The James Bond Challenge – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

OHMSS posterIn which James Bond falls in love with the alluring Contessa Tracy yet still finds time to plot to overthrow Blofeld at his secret Swiss hideaway, where he is organising a mass hypnotism of twelve girls to go out into the world and arrange for its destruction. Blofeld is trying to lay claim to the title ‘Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp’, so, pretending to be the genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, Bond infiltrates his lair, but his cover is quickly blown. Blofeld’s Headquarters are stormed and he is severely injured in a bobsled fight against Bond, but will he, nevertheless, achieve his aim of implanting infertility in a range of species of flora and fauna? And, above all, will Bond and Tracy live happily ever after?

Tracy in the CasinoOriginally Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had planned to film The Man with the Golden Gun as the follow-up to You Only Live Twice, with Roger Moore lined up to play Bond; but political instability in Cambodia made it impossible to film there, and Moore signed up for a further series of the TV series The Saint, so they went back to the often-shelved Plan B to film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Again there was an interval of two years since the previous Bond film, and its budget of $7 million was a considerable drop on YOLT’s $10.3 million, largely as a result of the decision to replace regular production designer Ken Adam with Syd Cain, whose vision for the film required smaller sets; another financial help was the fact that George Lazenby’s fee of $100,000 was way less than Connery’s $800,000. Its box office take of $82 million – whilst still a tremendous amount – was the lowest profit for an Eon Productions Bond film since 1963’s From Russia with Love. Usual screenwriter Richard Maibaum, who had missed out on writing You Only Live Twice as he was working on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was re-engaged, and would keep the job till 1989. Writer Simon Raven, who had reviewed a number of Fleming’s novels for The Listener magazine, but who was better known as a novelist, and later for the TV series The Pallisers and Edward and Mrs Simpson, was hired to write additional material, specifically for those conversations between Blofeld and Tracy, and with Sir Hilary, which they wanted to be snappier and more intellectual.

Mountain filmingPeter Hunt, who had worked with tremendous success as Editor or Second Unit Director on all the previous Eon Bond films, was promoted to director for OHMSS; and indeed, he is the first person to be seen at the beginning of the film, it’s his reflection in the brass plate on the street behind which M and Q are meeting. Hunt’s ambition for the film was to make if different from all the others; less reliant on gadgets and gimmicks, closer to the original book than its predecessors, and, above all, glamorous. This would be the last Bond film on which he worked, although his editing/directorial career would continue until the early 90s. For his editor, he chose John Glen, and as cinematographer, Michael Reed, with both of whom he had worked on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Glen would go on to be a successful Bond director in the 80s. John Barry was, of course, again responsible for the music, all apart from Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. Aerial Unit Cameraman John Jordan, who had to have a leg amputated after an accident during the filming of You Only Live Twice, developed a special helicopter harness for filming the amazing aerial shots of the mountain slopes and action sequences in OHMSS, hanging eighteen feet below the helicopter from a large round metal support apparatus. However, his daredevil approach to work would literally be the death of him, as, in his next job, he died while filming Catch-22 in 1969 over the Gulf of Mexico when another plane passed close by. He was sucked out of the open doorway and fell 2,000 feet, always having refused to wear a safety harness.

OHMSS bookOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service was published in 1963 and was the tenth book in Ian Fleming’s series of James Bond novels. It’s the second of the so-called Blofeld Trilogy, coming between Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, which explains why so much of the screenplay for that last book had to deviate from its original – the events of OHMSS (including Bond’s briefest of marriages, and the fact that Blofeld isn’t dead yet) not having yet been translated onto the screen. It was the first Bond book to be written after the film series had started, Fleming writing most of it at his Jamaica home whilst Dr No was being filmed around the corner. Fleming’s working title was The Belles of Hell, but Fleming’s friend Nicholas Henderson, who would go on to be the UK’s Ambassador to the USA, spotted the title On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on an old sailing book in Portobello Market, and the rest is history.

