Film Fridays – ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’

Film Fridays is a project initiated by Sarah and I. See previous posts for a longer preamble!

We would be delighted if you would join us! We don’t necessarily want to talk about the nerdy technical details but more about why these films speak to us as individuals, why they have a place in out hearts, and any personal memories they evoke. 

‘OHMSS’ (1969)

The Trailer on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOLq5Rg9N-c

This was on my original list, being my favourite Bond movie, but I was not going to post this week as I’ve not been well. However, the death of Dame Diana Rigg yesterday could not go without a mention so here we go.

James Bond rescues a young woman, Tracy, (played by Diana Rigg) from a suicide attempt, and in doing so draws the attention and gratitude of her Mafioso father, Draco, who offers to pay Bond to court his daughter in order to help her overcome her troubled past. Bond refuses the money but agrees to see Tracy provided Draco can find the location of Bonds arch enemy Blofeld who has been in hiding since the events of the previous movie. Blofeld is located in a mountain top hideout in Switzerland, where he is brainwashing young women into helping him spread a biological weapon around the world. Bond goes in undercover as a genealogist, but once Bond’s cover is blown he escapes on ski’s and reunites with Tracy just before she is kidnapped by Blofeld. MI6 refuse to help and forbid Bond to intervene, so he goes to Tracy’s father who sends in his own team to rescue Tracy and destroy the facility. Bond and Tracy marry, but not for long….

This Bond film is remarkable in many respects. Though reviews at the time were mixed it is now regarded as one of the best Bond movies. Christopher Nolan has cited the cinematography as an influence on his own movies.

This movie was a deliberate attempt to go back to basics after the rather overblown ‘You Only Live Twice’. The result is the Bond movie that is most faithful to the Ian Fleming source novel, and would remain so until ‘Casino Royale’ in 2006. It is also my favourite of Fleming’s novels, so to see a faithful adaptation is a treat. Even the unusually sad ending remains in place.

This is an amazing looking movie, beautifully shot and with fabulously choreographed action sequences – Bond’s escape on ski’s being a highlight.

Much has been written about the casting of Australian model George Lazenby as Bond, replacing Sean Connery. His performance is not a highlight of the film and it does make one wonder what it could have been like had Connery stuck around. It did not help him that he was acting opposite the strongest leading lady in Bond movie history – Diana Rigg, whose performance outclasses everyone else in the film. The stories about their clashes on set are largely untrue or exaggerated. It was to be Lazenby’s only Bond movie (a decision he made during production), necessitating a reluctant Connery returning for the next in the series.

I have often wondered over the years what the producers of the TV series ‘The Avengers’ must have felt toward the Bond movies by this stage. In 1964 they lost their leading lady, Honor Blackman, to Bond when she left to play Pussy Galore in ‘Goldfinger’. This was jokily referenced in the following season when leading man Steed receives a Christmas card and wonders what Mrs Gale was doing in Fort Knox. Her successor was none other than Diana Rigg, who then also left the series when the Bond offer came, but did stick around to film a goodbye episode. Interestingly, OHMSS features an early appearance from Joanna Lumley, who later reversed the above trend by appearing as leading lady Purdey in the revived ‘New Avengers’ in the mid 70s.

OHMSS also has probably the finest musical score of the series. It does eschew the big opening song, instead showing a montage of scenes from the earlier movies to a wonderful entirely musical theme tune composed by John Barry. This theme occurs throughout the movie too, as incidental music. Barry, with Bacharach and David, also composed the song ‘We Have All the Time in the World’ to soundtrack the courtship between Bond and Tracy. This was beautifully sung by Louis Armstrong, poignantly very near the end of his own life.

Blofeld is played on this occasion by Telly Savalas, who plays the character rather well and not as over-the-top as Donald Pleasance had done. The Blofeld stories in Fleming’s novels are filmed out of sequence, which results in Blofeld mystifyingly failing to recognise the undercover Bond despite their face off in the previous movie!

Ultimately though, I wanted to pay tribute to Diana Rigg. It is her performance in this movie that makes her by far the best of the ‘Bond Girls’. I was lucky enough to first see this movie at around the same time I saw her Avengers episodes, which are my favourite of that series too – her rather arch and very independent character was very refreshing for the time.

