Bond #12 – For Your Eyes Only

Today’s Bond movie used to be one of my favorites, but we’re breaking up. A bit. It’s…

. . .AS IAN FLEMING’S JAMES BOND 007: Roger Moore

SETUP: The St. Georges, a British spy vessel carrying a code machine called the ATAC, goes down somewhere off the coast of Albania. The ship’s location is unknown and the Russians drool at the thought of stealing the ATAC for their own wicked, presumably communist goals. When a Greek treasure hunter hired to retrieve the ATAC dies, Bond takes the job.

And his daughter.

BUT IN REALITY: The sinking was a brilliant bit of sabotage by evil smuggler and KGB double-agent Kristatos (Julian Glover.) He plans to capture the ATAC and sell it to the Russians, stalling for time by pitting Bond against a smuggling rival (Topol.) Bond discovers the trick too late and hunts Kristatos to his mountain retreat before the deal can be made. Kristatos dies in the assault, but the Russians arrive for the ATAC and Bond tosses it off the rock. “Detente.” he says with a smirk. (Surprisingly, the Russians don’t empty their clips into his face.)

VILLAINOUS DISFIGUREMENT: For Your Eyes Only was a reaction to the excess of Moonraker and is deliberately grounded in as much reality as they could find. Kristatos is a very straight, almost mundane villain and doesn’t have a traditional disfigurement.

Except for all that charisma.

Well, maybe. It’s quietly implied that Kristatos is a frustrated pedophile. He sponsors an adolescent skating prodigy named Bibi (also maybe his niece) and she seems to think he wants more than a handshake if she wins an Olympic medal. If she’s right, that’s a mental disfigurement. And also, ew.

THE MUSCLE: Michael Gothard plays Locque, the world’s most unconvincing assassin.

Mostly he assassinates tax accounts.

He’s gifted, yes, but James Bond battles Korean wrestlers with razor-rimmed hats and giants with metal teeth, not this guy and his little cup of tea. Locque makes it only partially through the film before Bond drops him off a cliff. There’s a brief replacement named Kriegler, but that guy falls off a cliff, too. Come to think of it, a whole lot of people die from cliff-falling in this movie. The mountains are littered with dead henchmen and ATAC machines.

BOND GIRL AND FEMME FATALE: Melina Havelock (the white hot Carole Bouquet,) lost her family to Kristatos assassins in the hunt for the ATAC and she spends the rest of the movie half-asleep in revenge. Yeah, it’s a flat performance. At one point she actually shrugs as Bond comforts her. In the final moments, she aims a crossbow at Kristatos and Bond gives her a misguided, completely hypocritical warning about the hollowness of revenge by quoting a pithy Chinese proverb, but then Topol shoots Kristatos and lets her off the hook anyway. Crackling character arc, guys.

The femme fatale is either the Countess (Cassandra Harris,) Columbo’s mistress who sleeps with Bond to learn more about him before she’s brutally murdered by Locque, or Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson,) the 15-year old skater who desperately wants Bond as a notch on her skates. It depends on your definition, I guess.

“PAY ATTENTION, 007”: A perfectly good Q scene is ruined by this thing.

It’s called the Identigraph, it’s a souped-up police sketch computer, and it’s ridiculous. Other than the Identigraph, For Your Eyes Only a gadget-light film.

BOND’S BEST ONE-LINER: “Now put your clothes on and I’ll buy you an ice-cream.” Bond’s final answer to Bibi’s attempted seduction.

MOST EMBARRASSING CULTURAL MOMENT: Margaret Thatcher became British Prime Minister in 1979, so the Bond team couldn’t resist giving her a “cameo,” played by professional impersonator Janet Brown. Thatcher’s scene is the silliest in the film. She spends most of it carrying on a conversation with a horny parrot, stopping only to chastise her husband for stealing a cookie. For Your Eyes Only is definitely the most straight-faced spy movie in the Roger Moore era, but little bits like this and the pre-credits sequence (see below) are eye-rollers.

Somewhere, a writer still laughs himself to sleep about this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: This film marks the last appearance in the series for archvillain Blofeld, even though he’s never named on-screen. In the pre-credits sequence, Bond visits his wife’s grave (the first time a Moore movie acknowledges her at all) and winds up dodging an assassination attempt from a bald villain stroking a white cat. The sequence ends with Bond dropping the villain into a smokestack, never to be seen again.

The scene is a petty bit of revenge from the Bond producers against writer Kevin McClory. Back in the 50s, McClory worked with Ian Fleming on a script for a proposed James Bond TV series that never came to be. Fleming, for some reason, decided that script would make a good novel and turned it into Thunderball, taking sole credit for the work. McClory sued and the result, decades later, was that McClory had the rights to all screen adaptations of Thunderball and the characters in it… including Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The penalty for copyright-infringement is severe in England.

McClory planned to remake Thunderball as Never Say Never Again (the unofficial Bond movie that you won’t find on my countdown.) As a preemptive strike, the Bond team decided to officially kill off Blofeld in the Roger Moore Bond series, but had to do so without officially putting Blofeld into the movie. Blofeld’s final words are “I’ll buy you a delicatessen. In stainless steel!!” That’ll show him!

