The Eighties Bondathon

Armed to the teeth with Spangles (that's the wrong decade! - editor), and chock full of Vimto and Sherbet Dip Dabs, I prepare for the eighties Bondathon on a Spacehopper. I'm so curious to see how these obscure antique pieces hold up to scrutiny. I mean, they haven't been on ITV4 for at least three days. I can't even remember who plays James Bond in any of them.
for your eyes only bond
For Your Eyes is a nice change of gear after the big two punch double whammy of humour and outrageous spectacle supplied by The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker but a change of gear with some reservations. The pre-title sequence is entertaining enough. Bond finds himself trapped in a remote controlled helicopter commandeered by Blofeld - the identity of Blofeld never directly stipulated but fairly obvious. It's a nose thumb at Kevin McClory. Up yours Mr McClory. We're going to drop thinly veiled fake Blofeld down a chimney.
Keeping the scene where Bond places flowers on Tracey's grave is nice. Although it was originally written for a new actor it helps to make Roger's Bond feel more human and further links him to the history of the series. If it had been written for Roger Moore then I'm sure the gravestones would have all flipped up to reveal machine guns and the vicar would have tried to strangle him with piano wire. Or something like that.
Having Bond's Lotus blow up and then see him resort to a humble Citroën 2CV to escape the baddies is John Glen making it clear that gadgets will not dominate this film. And the car chase is a lot of fun too.
The extended ski-chase is also terrific and gives the film an energy boost it needs around this juncture. Victor Tourjansky won a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his small but scene stealing performance as 'man with glass of wine'. The light blue roll-neck top and ski-trousers with braces look? Victor carries it off with aplum. Sorry, aplomb.
For me, the underwater intrigue drags on for too long and lacks the colour and scope of the water logged mischief in Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me. It is hard not to stifle a yawn when that yellow submersible craft is onscreen for what seems like too much time. I wonder what it would be like to live in a yellow submarine. There must a song in that.
The casting, as with most Bond films, could have been worse and could have been better. Julian Glover and (the always enthusiastic) Topol are very good while Carole Bouquet and Lynn-Holly Johnson (who was a professional ice skater in real life) are ok.
Roger wasn't getting any younger (he looks a little heavy around the waist in For Your Eyes Only as if he didn't have time to get in shape) and Bond seems to have more of a paternal relationship with the women in the film. Roger's 007 is more cold blooded here at times and less jokey than usual but Rog could play a straight scene with more competence than anyone gave him credit for. He's often very good in the film.
One thing that does heavily date the film is Bill Conti's very 1980s score. Sheena Easton's title song is fine as it goes and some of the action arrangements are exciting but the electro-squelch (that can't be a word in any known language) disco beeping noises are an assault on the ears and have a tendency to madly overstate moments in the film. If I jabbed an electronic keyboard everytime I announced I was going down the shop it might annoy you in the end.
For Your Eyes Only is not perfect (not only the underwater action but also the mountain climbing climax both rumble on longer than they should) but it has some lovely Mediterranean backdrops and is a likeable attempt to bring the Roger Moore era back to Earth.
Arcane trivia: 
The actor Michael Jayston (who had just appeared in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' with Alec Guinness) confessed in an interview many years later that he was vying with Patrick Mower and Michael Billington to play 007 in For Your Eyes Only. "But then the outgoing star, Roger Moore, decided that he wanted to do more, so none of us got the part."  On a further note of trivia, Jayston and Mower both went on to appear in Emmerdale. And speaking of Emmerdale, on a further... (ok, that's enough trivia for now thank you - editor).
A solid entry that purists tend to like more than the other Roger films.
What Octopussy lacks in coherence it makes up for with fun and nonsense. This is not the most serious of Bond films but the pennies are there on the screen and the return of John Barry is like a magical masking tape sticking glue that makes you more forgiving than you should be with the film as a whole. With John Barry's arrangements it always feels much more like a James Bond film.
Octopussy begins with a stupendous stunt sequence involving a small Acrostar jet and then the film opens proper with a good tension heavy scene where 009 tries to cross over to West Berlin at night. John Glen, one of the most unappreciated of the Bond directors, deserves some respect for the way he could make different types of Bond films and also have different facets and tones within them. After bringing the series back to earth with For Your Eyes Only he gives us large scale mayhem with Octopussy.
The casting is agreeable enough in Octopussy. Louis Jourdan is a jolly suave villain and Kabir Bedi is appropriately stern as his monosyllabic henchman Gobinda. Maud Adams returns to the series as the mysterious (vague if you prefer) Octopussy and Steven Berkoff is obviously enjoying the chance to ham the gaff up as the mad General Orlov. The Bond series definitely misses the Cold War to use as a backdrop.
