On His Majesty's Secret Service

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On His Majesty's Secret Service
OHMSS poster.jpg
Directed by Jimmy Page
Written by Cary Grant
Starring George Lazenby
David Niven
Diana Rigg
and
Yul Brynner
Produced by Albert R. Broccoli
Distributed by United Artists
Release date 1969
Runtime 142 min.
Language English
Budget $8023.21
Preceded by You Only Live Twice (1967)
Succeeded by Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
IMDb page

“Why the hell did I turn this film down?”

~ Sean Connery on His Majesty's Secret Service

On His Majesty's Secret Service is a 1969 film, the sixth in the James Bond film series and the only one to be a prequel to its' preceding film. It was directed by Jimmy Page, produced by Albert R. Broccoli, and starred George Lazenby, David Niven, Diana Rigg, and Yul Brynner.

Production[edit]

It was only after production wrapped on You Only Live Twice that the producers realized they had left out exactly how Bond had gone from accepting a contract on Francisco Franco at the end of Thunderball to mourning the death of a never-seen wife at the beginning of You Only Live Twice. Facing no alternatives, United Artists began work on a then-revolutionary concept: the prequel. Which in fact, was actually a remake of a Semi-Documentry of the real Bond earlier that year which Jimmy Page had made called On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Filling in the blanks between the two films, the producers attempted to contact Cary Grant's gardeners in an effort to give the series much-needed continuity, but, by accident, reached Grant himself, instead. With no way to backtrack, United Artists flattered him into cobbling together a script for the new film. Cribbing most of the dialogue, plot, and character description from the novel, Grant turned in a finished product within two weeks. The producers then stuck on an opening sequence involving Bond drunkenly attempting to assassinate the Spanish dictator and began calling up old directors.

After five weeks and with no takers, United Artists was close to shutting down. Then, a miracle occurred: Jimmy Page, the producer of Thunderball, called up drunk and said he'd do anything for a bit of cash. Luring him to production headquarters under the pretense of more money, the producers had him sign a binding contract for directing the film and put an intravenous needle in his arm, keeping him drunk and happy until well after production ended. Once this was accomplished, United Artists set about casting.

Because Donald Pleasence had suddenly fallen ill shortly before production began, producer Albert R. Broccoli quickly turned to an old friend of his, Yul Brynner, to take up the role of evil genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld. David Niven, having played fatherly figures in such films as The Pink Panther and Casino Royale, was a natural for the role of violent European gangster Marc-Ange Draco. Lovely sextress Diana Rigg, once she heard of this casting, immediately signed up to play Draco's daughter and the love interest of the film, Tracy di Vicenzo.

Casting seemed to be all set, but there was one minor glitch: Sean Connery. After seven years of Bond films, Connery wanted out, and the producer's couldn't do anything to convince him that continuity was more important than his self-interests. It was only then that United Artists noticed that the front secretary at their offices, George Lazenby, looked an awful lot like Connery. Some four weeks, three screen tests, and five minutes of soul-searching later, producer Broccoli pronounced Lazenby "set", and production began on the film.

Filming was hellish, as Lazenby was often hung over; hence, the scenes in which Bond wore a kilt had to be filmed while the actor was drunk and happy. Co-star Yul Brynner was ofter confused by Page's direction, having acted under some of Hollywood's finer directors, and arguments got so heated that Brynner walked off the set and didn't come back for a week. Budget constraints, crew tensions, and an unseasonably warm winter forced filming to be completed within a seven-week period, during which time David Niven suffered a stroke and had to be replaced in a few key shots by his twin brother, Larry. In a stroke of good luck, however, Donald Pleasence was able to stop by after he recuperated and filmed a quick cameo at the end of the film.

The score was completed in half an hour by John Barry, then looped repeatedly over the film, and was often of varying tones and quality.

Story[edit]

Beginning a week after the events of Thunderball, James Bond (George Lazenby) is still coming down off his acid trip as he shakily assembles his rifle on a rooftop to kill Francisco Franco (using stock footage of Franco himself). As he pours a drink for himself to steady his nerves, the rifle slips out of his hand and falls onto the pavement, letting off a barrage of bullets and tipping Franco's men off to Bond. Panicking, he makes a run for it and jumps off the rooftop to where his car is waiting, then drives off.

As he races off down the roadway, however, a car passes him, and he follows it, only to find the driver, a young woman, attempting suicide by jumping into the sea. After rescuing her, he inexplicably gets into a fight with two thugs, whom he handily defeats, only to see the woman drive off in his car. Sighing with disbelief, he remarks, "This never happened to the other fellow."

After taking the woman's car back to his hotel, he visits the casino, where he sees the girl losing at poker. After paying back all her debts, he follows her to her hotel room, where she levels a shotgun at him. At this moment, a trio of thugs knock him unconscious. When Bond comes to, however, he is brought before European gangster Marc-Ange Draco (David Niven), whom 007 recognizes from numerous MI6 briefings. Draco attempts to woo the spy into becoming betrothed to his daughter, the suicidal woman Bond has been tracking, Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg).

