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    Review of On Her Majesty`s Secret Service: Special Edition (James Bond)

    7 / 10


    During the filming of the fifth 007 instalment, You Only Live Twice, current Bond, Sean Connery, announced to the world that he was walking out on the franchise that had made him a global superstar.

    Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, producers of the Bond series, were now facing the hard task of casting a new face to go along with the shoulder holster - whilst convincing audiences that the Bond formula was still going strong, and filling Connery`s (large) shoes.

    In a London hair salon, an Australian model by the name of George Lazenby had planned to have his hair cut at the exact time that one of the producers was in there: and of course, acting very Bondian. Because of this `coincidence` and an audition that cemented the choice, Mr Lazenby became Mr Bond, and the Bond team rolled into production, albeit changed, of the sixth film: On Her Majesty`s Secret Service, which was originally going to be the fourth 007 instalment (if you check the credits on the original print of Goldfinger it states: "James Bond will return in On Her Majesty`s Secret Service", yet this never happened, so the message was axed).

    When Bond`s usual intelligence sources fail, he enlists the aid of crime boss Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) to track down Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas), head of the evil SPECTRE organization. The trail leads to the mountains of Switzerland, where Bond goes undercover in Blofeld`s hi-tech headquarters. He encounter a bevy of seductive women, but none more beautiful than Draco`s daughter, Tracy (Diana Rigg), who wins 007 over with her fervent independence, caustic wit and love of adventure. Bond pledges his eternal devotion to her, but there are more immediate concern: Blofeld is poised to unleash horrific germ warfare weaponry, that will endanger every living thing on Earth...


    2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Like the previous Bond films, the print is surprisingly good for a film from the 60s - therefore the transfer replicates this well. It is crisp and clear throughout, with no artefacts visible, and a good use of the palette and the colours are defined well, especially skin tones.

    The helmer of the last film, Lewis Gilbert, hands over the reins to editor Peter Hunt, who directs his one and only Bond film with On Her Majesty`s Secret Service. Using sweeping visuals, such as snow-drenched preludes to the mountain scenes (filmed by aerial photographer Johnny Jordan), the camerawork and direction is good for the most part, and the action sequences are done well, although some other Bond action sequences are superior - but from the start this instalment was always known as a `realistic` Bond, and not a fantasy one, such as the last one for instance.

    The credit sequence is rather strange and in some ways tacky: it is a collage of previous Bond outings along with the titles for this film, as if trying to say that was Connery, and this is Lazenby.


    Dolby Digital Mono (English). Yet again we get poor audio - granted, the main audio stream is crisp and clear, but use of the surrounds would have improved the impact and effect. Bond films rely on a big, impressive soundstage to show off their action set-pieces, so this - the sixth Bond DVD - is a big disappointment. Roll on 5.1!

    Again this is based on an Ian Fleming novel (of the same name), and this has been adapted almost exactly like the manuscript, unlike some other Bond book-celluloid transfers. The theme that fans will remember most is for the first time, true love, not lust, is shown, and then the sense of loss is also equally displayed. However, although the script may be more realistic and the audience can connect more with the characters and thus show empathy, it is a little too slow-burning for a Bond instalment.


    As always we kick off with an audio commentary: just the one on this disc, but it is still entertaining. Featuring director Peter Hunt et al, it is another example of how ensemble commentaries can be informative, anecdotal and enjoyable all at the same time. Recommended for fans and newbies alike.

    The first documentary, entitled "Inside On Her Majesty`s Secret Service", is a slightly more comprehensive look than usual at the production process, featuring interviews with the main players and a recollection of how the film got off the ground and onto the screen.

    The second documentary, entitled "Inside Q`s Lab", is a look at one of the elements that defines the Bond series. Fans always quote Q`s legendary quips to an over-zealous 007, remember some of the fantastical inventions they produce, and of course, the actor that defined not only the role but also everything Bondian: the late, great Desmond Llewelyn. Featuring interviews with the main himself, as well as others such as Roger Moore (James Bond 1973-1985), it is interesting if a tad too short - it clocks in at a mere 11 minutes.

    A featurette from 1969, entitled "Above It All", is a look at Johnny Jordan and his fantastic camerawork, such as the design of his filming rig and a look at some of his great work in On Her Majesty`s Secret Service, even if it is in horrible fullscreen! Reeking of nostalgia, it`s good to see this on the disc. Strangely, no mention of it is on the packaging.

    There is the obligatory stills gallery, with on-the-set shots as well as more PR-related shots. Worth a browse though, and collector`s will get a real kick out of the extensive material.

    A diverse selection of advertising material is also included: TV ads; radio spots (some of which are open-ended interviews with the main players - and are quite interesting); and the standard trailer.

    The 8-page booklet that is included with every Bond DVD is back again, so expect some interesting production notes and not-so exciting chapter listings.

    The menus are animated well with the now infamous score in the background and clips from the film with animations streaking across the easy to navigate screens.


    Failed at the box office in comparison with other Bond outings, yet classed as one of the best in the series, On Her Majesty`s Secret Service is somewhat of an enigma.

    It is unique in many ways, most obviously the new face behind the Walther PPK. However, whereas Connery was an inspired investment, Lazenby feels totally wrong for the part. Whilst watching the film, I was constantly asking myself what it would have been like if Connery was back again, instead of some coiffured Aussie who would look better suited in an Austin Powers outing.

    He may be good in certain roles, but come on, James Bond is savvy, deadly, and suave. George Lazenby is just, er, not. But, to his credit, he does handle the much-publicised final scene well, with surprising control and use of emotions.

    Another element that sets this apart from other instalments is its enjoyable factor - or, unfortunately, lack of it. Most instalments travel the globe, taking in exotic locations, exotic characters and exotic set-pieces. Yet On Her Majesty`s Secret Service stays in more or less one location, with dull characters (in particular Telly Savalas` Blofeld: instead of Donald Pleasence`s complex psychopath, we have a two-dimensional clown), and lacklustre action, all revolving around snow.

    After this beating I have been dishing out, time for the good points - and yes, there are some good points. At times, when the setting and pace isn`t as slow as it sometimes drops to, the drama is good and the new approach is refreshing, and in the last fifteen minutes the film cranks up a notch, culminating in a poignant reminder that everyone is human, and no matter what face you wear, it can always crumble given the right, or indeed wrong, circumstances.

    I think that with Sean Connery in the titular role and a little more pace and structure injected into the formula, this could have been one of the better Bond`s. As it is, it is still a good action/drama, but when compared to other Bond instalments - the true yardstick of the action adventure genre - it is weaker.

    The disc itself is good, combining crisp visuals and good extras with average audio. With a 5.1 mix and an extra feature or two, this would have been one of the better Bond packages.

    To sum up the film and the disc, they are both a case of `good but doesn`t go the extra yard`. If they had indeed done that little bit more, then this would come as a very highly recommended overall package. One for fans only.

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