New Ranking of JAMES BOND Movies

James-Bond-Logo

With the recent release of the new James Bond movie, “SKYFALL”, I have made a new ranking of all the Bond films produced and released by EON Productions (do not expect to find 1967’s “CASINO ROYALE” or 1983’s “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN” on this list) from favorite to least favorite:

 

NEW RANKING OF JAMES BOND MOVIES

1-On Her Majesty Secret Service

1. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) – The only film to feature Australian George Lazenby, this adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel has James Bond’s search for master criminal Ernst Stravos Blofeld affecting his private life. Directed by Peter Hunt, the movie also stars Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas.

2-Casino Royale

2. “Casino Royale” (2006) – Daniel Craig made his debut as James Bond in this adaptation of Fleming’s 1953 novel about Bond’s efforts to beat a banker for a terrorist organization at a poker tournament, in order to force the latter to provide information about the organization. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie co-stars Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench.

3-The Living Daylights

3. “The Living Daylights” (1987) – Timothy Dalton made his debut as Bond in this partial adaptation of Fleming’s 1966 short story in which Bond’s efforts to stop a Soviet sniper from killing a defector leads to a revelation of a conspiracy between the defector and an American arms dealer. Directed by John Glen, the movie co-stars Maryam D’Abo, Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbe.

4-For Your Eyes Only

4. “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) – Based on two Fleming short stories from 1960, the movie has Bond searching for a missing missile command system, while becoming tangled in a web of deception spun by rival Greek businessmen and dealing with a woman seeking revenge for the murder of her parents. Co-starring Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover and Topol; the movie marked the directing debut of John Glen.

5-From Russia With Love

5. “From Russia With Love” (1963) – Terence Young directed this adaptation of Fleming’s 1957 novel about Bond’s efforts to acquire the Soviet’s Lektor machine, unaware that he is being set up by SPECTRE. The movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, along with Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendáriz.

6-Octopussy

6. Octopussy” (1983) – A fake Fabergé egg and a fellow agent’s death leads James Bond to uncover an international jewel smuggling operation, headed by the mysterious Octopussy, being used by a Soviet general and an Afghan prince to disguise a nuclear attack on NATO forces in West Germany. Directed by John Glen, the movie stars Roger Moore as Bond, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan, Steven Berkoff and Robert Brown in his debut as “M”.

7-Thunderball

7. “Thunderball” (1965) – Adapted from Fleming’s 1961 novel, this movie has Bond and CIA agent Felix Leiter attempting to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE for an extortion scheme. Directed by Terence Young, the movie stars Sean Connery as Bond, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi and Luciana Paluzzi.

8-Goldeneye

8. “Goldeneye” (1995) – Pierce Brosnan made his debut as Bond in this tale about the agent’s efforts to prevent an arms syndicate from using Russia’s GoldenEye satellite weapon against London in order to cause a global financial meltdown. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie co-stars Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen and Judi Dench in her debut as “M”.

9-The Spy Who Loved Me

9. “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) – Taking its title from Fleming’s 1962 novel, this movie has Bond and Soviet agent Anya Amasova investigate the disappearances of British and Soviet submarines carrying nuclear warheads. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Barbara Bach, Kurt Jurgens and Richard Kiel.

10-Quantum of Solace

10. “Quantum of Solace” (2008) – Taking its title from a Fleming short story, this movie is a follow up to “CASINO ROYALE”, continuing Bond’s investigation into the terrorist organization Quantum, while dealing with the emotional effects of a tragic death. Directed by Marc Foster, the movie starred Daniel Craig as Bond, Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Amalric.

11-License to Kill

11. “License to Kill” (1989) – Directed by John Glen, this movie has Bond resigning from MI-6 in order to seek revenge against the Latin American drug lord that maimed his best friend, Felix Leiter. The movie starred Timothy Dalton as Bond, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto and Don Stroud.

12-The World Is Not Enough

12. “The World Is Not Enough” (1999) – Directed by Michael Apted, the movie has Bond uncovering a nuclear plot, when he protects an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who cannot feel pain. The movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle and Denise Richards.

13-A View to a Kill

13. “A View to a Kill” (1985) – Taking its title from one of Fleming’s 1960 short stories, this film has Bond investigating an East-German born industrialist with possible ties to the KGB. Directed by John Glen, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Tanya Roberts, Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.

14-You Only Live Twice

14. “You Only Live Twice” (1967) – Loosely based on Fleming’s 1964 novel, the movie has Bond and Japan’s Secret Service investigating the disappearance of American and Soviet manned spacecrafts in orbit, due to the actions of SPECTRE. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, Tetsurō Tamba and Donald Pleasence.

15-Die Another Day

15. “Die Another Day” (2002) – A failed mission in North Korea leads to Bond’s capture, fourteen months in captivity, a desire to find the MI-6 mole responsible and a British billionaire with ties to a North Korean agent. Directed by Lee Tamahori, the movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike and Will Yun Lee.

16-Live and Let Die

16. “Live and Let Die” (1973) – Roger Moore made his debut as Bond in this adaptation of Fleming’s 1954 novel about MI-6’s investigation into the deaths of three fellow agents who had been investigating the Prime Minister of San Monique.

17-Moonraker

17. “Moonraker” (1979) – Based on Fleming’s 1955 novel, this movie features Bond’s investigation into the disappearance of a space shuttle on loan to the British government by a millionaire with catastrophic plans of his own. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Lois Chiles, Michel Lonsdale and Richard Kiel.

18-Tomorrow Never Dies

18. “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) – Bond and a Chinese agent form an alliance to prevent a media mogul from creating a war between Britain and China in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, the movie starred Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher.

19-The Man With the Golden Gun

19. “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974) – Loosely based on Fleming’s 1965 novel, this movie has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a device that can harness the power of the sun, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Roger Moore as Bond, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee and Maud Adams.

20-Dr. No

20. “Dr. No” (1962) – Based upon Fleming’s 1958 novel, this movie kicked off the Bond movie franchise and featured Sean Connery’s debut as the British agent, whose investigation into the death of a fellow agent leads him to a Eurasian agent for SPECTRE and their plans to disrupt the U.S. space program. Directed by Terence Young, the movie co-starred Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman.

21-Skyfall

21. “Skyfall” – Directed by Sam Mendes, this film has Bond’s loyalty to “M” tested, when her past comes back to haunt her in the form of a former agent, who initiates a series of attacks upon MI-6. The movie starred Daniel Craig as Bond, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris.

22-Diamonds Are Forever

22. “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) – Based on Fleming’s 1956 novel, this movie has Bond’s investigations into a diamond smuggling ring lead to another conflict with SPECTRE and Ernst Stravos Blofeld. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Jill St. John and Charles Gray.

