On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
July 2, 2015 4:04 AM - Subscribe

James 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.

This is the 6th James Bond film adventure.

Previously on Metafilter: Steven Soderbergh shares his thoughts on On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The Wikipedia entry.
ShrunkenCinema.com reviews On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
The James Bonding podcast (Matt Mira, Matt Gourley and guest Paul Scheer) covers On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Some Top Critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Variety: "Film of break-neck physical excitement and stunning visual attractions in which George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery as James Bond."

Don Druker, Chicago Reader: "Director Peter Hunt manages to inject some life into this 1969 exercise with a wonderful ski chase, but otherwise the film is a bore."

Geoff Andrew, Time Out: "The Bond films were bad enough even with the partially ironic performances of Connery."

A.H. Weiler, New York Times: "What are Bond's problems now? They're too numerous, as usual, to hold the constant attention of anyone other than a charter member of Her Majesty's Secret Service."
posted by doctornecessiter (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Go read the Soderbergh article linked in the "previously on Metafilter" above...I really don't want to kiss Soderbergh's ass too terribly much, but that more or less sums up my feelings on this one.

I'll cut Lazenby a less slack than he does though...I don't dislike him, and as Soderbergh suggests maybe it is more the filmmakers' fault in not giving him enough of a chance to take direction...but there's just so little "edge" to his performance. He's a little too lightweight, in a "This is some vacation!" kind of way. There are only a couple of scenes were he emotes in anything approaching a significant way (such as when nearly on the verge of panic when being hunted in the Swiss village), and I think he does pull those off. But I'm always pulled back to the moment when he's in the gondola gear room, hanging on to the cable and suddenly being pulled quickly toward death...There are quick closeups on his stoic face, and he seems to be thinking, "Hm. I wonder what time it is."

But Diana Rigg. Wow.

I mentioned it in a comment on the "previously on" thread, but I'll reiterate: Piz Gloria is one of my favorite locations on Earth.

And another previous thought from that thread.
posted by doctornecessiter at 4:28 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you remember when you first came here... How you hated chickens? How you were sick when you even saw one? But all that is over now, for I have shown you foolish it was. And your cure is nearly done. I have taught you to love chickens, to love their flesh, their voice. Yes, your cure is nearly done, and soon you will go home to look after the chickens, which you love so much.

I love On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Easily one of my favorite themes and scores, great locations, gorgeous cinematography, Diana goddamn Rigg. I agree that I don't dislike Lazenby, who is remarkably serviceable given his lack of acting experience. And honestly, I can't imagine Connery playing the role with anything like Lazenby's vulnerability, which is 100% necessary for the tone of this picture. But if a young Timothy Dalton had taken the part, as the producers wanted, I suspect this would have had a chance at being considered among the all-time classics of the series. So, the missed opportunity stings a bit.

In a "big picture" way, though, I like that Lazenby will always be part of the series. The Australian model with no acting experience who lucked his way into the role of a lifetime, and then proceeded to blow it by getting himself fired after he showed up to the red carpet premiere with shoulder-length hair and a beard (grown at the urging of his hip new counterculture friends). I love that to this day, his seemingly every anecdote relating to his experience with the franchise ends with him saying "I just didn't care, man, I was getting laid."

Still, too bad about the dinner scene, in which we're shown the Chinese girl eating rice, the Indian girl eating naan, and the African girl eating a banana.

Double-oh dear...
posted by incomple at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

It would be funny if after being in that room during Ruby's hypnosis session, suddenly Bond is deathly allergic to chickens.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:45 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was amused by how much time they spent making it clear, especially toward the beginning, that it was still a James Bond movie with all the James Bond stuff like M/Q/Moneypenny, fast cars, and exotic locations. Doubly so because it actually went on to do some very different stuff. Hell, in the last scene you very nearly see Bond cry, which would be an almost incomprehensible emotion for most Bonds.

I don't know that I'd want every Bond movie to be like this one, but it was definitely an enjoyable entry. It helps to have Diana Rigg around, of course. And I was surprised by how much I like Telly Savalas. He was goony in a way that might not have worked for Blofeld (and certainly wouldn't have for Donald Pleasance), but I found him fairly menacing when he actually had something to do beyond pretending to ski.
posted by Copronymus at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Coincidentally, the AV Club just did an interview with Diana Rigg. Here's what she had to say about On Her Majesty's Secret Service:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)—“Tracy”

DR: I enjoyed it. It was the aftermath, the fallout, that was just not good. For either of us [Rigg and George Lazenby], actually, because it appeared as if we were scrapping, and we weren’t. I very much enjoyed—I mean, it was a very luxe film. Pots of money. Lovely locations. And a good script.

AVC: There’s the sense that the film is so popular among Bond fans largely because of your character, and how she adds some emotion and gravitas to the formula.

