1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service celebrates 40 years (Part I)

    By Devin Zydel on 2009-12-21

    All The Time
    In The World

    Celebrating 40 Years Of
    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

    PART I

    Part I | Part II | Part III

    '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, 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… O.H.M.S.S

    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is ever since I saw it for the first time my favourite Bond film. Everything else has changed since then. Favourite villains changed, favourite Bond girls switched places, etc.; but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was always the best Bond film.

    My brother got the whole Bond set on VHS for his 16th birthday. One day I got ill and stayed away from school, I started to watch the Bond films chronologically. When I got to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, my brother wanted to watch Moonraker instead, it was the one he never saw. We struggled a bit and Moonraker became the one we saw that evening. I only saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service after we saw the whole series. But I was blown away by this fantastic film, and it became my favourite and that never changed.

    It’s really the first in which Bond becomes more human, there is an incredible amount of character development. And still the action is thrilling. Peter Hunt gives us the most exciting action scenes in the series. George Lazenby is a physically impressive Bond and it shows.

    Michael Reed’s cinematography benefits the atmosphere of the movie, the Portugal scenes are beautifully colourful, Bern is rainy perfectly associating with the architecture of the city, the building site, Gumbold’s office and the Central Europe feel overall. The Alps are, however, the highlight in cinematography, you can feel the snowy coldness when Bond is outside, though inside Piz Gloria the warmth of a burning fireplace comes towards you. Production designer Syd Cain contributes to these feelings with excellent sets, though not outlandish, but perfectly appropriate for the movie. Top marks for the casino seqeunces.

    John Barry’s score is, undoubtedly, the best in the franchise, not leaving his usual style Barry inserts also very romantic tracks and thrillingly synthesised action themes. The main theme is a fantastic piece of instrumental music which goes perfect with Maurice Binder’s main titles, but also with the extened ski/car chase through the Swiss Alps. Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World” shouldn’t go unmentioned either, it is one of the most romantic and moving songs you can imagine for an emotionally loaded story as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service certainly is.

    The cast of course is outstanding, Diana Rigg bringing great charisma to the role of Tracy, Telly Savalas in possibly the best incarnation of SPECTRE nr. 1 Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Ilse Steppat being effective as his sidekick Fraulein Bunt, Gabriele Ferzetti incarnating one of the most memorable allies of the series to the screen, Marc Ange Draco is a major mob boss, still he’s a father figure, that is great character depth if you ask me. And then there is Bernard Lee, I mean M is always great in the first 11 Bond films, but this is his finest hour in the role, angry when Bond mixes personal matters with his profession again, on the other hand he’s delighted when Bond’s expertise extends to different sorts of butterflies. Desmond Llewelynn not into his usual word battles with James, but this time he’s prepared to, not only give him a compliment, but stand up and offer him his help if Bond needs it. Lois Maxwell might not have much screen presence, but she gives a great performance, what would we be without her?

    And then there is George Lazenby, in my opinion absolutely perfect as James Bond here. Bond was different here then in any other of the previous films. It’s a good thing to have an unknown actor portray a Bond we didn’t know before. He delivers some truly brilliant acting here, two examples at the end of the movie to prove this: first throwing his hat to Moneypenny, look at his face when he waves to her, almost an apologizing look. Of course the final scene is the one that proves his acting skills the most. You can’t watch that scene objectively without admitting Lazenby delivered it wonderfully. When he says “We have all the time in the world” his voice breaks as almost like a metaphor of a perfect life that now has to end so quick and so suddenly. The eternal spy, hero of the nation, condemned to continue to live as he has lived before, condemned of not having a loving wife of his own, of not having a happy normal life. This scene is the strongest of the franchise and the sad, emotional ending of one of the best (Bond) films ever. Top marks for George Lazenby, who sadly did not come back to the role.

    Maybe audiences back then where not ready for such a dramatic change, but the appreciation the movie gets these days proves that Bond fans have matured enough to embrace this gem of a movie.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Bucky

    I saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when I was younger after getting it along with a lot of the other Bond films on VHS. Wasn’t crazy about it as I found it to be kind of slow and was just used to the other Bonds (I also liked Brosnan at the time, I was very confused).