23-Goldfinger

23. “Goldfinger” – Based on Fleming’s 1959 novel, this movie has Bond investigating a German-born gold magnate, who harbors plans to destroy the U.S. gold supply at Fort Knox. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie starred Sean Connery as Bond, Honor Blackman and Gert Frobe.

Advertisements

“LICENSE TO KILL” (1989) Review

”LICENSE TO KILL” (1989) Review

 Most James Bond fans tend to use ”LICENSE TO KILL” as an example of why Timothy Dalton’s tenure as the British agent had failed. Failed? Hmm. Granted, the Welsh-born actor had only starred in two Bond films, but chances are he would have starred in a third if EON Productions had not found itself mired in some lengthy legal battle that lasted throughout the early 1990s. Although ”LICENSE TO KILL” never made as much money at the U.S. box office as its predecessor, ”THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”, it proved to be an interesting addition to the Bond franchise. 

Now, when I had said that ”LICENSE TO KILL” was interesting, I was not kidding. It turned out to be a rather unusual experience. The movie turned out to be a revenge story that started with the capture of a drug czar named Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), at the hands of Bond and Felix Leiter (David Hedison), now a DEA agent, on the latter’s wedding day. Unfortunately for Leiter and his new bride (Priscilla Barnes), a fellow DEA agent named Killifer (Everett McGill) helps Sanchez escape . . . an act that leads to Della Leiter’s death and Leiter’s mutilation. Determined the avenge the fates of the Leiters, Bond decides to ignore his new assignment, disobey MI-6 and seek revenge against Sanchez. With the help of former Army pilot/freelance CIA agent Pam Bouvier and Sanchez’s mistress Lupe Lamora, Bond manages to bring down Sanchez’s organization and the drug czar, himself.

Watching this movie made me realize that Timothy Dalton has become the most reserved Bond in the franchise’s history. I could not say that he was the only reserved Bond on film. Hollywood icon David Niven turned out to be the first actor to portray Bond as an introvert in 1967’s ”CASINO ROYALE”. But Dalton became the only introverted Bond for EON Productions. Personally, I have nothing against this. One, I do not believe that the character of James Bond can only be portrayed in one style. Two, I have always believed that any actor who portrays Bond, should do so in the style that suits him. Which is what Dalton had done . . . thankfully.

In fact, Dalton took his angst-filled take on James Bond a step further in this tale about personal vengeance. The emotions that Bond seemed reluctant to openly express are very obvious in Dalton’s intense green eyes (okay, fangirl moment). What can one say about Dalton’s performance? He was excellent, as usual. The man managed to completely capture Ian Fleming’s literary counterpart. Who could forget those moments when Bond stumbled across Della’s dead body spread across the bed? Or his discovery of Leiter’s body . . . and the belief that the latter was dead? Or his anger at M for ordering him to drop any concern regarding the Leiters? By the way the latter scene – filmed at Ernest Hemingway’s Key West home – provided another delicious interaction between Dalton and Robert Brown, proving once again that the two actors had created one of the most interesting Bond/M relationships in the franchise. But most of all, Dalton showed just how dangerous Bond could be in three particular scenes:

-Sending the traitorous Killifer to his death inside Milton Krest’s warehouse
-Threatening Lupe Lamora aboard Krest’s yacht
-Confronting Pam Bouvier about her meeting with one of Sanchez’s minions

Once again, Dalton was lucky enough to find himself with a worthy leading lady. In “LICENSE TO KILL”, she came in the form of former model-turned-actress, Carey Lowell (of “LAW AND ORDER” fame)who portrayed CIA contract pilot, Pam Bouvier. Carey portrayed Pam as a tough, no-nonsense and gutsy young woman that manages to save Bond’s ass on numerous occasions. I could say that Lowell was great. And she was. I did not even mind an overwrought dramatic scene between her and Dalton, which seemed to be reminscent of an emotional scene from “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”. But I must admit that one of the problems I had with Pam’s character was her tendency to be defensive about her “professionalism”. At one point, she seemed to have lost her sense of humor when Bond joked about her crashing Milton Krest’s yacht into a pier. Another problem I had turned out to be Pam’s schoolgirl infatuation of Bond. Quite frankly, it seemed out of sync with her personality. I had no problems with her falling for the British agent. But her passive attitude in dealing with it – aside from her jealous outburst over Bond’s one-night stand with Lupe Lamora – seemed unreal and slightly theatrical.

The other Bond girl in the movie was portrayed by Talisa Soto, another former model-turned actress. She portrayed Lupe Lamora, Franz Sanchez’s long-suffering mistress. Watching Lupe endure a beating by Sanchez in the beginning of the movie, one cannot help but wonder why she had even bothered to stay with a man she despised. And then I remembered . . . Lupe’s decision to leave Sanchez for another man had set the story in motion in the first place. Judging from her role as the villain’s mistress and second female lead, one would assume that Lupe eventually bites the dust. Miraculously, she managed to survive a brief affair with Bond and the vicious Sanchez with a new benefactor at her side by the final reel. Okay. Time to stop dwaddling. What did I really think about Talisa Soto’s performance? Well, back in 1988, it seemed obvious that she was not an experienced actress. In fact, “LICENSE TO KILL” marked her second screen appearance. There were moments when Soto managed to deliver her lines in a competent manner. Unfortunately, these moments could not overcome her wooden acting. However, Soto had the good fortune to possess the looks and screen presence to occasionally compensate her lack of talent.

Robert Davi, who had portrayed Latin American drug czar Franz Sanchez, was 34 years old at the time of the movie’s production – a good eight to ten years older than Dalton. Yet, the American-born actor managed to create such a charasmatic and menacing character that managed to hold very well against the older Dalton. In fact, Davi had infused his character with a charm and wit that made Sanchez one of the more subtle and effective villains in the Bond franchise. I still found it amazing to watch how Davi transformed Sanchez from an intimidating and menacing villain into a charming man . . . and back again. And he did this with no effort. I can think of two particular scenes that showcased Davi’s efforts in portraying the two sides (or should I say the “yin and yang”) of Sanchez’ personality:

-the drug lord’s charm and wit seemed to be in full force during his meeting with the Hong Kong triad leaders;
-on the other hand, Milton Krest’s death proved how brutal and ruthless Sanchez could be
.

The only problem I had with the character of Franz Sanchez is that he would seemed to be more at home in an episode of “MIAMI VICE” or the movie version, than he would be in a Bond film. But despite this setback, I must admit that he has become one of my favorite villains, along with the likes of Georgi Koskov, Ari Kristatos, Le Chiffre, Alex Trevaleyn, Emilio Largo and Kamal Khan.