Odeon AylesburyThis was the first “proper” Bond movie that I saw at the cinema – I had seen the spoof Casino Royale, but that was just pure comedy. I would have been 9 years old when I saw it; I recall there was a lot of peer group pressure from schoolfriends to see it and then give playground reviews afterwards. I remember watching it with my mother at the Odeon in Aylesbury and really enjoying it – until the last scene, and then I bawled my eyes out all the way home. I may have omitted that fact in my playground review.

BlofeldTrue to Peter Hunt’s vision, the book and the film tread very much the same storyline – probably a closer adaptation than any of the previous films. There are only a few very minor deviations from the original plot. The book received largely very good reviews. The Guardian said it was: “not only up to Mr. Fleming’s usual level, but perhaps even a bit above it”, whilst the Observer reckoned: “O.H.M.S.S. is certainly the best Bond for several books. It is better plotted and retains its insane grip until the end”. The Houston Chronicle described it as: “Fleming at his urbanely murderous best”, and the Washington Post wrote that Bond was: “still irresistible to women, still handsome in a menacing way, still charming. He has nerves of steel and thews of whipcord […] Fleming’s new book will not disappoint his millions of fans”. Among the few nay-sayers, the New York Times declared: “this is a silly and tedious novel.”

George LazenbyThe majority of the contemporary film reviews concentrated on comparing the performance of George Lazenby in the role with that of Sean Connery – and by far the majority finding him lacking. For example, the Daily Mirror said he “looks uncomfortably in the part like a size four foot in a size ten gumboot.” But the film itself also received criticism, the Observer reviewer noting “I fervently trust it will be the last of the James Bond films. All the pleasing oddities and eccentricities and gadgets of the earlier films have somehow been lost, leaving a routine trail through which the new James Bond strides without noticeable signs of animation.” Today, however, the film receives a much improved response, perhaps encapsulated in filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s assessment: “For me there’s no question that cinematically On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best Bond film and the only one worth watching repeatedly for reasons other than pure entertainment … Shot to shot, this movie is beautiful in a way none of the other Bond films are.” And, for my own part, I have to agree with that. This does have a very different feel from the other films to date, which really makes it stand out, and that cinematography truly has the wow factor.

Opening CreditsThe opening credits begin, as usual, with Maurice Binder’s iconic glimpse of Bond walking across the screen whilst being captured by the barrel of a gun, only for him to turn around, see us, and shoot; and then for the blood to start filling up the screen. This time, though, Bond has changed, and it’s our first glimpse of George Lazenby in the role. Unlike previous Bonds, he gets down on one knee to shoot; and for the first time, the blood fills up the entire screen. Appropriately, to ring the changes, the music has been re-recorded again, with a brand new arrangement; slower, the notes being picked out on an organ keyboard that was so popular in the Easy Listening world of the late 60s. As a result, it’s possibly a little less impactful than the one we’re used to.

Tracy on the beachWe’re in London, where M, Q and Moneypenny have no idea where James Bond is. Then the scene changes to Portugal, and the opening car chase where Tracy overtakes Bond and they both drive to the beach. She runs down into the sea with the intent of taking her own life, but Bond runs after her and rescues her from the water. No sooner has he said “Good morning! My name is Bond, James Bond” then he has someone’s gun pointed at him and a big fight between the two of them takes place in the breaking waves on the beach. Tracy runs to escape, takes Bond’s car to the road, leaps into her car and runs off. Bond turns to the audience and quips “this never happened to the other fellow”.

Music creditsAnd then we’re into the credits; and the point where traditionally we’d hear a title theme; but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as a word phrase, doesn’t have lyrical flexibility. Maybe it would fit in with a marching theme or a Gilbert and Sullivan pastiche, but Peter Hunt wasn’t keen on that. John Barry agreed, and instead wrote an instrumental track for the opening. There’s no question in my mind that the opening music is very dull by Bond standards and doesn’t grab your attention. Visually, however, the opening credits are very intriguing, as they show flashbacks from the previous Bond movies, again to soften the audience in preparation for a new actor as Bond – and it’s a device that works very well. Using an hourglass motif in the titles also suggests the passing of time. Very clever.

