|On Her Majesty's Secret Service|
On Her Majesty's Secret Service film poster by Frank McCarthy
|James Bond||George Lazenby|
|Also starring||Diana Rigg
and Bernard Lee as M
|Directed by||Peter R. Hunt|
|Produced by||Harry Saltzman
Albert R. Broccoli
|Novel/Story by||Ian Fleming|
|Screenplay by||Richard Maibaum|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Main theme||On Her Majesty's Secret Service|
|Performer||John Barry Orchestra|
|Editing by||John Glen|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||December 18, 1969|
|Running time||140 min.|
|Preceded by||You Only Live Twice|
|Followed by||Diamonds Are Forever|
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) is the sixth spy film in the James Bond series, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, and the only one to star George Lazenby as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. In the film, Bond faces Blofeld, who is planning on unleashing a plague through a group of brainwashed "angels of death" (which included early appearances by Joanna Lumley and Catherina von Schell) unless his demands are met. Along the way, Bond meets, falls in love with, and eventually marries Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo.
This Bond film is the second in what is considered the "Blofeld Trilogy", coming between You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. This trilogy is of interest not only for the three different Blofeld actors (Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice, Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever) but for its two Bond actors (Sean Connery, then George Lazenby, and back to Connery).
This is the only Bond film to be directed by Peter R. Hunt, who before was a film editor or second unit director on every previous film. Though its theatrical release was not as lucrative as its predecessor You Only Live Twice and Lazenby's performance was much criticized, On Her Majesty's Secret Service grossed over $87 million worldwide and was met with positive critical reviews.
The pre-title sequence shows Miss Moneypenny, M and Q discussing the whereabouts of Bond. Bond is actually in Portugal, driving on a coastal highway when a woman in a Mercury Cougar overtakes him. Bond follows the woman to a beach where she attempts suicide by drowning in the waters. Bond drives down to the shore, saving the woman's life by carrying her back to the beach. As he brings the woman back to consciousness and introduces himself, two thugs try to kill Bond. After a fight with the thugs, from which Bond emerges the victor, the woman jumps into Bond's car, driving it back from the beach to the road, then transfers to her car and speeds away. Retrieving her discarded shoes, George Lazenby as Bond, looks at the audience and notes that "This never happened to the other feller" (a nod to previous James Bond Sean Connery).
Bond later encounters the same woman in a casino where she places a bet; a bet which she is unable to cover. On her behalf, Bond rescues the woman by paying her bet. The woman, Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo invites him to her hotel room to thank Bond for his deed. When Bond later visits Tracy's room, a thug emerges behind Bond, Bond knocks him out then goes back to his room where he finds Tracy. Tracy threatens to kill Bond "for a thrill"; however, Bond disarms Tracy and questions her about the thug in her room. Tracy has nothing to say about that.
The next morning, Tracy leaves the hotel, and later, as Bond leaves the hotel, several men kidnap him and take him to meet Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the European crime syndicate Unione Corse, whom Bond recognizes immediately. Draco reveals that Tracy is his only daughter and tells Bond of her troubled past, offering Bond a personal dowry of one million pounds if he will marry her. Bond refuses, but agrees to continue romancing Tracy under the agreement that Draco reveals the whereabouts of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE.
Bond returns to MI6 but is told by M that he has been relieved from the task of hunting Blofeld, prompting Bond to resign. After M accepts the letter, Bond learns that as Moneypenny was recording his dictation, she had changed the wording to request two weeks' leave instead. Realizing he can pursue Blofeld on his time off and not quit MI6, Bond thanks Moneypenny and heads for Draco's birthday party in Portugal. There, Tracy discovers Bond's deal with her father and strong-arms him into providing Bond with the information he requested. Draco tells Bond that his next line of pursuit should be a law firm in Bern, Switzerland. After a brief argument, Bond and Tracy begin a whirlwind romance.
