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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a 1969 British spy film and the sixth in the James Bond series to be produced by Eon Productions. It is based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. Following Sean Connery’s decision to retire from the role after You Only Live Twice, Eon Productions selected an unknown actor and model, George Lazenby, to play the part of James Bond. During the making of the film, Lazenby announced that he would play the role of Bond only once.

In the film, Bond faces Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who is planning to hold the world ransom by the threat of sterilising the world’s food supply through a group of brainwashed “angels of death”. Along the way Bond meets, falls in love with, and eventually marries Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg).

It is the only Bond film to be directed by Peter R. Hunt, who had served as a film editor and second unit director on previous films in the series. Hunt, along with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, decided to produce a more realistic film that would follow the novel closely. It was shot in Switzerland, England, and Portugal from October 1968 to May 1969. Although its cinema release was not as lucrative as its predecessor You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was still one of the top performing films of the year. Critical reviews upon release were mixed, but the film’s reputation has improved greatly over time.

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The Screen: New James Bond: George Lazenby Follows the Connery Pattern

Published: December 19, 1969

A BARE fact must be faced. The superheated screen activities of Ian Fleming’s supersleuth and sex symbol, James Bond, are as inevitable as sex or crime or “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the sixth steaming annal in the sock ’em and spoof ’em spy series that crashed into the DeMille and other local theaters yesterday.

Serious criticism of such an esteemed institution would be tantamount to throwing rocks at Buckingham Palace, but it does call for a handful of pebbles. Devotees will note that Sean Connery, the virile, suave conqueror of all those dastards and dames in the five previous capers, has given up his 007 Bond credentials to George Lazenby, a 30-year-old Australian newcomer to films. He’s tall, dark, handsome and has a dimpled chin. But Mr. Lazenby, if not a spurious Bond, is merely a casual, pleasant, satisfactory replacement.

For the record, he plays a decidedly second fiddle to an overabundance of continuous action, a soundtrack as explosive as the London Blitz, and flip dialogue and characterizations set against some authentic, truly spectacular Portuguese and Swiss scenic backgrounds, caught in eyecatching colors.

What are Bond’s problems now? They’re too numerous, as usual, to hold the constant attention of anyone other than a charter member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. What sets our bully boy off and fighting, running, shooting and loving this time is a lissome, leggy lass mysteriously bent on drowning herself in the waves thunderously crashing on a lonely Portuguese beach.

First thing you know he’s involved in a battle with two toughs that is as full of karate chops and belts in the belly as a brawl in a Singapore alley. To the credit of Richard Maibaum, the scenarist, the film’s tongue-in-cheek attitude is set right at the outset. Once our new Bond emerges triumphant, he turns to the audience and says, somewhat plaintively: “This never happened to the other fellow.”

But it does. The lady of his life, the svelte Diana Rigg, who learned her karate chops from the British TV “Avenger” series, is the daughter of the blandly effete Gabriele Ferzetti, Mafioso-like tycoon, who likes Bond and wants to destroy that Spectre chief, Telly Savalas, his competition in world crime. That suits Bond too, and practically right off he’s in Switzerland, where our villain maintains an eyrie atop an Alp.

It’s an inaccessible retreat, supposedly an institute for allergy research complete with hired guns, scientific gimmicks and an international conclave of allegedly allergic beauties who are really being brainwashed by the oily, bald-domed Mr. Savalas to spread his biological destruction of the world’s food supply. Get it?

Bond dallies with the dolls, of course, but the heart of the matter is a series of chases shot by the 41-year-old Peter Hunt, second unit director of the previous adventures, who’s making his directorial debut with this one. The chases are breakneck, devastating affairs.

A viewer must remember what seems to be the longest ski chase and bobsled run ever, full of gunfire and spills, that even includes an avalanche. There also is a decibel-filled fight amid clanging Swiss cow bells, the jarring bombing of that eyrie by helicopter-borne rescuers and the inadvertent clashes of the escaping Bond and Miss Rigg in a slithering, bang-up stock car race. One must say amen to a colleague’s observation:

“I never expected to see Switzerland defoliated like “this.”

It should be reported that the producers and distributors already have rung up a reported $82,200,000 on their first five Bond issues. It is not ungallant to report that Bond marries Miss Rigg, who is gunned down and killed by Savalas on their honeymoon. So it is reasonable to expect that Bond inevitably will be loving, shooting and running again.


My Review


Panned on its release this is now a fan favorite This surely ranks as one of the most underrated James Bond movies ever released. In a return to form the plot comes directly from the Ian Fleming book and this wise choice shows as it is positively crackling with suspense while including romantic interludes. Accomplished actors Telly Savalas and Diana Rigg make up for the amateur George Lazenbys lack of talent and Ms. Rigg is simply stunning in her role as a Countess, right up there with Ursuka Andress and Barbara Bach. I remember seeing the trailer advertising an upcoming TV screening (must have been the early 1980s) and the one clip that I remember clearly being wowed by was the scene where Lazenby is hiding from the villain and Rigg skates up to him with only her legs shown initially. This movie features some solid direction by veteran 007 editor Peter Hunt. I recommend this movie.

Bond girl Appeal

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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