Well, dear reader and even more read dearers, thank you for taking the time to sit here once again at the Chateau Bond to enjoy some more espionagey home cooked goodness! The top three 007s have arrived and fortunately they are all fun Bond adventures. They also share one thing in common: a plethora of Ian Fleming material to be had in-between the gun barrel openings to the “James Bond Will Return” endings. Let’s jump right in!
One of the first places that I ever learned about movies was within the confines of MAD magazine. Back in their heyday, their parodies followed the plots rather closely. In fact, one could walk away knowing as much about a movie in the six pages of legendary Mort Drucker illustrations rather than sitting through the runtime. For instance, I know all about Love Story even though I’ve thankfully never seen a frame. This has proven a godsend for lazy, I mean busy, people like me who don’t have the time to wade through actual pop cultural events and instead would rather get the parody cliff notes so to speak.
One such movie like this, even though I have seen it many times hence, was For Your Eyes Only. The MAD parody was called “For Her Thighs Only” and it was brilliant before I ever saw the movie and was even better after I had seen the movie. The usual gang of idiots at MAD were fabulous at what they did and being a Bond fan I just ate this stuff up. When my favorite magazine at the time was taking the piss out of my favorite franchise, my attention was grabbed from the get-go.
If one looks at the end titles for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, you would see that For Your Eyes Only was originally intended to be next Bond outing. Of course in 1977 there was also a mega-hit that destroyed the box office, resulting in over 40 years’ worth of fully costumed nerds standing in mile long lines to see some of the worst movies ever committed to media. No, I don’t mean Smokey and the Bandit, silly! I mean Star Wars: Episode Nothing Because Lucas Made It Up As He Went Along. This galactic event put Moonraker in a new viable light for adaptation, so the producers went ahead with that one instead. For Your Eyes Only was then promised as the next Bond during Moonraker’s end credits.
Published in 1960, For Your Eyes Only was Ian Fleming’s James Bond short story collection. The book consisted of the stories “For Your Eyes Only”, “From a View to a Kill”, “Risico”, “Quantum of Solace”, and “The Hildebrand Rarity”. Parts of “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico” were used in the film version of For Your Eyes Only. The film A View to a Kill used only the title, as did Quantum of Solace. Licence to Kill used some story elements from “The Hildebrand Rarity”. The entire book has now been mined so much that the fans are always expecting just one of the unused Fleming titles to show up as the next Bond movie. Who wouldn’t flock to a theater to see a movie called The Hildebrand Rarity? Then again, people came to see a movie with the word “quantum” in the title, so what do I know?
Come to think of it, a section of the novel Live and Let Die was also used in For Your Eyes Only. This was the part where Bond and Melina are keelhauled behind a boat in order to use them as bait for sharks. Kind of makes one angry that this rather neat story element was shoved aside in 1973’s movie version of Live and Let Die so that there could be a longer boat chase with rednecks instead. Ahem.
Why the return to Fleming story elements? Even after Moonraker’s huge success at the box office, the producers wanted to go back to basics. For one, it was cheaper on the production budget. If you have Bond walking around an English cemetery instead of flying on a rocket to a space station, you can see where that would save millions for your budget. For another reason, the fan backlash towards the more outrageous elements of Moonraker was considerable enough to warrant a return to earth for 007. So For Your Eyes Only turned out to contain more espionage than had been seen in a Bond movie for a quite some time. And certainly amongst the Roger Bonds, it is the best script he ever saw.
This is fortunate because Roger actually has some wonderful range in this movie. From trying to convince Melina to not go out on revenge, to his moment placing flowers on his dead wife’s grave, to resolutely kicking a car over a cliff that contains the wounded main pain in the keister that had been killing people left and right in the movie, Roger never had more moments to truly act in his Bonds than he did here.
The leading lady was the loveliest one in the entire series. This is saying a lot, I know, given the amount of truly striking women that had been in the franchise. But I think that Carole Bouquet, who was a Chanel model as well, tops them all in the role of Melina Havelock. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that she is fully capable of taking care of herself, she’s believable in her quest for revenge since her parents were assassinated at the beginning of the movie, and she certainly adds to the plot and doesn’t take away from it. I know there are those that might disagree with me, but tough cookies! For me, Bouquet was a very memorable addition to the film.
Also on the cast list was Julian Glover as Kristatos, a seemingly benevolent collaborator of Bond’s that turns out to really be the main baddie. Rare for a Bond film that such a plot twist would occur that late in the movie, but it is much appreciated. By the way, Glover at one point was even considered to be a possible Bond. Glover was also AT-AT commander General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back and played turncoat baddie Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. This means that Glover managed the rare franchise hat trick of appearing in James Bond, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones! He should be commended for that. By the way, even Sean Connery himself only starred in two of those!
