Sunday, September 15, 2013

Best of Bond IV...Old Bond

Bond, Part IV

This post has been slow in coming, probably in part because these are the dismal years.  Let's face it: Roger Moore stayed with the role too long.  By the end of his run he was 57 and looking it.

So...the late Moore films.  A mixed bag - not uniformly bad but only one of the bunch is actually good in my opinion.  We last left the series with Moonraker, a film that has not aged well.  Then there was For Your Eyes Only, a film that has aged well.  And then we have the slow decline into Octopussy and the face plant known as A View to a Kill.

I think when I started this series I may have said that Never Say Never Again would be tucked in with the two Timothy Dalton films.  While that would partition the films more evenly, I think it's more natural to throw it in with the Old Roger films, since it was contemporaneous with Octopussy and has many of the same flaws (in addition to its own unique flaw!)

While the previous round of Roger Moore films featured super villains in hidden mega-complexes threatening to destroy the world, the later films eased up a bit on those cliches.  Still a lot of gadgets, though.  And a lot of camp.  Almost no concern for realism.

Let's recall the criteria in this series of evaluations again:

  • Bond – who the actor is, how good he is, and what he brings to the role
  • the Villain- Mr. Big, Scaramanga, etc.  I judge the films on how compelling the villain is.
  • the Bond Women – some films have few, some have many, but I’m pretty sure all have at least one. The quality ranges from Denise Richards’s absurd nuclear physicist to, of course, Mrs. Bond herself, not to mention Pussy Galore
  • the Good Guys – M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix Leiter in his many incarnations and other sidekicks
  • the Henchmen on the other side like Jaws, Oddjob, and Nick-Nack.
  • the gadgets – not just judging how neat the gadgets are, but whether they were unwisely allowed to take over the film (as often happened with the later Roger Moore filims)
  • whatever else I happen to think of

And now we move to

For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only is nominally based on a couple of short stories from the collection of the same name.  At this point in the film series, the Broccolis has run out of full-length Bond stories to use so they had to make do with what they could.

The film starts with a scene on the St. Georges, a British surveillance boat disguised as a fishing vessel in the Ionian Sea.  Below deck, we see an officer starting his shift in a high tech surveillance room.  Above deck, we see the sailors dragging some debris to the ship.  Which turns out to be a mine!  The mine explodes, tearing a huge hole in the hull, and the ship floods and sinks before the intelligence officer can activate the auto-destruct.

Turns out this ship has some kind of fancy tracking system known at ATAC, based, no doubt, on the AWACS system, except underwater instead of in an airplane.

So there's a neat piece of high tech equipment at the bottom of a shallow sea, and MI6 is in a race with the KGB to recover it.  The next bit of plot concerns a man named Havelock, an expert at marine salvage, who is killed along with his wife on their boat, just moments after their daughter has been dropped off.
Their daughter is Melina Havelock, played by the gorgeous Carole Bouquet:

For your eyes only, darling.

Back in the 70s and 80s a lot of women had gorgeous long hair.  And then in the mid-80s some started blow-drying it and feathering it, which after a while became so embarrassing that they all cut it short.  The last documented of gorgeous long hair was at Rutgers in the early 90s, when a Brazilian grad student cut her hair short, much to my obvious distress.

Anyway, Melina Havelock gets her crossbow and goes to Cuba to track down her parents' assassin.  This is where she runs into Bond, shortly after she punctures the assassin with a bolt.  The two of them flee together, and when Bond returns to London he uses Q's computer to put together a picture of Locque, the money man he'd seen in Cuba.

He obviously looks shifty with the fake Members Only jacket.  It's a very declasse 80s look.

So Bond goes to the Alps to track down the baddie.  He's told to work with this guy, Ari Kristatos:

who says that Locque works for this guy Columbo, nicknamed the Dove.

But of course that's Tevye, aka Chaim Topol, so he cannot be the bad guy.  After some misunderstandings, he sets Bond straight on who the real bad guy is.  It's Ari, who also is the sponsor of Lynn Holly Johnson, who is playing an Olympic skater named Bibi:

She's shamelessly hot for Bond, as she demonstrates by showing up naked in his bed.  The fact that she's more than 3 decades younger than he impels Bond to politely show her to the door.  (The speed with which she gets dressed is considered a 'Goof' by

Have I forgotten anybody?  Oh yeah, there's the German baddie:

and the Contessa

who is, in fact, actually old enough for Bond.  She's a working class English woman pretending at nobility.  But Bond catches her accent ("Manchester?"  "No, Liverpool!")


