Following James Bond’s out of this world experience in the financially successful (665 million, adjusted for inflation) if artistically vapid Moonraker, the series’ sole producer, Albert Broccoli, thought it best to venture in a different direction, one that would feel slightly more grounded, all the while still playing on the strengths of his star: cool wit, affable mannerism and charm. A new director in John Glenn was now on board, who would go on to direct every single entry from the 80s, including Timothy Dalton’s two adventures. A new production designer in Peter Lamont was also now in charge of sets. Both had worked their way up in the ‘Bond family business’ so to speak, and, along with the leftover story elements from the far grittier Ian Fleming novels, the 007 films of the early 80s would take on a different tone and feel from the voodoo, space travel and kung fu parody themed adventures of the 70s. Now, let us recall some of their greatest moments.
For Your Eyes Only (1981, John Glen)
This is the perfect way to forget nearly everything that happened in Moonraker. For Your Eyes Only makes a deliberate attempt to set the Roger Moore Bond in a more realistic world, all things considered. Truth be told, if it were to be remade, this outing would make for a really solid Daniel Craig Bond film, which might explain why few people ever bring it up. Moore is so easily identified for being in the more ludicrous efforts that it is easy to forget that he did star in at least one movie that took itself a bit more seriously.
Death defying helicopter tour
The pre-title sequence of FYEO is special for many, many reasons, some of which are in fact the wrong ones. For one, Bond pays a visit to his wife’s grave, one of the few times the series makes any direct references to the fact that 007 was at one time married, albeit all too briefly. Second, a familiar villain and his pet cat make a surprise appearance, and although because of rights issues his name could not be used (long time Broccoli rival Kevin McClory had won the rights to the Earnst Stavro Blofeld character by then), audiences should be able to recognize who it is. Even though the voice work is terrible, as are the puns tossed between Bond and his long standing nemesis, the remote controlled helicopter that carries Bond around is doing some incredible things. The scene might not hit the right tone due to some terrible writing, but the action is great.
Bond heads over to Italy in search for more clues as to the whereabouts of a sunken British submarine, but of course his quest is stalled when the secretive villain’s minions locate Bond at an Olympic-style ski resort. The scene starts out in very curious fashion, with our hero trying as he might to lose two pursuers in a line up that leads to a ski jump. This is something we do not see very often: a fearful Bond. What ensues is a pretty nifty chase down the slopes with Bond on skis, his main predator, Kriegler (John Wyman) equipped with a rifle as well as other thugs following by skidoo. It is a scene that encapsulates a lot what there is to like about FYEO: it takes a little and does a lot with it.
Too close for comfort
Yet another scene that takes a simple premise and squeezes it for all the goodness it can get, Bond and Melina (Carole Bouquet) are kidnapped by Kristatos (Julian Glover) and tied together behind the antagonist’s sea vessel. Bond and Melina are tossed into the water and dragged around just over the coral reef, with their blood drippings alerting the sharks nearby. Simple, tense and full of danger.
Don’t look down
If it isn’t broken then don’t fix it. So goes this Bond film, including the climax, which really does not offer all that much in terms of innovation or groundbreaking action, but does everything particularly well. In order to infiltrate Kristatos’ hideout, located well above ground level on a seemingly attainable peek (other than by helicopter), 007 charges himself with the task of making the climb first. There are no musical cues, no quips, just Bond trying to make a shockingly steep climb while not being detected by Kristatos’ guards.
