The Bond film reached the fullest extent of its 70s excess with Moonraker, the epitome of “Bond Bloat”. Fans were upset that it went too far with the silly humour and story that ripped off earlier Bonds. The producers also realised that when you’ve went to space you can’t go any bigger.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is tougher, more “real world” and includes actual espionage. Like Bond used to be.
The plot is lean and efficient: a missile guidance device (ATAC) has been lost at sea. Russia and the UK would like it, so Bond is sent to track down the killers of marine archaeologists who were searching for it. Along the way he bumps into a Bond “girl” who is more independent and driven than the female characters have been in a long time. He also meets two charismatic individuals, one an enemy, and one who rivals From Russia With Love’s Kerim Bey for being a very memorable associate.
One of the first images you see is Bond visiting a graveyard. The gravestone is prominent:
Beloved Wife of JAMES BOND
We have all the time in the World
The film now explicitly acknowledges the events of OHMSS. A great move, for it gives Bond another dimension and makes him a stronger character.
The pre-credits sequence is the most over the top scene in the whole film. I like to think of it as a “bridge” between the excess of Moonraker and the more down-to-earth tone you are about to see.
Bond is picked up by a “Universal Exports” helicopter but soon the pilot is dead, and we see a MAN IN WHEELCHAIR operating it by remote control.
We never see his face but make no mistake: this man is Blofeld. They couldn’t mention him by name as they didn’t have the rights, but the white cat, wheelchair (remember Blofeld in neck brace at finale of OHMSS?), the dialogue suggests he has been waiting for revenge, and the accent of the character is very similar to that used by Eric Pohlmann when he voiced Blofeld in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE are evidence enough.
Great helicopter stunts here, Bond hanging outside as it swoops and dodges. He finally gains control and scoops the villain up before depositing him down a chimney.
Only on this re-watch was I aware of a VERY strange line of dialogue which I somehow missed. (Bond fans have argued about this line for almost 40 years). Before he drops the villain, we hear him plead:
Mr Bond. We can do a deal!
I’ll buy you a delicatessen. In stainless steel!
I have absolutely no idea what that’s about. Or why it rhymes. But I laughed for a long time.
The score and theme song are by Bill Conti (of Rocky fame) and sung by Glasgow’s Sheena Easton. This is a great song, and the opening titles are notable as this is the first and only time the singer appeared in the titles.
Carole Bouquet portrays Melina with a steely manner borne out of the shocking attack at the start of the film when her marine archaeologist parents are gunned down. Unusually for a Bond film, the shot zooms in on her face as she gazes coldly into the camera. The musical motif Conti gives her is great too.
Melina is resourceful, and Bond first meets her when she assassinates the killer of her parents in Spain (brilliant death-by-crossbow-as-victim-dives-into-a-pool). Revenge drives her and she is on her own investigation no matter what Bond says:
The Chinese have a saying. Before setting out on revenge, you first dig two graves.
I don’t expect you to understand, you’re English, but I’m half Greek.
And Greek women, like Electra, always avenge their loved ones.
In the finale in the Greek monastery, Melina is part of the assault team – all in all a great character.
For most of the film, we don’t really know who paid for the murder of the Havelocks. We see the assassin, then the man who delivers his cash. This silent villain reappears throughout the film, Emile Leopold Locque (Michael Gothard) is notable for his octagonal glasses, and it’s refreshing to have a villain who doesn’t have a scar or deformity, as I’m sure generations of individuals with scars have suffered from unfair treatment due to that trope.
Kristatos (Julian Glover) is a Greek man who was honoured for wartime services to Britain and meets Bond to help him discover who is behind the search for the ATAC. Kristatos explains that a smuggler known as “The Dove” is the one pulling the strings – Bond has already seen the dove logo on some goons who chased him in Cortina and killed a local contact (leaving a dove pin behind).
In a pointless subplot, we discover that Kristatos is a sponsor for a young American ice skater (Lynn-Holly Johnson) pushing towards the next Olympics. I can only guess this justified filming a large portion of the film in Cortina with its skiing and ice-skating opportunities.
