On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Yes, you are a 00 agent and as such you will follow M’s orders, which is stay off of Operation Bedlam and the mission to find Blofeld, head of SPECTRE. You need some time off, so take it, and stay out of what I tell you to 007!

The Beginning

The film opens and we have M and Q discussing where 007 may be. He has gone missing. We quickly cut to the road where a mysterious man, though obviously 007, is driving. A mad woman in a red car speeds by, but we soon find her at the beach up ahead, where James must save her, fighting off three guys, only to have her drive away without any thanks. In this scene, however, we have my favorite introduction of Bond in the whole series. George Lazenby is new to the game, and he proclaims the famous “I’m Bond, James Bond.” line with a smile on his face; a clue of what might be to come with the new Bond as he utters the line, “This never happened to the other fella” when the girl drives off and we are thrown into the main title sequence. The title sequence here, to be honest, is lackluster. It consists of an hourglass surrounded by solid colors and in the hour glass we see scenes from previous Bond films. The song to accompany it is also forgettable. It does not have lyrics and is only mildly interesting. The Louis Armstrong song, “We Have All of the Time in the World”, used later in a montage, on the other hand, is straight money. Great song and it does a good job of expressing the feelings in that scene.

Locations

London, Switzerland

Allies

M

M here is different than he has been, and I like it. M has an attitude, a clear disdain for Bond here. In a sense James has gone rogue in this mission and M is adamant about his need to stay out of Operation Bedlam. He stands up for himself and is characterized much closer to what I would expect Bond’s boss to be like. We know 007 is the best, we can also assume he is not the only agent and that there must be some other good men in the agency that can perform the job too. I like how much M actually seems like the boss here.

Draco

Draco is an interesting character in this film because it is revealed that he is the leading crime boss in Europe, if you don’t count Blofeld and his worldwide operation of SPECTRE. Yet Draco, who is also the father of our Bond girl Tracy, has aligned himself with Bond and Bond with him. Draco is a key piece of the puzzle here as he helps Bond find Blofeld, introduces him to Tracy, and in the end, helps him bring Blofeld down.

Enemies

Irma Bunt

Bunt is the main villain after Blofeld, as she is his right hand man in the compound in the Alps. Bunt controls the girls there for “allergy treatment” as well as all of the other henchmen. She is one of those prototypical female Bond villains: middle ages, not the most attractive, foreign, and oddly enough red hair too. Think Rosa Klebb from From Russia With Love.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Blofeld has in fact survived from the previous film and this time is played by a new actor, Telly Savalas. I prefer Savalas to Pleasence honestly. He makes Blofeld more vital and more real than Pleasence did previously. Here Blofeld uses a not for profit research facility in the Alps as his center for, of all things, biological warfare. And what is great here is that his plan seems feasible and legitimately dangerous. He plans to wipe out entire species of plants and animals for full amnesty and title for all crimes previously committed. It is a genius plan and presents a good villain for Bond to confront here.

Q Branch

Q is only in the very beginning and the very end here. There is no outfitting for the mission this time, because there is no mission. What Bond is doing is of his own volition. Bond does show up with a safe decoder/copy machine in the film however, and one can only assume this was the genius of Q.

The Girls

Tracy

Alright, well, Tracy may have just become my new favorite Bond girls, for now at least. I don’t mean prettiest, though she is pretty, but she is the perfect match for Bond, and maybe that is why they end up getting married. Yes, I speak the truth, Bond gets married. And what makes Tracy special is the way she reacts to Bond. Unlike Bond girls before her who just succumbed to Bond’s charm, Tracy seems immune, or at least disinterested at first, leaving him behind after saving her twice. Their fates seem twisted thereafter, and once Draco offers information on Blofeld for Bond being his troubled daughter’s companion, Bond accepts, but still peruses her even after he has the information he needs. She drives fast cars, can stand up for herself, and even comes to Bond’s rescue. She seems like Bond’s perfect counterpart, someone who can finally challenge Bond mentally and physically. No other woman has really been able to do that to him before now.

The Institute Girls

I throw all of them into one category because they are all essentially the same. The credits tell us that there are multiple nationalities represented in the group, but essentially they are all there because of allergies as they get brainwashed by Blofeld to release his deadly toxin that will ruin life on earth. What is significant about these girls is that they are all gorgeous women. Bond has sex with two of the girls, as they believe him to be a genealogist who isn’t much interested in women, except them. One is named Ruby Bartlett and I cannot recall the other one.

