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
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
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 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.
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
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)
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
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)
M's office, Bond is off Operation Bedlam
Ice car rally clip (again)
Draco's birthday party
Ice car rally clip (narration explains Bond
has fallen for Tracy)
Dinner at Piz Gloria