starring Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Julian Glover
screenplay by Richard Maibum and Michael G. Wilson
directed by John Glen
by Ian Pugh Already something of a dinosaur in a season that saw Indiana Jones explode onto the cinematic landscape, For Your Eyes Only was the first 007 film that found Roger Moore looking too old to be a roguish, oversexed secret agent. Having played Bond four times previously over the course of eight years, it was readily apparent that Moore aged well, better than most--which clearly accounted for his longevity in the role. I have to wonder, then, if his suddenly-elderly appearance here is a reflection of the fact that he's so clearly out of his element. He found his footing in the part once the powers-that-be realized he could succeed where Connery had failed: The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker were overblown and more than a little silly, but they were legitimized in part by their star's sly grin and complete comfort in tackling the largest, most preposterous schemes possible--something to which the admirably analog Connery could never entirely adjust. For Your Eyes Only was intended to bring the series back to its down-and-dirty roots, but it only managed to remind that Moore was a square peg unfit for the round hole his predecessor occupied.
The film states its intentions right up front with its pre-credits sequence, which begins with flowers placed at the grave of Bond's wife Teresa and ends with 007 dropping his archnemesis Blofeld (John Hollis, uncredited) down a smokestack. Perhaps it was a declaration that the character's over-the-top SPECTRE days were behind him--or maybe it was just a blatant middle-finger directed at Kevin McClory, who was in the early stages of producing Never Say Never Again by this point--but, apparently, it didn't discourage anyone from regurgitating themes that had been exhausted almost twenty years before. (Maybe it's a statement on how the appearance of Reagan and Thatcher signalled the end of the détente between East and West, what with a look-alike for the Prime Minister appearing at the finale to congratulate our hero. But the fact that the film usually acts as if that détente never actually happened speaks volumes.) No longer facing crazed billionaires seeking to exterminate the human race, Bond is charged with recovering the ATAC, a missile guidance system lost to the Ionian Sea, before a mysterious Greek smuggler gets his hands on it and sells it off to the Russians. Traveling through Italy and Greece, he teams up with Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), whose parents were killed before they could definitively locate the ATAC; her quest to avenge them with a carefully-aimed crossbow leads Bond to offer a few stern sentences of warning.
It's not too much of a stretch to consider this film a rough '80s counterpart to Quantum of Solace, another tale of blind vengeance that found the "importance" of Bond's adventures noticeably diminished in scope. The current Bond flick legitimizes the use of Bolivia's water supply as a major plot point, however, by asking whether Her Majesty's government would be half as interested in protecting the masses if it didn't mean breaking the necks of the assholes responsible. You're not supposed to ask these kinds of questions in For Your Eyes Only, since the two concepts apparently go hand-in-hand: By the time Bond has twice lectured Melina on the follies of vengeance, we have seen him kill his wife's murderer and a silent assassin in an identically cold-blooded fashion (sending them both plummeting from very high distances). Not given much insight into Bond's own motives, are we to accept that his desire for revenge is a greater prerogative than Melina's by the mere fact that he is our eternal protagonist?*
Call it another condescending pat on the head to the fairer sex, though the problem runs deeper than that. The series was threatening to go meta in precisely the wrong direction, not by highlighting the violent nature of Bond's actions but by rooting itself so deeply in its conventions that you would be actively mocked for wanting something more substantial. The villain (Julian Glover) is weak because everyone knows he doesn't really have to represent anything except another intermediary for the Soviets (and you thought the series had learned its lesson about this glad-handing bullshit by The Spy Who Loved Me), while the myriad chase sequences are a particular problem since we're constantly reminded that Bond is indestructible--despite his lethargic reaction to virtually any peril that comes his way. For Your Eyes Only is often claimed to be the best film of Moore's tenure in the series, but it's ultimately the first step in the inexorable descent to its eventual nadir, A View to a Kill. The film brats of the '70s saw their chance to lay claim to the action/adventure genre and took it without hesitation--and it's not difficult to understand why everyone had stopped caring by the time Bond's producers finally decided to galvanize the character's personal stakes in Licence to Kill, eight long years later.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers For Your Eyes Only arrives on Blu-ray in an adequate 2.35:1, 1080p transfer. Restorers Lowry Digital falter by applying too much DVNR (the less-than-crisp letters of the opening credits betray this better than any other aspect of the image), but I suspect it would've looked a little soft anyway due to the picture's unconquerable Eighties-ness. Colour-wise, For Your Eyes Only certainly boasts a renewed brilliance here, something that's obvious from the fire-engine-red helicopter in the very first scene. The accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD MA remix deserves some sort of best-in-show award when compared to the four earlier titles in the inaugural batch of Bond BDs; working from a four-track master (also included as a Dolby 2.0 Surround option), the lossless track features discrete and more active rear channels as well as occasionally guttural bass. If the music sounded "bright" to me, the grating instrumentation of Bill Conti's score is at least partly to blame.
