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Part Two: By Craig Phillips
Eegah! It's Richard Kiel as Jaws
The more recent additions to the Bond franchise - from later Roger Moore efforts to the final Pierce Brosnan film Die Another Day
- haven't been taken as seriously as early Bond, and, in many instances, for good reason. But these films share many traits with the "classics," and have much to offer for both Bond completists and action fans.
was the eleventh 007 film, but based on Fleming's
third book and, in fact, was not originally going to be the film to follow The Spy Who Loved Me; "James Bond Will Return in For Your Eyes Only
" announced the title card at the end of that film (one of three occasions this final note predicted incorrectly). But Albert Broccoli
couldn't resist, misguidedly taking advantage of the movie-going audience's newfound appetite for space operas, thanks to Star Wars, giving the film the largest special effects budget for a Bond film up to that point and placing poor Moore into a ludicrous space race plot that amounts to a big "so what?" by the end. It also shares practically nothing with the Fleming novel aside from the title and villain, aerospace industrialist Hugo Draz.
While the film is generally considered the series' nadir, it does admittedly now have some camp appeal and its share of defenders (very few, mind you). And it does offer Richard Kiel's second appearance as a metal-teethed henchman (his finest role since Eegah!), this time on the side of good (and given a girlfriend to boot). Implausible even for a Bond film - so that fueled-up Space shuttle rides on the back of a Boeing with no problem? - and full of holes, Moonraker's
biggest debit may be its overriding cartoonishness; full of slapstick humor, terrible puns and buffoonish chases. But again, all this makes it appealing to fans of camp action films as well as a masochists.
Oh yes, and Moonraker
is also currently the second all-time highest grossing film franchise in history (after Goldeneye).
Favorite goof (of many): The appearance of Mayan pyramids in the Amazon rainforest.
Fly me to the moonraker: Bond favorite Shirley Bassey sings the forgettable title song. Go ahead, try to sing a few lines, I dare you.
"Where are you
/ When will we meet
/ Take my unfinished life and make it complete
/ Just like the moonraker goes
/ His dream will come true someday"
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Next to The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only has generally been considered Moore's second-best film, although judgment may have been a little clouded as the film followed the excesses of Moonraker. But benefiting from an engaging, and blessedly simple, plot For Your Eyes Only is a very agreeable effort with Moore proving to be not at all down for the count.
Director John Glen, who had been a second unit director as well as an editor on several previous Bond films, returned the franchise to planet Earth in more ways than one. The film opens with two references to the series' history: Bond leaving flowers at his wife's grave (the wife who died in On Her Majesty's Secret Service ) and Bond then tangling with and disposing of old enemy Blofeld (whose cat seems to escape unscathed, for anyone concerned about such things), who dies after a series of clichéd one lines, falling into a smokestack in of the funnier death scenes. Oddly enough, Blofeld is actually not named due to issues with the owner of the Thunderball
copyright, which included Blofeld. This was an easy way to not have to worry about such matters again.
Reacting to Moonraker's
negative reviews, perhaps, Glen admirably toned down the fantastical elements for the follow-up, amping up the characterizations just enough while focusing on more (relatively) realistic, streamlined action. Interestingly, too, the film was adapted from a Fleming
short story but the main location was changed from Jamaica to Greece - with the Havelock family given the same change in nationality. Playing the vengeance-seeking, crossbow-wielding Malina Havelock was the striking Carole Bouquet, who's subsequently had a lengthy, successful film career in France. (Oddly, her voice appears dubbed in the film, though few seem to be watching her lips.)
A better skater than actress, the likable real life professional figure skater and Ice Castles star Lynn-Holly Johnson plays Bibi Dahl (very close to "baby doll," but this isn't Tennessee Williams ) the ingénue skater who throws herself at an uncomfortable Bond. The expression on Moore's face when she says, "He still thinks I'm a virgin" is priceless. The great Israeli actor Topol
plays Colombo, a Greek smuggler who Bond first thinks is on the wrong side, but quickly learns who the real enemy is.