    After viewing it several more times it is now my favorite of all the Bond films and is one of my favorite films of all time. It is simply top notch all around between the locations, directing, acting, music, and action. There is just a freshness to the entire film that has not been in a Bond film since until Quantum of Solace.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Safari Suit

    To my pretty-darn-good-if-I-do-say-so-myself memory On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first Bond movie I ever watched all the way through. I watched it with my Grandfather after he taped it off ITV (not really, officer!) on the last day of the Christmas holidays, January 1996; about a month after I had turned nine. My grandfather was a long-standing casual Bond fan, and sadly this was the only Bond I would ever see with him. I had seen bits of previous films on TV and I guess a bit of James Bond Jr. before I watched On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Either from those experiences or from word of mouth I was familiar with some of the basics of the Bond franchise before I watched it; I knew who Moneypenny and Q were, that Bond had been played by several actors, most notably (at the time, at least I thought) Sean Connery and Roger Moore. I was not surprised to see Bond played by someone else, and I remember my grandfather explaining to me when the end credits rolled that this was Lazenby’s only Bond film, how Connery had left the role because “he felt he was too old” (note I’m quoting what my grandfather said rather than stating what I know), and that Moore took over afterwards even though “he was older”.

    Seeing as I had no conception of what the romances or lack thereof in Bond movies consisted of, I had no idea this was a somewhat atypical one. I think I was somewhat surprised by the ending but not especially upset. I remember my Grandad saying that her death was a foregone conclusion given that Bond could hardly carry on being a spy if he was married, a concept I didn’t really understand at the time.

    Even at that age I knew the score was a good ‘en. I particularly liked the music while Bond paced back and forth in his office.

    I obviously enjoyed the film enough that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of the first Bond videos I bought when I started buying them at about 13. I was surprised to find out as my interest in Bond and film in general grew that Lazenby’s acting was a constant source of derision, and that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was his only real claim to fame bar the Big Fry commercial.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… BoogieBond

    I can’t remember every detail about my very first time seeing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but I remember being about 8 or 9 years old and seeing it on TV and taping it, then watching it back over and over. I remember thinking the action was very exciting, didn’t much care about the romance and more grounded angle at that age. One of my most memorable viewings was watching it with my dad and us both thinking it was a great Bond film, even though Dad is a staunch Connery fan. I never really took to Laz’s portrayal at that age, preferring Sean and Rog, but since the first viewing of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I have been a fan of the film.

    I remember watching a couple of Bond double bills at the cinema, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker was one, and Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only was another. I don’t ever recall a triple bill though. I would have liked to see a triple bill Bond extravaganza though.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Zorin Industries

    I first saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on British television around the Autumn (I think) of 1986. It was on as part of an inadvertent mini season of Pinewood Studios orientated films (Pinewood was celebrating its 50th Anniversary I believe). I think it was on midweek and I may have had to tape it as it could have finished after my bedtime.

    I don’t remember much of the film but do remember that this 11 year old thought it was very adult and slightly cool though the mushy marriage stuff was, well, mushy. Even then I do remember thinking it was a more serious Bond film but that just made the experience better as young kids need and love to watch things that are not always centred at them once in a while.

    I now think it is the best Bond film (but not my favourite) and has clearly been one of the few Bond films templates still adhered to now (with Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice being the others). Tonally, artistically, temporally and directionally it is the definitive blueprint for the Bond films. It is also that rare thing for a 007 pic—it is a beautifully rendered and stand alone film.

    From that first viewing onwards I have vowed to get to Muren and Piz Gloria one day and have dinner at dusk…

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… john.steed

    I was in 8th grade when it came out in December of 1969. I tagged along with my older brother and his friend when they went into downttown Boston to see the movie. While I knew of Bond and had enjoyed some of his imitators, such as Wild, Wild, West, this was to be my first Bond film. I simply loved it as this was far better the the TV imitations. I loved seeing Diana Rigg as I was already a big fan of The Avengers and I am sure that I had some tears in my eyes at the end of the film. These were the good old days—the screen was huge and, as, they did not clear the theater, we stayed for two showings.

    Seeing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first of a three-step process that turned into a Bond fan. The second was reading Thunderball after buying it at my church’s bazzar that same winter. The third step was seeing a twinbill of Thunderball and You Only Live Twice that spring.

    While my initial seeing of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was, along with that twinbill that I just mentioned, my most memorable viewing of a Bond film, the second time that I saw it was my worst viewing of a Bond film. That was the infamous two part showing on ABC in 1976.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Simon

    I saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on what must have been its premiered TV showing in the UK. I had by then seen a couple of Bonds and understood there were gadgets and fun to be viewed.

    This film left me disappointed since the above was largely absent—I am pretty sure the lint gadget reference passed me by.