BullfightAnd the locations? The majority of the film was shot in Switzerland, with the revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria, on top of the Schillthorn mountain being the site of Blofeld’s headquarters. Other Alpine scenes were filmed in Bern, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Saas-Fee. Gumbold’s offices were filmed in Bern, and, as luck would have it, there was a building site opposite the building where they were filming which was a perfect fit for the script. The filming switched to Portugal for the coast and beach scenes; the hotel in the first scene was the hotel that the crew stayed at in Cascais, so the pool, the interiors and so on, are all real. The bullfight scene was filmed at Vinhas estate in Zambujal, with Bond and Tracy reuniting in Lisbon and the final scene being shot on a mountain road near Setubal. The indoor scenes were all filmed at Pinewood Studios, and M’s grand country house, Quarterdeck, was filmed in Marlow.

Lazenby as BondBond, James Bond. Fittingly, those are (almost) the first words from George Lazenby He was born in Goulburn, Australia, in 1939; he served in the Australian army, then worked as a car salesman and mechanic, before moving to London in 1963. Still a car salesman, he was spotted by a talent scout who suggested he became a model – and in 1966 he was voted Top Model of the Year, following a hugely lucrative contract in a Fry’s Chocolate commercial.

George LFamously he won the role by excelling in a stunt fight scene screentest, where his combatant was the Russian wrestler Yuri Borienko; by all accounts Borienko was literally floored. Peter Hunt had a job on his hands to make us warm to the new Bond as quickly as possible. And he achieved that by deliberately not making a big thing of it, but just by showing us, in the opening credits, Bond’s cigarettes, his glasses, and other close-ups but not of his complete face. We don’t see his face in full until he introduces himself to the prostrate Tracy. By the time he gets to say his funny line at the end of the scene, we already had accepted him, and didn’t miss Connery for a second.

Bond and TracyBut it doesn’t sound like Lazenby and Bond were meant for each other. Stories abounded that he was difficult to work with, not very professional, and too big for his boots. On the other hand, he always said that he was treated like an outcast, almost sent to Coventry on set, and not given the help he felt he needed as the “new boy”. You choose who to believe. It seems certain that he and co-star Diana Rigg did not get on, with stories about her deliberately eating garlic before their intimate scenes, and her calling him self-obsessed and “bloody impossible”; although Peter Hunt was delighted at the way the two worked together. Despite all advice against the move, Lazenby decided, whilst still making the movie, that he wouldn’t play Bond again; much to his agent’s dismay. And it’s true, his career never reached the dizzying heights of such a role again, although he still appeared on film and TV.

George Lazenby AutographI have his autograph – look, here it is! My cousin Gill worked for him for a few months around the time of the film’s premiere, as what they used to call in those days his “Girl Friday”. I remember seeing a photospread of the two of them in a newspaper around the time of the film. So, for a brief time, we all thought of George as one of the family.

Bond and QueenAs mentioned earlier, most of the contemporary reviewers didn’t think he was a good fit for the role. He may have had the looks, but he lacked the gravitas and the acting ability. However, and all due credit to him, he did at least some of his own stunts (which must have worried the film accountant). It’s also been said that Lazenby’s characterisation of Bond is probably closest to Fleming’s original, getting the right level of arrogance, yet with his vulnerability. Not having read the books, I can’t comment. However, this is the first time that we’ve seen Bond take matters into his own hands, specifically working against M’s instructions. He’s informed that Operation Bedlam is dead, but does that stop him from going back to Switzerland to save Tracy? After all, she saved him. I believe this is true to the book.

Scary bearBoo-boos. Not as many as in previous films – maybe this is a testament to Peter Hunt’s abilities as a director. I only noticed two; there’s a moment where Bond confronts Tracy about the henchman who was waiting for him in Tracy’s hotel room. “Who was he?” he demands of her; except his mouth doesn’t move. When acid is thrown at the glass doors during the siege of Piz Gloria, it burns a huge hole in the panel, but the next minute, it’s disappeared.