You're telling me Bond can identify the vintage year of the wine used as the base of a sherry that's 30 years old, but he cannot tell  a Mancunian from a Liverpuddlian???

So eventually Bond reunites with Melina to look for the ATAC, but after they salvage it from the St. Georges, Kristatos surprises them on her boat (ship? yacht?) and takes it away while devising a ludicrously complex death for the gorgeous couple.

OK, at this point we take bets on whether "dragging them across a coral reef by towing them on a rope" works better than two bullets would have done.  Any takers?  Yeah, right.

Somehow Kristatos flies or sails away, leaving them her ship and a parrot which tells them where to go next: St. Cyrils!

I want to go to St. Cyril's!!!

So for the final showdown, Bond, Columbo, Melina, and a couple of Columbo's henchmen (apparently the SAS was busy) are trying to inflitrate the fortress above before General Gogol of the KGB shows up to collect the ATAC.  There are some really great action sequences here, even if some of the logic is a bit spotty.  (Even though it seems to be mid-day, more than half of the guards are napping in the barracks??)

So, to the criteria.


  • Bond – Another good movie for Roger Moore.  He has the elan to hobnob with the glitterati of Europe but still is credible as a member of a commando team.  
  • the Villain- Julian Glover is good as Kristatos.  Solid acting but not really anything terribly mindblowing.  I guess it's good that he's not as over-the-top as the main villains of, oh, the previous eight films.  
  • the Bond Women – Well obviously I'm a big fan of Carole Bouquet here.  Sadly, because she's French, she somehow ended up with Gerard Depardieu.  I kid you not!  But we also have Cassandra Harris as the contessa Lisl, and Lynn Holly Johnson is positively delicious as the barely-not-jailbait Bibi.  Really a great film for Bond women.  
  • the Good Guys – Q, and Moneypenny have tiny roles.  Topol is great as Columbo.  He really carries off this role with panache.  And then there's a throwaway Italian agent named Luigi who, um, doesn't fare as well.  But, again, Topol is great.  Worth saying that this is the first film without Bernard Lee as M.  He's replaced by a pair of ministers with unclear job titles.    
  • the Henchmen on the other side: Michael Gothard and John Wyman are solid as the psychopaths Locque and Krieger.
  • the gadgets – Not much compared to the previous two films.  The ATAC is little more than a MacGuffin.  There is a lot of diving equipment, including a huge suit usable for depths far deeper than the Ionian seas that they are in.  Nothing too tricksy, though.
  • other stuff - visually, this is a great film.  They have diving sequences (which are better than those of Thunderball), alpine sequences, and the best climbing sequence of the series.
  • goofy stuff - the biggest problem with this film is that it has a huge plot issue.  For some reason, Bond is really intent on recovering the ATAC.  Why not just destroy it?  Was it bought from some contractor that has gone out of business after, bizarrely, destroying the plans to allow it to build a replacement unit?  I suppose I could see that the Brits would prefer recovery if possible (to spare the taxpayers the cost of a replacement?) but really, at some point...

On the whole, one of the better Bond films, and certainly one of Roger Moore's top efforts.  In terms of re-watchability, it's great.  It's a well-plotted film with good action sequences, good villains, and good supporting actors (esp. Topol).  I was going to give it an 8.2, but while writing it I've decided to put it ahead of Live and Let Die, and that means it's up to 8.6.  Critics give it a 73% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.  And users give it a 6.8.


Somehow this film has always rubbed me a bit wrong.  I don't know if I can quite explain the issue.  But it suffers badly from unreality.

It's very hard to take this film seriously.  Even for a Bond film.  The problems start with the title.  Tee-hee, it includes the word "pussy"!  Tee-hee!

There are two parts of the film.  On one part, there is a smuggler named Kamal Khan, played by the estimable Louis Jourdan.  He's been involved in smuggling Faberge eggs.  Agent 009 was killed escaping from East Berlin with one of them.


BTW, Jourdan is still with us at the age of 92!

The other major plot line involves a mad rogue Russian general who wants to trigger a nuclear explosion in Germany.  This will presumably lead to the removal of nuclear weapons from Western Europe.  And once that happens, Russian tanks will roll!

The first plot line happens mostly in India, the second in Germany.  I've seen this film well over a dozen times and I still don't quite "get" the transition.  Why does the Russian general need to work with Kamal Khan's circus?  I cannot figure it out.  I'm sure it was explained.

Oh, I'm forgetting the title character.  Maud Adams is back!

