Friday, January 27, 2012

Bondage, Pt. 12: For Your Eyes Only

I don't remember what year it was - possibly 1982 or very early 1983 - my family got our first VCR. Among the very first VHS tapes my dad rented was this Bond film (even though he's a Sean Connery man through and through). It was the first Bond movie I ever saw (that I remember, anyway), and, possibly because of that feeling of nostalgia, For Your Eyes Only remains my favorite of all the Roger Moore Bond films, and it's one of the top ones of the whole series for me. While it still meets with mixed reviews, I think it's a solid movie.

After the excess of Moonraker, the producers made a conscious decision to get "back to basics" and do a grittier, more low-key Bond adventure. They thought about jettisoning Roger Moore at this point, and auditioned the likes of Lewis Collins, Michael Jayston, Michael Billington (the poor bastard who auditioned, unsuccessfully, FIVE TIMES to be Bond), and Timothy Dalton. They'd offered Dalton the role of Bond way back before Roger Moore took over from Connery, and he'd turned it down because he was too young. This time, he supposedly turned it down again because he thought The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker were "not the kind of Bond films I wanted to make." As it turns out, Dalton's grittier, meaner, more down-to-earth Bond would have been perfect for this movie. But Moore would do this one, and two more, before hanging up his Walther PPK.

Synopsis: Making a break from "end of the world" scenarios posited by the previous few films, For Your Eyes Only takes a step back. Bond is sent to track down a missing ATAC missile command system, which sinks along with a British Navy ship in the Aegean Sea, and along the way gets caught up in a Greek woman's mission of vengeance against the people who killed her parents, including a Greek villain who is tied up in the opium smuggling business doing the KGB's dirty work in recovering the ATAC. Now that is one long sentence.

The Villain: A very suave and sophisticated villain, Aristotle Kristatos, is a smuggler (mostly of drugs) who wants to make his fortune by selling the ATAC, which he has recovered, to the KGB. That's pretty much his entire evil plot - to make some money. In this, he's more low-key than some other Bond villains. Actor Julian Glover does a nice job with Kristatos, playing him as quite likable at first and devolving into a real asshole by the end of the movie. Glover was considered to play Bond himself, back before Live and Let Die was made. He is known to Star Wars fans as General Veers, ground commander of the Invasion of Hoth, and he's also the Nazi sympathizer bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The Henchman: Technically it's Erich Kriegler, an Olympic athlete who for some reason kills people for Kristatos. He's also Kristatos' direct contact with the KGB. He has a good chase scene with Bond on a ski slope. Far more compelling as a bad guy is Emile Locque, played by Michael Gothard (the witch hunter from Ken Russel's The Devils) who hires a Cuban assassin to kill the Bond girl's parents at the beginning of the film. Locque is later killed when Bond (in, what for Roger Moore films, is a pretty cold piece of business) pushes him off a cliff. For some reason Locque was particularly chilling to me as a child...something about his full lips and octagonal rimmed glasses was really scary. He also didn't speak or smile at all. In an interesting scene toward the beginning of the movie, Bond and Q use an early form of face-recognition software to determine Locque's identity.

The Bond Girl: Carole Bouquet, the French actress, plays the half-Greek girl Melina Havelock. Her father, Sir Timothy, is a marine biologist. When the British ship the St. Georges sinks (due to a mine loosed by Kristatos) the British ask Sir Timothy to secretly look for the wreck to recover the ATAC system. But he is killed by a Cuban assassin, along with his Greek wife, before he can do so. This happens just as their daughter Melina is coming back for a visit. She vows revenge on the people who killed her parents. This quest for revenge brings her into contact with Bond. Bouquet auditioned, unsuccessfully, for the role of Dr. Holly Goodhead in Moonraker. She ended up with the better part in the long run. Melina gets to shoot crossbows, go scuba-diving, and generally hold her own. She also goes skinny-dipping with Bond at the end of the movie. And though she's not the main Bond girl, we can't forget Bibi, a cute little bit of jail bait who is a figure skater being "sponsored" by Kristatos. She later hints that he's interested in her for creepier purposes. Not that being molested would much surprise her; she throws herself at the much-older Bond, who, in a rare show of restraint, rejects her advances. Played by real-life figure skater Lynn-Holly Johnson, she is very cute and somewhat annoying in this movie. Johnson played in a Disney film that scared the crap out of me when I was little: The Watcher in the Woods. I might have had a bit of a crush on her when I was about 10 or 11. Just for fun, here's a shot of her in some weird Japanese roller skate fetish magazine.