Also on board are three full-length commentaries, neither of which offer any clue as to why Sheena Easton sings her hideous title track on screen (is it because her generic hotness lent itself to the Bond aesthetic?), though Conti amuses with his recollection of reluctantly meeting with Easton, not understanding a word she said, and eventually being won over by her vocal range. That's the third yak-track, the second of two patchworks moderated by David Naylor, who does a bang-up job in John Cork's stead. Director John Glen and select cast members are the focus of yakker #2, while #3 is devoted to producer Michael G. Wilson and various crew; Sir Roger Moore once again gets the first to himself. By Moore's own admission, he has nothing to say (and seems more interested in talking about Spice World at that), but I did enjoy how his declaration that he was never conscious of any attempt to reboot the franchise post-Moonraker conflicts with Glen's side of the story, which has him and the actor discussing the character's return to basics at length. Naylor's only misstep is not pulling the reins on Topol, who seems like a lovely guy but never stops droning on about things he probably doesn't realize most contemporary viewers are hip to, like the minutiae of press junkets.
Declassified: MI6 Vault houses "Deleted Scenes and Expanded Angles"--that is, two of the former and one of the latter. Glen provides non-optional intros and the whole megillah is in 1080p despite its workprint quality. More interesting than 007 dumping a load of snow on his hockey-playing adversaries (seriously: this was their idea of a Bond we could take seriously?)--a gag that was cut for time--is the moment where Melina grills James about his sex life. Glen says this "took away from [Carole Bouquet's] character," but no, it takes away from Moore's, perilously deromanticizing our secret agent. It always makes me feel skeevy to think of Bond working through the Kama Sutra with one of his conquests, and this elision has a similar impact. Meanwhile, "expanded angles" describes a multi-angle feature giving us wider views of Locque's death. It's awfully pointless. Moving on, "Bond in Greece" (6 mins., 480i) is the first of three home-movie-type reels narrated by Wilson that together manage to encapsulate the upcoming making-of. Wilson spoils the surprise of future Bond Pierce Brosnan having been on set in the company of then-wife Cassandra Harris, who played Topol's mistress; and he touches on the issues with the monastery that would see the production hassled by monks. A humorous story of backgammon wagers is unique to this piece, though. "Bond in Cortina" (4 mins., 480i) is more of the same, with Wilson quoting Glen's utterly un-quote-worthy assessment of Bouquet's most striking feature: "As John Glen put it, 'Those wonderful eyes.'" Lastly, in "Neptune's Journey" (4 mins., 480i), Wilson tells the tale of a modest fake personal submarine that went on to fame and fortune and now resides in a museum devoted to props from the 007 film series.
Leapfrogging over 007 Mission Control, we come to Mission Dossier and Cork's "Inside For Your Eyes Only" (30 mins., 1080i), the de rigueur retrospective making-of. Wasn't sure if they'd have the stones to broach the subject of transsexual Tula, whose bikini-clad appearance in For Your Eyes Only caused quite a stir after-the-fact, but Glen generously remembers her as the most beautiful woman in the film. Moore calls the moment in which he kicks villain Locque's car off a cliff "a bit un-Roger Moore Bond" and admits to taking a Valium before agreeing to go mountain-climbing on camera. As I said, overall it's a tad redundant, but the anecdotes, unlike Wilson's, are largely first-hand, and it's worth a viewing just to see/hear how extensively-interviewed effects maestro Derek Meddings executed a few truly ingenious optical illusions. Rounding out this section are animated storyboards for the snowmobile chase and underwater passage and a so-called "Sheena Easton music video"--in actuality Maurice Binder's title sequence with the words removed. (There's no way a letterboxed clip with this much skin would've landed in rotation on MTV circa 1981. How times change, huh?) Finally, the Ministry of Propaganda contains the film's theatrical trailer, three "TV trailers," and two radio spots, and an Image Database is divided into the following categories: The Filmmakers, Portraits, The Pre-Credits Helicopter Sequence, Music and Titles, Gonzales' Villa/Deux Chevaux Chase, Cortina & Ski Action, Willy Bogner's Ski Action Unit, Corfu, The "Underwater" Scenes, Michael Wilson's Cameo, 007 Meets the Prime Minister, Donald O'Connor Visits the Set, Doubling 007, and Around the World with 007. Originally published: December 4, 2008.
*One of Bond's lines in 2006's Casino Royale is given extra weight when considering this unfortunate era in particular: "Why is it that people who can't take advice always insist on giving it?" return