The Good: Moments of plot, Supporting heroine, The end.
The Bad: Terrible direction, Ridiculous plot, No real character development (until the last minute), Horrible editing
The Basics: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service might well be the worst James Bond film; it is amazing it did not sink the franchise!
It had been at least two decades since I originally watched the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when, for the purpose of review, I rewatched the film today. I remembered nothing about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service except that it was George Lazenby’s lone outing as 007. In fact, I was fully prepared (prior to rewatching the film) to note that like Eric Bana in Hulk (reviewed here!), the fault for getting recast was not his. Having watched it again, it seems pretty obvious that in addition to a somewhat ridiculous story, terrible direction and editing, the performance by George Lazenby is nothing to write home about.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is an absurd waste of time that is only redeemed from the very lowest ratings by the fact that the Bond Girl in the movie is actually one of the coolest in the entire franchise. Despite how lamely Bond and Tracy come together as part of a plot contrivance, Countess Tracy is actually a strong woman who holds her own with Bond. In fact, Bond is rescued by Tracy and (for a change) Bond and a Bond girl actually spend time talking as opposed to just having sex and being used as a human shield. Even so, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is not worth watching.
Opening with Q and M creating a way to track James Bond, Bond tries to rescue a woman who is walking into the sea only to fall into a trap. Rescuing the woman from certain death and the two potential assassins, Bond visits the nearby casino where he plays baccarat and rescues the woman, Countess Teresa, from her debts. Soon Bond is being wooed by Teresa and, more importantly, Teresa’s industrialist father, Draco. Draco offers Bond one million pounds to marry Teresa and Bond, suspecting that Draco’s construction operation has ties to the SPECTRE leader Blofeld, agrees when Draco throws in a means to getting to Blofeld. Returning to headquarters, Bond tries to resign after being taken off the hunt for Blofeld (Moneypenny prevents him from actually resigning and gets him two weeks leave.
Bond uses Drago to get a lead on Blofeld, though he actually develops a relationship with Teresa in the process. After breaking into a lawyer’s safe, Bond gets a primer at the College Of Arms so he can go undercover at Blofeld’s compound. As Blofeld tries to convince the undercover Bond that he has royal lineage, Bond uncovers SPECTRE’s latest plan. They have brainwashed a dozen women as part of an allergy clinic and Blofeld plans to use them as sleeper agents in his next plot to destroy the world’s economy.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first (canonical) James Bond film not to star Sean Connery and it also contains the evidence naysayers after Skyfall needed to argue that each actor plays a different James Bond. Bond notes, when Teresa runs away that, “That never happened to the other guy.” Given how Casino Royale has the same M giving James Bond his training, supplies, and license to kill, it makes sense that Bond is just an alias for 007s throughout the years and thus Skyfall’s late scenes make absolutely no sense. Anyway, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has a note that insinuates that the Lazenby Bond is not the same Bond that was married at the end of the prior film.
The editing in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is terrible. The fight sequences are cut in an abrupt and troublesome fashion and there are moments when the film speeds up, which looks ridiculous. In fact, on DVD, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has numerous moments that were not cleaned up sufficiently to fool viewers in HD (the avalanche, the assistant spy to Bond getting hung upside down when Blofeld’s people kill him) and the film is poorly assembled as well as a storytelling nightmare.
This is a James Bond film where Bond is not on an official mission and he is not badass enough to actually be on a mission of vengeance. As a result, the film meanders from being a romantic set-up film to the most boring possible undercover mission (impersonating Sir Hilary Bray is supposed to have Bond transformed into a boring scholarly type and Lazenby succeeds) before it degenerates into a series of particularly lame chase sequences (many of which involve skiing). To his credit, Lazenby gets the completely dry and dull persona down pat. Unfortunately, director Peter R. Hunt keeps the film mired in Bond in that persona and that drags the movie down.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service seems almost like a parody of a Bond film, with the car being a regular automobile and Q not actually delivering any gadgets. This version of James Bond is stuffy and while the last few minutes of the movie actually have a strong emotional resonance that is different from the other James Bond films, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a clunky, poorly created spy movie that sets up more potentials than it delivers on.
For other James Bond films, please check out my reviews of:
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
Die Another Day
Quantum Of Solace
For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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