Preparing to see a film like No Time To Die can be a bit of a marathon, depending on how many of the James Bond movies you feel are essential viewings before any new entry. With Daniel Craig’s fifth and final film in his arc of continuity, you would think that at the very least, you’d only need to watch Casino Royale through Spectre and call it a day. I totally agree with that assessment, but there’s one classic 007 movie I’d throw into that pile for good measure. Without spoilers, I can absolutely tell you that if you want a better appreciation for No Time To Die, you need to watch the 1969 classic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
I don’t make this recommendation due to some sort of secret trap door that helps connect classic and modern James Bond canon. If you’re looking for evidence that the “James Bond is a codename” theory is correct, this isn’t the place to be. However, actor George Lazenby’s solo foray into the world of 007 is an absolutely essential watch for those about to embark on No Time To Die’s landmark journey. The main reason being that director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s film references this movie quite a bit in its telling.
Most notably, and in the most public piece of knowledge we have so far, Hans Zimmer’s No Time To Die score has been proven to use music from the film as crucial mood setting pieces. In the recently released track “Matera,” James Bond and Madeleine Swann’s on-screen romance has found itself using the song “We Have All The Time In The World” as a crucial building block. Acting as the love theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the Louis Armstrong version of the song also makes an appearance on the film’s soundtrack, with John Barry's main theme also being quoted in the mix.
Everything from the opening title sequence to the musical cameos brings the legacy of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service into the picture when it comes to No Time To Die. But another big reason to add this still underrated section of James Bond canon to your preparations for Daniel Craig’s big sendoff is because of the risks it took. Which was already a risky prospect, as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service landed back when the world first saw its first new James Bond debut.
For a series that was making a name for itself in terms of high-flying adventure, exaggerated gadgets and pithy one-liners, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service represented a huge swing for the James Bond franchise. The gadgets were scaled back and even the evil scheme of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played this time by Telly Savalas) was pretty simplified. The greatest difference, however, was the fact that for the first time in 007 history, James Bond actually fell in love and got married.
Providing the first emotionally epic storyline in the James Bond cinematic franchise, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would see itself as a gold standard for continuity in the ensuing history of the franchise. While most Bond movies didn’t follow a set story and barely referenced other entries unless it was in passing, the tragic ending of this film found itself inspiring some of the best movies that would follow. For years to come, movies like the Roger Moore-fronted For Your Eyes Only would directly reference Tracy Bond’s untimely death and the vengeance it inspired in her jaded husband.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a movie that was so influential in the world of James Bond that eventually you could see its influence felt in Daniel Craig’s own debut, 2006’s Casino Royale. Reinventing the character as a cold and calculating killer who also knew how to love, from the very first adventure Craig’s 007 went out on, we knew this was going to be a different version of Bond than what we were used to.
It’s only fitting that at the end of Daniel Craig’s James Bond tenure, No Time To Die brings back the spirit of bold decision-making that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service undertook so long ago. Paying tribute to an initially rejected classic that’s built itself a steady fanbase over the decades, the Craig era couldn’t have picked a better way to go out. Even George Lazenby himself seems to be pleased with that distinction, as seen in his reaction post after viewing No Time To Die himself:
While you may not have all the time in the world to see the entire classic run of James Bond films, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is absolutely essential to really appreciating No Time To Die. UK audiences will see the 25th James Bond movie opening on September 30, while US moviegoers will have to wait a little longer, as its domestic debut is slated for October 8. Should you choose to watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, you can currently find the film streaming for free on Pluto TV; in addition to being available for rental through most major digital retailers.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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