Today’s entry is the 14th Bond movie, and the last starring Roger Moore. It’s…
. . .AS IAN FLEMING’S JAMES BOND 007: Roger Moore
SETUP: While adventuring in Russia, James Bond uncovers a microchip that links the commies to stolen British technology. The thefts began sometime after Zorin Industries joined the production team, so Bond sets his attention on the company and its enigmatic CEO, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken).
BUT IN REALITY: Zorin is a psychotic who wants to cheat at horse racing and conquer the world microchip market by flooding Silicon Valley, in that order. Bond stops Zorin from causing a massive earthquake and fights the billionaire on the Golden Gate Bridge’s suspension cables, ultimately dropping Zorin to his death in the bay.
VILLAINOUS DISFIGUREMENT: Zorin has no obvious disfigurements, but all is not well upstairs. Through the course of the film, we learn that Zorin is a kind of Nazi construction, a super soldier with extreme intellect and matching mental insanity. There are references to concentration camp experiments and Zorin’s personal doctor is a Joseph Mengele type, but the movie doesn’t bother to elaborate on how Zorin wound up working as a KGB agent funneling microchips to the Motherland. Nothing is clearly explained, and the whole premise feels tacked on simply for flavor.
THE MUSCLE: Max Zorin has a loyal army of goons manning his organization, but they’re all afterthoughts when compared to May Day (Grace Jones), a fierce warrior-woman who strides through the film devouring all scenery in her path. Whatever else she may be, May Day is an effective killer. She’ll spear a witness with a poisoned fishing lure moments before base jumping off the Eiffel Tower. She’ll fold herself up in the backseat of a car to garrotte an unsuspecting victim or two. She’s always willing to go the extra mile, that is until Zorin betrays her in his collapsing mine. After that, she gladly gives her life to save San Francisco and Bond, redeeming herself at the end. That is how redemption works, right?
BOND GIRL AND FEMME FATALE: May Day also takes the femme fatale role, jumping into bed with Bond for no better reason than contractual obligations. The Bond Girl is Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), an improbable heiress/geologist who regurgitates information about rock formations and fault lines as if her dialogue were being fed to her via earpiece. No sparks here, either. In fact, the only person in the movie Bond seems to get along with at all is Zorin, and they try to kill each other. It’s that kind of movie.
“PAY ATTENTION, 007”: I feel bad for Q. He shows up at the top of the movie while Bond is briefed on the microchips, but doesn’t offer Bond any new, fancy gadgets. The only thing he has with him is a tiny robot which he claims is the next generation of spy technology. It’s cute, but nobody in the room seems to care. I suddenly thought of how lonely it must be down in Q Branch. Lonely enough to put a little face on your spy machines.
MOST EMBARRASSING CULTURAL MOMENT: As you may have gathered, this movie is all about Grace Jones, a model and professional personality who was very famous for about 16 minutes in the mid-80s. There’s nothing inherently wrong with her schtick, but what she brings to the table is so exotic and distinct that she feels crammed into the film, a piece that doesn’t quite fit.
BOND’S BEST ONE-LINER: “There’s a fly in his soup.” – Bond can’t resist the pun after his contact is killed via poison-tipped butterfly lure.
WORTH MENTIONING: The movie opens with a disclaimer that the name “Zorin” isn’t referring to anyone in particular. The filmmakers found out too late that there really is a Zoran company based out of California. This is the only Bond movie to have a disclaimer. . . The movie opens with Bond fleeing a team of Russian ski troops by snowboarding down a mountain. This scene is often credited with sparking national interest in snowboarding. . . Dolph Lundgren makes his film debut here as a silent KGB agent. He was dating Grace Jones at the time and happened to be on set when the director needed an extra body.
OVERALL: If you’ve ever listened to a train’s roar slowly die as it rolls into its final stop, you’ve got some idea of why this film never came together. Roger Moore was 57 years old when he played James Bond for this, his seventh and final time. He was too old for the part. He knew it. We knew it. (As the Kids in the Hall might say, “Dogs knew it.”) Worse, the Bond formula itself appeared to be out of steam or new ideas, still lurching forward from sheer momentum and little else.
The casting of Christopher Walken as Zorin was meant to give the film a spark, and for his part, it works. Zorin is memorable, even if the role is underwritten and the film lifeless. He received high praise at the time, and rightly so, but even he can’t raise the plot from the dead. Bond has no chemistry with either of his leading ladies, the story is uninspired (and partially lifted from Goldfinger), and all involved knew a shakeup was coming. Moore officially retired from the role after the premiere, as did Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny.) By the time James Bond returned, he would be played by a new actor inheriting a lot of old problems. But that’s another film.
The James Bond Project
22. A View to a Kill