|Remembering past adventures.|
|And remembering them again.|
In retrospect the filmmakers needn’t have bothered with such an orgy of self-justification. It’s unnecessary because the movie stands up brilliantly on its own, and also, perhaps, as the most important chapter in the entire James Bond story.
A vacationing James Bond (George Lazenby) rescues the beautiful Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg) when she attempts to commit suicide on a beach. Later the same night, he bails her out again at a casino when she loses an expensive wager.
In some very perverse and tricky way, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service excels as a Cinderella-type fairy tale, albeit one turned on its head.
|The slippers of the princess...|
|and the Prince Charming who finds them.|
|The Fairy Tale Wedding.|
|A Fairy Tale shattered: Unhappily Ever After.|
In action and deed, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service also reveals Tracy’s penchant for gambling, her athletic prowess (skiing and horseback riding), and her verbal aplomb, matching Bond witticism for witticism.
Finally, Tracy even proves herself eminently capable in physical combat. Importantly, her final battle with one of Blofeld’s hulking guards is scored to the James Bond, 007 theme. Intriguingly, Bond is virtually a non-presence in this particular scene. He’s still on the helicopter, outside, at some distance. Yet Tracy fights to that well-established, even iconic theme, and the suggestion is, of course, that she is worthy of it. That she is a Bond-ian reflection, and therefore 007’s soul mate.
|Once you've known love, the world is not enough. Especially for a Bond.|
That is why, of course, the James Bond story qualifies as tragedy. A man who has hidden from love finally lets it into his life, only to lose it.
We have seen, today, how Dalton and Craig excel by playing a human, not superman James Bond, and one gets the feeling that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was designed to provide a vehicle for just that kind of portrayal. It’s a shame that Lazenby isn’t quite good enough to carry the picture. And yet, I don’t feel -- as I did some years back -- that he is a huge impediment to the film’s success, either.
|Bond, certain in deed.|
|Bond, uncertain in life.|
|Bond, shattered by death.|
In terms of the things one expects from a Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is absolutely superb. The fight scenes are brutal, brilliantly-edited affairs. The ski and bobsled chases are suspenseful and escalate to sheer mayhem and exhilaration, marred only by rear projection photography in some shots. And the stock-car race scene -- so battering and bruising -- is immersing. In the absence of gadgets, focus here falls on romance and Hunt’s apparent obsession with man-against-man, fist-against-fist conflicts. It’s not a bad template for a 1970s Bond, but of course, the series doubled-down instead on spectacular set pieces, gadgets, and increased humor.
Whenever I watch the film, I find myself dreading the ending, dreading that final, unforgettable shot of a shattered windshield and by extension, a shattered Bond. It’s a haunting finale to a great and generally underrated entry in the Bond catalog. There isn’t one other Bond film that ends on such a tragic, emotional note, or leaves the audience with a lump in its collective throat.