On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969, UK/Switzerland)

               Though at the time On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was perceived as something of a failure due to its weaker performance at the box office in comparison to the Sean Connery films, the film has in recent decades has been re-evaluated as one of the best films in the franchise. It was a film of first and “onlys” – it was the first and only film in the franchise to feature George Lazenby, an Australian model who had never acted in a film before his appearance as James Bond. Lazenby, admittedly, is one of the weaker points of the film. It is also the first and only film Peter Hunt directed. Hunt, who had previously served as editor on the Bond films, brings a visual panache and sharp style that stands out in contrast to many other films in the series.

               Despite being one of the longer films in the Bond franchise, OHMSS is more stripped down, certainly in contrast to You Only Live Twice. It avoids the worst belief-stretching excesses of the franchise, instead grounding Bond more in reality and the Ian Fleming novel upon which it is based. OHMSS is the only Bond film to be set entirely in Europe, the almost entirely Swiss setting is excellently shot. The Christmastime feeling is unique.

               John Barry’s score was never better, and his instrumental theme for the film is truly iconic. The action sequences – particularly the ski chase sequences – are among the best in the franchise. OHMSS is also notable for how it develops Bond as a character. Bond is no longer a cipher, but a man in love. His marriage to Teresa Draco is a truly unique plot point in the series, and makes it unlike any other. Bond’s personal tragedy lends gravitas to the film, even if Lazenby can’t quite make it convincing in a meaningful way.

9/10

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