[THE CLASSIFIED INTEL]
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): Bond Breakdown by Rantbo
Blofeld is on the loose and Bond is hot on—vacation. OK, so it’s probably not the most effective way to track down the recently fled world-renowned terrorist leader, but who am I to judge? But thankfully after a much needed push by M, Bond gets himself back on the case and following whatever leads he can obtain to find and catch the one that got away. His keen detection skills and master-of-disguise aptness eventually lead him to an allergy clinic in the Swiss Alps, where a devious plan to unleash a bacterial super-virus unto the world is being plotted by an unfamiliar looking, yet still nefarious Number 1.
[THE BOND SONG AND CREDITS SEQUENCE]
Due to the fact that ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (from here on out, OHMSS) was forced with the task of introducing a new actor to the much beloved role of James Bond, a theme of familiarity and reassurance is interwoven throughout the film with recognizable supporting actors, music and atmosphere and this is especially so with the credits sequence. And I have to say, I think it comes off as pretty insecure. And insecurity is an attribute that should not be attributed to a Bond film. Allow me to explain…
Maurice Binder returns for his fourth credits sequence and unfortunately, he’s plagued by having to do a throwback. The credits turn back the clock, literally, as a silhouette Bond dangles Buster Keaton-style on a large dial, running counter clockwise. Various screenshots and video clips from the previous five films begin to ooze through the bottleneck of an hourglass template like grains of sand. And that’s the entire sequence.
Pretty lame, huh? The title track that plays during the sequence is simply a tweaked version of Bond’s theme song, which, as always, is a stunningly good bit of music by John Barry, but it throws off the now traditional “Original-Theme-Song-Plays-Over-The-Credits” motif from the last 3 films. It works perfect for what is being shown with it, but I still would have liked to have seen a cock-sure film-specific sequence with Louie Armstrong’s love song, WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. But thankfully we do get a montage featuring the song later on in the film, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Also, the credits feature some very puffy-nippled models, and who doesn’t love puffy nippled models?
[BOND—JAMES, BOND (GEORGE LAZENBY)]
Body Bags Filled  Bedpost Notches [3 + 1 Failed]
The film opens on a trio of familiar faces at the MI6 headquarters. M, Miss Moneypenny and Q are discussing the Q-Lab’s latest creation: radioactive lint. Q has officially become a mad scientist. But this is beside the point, which is familiarity. The co-workers’ discussion eases into their most recurring problem, “Where, o’ where is 007?” As it turns out, he’s on a reclusive vacation in Portugal…
Driving down a coastal highway in a spiffy new Aston Martin DBS, a shadow covered man we assume to be Bond, is enjoying an afternoon cruise. Not for long though, as a woman in a Mercury Cougar overtakes him. The identity of the man in the Aston Martin becomes clear as he takes this passing as a flirtatious invitation to a battle of the sexes.
Shown only in bits and pieces, as he sparks up a ciggy, Bond pursues the sex-pot speed-demon down to the ocean, where he quickly realizes her reckless driving, is only the tip of her troubled personal pyramid and must save her from willfully trying to drown herself.
Succeeding, Bond deposits her on the beach and upon her waking, introduces himself.
An introduction clearly made more for the audience, as I am sure you know, this is NOT your grandpa’s 007.
The introduction is cut short, however, as a pair of non-descript goons inexplicably show up and the suicidal damsel escapes her awkward situation of explanation whilst Bond fights the men off. And I think the New Bond says it best: “This never happened to the other fellow.”
This breaking of the forth wall is new to the series, but thankfully (at least for this picture), it was a one-time affair. An on the spot improvisation by director Peter Hunt, yes THAT Peter Hunt, you know—the man that pretty much single-handedly created the template for modern action editing—yes, he’s now in charge. I’ll try to contain my joy as I finish my above thought: that perfect little one-liner. An actual quoted line by Lazenby throughout the production, Mr. Hunt decided it would be a perfect way to introduce the character’s dramatic change in appearance. And it was. With that tiny little ice-breaking joke the filmmakers let us, the audience, know that yes—the actor is new, but don’t worry—he’s still Bond.
