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on 28 March 2010
There have only been a handful of "Making of" James Bond books, and being official publications, they have not always provided a very satisfying look behind the scenes. Eon Productions do not open their doors very wide, something that Bond fans know all too well. In fact, the last two "making of" books have just been a collection of set photographs. That is why Charles Helfenstein's The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service is true manna from heaven for the James Bond fan. This is the most comprehensive look behind the scenes of a James Bond movie EVER.

Here is the complete story of the making of this particularly fascinating and unique James Bond film (now generally regarded as one of the best of the series). The author starts with the writing of the original 1963 novel, uncovering much never-before-revealed information from various Fleming archives and dispelling a few long-held myths (Bond's Scottish heritage was not a nod to Sean Connery). He also tracks the lengthy script development, which spanned many years as OHMSS was twice considered for production and then postponed. There's even a gatefold breakdown of all the scripts and their changing elements -- something you certainly will never find in any official "making of" book.

Casting of one-time Bond George Lazenby is covered in great detail, as is all aspects of the production. There is just too much here to go into, but know that there is, literally, a major revelation on every page. There is more information contained in the photo captions than you'll find in the entire text of most "making of" books. Even if you're not a James Bond buff, seeing the day to day production of a movie made in the swinging '60s is a real treat. The book is also jam-packed with never-before-published photographs, publicity material, and OHMSS collectibles. Visually, it's a mind blower!

If the book has a fault, it could be that the author doesn't really examine all that closely the conflicts surrounding star Lazenby and his legendary "bad" behavior on and off set (Lazenby, inexplicably, announced mid-way through production that he would not make another Bond film). Not that the legendary incidents aren't covered, but they are presented without much added information or embellishment (but also without judgment). The author spends more time explaining the challenges the production faced in getting a generator to work at the Piz Gloria elevation, which, actually, I found fascinating! So maybe this isn't a fault after all. All the "drama" of making OHMSS is presented in proper measure. Frankly, the generator might have been a bigger headache to the production crew than the antics of a wild star, which, the author speculates, may have been exaggerated by the press once Lazenby forsook the series.

The author completes with a chapter on the legacy of OHMSS, and just when you thought you heard it all, here comes another wave of tantalizing bonus info. Diamonds Are Forever pre-titles sequence with Irma Bunt. Photos of Pierce Brosnan's 1986 screen test using OHMSS scenes. And how about the original plot of Octopussy, using elements from a rejected OHMSS script, which has never been revealed...until now.

Expensive? Not when you understand and appreciate what this is. This is a life's work by THE leading expert on OHMSS -- a meticulously researched, rare gift to Bond fans and movie buffs that doesn't come along all that often. And because it is a small publisher (self-published?), it might not be around for all that long. It will, unquestionably, become one of the most hotly collectible James Bond books ever produced (I'm thinking of grabbing another copy as an investment). In fact, if you are reading this review and this book still shows as being available, consider yourself lucky. For all these reasons and many more you will discover on your own, The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service is an essential buy.
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on 3 February 2014
As a huge James Bond fan I have always held the belief that O.H.M.S.S. is the best film in the series directed by the Great Peter Hunt who gave Bond fans a very close adaptation of my favourite Fleming novel. Charles Helfenstein has written a superb book about the making of O.H.M.S.S. It is excellently written with great photographs and hugely entertaining for all Bond fans. If you are into O.H.M.S.S. buy this book.
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on 10 October 2015
A fantastic book. The difference between this and every other generic 'Bond film' book is the same as between a work of primary historical research and a primary school history booklet. You could safely give this to someone who was not a Bond fan simply because it is such a detailed and interesting chronicle of film making. Helfenstein obviously takes the view that if he is going to do something it must not only be the best, but the best by a vast margin. He has succeeded here.
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on 22 April 2010
Bond movie books are usual lousy, self-indulgent retreads of well worn and well known facts. Chuck in the latest movie, reheat and serve. Most writers seem only to be in it to get their name on the Bond bookshelf and claim themselves as some kind of expert. An expert would know better than to publish.

There have, however, been two classics we have been lucky enough to have enjoyed in recent years. Both are must haves.

The first is Robert Sellers' "The Battle for Bond". Priceless.

The second is Charles Helfenstein's book here. Absolutely marvellous.