Tracy on horsebackThe Bond Girl. Unusually, there’s never any doubt as to who gets the honour of being the Bond Girl in the film – there’s really only one candidate, the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, whom Bond saves from suicide in the opening scenes, then becomes assertively headstrong and bossily obnoxious, before overwhelmingly suddenly melting into Bond’s heart.

Bond and Tracy in the casinoAlso unusually, she has very little to do with the case in hand. Normally the Bond Girl will accompany Bond and another local representative deep into the enemy’s lair and help overthrow them. Not this time. Countess Tracy is outside the action right up until she comes to Bond’s rescue, turning up on the ice rink – although how she knew he was there heaven only knows – and even allowing herself to be wooed by the villain.

Final sceneAnd, of course, with the intention of being the Bond Girl for ever more, they marry at the end of the film and drive off for the life together. Apparently, had Lazenby agreed to make the next film – which would have been The Spy who Loved Me, again directed by Peter Hunt, OHMSS would have ended with them happily driving off; and the next film would have started with Blofeld and Bunt’s retaliation. However, as he made it clear that wasn’t going to happen, the decision was made to kill off poor Tracy then and there. And The Spy who Loved Me wasn’t made until 1977.

Bedroom balconyIn the book, Tracy is a blonde, and Peter Hunt’s first choice for the role was Brigitte Bardot. However, she was unavailable, so Tracy was played by the one and only Dame Diana Rigg. When the film came out she had acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a couple of seasons and was already an established TV star because of her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers. However, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was her first major film role. Although she has continued to make films, she is more known for her TV and stage work, and, at the age of 80, she is without question a National Treasure. The fact that it was the wonderful Diana Rigg made it perhaps even more unacceptable to see her die at the end of the film. It was like extinguishing the source of decades of talent. Absolutely shocking.

HelicopterWhat Bond Girls Are Like. From the first four films, our list of attributes common to the Bond Girls was: sexy, exotic, unpredictable, as equally likely to attack Bond as to support him, strong and self-reliant up to a point, sometimes tragic, professional, scary and vengeful. Kissy from You Only Live Twice is a role apart because of her Japanese heritage. Does Tracy conform to the role, and add any extra traits? I’d say she does all of the above, plus additional bossiness. And she quotes poetry!

Blofeld in the snowThe Villain. It’s a welcome (if that’s the right word) back to Blofeld, this time played by Telly Savalas. Whilst still being mean and vindictive, Savalas’ interpretation is less of a pantomime baddie and more like a real live, believable person; less scarred, more urbane, and with a very ostentatious and effete manner of smoking a cigarette. Whilst he still likes to pay attention to his pussy, his feline accomplice plays a lesser role in this film. As is often the case with the Bond villain, he doesn’t make his appearance for some time: 52 minutes into the action. Telly Savalas, of course, was best known as TV’s Kojak, but had a very long career in films and television, as well as recording his No 1 top selling single of If in 1975. Whilst on set he met and fell in love with Dani Sheridan, who played the American Girl. She was the daughter of actress Dinah Sheridan, and they lived together for ten years, and had a son, Nicholas. Telly Savalas died in 1994 at the age of 72.

Gabriele FerzettiOther memorable characters? Tracy’s father Marc-Ange Draco, a distinguished and elegant gentleman (and crook) if ever there was one, was played by Gabriele Ferzetti, a very successful Italian actor who had appeared in well over a hundred films and TV programmes, predominantly in the 1950s and 1960s. He died in 2015 at the age of 90. He was, by all accounts, as charming in real life as his screen persona, and a joy to work with. His Italian accent was too strong for the role, so his voice was dubbed by actor David de Keyser, who has, in fact, dubbed many films throughout a long career.

George BakerSir Hilary Bray – not in the film for very long as himself, but it’s a nice little character part by George Baker, a very posh chap who is looking forward to losing himself amongst the Brass Rubbings of Britanny, whilst Bond pretends to be him. Ian Fleming thought Baker would be a superb Bond back in the early days – but Broccoli and Saltzman said no. However, when George Lazenby was impersonating Bray in Switzerland, they didn’t think he got his voice quite right, so George Baker was asked to dub him – so, eventually, he did get to play Bond in his own way. This was not his only appearance in a Bond movie; he also appears in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. He was a very successful actor with a long career, including several years as TV’s Inspector Wexford. He died in 2011 at the age of 80.

Ilse SteppatIrma Bunt – one of those grim-faced Germanic women who populate the James Bond stories, Irma Bunt may seem decent and polite at first, but remember she’s Blofeld’s No 2 and definitely not to be trusted – as we see in the final seconds of the film. She was played by Ilse Steppat, whose first role was Joan of Arc at the age of 15, and who had a successful film career in Germany, particularly in the German adaptations of the works of Edgar Wallace. Sadly she did not live to see international success, as she died of a heart attack only four days after the premiere at the age of only 52.

GirlsThe twelve girls – some are given full identities, like Ruby Bartlett, who’s keenest on getting Bray/Bond into bed, others are just “the English Girl” or “the Scandinavian girl”, and so on. They’re all wide-eyed and innocent – on the surface – giving a humorous aspect to their role, which is, basically, to supply some eye candy as a bevy of beauties. Angela Scoular played Ruby; she appeared in a number of comedy films of the 70s and was married to the actor Leslie Phillips. Joanna Lumley is instantly recognisable as the English girl, Julie Ege, a former Miss Norway, was the Scandinavian girl, and the Irish girl was played by Jenny Hanley, whom I mainly remember in my childhood appearing on ITV’s answer to Blue Peter, Magpie.

Crying at WeddingsBernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn reprise their usual roles as M, Moneypenny and Q. In his attempt to make the film as glamorous as possible, Moneypenny has sharper, more elegant clothes, a stunning hairdo – and a fabulous hat for Bond and Tracy’s wedding. As well as occupying the London office, we see M at his country residence, pursuing his relaxation hobby of lepidoptery. Who knew?

OopsAnd what about the music? The film starts, as usual, with the main James Bond Theme, written by Monty Norman; after that, it’s all John Barry, until the big fight scene at the end, when the Norman theme returns. Whilst researching this film, I read that many people think this is the best Bond score of all. I must disagree. The arrangement of the opening theme is a drab and lacklustre affair. However, we hear We Have All the Time in the World (which are the last words of both the novel and the film) many times in the first half hour of the film, as a softly performed background romantic theme. It also accompanies Tracy’s arrival at the bullfight, performed with a luscious string arrangement, and that’s a particularly stunning moment. Earlier Bond themes are brought back in a tongue-in-cheek moment; and there’s a great theme to accompany the ski chases.

louis armstrongThe full vocal performance of We Have all the Time in the World, recorded by Louis Armstrong when he himself, poignantly, had not long to live, is an absolute classic; it was Armstrong’s final recording and John Barry’s favourite Bond song. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the romantic scenes of Bond and Tracy falling in love. It’s also nice to hear Do you know how Christmas Trees are Grown, sung by Nina, who had international success in the 60s as part of Nina and Frederick. And, in the same way that the opening credits gave us a visual reminder of the previous Bond films, we hear musical reminders of the earlier themes when Bond, having tendered his resignation, starts to pack up his things; we even hear a little of the Mango Tree song from Dr No sung by Diana Coupland. There’s one other theme, called, fittingly, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is repeated many times throughout the film, just with slight changes of arrangement; for the most part, it’s quite haunting. And the final arrangement of We Have All the Time in the World is desperately poignant in that last, horrendous, scene.

BobsledCar chases. The film starts with a moderately exciting and brief car chase between Bond and Tracy, driving her red Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible. The producers wanted Bond to have a Rolls Royce Convertible – but that wasn’t an easy request in those days, so it was scrapped. Later, Tracy drives Bond with three heavies and Irma Bunt in hot pursuit behind her and it merges into a Stock Car Racing event, with our heroes and villains having to dodge the other drivers on the course, which is great fun. But where this film really impresses is with the ski action; all the ski chases, and that amazing bobsled race and fight, where Bond and Blofeld pursue each other at breakneck speed, lobbing grenades, hanging on to the back of the sled for dear life, whilst Blofeld tries to ram Bond’s head against the ice wall.

