Composer of the month Franchises John Barry month

Soundtrack review: James Bond – On her majesty’s secret service (John Barry – 1969)

ohmss

“On her Majesty’s secret service” is one of the most special and talked about Bond movies. It’s the only one where Australian model George Lazenby played the part of the famous agent and it is one of the most polarizing movies in franchise history. Many dismissed it because of the main actor and his lack of pull and legacy. Just as many though consider that this movie and Lazenby’s portrayal are the closes to Ian Felming’s vision of the character. This Bond is big, funny, almost cartoonish and very impressive in the fight scenes. He has that larger than life attitude and presence that the books suggested and he never takes himself too seriously. It is also the James Bond movie where our hero gets (briefly) married and the end is one of the most famous ever. All this plus a plot in the Alps at a remote cabin and all the spectacular snow scenes make for a very enjoyable watch. That’s why I can’t wait for “Spectre” this year, I have a feeling it will be just as spectacular. I am on team “OHMSS” and it is one of my most watched Bond movies. The stark contrast between the whole movie and the ending and the disbelief which still takes me over every time I watch it are priceless.

The music of “On her majesty’s secret service” again had something different from the other movies, a main vocal theme which didn’t include the title of the movie (and I can imagine why). Instean, John Barry wrote “We have all the time in the world”, the last song the great Louis Armstrong would ever record. The score benefits from a remastered / complete treatment which added 9 cues to the original recording. This is the version I am reviewing here as part of “John Barry month”.

On to the score, you can tell the tone of the story and the irony of this Bond from the title of the first cue from John Barry’s score: “This never happened to the other fella”. This line was spoken right at the beginning and was a smart quip from Lazenby at the critics who still missed Sean Connery. The rendition of the Bond theme in the main titles is different and quieter, more melodic than usual. I enjoy it very much. When I listen to the lush and smooth “Try” I can picture Lazenby’s large smile and I am waiting for one of his lines.

As usual, the introduction of instrumental parts from the main theme throughout the score is brilliant. Just listen to the sweet and dreamy “Journey to Draco’s Hideaway”. Do you picture a fire place? You don’t? Well good, because a trombone motif comes along and restarts this cabin which helps us climb to the top of the mountain where all the action will take place.

It is so hard not to be charmed by John Barry’s music… for me, there is no composer like him. He’s the most romantic film music artist and his magic wand makes the orchestra play in an enchanting manner. I listen to “Bond and Draco” and just dream or beautiful things. Yes, the main theme cuddles in the arms of this cue as well and meets a piece of the James Bond theme there. Cues like this one are the reason I count John Barry as one of my favorite composers. I find the same synchrony between the two wonderful melodies in “Bond settles in”.

“Journey to Blofeld’s hideaway” is as charming and fresh as a bright winter day where the virgin snow invites you for a walk even if you feel sorry for tampering with that landscape. But the sky is blue and the sun is shining and everything sparkles so you’re off to create a lovely memory. The heavy brass instruments are like an echo and would play the part of some distant houses you see in that scenery you just walked in.

John Barry’s score for “On her Majesty’s secret service” is one of the few that stay very true to the atmosphere of the movie. Usually the movies may be chaotic and the score would have its own rhythm but in this case, the music mirrors the mood of the film. The fun plot about the brainwashed girls as killers, welcoming Bond as one of them and his integration there, I remember it all just by listening to the score. This will always be one of my favorite Bond scores. It’s just an enriching and pleasant experience to listen it once again and I think you should not miss this one.

What do you think of “On your majesty’s secret service”?

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 58 / 76

Album excellence: 75%

Highlights:

Main Theme – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Journey To Blofeld’s Hideaway

Over And Out

Battle At Piz Gloria

We Have All The Time In The World – James Bond Theme

Journey To Draco’s Hideaway

Bond And Draco

Bond Settles In

Bond Meets The Girls

Sir Hillary’s Night Out (Who Will Buy My Yesterdays?)

Blofeld’s Plot

Bobsled Chase

 

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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