The Car & Chase

There are almost too many chase scenes in this movie to count. You have a series of them near the middle of the film when we have a ski chase, followed by a chase on foot, and a car chase which is soon thereafter also followed by another ski chase. The chase scenes are fairly well done and aided in their suspense by the herky jerky editing technique of the filmmakers. The car of choice here is also an Aston Martin, though it appears only briefly. The car used in the chase scenes belongs to Tracy and is one I cannot recognize from my limited knowledge of cars.

Mission Debriefing

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a unique installment in the Bond series. Though it follows the same basic motifs of a Bond film, it doesn’t follow the same pattern, if that makes any sense. It still has the girls, the guns, the villains, but this time there is no MI6 mission, it is Bond’s mission. And this time instead of some one night stand Bond girl, there is a marry for the rest of your life Bond girl. It defies all conventions and for that I applaud the new team who revamped the series. We have a new director in Peter Hunt, a new Bond in George Lazenby, as well as a slew of new collaborators in the production, but they take the franchise and move it in a different, but equally brilliant direction.

I will say this: the action scenes, apart from the chase scenes, are a little rough to have to watch. The editing for them make it look like Hunt didn’t know what he was doing. It is so fast and so headache inducing that you can only imagine that the angles and repetition of the scenes was off so much that they either had to cut it that fast, or they were going for added tension and just failed. For something that fact moving, you don’t need all of those cuts. Sure, action screams cut, cut, cut, but not to this extent. And like I said, this style of editing, oddly enough, I felt really did work for the chase scenes, as they did stay on point at least a little bit longer and when they didn’t they did add tension.

There were a couple things I did have questions about that maybe we could discuss too. First and foremost was the fact that Blofeld didn’t know who Bond was right away just by looking at him. Why is this the case? They have met before, or does this take place before the other encounter, but then again, I was under the assumption that that was a first encounter as well. I know they have new actors, new filmmakers. Should we just take this as something completely separate from the rest of the series of films, as something that isn’t in flow with the films before it? Just curious.

The story of the film was brilliant. Bond on the loose from MI6 essentially, pulling out all the stops to bring down Blofeld and his evil plans, rogue style. And what is more is his relationship with Tracy. I told myself at the beginning of this marathon that my #1 thing to look for throughout the marathon was the character of Bond. I was going to try and figure him out as much as possible. So far I would say he is a trouble young man who didn’t have much of a childhood and was never loved and has nothing to lose, thus the involvement as a 00, risking his life for Queen and Country and never keeping a relationship, just passing through women because he has never really been loved or had anyone to love to this point in his life. This film changes the game some though.

Because we get a new Bond actor, does that mean, to some extent, we get a new Bond too? Well I would hope not, but the character reacts much differently here than before, especially to Tracy. Sure he has his one nighters with the clinic girls, which makes sense, but why is he so taken by Tracy? True, I did say she was pretty much his match, but he seems much less rigid and cold in this film than before too, just overall. He seems more open to the idea of love to begin with. Why does he still chase her after getting the information he needed on Blofeld, even when he didn’t know her all that well? The time they subsequently spend together does convince me that they could have fallen in love, but I can’t put my finger on Bond’s motives. Why now does he feel the need for love? Is it perhaps because M is finally standing up against him and not letting him do his work, his first true love? But then he pursues Blofeld anyway.

In conclusion, I think Bond does turn the corner in this film emotionally speaking. He breaks out of his selfish, cold self and into a man who is ready for marriage and ready to be in a meaningful relationship. Funny that this is what I am talking about in a Bond film, but it is what I thought about. And to top things off, I think the ending was one of the more brilliant sequences in Bond history. Spoiler Coming!!!! It had to be so. If Tracy had not died in that drive by, there would be no more Bond. He would have retired and started a new life with her I believe. So the only way the series continues, and the only way it continues in its pervious formula, is to have Bond face that hardship. Why did Lazenby not do another film? Because I honestly thought his style of Bond was new, fresh, and something I could have easily gotten used to.

James Bond will return in…

Diamonds are Forever

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