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

    By Devin Zydel on 2009-12-24

    All The Time
    In The World

    Celebrating 40 Years Of
    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service


    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… Turn

    My first On Her Majesty’s Secret Service viewing came at age 7 at a double feature with Diamonds are Forever in in the summer of 1974. Batman was my big hero at the time and I didn’t want to miss that afternoon’s episode to see Bond, but it worked out I saw the episode and made it to the double feature.

    I’d already seen Diamonds are Forever, which was the first Bond film I saw when it was brand new, so it was familiar fun, and I’d seen all the previous Connery films on rereleases and Live and Let Die on first run. I wasn’t prepared for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and didn’t even knew it existed. Who was this guy calling himself James Bond? I didn’t know him. And I was also wondering what the guy who played Kojak was doing there.

    The ending blew me away. I just didn’t see it coming, although mind you I was all of 7 years old at the time. This not only wasn’t the familiar guys playing Bond, but it was just so different in how it was presented, not so much the invincible Bond I was used to. This guy got personally hurt after all the fun and games. The girl still ended up in his arms, although as a corpse. It was more adult than I was used to in a film at that time.

    My uncle had all the novels and I was curious as to if Tracy suffered the same fate. I turned to the last page and there it was right down to the “We have all the time in the world” line. That made me eager to see it again, which wouldn’t be for another two years with the infamous ABC edit over two parts.

    At the time, I didn’t remember On Her Majesty’s Secret Service well enough not to know this was not the same version I saw theatrically. The ending still haunted me. I kind of had goosebumps knowing it was coming up.

    Unlike a lot of the other films, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service didn’t get regular replays such as a Thunderball or Diamonds are Forever would. Not just on ABC, but on premium channels like HBO.

    Seeing Moonraker in 1979 started me on the path to being a Bond fanatic. On March 7, 1980, as a 13-year-old kid obsessed with Bond, I got to see the real On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in all its glory, or what passed for it back then, as ABC showed it in a 3-hour slot on it’s Friday Night Movie.

    A few days before, my uncle who had the novels also had several Bond soundtracks and I gave On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a spin to refresh myself with its memory and was blown away by the title song. That built the excitement even more.

    Although at that age I leaned toward the fantasy and gadgetry of the Bond world, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Another thing that helped was I was becoming an Avengers fan through Friday night viewings on the CBS Late Movie. A half-hour after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ended that night I caught an episode. Four hours with Diana Rigg.

    That night I became both an On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Avengers die-hard fan. Sadly, back at that time On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was considered the red-headed stepchild of the series and it was hard to find much enthusiasm or respect for it. I still managed to tape it off another ABC broadcast and would later buy several VHS versions of it.

    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is still in my top 3 Bond films and it has been great seeing its reputation rise since those early days. My brother became a huge fan and reads the novel every Christmas. He was watching the UE special features a couple weeks ago when I visited him.

    Now if we can just get it on Blu-ray.

    Sorry to ramble on, but when it comes to something like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I can do that enthusiastically. Happy Anniversary, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… plankattack

    During the mid-70s, many “older” Bond films were packaged as double-bills, playing both in London’s West End and in all provincial cinemas. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service did the round paired up with Diamonds are Forever and it was those two that I was taken to see, catching Sean Connery first and then Laz’s performance second.

    I remember being struck by the “Never happened to the other fella” line and at the time couldn’t quite figure how to react. I was still young enough to want it all to make sense, and being no more than ten years of age, I wasn’t quite comfortable with such an apparent breaking of the fourth wall!

    I wasn’t particularly bothered by Laz—he was James Bond and so that was that. I’d already seen Sir Rog and Sean Connery play the part, so why another actor doing it should be so unsettling was lost on me! I do remember the ending though – completely throwing me and leaving me a little upset. How could they do that to my hero?!

    And since then it’s been one of my favourites and I will forever remain a huge On Her Majesty’s Secret Service fan and a staunch defender of Laz!

    I also saw Thunderball on the big-screen as part of a triple-bill with For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy in the mid-80s in Leicester Square. I’m curious if anyone else of my generation remembers these double and triple-bills?

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… JimmyBond

    I remember my first time seeing it. But this story goes back before I saw it.

