Greg Tyler

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Christmas 2013: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Part of the series Christmas 2013

James Bond continues his search for Blofeld after their tête-à-tête in Japan. At one point, he spends some time in Blofeld's company over the Christmas period.

Let's not beat around the bush here. I've watched a lot of Christmas films recently and fancied something a bit different. Having realised some of OHMSS takes place on Christmas Eve, I thought I might as well cash-in on it.

Christmas spirit

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ The most festive person in this film is Ernst Stavro Blofeld (now The Count de Bleuchamp) who, like some under-dressed evil-minded Santa, provides the only gifts we see exchanged over Christmas. Admittedly these gifts are biological agents that will be used to destroy England's agricultural yield for the year, but they are presents nonetheless.

Points also go to Switzerland, as Bond attends the Christmas Eve celebrations in a small Swiss town where there's singing, dancing and ice skating in full force. Swiss Christmas looks idyllic, as people run about laughing and being merry. It's certainly a damn site better than the celebrations in Piz Gloria as one imagines Blofeld sitting around with a small cup of eggnog making awkward smalltalk with the assembled ex-cons he employs as ski instructors.

Ho-ho-who's in it?

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ George Lazenby dons Bond's boots for this outing, filling the incredible void left by Sean Connery after five films at the helm. Deeply desiring the role, Lazenby bought himself a Rolex and Saville Row suit to fit the character, and even went to Connery's barber. All of this paid off, and he was offered a seven-film deal which, perhaps for the best, he turned down.

Joining Lazenby were the gorgeous Diana Rigg as Tessa (this is become less of a Christmas review by the second), the wonderfully-bald Telly Savalas as Blofeld, and the amiable Gabriele Ferzetti as Marc-Ange Draco - one of my favourite Bond characters. Then of course there are the Bond stalwarts filling the ranks back at MI6 as M, Q and Moneypenny all return to the fold unsurprised by Bond's rather rapid apparent facial surgery.

OHMSS is memorable, perhaps unfairly, for its large array of "Bond girls" in Blofeld's Swiss clinic, all suffering from unusual allergies and all from extremely disparate parts of the world. Undercover as the heraldry expert Sir Hilary Bray, Bond has to pretend to not be particularly interested in courting women but - despite his upcoming marriage - promptly becomes a two-a-night sort of chap.

The cast of On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Sir Hilary Bray and his new allergy-ridden friends.

Family fun

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ I watched this with my Dad and we had a great time! But honesty is due. Some of the death scenes are a bit brutal (someone goes into a snow-churning machine, another falls a very long way off a cliff, which we witness all of). There's also a healthy smattering of misogyny and domestic abuse, though Marc-Ange's witticism about sparing the rod does overshadow one of them. Honestly, I think the amount of fun your family will have with this film rather depends on the sort of family you're in.

Jingle Bells

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Whilst not at all Christmassy, the music in OHMSS is of the high standard that we've grown accustomed to in the Bond universe. John Barry returns again to give us an amazing combination of the classic Bond motifs and traditional movie soundtrack mixed sublimely with the chosen Bond theme: this time Louis Armstrong's "We Have All The Time In The World". Armstrong's performance doesn't make for the title theme, replaced by a more action-packed version of the classic 007 theme, but its integrity in the rest of the soundtrack shows once again how good Barry is at his job.

Overall

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
As a Bond aficionado, reviewing Bond films is just wasted time. I recommend you watch OHMSS, just as I recommend you watch all the other Bond films. Whilst perhaps not one of the absolute bests, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a fairly strong film with great characters, some fantastic chases and (amongst the trashy green screen) some really well-shot sequences.

That's it! The festive films are over! Have a fantastic Christmas everyone.

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