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On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Ultimate Edition

It opens with a chase. An unseen man is passed in his car by a girl who pulls over to a beach and runs into the ocean in a suicidal gesture. The man sees what's going on and rushes in and saves her, only to be attacked by a couple of thugs who take the woman away. Finally the camera settles on the man, the new James Bond, George Lazenby, who quips "This never happened to the other fellow." And with that he was doomed. Lazenby was the first man brought in to replace Sean Connery, whose five previous entries still dominate the Bond canon and who remains the definitive Bond (at least until Daniel Craig gets a few more films to test the waters), and so Lazenby already felt like a stepfather. Though he wanted and got the part in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, his on-set attitude of being second best (leading to the aforementioned quip in the film) alienated him from the production staff and set him up for failure, making Lazenby the only actor in the canonical Bonds (or, that is to say, not including the TV and 1967 versions of Casino Royale) to only play the role once. After the film, Connery was offered a pile of cash and made one last official go at it, only to be followed by Roger Moore. As such, OHMSS has often been shunted off as an anomaly, which is too bad — it's one of the few great 007 movies. This time Bond begins by courting the suicidal woman, Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), whose father Marc Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) suggests that Bond tame her like a wild stallion. The price for Bond's seduction of his daughter: information on his arch nemesis Blofeld (Telly Savalas). Bond agrees to date Tracy, which quickly earns him some information that leads to the Alps and to Blofeld, who is trying to get himself recognized as a count. Bond pretends to be a lineage expert, but his philandering ways land him in prison, to which 007 must then free himself and return to his lady, who — no wilting flower — decides to help rescue him. Directed by former editor Peter Hunt, On Her Majesty's Secret Service offers a very smart story and has enough of a plot to make the viewer invested in the characters — too often, Bond films whip from set-piece to set-piece. That noted, Hunt is also a marvelous action director, and the action sequences are well put together and (like all good action) are viscerally exciting. Alas, Lazenby's failure as the replacement Bond has tainted the picture, when Lazenby was simply a competent Bond and surely better than Roger Moore. But such has turned OHMSS into the Bond in the rough, a position that suits it rather well.

Fox/MGM presents their two-disc "Ultimate Edition" DVD of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, the original mono, and dubbed French audio. The Lowry restoration is impressive, and the film has never looked cleaner (though it has been noted their tweaks mess with the film's original aesthetic). Extras on the first disc include the previously released commentary with Peter Hunt and the cast and crew, while Disc Two includes Lazenby-focused featurettes "Casting On Her Majesty's Secret Service"(2 min.), "Press Day in Portugal" (2 min.), George Lazenby: In His Own Words," which covers the actor pre-release, shortly after the film came out and in 2002 (9 min.), the comprehensive "Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (42 min.), Desmond "Q" Llewelyn-specific "Inside Q's Lab" (11 min.), vintage featurettes "Shot on Ice" (10 min.), "Above It All" (6 min.), and "Swiss Movement" (8 min.), the film's trailer, five TV spots, three radio spots, audio interviews with Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, and Hunt, a stills gallery, and "007 Mission Control," which offers highlights of the franchise's repeated trademarks. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case. Available in MGM's "James Bond Ultimate Collection: Volume 3."

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