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
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
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)
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
A VIEW TO A KILL
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
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.
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
I don't care what anyone says. I
quite like A View To A Kill. So there.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
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
cello...um..." 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
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
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
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.
LICENCE TO KILL
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
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.
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
Underrated for years, Licence To
Kill finally seems to be getting some of the love it deserves.