Wednesday, January 14, 2015

For Your Eyes Only - 1981

A word or two about the above image. I decided to use this one because when you mention the film that's what most people think of, and the other image that was used on the DVD cover is really quite boring. They created the effect by having the model wear a swimsuit the wrong way around. It was deemed too risqué in some places and they went with a less controversial image.

Background: now that Broccoli had cashed in on the Star Wars phenomenon he could get on with making For Your Eyes Only like he'd planned to four years earlier. Michael G. Wilson added screenwriting credits to his executive producer hat and assisted veteran writer Richard Maibaum with this one.

Like with The Spy Who Loved Me, there isn't actually an Ian Fleming James Bond book called For Your Eyes Only, well there is, but it's a collection of shorter Bond fiction. The title story and another one called Risico (Czech for Risk. I still think it would make a great Bond movie title, whether or not they use the plot. Exotic, short, punchy, intriguing) were used as the basis for the story in the film.

They also wanted a conscious return to the style of the books and the early films, to contrast the sheer lunacy of things like Moonraker, which was excessive in almost everything except acting ability. 

In between making Moonraker and starting shooting on For Your Eyes Only, the Bond film family suffered a tragedy. Bernard Lee, who had played M right from the start in Dr. No (the only cast member along with Lois Maxwell to appear in every single Bond film to that point), contracted stomach cancer in 1980 and died in January 1981 six days after his 73rd birthday. Filming had already begun on For Your Eyes Only, although no M scenes had yet been shot. Out of respect for Lee they did not replace his role on the film, but had the character go on leave and be filled in by another agent. More on that in Casting.

There was also a change of director. John Glen, who had worked on three other Bond films (On Her Majesty's Secret Service,  The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) as an editor and/or second unit director, so was well acquainted with cast and crew and the style of the films. It was Glen's film directorial debut.

They did a lot of advance publicity for the film, too. I can clearly remember reading the Marvel comics adaptation of it. As well as the story of the film it had some other cool background information and it was where I first encountered the name of Pierce Brosnan, who at the time was married to Cassandra Harris.

Story: at first glance it looks like a typical revenge story. The parents of model Melina Havelock, who while to all intents and purposes look like marine archaeologists are in fact undercover MI6 agents, using their cover to search for a missing weapon guidance and communication device (ATAC), that is believed to be somewhere in the Ionian Sea. Upon Melina's return to the boat she regards as her home, her parents are killed by an assassin. Holding the blood soaked dress she had purchased in Europe for her mother, a teary eyed Melina vows revenge.

Meanwhile James Bond, Agent 007 has been informed of the loss of the ship with the ATAC on board, the death of the Havelocks, and is instructed to find out who is responsible for ordering the hit, and if at all possible recover the missing ATAC.

The trail leads Bond to an idyllic villa somewhere in Spain, where the assassin who killed the Havelocks and others of his deadly fraternity are living it up in the sun by the pool with a bevy of swimsuit clad beauties flitting about the place. Bond gains entry by going over a wall and is about to commence investigations when the killer responsible for the Havelock hit winds up dead in the pool with a bolt from a crossbow through his body.

In the ensuing chaos Bond escapes, meets the crossbow toting killer, who is Melina Havelock taking revenge for her parents, and winds up on a mad chase cross country driving a beaten up old Citroen 2CV (his MI6 issued Lotus blew up when someone attempted to obtain unauthorised entry to it, they really should have paid attention to note about theft protection being fitted to the car). At this stage Bond takes a rather paternal attitude towards Melina (Roger Moore at 54 was easily old enough to be the 24 year old Carole Bouquet's father, but he did look younger, so we'll look at him as more of a cool uncle) and advises her that the best thing she can do for her parents is stay out of the way and let him bring the real killer (whoever ordered the hit) to justice.

Back in London, Bond is hauled over the coals for allowing his target to be killed by an amateur and letting another lead get away. He is sent to Cortina in the Italian Alps to liaise with an Italian agent by the name of Luigi and see if he can run down a sinister looking killer called Loque, who is believed to be connected to the Havelock murder and the missing ATAC.

When he gets there and makes contact with Luigi and is in turn put in touch with a wealthy Greek businessman by the name of Aris Kristatos, who has helped out British Intelligence since the Second World War, he runs into Melina again, just in time to see her purchase a new crossbow! I did find it interesting that Bond had to use the resources of MI6, and the newest tech that Q could lay his hands on (laughably primitive by modern standards) to find Loque, yet Melina seemed to do it without any problem whatsoever, and she was only freelancing, with no known resources or contacts.

