Posted on November 22, 2020
I have managed to exist in six decades as a Bond fan without ever having seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This has now been rectified and I have a lot to say about my fee-fees on this — well, let’s call it a “film” to keep the typing down because it would get tiresome typing “Cubby Broccoli had a wart removed and made us watch” over and over.
Spoilers for a 50 year old movie follow.
They say that the first Bond movie you see, generally as teenage boy, cements your concept of what JB should be. For me, I saw Diamonds Are Forever when I was 13 at the Varsity theater on the Drag across from the University of Texas.
I also had my first remarkable burger that night as my parents took me to Dirty Martin’s (we just called it Dirty’s back then) after the show.
So Sean Connery embodied the role of 007 for me, to the degree that I watched every Roger Moore effort shaking my head so hard it almost came off my neck. Even though I was a huge fan of Moore from The Saint, I felt like they completely missed the tone with his 007 movies. I thought of Bond as something serious, yet they seemed take it as a joke once Connery left the series.
I also assiduously avoided On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because I knew just enough about it to stay away. The man playing Bond was a model, not an actor. He was Australian when everyone knew Bond was Scottish. I stayed away even though I had a teenybopper crush on Diana Rigg from the (only one true) Avengers.
We finally watched it last night and if you ever had any suspicion that Rotten Tomatoes is bullshit, this should finally prove your point. RT has an 84/61 on this turd which establishes a certain watermark where online reviews are concerned.
If you only watch an IMDB 6.7 or higher (and tend toward a 7.0 if you want a really good movie) then, apparently, you should only watch an RT above 90% or below 40% (for when the critics get it wrong).
What’s right with OHMSS? Very little, but I do have to say that Diana Rigg’s Tracy busted loose from most of the Bond Girl tropes. She was her own woman, a fully developed character with her own motivation, and played a pivotal role in Bond canon.
Also, some of the photography was nice.
What’s wrong with OHMSS? Allow me to count the ways I don’t love this movie.
First off, Lazenby has three extra letters in his name. For a man who was so passionate about winning the role, he sure didn’t put much energy into actually inhabiting the role. Peter Hunt, the director, wisely chooses to play any scene with any acting requirements off the actor playing opposite. It’s smart, and it helps, but it’s also extremely noticeable that a movie about James Bond has so little James Bond in it.
Secondly, the audio is terrible. It seems like they dubbed the entire movie with mismatched dialogue, overly loud sound effects, and inappropriate foley.
Thirdly, why in God’s name is this movie so long? OHMSS makes Thunderball look like a tight ninety. The plot wanders like a found footage film. The relationship between 007 and M makes no sense and stumbles all over the place emotionally and for what purpose? I noticed the tag line for the movie is “Far More” which I can only guess refers to the extra 35 minutes they should have cut out.
Fourthly, the romance with Tracy seems weirdly bolted on as if they got Diana Rigg after the initial script had been written and they just added that part in later. For comparison, look at 2006’s Casino Royale, a nearly perfect Bond movie. It runs the same number of minutes, includes a similar doomed romance, and is as tight and committed to overdrive as The Ramones.
Fifthly, (and honestly I could go to Tenthly but at this point I’m just beating a dead movie), the ending. Holy shit is that a stinking turd of an ending. You don’t end a Bond movie on the senseless murder of his one true love. Bond movies don’t end on a downbeat. I mean, I burst out laughing when they pulled away from Bond cradling Tracy’s body meekly repeating “It’s going to be okay” and then the sound track burst into the Bond theme.
What the actual fuck?
They could have fixed a lot of this by having Tracy die at the end of the second act and made the third act a revenge story with Bond going rogue from MI6 with Tracy’s father.
Okay, dammit, there is a Sixthly: Blofeld. This is the lamest Bond villain ever. He’s almost not in the movie until the very long third act and even then he’s making hot chicks carry atomizers full of crop poison? Wants to have his title as a British Peer restored? I mean…
Blofeld is the inspiration for Dr. Evil. He’s THE Bond villain, the villain who set the standard. As great an actor as Telly Savalas was, he’s cruising with very little to do in this film. If an action film is elevated by its villain, OHMSS doesn’t even get off the ground until the third act and even then it doesn’t reach takeoff speed.
For decades this movie languished in the dock as the worst of all the Bond films, but at some point hipsters decided to rescue this dog and the world is not better for it.
Watch only as an oddity or because you’re a completist.