“LICENSE TO KILL” is one movie that seemed to be endlessly filled with supporting character – in fact, more so than any other Bond movie I have ever come across. The following happens to be a list of Franz Sanchez’s minions, which is the biggest list of minor villains I have ever come across:

-Heller (Don Stroud)
-Dario (Bencio Del Toro)
-Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe)
-Professor Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton)
-Ed Killifer (Everett McGill)
-Truman Lodge (Anthony Starke)
-Perez (Alejandro Bracho)
-Braun (Guy De Saint Cyr)

Damn, that is a lot! Both Wayne Newton and Anthony Zerbe seemed wasted in this film. Anthony Starke simply got on my nerves with his yuppie persona. And I barely noticed Alejandro Bracho and Guy De Saint Cyr as Sanchez’s nearly silent henchmen. However, I was impressed by Don Stroud’s cool performance as the very competent Heller. Although Everett McGill has never been a personal favorite of mine, I must admit that I rather enjoyed his performance as the traitorous Ed Killifer. And future Oscar winner, Bencio Del Toro proved that even at the tender age of 21, he could knew how to make his presence known on the silver screen. Which he did with such panache in both the Barrelhead Club fight sequence and in Dario’s final confrontation with Bond and Pam.

Speaking of minor characters, there are . . . the good guys. I have already commented on how impressed I was by Robert Brown’s interaction with Dalton featuring Bond and M’s confrontation at Hemingway’s Key West home. I barely noticed Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny. It was nice to see Desmond Llewellyn as Q in a larger role. But to be honest, his character was as irrevelant to the story as Moneypenny’s. David Hedison returned to reprise the role of Felix Leiter. Unlike his smooth and easy-going performance in “LIVE AND LET DIE”, Hedison seemed over-the-top in this movie. Unusually loud. Perhaps he needed Roger Moore by his side, instead of the Shakespearian Dalton to keep his performance under control. Priscilla Barnes (“THREE’S COMPANY”)? Barely noticed her. I could say the same about Frank McRae (as the doomed Sharkey) and Grand L. Bush as DEA Agent Hawkins. I would like to add that Bush had originally co-starred with Robert Davi a year earlier in the action hit, “DIE HARD”. They portrayed Special Agents Johnson and Johnson. Pedro Armendariz Jr. (son of FRWL‘s Pedro Armendariz) portrayed Isthmus’ President Lopez. Hmmmm. I barely noticed him. However, one could not help but notice Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“NASH BRIDGES” and “PEARL HARBOR”) as Hong Kong narcotics Agent Kwang. The man had an intensity that matched both Dalton and Davi. He made full use of his brief presence on the screen.

Despite the prevailing view, I do believe that “LICENSE TO KILL” is a first-class Bond movie that provided plenty of action, locations, humor, drama and excellent acting by Dalton and most of the leading cast members. I feel that it is also one of the grittiest Bond movies in the franchise. Was it the first Bond movie to feature gritty violence? Personally, I do not think so. I can think of at least three or four previous Bond movies that were just as violent, including 1981’s “FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”. In my opinion, director John Glen and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson created a pretty damn good story with LTK. But it did have its faults.

However, the movie’s main fault – at least for me – seemed to be the story itself. I had no problem with the idea of Bond seeking revenge against the person responsible for the maiming of old buddy Felix Leiter and the murder of the latter’s bride. I had a problem with the fact that the person responsible happened to be a drug czar with no real connections to the intelligence community. I had a problem that Maibaum and Wilson decided to change Leiter from a CIA agent to a DEA agent in order to fit their story. “LICENSE TO KILL”‘s setting does not really seem to belong in the world of James Bond or any other spy thriller. This story would have been a lot more revelant if Franz Sanchez had been a terrorist or an enemy agent, or if “LICENSE TO KILL” had starred characters similar to Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs of “MIAMI VICE”. James Bond battling a drug lord? Were they kidding? It seemed quite obvious that Cubby Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson wanted to exploit the popularity of the NBC television series. Unfortunately, the LTK had been released in the U.S., two months after the “MIAMI VICE” TV series went off the air. Talk about bad timing.

Another problem I had with “LICENSE TO KILL” was the size of the cast. Yes, Bond movies are known to have a “cast of thousands” so to speak. Having a large cast of extras is one thing. Having a large cast of characters allegedly revelant to the story is another. Once again, the problem centered around the Sanchez character. Quite frankly, he had too many minions. I mean . . . eight? Geez! Personally, I could have rid the movie of at least half of them. and finally, I wanted to point out the major action sequence featured in the movie’s finale. It seemed quite apparent that the producers wanted to repeat the success of the lengthy action sequence featured in “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS“. I do not think that it quite worked in LTK. Quite frankly, I found the action sequence leading up to Sanchez’s death to be over-the-top. It was simply too much. Even worse, it lacked the stylish direction of TLD‘s action sequence. As for the movie’s theme song, performed by Gladys Knight . . . all I can say is “meh”. I have heard better. Thankfully, I can say that I would never consider the song to be amongst the worst in the franchise.

But you know what? Despite the ridiculously large cast and a story that could have easily been a three-part episode of “MIAMI VICE”, I still like “LICENSE TO KILL”very much. I feel that it was an entertaining, yet interesting story with a first-rate acting from Dalton and most of the cast. And I feel that John Glen did a pretty good job, despite the overbearing action sequence in the finale.

Memorable Lines

Bond: This is no place for you, Q. Go home.
Q: Oh, don’t be an idiot, 007. I know exactly what you’re up to, and quite frankly, you’re going to need my help. Remember, if it hadn’t been for Q Branch, you’d have been dead long ago. [Opens case] Everything for a man on holiday. Explosive alarm clock – guaranteed never to wake up anyone who uses it. Dentonite toothpaste – to be used sparingly, the latest in plastic explosive…

President Lopez: There has been a mistake with my cheque. Look at it! It’s *half* the usual amount.
Sanchez: You were very quiet when I was arrested. Remember, you’re only president… for life.
[El Presidente take the cheque and leaves]

[Killifer is dangling on a rope over shark-infested water]
Killifer: There’s $2 million in that suitcase. I’ll split it with you.
Bond: [menacingly] You earned it. You keep it . . . Old Buddy!
[Throws the case at Killifer, knocking him into the water]
Sharkey: God, what a terrible waste. [Bond gives him a look] Of money.

Della: Oh, James, would you mind? Felix is still in the study and we’ve got to cut this cake.
Bond: I’ll do anything for a woman with a knife.