Rog phones it in a bit in Octopussy but then the daftometer is cranked up here so it doesn't really matter. Having twin knife throwing killers (played by David Meyer & Anthony Meyer) is a nice idea and Robert Brown proves a good solid appointment as M. Is Brown supposed to be his character from TSWLM? A promoted Admiral Hargreaves? This is arguably the best theory to accept.
The Indian locations veer towards travelogue and the comedy sight gags during some of the many chases are sometimes wearisome but Octopussy is generally good undemanding fun and what's wrong with that? If every Bond entry was exactly the same it wouldn't be much fun to revisit the films.
The plane set-piece at the end is entertaining, there is some highly dangerous stuntwork during the circus train sequence, and the Sotheby's scene is amusing and well played by all. I like the scenes too where Bond is a prisoner in the palace but keeps escaping anyway.
Octopussy may be frowned on by purists but the film is always pleasurable enough for those who enjoy the Roger Moore era. And one more thing. The infamous "clown" sequence is actually a very tense well directed set-piece.
Arcane trivia:
Bond trying to command the tiger to "sit!" in the jungle is a joke reference to Barbara Woodhouse. Barbara Woodhouse was a dog trainer who became a fairly familiar face on British television in the 1980s. Woodhouse, an elderly lady with spectacles, claimed she could teach any unruly dog to behave in a matter of minutes. Her command for dogs to "sit!" became much parodied. Her other famous catchphrase was "walkies!" Obviously, these commands only work on dogs who speak English. Did anyone outside of Britain get the joke? Who knows.
Yes, Octopussy is a bit stupid but grand entertainment at its best.
One of the whipping boys of the franchise, A View To A Kill is very entertaining in parts but does feel like the series coasting along while it braces itself for some inevitable changes. It's like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces missing. They never quite go through the gears but they do take you for a pleasant country drive and buy you a packet of ready salted crisps on the way home.
The Siberia PTS is infamous for the Beach Boys intruding on the snowboarding escape but up to this point the ski-sequence, backed by John Barry's music, is fantastic. I love the moment where Bond hooks the Russian onto that cord and leaves him hanging over the ravine thingybob. Isn't that a great Bond moment?
Only the back projection really tarnishes the main ski stuff although the iceberg submarine with Union Flag hatch is naturally a bit stupid. If MI6 had miniature submarines they probably wouldn't put Union Flags on the hatch. Hello Russkies. We are from the British Secret Service. Here is our flag.
I like the casting in A View To A Kill. Christopher Walken (in a role that was apparently offered to David Bowie) is believably round the twist as Zorin and it's something new to have a woman as the henchman. The highly eccentric singer Grace Jones, who must have been fresh off Conan the Destroyer, has an odd way of reading lines but her wooden acting doesn't count against her too much in A View To A kill because it makes her character more eccentric and stoic and she's always an interesting visual presence.
Tanya Roberts doesn't really stick in the memory much but it is always very pleasant to see the late Patrick Macnee and Roger Moore is clearly enjoying the chance to work with him. As everyone points out when they review this film - Bond and Steed together at last.
Roger is pushing 60 now and more reliant on his stuntmen than ever but he's a suave presence as usual. I think Roger actually looks better in A View To A Kill than he did in Octopussy. Clearly though, it was time for a younger Bond and one would soon be on the way.
The Paris sequence (where Bond destroys most of France chasing May Day) is entertainingly absurd and despite the stories about budget cuts A View To A Kill still looks like it cost a lot of money to make. The recent Bond films look cheap and drab compared to the colour and location work that A View To A Kill puts up there on the screen.
A View To A Kill has a weird defence mechanism in a way as the consensus remembers it as a terrible film but, mostly, it's perfectly watchable and amusing to modern eyes with good production values and a stirring John Barry score. Duran Duran's song is great too although Maurice Binder's titles are not his best effort.
One obvious weakness is that the screenplay mimics Goldfinger in too obvious a fashion but the climax atop the Golden Gate Bridge is fun and the production design during the mine flooding sequences is fine. You would not pretend that A View To A Kill is the greatest of Bond films but it passes the time.
Arcane trivia:
Domark released a computer game for the Commodore 64 to tie in with the film and it might be one of the worst computer games ever created in the history of the human race. Don't you love the way that Paris, that rain drenched city of romance and poncy cream cakes, is depicted as a series of brown brick walls?
I don't care what anyone says. I quite like A View To A Kill. So there.
The Living Daylights is a good example of how to reposition a long-running series like the Bond franchise without kicking up too much fuss. There is no fierce determination to make a film that seems embarrassed to be a Bond film and the new actor looks more or less exactly like James Bond should look. The Living Daylights is yet another James Bond film but simply one where the flippancy has been toned down and the new actor is younger and more earnest than Sir Rog. These changes give The Living Daylights a freshness and novelty.