Gone is Sir Sean of Connery and present is—an unknown Australian chocolate commercial model?… And as bad as this idea sounds, Lazenby turns out to be an excellent fit. It’s different to be sure, but this is still the same old Bond—and “only more so!”, as Moneypenny herself points out when he gooses her ass.
In an odd, but brilliant turn of events, the filmmakers (mostly director Peter Hunt) decided to do something they hadn’t since FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: ditch the gadgets, keep the splendor and make with the character development. A wise move for the introduction of a new Bond, it is also bittersweet, as the lack of this simple stylistic approach was one of the main reasons for Connery’s departure.
While I don’t want to be the guy that judges a performance by the way a previous actor portrayed the role, a comparison to Connery is inevitable for any fan of the series. So, I’ll keep mine short and sweet: Due in large part to his age and “shit-don’t-stink” attitude, Lazenby loses points in the charm department. Something Connery had in spades. But, on the flip side of this, Lazenby has great strengths of his own, namely, his physicality. Lazenby kicks-ass and looks great doing it. The fisticuffs fight sequences are the best yet in the series and this is in large part to the energy George brought to each and every sequence.
Another thing you can’t help but notice, is was how well spoken he is. Sure, you could attribute that in large part the screenwriters, but I have to give the man props for how “book-Bond-like” he came off. And like Connery, the subtle smirks, cheeky dialogue and swagger-fueled strutting all return in familiar and lovable form.
Ruby: It’s true!
While in real life, Lazenby was reportedly (on many occasions, through many different people) a pompous, whiny douchenozzel (having even been confirmed later by the actor himself), I really dislike hearing people use it as a reason for not liking his performance as Bond. I firmly believe, that it’s the art, not the artist. And my enjoyment has nothing to do with the bullshit trivial nonsense that took place off-screen. Most people in the film business are weird or eccentric or assholish, or all three. It’s a moot argument until it affects their performance negatively. So, why bring this up you ask? Well, because I believe that Lazenby’s off-screen persona actually added positively to his performance: Refusing to pull his punches, the fight sequences are realistic, thrilling and dare I say, better than any of the previous installments. Complaining about having to do things that they would not have asked of Connery, lead to a memorable and funny introduction. And his cocksure narcissistic confidence played perfectly to James Bond’s character . Take that, nay-sayers!
From the moment we join back up with Bond, there is no doubt as to who he is and what he is about. Lazenby struts through a casino with class and flair, looking the part and more importantly, owning the part. There was nothing sheepish or shy about his performance. George played the role without apology that many “fans” thought they deserved and for that, Lazenby earned the right to be one of the few men chosen to represent James Bond.
In closing, I say: Lazenby was a great Bond. And dare I also say, he was at least as good as Connery in his first outing and in my opinion, did better than successor Roger Moore’s virgin performance. It’s a shame to think how great he could have been had he returned to the role for future installments. I think—probably the best. For a first time actor, filling the shoes of the most beloved film character of the 60s, he had his work cut out for him and he pulled it off with flying colors.
[THE BOND VILLAINS]
Ilse Steppat as Irma Bunt
It’s rare that you see perfect casting. In the case of Irma Bunt, I’d say it’s pretty close. When I hear that name, I think: cold, short, blunt, determined, butch and bitchy. Turns out, it’s not just a clever name. Irma Bunt is all of those things and Ilse Steppat took them to the max.
Blofeld’s apparent replacement for the late Ms. Klebb, Irma has something to prove, what it is—I couldn’t say, mostly ‘cuz I’d be too frightened. Irma isn’t assigned a SPECTRE number, but she is clearly second in command for Blofeld’s latest scheme and it’s not hard to see why. This woman demands attention and obedience, without even needing to open her big, scary East German mouth.
In charge of keeping Blofeld’s Angels of Death committed to their “treatment”, she herself sets quite an example. The lady is simply terrifying. The list of villains I end up truly hating is a short one, but damned if the Buntster isn’t on it. This woman is relentless in her pursuit to ruin Bond’s day, ultimately getting the final word on the subject in the closing scene. It’s gut wrenching. Made even more so as Steppat tragically passed away shortly after the release of OHMSS, and as such, James never got to enact revenge on the mean old bat. It’s too bad, as she was truly a formidable henchwoman and could have been a great recurring villainess. RIP.
