For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Alternative Christmas movies here’s a review of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1970) by James of Blogging By Cinemalight.
Thanks again to Chris ‘Tank’ Tanski of Fright Rags for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Lisa Leehey of Critical Critics and we will be reviewing our favorite Unreliable Narrator Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Jan by sending them to unreliableLisa@movierob.net
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Lisa!
Let’s see what James thought of this movie:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969)
So, what does Agent 007 do for the holidays? Spend a lot of time skiing and tobaggoning, seducing snow-bunnies in the Alpen mountain-top retreat of evil-agency SPECTRE…and getting married in an unseasonably warm Portugal.
After several promises—the film had been announced in both “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” in the “James Bond Will Return…” credit in their initial releases—weather conditions were good enough in the Alps to make the film after “You Only Live Twice.” But, as weather can change, so can the best laid movie plans.
Sean Connery was gone, but not for good. George Lazenby became Bond…and was only semi-good. Oh, Lazenby looks fine in stunts but so does a 2 by 4 when used right, although he is effective in two scenes (where he actually isn’t dubbed by another actor!) Editor Peter Hunt directs with an eye towards more color and a pell-mell style that looks distinctly different from the other films in the series. In this one, Lazenby’s Bond goes undercover to track down Blofeld who’s now portrayed by Telly Savalas. Bond falls in love with Countess Teresa Draco DiVicenzo (Diana Rigg) and she’s as capable of seducing, fighting, and driving right alongside him. Lots of good skiing action. Dialogue has some pop to it. One bad love-montage with music (although that music is Louis Armstrong’s last recorded song, and John Barry’s score may be his best).
One track from Barry’s soundtrack is the one track most people skip over—the second song of the film “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?” (lyrics again provided by Hal David after “We Have All the Time in the World”) sung by “Nina.” It’s actually a pretty clever little addition. Ostensibly, it’s a “Sound of Music” parody with Nina Van Pallandt (look her up) providing a crisply articulated Julie Andrews imitation and a kid chorus that, in the film’s tense pursuit scene amongst blithely-unaware Austrians celebrating the season, repetitively chant the chorus, providing a sonic sandpaper to Bond’s desperate flight—not unlike the chirpy children’s song Bernard Herrmann inserted into “The Birds” while Tippi Hedren waits, unaware, while crows are gathering behind her, unseen. The song is outwardly cloying, but, used in the movie, devilish.
Christmas is a bit threatening in OHMSS–after being knocked out in Piz Gloria, Bond wakes up to a throbbing version of that song while Blofeld’s gaudy Christmas tree lurches in his awakening delirium. And the instruments of destruction for delivering Blofeld’s planned Virus Omega to the world? They are given to his “Angels of Death” in lovely Christmas presents. Hopefully, they’re all stopped before anyone tries to return them on Boxing Day, but the movie is less concerned with that than blowing up Blofeld’s SPECTRE aerie and running him to ground. Even then, the job isn’t done leaving OHMSS to have the most tragic of the series’ trademark “scopion tail.”
Like most things in the Bond series, Christmas is something of an ironic counter-point to the events of the movie, less to be taken seriously than to provide a cheery taunt to the fireworks. As such, it presaged such films as “Die Hard,” “Gremlins” and the holiday-themed slasher movies that would follow it.