OVERALL: This movie is a fine example of Bond’s potential when freed from all the hijinks. For Your Eyes Only is going for realism, and although I wouldn’t say the film totally succeeds, it’s a welcome effort after the balls-out surreality of the late 70s films.

I used to say that this was the best of the Roger Moore Bond movies for primarily that reason. I held on to this movie like a piece of dry fucking land in on ocean of slapstick, but I’m here to make a confession. Yes, For Your Eyes Only can be a little dull. Actually, it can be a lot dull.

The best action sequence involved Bond climbing a rock.

There’s a reason Roger Moore movies trended towards comedy, and it’s because he’s very good at his shtick. Moore knows how to deliver a punchline, do a prim little double-take in a risky (or risque) situation, and he can hold a gun. But serious acting? Actual gravity in the face of global stakes? That’s not why you hire him. Moore doesn’t smolder or seethe. A great Roger Moore movie is built like an amusement park just for him, where he’s never really in danger and every setup is custom built to extract his restrained little grin. That formula spilled out of control in Moonraker, obviously, but For Your Eyes Only overcorrects and drains the fun out of his Bond, and that’s not the right answer either. This one is a pretty good movie, but it’s just not quite there. Fortunately, at least two other Moore films got the balance just right. We’ll be hearing from them soon.

Next up, we begin the Top Ten!

The James Bond Project

10. ???

12. For Your Eyes Only

13. The World is Not Enough

14. Live and Let Die

15. Licence to Kill

16. The Living Daylights

17. You Only Live Twice

18. Quantum of Solace

19. Die Another Day

20. The Man with the Golden Gun

21. Diamonds are Forever

22. A View to a Kill

23. Moonraker

  1. #1 by Jason on 03/22/2011 - 9:15 PM

    A lot of people call this the best of Roger Moore’s films, but I’ve always hated it. I don’t mind the fact that it is toned down, I understand why they wanted to after Moonraker, and it really could have worked. I agree with you that it can be dull, but my main problem with it is that it is utterly pointless.

    The film was actually written in brainstorming sessions where they just tried to come up with cool scenes and situations for Bond to find himself in (keel dragging, attacked by hockey players, etc) and it wasn’t until they had written about half the film that they decided they should come up with an actual plot to tie it all together. So they came up with a MacGuffin in the form of the ATAC and called it a day.

    If you actually try to follow the plot, it is full of holes, and as I said before pointless. The biggest problem with the film is that if the worst case scenario happens and Kristatos does give the ATAC to General Gogol, there will not be the doomsday scenario that the Brits are worried about. Throughout the series Gogol has been an ally of sorts to the West and Bond, going so far as to present Bond with the Order Of Lenin (Bond is absent due to a shower date with Tanya Roberts) in A View To A Kill. He acts as a voice of reason on the Russian side (as in Octopussy), hence the reason why the situation isn’t all that dire, and he doesn’t simply kill Bond after he destroys the ATAC.

    I think that scene in which Bond destroys the ATAC sums up the whole film. Afterward Gogol is not mad, he smiles, shrugs, then just gets back in his helicopter as if it didn’t really matter anyway. Which makes one wonder that if this piece of technology were so unimportant, then why are so many people dead and why have I spent a couple of hours watching these people fight over it? A Bond film should not be able to be resolved simply by tossing something that looks like an old car stereo onto a rock.

    For Your Eyes Only is basically just a collection of chase scenes and a few fights tied together with a generic plot that really has no serious consequences. The plot is so generic that even after multiple viewings I sometimes forget exactly what it is Bond is after. If in the end they don’t care about the device, why should we? All that is accomplished over the course of this film is that the world is rid of one Greek smuggler and his nerdy looking henchman.

    • #2 by thehollywoodprojects on 03/23/2011 - 3:25 PM

      “I think that scene in which Bond destroys the ATAC sums up the whole film. ”

      See, this is one reason I love this movie. Yes, at times it’s a little dull. Yes, the action pieces are pasted together from a jot list (as were most Bond films and, incidentally, North by Northwest), but there’s a hint of political subversion to this plot that I think was sorely needed when it was released. So the Russians and the British are fighting and murdering over an ultimately meaningless piece of technology, just to say that they have it and the other side does not? A story like that is way more representative of the Cold War than any of the other nuclear scares or big Russian menaces found in films at the time. FYEO was way more Cold War than, say, Red Dawn or Rocky IV. There was a growing realization throughout the 80s that the Cold War was mostly about posturing and competition more than any actual ideological differences, and this movie sums that right up. I think the film is _meant_ to make you wonder what the fuss was all about, which is a message that has a bit less impact than it may have at the time. Why is Gogol at odds with Bond? He shouldn’t be. The two sides have more in common with one another then they’ll admit, but it’s all the people stuck in the middle that are bringing them to the brink of war. Octopussy has a similar message.

      But, yeah, FYEO is a real mixed bag. I enjoy it for Topol and the underwater sequences and the rock climb and that attempt at realism (this is a movie that could actually be remade as a Daniel Craig vehicle without losing too much), but there’s an awful lot to NOT like about it as well. Hence it’s position in the middle of the pack.

%d bloggers like this: