On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Bond Booklet
Main Menu Audio/Animation
Audio Commentary - Peter Hunt (Director), et al
Featurette - Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service, An Original Documentary (41:42)
Featurette - Inside Q's Lab, The Gadgets Of 007 (10:24)
Featurette - Above It All (5:27)
Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1, 16x9 Enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0) (2:08)
TV Spots (5)
Radio Spots (7)
Photo Gallery
Rating pg.gif (1010 bytes)
Year Released 1969
Running Time 135:34 Minutes
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Peter Hunt
UnitedArtists.gif (10720 bytes)
Fox Home Video
Starring George Lazenby
Diana Rigg
Telly Savalas
Gabriele Ferzetti
Ilse Steppat
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $39.95 Music John Barry

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 224 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 224 Kb/s)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    As you've probably gathered from my review of The World Is Not Enough, I have a somewhat different perspective on the Bond franchise compared to Paul C. Truth be told, I don't think much of the early Bond films at all, with the many satires that Dr. No and Goldfinger in particular have inspired being easier to take seriously than the films themselves. The reasons for this are as obvious as they are simple. James Bond as a character is impossible to take seriously, and the myriad of stunts he performs in his earliest adventures are even more so, not to mention the obvious problems associated with a film franchise that has spanned four decades without showing the most minor sign of character development. Indeed, the reason why I vastly prefer Pierce Brosnan's Bond to all others is simply because the character's behaviour is far more consistent with what I would expect from a government-trained killer. Couple that with the fact that GoldenEye should have been titled Special Effects Technology Finally Catches Up With The Bond Franchise's Ambitions, and that leaves very little for earlier Bond films to offer in the way of competition.

    At the end of shooting on 1967's You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery announced to the world out of frustration with the way he was being treated by the press that he would not be playing the famous secret agent again. Indeed, one could hardly expect him to behave any differently, given that the press in countries like Japan had begun to follow him into such places as the men's room. This left United Artists with a perplexing choice: to either hang up the Bond franchise forever, or to find another actor to fill Connery's overwhelming shoes. Obviously, they chose the latter, and the choice of actor they made ultimately came as a shock to many Bond fans: an Australian model by the name of George Lazenby, who had no previous acting experience in motion pictures. Lazenby had basically bluffed his way into the role by telling the producers that he did have acting experience, as well as getting himself a Connery-style haircut and a Rolex watch, then passing himself off as a playboy. After many a screen test and fight scene rehearsal, the producers proclaimed Lazenby the new James Bond. The film that was to follow, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, was not well received by audiences or critics, who were not at all impressed by the attempt to take the character of James Bond in a new direction. Subsequently, 1971's Diamonds Are Forever saw Connery return to the role after being given an unprecedented offer by United Artists that also involved financial backing for several of his own film projects. All I can say is that I sorely wish that they'd extended Connery the same offer to play Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, as his presence would have helped the new direction of the series become a permanent fixture. Indeed, the only film that has so divided the Bond fanbase to the same degree as this one was 1989's License To Kill, another film that saw Bond develop a shocking (to fans of the Connery Bond films, anyway) ingredient called a personality.

    In case you've been wanting a plot summation of some kind, it goes a little something like this: James Bond (George Lazenby) is on a nice drive when he stops at a beach and witnesses Tracy (Diana Rigg) going to drown herself in the ocean. After he has fought off a pair of thugs and rescued Tracy from an indiscretion at a French casino, Bond is introduced to her father, crime boss Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti). Draco's proposal is somewhat unusual in that he wants Bond to court his daughter in exchange for information that could lead to the capture of SPECTRE boss Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who is planning his own germ warfare scheme from a hideaway in the Swiss Alps. In the scenes that follow, James and Tracy get to know one another and fall in love, which makes an excellent contrast from the pure lust he shows towards women in the other eighteen films that currently make up the Bond canon. As a matter of fact, after saving the world (again), Bond eventually marries Tracy, much to the shock of his comrades in MI6, especially Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Q (Desmond Llewelyn). I'll leave my description of the plot there, for those who have yet to see this episode of the Bond series, because it really is worth seeing for oneself on the basis of what a radical departure from the other Bond films it is.

    After hearing the comments of more hardcore Bond fans, I was quite amazed to find that this is easily one of the best Bond films, if not the very best of the best. George Lazenby, on the other hand, ranks closely with Roger Moore as the weakest actor to take the Bond role, although he is a lot better than what I had been led to expect. It is also worth noting that this is the film in which we are shown the Bond family coat of arms, complete with the Latin motto "Orbis Non Suffucit", which is translated in the film as "The World Is Not Enough", when a more exact translation would be "the world is insufficient". Like many a Paul Verhoeven film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has been vilified by those not capable of understand what the film is about, and is clearly superior to films that the same people describe as being masterworks. Don't let the negative reviews put you off, because as far as story is concerned, this is definitely the best Bond film of the lot, even if the acting is not quite up to the same standard.

Transfer Quality


    Obviously, thirty-one years is a long time in the world of film, but if I look this good after I've been around for thirty-one years, then I will be quite happy.

    The transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is quite sharp throughout, but there are moments, usually fight scenes, when some clarity is lost for a second or two. The shadow detail can be described as sufficient, with the limitations of 1969 film stock being all too obvious in the darker scenes that don't make up too much of the film. There is no low-level noise in the darker portions of the transfer, although some grain can be found in some shots, especially early in the film.

    The colour saturation can be described as being muted, but this is more an issue with the decor used on the sets than any specific problem with the transfer. The colour palette seemed to be biased towards red, which seems to be quite common with films produced before the mid-1980s. Overall, the colour saturation in this transfer is an accurate reflection of how the film originally looked, but still quite aged in appearance.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed during the main feature, although some are apparent in the featurettes, as was the case with The World Is Not Enough. The compression is not quite as tight on this film, but the bitrate is literally all over the place to accommodate over three hours worth of video. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of aliasing that was infrequent, but somewhat distressing to look at when it was noted, as it was very noticeable and distracting because of its severity. Car chrome, menswear, and even some cables shimmered with moderate severity. Film artefacts were also quite noticeable to begin with, but these settled down to a less intrusive level about twenty minutes into the film.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, but several viewings with both soundtracks failed to turn up a location for the layer change. Obviously, this means it is very good, considering my players' reputations for magnifying layer changes. I will continue to view this film periodically until I find a layer change, at which time I shall let you all know where it is.


    It is something of a pity that no effort has been made to remix the original soundtrack into something resembling a surround mix, but what we do have here is an improvement upon earlier episodes in the franchise. The audio transfer contains two soundtracks: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and an Audio Commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I listened to both of these soundtracks, and I'm a little dismayed that no alternate language soundtracks have been provided, although the original dialogue is certainly well-presented by the standards of the era. The dialogue is always clear and easy to make out, although the manner in which it competes with other sounds in the same channel does see the dialogue occasionally suffer to a minor extent. There were no apparent problems with audio sync, at least where dialogue was concerned, but other sound effects seemed to have a slight problem.

    The score music by John Barry is very dramatic, and lends a serious tone to the proceedings, which could have easily become farcical without it. The lack of an opening theme song on this film actually makes the credits much more enjoyable to watch, and the music that is presented at this point lends the coming film a more serious, earthy feel. The serious edge of this film is perfectly encapsulated in the music, making it all the more painfully obvious that this film is regarded as the black sheep of the Bond franchise for no other offence than trying to give viewers a reason to take it seriously.

    The surround presence on this disc was obviously non-existent, with the only sounds being heard from the stereo speakers. It's a pity, because the soundtrack would have really benefited from having the music separated into the rears, although the clarity of the soundtrack is surprisingly good considering how many sounds are coming out of the same channels. The subwoofer was more or less completely silent for the entire feature, with very little in the soundtrack requiring anything in the way of low-frequency support.



    As is the case with all other Bond Special Editions, the Main Menu is themed around the film with heavy animation and audio. The usage of an activate button that takes the user to the main menu is getting somewhat stale, but overall, the look and feel of these menus is a major improvement on those of Goldfinger.

Audio Commentary - Peter Hunt (Director), et al

    As with the commentaries on previous Bond films, this is simply a pastiche of interview segments from various sources. A proper commentary by George Lazenby would have been much preferred, especially given how interesting it would be to hear what the man has to say about his experiences in the film with the benefit of thirty years worth of hindsight. As it stands, this commentary is passable, but not one I would want to return to with any frequency.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

    This theatrical trailer, which is marked as the "Release Trailer" in the menus, is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Inside Q's Lab, The Gadgets Of 007 (10:24)

    As the Bond franchise continually evolved over the past forty years, or at least tried to evolve in spite of the fans, there was one fixture that remained unchanged over the years: MI6 gadget master Q (Desmond Llewelyn). This featurette takes a look at the character, and the man who played him so well for seventeen films. It is presented in varying aspect ratios, with the footage from several Bond films presented in each film's original aspect ratio, or Full Frame on some occasions, and interview footage presented in Full Frame. It is not 16x9 Enhanced, which is something of an irritation for those of us who have invested in 16x9 television sets. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, which sounded vaguely like Stereo. The featurette occasionally suffers from noticeable aliasing and macro-blocking, but it is nowhere near as bad in this regard as the featurettes on The World Is Not Enough.

Featurette - Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service, An Original Documentary (41:42)

    This is a documentary on the challenges involved in the casting, directing, and shooting of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, with some interesting comments from George Lazenby. Again, this featurette is presented in various aspect ratios, usually switching between Full Frame and 2.35:1, without 16x9 Enhancement. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, which also sounds Stereo. There is also some aliasing and macro-blocking in this featurette, but it is again much better in this regard than the featurettes on The World Is Not Enough.

Featurette - Above It All (5:27)

    This is a documentary of how certain aerial shots were accomplished during production. It is more than thirty years old, and looks it, with an abundance of film artefacts and a washed-out, dull colour palette. The abundance of grain and noise does not help matters any, but at least the presentation is free of MPEG artefacts. It is presented in Full Frame, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that sounds mono and frequency limited.

TV Spots

    These are presented under their own menu. TV Spots #1, #3, #4, and #5 are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, while TV Spot #2 is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. They are all presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. They are not 16x9 Enhanced.

Radio Spots

    This is a collection of radio advertisements and open-ended interviews that were broadcast in 1969. The audio quality leaves something to be desired, with hiss and distortion being the order of the day, and they're not exactly that interesting to listen to, either.

Photo Gallery

    Titled "The On Her Majesty's Secret Service Gallery" in the menus, this is a collection of well-annotated stills from the film and related publicity/production events. This is how a photo gallery should be presented.


    This eight-page booklet presents information about various aspects of making On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Worth reading once, but nothing particularly interesting.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this disc appear to be identically featured, although it is quite hard to find any authoritative source on the Region 1 product. The one source I did find does not list any significant difference that justifies the added cost of importing the disc from America. Considering that the Region 4 disc has more resolution and no 3:2 pulldown artefacts, I believe it to be the better choice.


    On Her Majesty's Secret Service represents, for me, a change in direction for the Bond series that I sorely wish they'd kept up. It is presented on an excellent DVD.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
September 6, 2000.
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer