Plot: What’s it about?
Just when James Bond (George Lazenby) seems to be out of luck when it comes to tracking down the nefarious Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas), he happens into a lovely tip. After preventing a young woman from killing herself, Bond is offered a proposition from her father. If Bond agrees to protect the woman, Tracy Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg) by marrying her, then her father will supply him with the information he needs to getting his hands on Blofeld. In a dire situation to prevent Blofeld from unleashing a lethal virus on the world’s population, he takes the offer even though the woman’s father is part of a large scale crime syndicate. As Bond goes through his usual motions and makes his way through obstacles to reach Blofeld, he discovers he has some feelings for the young woman, an uncommon thing for 007, to be sure. When Bond finally arrives at Blofeld’s headquarters, he finds himself in the middle of the Alps, which is not the safest place to be. Can Bond juggle his obligations to the British government, his deal with the young woman’s father, and his feelings for Tracy? Even for James Bond, that seems like a tall order.
Of all the Bond films, it seems as though this one serves as the least popular installment to most, mainly due to George Lazenby’s portrayal of 007. While it’s true he lacks the shine and suave nature we expect from Bond, he stills has the looks and toughness the role demands. I’ll give my thoughts on Lazenby’s venture into the series later in the review though. I think this is the most literate and believable of all the 007 movies, and it’s a shame it’s held in such low regard. The main problem I have with this Bond adventure is the small scope the film seems to be in, the large, grandiose feel of the rest of the series is gone in this one. It feels more like a regular movie, as opposed to a James Bond film, which isn’t a good idea for a popular series to venture this far from the roots. Had the scope been as wide as usual, this would stand as one of the best entries in the series, since it already has the finest writing and storyline to find a home in the series. But as it is, this is an average at best Bond adventure, although I do feel it belongs along side the others in any Bond collection. Those rabid Bond fans will have to add this to the libraries, but others will want to rent this one first, for sure.
This film was directed by Peter Hunt, who served as editor on several Bond films and also directed his own spy flick, The Ipcress File. This film marks the first and only appearance of George Lazenby as 007 in the series, which is both a good and bad thing in my eyes. While Lazenby (The Kentucky Fried Movie) seems in shambles at times, I think he shows some potential, although we’ll never what might have been, since his ego cost him any future chances at the role. If nothing else, Lazenby looked and fought like James Bond, even if he lacked the wits and complex processes 007 usually has. If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out and make you own call on Lazenby’s efforts for the series. This movie sports one of the hottest Bond girls of all, perky Diana Rigg, whose character was so alluring, Bond actually fell for her, which has never happened since. Rigg served as eye candy for years as Emma Peel on The Avengers, but she makes the move to the big screen well here. While not one of my favorite Bond foes, Telly Savalas makes an interesting one, if nothing else. The usual suspects also appear here, such as Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, and Lois Maxwell.
Video: How does it look?
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While not as sharp and polished as more recent Bonds, this is a fine visual presentation, and the best the film has looked on home video. The colors seem in order, bright and vivid with pristine whites, and flesh tones are normal and free from discoloration. In some scenes the colors tend to become a little muted, but this is to a minor degree, and is rare. The contrast is strong with well defined shadows although some minor detail loss is evident. The transfer does not suffer from compression errors, but the source print does have some nicks and other wear signs at times.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original mono track is used for audio, and when it comes to Bond, mono just doesn’t cut the mustard. If you take this track alone, it sounds good, but when you think of how good other Bonds sound in surround tracks, you start to feel shafted. The main issue I have with this track lies with the volume levels, which place dialogue at a much lower tone than the other elements. This can cause some remote fiddling, which is never a good thing. Just when you think you’ve found the perfect volume to hear all the dialogue, the music kicks in and deafens you.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is another special edition release from the Bond Collection, so fans will be in supplement heaven. An audio commentary is provided, which features several crew members, although director Peter Hunt takes most of the speaking time. The track makes for an interesting listen, as the participants speak about all manner of production details, very interesting stuff. Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a forty-two minute documentary on this film, and has more than enough goodies packed in to warrant a watch. This is mostly interviews with cast and crew members, but some behind the scenes footage emerges. Two brief featurettes are also contained on this release, Inside Q’s Laboratory and Above It All. The former deals with some the series’ more interesting gadgets, while the latter explores the aerial effects seen in this movie. You’ll also find an extensive still photo collection, the original theatrical trailer, five television spots, and three radio ads on this release, while the insert booklet contains some production notes and photos.