For Your Eyes Only (1981)


The Roger Moore years of James Bond are quite frustrating.  Albert Broccoli probably couldn't have picked a better actor to portray Bond after both Sean Connery and George Lazenby backed out of the role, but for some reason the directors (usually Guy Hamilton) and writers of the 1970s couldn't decide whether they were making comedic super hero films are serious spy movies.  Thus, even though there are good (and even great) parts in all of the 1970s Bond films, only The Spy Who Loved Me stood out as approaching the classic adventures from the 1960s.  Unfortunately, after getting the series back on track, it was back to absolute silliness with Moonraker's attempt to jump on the Star Wars coattails.

For Your Eyes Only was another attempt to modernize the series as well as give it a more serious tone.  Originally planned to follow The Spy Who Loved Me, it unfortunately was delayed.  Despite the fact that a good portion of the film (ski slope chases, a technological McGuffin, underwater fight scenes) seem recycled, the story is still good and some of the changes in the pacing, considering Roger Moore's age, were welcome.

When a British spy vessel (disguised as a Greek fishing boat) accidentally nets a mine and sinks, an important machine known as A.T.A.K., which includes codes for the British nuclear submarine fleet, goes down with it.  Not sure if it was destroyed like it was supposed to be, the British, and the Russians, both start using third parties to look for it.  As usual the people the Russians use are not beyond using extreme means, which results in the death of an archaeologist (Jack Hedley) in front of his daughter Melina (Carole Bouquet).  This complicates things when Bond begins his investigation, as her need for revenge interferes in him tracking down who was behind her father's death.

The trail leads backwards through a man called Locque (Michael Gothard) and a supposed East German defector (John Wyman), who turn out to have been hired by a Greek drug smuggler (and former communist rebel) being funded by the KGB.  Bond and Melina, along with another Greek smuggler, pool their resources to help keep the A.T.A.K. out of Soviet hands.

There are quite a number of callbacks, to of all James Bond films, On Her Majesty's Secret ServiceThe movie even begins with a visit to his wife's grave and a bit of final revenge on a certain bald man with a white cat (unnamed since Kevin McClory was waiting to sue at any moment possible).  The other is that Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, the writers, pulled back on the use of gadgets and grand sets and director John Glen stripped things down so that the emphasis was on the action.  Also, in a more realistic fashion, James Bond only beds two women this time around - one is more mature, while the other waits until the end of the film rather than just jumping in bed with him right after meeting him.  We also, happily, find out that he has lines he won't cross when it comes to sexual partners.

Although many of the action sequences are callbacks to previous films, they still seem relatively fresh, and are largely unhindered by the slapstick comedy of some of the previous movies.  I say largely, because we still get clucking chickens in a barn (with nary a chicken in sight) during part of the ski chase, as well as a few other nonsensical sound effects cues.  The highlight is an early chase involving Bond and Melina trying being chased through a Spanish village in her Citroen.

Bill Conti handles the soundtrack this time around, giving it a definite '80s feel, but it was a step up from trying to get Shirley Bassey to sing once again.  Instead we have Sheena Easton, whose career was still largely just beginning and prior to cultivating her "bad girl" image after working with Prince.  She was still doing largely sugary pop songs like "Modern Girl" and "Morning Train", and "For Your Eyes Only" was turned out to be the best of her early work.  Long-time title designer Maurice Binder liked her so much that he did a first: had the singer incorporated into the usual opening montage of nude dancers.

It needs to be stated that Roger Moore was quite aware he was starting to get too old to play the part, and there was some question about whether or not this would be the film where he passed it on to his successor.  Timothy Dalton (who would become the next Bond) was already being tossed around as a name at this point, and Moore was seriously thing about retiring.  Albert Broccoli did encourage him to do this one, and it was successful enough for Moore to do two more Bond films, even if the quality once again began to drop off.  Despite his age he was still quite fit and believable in the role, even if the recent digital restoration makes the transition between him and his stuntman quite jarring at times. 

Carole Bouquet is unfortunately dubbed, but whoever did the dubbing at least didn't make her sound like a zombie.  As said before it was a relief that they cut back on Bond's bed-hopping, which was becoming passe even in the early 1980s.  While the focus is largely on Melina, Bond does have a bit of a fling with a woman named Lisl (Cassandra Harris), who works for the smuggler Milos Columbo (Topol), and her brief time on screen is great.  Unfortunately, Lynn-Holly Johnson, as the way-too-young Bibi Dahl, seems to only have one volume - loud. 

As for bad guys, Locque and Erich Kriegler both steel the scene from the big bad guy, and both prove to be decent adversaries for Bond.  As usual the main villain is suave, sophisticated and disappointingly one-dimensional, and is one of the least memorable.  The lack of volcanic lairs and sci-fi plotting is refreshing, but it Bond films also hinge on a memorable villain.

Still, the movie does what it should - packs a lot of action, great stuntwork and magnificent locations into just over two hours, and for the umpteenth time manages to pull the whole franchise back from the brink of disaster. 

For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Time: 127 minutes
Starring: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Julian Glover, Cassandra Harris, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Michael Gothard
Director: John Glen

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