royale two years ago. And then there are the ski scenes-- utterly fantastic. The Piz Gloria escape is easily the single most exciting scene in the whole series, and it culminates so beautifully with Bond lost and alone at the ice rink, unsure what to do before lo! his guardian angel appears. I would go so far as to say that from the moment Bond is imprisoned in the cable-car room right through the end of the movie, we have perhaps the best extended action sequence in any Bond movie, perhaps in any action movie ever-- and it's scored brilliantly by the incomparable John Barry.
Above all, however, one gets a definite sense watching On Her Majesty's Secret Service of how much went into it. Starting with Goldfinger and culminating with You Only Live Twice the Bond movie producers went quite over the top and shifted the focus of the films away from character and depth into the realm of big budget spectacle-- to the point that the character of Bond was reduced to a cheap toupe adorning all the nonsense going on around him. By the time On Her Majesty's Secret Service was made they evidently decided to direct the series back to its roots. One thing that stands out to me more every time I watch this film is how much it is apparent that everyone involved with it put their heart and soul into making the "epic" Bond film. It broke all the standard Hollywood success rules-- it blew the then just-established formula to smithereens, it was the first one to really address James Bond as a human being, it was the first to give Bond a chance to fall in love, to have him register genuine fear and emotion, and so on.
Looking back it's almost as if some higher power intervened, realigned the planets and allowed the fireworks and spectacles to be put on hold for one movie so that the filmmakers could make a movie from their heart, so they could tell a story without sacrificing its integrity on the altar of crazy gadgets, whimsical plotlines and futuristic sets-- and I think it is this quality that gives OHMSS its true pulse, that quality which, to me, makes it stand out more and more as the best film of the series with each viewing. Goldfinger and Thunderball may have embedded Bond firmly in the collective popular consciousness, but On Her Majesty's Secret Service captured perfectly the soul of Bond-- and it hasn't been topped since.
To paraphrase a tribute once given to a great historical personage: To a traveler standing near a mountain range many eminences seem to have approximately the same altitude; it is difficult to disengage Everest from its lofty neighbors. But as the range recedes in the distance, the highest peak lifts more and more above its fellows, until it alone fills the horizon. So it has been with On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
on April 29, 2005
Why, you ask?
1. This is the film which most closely followed Fleming's original novel. Even "Goldfinger" took more liberties. This is an almost page for page rendition of one of the best books.
2. Lazenby > Bored Connery. Though he didn't have the pedigree of Connery (or any of the others, right through Brosnan), Lazenby not only held his own in the part, but after seeing Connery sleep through the later films (and do it again in the retched "Diamonds Are Forever"), he was a breath of fresh air.
3. Low budget, by Bondian standards. No big volcanos filled with henchmen. No ninjas. No Outer Space. No big set pieces at all.
4. Gorgeous cinematography. You really feel like you're in the mountains.
5. "Kojak" strikes just the right cord as Blofeld - somewhere between the earlier "sitting around stroking an evil cat" version and the cross-dressing, fancy lad Charles Gray edition (BTW, can you tell I HATED Diamonds Are Forever?).
6. Diana Rigg is to this day the most beautiful Bond Girl, and the romance is believable and sweet.
7. The Best Bond Theme. The only close second is McCartney's "Live And Let Die." And the best credit sequence - the montage of earlier films is brilliant.
8. The wonderful Louis Armstrong melody, last heard in "The Jacket."
9. Most of all, the downbeat ending. Gut-renching and out of character for the series.
This is the Bond film to end all Bond films.
on December 3, 2002
OHMSS suffers from a clear lack of respect granted it because of the fact that, even as he neared completion of the film, its star, George Lazenby, had already announced this would be his only Bond film. Consecuently, Eon (the company that produces these movies), never really acknowledged this as a full-fledged "Bond": there were very few promotional items, Lazenby's name was not displayed prominently in the film's billboards and posters, and, even more troubling, Tracy's death is not followed-up, or even acknowledged, until 1981's For Your Eyes Only... The pathetic next installment of the series, 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, even features some ghastly marriage jokes made by Moneypenny, which somewhat signifies that Eon would have had you believe that the events depicted in OHMSS never even happened!!
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the clear 60's hipster/Mod feel of this movie, it's probably the Bond film which has aged best. That owes in no small part to the breathtaking direction and photography, the killer soundtrack by John Barry (his best ever, I believe... and that's saying a lot!!), and the screen-play, which gives Bond more depth and human qualities than any other Bond movie before or since.
George Lazenby is, contrary to popular belief, phenomenal in the role, especially considering that this was his movie DEBUT...!! He clearly would have made a great Bond in due time, had he not heeded the ridiculous career advice given him, and not left the series. He is arguably the most physically-imposing Bond ever, and is great in the action sequences. His acting might seem on the lighter side of things (though not as much as the insufferable Roger Moore), but is generally adequate, peaking at the poignant final scene, when Tracy is taken away from him.