If you had to pitch the actual plot of The Living Daylights to someone it might be difficult not to make it sound boring. "...erm, double-dealing general... woman with" However, the film manages to weave around its screenplay with the usual interludes (cargo plane fight, action chase set-piece in Gibraltar, big battle sequence, Q scene, Aston Martin gadget sequence etc) without making it feel as if they've been forcibly inserted into the film artificially.
The Gibraltar PTS gives the film a grand opening as the Double O Agents parachute down to the Rock and Dalton is given a terrific introduction. It isn't entirely seamless but The Living Daylights flows well and seems like an excellent example of how to make a James Bond film that isn't too absurdly jokey winky or too absurdly humourless luvvie up its own backside.
There is a sense of balance here that EON have never quite managed to capture since. Put me on record as someone who thinks that The Living Daylights is better than any of the Brosnan or Daniel Cregg films.
There is too a real sense of style here with the desert sequences, the country safe house segment (where there is a terrific punch-up between Necros and that butler fellow in the kitchen), and the European interludes. The transport plane set-piece is excellent and the Aston returns for some gadget mayhem.
The casting is generally very, very good in the film with Jeroen Krabbé, Maryam D'Abo, Joe Don Baker, and Thomas Wheatley supplying solid performances around Dalton. Caroline Bliss is not the most natural actress as Moneypenny but she's not that bad.
The Living Daylights might not have the most iconic villains but Jeroen Krabbé is entertaining. I like the way the villain here is something of a rascal playing an elaborate game rather than a disfigured cliche. One casting choice that seems on the face of it to be good but doesn't work out as well as it should is John Terry as Felix Leiter. Terry is strangely wooden in his shortish scene.
Really though it is Timothy Dalton who deserves the most applause amongst the cast. He probably should have taken over one or two films earlier and been the eighties Bond. The Living Daylights is a very stylish and well produced Bond film.
Arcane trivia:
The imposing Julie T Wallace, who plays Rosika Miklos (Bond's Bratislava contact at the TransSiberian Pipeline), came to the attention of the Bond filmmakers with her remarkable breakthrough performance on British television the previous year as Ruth in the cult mini-series The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. She appeared in another Timothy Dalton film, the interesting although little seen 'Hawks', the year after The Living Daylights came out.
Classic Bond.
It seems unfair that Licence To Kill is often depicted as a failure now and one that nearly sunk the series. Let's remember that the film did good business around the world even if it didn't completely set the world alight in North America (Licence To Kill was decimated by the blockbuster box-office summer of 1989 - Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, Ghostbusters 2, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Star Trek V etc) and was considered to be a financial disappointment there.
Licence To Kill has a lot going for it and it still feels bold and refreshing that they made a film like this not that long after Roger handed in the keys to his Lotus. This is a film where Bond nuts someone and tells Christopher Neame to p*** off.
The tanker chase at the end is well staged and Robert Davi as Sanchez deserves to rated very highly in any list of Bond villains. What a nice range of cardigans Sanchez gets to sport too. Anthony Zerbe is great as the sweaty duplicitous Milton Krest and Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto are two of the most stunning Bond girls in any film.
Desmond Llewelyn makes the most of a greatly expanded role for Q when sent into the field to help Bond ("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!") and even Wayne Newton works in his smallish bit as a televangalist fronting the Sanchez drug operation.
Timothy Dalton makes Bond much more human and vulnerable (if a bit overly grim and serious at times) and the title song by Gladys Knight is one of the best of the series. It borrows the opening bars of Goldfinger and so has a stirring beginning that is pure James Bond.
Any problems? The film was shot in Mexico and Florida and James Bond films often lose something when the onscreen locales are too rigid and samey. You miss some trotting around the globe.
A recurring criticism of Licence To Kill is that it feels too eighties and Miami Vice. This is unfair as Bond films have always absorbed the background aura of the day, be it Kung Fu, Blaxploitation, and Star Wars with Roger Moore or Jason Bourne and The Dark Knight with the later Daniel Craig films.
The music is nothing special in the film. You can't help but miss the now departed John Barry. One other observation. What's going on with Timothy's sideburns? If you have a personal view on his sideburns in the film please jot them down in an email and send them to any James Bond website except this one. I'm sure they'll be happy to discuss it with you.
I don't think Licence To Kill is as good as The Living Daylights but it's nice to see that it has been gradually rejudged over the years. When the film closes out after Bond jumps in the swimming pool to join Pam I feel a certain sense of loss that it's the last time we ever saw Timothy as James Bond.
Arcane Trivia:
Christopher Neame, who plays Fallon, featured alongside fellow future Bond stars Christopher Lee and Caroline Munro in Hammer's groovy Dracula AD 1972. You have truly not lived unless you've seen Johnny Alucard attempting to dance.
Underrated for years, Licence To Kill finally seems to be getting some of the love it deserves.
- GH

c 2015 Alternative 007

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