April 27, 2000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
MGM Home Entertainment

142 mins. · PG
16x9

Format
DVD

Audio
E
Spanish

Subtitles
French, Spanish

Extras
Commentary track, Documentaries, Still Gallery, Theatrical Trailers, TV and Radio Spots

Starring
George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(1969)

After Sean Connery resigned as James Bond, finishing "You Only Live Twice," the men behind the highly successful series of James Bond movies, Harry Salzman and Albert R. Broccoli, faced the challenge to find an actor who could fill Connery’s shoes. Not an easy task considering the Scotsman’s acting abilities and immense popularity. After some deliberation, the choice was made and Australian actor George Lazenby was cast as the new 007, a decision that separated the fans of the movies. While some felt that he simply could not replace Connery’s caliber, others felt he made a worthy James Bond.

Having unsuccessfully tried to track down the whereabouts of SPECTRE’s leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) for two years, James Bond (George Lazenby) is taken off the case and takes a leave of absence. In the meanwhile he repeatedly meets the countess Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg), daughter of a wealthy criminal. He even rescues her from an attempted suicide and her father (Gabriele Ferzetti) is very thankful for the positive influence the smart secret agent has over his only child. The syndicate crime boss proposes a marriage between Bond and Tracy for her protection but Bond is not willing to make that sort of commitment. However, Draco has information that is vital to Bond. He knows the whereabouts of Blofeld, and thanks to Tracy’s power over her father, he learns that the megalomaniac is hiding in the Swiss Alps.
Immediately Bond sets out to track down Blofeld to bring him to justice, facing one of the most dramatic adventures of his career.

Although no Sean Connery, George Lazenby makes an appropriate James Bond. I was missing the smug charm of his predecessor - and of then James Bond-in-spe, Roger Moore. It is a winning charm that saves them in any situation and gives the character a nonchalante superiority. The physical stature and the energy of Lazenby is quite that of a James Bond however and his acting is in general quite convincing. Diana Rigg is of course a perfect match for James Bond, having had quite some experience in the action and secret agent field through her recurring role in the "Avengers" TV series. She plays a solid part that allows her to show some dramatic range as well as her physical abilities and skills.

The most striking part of "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" is the action. The movie features some absolutely stunning action sequences that are among the best of all Bond movies. Although exaggerated to match the feel of the series, the stunts are mostly physical in nature. A large part of the film is playing in the Swiss Alps and director Peter Hunt has made the most out of the setting. Staggering skiing stunts, big explosions and breathtaking car races on slithering ice are only a few of the highlights of this spectacular film. The biggest one, clearly begin James bond’s wedding to Tracy and the following few minutes that close the movie.

MGM Home Entertainment is presenting "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" in a superb presentation on this disc. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is entirely devoid of any grain or signs of noise, giving the movie a very stable and rich presentation. The highly detailed transfer is among the best of the entire collection and is also practically free of blemishes, speckles, scratches and dust. Both, considerable achievements given the movie’s age. Colors are strong and finely delineated, creating a vivid image that restores all the hues of the movie without over-saturation or bleeding. The compression is flawless, leaving every bit of detail of the transfer intact without the introduction of any compression artifacts.

"On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" contains a monaural Dolby Digital audio track in English and Spanish, that is supported by French and Spanish subtitles. The track has been restored and is also without problems. Especially the music has a surprisingly wide frequency response that sounds very natural. Dialogues on the other hand are somewhat thin and some noise is audible during those dialogue lines. The noise has been filtered out as soon as the dialogue stops but is often evident as soon as the dialog picks up again. It is not obtrusive however, given the fact that the entire film would certainly contain such hiss if it hadn’t been restored and denoised.

The DVD contains a commentary track with director Peter Hunt and several cast and crew members. As on the other releases it is presented as a series of recollections by the commentators rather unrelated to specific scenes that we watch. Nonetheless, it helps to create an intricate picture of what it was like to create this movie.

A great documentary called "Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" is also part of the release and it is a true highlight of the collection. In detail and with surprising candor, the documentary covers many aspects about the problems the film faced with the press and the fans. George Lazenby’s involvement, how it came about and how it was terminated is also covered in minute detail as the documentary covers the entire production of the movie step by step, almost scene for scene.

Having passed away only too recently, it is great to see that MGM Home Entertainment has prepared a tribute to the gadget-master on this DVD. "Inside Q’s Lab - The Gadgets" is a documentary that explores the gadgets of the Bond movies as well as their creator, Q, as played by Desmond Llewelyn. Featuring interviews with Llewelyn and cast and crew members who have worked with him over the years, the film is a presentation of the most memorable gadgets form the movies, combined with witty comments and exciting anecdotes about how they came about, how they were operated and how they did not work for that matter.

"Above It All" is a 6-minute documentary that was released in 1969 to promote the movie’s theatrical start. It is complemented by an array of trailers, radio and television spots and a gallery of still photos.

As we all know, "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" turned out to be George Lazenby’s only stint as 007. Sean Connery returned to play Bond one last time two years later in "Diamonds Are Forever." On this DVD however, you will have the chance to examine the most-overlooked, and often underrated, of all James Bond movies in all its glory. MGM Home Entertainment has done a fabulous job bringing this film to DVD and the extras contained here cover quite some ground in terms of Bond-History.

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