The Sidekick: I said Jaws was the Best Henchman of All Time, and I say that pistachio-munching Columbo is the Best Bond Sidekick of All Time. Why? Because he's a cool, dashing rogue of a smuggler, but also because he's played by the incomparable Topol of Fiddler on the Roof fame (I have had the pleasure of seeing him in this role live in person at Starlight, believe it or not). He also plays Dr. Hans Zarkov in the Flash Gordon movie. Columbo serves a vital role in the movie. Not only does he team up with Bond (after an initial period of mistrust) to raid Kristatos' mountaintop hideout, he kills Kristatos with a thrown knife after Bond prevents Melina from doing so.

Gadgets: Almost none worthy of note, though there is the ATAC itself (a missile command system the size of a briefcase), a radio watch, and some pretty cool diving suits. Even Bond's car gets blown up early on. This is part of a conscious decision on the part of director John Glen to have Bond rely on his wits, not gadgets.

Music: The song that shares the film's title was a modest hit for Sheena Easton. She actually appears on the opening credits, which was a first for a Bond film. This was the age of the dawn of MTV, after all, and it is said title designer Maurice Binder simply "liked her appearance." Easton somehow managed to trump Blondie, who was supposed to the song. Their version was not chosen, and instead appears on their album The Hunter. Bill Conti composed the soundtrack, and while he kept a bunch of John Barry's distinctive "Big Bond Brass," he also added some disco and "adult-contemporary" type of stuff that, to my ear, sorely dates what is otherwise a pretty timeless film. One uncharitable reviewer called Conti's soundtrack "a constant source of annoyance," and he's only wrong about the "constant" part.

The Director: John Glen had served as an editor on previous Bond films and got a promotion with this one. As it turned out, he directed every single Bond film released in the 1980s, and in fact has directed more Bond films than any other director. He specifically wanted Bond to be more down-to-earth, less reliant on technology, and a little bit meaner (it is said Roger Moore was not happy at all with Glen insisting that Moore actually act like a badass on occasion). Glen wanted the movies to be more character driven, and he wanted to return them to Bond's roots. This is why he injects several hints at earlier, Connery era Bond movies in this one (see below).

Fun Facts: An interesting aspect of this movie is the pre-title action sequence, which features, seemingly, the death of Blofeld. Blofeld, so strongly associated with being a Bond villain, never appeared again after Diamonds Are Forever. This is mainly because of legal disputes surrounding the character of Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which we've talked about before. In the pre-title sequence, Bond is seen placing flowers on the grave of his wife (whose death is shown in the movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service). She'd been killed by a Blofeld hench(wo)man. Bond then gets on a helicopter that ends up being remote-controlled by a bald guy in a Nehru-style jacket and a white cat. They can't call him Blofeld for legal reasons but it's clearly him. Bond eventually gets the better of him, takes control of the copter, scoops "Blofeld" (or Feauxfeld?) up in his wheelchair with a helicopter skid, and drops him down a factory smokestack. The scene was put in there because director Glen wanted to tie the film in with the older movies, and producer Broccoli supposedly wanted to show that Bond no longer needed the Blofeld character.

Favorite Lines: Oddly, because this is my favorite Moore/Bond film, there aren't many that leap out. I do like one quip. Underwater, as Bond and Melina are diving looking for the ATAC, a shark swims by. Bond says, "I hope he was dining alone." Another funny exchange is when, at the end, Margaret Thatcher herself calls to congratulate Bond, but instead ends up talking to a parrot. Being clueless, she thinks it's him. And it's not ha-ha funny, but when Bond kicks a precariously balanced car off a cliff, sending Locque to his death, Bond shrugs, "He had no head for heights."

Other Stuff: An interesting bit of trivia is that Cassandra Harris, who has a minor role as a countess who is spying for Columbo, who Bond beds and Locque kills, was married to a younger man, a part-time laborer and struggling actor named Pierce Brosnan. She had lunch with the producer and brought hubby along - Broccoli's first glance at a guy who would later play Bond pretty effectively for four films.

Next up: We're nearing the end of the Moore era; stay tuned for Octopussy.

1 comment:

  1. The Watcher in the Woods also scared the crap out of me when I was little. I didn't know anybody else had seen that movie.

    Of the movies we owned it was that, The Haunting, and Return to OZ for some reason that gave me nightmares the most.

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