Yuri Borionko as Grunther
His name sounds like a German language euphemism for ‘power-dump’, and it fits as this guy is a shit-brick house. Grunther is the 1969 model of the big blonde SPECTRE lug-head and Borionko does the role justice. Old Thick-Neck here is under the charge of Frau Bunt and is pretty much your average trained ape. “Grunther, grab! Grunther, shoot! Grunther—No throwing your feces!” You get the idea. What makes this character interesting though, is that his role culminates in trying to contain the fury of Ms. Tracy Vicenzo. Diana Rigg releases her inner Avenger all over this poor bastard and it’s truly a blast to watch the two go toe-to-toe. After a few well timed judo-chops and a conveniently placed piece of dangerously pointy wall-art, Tracy channels Rosie the Riveter and ends this oppressor of womankind with brutal efficiency. Too bad he couldn’t “hang around” longer.
Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
The best Blofeld. Telly Savalas was the epitome of everything I could ever want from a film franchise nemesis. Gone is the creepy finger-steepling, soft spoken shady Blofeld of the past, this E.S.B. is not afraid to get his cat hair-covered hands dirty(dirtier?). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the way the character was represented in the previous films, I do, but I love when my villains have more of a “…you‘ve got to do it your self” attitude. In the past films, Blofeld was more of a blanket of fear, a force in the darkness that if disobeyed, it meant your ass. All this was achieved by never leaving his comfortable leather desk chair. And that’s groovy. But this time around, Blofeld gets his ass up, out and on the front lines. An approach as I said, I much prefer.
Be it a day and night pursuit on skis, or a high speed bobsled chase, Blofeld is more determined than ever to end 007 and get what he wants. Which, I should mention, is a clean slate and recognition as ‘Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp’ which is French talk for an important family name and social standing. To achieve this, he has created a bacterial super-virus that will destroy entire species of crops, livestock and—Bum! Bum! Buuum! Humans. Blackmail is his game and he holds all the cards. It’s a pretty crazy plan, but I like it. The funny thing is, it kinda takes a backseat to how much ass Blofeld is busy kicking in the mean time. Not only does he keep on top of Bond, but he also shows us a side, we’ve not yet seen before. Yeah, that’s right—Ernst gets smooooth. After leaving Bond for dead in an avalanche, Blofeld takes off with his lady and has the brass Bezants to put the moves on her back at his base! And I thought he only had eyes for felines. Isn’t it fun to watch a character grow!?
From his new found outgoing personality, to the way he holds his cigarettes, not only does Savalas pull off expanding the role, he does it with unapologetic style and leaves the character with a newfound and darkly personal edge. And as such, is my favorite Bond villain in the franchise.
[THE BOND GIRLS]
The Angels of Death
Behold the center piece to Blofeld’s plan for worldwide blackmail and personal clemency. Twelve, (or is it Thirteen?) of the best women the world has to offer. Well, perhaps I took that a little too far—how about, best LOOKING women the world has to offer, AT THE TIME. That’s better. These luscious ladies are the unwilling, unknowing threat to mankind. Believing they are at Blofeld’s institute to cure their allergies (which I didn’t think you COULD cure), they are really being subconsciously trained to be the trigger(wo)men for his virus. It takes more than a little grain of salt to believe in this ridiculous plan, I mean it’s like something you would see in a Bond Fil… Never mind.
Like I mentioned before, there are a bunch of them, most of which we do not get the pleasure of being formally introduced to. The best we get are three names, two of which we find out due to Bond “finding out”. So, lets talk about them:
Angela Scoular as Ruby Bartlett and Catherina von Schell as Nancy
Let’s start with Ruby, as that’s what Bond did, High-Oh! I can’t imagine a more annoying person. She yaps and yaps in her big dumb glasses all the while stuffing her goofy grinning face with slimy roast chicken. Yuk. Somehow Bond seems to think this is attractive. Though this is probably due to the fact she reaches up his kilt and writes her room number on his thigh. It’s one of the funniest moments in the movie and leads to one of the best Bond-Entendre’s in the series. But while Ruby is Bond’s window into Blofeld’s skeevy plan, she is mostly just an annoyance. Did I mention that already?
