“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)

James Bond (George Lazen­by) is on the trail of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Tel­ly Savalas), now hid­ing in an exclu­sive clin­ic in Switzer­land. Blofeld’s lat­est scheme is a world-wide black­mail plot, assist­ed by a num­ber of love­ly ladies under Blofeld’s hyp­not­ic con­trol. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is the mutu­al attrac­tion Bond feels toward Tra­cy di Vicen­so (Diana Rigg), daugh­ter of the head of the Union Corse crime syndicate.

Descrip­tion: James Bond is on the hunt for Ernst Stavro Blofeld, trac­ing him to an exclu­sive clin­ic in Switzerland.

James Bond: Aller­gy vac­cines? Bac­te­ria. Bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal Warfare.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld: With a dif­fer­ence. Our big break­through since last sum­mer has been the con­fec­tion of a cer­tain… Virus Omega.

James Bond: Infer­til­i­ty.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld: TOTAL Infer­til­i­ty! In plants and ani­mals. Not just dis­ease in a few herds, Mr. Bond. Or the loss of a sin­gle crop. But the destruc­tion of a whole strain. For­ev­er! Through­out an entire con­ti­nent. If my demands are not met, I shall pro­ceed with the sys­tem­at­ic extinc­tion of whole species of cere­als and live­stock all over the world!

The release vec­tor for this infer­til­i­ty virus is the unique part: the clin­ic was described as a last-chance resort for women with food and relat­ed aller­gies. Part of their treat­ment used hyp­no­sis to rein­force their feel­ings toward the objects of their aller­gies, a state Blofeld used to con­di­tion them to obe­di­ence. (In the orig­i­nal nov­el, they are told that the virus or relat­ed pathogen is a secret that will enhance the breed, to alle­vi­ate any pos­si­ble fears or wor­ries on the part of the women.) Each was giv­en a por­tion of the virus and instruc­tions on when to acti­vate a radio to receive their orders to release it.

Lack­ing assis­tance from his supe­ri­ors, Bond turns to the Union Corse for help in assault­ing the clin­ic and stop­ping Blofeld. The raid is a suc­cess but Blofeld man­ages to escape. Bond mar­ries Tra­cy, but their hon­ey­moon is cut short when Blofeld attacks their car after the wed­ding: Bond sur­vives but Tra­cy is killed, set­ting the stage for Bond’s quest for vengeance over the next sev­er­al films.

Com­men­tary: When first released, it suf­fered from the inevitable com­par­i­son between Lazen­by and Con­nery, which is unfor­tu­nate in that almost no one could fill Sean Con­nery’s place. In many regards, though, this was an excel­lent Bond film. It is one of the ear­ly Bond films so it close­ly fol­lows the orig­i­nal nov­el, more close­ly than even its pre­de­ces­sors with the changes help­ing the film: Blofeld’s black­mail scheme in the nov­el was only against Britain in the nov­el but here its glob­al, for instance.

As in the orig­i­nal nov­el, the hyp­no­sis aspects are well done. The first induc­tion seen, per­formed at a time when the sub­jects are half-asleep and total­ly vul­ner­a­ble, is quite believ­able; the sec­ond, at the farewell par­ty, appears to be drug-assist­ed (note that Irma Blunt does not drink as the rest of the woman have) although not stat­ed as such and would not be nec­es­sary, giv­en the their con­stant hyp­not­ic con­di­tion­ing and reinforcement.

Rec­om­men­da­tion: Def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend­ed. This is one of the best Bond films (of the ear­ly films, I put it third behind “From Rus­sia With Love” and “Doc­tor No”) in a num­ber of ways: the way it empha­sizes the core ele­ments of Bond, the down-to-earth action and fight scenes, the lit­tle bits of casu­al humor (“This nev­er hap­pened to the oth­er guy.”), the love­ly out­door sequences, the romance (a rar­i­ty for Bond films.) Plus, the pres­ence of Diana Rigg as the tem­pes­tu­ous Tra­cy as the per­fect woman for Bond.

Adden­da:

  • Giv­en the mul­ti-nation­al aspect of the women at the clin­ic, not all spoke Eng­lish. For­tu­nate­ly, one of them, Cathe­ri­na Von Schell, was mul­ti-lin­gual and assist­ed with the trans­la­tions. She was also the woman who shows up in Bond’s room after his assig­na­tion with Rose. Schell would lat­er appear as the alien Maia in the sec­ond sea­son of “Space: 1999”.
  • It is also dif­fi­cult to believe the movie only cost $7M to pro­duce and took in over $64M. In these times, I would expect the costs to be at least 50x that cost, and the box office similar.

Triv­ia:

  • It was the only film that George Lazen­by starred in as Bond (he turned down a mul­ti-film contract.)
  • It was the only film in which Bond was actu­al­ly mar­ried (instead of being under cov­er as in “You Only Live Twice”.)
  • It was the only Bond film (after the first) with­out a true title song, using instead “We Have All the Time in the World” mid­way through the film.
  • It was the first Bond film to use slow motion pho­tog­ra­phy and flashbacks.
  • It was the only Bond film shot and staged entire­ly in Europe.
  • Dur­ing the ice skat­ing sequences, a dou­ble was used for Diana Rigg because she did­n’t know how to ice skate.
  • Most of the major mem­bers of “The Avengers” TV series would appear in a Bond film, but Joan­na Lum­ley was the only one to appear before appear­ing the series, appear­ing as one of the women in the clin­ic. Lum­ley also assist­ed with dub­bing the Eng­lish voic­es for the for­eign actresses.
  • This was Ilse Step­pat’s (Irma Bunt) first and only Eng­lish speak­ing role: she died of a heart attack a week after the movie pre­miered. Her career in Ger­man and Euro­pean pro­duc­tions last­ed over 20 years.

Ref­er­ences:

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