Bondathon #12: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Posted: March 29, 2016 in Movie Review
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For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Director: John Glen

Starring: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover, Topol, Lynn-Holly Johnson

With “Moonraker,” James Bond brought a whole new meaning to his family motto, ‘The world is not enough,’ when he left the confines of Earth’s gravity to take on that movie’s villain. It was as representative of the excesses of the 1970’s as anything that the previous three Roger Moore films had brought to the table. The 1980’s would prove to have its own set of quirks, but at least for a brief moment in time the arrival of a new decade saw Bond with both feet firmly planted on solid ground. “For Your Eyes Only” may have been a deviation from the formula set up by Moore’s era of Bond, but that’s only because it marked the return to a level of normalcy not seen since “From Russia With Love.”

The prologue to “For Your Eyes Only” sees James Bond (Roger Moore) visiting the grave of his beloved wife, Tracy, whose headstone bears the words ‘We have all the time in the world.’ Shortly after, Bond is attacked by a hairless, wheelchair-bound man with a maniacal laugh and a familiar-looking white cat. In an attempt to kill Bond once and for all but wishing to toy with him first, the man hijacks the controls to the helicopter that 007 has just boarded. We the audience don’t need to hear the name Blofeld (which, for legal reasons, we don’t) to recognize the visual cues that this is indeed Bond’s most hated nemesis. Nor does it rob us of sharing in Bond’s satisfaction as he coldly exacts his final vengeance upon the man responsible for the death of his one true love. Granted, being dropped down a smokestack isn’t the most dignified way for Blofeld to go out, but impractically disposing of him in this way is symbolic of the series doing away with the typical world domination/annihilation plot.

Bond’s next case involves what sounds like a simple salvage operation. A British spy vessel has gone down with all hands. MI6 and the Ministry of Defence’s main interest is the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC) on board. They want Bond to recover the device before the Soviet Union does. Another wrinkle is added by the assassination of Sir Timothy Havelock, a marine archaeologist whom the British were hoping could locate the wreckage of the St. Georges. Bond goes to Spain to spy on the hitman, Hector Gonzales, before running afoul of Gonzales and his man. Cornered, Bond is saved at the last minute when Gonzales is felled by a crossbow bolt by a vengeful Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), Sir Havelock’s daughter, who also lost her mother to Gonzales’ earlier attack.

Using Q’s 3-D image scanner Bond identifies another hitman from Gonzales’ villa named Emile Leopold Locque and goes looking for him in Italy. Once there, Bond consults with Greek businessman Aris Kristatos (Julian Glover). Kristatos fingers his former partner, Milos Columbo (Topol) as Locque’s employer. The movie gets distracted with the introduction of Kristatos’ protege, ice skater Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), whose inclusion in the plot shockingly does have an actual point to it. Still, Bibi’s early scenes where she behaves like a James Bond groupie are as uncomfortable for us to watch as they are for 007 to experience. Not one to make a habit of turning down sex from a willing female partner, Bond feels morally obligated to make an exception in young Bibi’s case.

After several attempts on his life, Bond is saved from certain death by Columbo’s men. Columbo, a well-known smuggler, is hardly an innocent man, but he is not guilty of the crimes for which Bond has sought him out. It was in fact Kristatos who arranged the death of Sir Havelock and it is Kristatos whom Soviet Intelligence has hired to acquire the ATAC for them. Pointing out that Kristatos is also a manufacturer and distributor of opium, Columbo and his men accompany Bond to one of Kristatos’ bases in Albania, where they also discover mines like the one which took down the St. Georges. Locque is there, too, and Bond puts an end to him. Afterwards, Bond and Melina team back up and go looking for the ATAC in the wreckage of the St. Georges. Predictably finding resistance from Kristatos’ men, Bond and Melina resurface with the ATAC only to have to surrender it and avoid certain death yet again.

Bond, Melina and Columbo trace Kristatos to a mountaintop monastery meant to serve as a rendezvous point with the KGB. Bond reacquires the ATAC but prevents Melina from killing Kristatos. Not that he’s being hypocritical or anything… It doesn’t much matter because Kristatos dies anyway from a knife in the back tossed by Columbo. When the head of the KGB (making his third consecutive appearance in a Bond film) arrives, Bond tosses the ATAC down the mountainside where it shatters into dozens of unusable pieces. Since neither the British nor the Russians are in possession of the ATAC, Bond declares ‘détente.’

“For Your Eyes Only” is the most Connery-esque of Roger Moore’s Bond films. As such, it solidly ranks as his best effort in the role. The silliness, the humor and the gadgetry are all kept to a dull roar in favor of *GASP* telling a story! French actress Carole Bouquet is the best of Moore’s Bond girls, although Bouquet’s line delivery suffers from the fact that Melina’s voice (like so many Bond girls before her) is dubbed. Julian Glover, who lost out on the part of 007 to Moore in 1973, is not one of the more memorable Bond villains, though he fills his role well enough. Glover is most recently known for his role as Grand Maester Pycell in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Not the first actor from the series to appear in a Bond film, Glover isn’t even the only one to show up in “For Your Eyes Only.” Charles Dance, also known as Tywin Lannister, appears as one of Kristatos’ many nameless henchmen and is hilariously shot in the back while in the middle of delivering his one and only line in the film.

Roger Moore should’ve quit while he was ahead. I believe I may have read a quote somewhere direct from the man himself to that effect. While not among the all-time greats in the series, “For Your Eyes Only” did its best to avoid that which served to bog down his earlier efforts. To expect lighting to strike twice may have been asking too much, and much time and frustration would doubtless have been saved had the series moved on with a new actor as the face of the franchise. Instead, the series would revert back to the campiness which dominated the 1970’s. Unlike his superior 1981 effort, Moore’s final two adventures would prove to be for die hard fans only.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Sounds like I should have included at least this Moore film before I shut ‘im down! I can tell just from your description that the plot is reasonable and under control. Also, I would enjoy seeing Blofeld go ignominiously down the chimney stack!

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