On to bimbo #2. Nancy is her name, though I don’t remember if you ever find that out in the movie. After sneaking into Bond’s room whilst he is busy “getting busy” down the hall, she makes for a nice and funny surprise for James’ return. Her role leads to a unique scene, as we get to see just how douche-baggie Bond will be to bed a lady. James lays down the EXACT same pick-up lines he used on Ruby an hour earlier and catches poor Nancy hook-line and sinker. She is so taken by his line of bullshit, she tells him her name can wait till morning. Now that’s smooth! Not much more I can say, other than she is at least clever enough to break out of her sealed bedroom and thankfully, she didn’t run her mouth like Ms. Bartlett. But that’s all we get from Miss. Sloppy Seconds. “Oh, Hilly!”
Mona Chong as The Chinese Angel Of Death
A third girl, and the aforementioned ‘failed’ Bond lay, and I mention her only because of this fact. As her role is all but infinitesimal, never leading to anything as Bond is captured while visiting Ruby’s room the second time, and thus unable to attend his 10 o’clock rendezvous with this little lady.
The rest of the girls just parade around in stereotypical ethnic attire and are played by the following actresses:
[American] Dani Sheridan
[Australian] Anouska Hempel
[English] Angela Scoular
[English] Joanna Lumley
[German] Ingrit Black
[Scandinavian] Julie Ege as Helen (The Third Named Girl)
[Irish] Jenny Hanley
[Israeli] Helena Ronee
[Jamaican] Sylvana Henriques
Diana Rigg as Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo aka Tracy Bond
Remember that girl that Bond saved in the pre-credits sequence? Turns out her name is Teresa—excuse me, Tracy. “Teresa was a saint“—and this girl lives on the razor’s edge. Get comfy, there is a lot to cover here and I have a ton to say about this particular little lady and I expect your full attention.
Returning from his beachside romp, Bond recognizes his damsel’s sports car outside his hotel and casino. Nothing to do now, but kick back, play some high-stakes baccarat and see what the money drags in. Turns out money is the perfect bait for large sumptuous breasts.
Her recluse abandon for well being and lackadaisical approach to winning or loosing copious sums of money intrigue Bond to a degree that I will never understand. Personally a dame that has no regard for self preservation and leaks money like a sieve is someone I want nothing to do with, but that is why I am sitting at a computer typing about characters that are leading far more interesting lives. “Sigh”. Anyways, the girl walks in, appearing only from the chest down (Mmm), places a large bet on Bond’s table—loses 10,000—and proclaims she can’t pay. Bond to the rescue again! Upon the reveal of the rest of her lovely visage, Bond has found what he’s been looking for. If only he knew how true this would be.
Introductions occur and in return for his generous bailout, Tracy allows Bond access to her ‘Secret Services’. Reluctant at first (as much as a guy can be), Bond eventually caves as Tracy insists that she always pays her debts. A girl who cares not for her own well being, yet has the honor to make good on mistakes made with her ass? Tracy is already more interesting than any of the previous Bond girls combined and this is less than a half hour into the picture. Man—I’m starting to understand what Bond sees in the girl.
Long story short, it turns out that Tracy is the daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, a Mafioso type criminal, whom after finding out what James has done for his one and only child, decides that Bond is the man he has been searching for to dominate his daughter (he actually says that). Draco figures that with a strong male around to TCB, his reckless offspring will settle down and stop her foolish shenanigans. Problem is, Bond ain’t a one-woman man—baby. So, to sweeten the deal, Draco offers a million dollar endowment upon marriage, but more importantly, his inside criminal information on the location of Blofeld. It’s a deal.
All is well and good, but Tracy isn’t fooled by the games of spies and men. She finds out about their deal and forces her father to give Bond the info and send him on his way, which he does. But here is the odd part, James sticks around—he is still interested in her, and who wouldn’t be? Well, I would say Bond, because he is a cold -hearted bastard, but that’s what makes this interesting. Que the falling in love montage. By this, I mean Tracy falls in love with James. It’s a beautiful sequence and marks a perfect end to the first half of the film. As Bond heads off alone to track down Blofeld, Tracy exclaims:
It’s clear that she has seen the error of her suicidal tendencies and for the first time since we‘ve known her, she has hope. This is called character development, folks. I know the concept of it is lost in most Bond entries, but when it’s there, it’s something special and well worth taking notice.