Octopussy (1983, John Glen)
Octopussy, for this movie fan at least, falls in the same category as Live and Let Die in that it is often maltreated. Misunderstood might be the more apt term to employ. ‘Roger Moore was too old by then’, ‘Roger Moore becomes a clown, literally!’, ‘Louis Jourdan is a poor villain,’ and so on and so forth. Unsurprisingly, this reviewer begs to differ. Moore was definitely getting up there in the age department, but he was no less enthusiastic when playing the part. Jourdan, who plays Afghan prince Kamal Khan, is just the slimy bugger of a villain who is well matched against a Bond the likes of Roger Moore. As for the clown comment, read on…
Foreplay, love and Fabergé
This is not an action scene, but rather one in which two characters attempt to seduce one another while in actuality are only using their opposite to snatch a specific object, in this case a stunning Fabergé egg. The characters are James Bond and Magda (Kristina Wayborn), one of Octopussy’s (Maud Adams) circus girls. It is a scene reminiscent of Dr. No in which Bond (Connery) and Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) flirt around trying to fool the other into a false sense of security. The John Barry score is beautiful in this scene, and both actors are evidently having a lot of fun. Magda’s ‘escape’, which is by using a part of her own Indian-inspired dress as a rope to get from the second story bedroom to the ground below, is the icing on the cake.
Clown saves the day
This sequence is amazing, and yes, in part because Roger Moore dresses up as a clown. Late in the film, Bond is racing against the clock to locate and defuse a nuclear bomb which renegade Russian general Orlov (Steven Berkoff, who frequently made a great Russian general. See Rambo III) had hidden with Octopussy’s circus crew, who are to put on a show in Berlin. First, there is the segment in which Bond desperately hitchhikes for a vehicle. The simplest, most mundane and annoying things delay his finding a ride. The scene perfectly juggles comedy and tension. Once arrived at the circus tent, Bond disguises himself as a clown in order to avoid detection, which leads to one of the best scene in the film wherein he frantically tries to warn everyone inside that a bomb is about to go off, killing all of them. Of course, why listen to the crazy clown?
A unique private jet ride
It might not seem feasible that Roger Moore could hang on to the roof of a small jet as it soars through the air at blistering speed, which is admittedly a decent reason for rejection the scene, but the concept is fantastic and there is some stellar stunt work at play in this thrilling climax. There is even a fight between Bond and Gobinda (Kabir Bedi) atop of the craft to add some spice. Good stuff.
A View to a Kill (1985, John Glen)
Ah, this is indeed a difficult Bond to defend. I think that people who claim Quantum of Solace as being the worst episode in the franchise should refresh their memories by watching this film. It has few redeeming qualities, the only three which spring to mind at the moment being John Barry’s score, although that should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with his work, the presence of Patrick Macnee early in the film and San Francisco used extensively as a location. What might we find as far as solid scenes are concerned?
All hail the chef
No, that is not a typo. Audiences discover in A Vew to a Kill that only does Bond know a lot about food when ordering in the most luxurious restaurants in the world, but also when making it himself. After leading lady Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) and 007 fend off attackers in her San Francisco home, our hero decides to comfort the distraught beauty with some home cooking: quiche, or an ‘omelette.’ Yes, I am straining to find memorable moments in this film.
Extreme sightseeing around Paris
Not much of the action in AVTAK is very good, but this early scene in which Bond pursues May Day (Grace Jones) around Paris has some impressive stunt work. The scene probably begins in more exciting manner than it ends, with May Day parachuting off the Eiffel tower, although 007’s subsequent pursuit by car, which, in a nice touch, is split in half at one point, does the job as well.
Battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge
The lone true great scene in the entire film is one of the last scenes. Few would disagree that when it comes to movies, it is often smart to save the best for last, but when nearly everything that preceded your final scene is utter dreck, well…Anyways, Bond and villain ‘du jour’ Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) have a go at it at the very top of the Golden Gate Bridge, making use of a quintessential element of San Francisco’s identity. Granted, there are some back projection issues, yet the filmmakers manage to pull this scene off quite nicely. A great location used to swell effect. In a film this inept, it seems inevitable that what causes Zorin’s nearby blimp to explode is laughable, thus unsurprisingly hurting the very scene I am trying to praise, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles in AVTAK.
Coming soon: the best lines in the Roger Moore scenes!