Maud Adams's back

You may remember her playing Scaramanga's mistress in The Man with the Golden Gun.  I guess the producers liked her enough to bring her back.  She plays an entirely improbable smuggler living on an island populated entirely by women trained both in the deadly arts and to work as acrobats!

So Bond goes to an auction where a Faberge egg is being sold, drives up the price far beyond market value when he sees Kamal Khan wants it, switches a fake egg for the real one, and lets Khan go back to India with the fake.   Then for some reason he follows him to India, provokes him at a game of backgammon by using Khan's loaded dice, has an affair with Khan's mistress, Magda,....

Kristina Wayborn as the ultra-hot Magda

...who steals the real egg back.  Bond is taken, drugged, escapes, meets up with Octopussy, Q shows up, Vijay is killed, blah blah blah, and they're off to Germany.

The Germany scenes are dimmer.  The crazy general shows up, a bomb is planted at Octopussy's circus, Loius Jourdan drives away in a fast car, Bond drives a Mercedes on train tracks, yada yada yada...and General Gogol categorically denies that the incident ever happened right before he requests the return of the Romanov Star.

OK, let's cut to the bullet points.

  • Bond – Roger Moore is showing the years.  He's younger than Louis Jourdan, but this has the feel of old guys fighting old guys.      
  • the Villain- I like Louis Jordan.  He and Roger Moore have a great time trying to out-suave each other.  He comes across as an elegant smuggler.  Sure he murders people, but hey, he's Louis Jourdan, and man is he suave!  Steven Berkoff plays the war-crazy General Orlov.  Most recently he played Dirch Frode in the Rooney Mara version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  He's good, but kind of one-dimensional.  Remember when Communists were scary?!
  • the Bond Women – Maud Adams is pretty good.  I'm not the biggest fan.  She's the first woman to have a leadership role in any Bond film (unless you count Pussy Galore's air team).  But I prefer Magda.  Clearly the early 80s had a proper focus on gorgeous long hair. 
  • the Good Guys – brief appearances by the two ministers, Q, and Moneypenny.  And there's the local contact Vijay who meets the same kind of fate that the local contact Luigi met in For Your Eyes Only.  
  • the Henchmen on the other side: Kabir Bendi as a really tall Indian thug working for Khan.  Also a pair of twins who work at the circus as knife throwers.  (They kill 009 at the beginning of the film.)
  • the gadgets – I don't remember much.  
  • other stuff -   Not much.
Like I said, this film suffers from an excess of camp.  At one point, Bond swings from vines while the Tarzan scream is being played.  I give it a 6.2.  Critics at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a lowly 43% and users give it a moderate 6.5.   

Never Say Never Again

There's a weird story here.  One of the writers of the original script for Thunderball went to court and ended up retaining rights to the screenplay.  So, in 1983, while the Broccolis were producing Octopussy, Eon Productions re-filmed Thunderball with a slightly modified script.  They managed to land Sean Connery to play Bond one last time.  Connery was in a bit of a slump at the time, a slump that he didn't really climb out of until The Untouchables, when he won an Oscar.  
As I said, this is a remake of Thunderball.  So it's hard to give the film too much credit for originality.  After all, Thunderball is a fine film and didn't really need a remake.  But here it is - with the same lead actor!  But I have to give the producers credit for doing an excellent job in casting.  I won't bother to rehash the plot.

Well, let's move to the list:
  • Bond – Though Connery is younger than Moore by a little bit, he shows the age a bit more here than Moore does in Octopussy.  On the other hand, it's Sean freakin' Connery!  So it's enjoyable to watch him play Bond one last time, even though his hairpiece is ridiculous.       
  • the Villain- good casting here.  Klaus Maria Brandauer is an excellent Largo.  I would say that he's even better than Adolfo Celli.  And Max von Sydow plays Blofeld, though he doesn't get much screen time.  
  • the Bond Women – an early film for Kim Basinger, who plays Domino.  She's excellent.
  • Barbara Carrera plays femme fatale Fatima Blush, and even got a Golden Globe nomination in the Supporting Actress category!  

