On Her Majesty's Secret Service appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. If you expect this transfer to look great, you’ll find what you anticipated here.
Colors excelled. The movie featured a broad and dynamic palette, tones that the DVD rendered well. The hues always seemed lively and rich. Blacks also looked deep and dense, while shadows were clear and appropriately opaque. Even normally troublesome “day for night” sequences came across with acceptably definition in this smooth transfer.
Very few problems related to sharpness. I noticed some light edge enhancement, and that occasionally meant wider shots appeared slightly tentative. Don’t worry about that too much, though, as the majority of the flick was crisp and concise. Shimmering and jagged edges failed to materialize, and source flaws were totally absent. All in all, the flick offered excellent visuals.
Similar satisfaction stemmed from the audio of Service. Remixed from the original monaural stems – which also appeared on the DVD – the flick boasted new Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Although the DTS mix was a little louder than the Dolby version, otherwise I felt the pair seemed virtually identical. Compensate for the volume imbalances and I doubt you’ll find other differences.
Both soundfields opened up matters well. Service wasn’t one of the most action-oriented Bond flicks, so don’t expect the tracks to feature audio as expansive as some of the flick’s siblings. That said, it broadened the spectrum well and created a nice sense of atmosphere. Music boasted excellent stereo imaging, and the various effects received good localization and integration. These moved to the surrounds well when necessary. The back speakers didn’t offer a ton of material, but when appropriate, they played a useful role in the proceedings. Speech also demonstrated good localization when logical, and some of the speech emanated from the appropriate spot in the surrounds as well.
Audio quality was quite good given the age of the source recordings. Music fared best of all, as the score was wonderfully lively and bold. Effects suffered from a smidgen of distortion but usually seemed more than acceptably clear and accurate. Speech was also well-recorded and natural. The lines never showed any edginess as they always seemed crisp and easily intelligible. This was an impressive pair of multi-channel soundtracks.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 special edition? Both demonstrated obvious improvements. The original DVD competed with Dr. No for the “honor” of Ugliest Bond Visuals, so this transfer looked substantially better. The UE was cleaner, bolder and more detailed. The audio also showed less distortion and greater range. The new DVD offered a much stronger presentation of the film.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start 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, optical effects cameraman Robin Browne, 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 – 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.
As we shift to DVD Two, the Declassified: MI6 Vault presents five elements. *Casting On Her Majesty’s Secret Service lasts a whopping 96 seconds as it shows silent footage of Lazenby and Diana Rigg as they meet the press. Producer Michael Wilson narrates this fairly dull material.
During the 91-second *Press Day in Portugal, we get similar footage. Marketing director Anne Bennett narrates the material as we see shots from an elaborate rehearsal. It’s a little more interesting than “Casting” but not by much.
For insights from the lead actor, we move to *George Lazenby: In His Own Words. This nine-minute and 27-second piece comes with an intro from Wilson as he leads us into interview snippets recorded with Lazenby at various stages in the Bond process. We hear from him October 7, 1968, February 7, 1969, and February 4, 1970. This before/during/after format works well, especially since you can see Lazenby’s attitude sour as time passes. A few modern remarks from November 11, 2002, finish this interesting piece.
Two more archival elements finish this area. *Shot On Ice presents an “original 1969 Ford promo film”. It runs nine minutes, 45 seconds and focuses on the car chase filmed in chilly climes. It offers a good look behind the scenes at the techniques required for this challenging sequence. It suffers from some fluffy commentary, but the footage from the set makes it worthwhile.
Lastly, *Swiss Movement gives us an “original 1969 featurette”. The seven-minute and 34-second clip looks at general notes from the production with an emphasis on shooting in Switzerland. We get a few comments from Lazenby, Leech and Rigg. As with “Ice”, the info provided isn’t particularly memorable, but the behind the scenes footage ensures we find something useful.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:43). “Locations” (4:19) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service. As expected, it mixes archival elements, movie clips and interviews. We hear from Hunt, Reed, Lamont, Mills, Leech, Baker, Scoular, Armstrong, Graydon, Raven, Browne, Glen, Bogner, Lazenby, Rigg, stuntman Alf Joint, UA publicity Don Smolen, former UA executive David Picker, associate producer Stanley Sopel, optical effects artist Cliff Culley, special effects supervisor John Stears, longtime Bond producer Michael Wilson, and producer’s wife Dana Broccoli.
This 41-minute and 40-second 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 then I 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 25 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. We find remarks from Glen, Mills, Stears, former Eon Productions VP Marketing Jerry Juroe, director Lewis Gilbert, actors Kristina Wayborn and Roger Moore, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyck, and special effects supervisor John Richardson.
It 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, as 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 41 seconds and is mainly notable for the wonderful raw footage of the various stunts.
The usual assortment of promotional materials pop up in the Ministry of Propaganda. 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. This fleshes out the set in a decent way and finishes things well.
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. The DVD features excellent picture and audio as well as an interesting collection of extras. While I may not endorse this as tip-top Bond, I think the DVD merits your attention.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yes, without a doubt. The UE gives us radically stronger picture and audio quality. The original DVD looked and sounded fairly poor, so fans will definitely want this much-improved presentation in their collections.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”. This five-movie set also includes From Russia With Love, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only, and GoldenEye.
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