DR: Yes. Unlike most Bond heroines, she had a touch of melancholy about her. She was much more substantial than most.

AVC: Was there a lot of input from the director, Peter Hunt, or the producers in terms of that aspect of the character? Or was that something you brought to it?

DR: No, there wasn’t a lot. No. That was me, fleshing it out rather more than—I mean, the way I played it. In terms of the script, I didn’t add to it at all. I mean, I knew why I was there: I was there to help George through, and to give more substance. Probably because George was completely, as an actor, green. He wasn’t bad. He was not bad, at all. He was just rather difficult and temperamental to handle.
posted by Copronymus at 6:31 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

This movie both creates and skewers the "James Bond is a code name used by multiple people" theory.

Lazenby says to the camera, "This didn't happen to the other guy." A-ha! Code name!

Then we see him wistfully going through mementos from the previous movies -- in other words, if he's a different guy, he's "feeling nostalgia" for things he didn't actually experience.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I rewatched this one a few years ago, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and how relatively highly it ranks in my favorites. It's so different in tone in many ways from the Connery Bonds and foreshadows the humor of the Moore Bonds ("this didn't happen to the other guy") but also brings in a depth that most of the other films have lacked in Bond. And of course Diana Rigg is the Bond woman to which Bond girls aspire. I don't know how Lazenby would have done with another actress to play off of.
posted by immlass at 10:19 AM on July 4, 2015

This was shown twice on one of the ITVs - last week and the week before. The first time I just caught the second half (from All the Time in the World, the week after I caught it from the casino scene and meant to just watch up until I came in, but ended up watching the whole thing again. I suppose the regrettable bits I just file away as 1969-and-it's-a-shame-really but the good bits are extraordinarily good - the action beats all the previous films hands down, I think. There's a logic to the action that's absent from You Only Live Twice and Thunderball, probably because it's all dependent on getting from the top of the mountain to the bottom. And Diana Rigg is phenomenal. Interesting to compare with The Assassination Bureau, which she made at the same time (also with Telly Savalas), where she brings the same sort of gusto to the character, but they manage to even more obviously sideline her at the end. And thinking of that movie actually makes me think that the perfect contemporary casting for this Bond might have been Oliver Reed, but as he wasn't in the running anyway, that's just me having a fantasy burst.

When Skyfall came out, my line on it was that it might not have been the best Bond film, but that of the Bond movies it was probably the best film, and I think that holds for OHMSS and the classic Bond movies.

You poor buggers are going to have to spend a couple of months watching Roger Moore Bonds soon, aren't you?
posted by Grangousier at 2:29 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

You poor buggers are going to have to spend a couple of months watching Roger Moore Bonds soon, aren't you?

Sure, but not before scraping Connery off of the bottom of the barrel this week!
posted by doctornecessiter at 8:06 AM on July 6, 2015

I think you won't get to the very bottom of the Connery barrel until late August, but even though Diamonds Are Forever is on ITV4 this week, I'm not sure I want to watch it. I remember it being nasty and cynical and faintly nauseating, like a bad hangover with cocaine withdrawal fringes.
posted by Grangousier at 1:10 PM on July 8, 2015

I guess I'll have to dissent on this one. Maybe it's because I had a certain expectation for it to be a serious espionage film as opposed to what seems to be a parody. I think if I had watched it expecting Sterling Archer, I would have rather liked it.

What's hilarious to me at this point in the series is how utterly ineffective and useless Bond has become, continuing the tradition from goldfinger... He is propped up and supported so much by those around him that they are the only reason he gets anything done at all.

On the up side, it has given me one of my favorite movie quotes ever: "I have taught you to love chickens"

I recapped it to a few friends in a way that sums up my feelings pretty well:

> So to recap - this is where James Bond talks about getting married, goes on an extended bachelor party in the Swiss alps, pretends to not like the girls with severe allergies to chickens who all have cosmetics that will genocide grains, as he participates in every event from the Winter Olympics while occasionally wearing circular glasses and a kilt (or possibly thermal pajamas) while masquerading as a genealogist. And then he gets rescued by the bride to be in the midst of a blizzard - of course, because he is utterly incapable of escaping on his own - and claims that everything he did was because it was his job, proposes, then skis downhill to freedom while disposing of pursuers in the most uselessly placed snowplow in all known history before a mountain explodes on them, when he then leaves her behind with the evil mastermind and returns to the office, to get her dad to rescue her with armed helicopters. Then finally, the traditional bond theme plays while he is nowhere to be seen as everyone else fights, someone is set on fire with a flamethrower for some reason, Bond trashes a room before finding a very obvious switch to a secret panel, everyone else sets explosive charges and leaves because seriously, screw that guy, it's not like he's helping, James wins the gold medal in armed bobsled-jacking, is saved again by a dog, then has the shortest possible marriage imaginable.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:11 AM on January 6, 2016

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