On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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Peter Hunt directs George Lazenby, Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas in this 007 adventure where a strange looking and sounding Bond falls for a mafia boss’ daughter while Blofeld is programming international beauties to cause genetic destruction.

One of the very best Bonds, happens to star easily the worst actor to take the lead. Lazenby is handsome and competent but that’s about all you can say for him. The film around him however is magnificent. It should have been young Roger’s first or Sean’s swan song. It is almost as if they knew their lead couldn’t smoothly grab the baton from Big Tam so made damn sure every other element was perfect. Diana Rigg is one of the very finest Bond girls. Tracy is resourceful, complex and stunning. She rescues Bond more often than not and keeps her cool head in a series of escalating set pieces. No wonder 007 had to marry her. There hadn’t been better. No wonder the producers had to kill her off. Audiences might have preferred her next adventure to Lazenby’s. That ending though… brutal. “We have all the time in the world.” We are not used to emotion in Bond.

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A moment’s silence.

Two banging themes. Louis Armstrong’s contribution is now a standard, it has outlived and outgrown its association with the franchise. John Barry’s Moog infused action theme is amazing… I prefer it to Monty Norman’s Bond signature tune. If I’m ever doing anything remotely active, this is the score to my movements playing in my head. And when it comes to action OHMSS truly delivers. It takes over an hour for the large scale set pieces to kick in but once they do they come fast and furious. A gruelling cable car mechanism escape. Two epic stunt ski chases (edited very modernly). A dogged pursuit through a winter market where you genuinely fear for Bond… he’s explicitly paranoid, hounded and exhausted… James as you’ve never seen him… desperate. The sunset raid on the Alpine institute, a finale so good Christopher Nolan cribbed from it for Inception. Then a bonus toboggan chase… Cool Runnings meets Speed! I could make sarcastic comments about the cheesy fashions and set dressings, the awkward undercover persona Lazenby chooses to infiltrate Blofeld’s lab, the racism and sexism inherent in the diabolical plan as presented, the uncertain fourth wall denting attempts at fan service. But in a way they are part of the 1969 charm. One of the most confident, riskiest, romantic and spectacular of the early Bonds. It really only is superseded by Goldfinger in terms of quality.

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