James Bond
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Starring: George Lazenby
16206DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

Attempting to track down SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond encounters the intriguing Tracy Di Vicenzo. Can it be that 007 has found true love?...

Everyone remembers this movie as "the one with George Lazenby". The fact that the actor only played Bond once is usually taken as an indication that he wasn't very good. Setting aside such prejudice, however, Lazenby proves that he can handle the action (including some pretty visceral fight sequences) and the acting equally well. He brings sufficient depth and range to the character to pull off that crucial final moment of grief - can anyone imagine Sean Connery playing that scene? However, the trailers included on the DVD, which describe Lazenby as "the different Bond from the same stable", hint at a lack of confidence on the part of the distributors back in 1969, who evidently feared that the movie-going public might not accept any other actor but Connery. Perhaps this very lack of confidence influenced the audience, creating a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. In any event, the punters were indeed not ready to countenance a new Bond, and Lazenby was sacrificed to the swingometer that is public opinion. Nevertheless, he did allow Roger Moore a better chance of acceptance by setting a precedent.

So much attention has been devoted over the years to the relative merits of Lazenby, that few have commented on the disappointment that is Telly Savalas's Blofeld. Savalas conveys neither the sinister menace of Donald Pleasence (in You Only Live Twice) or the sophistication of Charles Gray (in Diamonds Are Forever). It is left to Ilse Steppat, as the creepy Irma Bunt, to provide most of the villainy.

In other areas, however, this movie delivers in spades. Just as Thunderball gave us the first underwater Bond action, OHMSS is the pioneer of Bond ski stunts. Ski expert Willy Bogner, acting as both choreographer and cameraman, sets the standards that would be followed in films such as The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and The World is Not Enough. The secrets behind the stunning aerial photography of OHMSS's alpine action are revealed in a contemporary documentary, Above It All, which is also included on the disc.

Connecting the spectacular set pieces is one of the stronger Bond movie plots. This was the last film to closely resemble the Fleming novel on which it was based, and is also one of least fantastical, with few gadgets in evidence. Subsequent movies would continue the process started in You Only Live Twice, of retaining just a few character names and situations from the Fleming novel in question.

Another pinnacle attained here is one of John Barry's finest musical scores, which includes the memorable instrumental main theme. There is a good reason why the Propellerheads' remix of this tune was chosen as the single from David Arnold's Shaken and Stirred album - and that's because the original is so great!

Further aural entertainment can be found in four vintage "open-ended" radio interviews. We get to hear from George Lazenby, his leading lady Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas and director Peter Hunt, though most of what they have to say is, understandably, for the purposes of promoting the movie!

Sterling service from MGM.

Richard McGinlay