On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is a movie of one-time performers. It showcases the only actor to play Bond once, George Lazenby; and it also features a director who only made one film in the franchise, which is not completely uncommon, but it is a little unusual.
To the average fan that you pass in the street "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is the one film that could be erased from the series without tears being shed. Many people are still angry about Lazenby's performance compared to Sean Connery's iconic turns.
Indeed, the comparison is unfortunate for Lazenby because as much as he tries, he just can't deliver the one-liners like Sean Connery could.
The movie opens Bond speeding down a road and a woman driver shooting past him...something that's already because a staple in the franchise. Not to be outdone with a girl,  Bond floors it and tails the femme fa-driver (yes, it's totally French). The woman makes her way to the beach where she pauses for a few moments and then kicks her shoes off, heading straight into the ocean. It's obvious that she wants to kill herself, so Bond does the honorable thing and pulls her out and almost gets to introduce himself before two guys jump out of no where and try to beat his head in...he's not to thrilled about that idea.
After subduing the two men with ninja-like skills and break-neck camera work, Bond peers up to see that the woman has made a fast getaway. The camera takes a long look at his face and then he says to himself: "This never happened to the other guy."
Cue main titles.
What does that mean? Like the parody film "Casino Royale" that came before it and the general theory that floats around the Bond-fanatics "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" could be hinting (or directly saying) that James Bond is just a pseudonym that many have used.
Still, when we drop back in on the story, it's clear that this Bond movie is unlike any of the others and not just for George Lazenby's appearance.
The film abandons the previous tropes and devices that the series had installed. No longer does Q branch make an appearance with neat gadgets and exploding pens, no where does Bond have to seduce a woman who seems completely turned off to men (he does seduce, but the woman in question just doesn't like him), and no where does Bond deliver at the very last second.
This Bond, compared to Connery's portrayal, is an intelligent man. He's not the animalistic lover who just needs to placate sexual urges and eat, he is a true gentlemen.
What you have to understand about "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is that the film is not about the plot...it's about the characters and the style of the film.
If you look at the plot, you see an average Bond film: SPECTRE is back in force and this time they're trying to take over the world and hold the Western world's fertility at gunpoint. Then there's the plethora of women that are hypnotized to help with this process, they are locked up on top of a mountain where Number One can oversee their allergies...yes, it's just as weird as it sounds.
But then, there's the actual story...one filled with grief and ghosts. This movie provides the first inklings that deep secrets may haunt the Bond character. It makes references to other movies, a huge no-no to a true fan, but those all work, because they are so fleeting that they can be missed.
Instead of an action movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" plays like a con movie mixed with a romance. The sweet songs that play in the background while Bond seems to have found true love are enough to pull anyone's heart strings.
The climax of the film, that takes place on top of a mountain as seen in movies to come like "Inception", is very thrilling and a ski-chase scene takes place...adding to the series' wonderful action sequences.
But there is a deep melancholy to the film, one that is beautifully painted. This film is probably the most understood Bond movie.
It is great, but not for the moments of fun action. It's great because of what lies underneath the film.

Score: ★★★½

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