The controversial running time of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, clearly the longest Bond movie in the series. Editor John Glen had cut nearly 40 minutes of footage before he settled on the 140-minute cut, the length of which was kept a close secret from producers Broccoli and Saltzman.
“Eventually,” said director Peter Hunt, “I did have to tell them, and Harry was furious. I think they had told United Artists that the final print would be less than two hours long. Of course, with a longer running time, UA couldn’t get in as many screenings.
“So there was this big song and dance about how long the film was and that it had to be cut. I was eventually saved from a major edit on the film by George Pinches, the booking manager of the Rank Organization, who came to see the film in the little theater at Audley Square. Harry and Cubby told him to come and see them after the film.
“When it was over, George was very complimentary about the film’s potential. Before anyone could say a word, I said to him, ‘George, do you think I should cut the film anywhere? Is it too long?’ And he said, ‘Long? Long? How long have I been here, an hour and a half?’ And I told him that he had been in the theater for almost two and a half hours. He told us not to touch a foot. This, of course, was said right in front of the producers, which ended any controversy over whether the film was going to be reedited.
The running time, however, did create a problem when the film was prepared for its U.S. television debut. Because it was considered too long for the standard two-hour time slot, ABC, without consulting Eon Productions or Peter Hunt, decided to edit the film for a two-night run.
Instead of cutting sequences, which had been a hallmark of earlier Bond telecasts, the network actually added footage by running sequences twice, once at the beginning of Part Two, with a phony Bond narrator, and then in their proper position at the film’s conclusion. Thus, the film’s second part would begin with the narrator commenting on Bond’s icy predicament by saying. “I bet you wonder how I got into this situation.” It was a silly touch that angered fans throughout the United States.
Since then, ABC has chosen simply to run the film in a longer time slot. Since the Bond films of the 1980s have also been close to or over two hours long, guaranteeing an appropriate time slot for a Bond telecast is no longer a problem. After all, the Bond films have always been a ratings leader for the network.