On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
|On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is the sixth spy film in the James Bond series, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. Following the decision of Sean Connery to retire from the role after You Only Live Twice, Eon Productions selected an unknown actor and model, George Lazenby to play the part of James Bond. During the making of the film, Lazenby decided that he would play the role of Bond only once.
In the film, Bond faces Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who is planning to sterilize the world’s food supply through a group of brainwashed “angels of death” (which included early appearances by Joanna Lumley and Catherina von Schell) unless his demands for an international amnesty (from his activities in the previous films, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice), his title of the Count De Bleuchamp to be recognised and to be allowed to retire into private life are all met. Along the way, Bond meets, falls in love with, and eventually marries Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg).
This is the only Bond film to be directed by Peter R. Hunt, who had served as a film editor and second unit director on previous films in the series. Hunt, along with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to produce a more realistic film that would follow the novel closely. It was shot in Switzerland, England and Portugal from October 1968 to May 1969. Although its cinema release was not as lucrative as its predecessor You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was still one of the top performing films of the year. Critical reviews upon release were mixed, but the film’s reputation improved over time, although Lazenby’s performance is still widely criticised.
In Portugal, James Bond – agent 007 and sometimes referred to as simply ‘007’ – saves a woman on the beach from committing suicide by drowning, and later meets her again in a casino. The woman, Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo invites Bond to her hotel room to thank him. The next morning, Bond is kidnapped by several men while leaving the hotel, who take him to meet Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the European crime syndicate Unione Corse. Draco reveals that Tracy is his only daughter and tells Bond of her troubled past, offering Bond a personal dowry of one million pounds if he will marry her. Bond refuses, but agrees to continue romancing Tracy under the agreement that Draco reveals the whereabouts of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE.
After a brief argument with M at the MI6 headquarters, Bond heads for Draco’s birthday party in Portugal. There, Bond and Tracy begin a whirlwind romance, and Draco directs the agent to a law firm in Bern, Switzerland. At Bern, Bond investigates the office of Swiss lawyer Gumbold, and finds out Blofeld is corresponding with the London College of Arms’ genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, attempting to claim the title ‘Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp’.
Posing as Bray, Bond goes to meet Blofeld, who has established a clinical research institute atop Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps. There Bond meets ten young women, the “Angels of Death”, that are patients at the institute’s clinic. At night Bond goes to the room of one patient, Ruby, for a romantic encounter. At midnight Bond sees that Ruby, apparently along with each of the other ladies, goes into a sleep-induced trance while Blofeld gives them audio instructions for when they are discharged and return home. In fact, the women are being brainwashed to distribute bacteriological warfare agents throughout various parts of the world.
Bond tries to persuade Blofeld to leave Switzerland, so the British Secret Service can arrest him without violating Swiss sovereignty; Blofeld refuses, and Bond is eventually caught by the henchwoman Irma Bunt. Blofeld reveals he identified Bond after his attempt to lure Blofeld out of Switzerland, and tells his henchmen to take the agent away. Bond eventually makes his escape by skiing down Piz Gloria while Blofeld and many of his men give chase. Arriving at the village of Lauterbrunnen, Bond finds Tracy and they escape Bunt and her men after a car chase. A blizzard forces them to a remote barn, where Bond professes his love to Tracy and proposes marriage to her, which she accepts. The next morning, Blofeld attempts to kill Bond by causing an avalanche, and captures Tracy.
Blofeld holds the world to ransom with the threat of destroying its agriculture using his brainwashed women, demanding amnesty for all past crimes and that he be recognised as the current Count de Bleauchamp. Bond enlists Draco and his forces to attack Blofeld’s headquarters, while also rescuing Tracy from Blofeld’s captivity. The facility is destroyed, and Blofeld escapes the destruction alone in a bobsled, with Bond pursuing him. The chase ends when Blofeld becomes snared in a tree branch and injures his neck.
Bond and Tracy marry in Portugal, then drive away in Bond’s Aston Martin. When Bond pulls over to the roadside to remove flowers from the car, Blofeld (wearing a neck brace) and Bunt commit a drive-by shooting of the couple’s car that kills Tracy. A police officer pulls over to inspect the bullet-riddled car, prompting a tear-filled Bond to mutter that there is no need to hurry to call for help by saying, “We have all the time in the world”, as he cradles Tracy’s lifeless body.