When 007 refuses, however, Draco offers him an intriguing prospect: if he goes through with it, the gangster with provide him with the whereabouts of the unseen head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Yul Brynner). Faced with this, Bond takes leave of Draco to talk things over with M at headquarters. Though 007's boss is still angry about Bond's bumbled assassination of Franco, he permits the spy time to investigate.

Disguised as a famous genealogist, Bond travels by train to the location Draco has provided for him, with Tracy tagging along at her father's request. At the station, he is personally greeted by Blofeld, an insecure man who wears staid suits, talks in an overly-monotone voice, and is obsessed with his hair. Bond and Tracy are then flown to Blofeld's hideout, Piz Gloria, where, the villain hopes, 007 will be able to provide a pedigree for him. Alas; this is only the cover story, and Bond soon finds out Blofeld's more sinister motives: armed with twelve buxom lasses, he threatens to spread a debilitating virus throughout the world unless he is pardoned of all his crimes and given a title of nobility. Bond, of course, cannot allow this.

Fleeing to the village below Piz Gloria after his cover is blown, he orders Tracy to contact her father and gather some of his best men against Blofeld. While they wait for these reinforcements to come, however, they fall in love. Blofeld, meanwhile, looks through the belongings Bond had left behind, and comes upon a stylish Nehru jacket. Pausing for a moment, he holds it up thoughtfully for a moment, then throws it on the bed and begins loosening his tie and shirt collar.

The next morning, Bond and Tracy abandon their car and instead rely on the skiing equipment given them by a kindly vendor; unfortunately, that vendor is one of Blofeld's thugs, and he immediately takes off after them on skis himself. To compound their misfortune, a large army of thugs joins the leader before long, and they give chase to the duo. Fortunately, Bond manages to kill them all with his trusty Walther PPK, and he and Tracy continue their escape.

In the process, however, Blofeld catches on to their whereabouts, and orders his top ski squadron out to detain them, with the villain himself leading the force. After quickly meeting with his barber to determine if his hair could withstand the assault, Blofeld angrily orders him to shave it all off. Finally, as the villain's men make their way down the mountain, they sight Bond and Tracy and begin shooting them. At this point, Tracy is shot in the leg and captured, but Bond uses this break in the action to make his escape back to Portugal and meets up with Draco to gather reinforcements; in this case, a fleet of helicopters filled with the best mercenaries money can buy. File:Ohnherfinal.JPG 007, on his return to Piz Gloria, finds Blofeld in one of the facility's many offices, and is shocked at how much the villain has changed since last he saw him: he has gone from an obsessive, insecure figure to a confident, stylish mastermind; Blofeld replies that "a true adversary can only improve upon his rival, not diminish him." He then goes on to make a very long monologue, but, somewhere along the way, Bond is able to find Tracy and let in the mercenaries while Blofeld is distracted. Enraged, the villain attempts to kill Bond with his trusty sledgehammer, but 007 manages to pull a knife and slash Blofeld in the face. Now partially blinded and disfigured, Blofeld gets into his bobsled and speeds down the mountain, but Bond has planted some C4 at Piz Gloria, and the explosion propels him onto the bobsled, where he gets a stranglehold on the villain's neck. As Blofeld struggles, however, 007 jumps off, leaving the villain to presumably perish as his bobsled crashes into a mass of pikes.

Later on, Bond meets up with Tracy, they kiss, and the film instantly jump cuts to their wedding, where Bond is happily let go of by M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny. As the two drive off, their wedding bouquet falls into Moneypenny's arms, and she looks longingly at Draco, who shrugs.

Bond mourns for his fallen wife in the final moments of the film.

As the now-married couple stop their car for a moment by the water, however, a black limosine races past them. Within is Blofeld, now scarred (and played by Donald Pleasence in an uncredited cameo) and wielding a machine gun. He points it at Bond and fires, but his neck brace prevents him from aiming properly, and his shots seem to miss. 007 then turns to his wife to see if she is all right, only to realize that the bullets aimed for him hit Tracy instead. Cradling her head in his lap as a nearby police motorcycle pulls up, Bond tearfully explains to the officer that his wife is taking a rest for a moment and will soon wake up. As he fingers her wedding ring for a moment, he utters the film's final line, "'We have all the time in the world."

Reception[edit]

On His Majesty's Secret Service did well at the box office, raking in an approximate $932,000. However, critics panned the film for its' lack of gadgets, surrealism, and de-ubermenschification of the character. Sean Connery, now drunk and homeless, was tapped to return in the next film, 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, in hopes that it would generate more success at the box office, while the film's star, George Lazenby, was unceremoniously dropped, spelling certain doom for the remainder of the Bond series.

See also[edit]

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