This is the perfect guide to the ultimate Bond film: imagine a literary version of Peter Hunt's labour of love and here it is. Full of indepth insight from the genesis of Fleming's novel, through production and, of course, the movie's notorious aftermath. Lovingly written and imaginatively illustrated, I doubt there is an image left that has not been reproduced here, showing the progress from Fleming's creation to today, the "feel" of OHMSS wonderfully recreated.

A MUST have for the shelf of EVERY serious Bond fan.
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on 20 January 2015
This has to be the best Bond book ever that covers the making of the 1969 James Bond film OHMSS that i have ever got given to me for a christmas present.plus never before pictures that i have never seen in any other Bond films books that i own.every thing that you wanted to know about the film is in it and more.
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on 9 December 2010
It is my understanding that the James Bond series' long-time editor Peter Hunt was once promised directorial duties for 1967's 'You Only Live Twice' (YOLT) starring Sean Connery. When the producers decided to hire Lewis Gilbert to helm the picture instead, Mr. Hunt was promised the next one. At some point during the production of YOLT, Sean Connery became disillusioned with the series and decided to retire from the role that made him an international superstar. When it was Peter Hunt's turn to direct 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' (OHMSS), one important thing was missing...a star to play the legendary spy!

Nearly everybody in the industrialized world has seen at least one James Bond film in their lifetime but not everybody knows the amount of work and drama that goes on during the production of these films. THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE by Charles Helfenstein meticulously chronicles the story of how the most underappreciated entry in the James Bond film series went from being a 1963 novel by Ian Fleming to an 140 minute feature film starring an unknown Australian actor named George Lazenby as 007.

I've been a member of the online James Bond fan community for seven years now and whenever I hear the name Charles Helfenstein, I automatically think of the sixth James Bond film. His name is synonymous with this particular film because of his enormous passion and breadth of knowledge for all things relating to OHMSS. After years of painstaking research and by describing every major aspect of production and post-production, Mr. Helfenstein provides readers with the most comprehensive look at 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' ever produced. You could watch the DVD documentaries and/or read the film's Wikipedia article for information about OHMSS but those only provide you with 1% of the overall story. For the other 99%, you must read this book because Charles Helfenstein is the only living person capable of telling this unique and fascinating story.

I've been a Bond fan for nearly a decade and I used to buy a lot of James Bond reference books until I realized that the majority of them are crap. The really bad ones just recycle photographs and tidbits that I've heard repeated numerous times before. THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is different because every single page is filled with information and photographs that I've never heard or seen before. I was astonished because prior to reading the book, I thought I knew everything there was to know about OHMSS. Wrong!

Some people have complained about the $54 price but after holding the book in my hands and giving it a thorough read, I can honestly tell you that it's worth every penny. It wasn't just written for hardcore James Bond fans like myself but also for students of film and popular culture. In addition to discussing OHMSS's unique production, the book gives brilliant insight into the art of filmmaking as well as how the people involved work together to create a cinematic masterpiece, a term that many Bond fans are beginning to bestow upon 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' 40+ years after its release.

If you're a James Bond fan or simply a movie buff, not owning THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE would be extremely foolish. That's a fact.

Chris Wright
Executive Editor
[...]
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on 18 March 2011
What is quite apparent while reading this book is the amount of time, effort and detail that has been poured into it, rewarding the reader not only with an exhaustive history of the film, but by also revealing a myriad of undisclosed facts, documents and rare photographs. Ardent fans of the film will be delighted to learn that there really is a treasure trove of information to be found between its covers.

