Mildly dismissed upon release in late 1969, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was still one of the top 10 grossing films of the year, but George Lazenby, replacing Sean Connery as 007, upset the producers by commenting that he wasn’t interested in playing Bond long-term. They became unenthusiastic about promotion. Nevertheless, OHMSS was always for some and has become for others the best Bond movie. The reasons:
1. The John Barry soundtrack. The evocative and dynamic credits sequence music (with Moog synthesizer) hit just the right note, complementing the Maurice Binder art and scenes from previous Bond movies that provided continuity. There were also two excellent songs: “We Have All the Time in the World” sung by Louis Armstrong, and “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown” from Nina and a youth chorus. In light of what was to come, both were bittersweet predictors of personal calamity.
2. The “Bond Girls.” A passel of lovelies inhabited Blofeld’s Piz Gloria, the mountain hideaway from which they were to carry pestilence around the globe. Chief among them was the deliciously sexy Angela Scoular, just off her flaky performance in the mod Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush. (She was also in the “bastard” Bond film, the original Casino Royale of 1967).
3. THE Bond Girl: Diana Rigg. She was lovely, she was smart, she was tough. She had been Emma Peel on TV’s The Avengers and knew how to fight.
4. No gimmicks. No jetpack, no catapult car seat, no deadly bowler, no flame-spewing dragon tanks. This was a fists, pistols and knives affair, with machineguns and grenades used sparingly, notably in the helicopter assault on Piz Gloria.
5. The big action scenes. Not one, not two, but three exciting chase sequences: by ski, by car, by toboggan.
6. The best one-line zinger in a Bond movie: “We’ll head him off at the precipice!” (Telly Savalas as Blofeld)
Another reason that kept OHMSS from achieving more fame at the time: word-of-mouth about the tragic conclusion. I saw it at the Duke and Duchess Twin in Philadelphia where several young women sitting nearby gasped when….