For Your Eyes Only (1981) REVIEW
Director: John Glen
Producer: Albert R. Broccoli
Writer: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Julian Glover
All James Bond film reviews and ultimate lists can be found here or check out the new drop down menu above.
After travelling to space in the 1979 release, Moonraker, where would James Bond go next?
Back down to Earth.
When Moonraker (1979) released to both commercial and critical applause (highest grossing 007 film till GoldenEye), the production team knew that to continue in the science fiction genre would probably net them another profitable release, but wouldn’t guarantee a successful future. So it was quickly decided to abandon any plans and bring Bond back to Earth. Ground him in reality(?), strip the character of all gadgets and forget the villain with a master plan of world domination replaced instead with a topical agenda.
Everything that made James Bond a major box office franchise in recent years would be removed in place of returning, and possibly capturing the espionage thrillers of Sean Connery’s first few films.
The comedy elements Roger Moore’s films were known for had been drastically scaled back in favoured of a more mature darker tone. An older Bond closer to Moore’s age would be shown on-screen and a return to relying on wits and surroundings to survive were high on the list of elements coming back.
This would essentially be James Bond as he’s come to be known in modern cinema (Daniel Craig era). To achieve this, Cubby Broccoli hired series regular, Richard Maibaum as script writer along his step son, Michael G. Wilson, to pen a story influenced by the early 60’s era.
Early Bond films were used as inspiration especially From Russia With Live (1963). With ski scenes attempting to one up those in, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). And some unused scenes from the novel, Live And Let Die, were inserted here, but most other material from Fleming stories Risico and For Your Eyes Only.
Speaking of plot, For Your Eyes Only centres on James Bond finally banishing his old enemy, Blofeld, before getting tied up in a revenge plot. During his efforts, Bond is tasked with locating a missing communication device, the ATAC (MacGuffin), before it falls into Russian hands. Along the way, he must deduce whether friend is foe as his latest adventure strips him of gadgets and forces him to scale a deadly mountain in search of his intended target.
James Bond is here on-screen as more older then we’ve been use to with Moore 54 at the time of release. The opening scene, originally planned for a different actor in the role of Bond, has 007 visiting the grave of his wife Teresa. Her date of death clearly stated as 1969 (OHMSS release) shows producers not shying from Moore age. It is a well thought out decision allowing the audience (me) to acknowledge a concrete age for once.
Movies like Taken 3, where Liam Neeson is clearly 60+ and looks it, but still trying to play the character off as around mid 40’s, annoy me. Especially when a stunt man is there for 90% of the film whenever the actor is not required to show his face. But here, as an older Bond, Moore is clearly allowed to have a bit of fun and shown attempting his own stunts when capable.
His usual charm is on display, and his rougher side isn’t forgotten when dispatching henchman, Locque. He is ruthless and on point throughout the film, dropping one liners when needed and having a lot of fun when doing so.
Surprisingly, Moore was only signed for a three picture deal which ended with The Spy Who Loved Me. From Moonraker onwards, it was a picture by picture contract and producer Cubby Broccoli was always confident, and happy, Moore would come back. However with For Your Eyes Only, other potential replacements were tested with Maryam d’Abo (more on her in a few months), and the opening scene where Bond visits his late wife’s grave was intended to introduce the new actor as 007, and link him to past continuity.
I must admit, I’m very glad Roger Moore stuck around for this film. He deserved a chance to prove people wrong and show that a serious 007 was something he could easily pull off. In saying that, these same people seem to have forgotten Live And Let Die, but we won’t hold that against them.
Melina Havelock is a tough independent character, but unfortunately never fully fleshed out. I understand the movie runs two hours plus, however the few minutes Melina seen on-screen with her parents was incredibly short and ends with her staring coldly at the screen implying all the emotions one would feel before embarking on a revenge fuelled mission. Admittedly later on, her fears of stepping back into her father’s office are shared with Bond and its a nice moment. But it is few and far between.
What can’t be denied is how beautiful actress and model Carole Bouquet is. Twenty-four years at the time of release, Carole brings a look of maturity to the role and deadliness with her piecing eyes. They almost cut right through you. What I only realised upon this latest viewing was that Carole was dubbed. French is her native tongue, and although she manages to provide her own dub in the French release, her voice was dubbed in English-speaking releases.