St BernardCocktails and Casinos. There’s an early casino scene, in the hotel in Cascais, which very nicely helps us judge up the two characters of Bond and Tracy. Draco knows that Bond takes his Martini, shaken not stirred, Bond places an order for a Dom Perignon ’57 (one of his favourites) and will also consider a brandy from the rescuing St. Bernard, provided it’s a 5 Star Hennessey.

PlayboyGadgets. For the second film in a row, Bond uses a cute little safe-breaker to steal documents; this time it also copies them for him, which is very handy. The initial conversation between M and Q reveals that their current range of gadgets is obsolete, and that miniaturisation is all the rage – and Q gets out some radioactive lint. But Peter Hunt didn’t want Bond to rely on gadgets in this film – so that’s all there is!

In MemoriamIn Memoriam. Dr No had a death count of approximately 11 as well as all those who go up in smoke in his lair at the end; From Russia with Love notched up at least 40; Goldfinger came in at a more modest 23-ish, plus everyone who died at Fort Knox; Thunderball hit a peak of around 50 people; and You Only Live Twice was going really well until a mass murder spree towards the end took about 40 lives. And now On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Let’s briefly remember those who gave their lives so that Bond and Tracy can enjoy a few minutes of wedded bliss:

1) Campbell, an agent working alongside 007 who was hanged on the mountainside by Blofeld’s henchmen

2) Ski workman

3) Skier – ended up in a tree

4) Skier who plummets to his death

5) Skier garrotted by his own ski (by Bond) and then thrown down the mountain

6) Skier, chopped up by the snow plough

7) At least two skiers in the avalanche

8) Grunther murdered by Tracy

9) At least 10 shot during the taking of Piz Gloria

10) Tracy

That’s maybe something in the region of 20 people? That’s possibly the lowest death count in a Bond movie so far. What is the most unusual about this list of deaths in comparison to the previous films is the length of time we wait until someone dies – No 1 pegs it 1 hour and 19 minutes into the film.

Lots of gutsHumour to off-set the death count. Following Bond’s classic asides whenever someone dies in the previous movies, some of his funny lines in this film apply to people who aren’t necessarily dead – maybe that’s because there are fewer deceased than usual. Anyway, here is some more evidence of his gallows humour:

To the henchman, who lost the fight in room 423 when he was thrown through a balustrade: “Gatecrasher… I’ll leave you to tidy up”

“Looks like we’ve hit the rush hour”, says Bond as Tracy careers all around the Stock Car circuit, hotly pursued by Bunt and her boys.

“He had lots of guts” is Bond’s epitaph to the skier caught in the snow plough.

“Maybe you should have been gift wrapped”, he says to the guard tied up in the Werkstatt office.

“He’s branched off”, says Bond as a fallen tree catches Blofeld’s head in its branches – the joke makes us assume that Blofeld is dead.

Also – “just as slight stiffness coming on”, says Bond, as Ruby writes her room number on Bray/Bond’s thigh in lipstick; followed by “it’s true!” when he confirms the old conundrum about what’s worn under the kilt.

sexismAny less frothy elements? So once again it’s time to consider if there are any outstanding themes or elements that don’t sit well with today’s audience. As usual, I couldn’t perceive any obvious homophobic elements, and nothing came across as overtly racist.

However, as usual, there is some sexism, the majority of it turned against Tracy by her father. Whilst Bond thinks she needs a psychiatrist, Draco says that Tracy needs a man to dominate her. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” says Draco, as he knocks Tracy out with a wallop of a smack across the face. The Belles of Hell up in Blofeld’s lair are partly just sexist fodder, very much out of the Austin Powers camp; although it’s a little more complicated than that. Whilst they are obviously being manipulated overall by Blofeld and Bunt, they are nevertheless using their naïve charms for their own ends. Part of Blofeld’s plan to hypnotise the girls into doing what he wants involves attracting them with a pretty thing like a powder compact. In a sense, he’s using the compacts as a weapon against women, but which are attracted to women. Very cynical.