And now for the Contessa Theresa Draco De Vicenzo, a.k.a. Tracy Bond... Dame Diana Rigg is astounding in every sense of the word: she is the most gorgeous "Bond girl" ever, she is bar-none, and with apologies to Halle Berry, the greatest actress to ever play in this series, and she is almost literally Bond's equal and soul-mate. Mrs. Rigg is given more screen-time than any other "Bond girl", and yet it does not seem nearly enough: her Tracy is so complex a character that a mere two-hour-plus film could not possibly suffice... Mrs. Rigg proves that, as Sean Connery also proved, great actors cannot be type-cast, and we believe we are looking at the only woman James Bond ever loved, and not at Mrs. Emma Peel, or even a typical "Bond girl".
The rest of the cast is superb, especially Gabriel Ferzetti, as James Bond's father-in-law Marc Ange Draco, and Lois Maxwell's reliable Moneypenny, who is finally able to show what a warm character she actually is, far exceeding the previous depictions of her as Bond's mere toy.
All in all, one gets the feeling that if Connery had done this film, or at least if Lazenby had done more films, OHMSS would be universally recognized as Goldfinger's and FRWL's superior, which it actually is... This is the only Bond film that will stay with you days after having watched it.
on April 12, 2003
This movie is by far the best 007 movie out there. When I first watched it I did not have very high expectations, but it immediately became my favorite. The plot is interesting and follows the previous films, the music is excellent, the location is my personal favorite (the Swiss Alps), and we have the best Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who is menacing in his role and even confronts Bond in hand-to-hand combat at one point. Also the ski chase scenes are electrifying, in good part because of the score, and the references to past Bond movies are funny and unique. It is longer than the average Bond, but it was necessary to make the falling-in-love subject credible.
The only reason it is not very popular is because Sean Connery did not star in it. If he had, this movie would be even more popular than "Goldfinger". But I have to accept that Connery would have not been very believable falling in love and getting married. In that respect, George Lazenby is good as 007.
The end of this film is emotionally charged, making it a one-of-a-kind Bond film.
If you haven't watched it, I strongly recommend you do. You will not be disappointed.
on March 27, 2007
After Sean Connery FIRST called it quits, in comes George Lazenby. And, man! He's a good Bond! Former Bond movie film editor Peter Hunt takes over the directing reins, and does a BANG-UP JOB! Richard Maibaum's only sole Bond movie screenwriting writing credit gives Ian Fleming's novel, the rightful justice it truly deserves. Diana Rigg as Tracy, is the best Bond girl of the entire series! She even shows off her Mrs. Emma Peel-like reflexes in her own fight scene! While not quite on the level as Donald Pleasance, Telly "Kojak" Savalas makes a more charming and physically formidable Blofeld. Even scarier is his female cohort Irma Bunt, played to sinister perfection by Ilse Steppat. She could even give Rosa Clebb a run for her money! Gabriele Ferzetti a charming show stealer as Bond's newest aly, and future father-in-law. Michael Reed's expert camerawork and future Bond director John Glen's fast-paced film editing, make for the best action set-pieces ever in a Bond film! John Barry's last great Bond film score (at least, until The Living Daylights).
on April 26, 2000
The biggest misconception surrounding this film is that it is underappreciated. As legions of Bond fanatics will attest, OHMSS is very highly regarded, and has achieved near legendary status since its release over thirty years ago.
Although there was a bit of trepidation among moviegoers at the time regarding Sean Connery's departure from the series, the self-assuredness and virile swagger of George Lazenby put most of us at ease. He's simply terrific in the role; charming, dangerous and athletic, he commands the screen with an undaunted presence. Far better as Bond than either Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton, his abrupt exit from the series was disconcerting (until, of course, it was announced that Connery would return to the role). In fact, the film's lack of success was probably largely due to the fact that Lazenby himself refused to promote it. Add to that the fact that he arrived on the heels of the man that, to the world at that time, WAS James Bond, and that the movie's ending was uncharacteristicly downbeat.
OHMSS remains the Bond film that most closely follows the novel on which it was based. One of the more positive aspects of the movie is that it was the last Bond entry to be released in the ultra-cool sixties. Even Connery's return to the franchise in Diamonds Are Forever didn't keep that film from paling in comparison to OHMSS, despite the fact that it starred the best and most beloved portrayer of OO7 to appear thus far in the series. That film's dowdy brownish hues, cheap looking sets and unfortunate emphasis on overt campiness dulled even Connery's luster. The Bond films of the style-impaired seventies just didn't have "it".
A great story, a terrific setting, taught direction and a worthy successor to Connery's throne all helped to make this the last great James Bond film until Pierce Brosnan brought the magic back in the nineties. Only the weirdly out-of-place crooning of Louis Armstrong on "We Have All The Time In The World" sullies a marvelous score. All in all, a classic.