00 Saturdays Week #12 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Music Review

“We have all the time in the world.
If that’s all we have
You will find
We need nothing more.”

It’s time for another 00 Saturdays here at Film Seizure.  This week, I talk about the music to the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  Let’s get into the exciting and romantic music of the film that saw James Bond get married and become a widow in the same day.

Theme Song

Besides Dr. No, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the only other Bond film that has an orchestral theme song, and the third (including From Russia With Love) that would use an orchestral composition over the title sequence.

The reason for this was that writing a theme that matched the title of the movie proved really difficult for Bond music maestro John Barry.  Barry felt the only way he and his lyricist, Leslie Bricusse, could pull this off would be in a more over the top, Gilbert and Sullivan style of song which really wasn’t likely best for a Bond film.  Instead, director Peter Hunt allowed for the use of an orchestral song as heard below.

The incredibly upbeat and nearly rock and roll sound, thanks to the synthesized instruments that would soon be heard on several soundtracks in the 70s, is probably the very best instrumental theme to any Bond film outside the original “James Bond Theme” by Monty Norman.  It’s particularly dizzying and exciting.

All that said, there is technically an actual lyrical theme song for the film itself.  The love theme for James Bond and Tracy in the film is the incredibly beautiful and romantic “We Have All the Time in the World” sung by Louis Armstrong.  The song was written by Barry and Burt Bacharach’s usual collaborator Hal David.  It’s melodic and soft tones set the stage for Bond’s ultimate romance and plays as a theme to the couple’s relationship.

Here’s a true fact about yours truly.  In 1992, one of my brothers got married.  When he and my sister-in-law were searching for a song that would be used in the ceremony, I offered up “We Have All the Time in the World” and they selected it for my aunt to sing.  Now, my aunt doesn’t quite have Armstrong’s pipes, but I think we mostly thought it all turned out well.

Score

The score itself is often deemed one of the very, very best in all the Bond series.  While You Only Live Twice conjures up a lot of different feelings that allow me to say it is my pick as my favorite, I hardly disagree with those who find this to be especially good and perhaps the best.

The reason for the love is the wonderful mix of the harder “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” theme and the slower, and very weepy, version of “We Have All the Time in the World” that perfectly encapsulates the experience of the movie.  Just about every piece used in the movie is emotional.  Whether it is to pep you up for action, as with the piece “Battle at Piz Gloria”, or expressing the excitement of new love, Barry is in top form with this score.

Barry later said that he went as hard as he could with this score to help people remember that this is still Bond even though Connery was gone.  As previously mentioned, he employed synthesized instruments this time, and in particular the Moog synthesizer in the baseline of the theme and other pieces.

The Opening Title Sequence

Oh that Maurice Binder…

So, here’s your situation.  Sean Connery, who made James Bond James Bond and brought people to the theater in droves, is gone.  You have an absolute nobody inheriting the mantle and the series.  How do you hook people?

Answer: Make sure people can basically see outlines of erect lady nipples in silhouette.

Okay, sure.  But what else can you do?

Answer: Well, show stuff from the previous films to make sure people realize this is still every bit a Bond movie.

In all seriousness, this is an exciting opening.  Yes, yes, those girls are indeed nude.  But when you aren’t sure how people will take to the new guy, you do run a chance showing that old stuff that was well received, but in terms of making sure people understand this is still part of the same series and the same character, I like the idea.  You also sink into that awesome bassy, Moogy opening to the theme right off a solid joke about how the girl would never run away from “the other fellow.”  That’s a pretty good way to get things rolling.

As I mentioned, there is a rule about not wanting to show something from better movies in a movie that you aren’t sure will live up to the quality, but the Bond films were on the top of the world at the time.  I think you can get away with it here.  Besides, the Bond series is nothing if not full of tradition and being damn proud of it.

Join me next week for a look at the seventh Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever.

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