Columbo’s mistress, who we first see in the casino is known as Countess Lisl (Cassandra Harris). Before long they are in their robes and spending the night together.
The next scene is the one which lingers with me. It is morning, and Bond and the Countess are walking along the beach. Suddenly some goon buggies appear, and Bond tries to fight them off, but is unable to stop one crushing Lisl. Just before he is apprehended Bond kneels above her body and quietly utters:
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. For it echoes OHMSS: Bond first met Tracy on beach when he was attacked by goons. While not identical, Lisl wears a floaty dress which is like Tracy’s and Bond even wears a formal shirt like Lazenby wore. Remember that Tracy was a Contessa. Bond’s quiet farewell to Lisl is laden with meaning and loss.
Fans already know that Cassandra Harris was the wife of Pierce Brosnan who was already on the Broccoli’s radar as a potential future Bond. Sadly, Harris passed away before Brosnan inherited the role more than a decade later.
The goons are killed by divers wearing Dove logos (!), and Bond wakes on a ship to meet Columbo. And Topol is an excellent choice for Columbo – his effortless presences and understated wit serve the character well, and when it is revealed that Columbo is innocent and being set up by Kristatos, this pistachio munching smuggler becomes a great ally.
THE SET PIECES
- The Car Chase – a great fun scene as Bond and Havelock escape through the Spanish country lanes in a yellow Citroen 2CV. Incongruous, but well-choreographed.
- The Winter Olympic Pursuit – the goons (including an expert Russian sniper) pursue Bond in a tense scene leading up to a ski jump, then across the ski slopes. The bikes chase Bond on the snow and then we get the fantastic sight of a bobsleigh, Bond on skis and pursuing biker all speeding on the bobsleigh run.
- The Keelhauling – Bond and Melina are dragged at the back of the boat in a very well photographed and executed series of stunts which is quite suspenseful.
- The Monastery – a tense sequence as Bond climbs the huge rock to avoid detection. When a goon knocks some pitons out the long drop (performed by Rick Sylvester – the ski jumper from the opening of TPWLM) is heart stopping. The fight in the monastery is good if a little short.
- The Finale – no giant explosions, just a brief tussle over the ATAC, resolved when Bond throws it off the cliff. The Russians don’t get it. The British don’t get it. Détente.
This film has decent spy time. Covert operations, anonymous assassins and double crosses work well. Columbo even throws pistachio shells down a corridor so he can hear if a goon steps on them.
Bond runs up a long series of staircases until he reaches the top of the cliff and fires into the windscreen of Locque’s escaping car. It skids to hang precariously on the edge of the cliff. Bond throws in the dove pin that Locque left on the Cortina agent’s body then KICKS the car which plummets onto the rocks below. Director John Glen had to talk Moore into it as he viewed it as too ruthless. It is. Brilliantly so.
BACK TO BASICS
This spy adventure works very well in almost every department. I love the “Winter Olympics” chase for its inventiveness yet appreciate it doesn’t add anything to the story. It’s the equivalent of the “Bondola” chase in Moonraker, but without the silliness I think it just works better. It is a little disappointing to see the guy with a wine bottle doing another comedy double take (let’s hope we don’t see him again!)
The inclusion of the ice-skating subplot is an odd, and there is the extremely uncomfortable moment when the girl tries to throw herself at Bond in his room. At least he refuses and tells her to get dressed.
The stunts are extensive and well played, Glover and Topol are worth every penny, and there isn’t a giant lair in sight!
The film was a huge box office success and the team moved confidently into the eighties. Yet they still felt they had to up their game – for a rival Bond film was in production.
And that film starred Sean Connery.
|Produced by: EON Productions
Presented By: Albert R Broccoli
Director: John Glen
Screenplay: Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson
Composer: Bill Conti
“For Your Eyes Only” music by Bill Conti, lyrics by Michael Leeson and performed by Sheena Easton
Production Design: Peter Lamont
Cinematography: Alan Hume
Editor: John Grover
London Premiere June 1981
Lynn Holly Johnson