Bond and Tracy go to Bern with Draco to investigate the Swiss lawyer, Gumbold's, connection with Blofeld. Searching the law office, Bond finds Blofeld's correspondence with the London College of Arms: Blofeld is attempting to claim the title 'Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp'. His College of Arms correspondent is genealogist Sir Hilary Bray. Bond visits M at home and is granted permission to recommence investigation of Blofeld.
Posing as Bray, Bond travels back to Switzerland where he visits Blofeld, who has established a clinical research institute atop Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps. In disguise, Bond meets ten young women, the "Angels of Death", that are patients of the institute's clinic. After having an uneventful dinner with them, Bond later that night, sneaks out of his room and meets one of them, named Ruby, in her room for a romantic encounter. But at midnight, Bond sees that Ruby and apparently each of the other ladies go into a sleep-induced trance while Blofeld gives them audio instructions for when they return to the civilization. In fact, the women are being brainwashed to distribute bacteriological warfare agents throughout various parts of the world. In that same night, Bond meets another woman named Nancy, who sneaks out of her room to visit his.
The next day, Bond meets with Blofeld again to persuade him to leave Switzerland to visit Augsburg outside Switzerland where according to the College of Arms, the ancestral home of de Bleuchamp, a royal family which may have historical research for Blofeld as his title of a Count. Bond knows that if he lures Blofeld out of Switzerland, the British Secret Service can arrest him without violating Swiss sovereignty. But Blofeld refuses, for he is busy with work at his research facility.
Bond's lasciviousness betrays him to Blofeld's henchwoman Irma Bunt, who captures him during a second visit to Ruby. Blofeld identifies Bond after he had made a small slip earlier that the real Sir Hilary Bray would not have made. (Bond had explained to Blofeld that the de Bleuchamp tombs are in the Augsburg Cathedral, which are actually located in the St. Anna Kirche.) Bond escapes imprisonment, skiing down Piz Gloria while Blofeld and many of his men give chase. Arriving at the village of Mürren, Bond is almost trapped at a carnival by Irma and her men, when Bond encounters Tracy. After another long car chase through the town and the nearby town of Grindelwald, they escape. A blizzard forces them to a remote barn, where Bond declares his love for Tracy and proposes marriage to her. Tracy accepts Bond's marriage proposal. The next morning, Blofeld captures Tracy while leaving Bond to die in a man-made avalanche, which Bond survives.
Blofeld holds the world to ransom with the threat of destroying its agriculture using his brainwashed women, demanding amnesty for all past crimes and that he be recognized as the current Count de Bleauchamp. Bond enlists Draco and his forces to attack Blofeld's headquarters, while also freeing Tracy from Blofeld's captivity. The following day, while Blofeld is proposing marriage to Tracy, Bond and Draco's men appear in a fleet of helicopters to raid the mountain fortress. The raid is successful as Bond and Blofeld are the last to escape before the institute is destroyed. The pair engage in a furious bobsled chase down Piz Gloria, culminating with Blofeld becoming snared in a tree branch, breaking his neck, while Bond drives away in the bobsled.
Bond and Tracy marry in Portugal, then drive away in Bond's Aston Martin. Bond pulls over to the roadside to remove flowers from the car. Tracy thanks Bond for marrying her and having a future away from the British Secret Service. As this happens, Blofeld (wearing a neck brace) and Bunt in a Mercedes-Benz 600 drive past the couple's car, then Bunt sprays the car with bullets from an MP40. Bond dives behind the car and survives the drive-by attack, only to discover that Tracy has been killed by a shot to the forehead. A police officer pulls over to inspect the bullet-riddled car, prompting a stunned Bond to mutter that there's no need to hurry to call for help by saying, "We have all the time in the world," as he cradles Tracy's lifeless body. On that sad note, the movie comes to a close.
George Baker also provides the uncredited voice of Bond imitating his character of Sir Hilary Bray, and David de Keyser provides the uncredited voice of Marc-Ange Draco, as well.
