Review By Liam O Brien, 5 out of 5

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Imagine for a moment that you are, for some unknown and convoluted reason back in the past, stuck in 1968. Now imagine you are legendary producer Albert R ?ubby?Broccoli, the man who got the James Bond films on the screen and made a star out of a young Sean Connery. Now, imagine this: Connery, the icon of the sixties, the man who, to the main bulk of the cinema going world is James Bond, has just decided that after five amazingly successful OO7 blockbusters to throw in the licence to kill and try other things. What do you do? Panic? Beg? Cry and/or yell? Well, if the answer was yes to any of those was yes, then you would not make a Broccoli for today. For what Cubby and his producing partner Harry Saltzman was hire an unknown Australian male model- the name? Lazenby. George Lazenby.

On Her Majesty? Secret Service is, to most people an anomaly, an accident, a film that does not really belong to the Bond canon. The reasons for this are wide, varied, and interesting. The most obvious difference is the presence of Lazenby in the role of Bond. The Australian had had little or no acting experience, and had pretty much blagged his way into the role by means of dressing up at the same Saville Row shop Connery frequented, and ?ccidentally?bumping into producer Broccoli in a hairdressers one day. After (in much competition and speculation) winning the coveted role, the story comes together.

Richard Maibaum, long time Bond script writer decided one day, sitting at his type writer, that he didn? like the way the Bond films were going, didn? like the new found reliance of gadgetry and spectacle. So, he read Ian Fleming? OHMSS, which is a taut, tragic, exciting and well-plotted thriller. And then, he wrote the screenplay for the film OHMSS, which turned out to be a taut, tragic, exciting and well-plotted thriller.

This is for any number of reasons. There are no laser beam watches or Aston Martin cars loaded to the cogs with guns and rockets or jetpacks to get Bond out of a spot of bother this time. Only wits, and a gritty determination to live- witness the scene where Bond climbs along a cable car line, using his torn out pockets as grips. The other key differences which make this different to the Connery Bond?, apart from the above, is the cast, the awesome Bond girl, the grandiose music score, and the direction, all of which is the best of any Bond film to date.

To start, the cast is filled with interesting and exotic key players- Bernard Lee? original M, Lois Maxwell? Moneypenny and Desmond Llewelyn? Q all make the customary appearances; Gabrielle Ferzetti? loveable rouge crime boss Draco and Telly Savalas? Ernst Stavro Blofeld are both brilliant- but there is one other (apart from Lazenby? excellently real Bond) who needs to be mentioned. The Avenger? girl, Diana Rigg, known to so many as John Steed? counterpart Emma Peel plays Contessa Tracy De Vicenso- the only woman OO7 has ever truly loved.

The scenes in which her and Lazenby interact are highlights of this film. As their love grows, so does the story, and the emotion behind their affair. Tracy is a brilliant character- not a spy, not a double agent- but herself- a woman, but a woman with a heart, a real personality and life to her. The whole film is brilliant- so much better that what came after. That is in no way to say that the other 19 Bond thrillers are bad films, that? not the point at all. Die Another Day is a brilliant spectacle, a Bond wholly appropriate for todays world. But OHMSS is a true classic, it has plot, drama, tension, intrigue- all tinted (as this is a sf site!) with science fiction (Blofeld plans to hold the world to ransom with bacteriological warfare).

The only false note is the villain? scheme- he wants not money, but recognition as a Count and to have an official pardon to all past crimes. Why would the UN say no to that relatively meagre threat than face a global catastrophe?! But this is nit picking.

On Her Majesty? Secret Service is the best Bond film- ever. John Barry? score (recognised by many as his best ever) hits you from the gun barrel sequence and does not stop. Peter Hunt, the director gives the film a warmth and energy, a sense of thrills and foreboding that all come together in the tragic, down beat finale?

And, all told, after what has come before (a terrific pre-credits fight on a beach, a tense safe cracking sequence, a ski chase to die for, a final attack on the villains Swiss alp base and the following bob sled led fight scene) the ending of this film is the key difference. The Bond formula is that OO7 always saves the main girl- right?

Not this time. Everybody knows, following on from Bond and Tracy? marriage that the relationship is about to be cut short. But this does not make you, as much as you think you are, prepared for the scene where Bond, who has just come under-fire from a Blofeld driven car, storms into his car to give chase. Cue a crushing camera shot, of a single bullet hole in the windscreen, blood pouring from Mrs Bond? fore head. And that? it. Bond, cradling his slain love in his arms mutters the top quote to a stunned traffic policeman, before (in a scene in which Lazenby acts and pulls it off with aplomb) Bond breaks down, with only the memories of a love now well, and truly, lost.

ANY GOOD: Tragic, brilliant, exciting- all these words can be applied to OHMSS. You will notice that I haven? mentioned the dvd extras. There are some, very good ones too, but the strength of the film is enough that the extras are merely an added bonus. That should tell you all you need to know. Lazenby, in his one film, sticks in the memory forever, as does Riggs Bond Girl- and of course, the final, horrifying reel that will NEVER leave you. A must see, must buy film, get it now, and see what makes James Bond films so great.

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