Wrap Shot: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Behind the scenes of this stylish 1969 James Bond adventure shot by Michael Reed, BSC.

David E. Williams

Released in 1969, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the sixth entry in the James Bond series, still ranks as one of the most action-packed 007 adventures to date, with Australian actor George Lazenby making his lone appearance as the British superspy.

In this shot, the athletic Lazenby makes his way hand-over-hand along the suspension cable of a gondola car. Camera operator Alec Mills hangs on a "flying ballet"-style rig for an excellent — if brief — close-up with a handheld Arriflex, the battery pack suspended behind him. The action is set 10,000' above sea level at the top of Mount Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps, the lair of Bond's felinophilic SPECTRE nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas). During the scene in question, Bond must successfully traverse the cable or be crushed by a set of massive gears.

The film's plot is typically fantastic, but features several human moments for 007. On vacation, he prevents a young woman, Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg), from committing suicide. Her crime boss father is impressed and wants Bond to protect Tracy by marrying her. In exchange, he offers to lead 007 to Blofeld. Bond initially agrees to the deal purely to fulfill his objective of killing Blofeld, but later he grows to love the girl who later dies at Blofeld's hand.

Directed by Peter R. Hunt, who edited the first four Bond installments and oversaw the second-unit work on You Only Live Twice, the film was shot in Panavision anamorphic by lighting cameraman Michael Reed, BSC. While the cinematographer's previous feature work included an eclectic collection of Hammer Studios productions (including Prehistoric Women, Rasputin The Mad Monk, Dracula: Prince of Darkness and The Gorgon), his experiences as director of photography on The Saint TV series (starring future Bond star Roger Moore) must have prepped him to render 007's supercool spy world. During his time on The Saint he also developed a working relationship with operator Mills, who would later serve behind the camera on several other Bond films, including Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only, Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me.

The production of On Her Majesty's Secret Service was an especially difficult one. Locations included Switzerland, Portugal and London, while stage work was done at 007's de facto HQ, Pinewood Studios. Unfortunately, the picture was a box-office disappointment and Lazenby walked away from the Bond role of his own accord forever prompting speculation by die-hard fans about the various ways in which the part could be played.

Reed, Mills and Hunt would collaborate again on the film Shout at the Devil.

You'll find our complete story on the film here. And an archive of AC’s 007 coverage here.

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