The Angels of Death are several beautiful women from all over the world (though in the novel, only ten from the UK) being brainwashed by Blofeld under the guise of allergy treatment. Their mission is to help Blofeld contaminate and ultimately sterilize the world's food supply. In the novel, Ruby's last name is "Windsor". Several of the girls would later have more notable careers, including Joanna Lumley, Catherina von Schell, Julie Ege & Jenny Hanley.
|Nancy (Hungarian)||Catherina von Schell||Potatoes|
|American Girl||Dani Sheridan||Pork|
|Australian Girl||Anouska Hempel||Beef|
|Chinese Girl||Mona Chong||Rice|
|Ruby Bartlett (English)||Angela Scoular||Chicken|
|English Girl||Joanna Lumley|
|German Girl||Ingrit Black|
|Helen (Scandinavian)||Julie Ege||Fish|
|Irish Girl||Jenny Hanley||Corn (Maize)|
|Israeli Girl||Helena Ronee|
|Jamaican Girl||Sylvana Henriques||Bananas|
Fleming wrote the original novel in 1962 as Dr. No was being filmed. It was originally intended to have brought to the screen following Goldfinger as indicated on early prints of that film. In 1965, there was a contest searching for 12 women to star as Blofeld's angels of death. Thunderball was filmed instead, however, due to the resolution of the rights dispute to the novel. It was then earmarked to follow Thunderball, but the difficulty of searching for winter locations made Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli postpone the film again, favouring production of You Only Live Twice.
Peter R. Hunt asked to direct after editing the other Bond films and being second unit director on You Only Live Twice. Hunt had been working on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Michael Reed and was keen to proceed with the next project. When writing the script, the producers decided to make the closest adaptation of the book possible: virtually everything in the novel occurs in the film. The script stays so close to the book that there are several continuity errors due to the movies taking place in a different order, such as Blofeld not recognising Bond, despite having met him face-to-face in the previous film, You Only Live Twice. In the original script, Bond undergoes plastic surgery to disguise him from his enemies. The intention was to allow an unrecognizable Bond to infiltrate Blofeld's hideout, and help the audience accept the new actor in the role. However, this was dropped in favor of ignoring the change in actor.
In 1967, after five James Bond films, Sean Connery quit the role. In his place Albert R. Broccoli initially chose actor Timothy Dalton. However, Dalton declined, believing himself too young for the role. . Harry Saltzman also briefly considered Jeremy Brett for the role of Bond after seeing his performance in My Fair Lady. The confirmed front runners were Englishman John Richardson, Dutchman Hans de Vries, American Robert Campbell,(and Englishman Anthony Rogers. Richardson was said to have been runner up to Lazenby and was strongly considered for Live and Let Die.
Broccoli eventually chose Australian George Lazenby after seeing him in a commercial. Lazenby dressed the part by sporting several sartorial Bond elements such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit (ordered, but uncollected, by Connery) Lazenby recalled in an interview. Broccoli noticed Lazenby as a Bond-type man, physique and the character elements, and offered him an audition. The position was consolidated when Lazenby accidentally punched a professional wrestler, who was acting as stunt coordinator, in the face, impressing Broccoli with his ability to display aggression. As a result, he was offered a contract for seven movies, but was convinced by his agent Ronan O'Rahilly that the secret agent would be archaic in the liberated 1970s and left the series in 1969.
For Tracy Draco, the producers wanted an established actress opposite neophyte Lazenby. Brigitte Bardot was invited, but declined, so Diana Rigg, who had already been the popular heroine Emma Peel in The Avengers, was cast. Rigg said one of the reasons for accepting the role was that she always wanted to be in an epic film. Telly Savalas was cast following a suggestion from Broccoli, and Hunt's neighbour George Baker was invited for Sir Hilary Bray. Baker's voice was also used when Lazenby was impersonating Bray, as Hunt considered Lazenby's imitation not convincing enough. Gabriele Ferzetti was cast as Draco after the producers saw him in an Italian mafia film, but Ferzetti's heavy accent led to his voice being dubbed over.