    That said, now, it is the perfect Bond film. It has everything a generic film should have and is that much better since it is a Bond film. Tension, suspense, music, real emotions, developed characters, performances and tight action scenes and editing.

    And, I think most importantly, this film would NOT have benefitted by having Connery play Bond at this juncture, slightly over weight and bored. You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever both pale to insignificance by comparison to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    I saw it, quite by chance, only this weekend. The one tiny, nothing, type fault I find with the film is the crashing Bond theme over the end credits. It totally takes one out of the emotion of Tracy’s death. As an experiment, I decided to mute the soundtrack before the theme starts, and just watch the credits in silence.


    It is one of cinema’s most tragic stories that events conspired to prevent Lazenby from doing further Bond films.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… lazenbyland

    My first film was Diamonds are Forever in 1972, when I was seven, at the local cinema. I was ready for seeing Connery as Bond as I had the toy moonbuggy. There was no mention of anyone called George Lazenby. I’ll admit that then, I thought Diamonds are Forever was fantastic, particularly Barry’s soundtrack.

    After that it was Roger Moore in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. I didn’t really have a problem with Moore as Bond at that stage. This is probably because they followed the same jokey format started with Diamonds are Forever. And Moore is so different to Connery that there was no way he would be compared.

    After The Man with the Golden Gun the Bond films came to TV in the UK. In April 1975 we had Dr. No which still holds the record for the largest power surge during a commercial break. The streets were emptied for this.

    Then it was a Bond film every six months or so. So we had From Russia with Love in late 1975. Again a major viewing event in a country with three TV channels. No VCRs then.

    Goldfinger and Thunderball followed in 1976 plus the occasional repeat of the other films. They consistently topped the ratings.

    You Only Live Twice came in the first half of 1977 and then the cinematic release of The Spy Who Loved Me. It was very obvious that the plots of the two films were similar.

    So I had seen every single James Bond film except one. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    I read the book which I found amazing and I thought if the film follows the book we’re in for a treat. In a pre-internet age though, there was very little information about the film. I had a small still photograph of Lazenby from a TV tie-in magazine called “Look-In” and that was about it. There had been a picture of Jenny Hanley with a caption saying she had been in a Bond film. With her blond hair then when she was presenting a children’s show called Magpie, I thought she played Tracy as described in the book.

    Alas if the films had continued with the six month gap I would have seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in late 1977. I think there was a strike at ITV which may have delayed things.

    I was hugely disappointed when the film didn’t appear. The film was being shown in a double bill with Diamonds are Forever at a nearby cinema but I couldn’t convince my father to drive and see it.

    So it wasn’t until September 78 that I saw a trailer on ITV for the showing of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I thought ‘fantastic’. The trailers looked great and concentrated on the beach fight.

    A friend had told me that Telly Savalas played Blofeld which was big news as he was popular as Kojak at the time.

    But it wasn’t until the TV listings came out that I saw the full casting with Diana Rigg as Tracy! There was the poster in the TV guide too with a caption saying it was the film with the most action.

    It was still a major event on TV. I loved the way Lazenby knelt down and shot in the gunbarrel and also Barry’s rearrangement of the Bond theme. The ‘This Never Happened to the Other Feller’ line was perfectly timed in the film and the music was brilliant.

    As the film largely followed the book, it engrossed me throughout and apart from the fact that Lazenby was Bond I thought of this as a mainstream Connery era film. With Bond falling in love to ‘All The Time In The World’ only made it more powerful.

    What surprised was the largely negative reaction to Lazenby. Most of my schoolmates thought the film was great but were completely indoctrinated to be against Lazenby. This is where I saw at first-hand the sheep mentality that had obviously affected the critics’ reviews in 1969/70.

    It was a life changing event. I had to wait another two years before seeing it again in 1980 and then three more till 1983. 1983 was a major showing as Diana Rigg had new set of fans from The Avengers which were being shown on the new Channel 4 at the time.

    Of course the next film couldn’t have been more different, Moonraker!

    And I do feel very sorry for the Americans who had the criminal edit imposed on them by the cretins at ABC. So they were robbed of seeing the film in its original form first. That was so important for this film.

    I had my honeymoon in the Bernese Oberland and since set up the Lazenbyland website. Ironically it was only this year that I finally saw the film on the big screen appropriately enough with my own seven year old son, who thought it was great!

    As always, stay tuned to the main page for neverending James Bond coverage. Be sure to check out our Twitter feed as well.