If you are a fan of the film or Bond in general, I strongly recommend buying this wonderful book. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read from start to finish - You will not be disappointed. I am sure director Peter Hunt and Ian Fleming would be extremely proud of the author's efforts. The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Charles Helfenstein is a worthy tribute to a very special and unique Bond film.
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on 29 March 2010
There have been previous books that covered the making of a particular Bond film, from Roger Moore's personal account of the filming of LALD in his James Bond Diary and Sally Hibben's authorized The Making of License to Kill to Garth Pearce's books on the first two Pierce Brosnan films, Ian Johnson's TWINE Companion, and Greg Williams' Bond On Set series which are more photo books than making of. This book takes the best of those and goes even further. It's a "warts and all" book that covers every aspect of the film, from the book the film is based on to the first attempts at a script, through the actual filming, and ending with critical reaction while literally leaving no stone unturned. With behind the scenes/making of books I tend to go for the photo heavy type books and this one doesn't disappoint. The writing is concise, never drags, and holds your attention throughout. I finished the book in two days as I could not put it down. It's a shame there isn't a book like this written for each Bond film. If you're a James Bond fan, you have to buy this book. If you're a fan of this particular film, it's a must own! If you think you know this movie, think again.
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on 27 September 2013
Between this and The Living Daylights, Helfenstein has created a wonderful series of books. The details he has brought out totally changed my perspective on this film - and it is one of my favourites films already. Really hope he does more.
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on 8 December 2010
After reading this book I`m afraid I feel compelled to add a dash of cold water to the almost ebullient reviews listed below. Before I wade in I should state that although I enjoy the film version of OHMSS it's not my favourite Bond film (that honour belongs to Dr No, the only film in my opinion to truly capture the essence of the written Bond). Although OHMSS does stick closely to the novel, and I like aspects of Peter Hunts direction, I'd class the film in the `good, not great' category. I appreciate that the film has been reappraised by critics over the last few years - and although I don't think it deserved the panning it originally received - I feel that the positive reviews have gone too far in the opposite direction.

The good:
The book is very detailed and exhausting researched. You really come away with a complete understanding of the process involved in the making of this film. Charles Helfenstein is obviously passionate about the film and although I don't agree with his conclusion that it's the best Bond film I can't fault his enthusiasm for the movie. There are also lots of great photos and images from the film, everything from stills to the cover of the 8 track of the soundtrack. He includes interview transcripts form all the principle cast and even showcases the location scout. A solid read.

The bad:
The book is peppered with grammatical mistakes - so many in fact that I'm surprised other reviewers haven't mentioned them. I get the distinct impression that this book hasn't been proof-read. Ordinarily I probably wouldn't mind so much but for £40 I don't think I'm out-of-order in expecting higher production values. That's not the only problem. The placing of pages filled with images is very annoying. In many instances you'll read to the bottom of a page, turn over the page half way through a sentence and be met by 10 pages of photos (the worse instance is 30 pages!). On more than one occasion this `break' will include interviews or box's on other directors and it really ruins the flow of the book. This is a minor complaint I know, but a more serious problem appears on page 159: when you flick past 6 pages of photos to continue reading on page 165 the text doesn't match up with what went before. This is very sloppy. Again, I expect more from a book with such a hefty price tag.

Other gripes: Although Helfenstein includes detailed summaries of all the various versions of the script he doesn't include a summary of the novel itself - a strange decision given that one of the most common complaints levelled against the Bond films are their divergence from the source novels. Also, inexplicably, Ian Fleming's death is not mentioned - he died in 1964 while Richard Maibaum was working on early drafts of OHMSS. The only indication of Flemings death is a brief mention of his widow towards the end of the book. More irritations: there is a box out biography of Simon Raven that appears three pages before any mention of his involvement in the film (he gave the final script a polish). I spent three pages wondering who the heck he was. And why does he get a half page bio when Fleming doesn't? Again, mistakes I could forgive if not for the £40 price tag. Lastly, on page 262 there is a quote from Richard Maibaum claiming that `Hunt was a monster of a director' and he describes Lazenby as an `idiot'. There is no attempt to either explain this statement or place it in any context. Since it's the only suggestion in the book that Hunt was difficult to work with I'd have expected some attempt to place the quote in perspective. Was Hunt a difficult director? Or did Maibaum have an axe to grind? We'll never know. I suspect an experienced editor/proof reader would have caught this.

As for other reviewers view that this is the best book written about a (single) Bond film, I've afraid that honour belongs the Adrian Turners excellent `"Goldfinger": The Ultimate A-Z''. It's just as well researched as `The Making of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service' but I found it far more entertaining (and it's been edited and proof-read too). At £11 it's also a quarter of the cost of OHMSS.

In conclusion I'd like to say that, despite the production niggles, I did enjoy the book - it made me want to see the film again which, in my opinion is the highest accolade you can give a film book. I just wish it was cheaper and better edited.
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