Filming began in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland, on October 21, 1968, and used several locations including the capital city, Berne, itself and various regions in the Berner Oberland including the now famous revolving restaurant "Piz Gloria", and wrapped in Portugal, in May 1969. The first scene shot was an aerial view of Bond climbing the stairs of Blofeld's mountain retreat to witness the girls. Production was hampered by weak snowfall which was unfavorable to the skiing action scenes. The producers even considered moving to another location in Switzerland, but it was taken by the production of Downhill Racer.
Filming locations included the historic Pinewood Studios, England. Bern, Switzerland included several scenes shot on location. The Christmas celebrations were filmed in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Various chase scenes in The Alps were shot at Lauterbrunnen, Saas Fee while Piz Gloria and Schilthorn were shown as Blofeld's headquarters in the Alps. The restaurant atop a mountain was still under construction, but the producers found the location interesting, and had to finance electricity and aerial lift to make filming there possible. Lisbon was used for the reunion of Bond and Tracy and the pre-credit coastal and hotel scenes were filmed at Estoril and Cascais in Portugal — Harry Saltzman wanted these scenes to be in France, but after searching in that country, Peter Hunt considered that not only the locations weren't photogenic, but were already "overexposed".
The downhill skiing involved professional skiers, and various camera tricks. Some cameras were handheld, with the operators holding them as they were going downhill with the stuntmen, and others were aerial, with cameramen Johnny Jordan—which had previously worked in the helicopter battle of You Only Live Twice—developing a system where he was dangled by a parachute harness rig at 18 feet (5.5 m) high, allowing scenes to be shot from any angle. The bobsledding chase was also filmed with the help of Swiss Olympic athletes.
The avalanche scenes were due to be filmed in co-operation with the Swiss army who annually used explosions to prevent snow build-up and causing avalanches, but the area chosen naturally avalanched just before filming and so stock footage and images created by the special effects crew with salt were used. The stuntmen were filmed later, added by optical and editing to the footage.
For the scene where Bond and Tracy crash into a car race while being pursued, an ice rink was constructed over an unused airplane track, with water and snow sprayed on it constantly. Diana Rigg and George Lazenby did most of the driving due to the high number of close-ups.
To make audiences not forget it was the same James Bond, just played by another actor, the producers inserted many references to the previous movies, some as in-jokes. These include Bond mentioning "This never happened to the other fellow", the credits sequence with images of the previous installments, Bond visiting his office and finding objects from Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball, and a janitor whistling the theme from Goldfinger.
According to an interview with Lazenby, the difficulties were due to director Peter R. Hunt refusing to talk directly to Lazenby, who was too brusque in passing on a request that Hunt's friends clear a set before filming Allegedly, there also were personality conflicts with leading lady Diana Rigg, who was already an established star. However, according to director Hunt, these rumours are untrue and there were no such difficulties - or else they were minor - and he would have agreed to direct Diamonds Are Forever if Lazenby had accepted the contract. Rigg herself acknowledged having eaten food spiced with garlic just before her kissing scenes with Lazenby, though witnesses also acknowledge that was done in an ironic and jesting tone, demonstrating a very English sense of humour on the part of Rigg.
The soundtrack to the film was composed, arranged, and conducted by John Barry. It was his fifth successive Bond film.
John Barry felt it would be difficult to compose a theme song containing the title "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" unless it was written operatically, in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan. Director Peter R. Hunt allowed an instrumental title theme. The track is notable for its incorporation of the Moog synthesizer in its recurring bassline - the first time this instrument had been heard in a film soundtrack. Its distinctive sound would become a mainstay of soundtracks in the 1970s.
The theme, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", is used in the film as an action theme alternate to Monty Norman's "James Bond Theme", as is the case with Barry's previous "007" theme. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was remixed in 1997 by the Propellerheads for the Shaken and Stirred album. Barry-orchestrator Nic Raine recorded an arrangement of the escape from Piz Gloria sequence and it was featured as a theme in the trailers for the 2004 Pixar animated film The Incredibles.
