OHMSS Celebrates 45th Anniversary

My favorite Bond film turned 45 on Thursday. I joined a distinguished author’s roundtable to reminisce at The Digital Bits with Michael Coate.

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): In what way is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service worthy of celebration on its 45th anniversary?

Jon Burlingame: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is without a doubt one of the all-time great Bond films. It’s been fashionable for a long time to complain about it because of George Lazenby’s one-shot take on 007, but that ignores the impressive accomplishments of the movie in every other respect, from script to direction to locations to music. It’s still a masterpiece.

Robert A. Caplen: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is worthy of praise for imbuing the series with a more humanistic approach, depicting the vulnerability of James Bond as he falls in love with and mourns the death of Tracy di Vicenzo. While the film has garnered significant criticism, it endures and remains entertaining. And, with SPECTRE on the horizon in 2015, there is a possibility, unless I read too much into the SPECTRE teaser art, that OHMSS could experience a renaissance.

James Chapman: All Bond movies are worth celebrating, though On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a special case as it’s unique in the Bond series. I think for a long time it was the black sheep of the Bond family, the one film in the series that was supposedly a failure. Let’s put that one to bed straight away. OHMSS was a failure only in so far as it was less successful at the box-office than the previous four Bond movies; it was still one of the biggest-grossing films of 1970 and was the top box-office attraction in Britain. And when I looked at the critical reception when I was researching my book on the Bond movies, I found that, while the reception was mixed, it was no more mixed than the response to Dr. No—in fact, some critics thought it was an improvement on Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.

John Cork: Majesty’s holds an almost magical significance for many Bond fans, particularly the fans of my generation. The cinematic Bond has always tread this fine line between absurdist spectacle, nearly mythic storytelling and this sense that there is something a bit more human going on at the heart of Bond than meets the eye. We can love Bond battling Dr. No in a nuclear reactor as fuel rods are melting down, but that is balanced by the cold resignation of Bond shooting Professor Dent and listening to Honey describe murdering the man who raped her. But just four and a half years later with You Only Live Twice, the human element had all but evaporated. Did we really care if Aki is killed? Sure, YOLT is a fun film—great score, lovely locations—but it lacks any of the soul of literary 007. Majesty’s was a big, strange bet on Ian Fleming’s Bond, and in so many ways (and fans will hate that I say this) it failed. It almost killed the Bond franchise. Yet, I would argue it stands shoulder to shoulder with Goldfinger as the most influential Bond film in the series. How this happened is a remarkable story.

Bill Desowitz: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a landmark Bond movie in so many ways: the first without Sean Connery; the sole appearance by newbie actor George Lazenby; the first and only directorial effort of editor Peter Hunt; the most faithful Fleming adaptation; a return to the lean, mean espionage of From Russia with Love; the first movie centered on Bond and falling in love with Tracy, played engagingly by Diana Rigg (who left The Avengers); the best action in the snow in franchise history; the most haunting score by John Barry; and the most devastatingly tragic finale with the murder of Tracy by Blofeld and his assistant, Irma Bunt.

Charles Helfenstein: It is the crown jewel of the James Bond series. Somewhat ignored and dismissed after its initial release, the film has enjoyed a well-deserved renaissance. It is a masterpiece, and those who ignore it just because of George Lazenby are missing out on something incredibly special…Ian Fleming’s world perfectly captured on film.

Lee Pfeiffer: The stature of OHMSS among critics and the public has risen appreciably since the film was released in 1969. At the time, virtually any film that followed the Connery era would have been met with derision. The film was not judged fairly, though hardcore Bond fans seemed to like it. The fact that the film grossed far less than the Connery Bonds also added to the mistaken notion that it was a dud. Lazenby did himself no favors by announcing he was quitting the role after one film, so critics could be excused for predicting that the Bond era was over. Yet, it’s precisely because of the oddball, one-off nature of the film that it resonates as one of the best entries in the series. Most of the credit has to go to Peter Hunt, who had edited the early Bond films. This was his directorial debut and it must have been a very sobering challenge for him to undertake a big-budget film with such high expectations. Hunt was determined to revitalize the series by thinking outside of the box…

Read the rest at The Digital Bits

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, James Bond, Movies, Trailers

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