For almost the next hour, Tracy is not shown nor mentioned at all. It isn’t until both Bond and the audience have become so wrapped up in the task at hand and the peril of spy-life that James finds himself in, she makes an unexpected and triumphant return. Having been on the run from Bunt, a squad of goons and a camera-wielding polar bear (don’t ask), 007 is at the end of his rope. Unable to escape and fearing the inevitable capture and death, Bond simply sits down on the edge of the town ice rink and resigns himself to his fate. Cold, frightened and alone, James waits for his pursuers to grab him, when something neither he, nor the audience, expects occurs. Tracy skates up to him like an angel and if you watch closely, you are able to see the exact moment in which James Bond falls in love.
[flashvideo filename=videos/OHMSS.avi.FLV /]
A beautiful moment of true romance. Tracy ends up saving James in more ways than one that night and Bond decides to follow by her example of paying what is owed, by proclaiming his love and renouncing his job without a second thought.
Skip to the End [Spoilers]: A wedding, James Bond’s wedding. Who would have thought it? The world’s greatest womanizer settles down. As they are driving away from the reception, Tracy talks for the first time about being happy and how that James has given her the greatest gift of all: a future. The travesty of what follows is nothing short of heartbreaking. The film ends with Bond devastated and holding Tracy’s body: ‘It’s all right, we have all the time in the world…’ [End Spoilers]
Diana Rigg was classy, witty, dark, smart, sexy and most importantly, believable. Believable that if there was a woman that could woo the world’s most famous bachelor away from his lifestyle, she was it. I love her character dearly and as Bond himself says ‘I know I’ll never find another girl like you.’ And the best us mere mortals can ever hope to achieve is finding a lady that’s half the woman Tracy Bond was.
[THE BEST BOND-AID]
With the combination of having to introduce a new actor for Bond and director Peter Hunt’s decision to follow closely to Ian Fleming’s original story, it left little room for nonsense and high tech wizardry. But, we are given a little something:
Safe Cracker / Olivetti Wet-Type Photocopier
I know what you’re thinking: “Man, I’d rather be looking up porn than reading Rant’s review” and perhaps “Photocopier? Whoop-de-Shit…” But to be fair, you can look up porn in a few minutes, and portable photocopiers were not so commonplace back in 1969. Plus the sequence in which Bond waits for the cracker to do what it does, he reads a playboy featuring a previous Bond girl. Playboy has always been good to the Bond franchise, from publishing serials of Fleming’s work to featuring pictorials of former Bond Girls in their naked spender (pictures of which, I would love to get my hands on if you have any!). So, it was nice to see them elbow nudge Heff’s shag-mag for a couple minutes.
[BOND’S GREATEST HITS]
The Body Count 
Bond only gets five on this outing, but as I have mentioned, this isn’t THAT kind of Bond film. As for the rest, all but a couple are from the attack on Blofeld’s base, Piz Gloria. Men are shot, grenaded and even have flame thrown upon them.
Draco and his men score 17 kills while losing only 4. Even Tracy herself gets a point, when she faces off against Grunther.
The Best Fight
While most people might choose the creative and noisy fight in the “bell room”, I myself have to go with the violent, furniture smashing bout between Bond and Tracy’s unwanted bodyguard. As I mentioned before, Lazenby wasn’t one to pull his punches and it shows greatly here. The two exchange brutal blow for blow and flip for flip, culminating with Bond launching his attacker through a room divider.
Affirmative action. Good stuff. But I think the thing I like best about the fight, is that it’s very similar to the fight between Schwarzenegger and Bill Duke in COMMANDO. Only with less muscles, swearing, blood and boobies. But what are you going to do? This was the 60s.
The Most Satisfying Kill
I have to go with Tracy and her ‘avenging’ impalement of poor Grunther.
[HIS WORD IS HIS BOND]
[After seeing one of his skiing pursers fail to clear a jump and land in the combine of a large snow-blower…]
Bond: He had lots of guts!
