Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reconsidering On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the Bond film that tried something different

Though it doesn’t come up much in casual conversations about “the best Bond movie,” 007 diehards will parachute from airplanes, somersault off ski jumps, and fly into you with goofy little jetpacks to defend On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The 1969 entry is most often remembered as a footnote in decades of spy thrillers—George Lazenby’s sole portrayal of a character that had been defined so fully to that point by Sean Connery—but it’s unfairly overlooked, as YouTube channel Rossatron suggests in a welcome reappraisal of the movie.


Rossatron focuses on the uncomfortable misogyny associated with Bond, praising OHMSS’ portrayal of the spy meeting, falling in love, and marrying a woman (Diana Rigg’s Tracy di Vicenzo) whose role in the film is far more complex than the series’ typically disposable love interests. Her death at the end of the movie—which, if you haven’t seen it, is an uncharacteristic, wildly dark finale to a ‘60s Bond movie—recontextualizes Bond’s womanizing in all the following films. It suggests that his sexism, whether the post-Lazenby series realizes it or not, is wrapped up in OHMSS’ rethinking of how Bond’s tragic past shapes everything that comes after.

Beyond what Rossatron covers, there’s always been something fascinating about OHMSS that starts with the relationship between James and Tracy and extends throughout the rest of the movie. Released in the final weeks of 1969, it skewers the dying promise of the hippie movement. Just one example: Blofeld, in OHMSS, basically runs a New Age homeopathic center that brainwashes women to deploy a sterilizing bacteria that will stop plant and animal reproduction across the world. Coupled with the tragedy that puts a stop to Bond’s attempt to settle down in a relationship after a decade of free love and it’s easy to identify an introspective thread to the movie that, like Rossatron describes, makes it one of the most unique approaches to the series to date.

And hey, even if none of that convinces you, at least give On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a look to see how a 1969 costumer designer interpreted “dashing international man of mystery” for the first and last time. One glance at the frills bisecting Lazenby’s shirt describes how far outside the box the movie’s creators were thinking than anything else could.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.