The film offers up one superb, if protracted stunt sequence, in a ski chase rivaling The Spy Who Loved Me's; it's a sequence seemingly touching on most winter Olympic sports outside of curling, before ending with Bond slapping the gun out of the hands of evil biathlete Eric Krieger (a spookily Aryan John Wyman) with his skis before jumping over the stunned East German. The bit where Bond rock-climbs up a steep granite cliff to reach the villain Kristato's (Julian Glover) hideout is even more farfetched - sure, let the old guy be the first to climb; sure, baddie, knock down all of Bond's grappling hooks instead of just shooting him when he gets up - but it remains undeniably exciting. There was some controversy about the ending of the film - in which Krieger, stuck in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff, is given a push by Bond, making 007 more vengeful, but this moment is more in keeping with Bond's character than many realized.
|Liner notes: While several Bond songs have been nominated for an Oscar, none have won. Surprising, considering the many terrible songs to have won that honor. The nominees were the still catchy "Live and Let Die," by Paul and Linda McCartney; "Nobody Does it Better" from The Spy Who Loved Me, by Marvin Hamlisch, sung by Carly Simon; and Sheena Easton's "For Your Eyes Only."
All in all, while For Your Eyes Only
has some dated elements and is probably a bit overrated due to its proximity to Moonraker, it remains one of the strongest Roger Moore
Shaken, stirring tidbit: This was the only Bond film in which "M" does not make an appearance, as actor Bernard Lee passed away before filming and out of respect for Lee the role was not filled.
Bond goes after a gem smuggler and stolen Fabergé egg, which is somehow related to a rogue Soviet General's plot to start World War III, in the last tolerable Roger Moore
(1983, the same years as the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again) does suffer a bit from a bit too much clowning around (Moore's Bond even poses as a clown in a protracted circus sequence - and why there weren't more circus sequences in Bond films I'll never know) and doesn't seem to know when to end. The film on the whole is margnally entertaining, in general keeping with For Your Eyes Only's
standard of less gadgets and more suspense, and offers up several serviceable action sequences - a time bomb, a chase on a train, heat-seeking missile, and a dazzling mid-air knife fight on an airplane wing - but isn't particuarly memorable.
h the exotic beauty of India put to good effect for the first time in the series - though it puts one in mind of the second Indiana Jones film. This was the film to put Bond in a boat disguised as an alligator, a contraption that somehow fools many.
Bond's gadget expert Q - aka Quartermaster - (later satirized in Police Squad/Naked Gun) has appeared in all the films, except for Live and Let Die
and Dr. No
. Q was also known as Major Boothroyd, played in the first film by Peter Burton and then replaced thereafter by the constantly exasperated Desmond Llewelyn for all the other films up until The World is Not Enough. This was meant to be Llewelyn's last film anyway, but the actor tragically died in an auto accident soon after. The character of Boothroyd's Q was replaced by an assistant named "R" - played by Monty Python's John Cleese, who plays the character as much more quick-witted and sharp-tongued, and even more anal than Q about how Bond treats his prized gadgets - particularly cars.
Best Bond Gadgets, courtesy of Q:
- The trick briefcase in From Russia with Love
- The Aston Martin car with the ejector seat in Goldfinger
- The jet-pack and the water-jet in Thunderball are either among the best, or the goofiest
- The slot machine "unrandomizer" in Diamonds are Forever
- The autogyro 'Little Nellie' in You Only Live Twice
- The submersible Lotus in The Spy Who Loved Me
- The mini-jet in Octopussy
- The pen grenade in GoldenEye
- The remote control BMW 7 Series in Tomorrow Never Dies
- The camouflaged Aston Martin in Die Another Day
Maud Adams plays the titular head of a ring of jewel thieves who has her own island, in a part that seems disappointingly non-ambitious compared to some of the subsequent female characters. Her name, by the way, is certainly
titillating, but it's also a reference from a poker hand: a pair of eights is called an "octopussy." While the story is ostensibly based on a short story by Fleming
, that story is summed up in its entirety in a monologue Octopussy gives about Bond's experience with her father. Another woman in the film, Magda, played by the statuesque Kristina Wayborn, is actually a more interesting character, and certainly makes more headway with Bond than does her boss. The real villain of the story is Louis Jordan's elegantly evil Kamal Kahn, an exiled Afghan prince who uses Octopussy in his plot to help a power-mad Russian general blow up Western Europe.
Armitraj, Vijay Armitraj: Former tennis star Vijay Armitraj plays - to avoid confusion in his acting debut - a character named Vijay, who assists Bond in India.
