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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bond at his best in the best of the Ultimate Editions, 3 Nov 2008
This review is from: On Her Majesty's Secret Service [DVD] (DVD)
No Bond film has suffered as much historical and critical revisionism as On Her Majesty's Secret Service. A huge hit on its first release and no better or worse reviewed than any of the preceding Bonds, George Lazenby's decision to leave the series before the film was released led to a tidal wave of attacks from the press and spurned co-producer Albert R. Broccoli (who even removed Lazenby's face from the original US poster!) that cast such a dark shadow over the film that the fact it's one of the highpoints of the series slipped from the public consciousness. Instead it became the Bond that flopped (if taking more than ten times its cost can be called flopping), the Bond that everybody hated (there were plenty of rave reviews to prove otherwise) with the Bond so bad he had to be fired (the producers tried to sign him up for several more pictures but, foolishly he admits, their new star thought the series was on the way out). It didn't help that the film was subsequently heavily cut for reissues and TV, and it's only with the Ultimate Edition DVD that the film is finally available in its absolutely uncut version (even the previous DVD was missing a few shots). Over the years its reputation has gradually grown, although EON clearly still regard it as the black sheep of the series: where the producers proudly boasted in 1970 that it was the fastest Bond to recoup its cost, for the documentary here they maintain it was the slowest. It's tempting to imagine whether 2006's Casino Royale would have met with similar treatment had Daniel Craig decided to call it a day before it opened...

It's all the more mystifying considering how fresh and genuinely exciting much of the film still is today. With many of the series' regulars off making Shalako with Sean Connery (as was intended leading lady Brigitte Bardot), the film benefits greatly from new blood and new ideas while debuting director Peter Hunt's long experience as the series editor keeps it recognisably a Bond film. George Leech's stuntwork is much better than anything Bob Simmonds ever came up with, while cinematographer Michael Reed's superb work in the Swiss locations makes it one of the most visually memorable of the series. The ski chases still amaze, with Willi Bogner and Johnny Jordan going to ridiculously dangerous lengths to secure shots no-one had ever attempted before or equalled since (Bogner skiing backwards with a camera for the ground shots while Jordan was suspended from a helicopter for the aerial shots!), made all the more vivid by John Barry's superb score with its most exciting main title theme of the entire series.

Blessed with one of the strongest and certainly the most emotional of Fleming's plots, followed much more closely than the norm for the films, it also has a healthy contempt for the gadgets that keeps Bond, not the hardware centre stage: he may use a hefty gizmo to crack a safe, but he's more interested in leafing through Playboy while waiting for it to do its job. Elsewhere, he uses his wits and what's available. It's particularly gratifying to see him tear out his pockets and use them as makeshift gloves in one scene

There are odd moments of awkwardness to Lazenby's performance, but nothing truly fatal, and he grows into the role as it progresses. Indeed, as the first Bond to be asked to show real fear (in the ice rink sequence) and despair (the ending), at his best he's far more natural than his detractors give him credit and despite being intended as a Connery imitator there are plenty of moments where he makes the part his own. He's certainly the most physical Bond, not least because of Peter Hunt's determination to put him in harm's way so the camera can come in close in the vicious fight sequences. As for whether Connery would have made the film better still, it's doubtful. Had it originally followed Goldfinger as was originally planned, it's possible, but by the time the oft-rescheduled picture finally went before the camera he'd lost all interest in the part and it's hard to imagine him putting any more effort into it than he did in Diamonds Are Forever. It's certainly impossible to imagine him pulling off the film's devastating final scene by that point.

On the debit side, the pacing is slightly problematic, not least due to the deletion of an uncompleted chase through the London Underground that leaves the film with a slight sag in the middle. That continuity problem with Blofeld not recognising Bond IS irritating (OHMSS was intended to be their first meeting), the romantic montage feels like a jewellers commercial and at times Hunt's cut-to-the-bone editing style is overdone. None of which stop this being very nearly the best Bond of them all, and the one the series wouldn't come close to matching for another 37 years.