18 Comments

      1. It will help you take other steps you need to do to improve your health, Darren, like walking, eating healthily, getting some sun, etc, etc. You can’t control the pandemic or the idiots, but you can do this little thing for yourself.
        I am fine mostly. I’m going to the docs tomorrow because of some nagging health issues. I’ve avoided this appointment. Unfortunately I can’t do blood tests remotely. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I could kick myself in my behind for not having seen this film yet! 😂 It sounds amazing from your review, and I sure hope they’ll bring it soon on tv in honour of Diana Rigg who will be missed so much. I’m not surprised her performance was stellar in this one and that you’ve called her the strongest of all the Bond girls.
    The story of this film sounds very promising too! And I’m so curious about the soundtrack too, Louis Armstrong- wow! If it weren’t Saturday I might risk a visit to the library to see if I can get it on DVD. 😉
    Hope you’re going to feel better soon, Darren, and thank you so much for posting this even though you didn’t feel like it. 😍💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I hope you get to see it soon! It is my favourite of the Bonds up until the Craig era.
      Last night I discovered that I have a copy of the very Avengers episode I refer to in this – the one with the card from Fort Knox – so watched it. You really can’t take your eyes off Diana Rigg when she is in screen.
      No weird dreams last night so am adapting I hope. Take care Sarah, and thank you.❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review! And timely, with the passing of Diana Rigg (aka Mrs. Peel), sadly.

    What a gem of Bond film. It’s been a few years since I’ve see it, but I remember liking it a lot. John Barry’s music, the story, the characters… Lots of good stuff going on. I can see why it’s your favorite! Are you a fan of the Daniel Craig era?

    E.F.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Especially those 2. For sure. I felt Spectre kinda missed the mark overall. Albeit the Gorgeous opening Day of the Dead tracking scene. But yeah Casino Royale is electric. And Skyfall – I really loved and was surprised where the story went, with M being taken..

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A fine tribute to Diana Rigg. I only knew her from Game of Thrones, so I had no idea she was a Bond girl. But then you mentioned the original Avengers! and I was like, was she Emma Peel??? Funnily, I had an Emma Peel in my first and second grade class. 😀

    I will have to watch this one since you mentioned how good it is. I love the Bond movies, and have never been much of a snob because I never read Flemming’s novels. Trust me though, I have thought about plenty. Since I’m an 80s child, I’ve seen all of them from Roger Moore, and have never quite gotten the thrill of Sean Connery… 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lani!
      She was indeed Emma Peel, and magnificent in the role. Was your Emma Peel good at martial arts by any chance???
      The novels I see as just being very different to the movies. Some were already badly dated by the time I read them in the 80s (30 years after publication). Moonraker especially.
      The first grown-up book I ever read was Dr No, which I found in a box of random books at school when I was around 10 years old.
      I have enjoyed all the Bond actors but I think Daniel Craig is my favourite.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma was the sweetest student. We are still in contact. Not sure about her MA skills but I know her name came up even in the 1st grade whether or not she was named after the Avengers character! 😛

        Ah, okay. I’m not sure if I’d enjoy the books or not. I haven’t read any kind of action / thriller novel in quite some time. Interesting, now that I think about it…

        Hmmm. Favorite Bond? Growing up, I liked Pierce Bronson because he seemed to fit the description and he’s likeable, cheeky, etc. But yeah, Daniel Craig took the whole image and took it for the spin. He sold me when he came out of the ocean in his bathing briefs. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s funny about books. I go through phases. Sometimes I go for months without reading a novel at all, sometimes (as now) I read crime fiction for a while, especially the grittier end of the genre. This is surprising as it’s not like I need reminding how evil some people are! If I feel like total escapism then I dig out the Terry Pratchett or fantasy novels.

          Like you I really liked Brosnan’s take on Bond. The quality of his later films was variable, but that was not his fault. I am not at all against any of the Bond actors – they all brought different things to the role.
          As for Daniel Craig in his briefs… no comment. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I love a good Bond movie, but I love Sean Connery and think he makes the best bond, followed by Roger Moore and Daniel Craig. I used to love watching Telly Savalas as Kojak too. I liked OHMSS, but, as you said, think it would have been better with Sean!

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