On Her Majesty's Secret Service appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an inconsistent presentation.
Sharpness tended to be a bit up and down. Although most of the movie showed nice delineation, occasional soft shots materialized; those weren’t a major concern, but definition varied more than I’d like. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but edge haloes were a mild distraction throughout the movie. Source flaws didn’t create distractions, however.
Contrast tended to be something of an issue here, as much of the movie looked a little too bright. This wasn’t a major problem, but it meant that colors got knocked down a peg; the hues often looked quite vivid but they also could seem a little pale due to the elevated brightness. Despite that trend, blacks seemed pretty deep, and shadows were visible – probably too visible, honestly. Enough of the movie looked really good to make this a “B-“, but it wasn’t as strong a transfer as I’d like.
Remixed from the original monaural – which also appeared on the disc – the flick boasted a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack that opened up matters well. Service wasn’t one of the most action-oriented Bond flicks, so don’t expect the track to feature audio as expansive as some of the flick’s siblings.
That said, it broadened the spectrum well and created a nice sense of atmosphere. Music boasted excellent stereo imaging, and the various effects received good localization and integration. These moved to the surrounds well when necessary. I’ve heard complaints that the effects overwhelmed the music, but I didn’t find that to be the case, so I thought the mix showed good balance among its elements.
The back speakers didn’t offer a ton of material, but when appropriate, they played a useful role in the proceedings. Speech also demonstrated good localization when logical, and some of the lines emanated from the appropriate spot in the surrounds as well.
Audio quality was good given the age of the source recordings. Music fared best of all, as the score was wonderfully lively and bold.
Effects suffered from a smidgen of distortion but usually seemed more than acceptably clear and accurate. Speech was also well-recorded and natural. The lines never showed any edginess as they always seemed crisp and easily intelligible. This was an impressive multi-channel soundtrack.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2006 Ultimate Edition DVD? Audio seemed more dynamic and full, and visuals were improved, though not as much as I’d expect from Blu-ray. The colors were more inconsistent here and the elevated brightness created more of a distraction. The Blu-ray’s still the stronger presentation, but it’s not as big an upgrade as I’d like.
The Blu-ray provides most of the DVD’s extras, and we start 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, optical effects cameraman Robin Browne, 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 – 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 useful information as well, and this adds up to a rich commentary.
Declassified: MI6 Vault presents five elements. Casting On Her Majesty’s Secret Service lasts a whopping 95 seconds as it shows silent footage of Lazenby and Diana Rigg as they meet the press. Producer Michael Wilson narrates this fairly dull segment.
During the 92-second Press Day in Portugal, we get similar footage. Marketing director Anne Bennett narrates the material as we see shots from an elaborate rehearsal. It’s a little more interesting than “Casting” but not by much.
For insights from the lead actor, we move to George Lazenby: In His Own Words. This nine-minute and 27-second piece comes with an intro from Wilson as he leads us into interview snippets recorded with Lazenby at various stages in the Bond process.
We hear from him October 7, 1968, February 7, 1969, and February 4, 1970. This before/during/after format works well, especially since you can see Lazenby’s attitude sour as time passes. A few more modern remarks from November 11, 2002 conclude this interesting piece.
Two more archival elements finish this area. Shot On Ice presents an “original 1969 Ford promo film”. It runs nine minutes, 45 seconds and focuses on the car chase filmed in chilly climes. It offers a good look behind the scenes at the techniques required for this challenging sequence. It suffers from some fluffy commentary, but the footage from the set makes it worthwhile.
Lastly, Swiss Movement gives us an “original 1969 featurette”. The seven-minute and 29-second clip looks at general notes from the production with an emphasis on shooting in Switzerland. We get a few comments from Lazenby, Leech and Rigg. As with “Ice”, the info provided isn’t particularly memorable, but the behind the scenes footage ensures we find something useful.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service. As expected, it mixes archival elements, movie clips and interviews. We hear from Hunt, Reed, Lamont, Mills, Leech, Baker, Scoular, Armstrong, Graydon, Raven, Browne, Glen, Bogner, Lazenby, Rigg, stuntman Alf Joint, UA publicity Don Smolen, former UA executive David Picker, associate producer Stanley Sopel, optical effects artist Cliff Culley, special effects supervisor John Stears, longtime Bond producer Michael Wilson, and producer’s wife Dana Broccoli.
This 41-minute, 41-second documentary offers a 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.
Another video program called Inside Q's Lab last 10 minutes, 26 seconds. This is essentially a tribute - and an appropriate one - to Desmond Llewelyn.
“Lab” mainly provides nice anecdotal interviews with Llewellyn and many of his co-workers over the years. We find remarks from Glen, Mills, Stears, former Eon Productions VP Marketing Jerry Juroe, director Lewis Gilbert, actors Kristina Wayborn and Roger Moore, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyck, and special effects supervisor John Richardson.
It makes for a nice salute to the man's work. It probably should have appeared on the release 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, as 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, 41 seconds and is mainly notable for the wonderful raw footage of the various stunts.
Exotic Locations (4:24) gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. It becomes a decent piece.
The usual assortment of promotional materials pop up in the Ministry of Propaganda. 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 disc ends with the Photo Gallery, an area that provides eight different subsections of stills with a total of 130 photos in all. I found it very interesting to check out all the fun candid shots from the set.
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 it 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. The Blu-ray delivers solid audio and supplements along with generally good but inconsistent visuals. This isn’t the definitive release of the film, but it’s the best we’ve gotten to
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