On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Bond: George Lazenby
Release Date: 1963
Original Story: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Publication Date: 1963
Previous Story: The Spy Who Loved Me
Next Story: You Only Live Twice
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blodeld (Telly Savalas)
Heavy: Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat)
Bond Girls: Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), Ruby (Angela Scoular), Nancy (Catherina von Schell). plus ten more unnamed including one played by Joanna Lumley
Other Notable Characters: M (Bernard Lee), Q (Desmond Llewellyn), Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti)
Opening Credits: “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service“, composed, arranged, and conducted by John Barry.
Closing Credits: “All the Time in the World“, written by John Barry and Hal David, performed by Louis Armstrong.
Plot of Original: Bond’s hunt for Blofeld since the end of Operation Thunderball, as per the novel Thunderball, is going nowhere. There is no sign of the head of SPECTRE. Bond is getting tired of his job and is thinking of resigning the service, having gone far enough to compose a letter of resignation. Said composition is while he’s driving his Bentley through France, and is interrupted by a young woman who goads him into chasing her through the twisting countryside roads.
Bond does catch up to the young woman at the baccarat tables, where he bails her out of financial problems after she cannot cover a massive bet. He trails her out of the hotel to the beach, where he prevents her from walking into the rough surf and killing herself. However, Bond wasn’t the only man watching her. Others from the Unione Corse, a European crime syndicate, are also on hand and take Bond and the young woman to the offices of Marc-Ange Draco, the head of the Unione and the father of Tracy, the young woman. Draco convinces Bond the only way to keep Tracy safe is for the spy to marry her.
An arrangement is worked out, and Draco uses his connections to assist Bond in his search for Blofeld, placing the villain in Switzerland. Bond returns to England and is informed that a Blofeld is claiming the title of Compte de Bleuville. He works with the College of Arms to learn the details of heraldry and assumes the role of Sir Hilary Bray, with the real one being given a vacation to go hiking in the countryside.
Bond arrives at Piz Gloria, where the would be Comte is waiting. The Comte’s assistant, Irma Bunt, handles the day-to-day business of the site as the Comte himself is busy with a project to help ten young women, all of British or Irish citizenship, overcome allergies. Bond investigates, hooks Blofeld on the possibility of being the heir to the title, and gathers intelligence. He discovers that the young women are being set up to be the vectors of biological warfare, later confirmed when an eleventh had to leave the project early and a large turkey cull was needed due to a virulent disease.
With this knowledge, and with Bunt becoming more suspicious of him, Bond leaves Piz Gloria, though not undetected. He survives the ensuing avalanche and runs into Tracy, who is feeling much better than before. They escape in her car, Bond proposes, and he returns to England.
On consulting M, the plan is to stop the young women as they return to England and raid Piz Gloria. However, going after Blofeld in Piz Gloria will need unofficial assistance; getting Swiss help may delay matters and lose Blofeld. Bond calls Draco to arrange a team from the Unione. They fly in, claiming to be on a medical mission to throw off Swiss air traffic control, then storm Piz Glora. Blofeld escapes down the bobsled run, Bond not far behind, but the villain gets away.
With the mission semi-successful – the lab at Piz Gloria is destroyed but Blofeld escaped – Bond and Tracy get married. As they head out on their honeymoon, they are shot at in a drive-by shooting by Bunt and Blofeld. Bond recovers but Tracy is fatally wounded.
The pre-credits sequence has Tracy’s attempted suicide, though not described as that. Bond meeting Tracy at the casino is after the credits; in the novel, the order is correct but Bond first meets Tracy at the casino, with their initial meeting done as a flashback. This change of order requires Bond to be kidnapped on his own, being taken to meet Draco. The meeting is condensed, but the beats are kept. The change in order makes sense in that 007 movies tend to open on an action sequence to get the audience’s blood going.
Bond does try to resign, though Moneypenny changes the resignation into a request for time off. Bond spends the time with Draco, where he learns of a potential lead instead of just being told outright by Draco. Again, this is to keep Bond as the active character instead of just being given the info. In the novel, Bond takes the info to M and formulate a plan to go undercover as Sir Hilary Bray of the College of Arms, which does happen in the movie, though, again, condensed.
Blofeld’s plot is more or less the same, except instead of targeting Great Britain and Ireland, he’s going after the world’s food supply. The twelve young women, not ten as per the novel, are from around the world, though Ruby remains British. Bond’s escape follows the novel’s version, though details are lost due to the change to a visual medium. Bond does run into Tracy, though the chase scene is more elaborate than in the book; the demolition derby was not in the novel.
Bond’s return to England is cut completely. Instead of reporting to M and getting various departments involved, Bond contacts Draco to get an assault team together to storm Piz Gloria, more or less as per the novel. Again, some details are condensed for time purposes, but once at Piz Gloria, the assault plays out as per the novel.
The movie also dropped a character. Bond’s secretary, Mary Goodnight, isn’t a significant character, but she does handle some of the paperwork needed. Moneypenny instead appears as M’s secretary, as usual, mainly thanks to having Lois Maxwell available. Goodnight will make her film debut in The Man With the Golden Gun.
OHMSS is George Lazenby’s only outing as 007. Sean Connery retired from being Bond after You Only Live Twice, but would return for Diamonds Are Forever in1971, thus having the same problem 007 had in leaving the service. The opening sequence calls out the new 007 with the line, “This never happened to the other fellow.“
Most of the differences between novel and film come from the change to a visual medium. A novel’s pace allows for more introspection by the main character, more details added to explain how the various moving parts work together. However, a movie audience isn’t going to sit still for a discussion on how the various parts of the British bureaucracy fit together. Likewise for an in depth explanation of European organized crime. It’s enough to state that Draco is a crime lord and has connections.
OHMSS is back to basics for Bond. No gadgets, in fact, going undercover as Sir Hilary Bray meant leaving the gadgets and gun behind. With a new Bond, it’s a chance to show another side of Bond. The 007s of Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan all paid respect to Tracy in one way or another during their time. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a key film in the EON continuity, despite Lazenby only being a one-time Bond.