M: This private vendetta of yours could easily compromise Her Majesty’s
government. You have an assignment, and I expect you to carry it out
objectively and professionally.
Bond: Then you have my resignation, sir.
M: We’re not a country club, 007! [pause] Effective immediately,
your licence to kill is revoked, and I require you to hand over your
weapon. Now. I need hardly remind you that you’re still bound by
the Official Secrets Act.
Bond: I guess it’s, uh… a farewell to arms.

Bond: In my business you prepare for the unexpected.
Sanchez: And what business is that?
Bond: I help people with problems.
Sanchez: Problem solver.
Bond: More of a problem eliminator.

Sanchez: In this business, there’s a lot of cash. And a lot of people with their hands out.
Kwang: In a word… bribery.
Sanchez: Exactly. He took the words right out of my pocket.

[Sanchez has just blown up Milton Krest in a decompression chamber full of money, splattering blood all over it]
Perez: What about the money, patron?
Sanchez: Launder it.

Truman-Lodge: Brilliant! Well done, Franz! Another eighty-million dollar write-off!
Sanchez: Then I guess it’s time to start cutting overhead.
[Shoots him]

Leiter: See you in hell!
Sanchez: No, no. Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Leiter: [to Bond] Hey, observer! You trying to get yourself killed?
Bond: If I don’t get you back in time for the wedding, I’m a dead man for sure!

“When it gets up to your ankles, you’re going to beg to tell me everything. When it gets up to your knees, you’ll kiss my ass to kill you.” – Sanchez

Bond: [Pam kisses Bond] Why don’t you wait until you’re asked?
Pam: Why don’t you ask me?
[kisses Bond again]

Leiter: Where’s my wife?
Dario: Don’t worry. We gave her a nice Honeymooooon.

Della Leiter: Did I say something wrong?
Felix Leiter: He was married once. But it was a long time ago.

“Out of Gas. I haven’t heard that one in a long time.” – Pam Bouvier

“Drug dealers of the world, unite!” – Sanchez

Q: Look, don’t judge him too harshly, my dear. Field operatives often
use…every means at their disposal to achieve their objectives.
Pam: Bullshit!

Pam: Well, what are you waiting for? Get in!
Bond: Yes, sir.

7/10


“THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” (1987) Review


“THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” (1987) Review

Twenty-four years have passed since EON Productions first released its 15th entry in the Bond franchise – THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, starring Welsh-actor Timothy Dalton I first saw THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS on the night of July 31, 1987 – the date of its original U.S. release. My family and I saw it at the Grauman Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The theater was so packed that we ended up seated near the screen. I had a headache by the time the movie ended. Yet, watching “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” that night was one of the most enjoyable movie going experiences of my life.

I have to say that EON Productions has been lucky in its choice of the six actors who managed to bring their own sense of style to the role of James Bond . . . and I mean all of them. And all were smart enough to portray Bond in a way that suited them, instead of adhering to what the public or the producers wanted them to play Bond.

The movie’s title comes from the 1966 short story, ”The Living Daylights” in which Bond is assigned to assassinate a KGB sniper out to kill a MI-6 agent trying to escape from the Soviet Bloc in Berlin. The movie’s director, John Glen, along with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, took aspects of that short story and used it to initiate the screen plot. ”THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” starts with a military exercise on Gilbratar in which three 00 agents – including Bond – test the British base by infiltrating it. One of the agents is killed by a KGB agent, who leaves a clue behind with the following words, ”Smiert Spionam”. The phrase, which means ”Death to Spies”, is repeated by Soviet general Georgi Koskov (portrayed by Jeroen Krabbe), after Bond helps him defect from Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. The defection sequence turns out to be a slight remake of the Fleming short story. But whereas the female sniper turns out to be a genuine killer in Fleming’s version; in the movie, she turns out to be Czech celloist, Kara Milovy (portrayed by Maryam D’Abo), who pretends to be a sniper in order to convince MI-6 that Koskov’s defection is genuine. The movie later reveals that Koskov also had Kara impersonate a sniper in order to set her up to be killed by MI-6, namely Bond. And why? It turns out that Koskov is a renegade who has allied himself with an arms dealer named Brad Whittaker (Joe Don Baker) who have been using KBG funds to profit from drug dealing, instead of purchasing arms for the Soviet Army. When another general, Leonid Puskin (John Rhys-Davies) becomes suspicious, Koskov and Whittaker frame the general for the murder of 002 on Gilbratar so that MI-6 will terminate him. Thanks to Bond’s suspicions and his alliance with Kara, the CIA and Afghan freedom fighters named the Mujahedeen, he prevents Koskov and Whittaker’s plans from coming to fruition.

First of all, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS is not a perfect movie. It has its flaws. The movie’s main flaw came in the form of the new Aston Martin Volante used by Bond during his escape from the Soviet authorities in Czechoslovakia to Austria. The car was equipped with weaponry such as to use during The Living Daylights mission, the car was equipped with all the essential weaponry that includes rocket launchers and lasers mounted in the hubcaps. Now if this had been”GOLDFINGER””THE SPY WHO LOVED ME” or ”TOMORROW NEVER DIES” this would not seem out of place. But a gadget laden Aston Martin does seem out of place in a taunt thriller like THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and Dalton’s Bond does not seem like the type of guy who would feel comfortable driving such a vehicle.

The Aston Martin sequence emphasized another problem with THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS – namely the humor that accompanied this scene. Some critics had complained of Timothy Dalton’s lack of humor during his tenure as Bond. Actually, one could plainly see that Dalton did have a sense of humor – but one that seemed subtle, dry and slightly dark. It was not the type of humor that drew belly laughs like Roger Moore’s. Most of the movie managed to display Dalton’s type of humor very well. Except during the Aston Martin sequence that featured Bond and Kara’s escape from the Soviet authorities and troops. During this sequence, the producers obviously had not only decided to burden Dalton’s Bond with a gadget-filled car, but also jokes that seemed to fit Roger Moore’s style of humor. I hate to say this but Dalton simply lacked Moore’s talent for broad humor. And it showed during this sequence.

Another problem with the movie turned out to be the character of Brad Whittaker, an American arms dealer. Granted, Joe Don Baker turns in a very competent performance. But his character contributes very little to the story. True, his business as an arms dealer serves as a catalyst to the story, but as a Bond villain he comes off as somewhat weak. Quite simply, he hardly does anything. The movie’s entire plot – using MI-6 to kill off the suspicious Pushkin in order to continue misuse of KGB funds – turned out to be Koskov’s brain child. It was Koskov who plotted to get rid of Pushkin. It was Koskov who plotted to get rid of Kara. It was Koskov who had plotted to frame Bond for Pushkin’s murder. And I suspect that it was Koskov who had originally created the scheme to misuse KGB funds for drug dealing in the first place. Frankly, I think that Whittaker should have met the same fate as Hai Fat from ”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN”. He was that irrelevant. Only in his final scene with Dalton does Baker’s Whittaker seem impressive. Instead of arranging some ridiculous death that would give 007 an opportunity to escape, Whittaker did not hesitate to kill Bond in the most brutal manner possible.