Best lines: Q: "Double-0 seven on an island populated exclusively by women? We won't see him till dawn!"
Worst lines: Bond: "We've got company."
Vijay: "No problem, this is a company car."
Best worst line: " Having trouble getting it up, Q?" (Bond to Q after the latter can't get a rope trick to work)
A View to a Kill (1985)
Although some fans claim to enjoy this one more than Octopussy
because it moves faster, there's a lot to knock in A View to a Kill: From the off-key warblings in the opening theme song by Duran Duran to the silly finale atop the Golden Gate Bridge (the landmark's worst use in a film until it was ripped from its moorings ludicrously in the recent X-3), the end certainly seemed nigh for Moore
after this effort.
Christopher Walken was not a bad choice for the villain Max Zorin, a mad millionaire industrialist bent on, yes, taking over the world, in a plot that bears more than a passing resemblance to Goldfinger's. It also wouldn't be fair to ignore the fact that the film does contain several excellent stunts - including one sequence at the Eiffel Tower.
But A View to a Kill remains one of the weaker films, in which Bond was officially, and it seemed almost finally, overshadowed by the broad action. Despite Moore's best efforts at playing 007 at his most dapper, he's ultimately done in by the relatively humorless script. Frustratingly, the film wastes some cinematically alluring San Francisco locations - though the geography of the region does figure prominently into Zorin's diabolical plans. The Avengers' Patrick Macnee is wasted, too; he's in for one scene even though he gets a top credit.
Shaken, not stirring: The presence of Grace Jones as henchwoman May Day proves she's not much of an actress although certainly striking; and Tanya Roberts, an even worse actress than (see below) Denise Richards, plays a Barbie-ish Bond girl.
commentary on the DVD is charming, however, and worth a listen - in it he admits to looking rather long in the tooth and expresses concern for the film's violence.
Moore was undeniably charming in the role, quick with a quip, more light-hearted than the other actors - so much so that many feel he's easily the farthest removed from how Fleming
imagined the character. But he had a good run, and in 1985, that run was done.
Exit Roger Moore.
Enter, after a two year lull, Timothy Dalton - smirking, edgier, younger, as well as a relatively unknown quantity with movie-going audiences. His most prominent roles before snagging Bond were in British costume dramas such as Cromwell and Wuthering Heights, as well as goofy comic book candy film Flash Gordon (he'd later be seen as Brooke Shields' boyfriend in the rather unfortunate bomb Brenda Starr, too), but he was an experienced, talented actor who for years had performed on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on English TV.
While prevailing wisdom has it that Dalton
was the second choice to replace Moore, after Pierce Brosnan, with the latter turning it down due to Remington Steele obligations, the truth is that Dalton was actually approached first but had to turn it down for various obligations of his own. It eventually came back to him after various others - Brosnan, Sam Neill among them - were unable to fit in. Even less known is the fact that Dalton had been approached once before, as a much younger man, to replace Sean Connery more than a decade earlier. He turned it down because he felt he was too young for the part. (Daniel Craig may have something to say about that.)
When the opportunity arose again, Dalton seemed a good bet to take the mantle from Roger Moore, who had - in part through no fault of his own - seen the franchise denigrate into silliness. Dalton's hard-nosed take on the character provided a good counterbalance to the laid-back Moore, with Dalton declaring his desire to return Bond to "Fleming's Bond." While this may have affronted hardcore Moore fans, many agree that his interpretation was indeed closest yet to the spirit of Fleming's books. Whether this was a good thing is the subject of continuing debate, but it's hard to argue that it was time for a change.
The Living Daylights (1987)
The project that would jump-start Bond into the "Dalton era": The Living Daylights, which was the last film to be based on a Fleming story (until the new Casino Royale, that is.)
I might be in the minority here, but I'd argue that Living Daylights is generally one of the better of the recent era Bond films, even if it lacks a certain amount of humor and even if the villains - played by fine Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe and husky (and oily - see: Mitchell) American Joe Don Baker, as well as the seemingly ageless John Rhys-Davies as a - wait for it - power-hungry Russian General - don't have enough to do nor do they give it the necessary air of menace. But the supporting cast of characters is above average, as is Bond girl Maryam d'Abo, a rather chaste cellist, and, compared to some of the other one-dimensional women in the series, intelligent. D'Abo provides 007 with one of his few actual love interests, a rare case of a Bond film with essentially a singular female romantic lead, likely a side effect of producing this during the height of the AIDS era.