For Bond fans, this repackaged two-disc Ultimate Edition is like a brightly lit Christmas Tree on Christmas morning, with plenty of new extras to make it worth an upgrade to the two-disc edition if you already have the previous DVD. Of these, the most interesting are the interviews with Lazenby from the time of the film's release. Much criticised for his arrogance and ego in an era when stars were kept on a tight leash, now he simply seems honest and sincere and considerably more positive about the film than many of today's stars on modern press junkets. Unfortunately, while all three original 1969 making-of featurettes have been included on this issue, Shot On Ice, about the filming of the stock car sequence, has been clumsily tampered with, the extracts from the film taken from the remastered print in widescreen in away that will annoy the purists. It's also missing the alternate theatrical trailers that have appeared on the laserdisc and video releases in the past. But to go some way to compensating, the disc also includes new featurettes on casting the film and a staged press day during shooting as well as all the extras from the original release - plus that tidied up uncut version. Highly recommended, this is Bond at his best.
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Mar 2009 11:35:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Mar 2009 11:42:57 GMT
Baz says:
Was going to write a review - till I read yours, Trev! So I won't bother... Great film and a great review. Lazenby is my favourite Bond (close thing with the early Connery). Would've loved to have seen him do another one (as per Fleming).

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2009 15:03:58 GMT
Cheers, though I hope you'll still write that review anyway! It's a shame he didn't do another film - if he hadn't walked out and Cubby hadn't been determined to distance the next film so much from Lazenby and OHMSS, Diamonds Are Forever probably would have been a very different and much better film.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 May 2009 19:36:15 BDT
Hi, may have had a disagreement with your LTK review, but absolutely 100% with you on this one! In fact, reading it made me want to watch the film again, which I duly did and reminded myself what a cracking, honest-to-God action adventure thriller it is. And, yes, I remember it getting good notices when it came out, only to be virually buried when Connery returned for Diamonds Are Forever. If memory serves me correctly, it was not even granted a double bill reissue until the mid 1970s, when they needed somehting to pair up with a rerelease of Live and Let Die. And that is something else we are missing out on today. The great double bill re-issues; what a great way to catch up onh the past catalogue ... or revisit it. Cheers.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2009 23:49:43 BDT
Well, Bond films have always been a 'broad church,' so it's probably inevitable we'd agree on some and disagree on others. I saw it at my local in a double-bill with You Only Live Twice, but that was a one-day show as part of a James Bond week. It's a shame they don't do those anymore...

Posted on 12 Apr 2010 22:11:36 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 3 May 2010 22:16:52 BDT]

Posted on 12 Feb 2011 13:39:55 GMT
L. Stark says:
I totally agree with your review and want to add that I felt the action sequences, especially the fist fights were absolutely realistically depicted with the camera being actually physically MOVED up and back rather than optical zooms being employed. You notice it from the first scenes on the beach. This is a superior Bond film with arguably the most memorable score by the great John Barry. The weakest link in this film to me was the performance given by Telly Savalas. His "sinister" and "evil" just didn't ring true to me.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Mar 2011 17:03:43 GMT
OHMSS is a great Bond film but Lazenby is too bland by far, my lesatfavourite actor to play Bond.

Posted on 15 Mar 2013 20:33:00 GMT
Craig Foster says:
Very informative - but pardon my opinion please if I state that I'd rather see an in depth review of the blu-ray, not necessarily the actual movie. I think these reviews ought to be for the exact item we'll be BUYING - and in this case, it will be a blu-ray disc. We would be interested in your description of the upscaling, the transition for instance, the package - menus etc.. Forgive me if you disagree, I'm just stating what I personally would wish to see in a review, as that in particular is my concern when buying blu-rays of the DVD's I've already previously seen.
I hope you understand - and may I add, your review of the actual film is top drawer. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2013 00:22:22 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Mar 2013 00:24:48 GMT
Then complain to Amazon for putting all of the reviews - for the one disc DVD, the two disc DVD, the reissue one-disc DVD, the VHS and the Blu-ray - together. Believe me, Amazon putting reviews of different formats together pisses reviewers off immensely, but it's something we have no control over: this review was posted in 2008 long before there was even the prospect of a Blu-ray release. You could try complaining to Amazon, but you'll just get a form letter reply about how this kind of confusion 'keeps our customers more fully informed'. They know it annoys and confuses customers but it clearly appeals to someone at Amazon's sense of tidy housekeeping. It's even worse with other films - you'll find reviews not just for the two different cuts of the film but also the two TV miniseries on the Dune pagewhile look up Ransom and you'll get reviews of both the sean Connery film and the completely unrelated Glenn Ford one.

As for the Blu-ray itself, same extras, same cut but now I've seen it a bit disappointing: in places (like Bond driving up to the casino) it's been brightened up a little bit too much and it doesn't have the noticeable improvement you get with Dr No.

Posted on 1 May 2013 20:11:44 BDT
A. Broughton says:
great review!
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Trevor Willsmer

Location: London, England

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