With a weak villain such as Whittaker, one would expect THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS to fall apart. But it did not, thanks to the movie’s other main villain – Soviet General Georgi Koskov. Many Bond fans tend to dismiss Koskov as another weak villain. I disagree. Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe did a fantastic job in creating a character that seemed extroverted, charming and very likeable on the surface . . . and intelligent, devious, ruthless and cold-blooded underneath. This subtle duality in his personality comes to the fore in his relationship with Kara Milovy. He obviously had some kind of affection toward the blond cellist . . . enough to purchase a famous Stradivarius cello for her. Yet, when his deception threatens to be exposed, he cold-bloodedly arranged for her to be mistaken as a KGB assassin by Bond, so that the latter would kill her. After all, Kara knew about his relationship with Whittaker. If I had to be honest, I would prefer to be face-to-face wtih an obvious villain like Auric Goldfinger than to be unexpectedly stabbed in the back by the likes of Georgi Koskov.

Not only did Jeroen Krabbe contributed to the quality of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, but so did the rest of the cast, including the London-born actress of Dutch-Georgian ancestry – Maryam D’Abo. Her Kara Milovy, the effervescent Czech cellist, seemed like a sister in spirit to the Bond leading lady of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE . . . only with a little more backbone. D’Abo infuses Kara with a fresh naivety and passion that has not been since Daniela Bianchi in FRWL. Even better, she and Dalton managed to create a magnetic, yet natural screen chemistry. But D’Abo has never been that popular with Bond fans. Apparently, she seemed too ladylike and not sexy enough for them. Another Bond fan had complained that once Bond learned all he could about Koskov from Kara in Vienna and she set him up to be captured by Koskov in Tangiers, her character became irrelevant to the story. This could be true. But if Kara became irrelevant after Tangiers, what were the writers supposed to do with her? Leave her there? I doubt that Koskov would allow a living Kara loose on the world to expose him. No wonder he had brought her along to Afghanistan. But even there, Kara proved to be more than “comic relief” as someone had put it. Thanks to her, Kamal Khan and his Mujahedeen fighters attacked the Soviet airbase and distracted the military personnel long enough to save Bond and give him the opportunity to steal the plane loaded with Whittaker and Koskov’s opium. Kara Milovy may not be the most popular of Bond leading ladies, but thanks to D’Abo’s performance, she is certainly one of my favorites.

I must admit that I found myself rather impressed by the rest of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS cast. Robert Brown proved to be a more interesting “M” than he did in either OCTOPUSSY and A VIEW TO A KILL. His stuffy head of MI-6 proved to be an excellent contrast to Dalton’s Bond, with whom he constantly butt heads with. Although Robert Shaw had set the standards for the blond, muscle-bound henchman/killer in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, many have failed to be as memorable as him. As far as I am concerned, only one has come close . . . namely Andreas Wisniewski as Necros, Whittaker and Koskov’s hired killer. Like Shaw before him, Wisniewski had very little dialogue – in fact, probably less than the British actor. But he managed to project menace, intelligence and style without coming off as some muscle-bound clone like the Hans character in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and the Stamper character in TOMORROW NEVER DIES. Also included in the cast was legendary character actor, John Rhys-Davies, portraying Soviet General Leonid Pushkin, the very character whose suspicions of the Whittaker-Koskov partnership helped set the plot in motion. Unlike many of his other well-known roles, Rhys-Davies portrayed a more restrained character, yet managing to project his usual strong presence. He and Dalton played off each other very well in the famous Tangier hotel room scene, in which Pushkin nearly became one of Bond’s victims. And of course, there is Art Malik from THE JEWEL IN THE CROWNfame. In TLD, he played Kamran Shah, leader of a local Mujardeen unit. In a way, Malik’s character reminds me of Georgi Koskov – a strong and intelligent man who uses a benign persona to hide his true self. And Malik portrayed Shah with a giddy mixture of authority, charm, and mischievous wit.

That said, I want to say a few things about Timothy Dalton. Even though I was a major fan of Roger Moore, I realized by the mid-80s that it was time for him to retire from the role. With great fondness, I said adieu and breathlessly anticipated Timothy Dalton’s debut inTHE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. When THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS first came out, the media pointed out that Dalton had read all of Fleming’s novels, along with a biography of the author to get a vibe on the James Bond character. It is possible that many fans and critics, used to Roger Moore’s more humorous portrayal, found it difficult to accept Dalton’s grittier Bond. Personally, I feel all of that research had paid off. Dalton’s Bond was a tense and serious man with occasional flashes of grittiness, dark humor and a human heart – very much the personification of Fleming’s literary portrayal. Judging from the success of previous Bond actors, perhaps it was not necessary for Dalton to portray the role in such a serious manner. But hey! It worked for him. Many fans may not have appreciated his efforts twenty years ago, but now they do.

In the past seventeen-and-a-half years since LICENSE TO KILL‘s release, I have come to appreciate Dalton’s contribution to the Bond franchise even more. Whoever said that he was the right Bond at the wrong time was probably right. The man was ahead of his time . . . not just for the Bond franchise, but for many espionage films. People have also stated that Dalton had made a great impact on the franchise. Again, I believe that Dalton not only influenced Daniel Craig’s debut as Bond in the early 21st century, but many other espionage characters. Pierce Brosnan was not above utilizing Dalton’s darker take on Bond, every now and then. I also suspect that Dalton might be partially responsible for the influx of edgy, angst-filled spy or action/adventure characters that have emerged over the years. Characters portrayed by the likes of Matt Damon, Matthew McFaydden, Kiefer Sutherland, Harrison Ford and possibly even Richard Chamberlain and Robert DeNiro. Even the Tangier hotel scene between Dalton and D’Abo in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS seemed to have been copied in many action movies in the years that followed – including one between Dalton and Carey Lowell in LICENSE TO KILLand Harrison Ford and Allison Doody in INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. But no one did it better than Dalton and D’Abo, as far as I’m concerned.

Screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, created a taunt thriller, reminiscent of past Bond movies like FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. Instead of the usual super villain bent upon controlling a major world market or the world itself, or the super terrorist groups up to its elbows in gadgets, Maibaum and Wilson took Fleming’s short story and created a tale of emotions, greed and betrayal. What I especially like about THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS is that it featured a series of excellent scenes and moments:

-the entire defection sequence starting from Kara’s appearance in the window and ending with Koskov’s departure from Austria

-Koskov’s exuberant greeting of Bond

-Necros’ attack on the MI-6 safe house

-Bond and Kara’s first meeting

-Bond and Kara’s arrival in Vienna

-Bond and Pushkin’s confrontation in Tangiers

-the fake assassination of Pushkin

-Bond and Kara’s confrontation in Tangiers

-Bond and Kara’s escape from the Soviet military jail in Afghanistan

-Kamran Shah’s revelation of true nature

-the Mujardeen’s attack on the Soviet air base

-Bond and Kara’s arrival in Pakistan

-Bond and Whittaker’s confrontation in Tangiers

Thanks to the above scenes and the script, the story came close to feeling like a real spy thriller, instead of a quasi-fantasy/action-adventure flick. As I had stated before, the movie’s only misstep seemed to be the use of the gadget-laden Aston-Martin and the insertion of dialogue not suited for Dalton’s acting style in the Czechoslovakia-to-Austria chase sequence. In fact, the sequence’s style seemed out of place for such a taunt thriller like THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Despite that particular sequence, the cast and the story, combined with John Glen’s competent direction and Alec Mills’ cinematography made THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS one of the finest – in my opinion – Bond movies in the franchise.

Returning back to that night in Hollywood, I recalled that the audience went wild over THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. They especially seemed to take pleasure in the scene in which Bond and Kara managed to escape across the border into Austria. I had enjoyed “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” so much that I saw it at least six or seven more times in the theaters before it was released on video. And for me that is a personal record – especially in regard to the James Bond film. Happy birthday, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS!

Memorable Lines

[after escaping out of a small jail cell]
Kara: You were fantastic. We’re free.
Bond: Kara, we’re inside a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan.

“That’s too bad, Bond. You could’ve been a live rich man, instead of a poor dead one.” – Brad Whittaker

[James Bond and Kara Milovy snow-slide through customs in a cello case]
Bond: [yelling] We have nothing to declare.
Kara: [yelling] Except this cello.
[the word ‘cello’ echoes through the valley a few times]

[On Whitaker being crushed under a statue of the Duke of Wellington]
Bond: He met his Waterloo.

Koskov: I’m sorry, James. For you I have great affection, but we have an old saying: duty has no sweethearts.
Bond: We have an old saying too, Georgi. And you’re full of it.

Kara: What happened?
Bond: He got the boot.

[Bond is pointing a gun at him]
Pushkin: You are professional. You do not kill without reason.
Bond: Two of our men are dead. Koskov named you.
Pushkin: It is a question of trust. Who do you believe? Koskov, or me?
Bond: If I trusted Koskov we wouldn’t be talking. As long as you’re alive, we’ll never know what he’s up to.
Pushkin: [Slowly] Then I must die.

[after demonstrating a boom-box rocket launcher]
Q: [to Bond] Something we’re making for the Americans. It’s called a “Ghetto Blaster”.

[struggling with Kara’s cello]
Bond: Why didn’t you learn the violin?

[Bond and Saunders are discussing the change of plans on Koskov’s defection]
Koskov: James. James Bond!
Bond: [hugging Koskov] Later, General! [to Saunders] Lose them. I’ll pick you up at the border, twenty-three hundred hours. Be there.
Saunders: Where are you taking him? How will you get him out?
Bond: Sorry, old man, section 26, paragraph 5. Need-to-know. Sure you understand.

[Saunders has just been assassnated]
Kara: Did you hear?
Bond: Hear from Georgi?
Bond: Yes, I *got* the message.

Pushkin: Put him on the next plane to Moscow…
Koskov: Oh, thank you General, thank you so much…
Pushkin: …in the diplomatic bag.

[after removing his disguise] “Thank you both for your help. My name is Kamran Shah. Please forgive the theatricals, it’s a hangover from my Oxford days.” – Kamran Shah

[after destroying his car] “Glad I insisted you brought that cello.” – Bond

Bond: Just taking the Aston out for a spin, Q.
Q: Be careful, 007! It’s just had a new coat of paint!

“OCTOPUSSY” (1983) Review

 

Below is a review of the 1983 James Bond film, “OCTOPUSSY”. Directed by John Glen, this 13th Bond film starred Roger Moore as the British agent:

“OCTOPUSSY” (1983) Review

While perusing some of the Bond forums, I have noticed that 1983’s ”OCTOPUSSY” is not highly regarded by many fans. Personally, I have always found this hard to understand or accept, considering that the movie has been one of my favorite entries in the Bond franchise for years. But after watching it recently . . . I still do not understand its low standing amongst the fans.

”OCTOPUSSY”’s pre-title sequence is merely a little teaser about Bond’s attempt to sabotage a missile system in the Banana Republic (aka Cuba). It was light, humorous and filled with plenty of solid action. I particularly enjoyed the fact that what started out as failure on Bond’s part after he found himself captured by enemy soldiers, ended up as a success partially through the actions of the enemy, when they attempt to shoot down the Acrostar Mini-Jet he used for a quick escape. Although entertaining, the pre-title sequence has nothing to do with the main story, which involves a power-hungry Soviet general, a mysterious and beautiful smuggler/circus owner and a duplicitous Afghan prince.

Written by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, and Michael G. Wilson, ”OCTOPUSSY” starts out in East Germany with 009 dressed as a clown and being pursued by a knife-wielding villain. The villain turns out to be a pair of twins (Mischska and Grischska) who want something that 009 has – namely a fake Faberge egg called Property of a Lady. One of the twins manages to fatally wound 009 with a knife. But before he can die, the British agent manages to reach the local British embassy and deliver the egg in dramatic fashion. James Bond is assigned to investigate his colleague’s death. The investigation leads to an auction at Christie’s where the real Property of a Lady egg is being sold . . . and Bond’s first meeting with the villainous Kamal Khan, his henchmen Gobinda and the lovely Madga. Bond’s investigations lead him to India, where he makes his acquaintance with Kamal Khan for the second time. He survives several attempts on his life and incarceration at Khan’s Monsoon Palace and eventually meet the mysterious Octopussy, who turns out to be the daughter of a former rogue agent whom Bond had met years ago. Bond’s encounters with Octopussy and Khan provides him with clues that lead back to East Germany and Soviet General Orlov and Khan’s plot to detonate a nuclear bomb on a U.S. Air Force base in West Germany. Fortunately, Bond (with Octopussy’s help) foils Orlov and Khan’s plans.