Once again Bond advises Melina to keep her nose out of it and leave it to the professionals. This follows an attempt on her life, that also involved Bond and some very cool alpine stunts. They don't quite top what was done in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the pre credit sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me, but they are very good, and involve motorbikes with specially fitted tires for the snow and the ice, they're also equipped with forward firing machine guns.

Kristatos introduces Bond to his protege, teenage American figure skating sensation Bibi Dahl, advises the British agent that the killings and the search for the ATAC are more than likely being conducted by a notorious Greek smuggler called Milos Columbo, who he claims hired Loque. He also says Columbo (I really have issues taking that name seriously) works for the Russians and was a double agent during the war, when the two men were still partners. He agrees to meet Bond in Corfu and help him go after Columbo. 

Before he can do that Bond has to fend off the persistent advances from Bibi, who seems intent on throwing herself at him. I was pleased to see that Bond realised the inappropriateness of any sort of liaison with the girl, who really was young enough to be his daughter, but again it highlighted Moore's advancing age. He looks younger than he really is, but I had trouble working out why someone Bibi's age would be so interested in a man so clearly that much older than her. Admittedly she did advance the theory that the only reason Kristatos sponsors her and her strict German coach is because he wants to sleep with her and that's seriously icky. While accompanying Bibi to the biathlon, Bond is attacked and once again has to ski to safety, one of his attackers is an East German biathlete Eric Krieger and that too is quite curious. There was one scene where Bond is skiing down a bobsled run behind a bobsled, being chased by an assassin on a motorbike. I kind of wondered if it was a bit of a nod to the bobsled fight between Bond and Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and as director John Glen worked on that film, this may have been the case. Sadly Luigi didn't make it out alive, either. There's a white dove pin in the Italians hand, and according to Kristatos, the dove is Columbo's nickname and calling card.

In Corfu, Bond meets with Melina and Kristatos and has Columbo pointed out to him. He doesn't make contact with the man, but instead liaises with his girlfriend, an Austrian gold digger, who goes by the name of Countess Lisl von Schlaf. In reality the 'Countess' is a Liverpudlian who puts on the accent and adopts the Austrian nobility persona for business reasons. Lisl isn't really the Bond girl of the film, but I feel she fits that role better than Melina, she and Bond seem to have more of a connection and actress Cassandra Harris' age was far more appropriate to Roger Moore's at the time (I know I'm harping on that, but it did become a real issue for the franchise from this point on). The morning after the night before Lisl is 'fridged' by Loque and another assassin (a young Charles Dance). Bond takes revenge and his pushing Loque's car off a cliff with the killer still in it is one of Moore's most ruthless moments as Bond. I believe there was also some discussion about not having him do it, and the actor insisted that it be filmed that way, which showed quite an understand about the character that many people don't think Moore possessed.

Rather than wait for Bond to contact him Columbo takes matters into his own hands and Bond is effectively kidnapped by the smuggler and winds up on his boat. There, Columbo explains the truth of the matter, yes he is a smuggler, and no he's not necessarily the nicest person out there, but he does not deal in drugs or vice, and he doesn't give information to the Russians and arrange to have people killed. That is Kristatos, that has always been Kristatos. It's actually quite a nice reveal, I mean it was pretty well telegraphed, but at the time I (and I was a teenager) it was an 'oh that's the deal? Snap!' moment for me, and I doubt I was alone in the audience thinking that.

So Bond and Columbo become allies. Bond meets with Melina and they go after the ATAC seriously.  They find it, but before Bond can activate it's destruct mechanism they're attacked and taken prisoner by Kristatos. The underwater scenes are, as they have been since Thunderball, beautifully shot and constructed. Moore does seem to do as much underwater work as Connery did, but I never get the sense that it's his element the way it was with Connery, kind of odd really, because it's something that was emphasised in the early films, and possibly even Fleming's books. Moore's Bond seems to be more at home in the air, flying, as did Brosnan's, yet we didn't even realise Connery's Bond could fly a plane until he piloted Little Nellie in You Only Live Twice (it really makes me wonder if he could fly a helicopter why didn't he do so in Thunderball and save Felix Leiter some of the trouble of flying him about the place all the time?).

Kristatos is a good evil villain and wants to play with his food before killing it, so decides to torture Bond and Melina to death. You'd think with how well known Bond is and how many attempts on his life he's survived by some real experts that by now the bad guys would know to just kill him and get it over with. Of course Bond does get himself and Melina free and they get to her boat. Kristatos thinks the sharks have taken them. Did Blofeld's experiences teach you nothing, Aris? Unless you see the body and can confirm that it is not breathing, he is NOT dead.

