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Peter Hunt
George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Ilse Steppat, Gabriele Ferzetti, Angela Scoular, Catherina Von Schell, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn
Richard Maibaum, based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Far up! Far out! Far more!

Bond (George Lazenby) pursues his nemesis, Blofeld (Telly Savalas), whose latest master plan involves a threat to the world's crops by agricultural sterilization.

Rated PG.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 142 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 5/16/2000

• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Peter Hunt, Set Decorator Peter Lamont, Editor/Second Unit Director John Glen, Director of Photography Michael Reed, Camera Operator Alec Mills, Production Designer Syd Cain, Stunt Double Vic Armstrong, Skiing Camera Operator Willy Bogner, Composer John Barry, Stunt Arranger George Leech, Vehicle Procurer Fred Wilmington, Stuntman Richard Graydon, Aerial Photographer Robin Brown, Additional Dialogue Writer Simon Raven and Actors Lois Maxwell, George Baker and Angela Scoular
• "Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service" Documentary
• "Inside Q's Laboratory" Documentary
• "Above It All" Featurette
• Still Gallery
• Original TV Ads
• Radio Spots
• Trailer
• Booklet

Score Soundtrack

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On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

After five grueling movies in six years, Sean Connery was sick of playing James Bond as the Sixties came to a close, and he clearly told the series' bosses that he would not return for another go-round after 1967's You Only Live Twice. This put the producers in the unenviable position of needing to replace the man who was largely responsible for making the series work.

A thorough search ensued, and the result was that Australian actor George Lazenby took the role for the 1969 Bond, On Her Majesty's SecretService. Actually, "actor" is a serious overstatement, as Lazenby had worked almost exclusively as a model prior to his break as Bond; his big break came about partly because of some cheesy commercial he'd done!

Lazenby is one of many people's main criticisms of Service, and for good reason; his lack of experience really shows. Granted, it would have been hard for any actor to take over the role, but Lazenby seemed ill-prepared for the role and his weak acting often hurts the film.

Actually, I found Lazenby to do some parts of Bond very well, but ironically these were only the non-traditional aspects of the character. The story shows a lot of sides to Bond that we'd never seen, and Lazenby pulls them off nicely; he demonstrates appropriate sadness and tenderness when necessary, and his impersonation of a stiff, bookish character seems dead-on. However, Lazenby just couldn't be anywhere near as cool, suave, tough or intimidating as Connery in the role. Although I noticed improvement as the movie continued - Lazenby seemed significantly more believable by the end - he just doesn't come across as "Bond".

As such, Service will always go down as a disappointment, even though it's overall a success. This is one of the most unusual Bonds of them all and deviates from the standard path in a number of ways. One relates to its oddly-paced plot. Really, the movie comes across as three different films in a way; each act seems almost unrelated to the others, and this inconsistency is jarring. In the first, Bond starts to develop leads to capture personal enemy Blofeld (here played by Telly Savalas) but he meets and falls in love with Tracy (Diana Rigg), which takes up much of this section.

During the second act, Bond has a closer bead on Blofeld and Tracy completely vanishes. Bond imitates genealogist Sir Hillary Bray and infiltrates Blofeld's Swiss villa, a place stocked with babes who are allegedly getting their allergies cured. Not only is Tracy not seen, but Bond - who apparently made an intense connection with her - does his usual thing and puts the moves on as many of these women as possible!

It's that middle portion of the film that really stands out as being odd, because acts one and three could link together without problem. The film moves toward its conclusion with Bond's identity becoming revealed, his escape from Blofeld's lair and his reunion with Tracy, and a slam-bang finale that makes up for the surprising absence of action in the preceding portions of the movie. I won't spoil the ending of Service, but I do want to note that it's easily the saddest conclusion to any Bond flick.

