On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Directed by Peter R. Hunt
After Sean Connery resigned from the role of 007 during the filming of You Only Live Twice, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli dabbled with a variety of options for continuing the franchise. One such option was to film The Man with the Golden Gun with Roger Moore in the role of James Bond but political issues in Cambodia and Moore's signing on for another series of The Saint ruled this out.
After settling on On Her Majesty's Secret Service the role was originally offered to Timothy Dalton—who declined—leaving the producers to cast unknown Australian model George Lazenby as the martini drinking MI6 agent, taking a more straightforward and serious approach to the increasingly campy series dynamic.
Though criticized for his overall performance, Lazenby proved a more physically apt performer than Connery, engaging in kinetic, realistic fight sequences from the open scene of the movie when Bond rescues Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg) from suicidal drowning. Similarly, Peter R. Hunt, who had previously worked as a Second Unit Director and Supervising Editor on early Bond movies, demonstrated a knack for constructing tense, realist action sequences, implicitly understanding pacing and theoretical viewing principles.
The plot, wherein Bond attempts to thwarts Blofeld's (Telly Savalas) attempts to gain amnesty from past crimes and be recognized as the current Count de Bleuchamp by contaminating the world's food supply, bought into political paranoia of the time, noting perceived Cold War techniques. Inevitably, this biochemical contamination plan involves ten gorgeous women—the "Angels of Death"—with whom Bond has varying flirtations and battles.
Standard for the series, this plot was elevated by surprisingly adroit craftsmanship on the part of Hunt, who managed to make a solid spy thriller unto itself. The eventual ski slope and bobsled climactic action sequence holds up well even to this day.
What also stood out about this sixth Bond entry was the secret agent's sincere romancing of the central Bond girl, eventually proposing marriage to her. Save Casino Royale, where Bond learned the pain of romantic loss, he's rarely seen taking the many women he beds seriously.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service screens as part of The Bond Blitz: Bond vs. Blofield retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Screening initially at 2:45am on October 27th, 2012, it will return to the Lightbox in November for additional big screen viewing opportunities.
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