Roger Moore returned for the sixth time as British agent James Bond. At age 55 during the film’s production, he struck many Bond fans as too old to be portraying the super spy. Personally, I had no problems with Moore’s age around this time. He still looked handsome and healthy enough to star in the action-packed spy thriller. And he portrayed Bond with a world-weariness and style that seemed to befit his age. Even better, he managed to retain some of that gritty toughness that he utilized so effectively in his previous outing, ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” . . . and retained his sense of humor at the same. Speaking of that humor, I usually have nothing against Moore’s humorous style (unlike many fans and critics). But I can think of four occasions when I found it a bit too much:

-Chase sequence in Udaipur with street performers

-Bond focusing short circuit camera on Indian operative’s cleavage

-The Tarzan yell during Bond’s escape from Khan’s Monsoon Palace

-Bond using fake crocodile submarine to sneak into Octopussy’s estate

Despite the extreme silliness listed above, I still found Moore’s performance satisfactory. I enjoyed his sense of humor during his encounters with the West German citizenry, while trying to stop Orlov and Khan’s bomb. And I admired his dramatic skills in scenes featuring the discovery of Vijay’s body and his romantic scene with Octopussy. But I was especially impressed by his acting in the scene that featured Bond’s only encounter with General Orlov.

Maud Adams returned to appear in her second Bond film, this time portraying the leading female character – smuggler/circus owner, Octopussy. I cannot honestly say I would consider Adams to be among the best actresses that appeared in the Bond franchise. The nine years between ”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” (in which she portrayed the villain’s doomed mistress) and ”OCTOPUSSY” seemed to have shown no real improvement in her acting skills. But she seemed competent enough to carry the role. And her looks and screen presence certainly helped. The secondary female lead – Kristina Weyborn – portrayed Madga, Octopussy’s right-hand woman and personal liaison to Kamal Khan. Like Adams, Weyborn is a tall Swedish-born beauty with limited acting skills. And like the leading lady, she possessed enough looks and presence to carry her role. Although I do wish that someone had given her more lessons in performing martial arts on screen.

French actor Louis Jordan portrayed Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince who desire for a piece of the Imperial Russian treasure leads him to take part in General Orlov’s plot to bomb a U.S. Air Force base and change the political landscape of Western Europe. Khan serves as the liaison between Orlov and Octopussy, who traveling circus/smuggling operation allows the two men to smuggle a nuclear bomb into West Germany.  Like Yaphet Kotto and Christopher Lee before him, Jordan seems to be a doppleganger of Moore’s James Bond – smooth, suave and very deadly. One scene in particular – Bond and Khan’s game of dice at an Udaipur hotel – reflects the mirror image of the two men in a very effective manner. Not only did Jordan perfectly portray Kamal Khan’s smooth style and sophistication, he did an excellent job of reflecting the Afghan prince’s darker nature – especially his cold-blooded tendency to betray anyone who stood between him and self-preservation. Including Octopussy and his men.

“OCTOPUSSY”‘s cast of minor villains include Steven Berkoff as the bombastic General Orlov, whose desire for completely Communist Europe and a higher position in the Soviet hierarchy sets off the movie’s plot. Although I found his scenes with Moore, Jordan and Adams effective and subtle, Berkhoff unfortunately revealed a tendency toward hammy acting in a scene that feature a meeting between the Soviet premier and several generals – including Gogol. And when I mean hammy, I mean . . . ham served with eggs. Indian actor Kabir Bedi portrayed Khan’s right-hand man, the silent and intimidating Gobinda. One of the Bond sites – “MI-6” Forum – stated the following about the character: “Kamal Khan’s faithful bodyguard, big and tough but none too bright.”. I do not know if I agree with that assessment. On second thought . . . I don’t agree. Gobinda’s flaw may have been that he was too devoted and loyal to Khan – after all, he actually obeyed the Afghan prince’s order that he climb out of a plane in mid-flight and kill Bond. But less than bright? No, I don’t agree. Gobinda struck me as a very observant and intelligent man. And the very handsome Bedi portrayed the henchman with a nice balance of intelligence and menace. In fact, Gobinda happens to be one of my favorite henchmen. Actors David Meyer and Anthony Meyer portray the knife-throwing assassins who killed 009, Mischka and Grischska. They did not say much in the movie, but both did a nice job of projecting competent and menacing killers.

With the death of Bernard Lee in 1980, the character of M did not appear in “FOR YOUR EYES ONLY”. The character returned in the form of actor Robert Brown, who began the first of his four movie run as the head of MI-6 in “OCTOPUSSY”. Brown portrayed M with authority, but very little imagination.  Personally, I think he was simply too young to be portraying an authority figure against Roger Moore, who was six years younger. Not until Timothy Dalton’s tenure will Brown show that along with Lee and Judi Dench, he could also be an interesting M. Lois Maxwell returned as Moneypenny in one of the most amusing Bond-Moneypenny scenes in the franchise. The scene involved a ‘Miss Penelope Smallbone’ and Moore and Maxwell managed to inject a lot of humor and charm into the scene, as befitting two old friends. Desmond Llewellyn had once stated that “LICENSE TO KILL” was his favorite Bond film. Which does not seem surprising, since he had a strong role in it. But he also had a strong role in “OCTOPUSSY” and I could tell that he had enjoyed himself. Especially in the scene that featured his rescue of Madga and some of Octopussy’s other followers. It seemed too bad that Q’s embellished role in this movie seemed just as unecessary as his embellished role in “LICENSE TO KILL”. General Gogol returned in the form of Walter Gotell. And he portrayed the Soviet KGB general with his usual competence. Tennis star, Vijay Amritraj made his screen debut as Indian intelligence agent . . . Vijay. Okay this is not exactly an example of original casting, but what the hell? He did a pretty good job, anyway. And he was rather charming.

“OCTOPUSSY” marked John Glen’s second time in the director chair. And like “FOR YOUR EYES”, he did an admirable job. I have to give the man kudos for once again, bringing a touch of realistic grit in Moore’s portrayal of Bond and in the franchise. Although I do feel that he made a misstep in allowing those silly moments I had earlier mentioned, in the movie. But I do wonder who had included those ridiculous little scenes? Was it Glen? Moore? Or were the screenwriters, Fraser, Maibum and Wilson responsible? If the writers were responsible, it was a misstep on their parts. Otherwise, they created an admirable script. One of the scenes highly criticized by critics was the sight of Bond disguised as a clown to infiltrate the circus where the bomb was located. I never understood this criticsim. Perhaps they disliked the idea of James Bond dressed as a clown. If so, I find their attitude extremely shallow . . . and rather stupid.