And the action - including an excellent car chase scene in Gibraltar, featuring the triumphant revival of the Aston Martin (the V8 Vantage in this case, for those of you scoring at home), and a chase across the rooftops in Morocco - is quite well done. The plot itself is an overly complicated mishmash and not particularly cohesive but it has enough good set pieces and engaging characters to carry it through - and mostly what it has is Timothy Dalton, who, even if still finding his way through the part, is quite charismatic, the perfect combination of icy cool, dark and confident - without Moore's
He would, unfortunately, not be given much of a chance to fully make the character his own.
Best line: "Well, you've had your 8, now I'll have my 80!" - Baker's General Whitaker, trying to kill Bond with a machine gun after the 007's puny gun runs out of ammo.
Worst line: Q, after demonstrating a boom-box rocket launcher to Bond: "Something we're making for the Americans. It's called a 'Ghetto Blaster'."
Licence to Kill (1989)
Perhaps the darkest Bond film to date (not having seen the new Casino Royale at press time) is Dalton's second Bond effort, Licence to Kill - the first Bond title not derived from either an Ian Fleming novel or a short story, though it does contain elements and characters from Fleming's novel Live and Let Die and the short story "The Hildebrand Rarity" (from the collection entitled For Your Eyes Only). It is also the fifth and last film to be directed by John Glen; a more than serviceable action filmmaker, if not particularly innovative, Glen appeared ready to step aside from the director's chair (a look at his post-Bond efforts offer further evidence). After the awkward opening, the does offer a few surprises, even if it suffers from pacing problems.
Licence to Kill
would be a step back from the previous in some ways - a few more obligatory scenes, a slow beginning in which Bond is best man at his colleague Felix Leiter's wedding (his bride is Three's Company's Priscilla Barnes), less humor (though not devoid of it), and, certainly, more violence - Roger Moore
would not have appreciated the last point. But the ensuing revenge plot was a particularly notable change from the usual Cold War (and post-Cold War) Bond scenario of previous efforts. It also gives us a very charismatic villain in the pockmarked Robert Davi's sadistic drug lord (with then unknown Benicio Del Toro as his henchman).
The women - Talisa Soto as Davi's pouty, unhappy mistress (i.e., slave) and Carey Lowell as Bond's tough "executive secretary" - are not simply sex objects here - though they do get into a silly cat fight over James at one point and there's already a Very 80s pallor to their characterizations. The film should also be credited for offering us Wayne Newton, amusingly slimy - typecasting? - as an evangelist whose meditation institute serves as a front for Davi's drug operation.
And finally, the last, extended action sequence is one of the series' best, with three gasoline trucks whipping around curving mountain roads - not Wages of Fear, perhaps, but explosive nonetheless.
Dalton was more comfortable in Bond's skin in Licence to Kill, and his tense, tough, contemporary presence made the character interesting again, but he also never seemed to fully enjoy playing him and his interpretation was probably too edgy for mainstream audiences to embrace. Like the previous installment, the film takes some risks with the character, is less gadget-filled and light than the typical Bond picture, and it may be for these reasons more than Dalton that the film was a disappointment at the box office. This probably doesn't foretell the same fate for the new Casino Royale, but both do share an interest in revealing the character's inner workings over gadgetry.
The perceived box office disappointment was due in part to a weaker than usual marketing campaign, as MGM/UA was in the midst of a slew of legal and financial troubles. "Cubby" Broccoli is on record as being enormously disappointed with the film's marketing, and the title, too - he preferred the original, "Licence Revoked." (Perhaps the British spelling didn't help box office in the States either.) But it was Dalton who was ultimately blamed by many in the studio for whatever was ailing it.
Nonetheless, he was set to return for his third Bond picture, Goldeneye, before constant script delays, a number of directors signing on and then signing off, and the studio's aforementioned legal (harangues) ultimately forced Dalton
to see the writing on the wall and drop out after his contract expired.
It would be more than five years before the next Bond film, the longest delay in the series history.
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