It is somewhat satisfying to learn that the James Bond movie that has received the most flak over the years is now considered the greatest Bond film ever – by Bond aficionados, no less. I have always secretly supported this 007 entry in the franchise, but until recently, I’ve never really felt comfortable in admitting it.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
stars George Lazenby as the British super spy. It’s mainly because of him that the movie has received so much criticism over the years – particularly on its initial release in 1969.
Many fans of the original actor to play James Bond – Sean Connery – were upset with his absence that so much of their vitriol was directed at the unproven Australian. While Lazenby is obviously not Connery, there are scenes throughout the film where he handles the action and emotion equally as well as his predecessor. In fact, I would dare to say that Connery would have found some of the movie not suited to his acting skills. But that is a whole other debate.
I was of tender years when the film was originally in cinemas. I had to wait until it was shown on television, and later purchase the DVD, before I could fully appreciate it. Although I am a fan of the spy genre, it was not because of James Bond that this film held my interest. Instead it was due to his leading lady, my favourite actress: Diana Rigg. She had not long finished her stint on the television series The Avengers and I guess I wanted to compare notes.
I wasn’t disappointed. Diana Rigg is always voted into the Top 5 of the “Bond Girls” and, although I may be biased, it’s not difficult to see why. Apart from being easy on the eye, she adds gravitas to her role as Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo – something not always associated with the portrayal of the women in Bond’s life.
But what about the movie?
It was something of a tradition that British TV showed a Bond film on Christmas Day afternoon. It was a big event because, at the time, none of them had been broadcast at all. Of course, this was the one that I was waiting to see.
Once you get past the new face, it really is a thrilling ride – particularly in the latter half. Great scenery in the Swiss Alps and the return of an old adversary in the shape of Blofeld (Telly Savalas) add to the grandeur and accessibility of the production. Mix in a magnificent soundtrack by John Barry and an emotional climax to the proceedings and you have a Bond movie that does not stray too far from Ian Fleming’s words.
The opening title sequence to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is equally as iconic as the rest of the films in the series. Sleek, sexy and sublime…