Once “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was the big outlier of the Bond franchise. It’s the first one without Sean Connery (before he returned for one more, “Diamonds Are Forever”). It’s the one with the not-very-liked George Lazenby. It was, till “Casino Royale,” the series’ longest entry. It's one of the ones without a song over the opening credits (but instead has a killer theme, which would be reused throughout the franchise). It’s the first one that was really violent. It’s the one with the dark, dark, dark ending. It’s also the one with Diana Rigg, part of the upper echelon of Bond Girls.
At the time it was a hit, but it made half the budget of its predecessor, “You Only Live Twice,” and Lazenby was only infrequently heard from again, mostly acting in films from his native Australia. Over the decades the tide has turned. It’s become the one the cool kids prefer, in part for the very reasons that make it stick out. Christopher Nolan is a fan. Steven Soderbergh called it “the only one worth watching repeatedly for reasons other than pure entertainment.” It’s certainly more beautiful and more energetically filmed than the rest, at least until Roger Deakins lensed “Skyfall,” garnering the franchise its first Best Cinematography Oscar nomination.
And it’s been influential. Whereas “Goldfinger” can be felt in any blockbuster that has anything to do with spies, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” essentially created the modern, tough, fast-cutting action movie. Peter R. Hunt, who had edited the first three Bonds then did second unit work on the following two, took over as director and sped up the edits and roughed up the violence. Fight scenes will slip into blurry, abstract viscera; cuts emphasize blows and falls. The eagle-eyed viewer will notice Hunt even sometimes cuts frames out of the middle of shots, speeding the action up even more. The editing turns even potentially silly set pieces into bouts of hectic intensity; surely having our hero and villain climactically battle it out via a bobsled race doesn’t sound so hot on paper, but it’s a top shelf Bond sequence in practice, painfully obvious rear projection insert shots and all.