Melina's father's pet parrot, Max, who like any good parrot (I think he was a macaw) repeats anything that is said to, or around, him let's both Bond and Melina know that Kristatos took the ATAC to somewhere called St Cyrils.

The problem with that is that St Cyril is a popular saint in Greece and there are quite a few St Cyrils about the place. They narrow it down to an old abandoned monastery atop a rock on an island. Strategically it's a good place. It can only be approached conveniently from the air, so they can see someone coming. Interestingly enough Kristatos has holed up there with Krieger (he was the henchman, but unfortunately coming after Jaws it's really hard to take him as a serious threat) and Bibi and her coach. That kind of mystified me, unless they wanted to further explore Bibi's brat potential, she was good at playing the spoilt brat. Bond has to climb up the rock to get to the monastery and retrieve the ATAC, with Columbo's men and Melina and her ever present crossbow covering him. This was before rock climbing became a serious sporting pursuit and the work up the rock is quite well staged and genuinely suspenseful.

Kristatos plan was to give the ATAC to General Gogol. Gogol arrives just as Bond has managed to get hold of the device, and seeing that Bond hurls it off the cliff where it shatters on the rocks below. His comment to Gogol is: 'You can't have it and now we don't have it, either.' Gogol is pretty old school and he respects Bond as an adversary, he laughs and claps 007 before returning to his helicopter and Mother Russia.

Bond and Melina are getting friendly aboard her yacht when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (the only time that I can remember the films actually referencing a genuine politician, it did however date the piece quite badly, they even hired an impersonator to play the role) rings to personally congratulate him. Bond is busy with Melina, so they let Max take the call before MI6 realise what is happening and cut the connection.


Director: I assume that because Eon wanted to take a different direction and concentrate more on story and give Bond back his old edge, they appointed John Glen, rather then rehire Lewis Gilbert, who seemed to have fallen in love with the gadgetry and huge action sequences of his last two Bond films. I quite liked Glen as a director and he did put his own stamp on Bond with this film and the other 4 he would go on to direct (with directing credits on 5 Bond films. That elevated him above even Guy Hamilton who directed 4 and Terence Young and Lewis Gilbert each with 3). He gave Bond a more stripped back feel and look. He achieved a balance between the gadgets and Bond using his own ingenuity and physical superiority to get him through his missions. He also showed great attention to detail in this film at least. During the scene on Columbo's boat the camera is tilted back and forth to give the viewer the impression that they're at sea. He also made great use of the scenery in the Alps and the Greek Islands.

James Bond: Roger Moore initially signed a 3 picture deal as Bond, which ended with The Spy Who Loved Me. From that point on he was hired on a picture by picture basis. I don't know if he talked about leaving the role after Moonraker, or if the producers started to have concerns about his physical age and how he looked as the younger Bond, but they did screen test a couple of other actors. One was Lewis Collins (best known as Bodie from The Professionals) and Michael Billington again, he did have the look as had been seen in The Spy Who Loved Me, and that performance and appearance may have even counted against him. They'd already made the mistake of casting Charles Gray as Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice and then as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, didn't want to do it with Bond as well. So at the age of 54, Moore fronted up again. He did look younger, but it still didn't stop him looking old enough to be Melina's father and made the whole thing look a bit silly and somewhat disturbing. There was also little chemistry between Moore and Carole Bouquet. He did however have some with Cassandra Harris, who had a much smaller role.

Aris Kristatos: veteran British actor Julian Glover was a good friend of the Broccolis. They had initially looked at him for Bond back when they made Dr. No, but was considered too young (he's 5 years younger than Sean Connery) and then again when Connery left the franchise, but was considered a little old, despite being 8 years younger than Roger Moore. However he was a friend, so when they saw the opportunity to cast him in For Your Eyes Only they took it. He does a really good job with Kristatos, only descending into evil villain mode towards the end when he elects to slowly torture Bond and Melina to death rather than simply putting a bullet through them and dumping the bodies into the Ionian Sea. Glover himself is still acting, even though he's nearly in his 80's. He plays Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones.

Milos Columbo: Israeli actor Chaim Topol (best known for his role as Tevye in the West End production of Fiddler on the Roof) has a fabulous time chewing his way through the scenery, playing the roguish, pistachio chomping (a character quirk the actor himself suggested, and also the same type of nut preferred by Max the parrot) smuggler. He was originally floated by Dana Broccoli for the part, she was apparently quite a fan of his work in Fiddler on the Roof. While the move worked, I feel it was a mistake for the Broccolis to treat the films as a bit of a family project by casting friends and actors they liked in major parts because they could.

