James Bond rewatch: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Rewatching the James Bond films chronologically. It’s 1969, Connery is out, and Lazenby is in. He’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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Bond blurb: While Bond is in Portugal searching for the still-missing Blofeld, he romances Tracy, who is a “Contessa.” Her father is an international criminal, who wants Bond to marry her, and who’s willing to give up information on S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Bond and Tracy grow closer, and he follows Blofeld’s trail to a remote allergy clinic in Switzerland.

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Bond background: Bond’s fourth-wall breaking line about the “other fellow” has led to a lot of people believing that “James Bond” is really a code name used by a bunch of agents over the years. I’ll choose not to interpret it that way, because this blog series is about viewing the movies as a singular series. There’s an interesting bit where Bond learns of his family’s coat of arms, and the story of his heroic ancestor Otto Le Bon, a knight of some sort. Where’s that movie?

Bond baddies: After failing to destroy the world via spaceships, Blofeld has now turned to inner space with germ warfare, as the Swiss allergy clinic is his new base. Telly Savalas (sans lollipop) plays Blofeld as colder and more sinister, as opposed to Donald Pleasance’s bug-eyed maniac. Blofeld also gets in on the action, skiing down the mountain right alongside his henchmen. The big puzzler is why Blofeld and Bond don’t recognize each other when reunited. Maybe they’re both maintaining their secrecy because other people are in the room.

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Bond babes: Tracy is a troubled “bad girl” who only needs a big, strong man to tame her. Wasn’t stuff like this supposed to be on the way out by 1969? Still, I’m always interested in the Bond movies in which the romance is central to the story instead of a b-plot, and I suppose it’s fitting that the “one” for Bond is a woman who challenges him, rather than some of the air-heads he woos in a few of these movies. The problem is we don’t really see her challenging him, so when he asks her to be “Mrs. James Bond” it kind of comes out of nowhere.

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Before the nuptials, however, Bond visits the health clinic where he bangs his way through a whole bunch of lovelies. He does this in the guise of kilt-wearing Sir Hilary, solely to get information from the women. Later, when Tracy asks him about this, he (perhaps wisely) dodges the question.

Bond best brains: Q has a short scene at the beginning, with a bit of weird dialogue about miniaturization, which goes nowhere. Other than that, this one’s pretty much gadget-free.

Bond bash-ups: Lots of cool fistfights in this one (foreshadowing Daniel Craig, almost), and Lazenby really knows how to throw a punch. There’s a fight inside a room full of bells, which I really want to see in a nice theater with a good sound system. Best of all, though, is that this is the movie that introduces skiing to the James Bond mythos. What is it about skiing and 007 that go so great together? I don’t know, but I like it. The finale is a bobsled chase, and they do a great job of coming up with every bobsled-related action beat they could think of.

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Bond baggage: The women in the germ clinic are also hypnotized while they sleep (because of… germ warfare?), and this allows the filmmakers to throw in some more late ‘60s psychedelics. I suppose the 1968 Winter Olympics in France must have been an influence on the movie as well.

Bond babble: What do I think of Lazenby? Pretty much what I think of the movie as a whole. The fights and chases are excellent, but the romance and humor are wooden. It’s not going in a new direction so much as it has no direction. It’s fun, but not the best.

Next: Look who’s back.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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