Playing a true ally of Bond even though he was set up to be otherwise is Fiddler on the Roof’s Topol in the role of Columbo. (And no, not that Columbo.) Topol brings a likeable zest to the role, very much in the mold of Pedro Armendáriz’s performance in From Russia With Love. Columbo’s mistress in the movie is played by Cassandra Harris. Despite meeting a quick end in the film, Harris brought about an important moment in the franchise’s history: she was married to Pierce Brosnan at the time. When he visited his wife during filming, the seed was planted and EON productions remembered Brosnan as a possible Bond candidate for the future.
Rounding out the baddie group are Michael Gothard as assassin and henchman Emile Leopold Locque and John Wyman as Erich Kriegler, an East German Olympian and KGB contact for Kristatos. Gothard is one of the most menacing foes ever to face Bond. I think he says absolutely nothing throughout the movie until he screams while he’s in the car that Bond kicks over the cliff. This was quite a moment for Roger, finally ending this very lethal and merciless killer in such a cold, but very welcome manner. Wyman is in the mold of the big super-strong dudes that always seem to hang around the main protagonist. Thankfully, they didn’t want to bring Jaws back for a third round, so I couldn’t be more pleased with Wyman in the super-strong bad guy role.
The plot consists of a British ship that accidentally sunk in the Ionian Sea. The ship was equipped with a computer that can communicate and track the Royal Navy’s fleet of submarines. Naturally there are many interested parties who would like this computer recovered and it is up to Bond to find the computer before the KGB does. Notice that I didn’t mention a single laser battle or a giant with metal teeth? Sounds a bit more grounded and spy-ish, right?
Along the way there are some amazing stunt sequences. The mountain climbing stunts are incredible, especially when the stuntman playing Bond goes into freefall. When he falls, it takes your breath away since you cannot believe that someone did that stunt. The skiing is top notch and the stunts surrounding a toboggan run are fantastic. Roger always seems to get his stunt doubles to ski every other movie and if they aren’t on the slopes, they’re underwater…and we get that in this movie too!
The pre-credits teaser where Bond is hanging on for dear life outside of a remote controlled helicopter is loads of fun too. Oh, and the guy controlling the helicopter? None other than (NAME REDACTED FOR LEGAL REASONS DUE TO KEVIN MCCLORY WANTING TO SUE IF EON USED THIS MAIN BAD GUY FROM THUNDERBALL IN ANOTHER MOVIE)! Let’s just say this guy’s name would rhyme with Snomeld and he is petting a large white cat during this event. You figure it out.
Another great moment is when Bond and Melina are trying to escape a bad guy’s villa and Bond is trying to get to his presumably souped-up Lotus. Before he gets to it one of the guards there tries to break-in by smashing the window and the car self-destructs! Bond is now forced to drive Melina’s crappy Citroen 2CV to evade capture and shows he doesn’t need gadgets to beat the bad guys. In fact, this movie is refreshingly gadget free through and through which is also in its favor.
The score by Rocky’s Bill Conti is quite good throughout and the title track sung by Sheena Easton was another chart hit for the Bond series. For those of us with Light-FM station-loving parents, we certainly heard this tune several thousand times over the years while they were running errands and we were trapped in the car. That being said, it is a great Bond theme.
One real negative in the film is the addition of Kristatos’ protégé Bibi Dahl, an ice skater played by Lynn-Holly Johnson. You could physically edit her right out of the story and lose nothing. It is also odd because since the movie is pretty tight elsewhere, why not trim the fat of even more characters and added scenes? The character is also far too young to be interested sexually in Roger Moore, and it ends up bordering on creepy since there is about a 30 year age difference between them. Thankfully Roger rebuffs her with the great line “You get your clothes on and I’ll buy you an ice cream.”
The back to basics spy movie worked wonders at the box office and For Your Eyes Only was a bona fide hit, raking in close to $200 million worldwide. For an almost $30 million budget, it is easy to see why getting more Bond product out was inevitable. Perhaps that success would translate into a different production getting a different Bond to refrain from saying never again when it came to the role…? (Didja see what I did there?)
As a final note regarding a Roger Moore Bond movie: they all don’t hold up that well over the subsequent years. Yes, there are moments that are quite good, For Your Eyes Only has plenty of them, but some of the other scripts did him no favors. Moore also aged rather noticeably over the 12 years he was Jim Bond. (Ironically, when Moore was cast in Live and Let Die, audiences enthused that someone younger than Sean Connery was found for Bond. Of course, Roger was three years older than Sean, but never mind.) In all fairness to Sir Roger, he was a very honest individual when it came to his exploits as Bond. He took it in stride and had a marvelous sense of humor about it. His autobiography and his books about Bond are light and fun reads that I wholeheartedly recommend.
For my money, For Your Eyes Only stands as being the best Bond Roger ever did and was a fine addition to the 007 series. The production went back to Fleming and it paid off tremendously. And now I’m going back to my well-worn MAD magazines to catch up with reading “The Spy Who Glubbed Me” and “Moneyraker”. I hope they don’t give away too much of the plot!