Peripheral roles: sadly Bernard Lee passed away before the M scenes could be filmed so he was denied a proper farewell film. Lois Maxwell returned as Moneypenny, and this made her the one remaining cast member from Dr. No, and the only person to appear in all 12 films. With 14 Bond films in a row to her credit Maxwell holds the unbroken record, and it's unlikely to ever be broken (with 17 Bond films in total, Desmond Llewelyn holds the record for most appearances, but not appearing in Live and Let Die broke his streak). She's starting to look her age and even dressing rather frumpily, her role is again reduced to a few friendly words with James in the office outside M's inner sanctum. Desmond Llewelyn came back as Q, and he appears to be a sort of field agent now. His appearance in disguise as a Greek Orthodox priest is one of the films iconic scenes.

Bibi Dahl: personally I think Bibi was a bit of a mistake. She's an figure skating champion sponsored by Kristatos and she throws herself at Bond, which is meant to be amusing, but really comes across as a bit icky given the age difference. They then don't seem to know what to do with the character and take her to St Cyril's because, she mostly plays the spoilt brat there and is more annoying than anything else. To give the part some authenticity actual figure skater Lynn Holly Johnson was cast as Bibi. Johnson is best known for 1978's Ice Castles where she also played a figure skater. She got some acclaim for her performance in Ice Castles, but as Bibi in For Your Eyes Only she proved that as an actress she's makes a good figure skater.

Emile Loque: this assassin with the dead eyes behind wire rimmed octagonal glasses shadows Bond and makes a few attempts on his life before the agent pushes his car off a cliff with the killer inside it. He was played with effectively chilling menace by Michael Gothard.

Countess Lisl von Schlaf: what they needed her was an attractive older blonde woman who could effectively play faux Austrian nobility and then slip into her actual personality as a Liverpudlian girl who left home seeking adventure and a fortune on the way. I do occasionally wonder if when they saw the word Austrian on the casting sheet they misread it as Australian and cast Aussie actress Cassandra Harris. Her Austrian accent is passable and it's fake anyway it doesn't matter if it's not quite right, however her English accent doesn't go anywhere near Liverpool, and surely they could have cast a British or even a genuine Scouser for the part. However Harris did have some real chemistry with Moore and their brief liaison came across as quite believable. Cassandra Harris was married to Irish actor Pierce Brosnan. He accompanied his wife to the shoot and that was how he first appeared on the Broccoli's radar before he'd played Remington Steele on TV.

Sir Frederick Gray: Geoffrey Keen had also appeared as the British politician in the two previous films and would reprise the role for the next 3. He's used to pick up some of the slack left by Bernard Lee's passing as M.

Bill Tanner: Tanner is referred to in this movie as Chief of Staff, and he's standing in for M while he's on leave. Tanner appears in quite a few Bond films, although at the time of filming For Your Eyes Only he 'd really only popped up in The Man With The Golden Gun, and even then it wasn't actually credited. They cast British actor James Villiers, in my opinion it was a mistake. Villiers assumed that following this film he'd be given the role of M going forward, so he played this in a highly autocratic manner, he spends most of his time sneering at Bond and calling his abilities as an agent into question. Connery's Bond would have punched him in the face, at times even Moore's more level headed version seems to have trouble controlling his temper. It's even weirder and odd to hear Bond keep referring to Tanner as 'sir' when strictly speaking they're on equal terms, and I'd wager Bond could even have seniority (he's certainly got field experience) over the Chief of Staff. I am very glad that Villiers didn't get the role going forward (apparently the actor was disappointed to be told that they wanted an older actor for it), because his style of playing the character is extremely off putting.

General Gogol: for the 3rd film in a row Walter Gotell plays Gogol in a small role, although larger than Moonraker's cameo. They seem to be establishing him as a bit of a lecher, because for the second time he's seen liaising in a very unprofessional way with a  pretty young blonde.

Claus: this is a very small role, he's an associate of Loque, but I'm putting it in because it's an early role by Charles Dance, he does a good job playing another bad guy (he always seems to be cast as one), but it is a shame that we don't get to hear him use that marvellous voice. Dance has gone on to great success and was most recently seen as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones, where he was reunited with Julian Glover.

