For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: John Glen
Starring: Roger Moore, Topol, Julian Glover, Carole Bouquet, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, James Villiers, Geoffrey Keen, Cassandra Harris, Walter Gotell, Michael Gothard, John Wyman
Music: Bill Conti
Title Song: Performed by Sheena Easton
Based on a short story by Ian Fleming

For Your Eyes Only is the twelfth movie in the popular James Bond series and the fifth to feature Roger Moore in the role of James Bond. After Bond’s fantastical and out of this world adventures in the last film, Moonraker, it was time to bring him back to earth again in more ways than one. For Your Eyes Only eschews megalomaniacs with plans for world domination for a simple smuggling story. But just because the story is simple, doesn’t mean that the film is not action packed – it is, and has some great stunts.

The movie starts with an interesting self-contained pre-title sequence that ties up a few loose ends in the series. It opens on James Bond (Roger Moore) standing at the grave of Theresa Bond. Due to the perceived failure of the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in which Bond married Theresa, Bond’s relationship and previous marriage had been ignored. It’s good to see it acknowledged and reinforces that this is still the same character. As Bond lays down some flowers, he is called away, and must catch a helicopter back to Headquarters. The Helicopter lands in the cemetery grounds and Bond gets in. As he is flown across the top of the London rooftops, the pilot is electrocuted and dies. It looks like the chopper will plummet from the sky, but at the last second it swoops up and begins to fly normally. The pre-title then elaborates on the fate of Bond’s arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld, who we haven’t seen since the end of Diamonds Are Forever is in a motorised wheel chair with a remote control sitting on his lap. It is he who is controlling Bond’ chopper. Bond realises that Blofeld is only toying with him and will certainly die if he stays trapped as a passenger in the back of the helicopter, so he opens the door and climbs out on the landing strut and slowly inches his way to the pilot’s door. Now writing this, I am making this all seem simple, but not only is Bond crawling around on the outside of a moving chopper, he also has a madman at the controls of the remote control, so the chopper is dipping and weaving through the air – so this is not an easy task. Bond finally makes it to the pilot’s door, opens it, and throws out the dead pilot. He then gets into the pilot’s seat and tries to fly the chopper, but the controls are unresponsive. Just as it looks as though Bond’s days are numbered, he notices that some wireworks look to have been tampered with and have been sealed with some electrical tape. Bond yanks on the wires and regains control of the helicopter.

This doesn’t please Blofeld who tries to escape on his motorised wheelchair, but it is no match for the speed of a chopper, and Bond flies in low and scoops up Blofeld on the end of the chopper’s skid. Bond then flies over the top of a giant chimneystack and tilts the helicopter down. Blofeld slides off the skid and falls into the stack, presumably never to be seen again.

Now, during that description I have kept referring to the villain as Blofeld, but in fact the character’s name is never mentioned. And this is important. During this time, Kevin McClory, who co wrote the screenplays which were the basis for Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball, and consequently produced the film, was stirring up a bit of trouble. He was claiming that Blofeld was a character that he invented, and that he (and S.P.E.C.T.R.E.) had appeared in the EON films without his permission. Now the legal entanglements and ramifications of such a claim are far too much for me to outline here – but to cut a long story short EON chose to discontinue with Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as entities in the Bond series. So as I mentioned, although the villain in the pre-title sequence is never mentioned by name, his death signifies the tying up of a few loose ends. Although the purpose of this book is not to act as a buyers guide, for those who are interested in the tangled mess that Kevin McClory created with Thunderball, Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. the I whole heartedly suggest that you track down a copy of Robert Sellers’ indispensable book, The Battle For Bond.

After the titles, the film opens on a British spy trawler, the St. Georges. The boat is made up to look like an average fishing boat but below deck in houses the latest in hi-tech surveillance equipment. One of the hi-tech gizmos is an ATAC transmitter, which is a device the Russians would love to get their hands on. Up on deck, as the men go about their chores, they reel in their fishing nets. What they don’t notice, caught up in the toils of the net is a sea mine. As the mine touches the side of the ship it explodes, blowing a hole in the side. Water begins to flood in and the Duty Officer orders the destruction of the ATAC. Before the self destruct button can be pressed, the operator is swept away by a torrent of water. The ship goes down – many of the crew drown – and the ATAC is still intact.

Next we meet Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet). She is traveling by sea plane to her parents yacht the Triana, which is anchored out to sea of the coast of Corfu. The plane, piloted by Hector Gonzalez (Stefan Kalipha), drops Melina off and she is warmly greeted by her parents. The sea plane takes off and passes overhead. Then it turn and swings back over the yacht. Gonzalez strafes the Triana with a machine gun mounted to the bottom of the plane, killing Melina’s parents.

