On Her Majesty’s Service (1969): Bond’s Sixth Entry B+
Commercially speaking, Ön Her Majesty’s Service” evidenced a serious decline, compared to the box-office performance of the previous two Bond pictures. “On Her Majesty” grossed in the U.S. only $22.8 million, and globally $82 million.
At the time, some observers attributed this relative decrease in popularity due to the fact that a new James Bond was cast in the role, the Australian actor George Lazenby, who did only one Bond picture, during a break that Sean Connery took from the series.
Previous James Bond reviews:
Dr. No (1962): www.emanuellevy.com/review/dr-no-first-james-bond/
From Russia With Love (1963): www.emanuellevy.com/review/from-russia-with-love-1963/
Goldfinger (1964): www.emanuellevy.com/review/goldfinger-6/
Thunderball (1965): www.emanuellevy.com/review/thunderball/
You Only Live Twice (1967): www.emanuellevy.com/review/you-only-live-twice-bond-no-5/
Artistically, in hindsight, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” as directed by Peter Hunt, was one of the strongest in the series to date.
In the pre-credit, Bond, hunting for Blofeld on the continent, spots a woman who’s trying to commit suicide by walking into the sea. He saves her, but is attacked by two armed men, and the woman runs off, leaving him alone on the beach.
The titles of the film, accompanied by John Barry’s instrumental music, are played over a deep purple sequence, which contains images from previous Bond pictures as well as icons of the monarchy.
Bond, portrayed by George Lazenby, has spent nearly two years trying to track down Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas, before he became a TV star), the head of SPECTRE. He has been taken off the case by his chief (Bernard Lee), a move that almost pushed him to the point of considering resigning from Her Majesty’s Secret Service, just as he saw a new avenue of attack on his quarry.
While in the field, Bond has crossed paths with the Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), a beautiful but desperately unhappy woman, whom he has rescued from an apparent suicide attempt and an embarrassing moment at a casino gaming table.
The Contessa, who prefers to be called Tracy (“Teresa was a saint”), is the daughter of Marc Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), an industrial and construction magnate, better known as a crime boss. Impressed with Bond personally as well as professionally, Draco would like to see him marry his problematic daughter.
Bond is, at first, unwilling to involve himself with a woman on that level, but Draco’s underworld contacts give him vital clues to Blofeld’s location that get him back on the case and hot on the man’s trail.
Journeying incognito (he masquerades as Sir Hilary Bray of the Royal College) to Blofeld’s mountaintop retreat in the Swiss Alps, named Pix Gloria. Bond finds out there that the criminal mastermind posing as a would-be nobleman is a philanthropist running a clinic devoted to the treatment and eradication of allergies. Needless to say, it’s a front for a sinister plot for international blackmail.
In the process, Bond discovers the Tracy is like no woman he’s ever known before, special enough that he is willing to give up his life as a free-living, free-loving bachelor.
Once at Piz Gloria, Bond realizes that the Count is indeed the SPECTRE Number One, who plans t use the patients of his allergy clinic to distribute an “ömega virus,” which can induce infertility in any species of flora or fauna. Once the virus is strategically planted in various places, Blofeld would blackmail the world through the United Nations.
The theme song, “We Have All the Time in the World,” is performed by Louis Armstrong.
Lazenby, credited for being the first actor to play Bond as an existential hero, is given a self-referential line, which fans would quote as a witty quip, “This never happened to the other fellow.” You all know who the other fellow is.
Running time: 124 Minutes.
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
Written by Richard Maibaum and Simon Raven
Released: December 18, 1969.
DVD: May 16, 2000
George Lazenby as James Bond
Diana Rigg as Tracy Di Vicenzo
Telly Savalas as Blofeld
Ilse Steppat as Irma Bunt
Gabriele Ferzetti as Draco
Bernard Horsfall as Campbell
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