Best Double Entendre
After being denied the right to give out her room number to Sir Hilary (Bond), Ruby reaches under the dinner table, lifts up his kilt and uses her lipstick to etch it onto his thigh and Bond is understandably unable to completely disguise his enthusiasm…
Bunt: Is anyzing za matter, Ser Hilary?
Bond: Due to the altitude—no doubt.
[THE MISSION DEBRIEF]
While this film is usually adored by hardcore Bond fans, the casual fans and critics do have some valid, though unnecessarily picky complaints. The main one being continuity issues that Blofeld does not recognize James when he is posing as Sir Hilary Brant. A change of his voice and a pair of glasses is all that it takes for James to disguise himself in the presence of Blofeld. This seems ludicrous, as this Bond is intended to be the same as Connery’s and Blofeld would certainly recognize the man that cost him billions. In defense of this, this film is a very faithful adaptation of the book, which happens to take place before the events of YOLT. If this really bugs you, you’re missing everything fun and your inability to suspend disbelief means you’re probably not going to be a big Bond fan in the first place, so shut-up. That’s all I have to say about that. Enough negativity, on to some stuff I really dug about this flick.
The Chase, Christmas Time and a Broom-Wielding Midget Whistling the GOLDFINGER Theme:
First, the chase. Talk about epic! What YOLT did for the Shootout, this film does for the Chase Sequence. Starting with James’s escape from Piz Gloria, this bad boy lasts almost a solid 45 minutes. Wow! This is a more accurate adaptation of Stephen King’s THE RUNNING MAN than the movie THE RUNNING MAN. Bond is chased on skis, on foot, in a car and back on skis. The whole ordeal takes place over two days, and involves a shootout, a fist fight, a demolition derby race and an avalanche. Spectacular. And it’s made even better by the fact that halfway through, Tracy joins in on the fun and takes control of the entire driving portion of the sequence. Good times are to be had, I assure you!
Second, it’s Christmas time in Bond-Land. OHMSS is one of the earliest Action films to take place during the Winter Solstice, and I’m glad it’s such a good one. While personally, I grew out of the holiday shortly after reaching the age of reason, I still get a kick out of watching Christmas themed action adventures. Probably because so many of them are bad-ass. I mean you have DIE HARD, LETHAL WEAPON, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, FIRST BLOOD, INVASION U.S.A.—and scores of others. I think it is so cool that not only is there a Bond film that joins, or rather BEGAN the ranks of these classics, it’s also one of the very best of the 007 series. There is nothing quite like blowing shit up and putting foot to ass on December 25th.
Finally, the Broom-Wielding Midget Whistling the GOLDFINGER Theme.
This film has a Broom-Wielding Midget Whistling the GOLDFINGER Theme—this does not need further insight. If you don’t get what is awesome about that, you should leave.
In conclusion, this film is the best in the series as far as character driven story. There isn’t a bad performance in the lot. In fact, every character is as great as they have ever been, if not better. The screenplay was top notch, forcing the cast to give it all they had. All of the main characters are witty and extremely well spoken. It’s refreshing to see a sequel take such a 180 degree approach from the previous installment. It was ballsy and it paid off. Sure, the film made far less than the last two entries with Connery, but the public is a fickle bitch that is rarely right in retrospect. INDEPENDENCE DAY made more than 300 million in ticket sales and another 180 mill in rentals. I rest my case. This film is a classic and in my opinion, rests side-by-side with CASINO ROYALE as the best “Character Bond” 007 film. Unfortunately, this did not become a trend, as I will discuss in the next installment of my Bond-Endeavor. Take Care, Thanks For Reading and Happy Holidays.
[THE 007 SEVEN]
[X] Destroys Evil Doer’s Lair
[X] Drinks or Orders a Vesper Martini
[X] Gets Captured and/or Tortured
[X] Introduces Himself As “Bond—James, Bond”
[ ] Teams-Up With Felix Leiter
[X] Uses Judo or a Walther PPK to Dispose of an Enemy
[X] Wears a Tux
…all the time in the world…
RANTBO will return in (a breakdown of) DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) © United Artists Corp., Danjaq, LLC and MGM Home Entertainment