On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is an interesting sort of turning point in the Bond films. After Sean Connery left the series due to tiring of the role (and also due to the immense media coverage of You Only Live Twice damaging his privacy), it was decided to cast a new James Bond. The man they chose was Australian model George Lazenby, whose only acting job had been a Chocolate commercial.
“This never happened to the other Fella”.
The film received mixed reviews, and Lazenby, due to several factors, quit after one film, leaving the producers to briefly re-cast Connery as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever before finding a more permanent replacement with Roger Moore. The legacy of Lazenby and the film adaptation of OHMSS have often been disputed; although it’s often agreed it’s fared better in the years since it’s release, and that Lazenby, while not an actor, does okay with the material. The film’s storyline and one-time director (Peter Hunt), as well as lack of a sung theme, instead using a classic orchestral piece by John Barry (Who scored most of the films up to 1987) also give it a fairly unique place in the Bond film canon.
In both the novel and film, Bond is in pursuit of Blofeld and SPECTRE (in the film, after the events of You Only Live Twice, in the novel, Thunderball), as part of “Operation Bedlam”-but the search for the criminal has reached a dead end, and M isn’t happy, putting Bond on temporary leave. Bond also tries to help a troubled young woman, Countess Teresa Di Vincenzo. Unexpectedly, her father, Draco, is a criminal himself, but more of a noble man who, in exchange for Bond courting his daughter, is willing to help him find Blofeld. (Although Bond is really interested in her, despite the incentive).
Bond eventually finds a clue to the villain, that he seems to be seeking to be declared a count by the coat of arms, but that those claims need to be confirmed. Bond goes undercover as Sir Hilary Bray, a Coat of Arms member. It’s also here that Bond learns his family motto “The World Is Not Enough” (Which became the name of the third Brosnan Bond film).
Bond goes to the mountaintop resort and clinic Piz Gloria, where he finds out that Blofeld is brainwashing young woman to try to ‘cure them’ of phobias (but in fact his real aim is far more devious). There’s a slight continuity error in the film here. In the novel timeline, Blofeld and Bond have not yet met each other face to face, and it makes sense that they don’t recognize each other.
However, film-wise, they had already met each other in the previous film, You Only Live Twice. Although they both look different-Bond now looks like George Lazenby, and Blofeld now looks like Telly Savalas and lacks the scar over his eye (He’s still got that cat though!).
Bond’s cover is blown eventually in both cases. In the novel, it’s because a man-Shaun Campbell-another MI6 agent-is captured who recognized Bond. This same man appears in the movie, but he mainly is Bond’s backup, and Bond ignores him to maintain his cover. In both cases Shaun is killed by Blofeld.
However, Bond’s cover is blown differently in the film, once it’s clear he’s not Sir Hilary Bray because respected Coat of Arms men don’t romance women, like he was doing at the clinic (Bond in other words, being Bond). Blofeld then monologues his plan to Bond, that the girls have been brainwashed to spread a deadly disease that will destroy livestock and grain products, and eventually humans if Blofeld doesn’t get his way. In the book, this is mainly discovered later during a debriefing at MI6 after Bond escapes.
In both cases Bond attempts to escape by ski, eventually making his way to the village below, but with SPECTRE in hot pursuit. Thankfully, Tracy shows up in the nick of time.
However, whereas in the book she mainly helps him get to a local airport, the movie adds in more action, with a car chase which spills over into an actual race:
and then, after proposing to Tracy, she is captured by Blofeld after a ski chase.
Both film and novel end with Bond, with the help of Draco, returning to Piz Gloria with an assault force to take down Blofeld’s operation, ending with Blofeld injured but able to escape….and then Bond and Tracy are married.
But their happiness is short-lived. Blofeld and his henchman drive-by and shoot up the Bonds’ car. Bond is unscathed, but Tracy is dead from a fatal bullet wound. As a shocked Bond cradles his dead wife, he says to an arriving police officer:
“It’s all right. It’s quite all right, really. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world.”
The credits then show the damaged window from the bullet.
The film series wouldn’t have this depressing an ending until “Casino Royale”. Bond’s wife would be mentioned in passing in future films, or alluded to many times. What’s worse, in License to Kill, Bond’s friend Felix is maimed (A similar thing happened in the novel of Live and Let Die) and his new wife killed by the villains as well-perhaps providing some of the impetus for Bond’s quest for revenge in the film.
Next: The Spy Who Loved Me…which is *really* different.