…this never happened to the other fellow!
Having a film as GOOD as ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ that is.
With that line spoken, we immediately know that we, the audience, are in for something completely unique in this picture.
In a series riddled with cliche`s-a-plenty even into the third film, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (referred to as ‘OHMSS’ from here on out) breaks the mold and is arguably the best in all twenty-two movies to date!
Well let’s start with George Lazenby…
Who, you ask, is he?
Exactly my point.
An Australian actor known previously only as “The Big Fry Man” from a series of chocolate bar commercials. With a new face, an unknown, we finally get to focus on James Bond and not merely watching Sean Connery going through the motions.
He is a human Bond; he has emotions on display. For the first time in the series he is a Bond in true jeopardy; after a brutal ski chase he attempts to hide during a Christmas celebration in a small village; he’s tired, he’s being hounded, he’s genuinely afraid and it is all shown gloriously!
The world is our world. No outlandish fantasy. No secret volcano bases. Just a compound on a mountain side. No mustache twirling here. Granted the villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is portrayed with charm and relish by Telly Savalas (taking over from Donald Pleasence in the film prior), but never once is he over the top or maniacal – he is calm and calculated. No lasers aimed into the Earth’s crust; no nuclear detonations threatened for a ransom. No, Blofeld is content at crippling the agricultural livestock via germ warfare and bacterial sterilization.
Henchmen a plenty show up in this film, adorned in orange jackets and black fatigue pants and boots, and while they are sent to dispatch Bond during two thrilling ski chases (particularly effective is the first which takes place at night and utilizes flares among the Swiss forests as well as some jaw-dropping vistas), our villain isn’t merely seated behind a desk. No, Savalas’ Blofeld is proactive in his search to capture or kill our hero, getting his hands soiled out in the field along with his men. I can’t ever remember such a thing in a movie of this type!
Did I mention the jazzy film score provided by John Barry? A pulsing theme fueled by electric organs and synthesizers – a film-first in 1969. I could talk more about it, but, why not listen for yourselves:
On a closing note there is no tidy ending…
The villains escape. Oh sure – Blofeld’s plan is thwarted, his compound destroyed, his men disbanded, but he survives and escapes custody.
Bond does the unthinkable – marrying the young and vivacious Countess Theresa (also a Bond girl who holds her own against her adversaries and even manages to be the saviour of Bond after his escape from the Piz Gloria compound.
You see why Bond had fallen in love and you fall in love with and for the couple…
…which is why it is a literal punch in the stomach when the ending of the film comes and the credits roll. You’ll shed a tear.
It’s for all these reasons why no other Bond film will EVER live up to OHMSS. Casino Royale came close, but truly, it will never be outdone.
It’ll never happen to the other fellow.