It is worth switching to the French language option (if available) just to get a taste of Carole’s natural accent.
Aristotle Kristatos is the villain of the piece and also begins his interactions with Bond as a friend. Julian Glover is a name many people should be familiar with as he was being considered for the James Bond role all the way back for Live And Let Die, of course the role was snatched up by Moore, but its a good thing the producers remembered him. As Aristotle, Julian Glover brings a certain bit of charm to the role and really humanises him. As mentioned, he begins as an ally to the 007 feeding him just enough information to point the Agent in the other direction. Julian Glover is equally as charming as Moore, and the reveal he’s the bad guy and not Columbo, played by Topol, was a smart but underplayed move. The entire reveal is given by Columbo as Bond is held semi-captive aboard his boat. I felt the twist could’ve benefited from being shown happening rather than as a speech. It doesn’t detract from the film, but feels very exposition heavy.
One thing this film tries to do, is bring back memories of past allies and enemies. Blofeld appears at the beginning (unnamed) and is quickly dispatched. And although the scene is a slight dig with Cubby Broccoli showing he no longer needed the villain, it feels very pointless especially considering it was mostly being used as an introduction to a new Bond actor. Another character which falls into the same category of past memories is, Columbo. Clearly based on past characters like Draco (OHMSS) and Kerim Bey (From Russia With Love), which were all charismatic and loveable men, Columbo for me, falls flat. More screen time was given to Kristatos showing him as just a man, and Columbo’s character was shoved down our throat so quick, we’re expected to like the guy as soon as Bond does.
For Kerim Bey it worked, with Columbo, I never really liked him. He’s introduced very late in the film and disappears again for a large portion while Bond and Melina go about their business underwater (no pun intended). Columbo only really reappears in the third act.
For Your Eyes Only has some truly amazing photography throughout. The action scenes are all really well shot with the ski sequences being some of the best the franchise has had since Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Mixing motorbikes vs skis and adding some real suspense makes for a really good thriller. I’m a big fan of all the action in the For Your Eyes Only, and seeing Bond hanging from a cliff is a really gets the palms wet. Just as Bond was hanging for his life, I was on the edge of my seat. Truly amazing stunt work in For Your Eyes Only and worth the ticket/film purchase alone.
Due to taxation reasons forbidding series composer out of the UK, John Barry was replaced Bill Conti, famous from his Rocky soundtrack years earlier. It instantly added a little funk and pop and started the 80’s Bond era with a bang. The familiar Bond theme was still heard, but recorded again by Conti to add his own flair to the mix. I’ve heard some contention over the soundtrack here, but when you really listen to it, the way Conti can blend in action themes with suspense pieces just makes the picture that accompany it all the better.
A few other bits worth mentioning are the other Bond girls. Yes, Melina is there, but so too is Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl and ice-skater training for the Olympics. She is a sexually aggressive teen(?) and adds a lot of well-timed humour to her scenes with Bond. Usually we expect 007 to bed just about every main female lead in the film, but being that Bibi is so young, Bond trying to avoid her sexual advances is quite hilarious. The line I’ll always remember, “Yes, well, you get your clothes on and I’ll buy you an ice cream.” It is delivered perfectly by Moore and shows that he has great timing for comedy.
Finally, Countess Lisl von Schlaf, played by the late, Cassandra Harris. Only in the film briefly, Harris’ character is used to speed the plot along and helps 007 realise he’s been played. She is very beautiful and wished her time on-screen was a little longer, but her death at the hands of Locque only fuels Bond more. Now if her name sounds a little familiar to James Bond fans, it’s because at the time of filming until her unfortunate passing years later, Harris was married to a young actor by the name of Pierce Brosnan. And as the story goes, after meeting Cubby Broccoli, Pierce impressed the producer that much, he was eventually offered the role after Moore finished up. But that’s a story for a few months down the road.
For Your Eyes Only was previously one of my least viewed James Bond movies. Roger Moore was beginning to look a little too old in the role and the lack of gadgets bugged me. But then I realised how strong the action and story was. Characters are enjoyable and the whole film has a feel like the original Connery era movies. Moore is at his finest here, and the subtle use of suspense in the action works really well. A highly enjoyable entry in the James Bond franchise and easily a high point of the Moore era.
James Bond will return in Octopussy