On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)


(director: Peter Hunt; screenwriter: Richard Maibaum/Simon Raven/based on the novel by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Michael Reed; editor: John Glen; music: John Barry; cast: George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Countess Tracy Vicenzo), Telly Savalas (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Gabriele Ferzetti (Marc-Ange Draco), Ilsa Steppat (Irma Bunt), Angela Scoular (Ruby), Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Desmond Llewellyn (Q), Catherina Von Schell (Nancy), George Baker (Sir Hilary Bray), Yuri Borienko (Grunther), Leslie Crawford (Felsen), George Cooper (Braun), Joanna Lumley (The English Girl), Julie Ege (The Scandinavian Girl), Jenny Hanley (The Irish Girl), Anouska Hempel (The Australian Girl), Dani Sheridan (The American Girl), Helena Ronee (The Israeli Girl), Ingrit Back (The German Girl), Zara (The Indian Girl), Sylvana Henriques (The Jamaican Girl), Mona Chong (The Chinese Girl); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Albert R. Broccoli/Harry Saltzman; MGM/UA Entertainment; 1969-UK)
“Just as entertaining and as visually attractive as the five previous Bond films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Warning: spoilers throughout.

The sixth film in the Bond series was not well received by the public despite a good script by Richard Maibaum and good directing by Peter Hunt (“1776″/”Gold”/”Gulliver’s Travels”). It was just as entertaining and as visually attractive as the five previous Bond films, but was the lowest grossing James Bond film up until that point and remained that way for at least a decade more–yet it still turned in a handsome profit at the box office. The reason evidently is that the public never accepted the Australian underwear model and former car salesman George Lazenby (chosen through a talent search) as Bond when the popular Sean Connery called it quits after appearing in the first five Bond films. They didn’t think Lazenby, who had no previous acting experience, had the presence to be Bond and weren’t too impressed about a gentler Bond who seemed clumsy in the role and too vulnerable (even expressing fear at one point) even if he had the required good looks and build. Lazenby never recovered from this blow and his career in films was short-lived, even though he turned in a serviceable performance. It’s too bad, because this flawed Bond film tried to make this adolescent fantasy escapist adventure film a little bit more impactful with less gadgetry and a bit more meaningful romance and was more emotionally involving than the others despite the usual formulaic plot lines still in place. Though I still would have preferred Connery, and believe if he were in the pic it would have been considered as one of the better Bond films.

The film features Louis Armstrong singing “We Have All the Time in the World,” which was his last recorded song.

In the prologue Bond (George Lazenby) halts his car pursuit, on the shores of Portugal, of SPECTRE’s arch villain Blofeld (Telly Savalas) to rescue a beautiful young woman attempting suicide by drowning in the sea. The rescue is interrupted by two thugs, causing Bond and the woman to go separate ways. That evening they meet in the casino and Bond again rescues the moody jet-setter by paying her gambling debts after she recklessly wagers. She tells him that she’s Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), better known as Tracy, and after spending the night together she vanishes in the morning. Bond is then taken by gunpoint to the headquarters of the crime boss of the Union Corse, Marc-Ange Draco (Gabrielle Ferzetti), who tells Bond that Tracy is his wayward daughter and offers him £l million to marry her. Bond agrees to spend time with Tracy if Draco will help him locate Blofeld. Before action could be taken, Bond is relieved of the mission when recalled to London and in anger resigns. But Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) changes his request from resignation to two weeks’ leave.

Tracy talks dad into giving Bond the info without any strings attached, and they have a fling and wind up in Geneva. While there Draco tips Bond off that a lawyer named Gumbold (James Bree) has some connections to Blofeld, and Bond breaks into his office and discovers material from the College of Arms in London addressed to Blofeld.

Bond thereby gets M’s permission to pose as the genealogist Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker) of the College of Arms and visits Blofeld’s heavily guarded isolated headquarters on top of an Alp at Piz Gloria in Switzerland. The poser is taken in a helicopter by the stern old-fashioned meanie Irma Bunt (Ilsa Steppat), Blofeld’s treacherous aide, to where Blofeld runs an allergy research institute that treats only female patients for free. Bond in the meantime is to check out Blofeld’s claim of being the Comte de Bleuchamp.

After discovering that Blofeld is using hypnotic conditioning on the women to brainwash them to like items they previously loathed and the institute is only a front for Blofeld’s mad scheme to rule the world by sending these 12 women back to their countries where they will unwittingly introduce a deadly virus into their respective nations’ agricultural products. But Bond’s disguise is discovered by Blunt and he’s forced to escape. Luckily Tracy rescues him in her car in the nearby skiing village. After an exciting high-speed chase through icy roads and then down a mountain by skis, the lovers and equals in courage spend the night in a barn. The happy Bond proposes marriage and she accepts. But Blofeld reappears and explodes a grenade on the path they are making their escape by skis on that triggers an avalanche, that enables the baddies to capture Tracy and think Bond is buried in so much snow he couldn’t possibly be alive. But the resilient Bond somehow escapes. This prompts Blofeld to make a deal for amnesty with the United Nations and for receiving his title as count from the College of Arms in exchange for abandoning his plan to destroy the world. Bond is angered that no one cares what happens to Tracy and ignores M’s request to do nothing and enlists the help of Draco to rescue Tracy and destroy Piz Gloria. After the successful raid, Bond while escaping from Blofeld by bobsled thinks he killed the villain when he runs him into an over-hanging branch while speeding down the mountain. Bond thinking all the trouble is over marries Tracy on Draco’s estate, and feeling relaxed and that he has all the time in the world to be with the one he loves the couple are unguarded as they start out by car on their honeymoon. But Blofeld, in a neck brace, and Irma come speeding by in their car and machine-gun the bride to death.