The events of the film's final minutes are largely what sets it apart from other Bonds, and while it works, I'm glad it's not something that's been repeated in other films. The movie is surprisingly touching - even though I've seen the picture a few times, I actually got misty as I watched it - but it takes Bond to a place that may not really be appropriate for the series. Service humanizes Bond, but is that really a good thing? After all, no one watches these movies for their realism. We want larger-than-life action and a superhero who in no way resembles any human we've ever known. I liked the deviations in Service but still think that Bond largely needs to stay more of a fantasy.

Service provides one of the better Bond women. Rigg doesn't get as involved in the action as I'd expect since she'd come off of her stint as Emma Peel on The Avengers, but she displays a toughness and strength of character largely lacking in Bond babes. The quickness of Tracy and Bond's romance seemed somewhat unreal to me, but she seemed like a much more believable woman for whom Bond would fall deeply, unlike the usual shallow bimbos.

Less satisfying is Savalas' uncharismatic turn as Blofeld. I didn't mind that he deviated from the quieter, more sinister atmosphere of the character's previous appearances, but I simply found Savalas to seem rather bland in the part. Granted, part of this may be the script's fault; this film's Blofeld appears less a madman who aspires to world domination than a frustrated debutante.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service stands as one of the Bonds most beloved by many fans, and while I like it, I don't think it's worthy of such adoration. It's just too inconsistent, and Lazenby's weak acting knocks the film's charms down a peg. Still, it's one of the most unusual and provocative Bonds and is definitely worth owning.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C- / Bonus B+

On Her Majesty's Secret Service appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. One oddity: when the movie starts, the United Artists logo screen is in a 1.85:1 ratio, but it goes to 2.35:1 as soon as the film itself begins. Weird!

Also strange: the surprisingly poor quality of this transfer. Arguably the most problematic of all the Bonds, Service suffered from a lot more weaknesses than expected. Prime among these were the nearly-constant examples of source defects. Specks, flecks and other marks came along with virtually every element of the film. Oh, those speckles! It's like they threw a speckle convention and all of them RSVPed! These created frequent distractions and were significantly heavier than expected.

Sharpness was another issue. Close-ups and two-shots seemed acceptably well-defined, but the many wide takes came across as noticeably soft. Some of this came from the examples of edge enhancement that pervaded much of the film; those haloes gave wide shots an indistinct sense of delineation. Jagged edges created no concerns, but I noticed a bit of shimmering at times.

Colors varied. Some scenes offered reasonably good vivacity, but more than a few seemed strangely bleary and messy. There was no real consistency to the hues, though they came across as flawed more often than they excelled. Blacks were dark and firm, but low-light shots seemed lackluster and tended to appear moderately dense. This transfer was a real disappointment.

Donít expect much better from the mediocre monaural audio of Service. The main problem was a vaguely bland quality that affected all aspects of the track. Happily, the mix avoided many signs of true distortion, but the entire production seemed colder and harder than it should. Dialogue largely remained intelligible, though I had a difficult time with a few lines and felt speech often seemed distant and thin. Both music and effects were clear, but all parts of the track lacked warmth and depth. Neither ever was particularly lively or distinctive. Ultimately, the audio seemed passable for it period, but nothing more than that.

Time for my standard Bond audio warning: don't turn up the volume on your receiver until after the extremely loud - and annoyingly unskippable - MGM promo that appears right after you start the DVD. This thing has scared many an unwary viewer - and probably blown a speaker or two - so be warned. Message to MGM: turn down the volume and let us skip these stupid things!

As we shift to the extras, we open with an audio commentary. Narrated by Bond historian John Cork, we find remarks from director Peter Hunt, set decorator Peter Lamont, editor/second unit director John Glen, director of photography Michael Reed, camera operator Alec Mills, production designer Syd Cain, stunt double Vic Armstrong, skiing camera operator Willy Bogner, composer John Barry, stunt arranger George Leech, vehicle procurer Fred Wilmington, stuntman Richard Graydon, aerial photographer Robin Brown, additional dialogue writer Simon Raven and actors Lois Maxwell, George Baker and Angela Scoular. In addition to identifying the multitude of speakers, Cork also provides a wealth of background information on the film and the participants.

