MI6 looks back on the controversial edit of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" that was broadcast by ABC TV in the USA thirty years ago...

The ABC TV Edit of O.H.M.S.S.
30th September 2006

When ABC secured the rights to broadcast the sixth James Bond film on US television, they faced a problem. How to squeeze a 140 minute film in to a 120 minute slot and 30 minutes of advertising? The solution they came to was to split the film in to two halves, each filling a 90 minute prime time slot. It was no coincidence that ABC had scheduled "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" to debut on TV during "sweeps week" when channel ratings help dictate the future advertising revenues for broadcasters, especially as the network was beating both NBC and CBS in the ratings war for the first time in its history.

Cutting Lazenby
Although nobody knows who came up with the idea to re-edit a James Bond film for television for the first time, or who was involved in the process, one thing is clear: it upset a lot of fans.

With all the Sean Connery films having been broadcast by ABC, and now Roger Moore was the cinematic James Bond, ABC just didn't know how to promote the film as George Lazenby's only outing as 007 - so much so, they did not mention his name in trailers and even billed the slot as "starring Telly Savalas".

Above: The ABC logo in 1976.


ABC Promo: "Although this James Bond film has been edited for television, parents may consider it unsuitable for some viewers and discretion is advised. Tonight! 007 is back in action. With Dianna Rigg and Telly Savalas... On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

In order to hook viewers in to a second two hour part some days later, ABC decided that the first half of the film was too slow paced and lacked action. The solution? Completely rearrange the flow of the film and add a narration track to explain the story in flashback.

Despite initial appearances, the edit by ABC was time consuming and cost a considerable amount compared to their usual budget for "The ABC Monday Night Movie" slot. The resequencing of the film was carefully thought out and the narration was written to explain the jumps between scenes, some of which also employed additional visual effects.

Part One
Part one was shown on ABC on Monday 16th February 1976 at 8:30pm and opened with the traditional gunbarrel sequence and then cut to 007 snapping on a pair of skis and his escape from Piz Gloria. A disembodied voice (supposedly 007 but not performed by Lazenby) explained the backstory. Part one continued to jump between scenes from the beginning and end of the film, each transition assisted by the narrator, ending in the dinner at Piz Gloria scene where 007 flirts with Blofeld's girls.

Part Two
The second part was broadcast on Monday 23rd February 1976 at 8:30pm, and opened - predictably - with a recap on what happened the previous week in part one. But for this part, the narrator was dropped and the order of scenes flowed consistently with the cinematic version. No reasons have been found as to why ABC changed tack in the second part. Was it too expensive to produce? Did the ratings of part one lower part two's significance for the network? Did they run out of time?

ABC continued the damage when they broadcast the film for the second time a couple of years later as they used the same edits but joined parts one and two together. It was not until the 1980's that ABC broadcast the cinematic version of OHMSS.

Above: Lazenby filming the cable car house escape. Viewers were left hanging for a whole week until part two was broadcast.

Bond fans will never know much more about the history of this anomaly in the Bond saga, unless someone working at ABC at the time steps up and confesses...

Approximate Scene Order (Part 1)

  • Gunbarrel
  • Bond's escape from Piz Gloria
  • 007 heads to the village
  • Rescued by Tracy (ice rink)
  • Car chase in Tracy's red Cougar
  • Suicide attempt at the beach
  • Opening credits
  • Phone call to London (Post Office)
  • Ice car rally
  • Bond arrives at hotel and sees Tracy's car
  • - continues in original cinematic order -
  • Bond is invited to go for a ride
  • Ice car rally clip (again)
  • Draco's warehouse
  • M's office, Bond is off Operation Bedlam
  • Ice car rally clip (again)
  • Draco's birthday party
  • Romantic montage
  • Ice car rally clip (narration explains Bond has fallen for Tracy)
  • Gumbold's office
  • Dinner at Piz Gloria