Also, I wonder why George MacDonald Fraser was included in this project? Was it because he was a British Army veteran who had served in India? Or that he had incorporated his experiences in India in his Harry Flashman novels? I do not know what to admire more – the screenwriters’ creation of the villains’ objectives and Bond’s efforts to stop the bomb, or Glen’s direction of those scenes. Perhaps both.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed the movie’s theme song, “All Time High”, which was sung by Rita Coolidge. But in the end, it simply bored me. However, I did enjoy John Barry’s lush and exciting score. And I must commend cinematographer, Alan Hume, for the film’s photography. His shots of India and the English countryside (serving as East and West Germany) made “OCTOPUSSY” one of the most colorful entries in the Bond franchise.

Despite the low opinion held by many Bond fans, “OCTOPUSSY” remains one of my favorite Bond films. In fact, I consider it to be Moore’s second best film (despite a few stupid jokes) and the franchise’s sixth best. I give it . . . 8/10.

“FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” (1981) Review

 

“FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” (1981) Review

If James Bond fans and critics had judged all of EON Productions’ 1981 movie, ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” solely on its pre-credit sequence, the movie probably would have barely made a dime at the box office. Worse, it would have been regarded as the worst movie in the entire Bond franchise. Thankfully, the rest of the movie proved to be far superior to its atrocious opening sequence.

”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY marked the directorial debut of John Glen, previously an assistant director and editor of previous Bond movies. Glen ended up steering the Bond franchise through a record five movies, all released between 1981 and 1989. With screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson (say that again?), Glen would take the franchise into a new era that depended less upon gadgets, grandiose villains and their even more outlandish schemes; and more on well-written plots, gritty edge and deep characterizations. And this new direction was certainly obvious in ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” . . . well, except for the pre-title sequence. Which has led me to wonder . . . what on earth made Maibaum and Wilson include that atrocious sequence, in the first place? God only knows. The best I can say about the opening sequence, which featured an unnamed and crippled Blofeld was that its theme resonated with the rest of the movie – namely revenge.

Once the movie moved past its odious beginning, it became a sleek and tight thriller in which James Bond must recover the ATAC missile launching system, that disappeared, following the sinking of a British spy ship off the coast of Albania. MI-6 had originally recruited a British marine biologist named Sir Timothy Havelock to locate the missing ship and missile system, but he and his Greek wife ended up being murdered in full view of their daughter, by an assassin named Hector Gonzalez. Bond tracked Gonzalez to an estate in Spain. But before he could question the killer, Sir Timothy’s daughter, Melina murdered Gonzalez out of revenge for her parents’ deaths. Bond eventually learned that Gonzalez had been hired by a free-lance Soviet agent, who had been recruited to also find the ATAC system. In the Soviets’ hands, the ATAC could be used to destroy Western nuclear submarines.

From the exciting chase sequence in the Spanish countryside, to the ski slopes of Cortina and the Greek Islands, Bond and Melina conducted a search for the missing ATAC that led to a bitter rivalry between two Greek smugglers – one who happened to be an independent agent contracted to the KGB. Portrayed by Israeli actor, Topol and British actor, Julian Glover; former friends Milos Columbo and Ari Kristatos drew Bond into a 30-year feud, in which both tried to convince the British agent that the other is the KBG contact. Even worse, Bond had to contend with Melina’s continuing desire for revenge – despite her murder of Hector Gonzalez. In the end, Bond managed to rein in Melina’s vengeful tendencies, learn that Kristatos was the KBG contact and prevent the ATAC from falling into Soviet hands.

Roger Moore had nearly passed over his fifth chance at portraying the fictional British agent. Fortunately, he changed his mind at the last moment and proved that underneath the sophisticated façade and cheeky wit, he possessed the acting chops to star in a serious spy thriller. To this day, many cannot decide whether his best performance was in ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” or in 1977’s ”THE SPY WHO LOVED ME”. Personally, I am inclined to believe that ”FYEO” was his finest moment in the Bond franchise. An excellent supporting cast and a first-class script – different from what he had been used to – allowed Moore to meet the challenge of a new kind of Bond and turn in a tough and excellent performance. Even better, he did all of this and still managed to retain something of his sly sense of humor. His finest moments included:

-Bond’s conversation with Melina, after saving her life in Cortina
-Bond’s first meeting with Columbo
-Emile Locque’s death (a controversial scene in the Bond franchise)
-final sequence at the St. Cyril’s monastery.

French actress, Carole Bouquet, who was 23 years old when she filmed ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” ably supported Moore as the movie’s leading lady. She skillfully turned in an emotional performance as Melina Havelock, seeking revenge for the murder of her parents. Both Topol and Julian Glover portrayed the two rivaling Greek smuggler, whom Bond has to determine was the KGB contact responsible for the Havelocks’ murder. I must say that both actors gave very subtle performances, making it difficult for the audience to decide who was innocent and who was guilty. And this ambiguity contributed greatly to the movie’s success. In fact, ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” seemed to be blessed with an exceptional cast that included Michael Gothard as the quietly callous killer, Emile Locque; Cassandra Harris (at the time, fiancée to future Bond, Pierce Brosnan) as the flirtatious and doomed Countess Lisl; Lynn-Holly Johnson as Kristatos’ ice skating protégée who develops a yen for Bond, Bibi Dahl; Jill Bennett as Bibi’s stoic trainer, Jacoba Brink; and Stefan Kalipha as the cold-blooded Cuban hitman, Hector Gonzalez. Also in the cast was Charles Dance portraying one of Locque’s henchmen, four years before he became well known in the miniseries, ”JEWEL IN THE CROWN”. Dance also portrayed Bond author, Ian Fleming in a rather dull biopic called ”GOLDENEYE”.

But what really made ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” for me, was the first-rate story centered on MI-6’s recovery of their secret missile system. Both Maibaum and Wilson, very smartly eschewed the gadget-filled fantasy epics of movies like ”YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE” and ”MOONRAKER” for a slightly gritty spy thriller with twists and double-crosses, reminiscent of classic spy movies from the 1940s and 50s. Instead of using Bond regular John Barry to write the score, EON Productions turned to Bill Conti, who would later write the score to the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” miniseries and direct the music for future Oscar broadcasts, to create a lively score that I found very entertaining. Also included was the movie’s main theme sung by Sheena Easton. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Thanks to Conti’s score, John Glen’s tight direction, a serious and tougher Bond portrayed by Moore, a first-rate supporting cast, and a skillful script written by Maibaum and Wilson, ”FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” (sans the crappy pre-credit sequence) turned out to be one of the finest movies in the Bond franchise.

9/10