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Celebrating 40 Years Of
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
40 years ago this month James Bond returned to the silver screen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as he had never been seen before—with Australian actor/model George Lazenby taking over the role of 007 after Sean Connery departed following the release of 1967’s You Only Live Twice. What resulted was a 140-minute long (the longest Bond film up until 2006’s Casino Royale) film involving 007 pursuing arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the Swiss Alps, falling in love, getting married, and ultimately, being widowed.
This incredibly close adaptation of Ian Fleming’s original novel premiered on 18 December 1969 at the Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square in London, UK while simultaneously opening in the US and various other worldwide countries the same day.
Filmed on a budget of $7 million, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service went on to gross $22.7 million in the US alone and overall $87 million worldwide. While this represented a drop at the box office compared to the three previous Eon-produced Bond films, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was still one of the highest grossing films worldwide for 1969.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the film, CommanderBond.net asked our discussion forum members to recall their first (or most memorable) time seeing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. To share your own remembrance, simply register here (it’s free and only takes a minute) on the CBn Forums.
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Major Tallon
I saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in its opening week in downtown Chicago. I cut my afternoon classes and joined my brother outside the theater. I’d noticed how much less advertising there had been for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, compared to earlier Bond films. I’d seen Diana Rigg on an afternoon talk show, and George Lazenby’s bearded appearance with Johnny Carson, but there hadn’t been much other promotion. I remember the stunning newspaper headline that had appeared the week before the premier: “New 007 Wants Out, Too,” and I was concerned about that, as I’d been an early Lazenby enthusiast. Lazenby’s appearance with Carson confirmed that this film would be his last.
I enjoyed the film a lot, though I had some reservations, which I’ve discussed elsewhere. It seemed like there was a decent-sized audience for the film, but it wasn’t like Thunderball, when I’d emerged from an early showing to find the street blocked by a huge mob wanting admission. Several of my friends saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the first few days, and their reactions were uniformly positive.
It was some time later that I saw a story in Variety, indicating that there was concern in the studio about the film’s box office take, with EON remaining strongly positve on the subject. None of this affected my affection for the film, and its central perfromance, which remain among the best in the series.
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… elizabeth
So it was the summer going into my 8th grade year, the summer they did the Bond marathon on AMC. I saw the commercial for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and I was anticipating it all day. I remember loving it and almost crying at the end when Tracy died.
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… sharpshooter
I didn’t always like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
I remember the first time I saw it. I can’t pinpoint exactly how long ago it was, but it was a late night television broadcast, so I decided to tape it and watch it first thing in the morning.
The next morning I woke up, fired up the VHS and pressed play. Being the youngster I was, I didn’t find it that engaging. And being a Connery/Moore Bond person, I wasn’t totally sold on Lazenby. Because he only did one film, I wrongly dismissed him and the film he was associated with. I mostly forgot about the film and viewed it as a black sheep. I later owned it on VHS, mainly for completist purposes, and it was one of my least viewed Bond films.
It didn’t really dawn on me how good it really was until years later.
My Bond film collection only consisted of VHS, and the VHS player had been sold. I had a DVD player with no Bond DVDs for quite some time. I had gone without seeing my favourites, and I had a renewed hunger for them. I found myself very interested in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, realizing I had not given it a reasonable chance. I heard many Bond fans held it in high regard. I was eager to see it and analyze every single frame with precision—realizing it would be in reality my first proper viewing, with a more patient, sound mind.
After purchasing the Ultimate Edition DVD collection, I put On Her Majesty’s Secret Service into the DVD player first. I was blown away by the picture quality. It really was like viewing it for the first time in many ways. I couldn’t believe how I dismissed what I now view as the best Bond film in the series. The music, story, action, locations, cinematography—you name it, all exceptional.
These days, I watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the most. It really is the best.
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Nicolas Suszczyk
I’ve rented it, curious to know how good Mr. Lazenby could be as James Bond. I was nine years old, and while I liked the film, I was terribly disappointed when the film ended with Tracy’s death. I thought it was unfair to see the hero so broken-hearted, so I hated the movie. Some years later, I started to like it, and now I consider it a quintessential Bond film.