Max: this is the Havelock's highly intelligent and very important parrot. I don't know who played him, though as it was sadly uncredited.

Melina Havelock: French actress and model Carole Bouquet with her classical looks was a great choice to play Greek model and vengeance seeker Melina Havelock. She was suggested for the role by a United Artist's publicist, and when Glen and Broccoli saw her in French film The Obscure Object of Desire they offered her the part. I can't find any evidence that her part was dubbed, but I just think that it is, the voice doesn't sound quite right. She does a really good job with the role, although it would have been hard to find anyone still alive that wouldn't have outshone Lois Chiles in Moonraker. There's no chemistry between her and Moore, but as the romantic scenes are kept to a minimum that's not a deal breaker.

The Curse of the Bond Girl: Bouquet had the talent to keep acting and forge a Hollywood career if she wanted, and if her voice wasn't dubbed, the ability with English to land roles in English speaking productions. For whatever reason she chose not to do that and consistently acted mostly in French films though out the 80's and 90's. She's best known for being the face of Chanel for a decade during the 80's and 90's. She was also the long time girlfriend of French actor Gerard Depardieu from 1997 to 2005, they were engaged between 2003 and 2005, but never married. It's not so much that many of these actresses are cursed as such, more that they don't possess the talent, desire or language skills to make it in the tough world of feature films.

Pre credit sequence: although its not as action packed as the two previous pre credit sequences were I think it's more important in terms of continuity. Bond visits Tracy's grave to plant flowers there for her. Since her death in On Her Majesty's Secret Service she's only been referenced twice that I can remember. Naturally in the pre credit sequence of Diamonds Are Forever when Bond avenges her death and Bond also mentions that he was married before in The Spy Who Loved Me. This is a nice touch, and again it may have been director John Glen's way of reminding people that he was first involved with Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, so he knows the history of the material and isn't just some 'johnny come lately'. The other piece of continuity is cutting Bond's visit to Tracy short by having him called to his office and boarding a helicopter bearing the name Universal Exports (the fictional company that MI6 use as a cover). The pilot is killed and the helicopter is then remote controlled by a bald man in a wheelchair, wearing a neck brace and stroking a fluffy white cat (although this one had green eyes, normally they're blue). Eventually Bond manages to regain control of the helicopter, pick up the wheelchair on a strut and drop the would be killer down a chimney, the cat escapes though. He's never named and we never see his face, but this can only be Blofeld. I don't know who voiced him, but it sounded wrong. It would have been nice if they could have gotten one of the actors who played Bond's greatest nemesis or even Anthony Dawson (who voiced him before he was seen on screen as Donald Pleasence) to provide the voice, but maybe that would have affected Kevin McClory's copyright on the character. Even though the name is not used it's very clearly Blofeld and as well as a nice bit of continuity it's a big FU to McClory by getting rid of the character and saying we can do just fine without him.

Gadgets: although they took away a lot of Bond's toys in the field in this film, I think the exploding car is the only real one and because that deprives him of quick transport that's probably more of a hindrance than a help. I won't list the ATAC, because I don't see that as a gadget. 'Blofelds' wheelchair, equipped as it is with a panel to control the helicopter is a definitely a gadget and the character does like that sort of thing. There's the identograph, which provides a 3D identikit representation of someone, it's how Bond identifies Loque. By today's standard it's so primitive, requiring a room to house it in, a large spin up disc machine and needing someone qualified (Q in this case) to type in the information to create the image. It also seemed to take forever. These days they could put it all into a phone or make it even smaller and easier to use. They wanted to cut down on the gadgets and they definitely did. I'm betting Bond was wishing he had the 'rifle ski stocks' he had in The Spy Who Loved Me when he was being chased down the slopes in Italy. There are also the machine gun equipped motorbikes used in that chase scene.

Music: before I go any further I'll state that For Your Eyes Only by Sheena Easton is my absolute favourite Bond theme. It helps that I quite like Sheena Easton. The song was written by Bill Conti and Michael Leeson. It fits for the film and it has a story behind it, Easton was a star at the time, with a number of high charting hits behind her. Sheena Easton holds the distinction of being the only artist to appear in the opening credits (not even Madonna did that in Die Another Day). Maurice Binder found her attractive and wanted to use her in the opening credits. Blondie was the artist originally chosen to perform a version of the song, and she later included that on her album The Hunter. This time they got it right by using Easton. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and a Grammy and it reached top 10 in both the US and UK charts. To this day it still remains my favourite and it works as a song without the film to back it.

James Bond will return in Octopussy (yes, they did name a film that)

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