Melina’s father, Sir Timothy Havelock, a marine archaeologist, was actually working for the British Government and was trying to locate the wreck of the St. Georges. Now dead, Bond is asked to take over the mission, but first he has to find out why Havelock was killed. This leads him to Gonzalez who is hiding out in a Spanish villa. While there, he witnesses Gonzalez being paid off by Emil Lepold Locque ( Michael Gothard). However, before Bond can question Gonzalez, the hitman ends up with a bolt from a crossbow lodged in his chest. Bond is surprised to find Melina Havelock armed with a crossbow. She killed Gonzalez because he killed her parents. Unfortunately, Gonzalez’s goons aren’t appreciative of their employer being terminated and chase Bond and Melina. Our heroic couple escape in a battered Citroen CV2, and later Bond enlists Melina’s help in locating the sunken St. Georges.

As always, there are quite a few disparate characters for Bond to encounter throughout the adventure. The first is Locque, who I briefly mentioned in the paragraph above. He is a cold blooded killer, and his death in the film – he’s a bad guy, sure he dies! – caused a little bit of friction of the film set. Roger Moore thought that Locque’s death was too violent and un-Bondlike; however the director John Glen thought that the scene was needed – after all, Bond has a ‘License To Kill’.

Next we have Greek smuggler, Milos Columbo, played by Topol. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I won’t tell, but let’s just say that this film has more than a passing resemblance to The Guns Of Navarone and somebody has to play Anthony Quinn’s part.

Then we have Aristotle Kristatos played by Julian Glover. Glover has had a staggering career in film and television. It is often rumoured that he was even in contention to play the role of James Bond. Apart from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, and The Empire Strikes Back, he appeared in the spy films The Fourth Protocol and The Internecine Project. His television work includes the series Spy Trap, The Champions, The Saint, Quiller, Jason King and most noticeably in four episodes of The Avengers (my favourite being The Living Dead). In For Your Eyes Only, Glover plays a Greek tycoon who has information vital to Bond’s successful completion of the mission.

Every Bond film has to have a physical heavy, like Jaws or Oddjob, and in For Your Eyes Only, it is Erich Kriegler (John Wyman). Kriegler is fairly inconspicuous as he doesn’t have a physical trait like many other Bond villains. He’s not a giant or a dwarf, nor does he have steel teeth, gold teeth, a hook, or a killer derby. This guy has to go on strength alone, and in no way does that seem like a limitation at all. In one sequence, after he has fallen off his motorcycle, he lifts it above his head and throws it at Bond. This guy is strong.

For Your Eyes Only was the first film not to feature Bernard Lee as M. Filling the chair is James Villiers as Chief Of Staff – who I guess it’s safe to assume is Bond’s friend ‘Tanner’. Although here, the relationship doesn’t seem too cordial. You may remember Villiers as the villainous Carl Peterson in the Bulldog Drummond flick, Some Girls Do. Also on hand to dish out Bond’s instructions is Geoffrey Keen, returning as Sir Frederick Gray, Minister Of Defense.

In For Your Eyes Only, there are three ladies which Bond has the opportunity to impress with his incomparable charm. the first is Melina played by Carole Bouquet. Bouquet is gorgeous – the Bond series has never been one to go for ugly leading ladies – and she has the most beautiful hair of any Bond girl. Her character, Melina, is so driven by revenge after the death of her parents, that bat times it creates a void where romance should have been. But as the story progresses and the rough edges are chiseled away, we get to see that she is a real person after all.

The second woman that Bond encounters is Countess Lisl Von Schlaff, played by Australian actress Cassandra Harris. The Countess is the mistress of Milos Columbo, and she is sent to seduce Bond and find out what Bond is after. Coincidentally Harris, at the time that this movie was being made was the wife of Pierce Brosnan. Sadly Harris died in 1991 from cancer.

The third Bond girl, and the most irritating character in the film is Bibi Dahl (er, ‘Baby Doll’ – get it?) played by Lynn Holly Johson. Dahl is a champion ice-skater (and hose beast) under the sponsorship of Aristotle Kristatos. When watching the scenes between Roger Moore, who was 54 years old at the time, and Holly Johnson, who was around 23, it became clear that Sir Roger was getting a little too old to continue playing Bond. But as there was no logical successor at the time, Moore continued for another two films.

For Your Eyes Only has only two things wrong with it. One of them is the ending with Janet Brown impersonating Margaret Thatcher. Not that I mind the joke necessarily, but Bond is timeless escapism. I do not like or want Bond existing in the real world or interacting with real people as this only serves to date the stories in later years. For that same reason, I didn’t enjoy John Gardner’s continuation Bond novel Win, Lose Or Die which also featured Thatcher, George Bush Snr, and Mikael Gorbachev.

The worst thing about For Your Eyes Only is Bill Conti’s musical score. It has dated badly, more than any other score for the entire series. (But it still sounds better than Eric Serra’s cringe inducing score for Goldeneye). Sheena Easton sings the title song and it’s okay. It doesn’t move me like a number from Dame Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones, but it doesn’t have me reaching for the fast forward button either.

I would like to say that For Your Eyes Only is one of the best films in the series because of its back to basics approach, but to be fare, it has dated a bit more severely than some of the other installments in the series. But still, it’s a good Bond film, with some gutsy sequences. I know these days, it’s easy to look back at the Moore era films and say that they were too jokey, and Bond wasn’t hard enough. But here’s Roger Moore’s toughest outing as Bond. Here he shows he wasn’t just a smirk and an arched eyebrow!

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