Barry also composed the love song, "We Have All the Time in the World", sung by Louis Armstrong. With lyrics by Burt Bacharach's regular lyricist Hal David, it is heard during the Bond–Tracy courtship montage, bridging Draco's birthday party in Portugal and Bond's burglary of the Gebrüder Gumbold law office in Bern, Switzerland. It was Louis Armstrong's last recorded song (He died of a heart attack two years later.) Barry recalled Armstrong was very ill when he recorded the song, but recorded it in one take.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service was released on 18 December 1969. It grossed $ 87,400,000 worldwide, with $22.8 million in the United States alone. It was one of the highest-grossing films worldwide in 1969. .
Critical response to On Her Majesty's Secret Service remains sharply divided, affecting estimates of Lazenby's potential as Bond. It followed the plot of the novel more closely than the other film adaptations of the eponymous source novels, including serious dramatic subject matter pivotal to the development of Bond's character: Bond's contemplated resignation from MI6; his comically botched impersonation of a sexually ascetic genealogist at a mountaintop allergies clinic for beautiful young women; and his brief, tragic marriage to Tracy Draco, the daughter of a Corsican crime syndicate leader. A 1994 committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted Bond's line 'Just a slight stiffness coming on' as the Rudest Ever Moment in Any Film. American movie reviewer Leonard Maltin has suggested that had Connery held the leading role, On Her Majesty's Secret Service would have epitomised the series.
On the other hand, Danny Peary wrote, “I’m not sure I agree with those who insist that if Connery had played Bond it would definitely be the best of the entire Bond series…Connery’s Bond, with his boundless humor and sense of fun and self-confidence, would be out of place in this picture. It actually works better with Lazenby because he is incapable of playing Bond as a bigger-than-life hero; for one thing he hasn’t the looks…Lazenby’s Bond also hasn’t the assurance of Connery’s Bond and that is appropriate in the crumbling, depressing world he finds himself. He seems vulnerable and jittery at times. At the skating rink, he is actually scared. We worry about him…On Her Majesty’s Secret Service doesn’t have Connery and it’s impossible to ever fully adjust to Lazenby, but I think that it still might be the best Bond film, as many Bond cultists claim.” Peary also described On Her Majesty's Secret Service as "the most serious," "the most cynical" and "the most tragic" of the Bond films.
Feminist film critic Molly Haskell wrote an approving review of the film in the Village Voice: "In a world, an industry, and particularly a genre which values the new and improved product above all, it is nothing short of miraculous to see a movie which dares to go backward, a technological artifact which has nobly deteriorated into a human being. I speak of the new and obsolete James Bond, played by a man named George Lazenby, who seems more comfortable in a wet tuxedo than a dry martini, more at ease as a donnish genealogist than reading (or playing) Playboy, and who actually dares to think that one woman who is his equal is better than a thousand part-time playmates." Haskell was also affected by the film's emotional ending: "The love between Bond and his Tracy begins as a payment and ends as a sacrament. After ostensibly getting rid of the bad guys, they are married. They drive off to a shocking, stunning ending. Their love, being too real, is killed by the conventions it defied. But they win the final victory by calling, unexpectedly, upon feeling. Some of the audience hissed, I was shattered. If you like your Bonds with happy endings, don't go."
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 81% "fresh" rating. IGN ranked On Her Majesty's Secret Service as the eighth best Bond movie, Entertainment Weekly as the sixth, and Norman Wilner of MSN, as the fifth best.
A heavily edited TV version was broadcast by ABC in 1976 and again in 1980. This version opens with Bond's escape from Piz Gloria, and follows that section of the film through to the scene in M's office after the avalanche that results in Tracy's capture by Blofeld. The entire film is then played as a flashback, including the entire ski chase/escape from Piz Gloria sequence, all over again.
You Only Live Twice
|James Bond Films
Diamonds Are Forever
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a 1969 film in the James Bond series. Agent 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.
(After Tracy has been shot) "We have all the time in the world"