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… AMC Hornet
I saw Diamonds are Forever first, at the tender age of 12 waaaaaaaaay back in 1971. I didn’t understand who Blofeld was or why Bond had such a Jones to kill him, but that was forgotten in the enjoyment of all that sexy, glittering spectacle. Over the next year I caught up with the earlier films at double bills, then, as a warmup to Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever was shown again in a double bill with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The moment George’s face came out of the shadows and said, “good morning, my names Bond, James Bond,” I thought to myself “No.” Then came the titles and Bond rolling up to the hotel in Portugal, the casino scene, meeting Tracy, the fights, the spying, the mission…and I forgot all about my initial reaction. Connery was already over, Roger was on the way—so what if George only made one? It was a masterpiece, thanks to Peter Hunt’s vision and determination. I can identify with George more than any of the others—given the same opportunity, who’s to say whether any of us wannabes could do any better, or last any longer?
I only ever saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the big screen once, but it remains at the very top of my all-time favorites (along with many of the other least popular titles like Diamonds are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun and Die Another Day). Next week I’ll be using my son’s 32″ widescreen for our annual Christmas viewing, complete with champagne and caviar (from the north of the Caspian!).
This will be the first time I’ve watched the remastered DVD. I’ve peeked at a few scenes and I must say I could never go back to my VHS copy. Just compare the clarity and shading contrast inside the helicopter during the dawn approach to Piz Gloria. And what’s with that extra line of Savalas’ about Draco having “his own ways of keeping it in the family”? If I’ve ever heard that line before, it must have been in 1973.
To anyone else out there who’s more willing to give George a chance than people were back in ’69, I say, “good on yer.”
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… jaguar007
My mom was a James Bond fan and I grew up watching the Bond films on ABC during the 70s whenever they would air (The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond film I saw in the theater, but had seen several on TV prior). I remember sometime in the late 70s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was going to be on TV. I was aware of that movie, but had not yet seen it. The only conflict was that the annual TV showing of The Wizard of Oz was on the same night. I had not missed The Wizard of Oz for as far back as I could remember. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the only Bond film my mother had not seen and she said that she had heard it was not that good. We watched The Wizard of Oz.
A few years later as I really was getting into Bond (1981 I think) I remember regretting that decision as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was at that point the only Bond film I had not seen. Luckily The Guild theater in Portland, Oregon started their annual James Bond film Festival in January 1982. They ran this festival for several years in the early 80s (until all the films came out on VHS). We had gone the previous week to see Goldfinger and Thunderball. They showed the old previews for the Bond movies the following week and I was taken by the trailer for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I could not wait to see this movie. The week that You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were playing my father was out of town. I was trying to convince my mother to take me to see the double feature on the last night it was showing but she did not really want to drive downtown by herself. She said if we could get another adult to go with us we could go. I called a friend of hers who also liked James Bond (my mom did not really think her friend would go)and she said yes, so the three of us went to see the double feature. I liked the movie quite a bit from day one. As I had already known Bond get married and his wife dies, I was not shocked by the downbeat ending. My mother was surprised as well and liked it better than any of the Roger Moore films (she was always a Connery fan, never cared much for Moore, Dalton or Brosnan. She does love Craig however).
Still On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ranks in my top five favorite Bond films.
Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… MarkA
I first saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on its original release in 69. It was a Sunday night and as always my father took me. Not letting on until afterwards that he had already seen it a couple of days before and had been disappointed. I had already seen every James Bond film up until then apart from From Russia with Love. I loved it. In my young mind it didn’t matter to me Connery wasn’t in it. Lazenby looked like James Bond, moved like James Bond so to me he was Bond. (Something I’m afraid never happened when I saw Moore a few years later. Why was the Saint playing James Bond?). I even vividly remember Tracy’s death having a profound effect on me even at that young age. In the years afterwards it was the one film that never seemed to be re-released. So I never saw it again until I was in my late teens when it was first shown on British TV. The only thing that struck me then was how Lazenby was trying to do a Sean Connery impersonation. No wonder on that early viewing he seemed to fit for me. Even now I consider it the last really great Bond up until Casino Royale. The first four, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale. None of the others come close. Funny they all owe a lot to the source novels.
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