Bizarre other stuff that occurred to me and a few observations.

Too many nipplesIn South Africa they censored the final caption of the opening credits, where Peter Hunt’s name is given, because there were too many silhouette nipples on show. So in South Africa, it looked as though no one had directed it!

Peter Hunt wanted the character of Tracy to be associated with flowers. Flowers at the wedding, flowers on the bed….. and it’s true, you can follow Tracy’s floral motif through all her scenes.

FlowersThe picture of Tracy’s mother, that holds pride of place on Draco’s side table, is actually a genuine photograph of Diana Rigg’s mother. There’s verisimilitude for you.

When Bond is packing his case following his resignation, he packs Honey Rider’s belt and knife, Red Grant’s watch in From Russia With Love, and the re-breather from Thunderball. All very nostalgic!

Bond finds a Playboy magazine in with the newspapers in Gumbold’s office; a nice nod to the fact that the original novel was first serialised in Playboy in the April, May and June issues in 1963.

The fight in the bell room was written in because Peter Hunt discovered the barn filled with cowbells when they were location hunting and it was far too good an opportunity to pass up.

The scene with the Saint Bernard dog was completely improvised by Lazenby as the dog didn’t do what was expected of him.

At the time it was the longest Bond film, at 142 minutes, a record it kept until Casino Royale; but it doesn’t feel it to me.

“Royal Beluga. North of the Caspian” is a brilliant throwaway line, when Bond carelessly smears a bit of caviar on some toast and walks on.

“You’re hurting me,” says Tracy to Bond, as he prises the gun out of her hand. “I thought that was the idea tonight” he replies, and he slaps her around a bit more. Just what kind of sex night did he have planned??

Steve PlytasHe’s uncredited, but you might recognise the actor Steve Plytas to Bond’s right at the casino table. He was best known as the somewhat unstable chef Kurt, who had a crush on Manuel, hired by Basil Fawlty in the Gourmet Night episode of Fawlty Towers. I met him at the stage door of the Ambassadors Theatre in 1971 where he was playing Mr Paravicini in The Mousetrap. Nice man!

Sensational cinematography – that avalanche! The Swiss Army had planned to create a controlled avalanche, but by the time they were ready to shoot it, all the snow had gone. Snow sceneSo what we see is a combination of library material and clever set work with fake snow.

On the walls of Piz Gloria you often see a crest with the words Arae et foci – the Bleuchamp family motto, which means hearth and home. Orbis non sufficit – The World is not Enough – is the Bond family motto according to the Heraldry of Arms – and would of course be the name of a movie later in the series.

Hippy“Cassette No 7” says Blofeld from his hi-tech console, feeding mind-blowing pre-recorded vibes to the girls; it just seems so quaint that something so sci-fi forward looking would run on old C90s. Ruby’s allergy to chickens, on the face of it being cured by hypnosis, is all very 1960s trendy. But, of course, that’s not what Blofeld’s hypnosis is achieving….

In September 2012 it was announced that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had topped a poll of Bond fans run by 007 Magazine to determine the greatest ever Bond film.

BAFTA_awardAwards: George Lazenby was nominated in the New Star of the Year – Actor category at the 1970 Golden Globe Award ceremony, but he lost out to Jon Voight for Midnight Cowboy.

Diamonds are ForeverTo sum up. This is an absolute classic; certainly the most exciting of the Bond films to date, with an edgy performance by George Lazenby that works very well in retrospect. Lots of humour and comedic asides, but with a “real feel”; no wonder many 007 fans call this their favourite. Next up is a return to Sean Connery with Diamonds Are Forever; I saw this film when I was about 14 and enjoyed it very much so I am looking forward to seeing how it stands the test of time.

My rating: 5 Sparkles

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All photos from the film of course belong to their various copyright holders.

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