  • the Good Guys – Edward Fox does a fine job as M.  Bernie Casey plays a black Felix Leiter, and does a fine job.  And Rowan Atkinson, of all people, plays Nigel Small-Fawcett, the comic relief.  And of course there's a Q and a Moneypenny not played by Desmond Llewellyn and Lois Maxell.
  • the Henchmen on the other side: not much aside from Fatima.  But she counts for a lot.
  • the gadgets – Bond has one of his magic watches and his motorcycle is also pretty cool.  And then there's the video game of Domination designed by Largo.  This is something new for the remake that wasn't in Thunderball.  It looks like a fun game to play, resembling a head-to-head Tempest.  
  • other stuff - Since this isn't a Broccoli production, the music is completely different.  The lack of the classic Bond theme is especially noticeable every time there's a fight or a chase.  It's got a jazz fusion score.  
  • the director - Irwin Kershner.  Who is Irwin Kershner, you ask?  Only the director of The Empire Strikes Back, the best film in the Star Wars franchise (a standard unlikely to be surpassed by JJ Abrams).  
This film is often ignored by Bond marathons.  Thankfully, the Labor Day marathon is showing it, and I've gotten the chance to watch again, and right after Octopussy.  It looks good by comparison.  The casting is very good, the film has a sense of humor, Connery is excellent, and it works well.  What works against it is that it's only a remake.  And Connery is a bit old.  I'm giving it a 6.9.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 59% fresh rating. users rate it at 6.1.  I think it gets downrated because people expect a film in the Bond tradition, but the feel of this movie is entirely different.  It's aging well.

Except for the creepy factor:

A View to a Kill

Ah...finally.  The film that finally convinced the producers that they needed to give up on the Connery/Moore generation.  Roger Moore was 57 when A View to a Kill was filmed.  

The film starts with 007 investigating French industrialist Max Zorin.  He ends up working with horse trainer John Steed Sir Godfrey Tibbett, played by Patrick Macnee, who was cast presumably to make Roger Moore look young by comparison.  The plot moves from an investigation of a microchip that can survive an electro-magnetic pulse to Zorin doping horses to win races, to breeding supermen, to the main plot: a scheme reminiscent of the Christopher Reeve Superman plot.  The idea here is that Zorin is flooding the San Andreas fault with sea water to trigger a massive earthquake.  Bond ends up working with oil heiress Stacey Sutton, played by former Charlie's Angel Tonya Roberts.  

Onto the list...
  • Bond – Roger Moore is way too old.  He's still got all the charm but he's just not credible in the action sequences.  
  • the Villain- Christopher Walken is the best thing about this film.  A charming psychopath, this is one of the roles that helped define Walken as a great actor for playing villains.  In the scene below, he gratuitously slaughters a lot of his own employees. I love the line at the end:  "Right on schedule."

  • the Bond Women – Tanya Roberts is awful.
    Fear my empty eyes.
    Grace Jones is good.  And then there's a brief appearance by Fiona Fullerton as a Russian agent who has a fling with Bond while trying to steal a tape.  Bond must meet his quota of love interests after all.  I wish she'd been cast in the Tonya Roberts role.
  • the Good Guys – M, Q, and Moneypenney all get to go to the races with Bond.  But the main supporting actor is Patrick Macnee.  Watching him run around a French estate with Roger Moore makes one wish they'd worked together 25 years earlier.
    Moore and Macnee
  • the Henchmen on the other side: Grace Jones rocks as May Day.
    Hard not to root for these two.
  • the gadgets – Not many gadgets for a Roger Moore film.  
  • music - catchy theme by Duran Duran
  • other stuff - In spite of spending half the film in the USA, we don't get a Felix Leiter!  
A couple of the action sequences deserve special attention for their absurdity.  First is a fire engine chase scene.  This is a long clip.  You get to see Tanya Roberts fail utterly and then a ridiculous chase scene with Bond on an unlocked ladder of a ladder truck.
Then there's an absurd scene in which Zorin sneaks up on Stacey Sutton in a blimp, picks her up and snatches her away.  Sadly I cannot find that, but it leads to the following bit where Bond is dangling from a line as Zorin chuckles about how he can smack Bond into the Golden Gate Bridge.
"This will hurt him more than it hurts me." 

This is just a bad film in many ways.  Scene transitions are poor.  Fight scenes include obvious break-away railings.   The usage of stunt doubles is obvious.  There are plot holes galore.  The sub-plot involving the microchip is simply abandoned without explanation.  The film is watchable, but only as a train wreck.  The performances by the villains redeem it somewhat.  But Tanya Roberts is awful - certainly in the bottom tier of Bond women along with Denise Richards.  
My verdict:  I give A View To a Kill a 5.4.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 59% fresh rating, and users rate it at 6.1.

1 comment:

Purplestate said...

Couldn't agree more about View to a Kill - and I think you're being generous with Never say Never, but its been a loooooong time. Good stuff, I always enjoy the read!