    My dad and I were renting the Connery films (he was introducing me to Bond, and what better way to do it than through the first… and best Bond). I knew of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service through a Cracked magazine… what I didnt know was that Connery was not Bond. I grabbed the tape from the shelf and looked at it. When I looked at the back I searched for Connery’s name but couldnt find it. My dad looked at the tape and said to me “I don’t think Connery’s in this one.” Well, with that I put the tape back on the shelf.

    Flash forward some time (I can’t remember how much time, but it was enough time that we had moved from Kansas to Texas). Being the completist I was, I decided to brave it and rent the movie with a Bond I had never heard of. Watching the movie wasnt bad, though I couldnt completely buy him as Bond (a phenomenon I can’t quite understand, since I had no trouble accepting the other four guys as Bond).

    Needless to say it took a few viewings before I started to warm up to the film. Than once I warmed up to the film it took even more viewings to warm up to The Laz, but I am now firmly a fan of his, and do wish he had done more.

    Oh what could have been.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Mr. Blofeld

    The first time I saw On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was on DVD; I had just become a big Bond fan after watching Casino Royale, but this sudden blaze had been dampened after I decided to watch, as my first sort-of “real” Bond film after Casino Royale, the one most people had acclaimed as “iconic”; i.e., You Only Live Twice. This did not go down well with the inexperienced Bond fan that I was, so I decided to give the series one more try, just to see if it could still be good after… that, and I settled upon On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as this try.

    Well, let me tell you: I watched it… and those two hours whizzed by. The story, the music, the gorgeous locales; everything was fantastic. The entire cast seemed hell-bent upon giving life to their roles (unlike a certain Scotsman in the previous Bond film I had watched), and it worked.

    Oh, and Lazenby? Well, there’s a reason why he’s my avatar; this film, this glorious film, and I truly believe that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service cemented my Bond fandom for years to come.

    Thank you, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… Mark_Hazard

    I had read the Bond books and seen the Connery Bond films by the time On Her Majesty’s Secret Service appeared in 1969, I had then just turned 17.

    My first sighting of George Lazenby was a little earlier in the famous Big Fry ads on (what was then) ATV television (now Central) and remember my mom saying the “he’d make a good Bond”.

    Then came the newspaper cuttings which hailed the new Bond where the Daily Mirror (and others) teased us with pictures from the set whilst the new Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was being made.

    With all this I was quite prepared for a new Bond when I went along to my local Odeon to see On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and was blown away by the film, not even giving a second thought that 007’s face and voice had changed, to me Lazenby seemed to perfectly fit the vacated shoulder holster with ease.

    I can’t remember if I saw the film in December ’69 or held off until January ’70 but just before Christmas ’69 George announced that he was quitting the series – Sunday Mirror (23 Dec 1969): “New 007: I Quit”. I had enjoyed his potrayal that much after Connery, that I couldn’t see who could replace him, other than Sean Connery – I even had a bet with my cousin on Connery’s “retirement” from Bond after You Only Live Twice that he would be back again (I won that bet and later another bet after Diamonds are Forever that he would return yet again – admittedly I had to wait quite a few years to collect my winnings that time).

    Remembering On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by… dogmanstar

    I was in high school and the forecast called for a huge blizzard the next day–I had seen many, but not all, of the other Bond films, though I’d already read all of Fleming.

    On errands with my mother, I asked her to stop at the local video store to pick something up–figuring we wouldn’t be in school the next day–in fact it had already started to snow. I browsed the shelf where the other Bonds were and quite unexpectedly found this George Lazenby Bond. I wasn’t too sure about him—I hadn’t read Benson’s Companion yet—so I wasn’t exactly sure, was this canonical? Who was this Lanzenby guy? But I knew Telly Savalas and Diana Rigg and rented it. I also rented a couple of other movies too–old time things like Arsenic and Old Lace or maybe The Big Sleep, though I don’t remember exactly.

    Well, the next day–it was brutal cold and true to the forecast, there was a lot of snow on the ground. No school. Even going outside was kind of dangerous. So, around mid morning, I popped in this curiosity—I wasn’t sure of the chronology—after Connery, etc? And it was just about perfection! The opening action scene on the beach was so tough and breathtaking. Any concern about the film’s place in the series was assuaged by the title sequence. Lazenby was a tough, smart Bond who captured the book very well. And the look of the film. Finally, I could not believe the faithfulness with which they captured the end of the film.

    The smallest of ironies wasn’t lost on me either—it helped that I was watching the blizzard scene in the middle of a blizzard! It has been a firm favorite in my Bond watching rotation ever since.

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