I was surprised by the lack of more actors - particularly by the absence of Lazenby, as he's been interviewed a lot about the film Ė but still found the commentary to work well. Hunt is engaging and informative, so he makes for a fine participant and the track provides a lot of good details about the movie. The others add a great deal of fine information as well, and this adds up to a rich, informative commentary.

Next is the program Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This 42-minute documentary offers a wonderfully frank and solid view of the creation of the film. A variety of aspects are examined, from the search for a new Bond - which happily features the TV ad from which the producers knew Lazenby - to a number of issues that affected the shoot. We see wonderful coverage of the stunts, especially through some fantastic rough footage of Willy Bogner's skiing. Even various controversies - such as Lazenby's alleged "attitude" - receive consideration, though not full; these issues are glossed over quite a bit, but I was still pleased to see some recognition of them. I've enjoyed all of the Bond documentaries, but this is one of the best.

One side issue: I sure wish someone would definitively indicate how to pronounce "Lazenby". I'd always assumed it was "LAZZenby", but not too long ago I often heard it as "LAYZenby" and took that as correct. Well, it's mixed up all through these supplements, with neither pronunciation dominant. Frankly, I have the feeling "LAYZenby" is correct, but who knows? Just another horrible dilemma to weigh down my pathetic life!

Another video program appears as well. It's called Inside Q's Lab and last 10 minutes and 20 seconds. This is essentially a tribute - and an appropriate one - to Desmond Llewelyn. It mainly provides nice anecdotal interviews with Llewellyn and many of his co-workers over the years and makes for a nice salute to the man's work. It probably should have appeared on the DVD of The World Is Not Enough; unlike the tribute to Terence Young on Dr. No, there's no logical reason for it to be attached to this film, especially since "Q" barely appears in Service. I was happy to see it nonetheless; I was getting a little concerned that the Bond folks would let Llewelyn's passing go essentially unnoticed.

Above It All is another featurette. This one mainly focuses on Johnny Jordan, the aerial cameraman who worked on the film. Obviously created at the same time as the film itself, it runs for five minutes and 30 seconds and is mainly notable for the wonderful raw footage of the various stunts.

The usual assortment of promotional materials pop up on the DVD of Service. We find an interesting theatrical trailer, one that plays up the fact this is a "different" Bond. Five TV ads appear, though none are terrible compelling, and three radio spots as well; none of those were too fascinating, though I did note the film's apparent catch-phrase: "Far Up Far Out Far More!"

In addition, we get four "open-ended" radio interviews. These kinds of productions provide recorded answers to questions; an "interviewer" receives a listing of the questions, which they ask and then play back the prerecorded responses so it seems that they're interviewing the subjects. "Interviews" for Lazenby, Hunt, Rigg and Savalas appear. Interestingly, only the ones for Lazenby and Hunt come in their true "open-ended" format, which means we just hear the responses and not the questions; the other two include the queries as asked by some reporter. I preferred the latter, just because it was frustrating not to hear the questions in the other two.

Finally, the DVD ends with the Photo Gallery, an area that provides eight different subsections of stills with a total of 130 photos in all. I normally don't much care for these kinds of features, but either they're growing on me or MGM have just done a good job with these, because I enjoyed these much more than usual. I found it very interesting to check out all the fun candid shots from the set.

As usual, Service tosses in a fine booklet. MGM make some great booklets and this one is no exception. I wish all the studios would produce paper materials as informative and compelling as MGM's booklets.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is possibly the most obscure of the "official" Bonds - due to the presence of one-shot George Lazenby as 007 - but doesn't deserve that status. I don't agree with fans who place it among the very best of the Bonds, but I do find it to be intriguing and enjoyable. Unfortunately, which this release boasts good extras, it suffers from problematic picture and audio. This is a disappointing DVD for a good movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3219 Stars Number of Votes: 146
14 3:
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