On Her Majesty's Secret Service appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. One oddity: when the movie starts, the United Artists logo screen is in a 1.85:1 ratio, but it goes to 2.35:1 as soon as the film itself begins. Weird!
Also strange: the surprisingly poor quality of this transfer. Arguably the most problematic of all the Bonds, Service suffered from a lot more weaknesses than expected. Prime among these were the nearly-constant examples of source defects. Specks, flecks and other marks came along with virtually every element of the film. Oh, those speckles! It's like they threw a speckle convention and all of them RSVPed! These created frequent distractions and were significantly heavier than expected.
Sharpness was another issue. Close-ups and two-shots seemed acceptably well-defined, but the many wide takes came across as noticeably soft. Some of this came from the examples of edge enhancement that pervaded much of the film; those haloes gave wide shots an indistinct sense of delineation. Jagged edges created no concerns, but I noticed a bit of shimmering at times.
Colors varied. Some scenes offered reasonably good vivacity, but more than a few seemed strangely bleary and messy. There was no real consistency to the hues, though they came across as flawed more often than they excelled. Blacks were dark and firm, but low-light shots seemed lackluster and tended to appear moderately dense. This transfer was a real disappointment.
Donít expect much better from the mediocre monaural audio of Service. The main problem was a vaguely bland quality that affected all aspects of the track. Happily, the mix avoided many signs of true distortion, but the entire production seemed colder and harder than it should. Dialogue largely remained intelligible, though I had a difficult time with a few lines and felt speech often seemed distant and thin. Both music and effects were clear, but all parts of the track lacked warmth and depth. Neither ever was particularly lively or distinctive. Ultimately, the audio seemed passable for it period, but nothing more than that.
Time for my standard Bond audio warning: don't turn up the volume on your receiver until after the extremely loud - and annoyingly unskippable - MGM promo that appears right after you start the DVD. This thing has scared many an unwary viewer - and probably blown a speaker or two - so be warned. Message to MGM: turn down the volume and let us skip these stupid things!
As we shift to the extras, we open with an audio commentary. Narrated by Bond
historian John Cork, we find remarks from director Peter Hunt, set decorator Peter Lamont, editor/second unit director John Glen, director of photography Michael Reed, camera operator Alec Mills, production designer Syd Cain, stunt double Vic Armstrong, skiing camera operator Willy Bogner, composer John Barry, stunt arranger George Leech, vehicle procurer Fred Wilmington, stuntman Richard Graydon, aerial photographer Robin Brown, additional dialogue writer Simon Raven and actors Lois Maxwell, George Baker and Angela Scoular. In addition to identifying the multitude of speakers, Cork also provides a wealth of background information on the film and the participants.
I was surprised by the lack of more actors - particularly by the absence of Lazenby, as he's been interviewed a lot about the film Ė but still found the commentary to work well. Hunt is engaging and informative, so he makes for a fine participant and the track provides a lot of good details about the movie. The others add a great deal of fine information as well, and this adds up to a rich, informative commentary.
Next is the program Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service. This 42-minute documentary offers a wonderfully frank and solid view of the creation of the film. A variety of aspects are examined, from the search for a new Bond - which happily features the TV ad from which the producers knew Lazenby - to a number of issues that affected the shoot. We see wonderful coverage of the stunts, especially through some fantastic rough footage of Willy Bogner's skiing. Even various controversies - such as Lazenby's alleged "attitude" - receive consideration, though not full; these issues are glossed over quite a bit, but I was still pleased to see some recognition of them. I've enjoyed all of the Bond documentaries, but this is one of the best.
One side issue: I sure wish someone would definitively indicate how to pronounce "Lazenby". I'd always assumed it was "LAZZenby", but not too long ago I often heard it as "LAYZenby" and took that as correct. Well, it's mixed up all through these supplements, with neither pronunciation dominant. Frankly, I have the feeling "LAYZenby" is correct, but who knows? Just another horrible dilemma to weigh down my pathetic life!
Another video program appears as well. It's called Inside Q's Lab and last 10 minutes and 20 seconds. This is essentially a tribute - and an appropriate one - to Desmond Llewelyn. It mainly provides nice anecdotal interviews with Llewellyn and many of his co-workers over the years and makes for a nice salute to the man's work. It probably should have appeared on the DVD of The World Is Not Enough; unlike the tribute to Terence
Young on Dr. No, there's no logical reason for it to be attached to this film, especially since "Q" barely appears in Service. I was happy to see it nonetheless; I was getting a little concerned that the Bond folks would let Llewelyn's passing go essentially unnoticed.
Above It All is another featurette. This one mainly focuses on Johnny Jordan, the aerial cameraman who worked on the film. Obviously created at the same time as the film itself, it runs for five minutes and 30 seconds and is mainly notable for the wonderful raw footage of the various stunts.
The usual assortment of promotional materials pop up on the DVD of Service. We find an interesting theatrical trailer, one that plays up the fact this is a "different" Bond. Five TV ads appear, though none are terrible compelling, and three radio spots as well; none of those were too fascinating, though I did note the film's apparent catch-phrase: "Far Up Far Out Far More!"
In addition, we get four "open-ended" radio interviews. These kinds of productions provide recorded answers to questions; an "interviewer" receives a listing of the questions, which they ask and then play back the prerecorded responses so it seems that they're interviewing the subjects. "Interviews" for Lazenby, Hunt, Rigg and Savalas appear. Interestingly, only the ones for Lazenby and Hunt come in their true "open-ended" format, which means we just hear the responses and not the questions; the other two include the queries as asked by some reporter. I preferred the latter, just because it was frustrating not to hear the questions in the other two.
Finally, the DVD ends with the Photo Gallery, an area that provides eight different subsections of stills with a total of 130 photos in all. I normally don't much care for these kinds of features, but either they're growing on me or MGM have just done a good job with these, because I enjoyed these much more than usual. I found it very interesting to check out all the fun candid shots from the set.
As usual, Service tosses in a fine booklet. MGM make some great booklets and this one is no exception. I wish all the studios would produce paper materials as informative and compelling as MGM's booklets.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is possibly the most obscure of the "official" Bonds - due to the presence of one-shot George Lazenby as 007 - but doesn't deserve that status. I don't agree with fans who place it among the very best of the Bonds, but I do find it to be intriguing and enjoyable. Unfortunately, which this release boasts good extras, it suffers from problematic picture and audio. This is a disappointing DVD for a good movie.