Ben Oliver

Banner image for On Her Majesty's Secret Service

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

There’s always something formal about the point of a pistol.
27 May 2015

Out with the old, in with the new. Sean Connery quit the Bond role in the last film, so George Lazenby was hired to step in on this sixth film in the franchise.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a good film marred by a couple of serious problems. First; Lazenby is not a good actor. He doesn’t suit the role very well and is generally awkward on screen. This is to the extent where it ruins the film, and makes it probably the worst one in our marathon so far.

Second; there are so many sloppy technical elements it’s distracting. Dubbing usually works well enough but here it’s risible; at times sound comes out when people’s mouths are shut. The bigger crime is that these silly edits never add any value to the film, they just serve to make a crap joke or to fill a gap. There are also lots of terrible special effects, tragically spliced into otherwise great scenes.

Third; the costumes are ridiculous and again, we are found laughing at the film rather than with it.

Doily O'Seven at your service.

The plot doesn’t quite make sense either. Bond is sent to Blofeld’s lair in the Alps, posing as a genealogist. The two had an encounter at the end of the last film so it seems strange that here they don’t know each other. There’s also a love story that ends up with Bond getting married. It’s a nice thought but Lazenby isn’t up to the task and it never feels like he really connects with his fiancée (Diana Rigg).

That brings us to the better aspects of the film. For starters, Rigg shines through and makes a lot out of her role as the daughter of a crime boss, offered up to Bond in marriage in exchange for cash. It’s not easy when your role relies on interacting with Lazenby, but she manages to make something of it.

Rigg out-acts Bond even in a still image

What also stands out is the technical wizardry at work. At its best, at least visually, this film is the best of the lot so far. Director Steven Soderbergh1 thinks this is the only Bond worth coming back to. I wouldn’t go that far but I can largely agree with what he says on the visual artistry. Of course at it’s worst, it doesn’t get much worse.

It’s the only Bond film I look at and think: I’m stealing that shit

Steven Soderbergh2

John Barry’s soundtrack is also a real winner. It’s sinister, exciting, fits the action well and is so memorable it’s become part of the ‘standard issue’ James Bond music. He ties it into the original theme whilst still making it its own thing.

"Can we cut please?" "What now?" "Shat meself."

The things to like about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are tragically overshadowed by the weaker elements of it. The awkward lead, the very long run time and sloppy attention to detail are too much despite Hunt’s best efforts.

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