Of the 24 official James Bond films released as of 2015, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is strongly considered to be the “black sheep of the family.” At least that was my experience growing up. All I remember hearing as a child was “That movie is awful, terrible, Lazenby couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag.” And being young, I believed it, and didn’t watch the film. Then, last year, I decided to give it a try, if for no other reason than to say that I had seen every single Bond film. My conclusion? Lazenby is no Connery…but he’s not terrible either.
The film certainly contains all of the plot elements of a typical Bond film. Blofeld is out to rule the world (again), and Bond (Lazenby) has to stop him. Along the way, Bond meets the Countess Teresa “Traci” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), and while initially pretending to woo her so he can learn the location of Spectre’s base from her father, Bond eventually falls in love with her for real, and proposes marriage, which she accepts. After defeating Spectre, Blofeld escapes and Bond celebrates his wedding to Tracy (even M, Q and Moneypenny are there). But sadly…the honeymoon is cut short…by a bullet. While I have much to say about Lazenby, I must admit that the closing moments of the film are very well done.
Property of Eon Productions
Even today, reviews of this film are still sharply divided. The prevailing opinion though, seems to be that while the production values, score and general casting are as good as always, the lead role (played by Lazenby, who admittedly conned his way into the part) is the part that falls flat. (But I think I’m digressing a bit too much, on with the title sequence…)
Like From Russia With Love (1963), this title sequence also contains no singing. Barry felt that it would be next to impossible to create a song with the film’s title in it, unless it were done in an operatic style (which wouldn’t be practical or fitting), and while lyrics were discussed, the director allowed an all-instrumental track to be created for the opening sequence.
The music was performed by the John Barry Orchestra, under Barry’s direction. For this film, Barry opted to use more electronic instruments, and it shows here.
The scenes in the sequence feature girls in silhouette, set against a background of what appear to be wine and champagne glass images that drain of various graphics and colors. Alternatively, these glass shapes are “filled” with images of past Bond girls (and villains, as there’s a shot of Dr. No in one frame, and a ninja from You Only Live Twice). The girls visible (that I could identify), are Honey from Dr. No, Tatiana from From Russia With Love, Pussy Galore from Goldfinger, and the two Japanese Bond girls in You Only Live Twice (one is named Aki, and the other is not named in the film, though credits list her as Kissy (no, really!))
Credit to Art of the Title
The film was released in 1969, and styles had certainly changed since Dr. No came out in 1962. I think the reason this sequence features so much footage from past films, is because this was the first Bond film to feature someone other than Connery in the starring role, and the producers wanted desperately to keep the feeling of continuity going (now of course, we’re used to different actors playing Bond).
Tomorrow will look at how Connery was “coaxed” back into the role in Diamonds are Forever (1971) and how the style of Bond began to change from that point. Until then!
Check out the rest of the “Introducing James Bond” series here
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