Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For Your Eyes Only [1981]

After the cartoonish excesses of The Spy Who Loved Me and (especially) Moonraker, there was a perceived need for the Bond series to collect its breath a bit and go back to basics.  In some ways, this was a bold idea; maybe even a daring one, given how successful those cartoonish movies had been financially.  But risk be damned: Cubby Broccoli wanted to return to Ian Fleming, and return the films did.

For Your Eyes Only has been one of my favorite Bond movies for most of my life.  Will it stand up to the scrutiny that these reviews have brought?






(1)  Bond ... James Bond

This is Roger Moore's least effective Bond performance yet, of the films we have so far examined. Three factors are working against him here: (1) his age; (2) a screenplay that mostly fails to take advantage of Moore's humor, and the effortlessness with which he can apply it; and (3) a new director who was -- understandably -- perhaps not yet all that skilled at directing actors.  We'll get into those latter two topics as we proceed, so let's focus on the first for a moment.

By 1981, Roger Moore was turning 54 years old.  It's worth remembering that Moore is actually several years older than Sean Connery, the man he succeeded as Bond; so, age-wise, having Moore in the role was very comparable to having the original Bond ... who had started nearly twenty years previously.



This is not Roger Moore's fault.  It's a fact: you get older; there's really only one option as far as that goes.  The fact is, though, that when your leading ladies are 24 and 23 (as Carole Bouquet and Lynn-Holly Johnson were in For Your Eyes Only) and you yourself are 54, you seem like a creepy old pervert.  And hey, look, I'm not saying that when I get to be that age, I'll be turning down 23-year-old tail when and if it presents itself.  I won't.  (It won't, either; the opportunity presenting itself, I mean.  But if it does, count me in.)  I won't turn that down when I'm 84, if the opportunity manifests.  But I'll be under no illusions that it makes me anything other than a creepy old geezer, which is what Roger Moore seems like during some of his scenes here.  Heck, Lois Chiles was at least 32 when she made Moonraker; why the continual de-aging of the leading ladies?




Again, I don't know that any of this should be blamed on Roger Moore.  This is the very definition of a producer's problem; all Moore is responsible for is doing what the producers, director, and writer ask him to do.

And yet ... it is demonstrably a problem here.  There is a moment in which Bibi calls Kristatos out as being too old for her, which he certainly is.  And yet, Bibi has been lusting after Bond for the entire moie; Moore was eight years older than actor Julian Glover, who played Kristatos, and I wonder if we are meant to think that whereas Roger Moore may be 54, James Bond himself is still a spry 35-42?  This, of course, is an impossible question to answer on the evidence of the movies themselves, so why don't we do the smart thing, and just move on from it.

As I mentioned earlier, Moore is given very few opportunities to do what he does best in this film.  Instead, he is mostly tasked with just being present in scenes, and there are occasional moments in which it seems that we are skipping from one scene to the next with no carryover.  For example, Moore is very good in the scenes on the beach during which Lisl is killed, but in the very next scene, when he awakes aboard Columbo's yacht, he seems to have entirely forgotten about the woman who was just murdered in front of him.  Should we blame Moore for this?  The writers?  No, let's blame director John Glen, who probably should have directed Moore to show a bit more edge here.  But, again, showing edge is not necessarily what Roger Moore is best at, so perhaps it's understandable.

Those are the sorts of problems this movie has.



Moore does get at least one moment of real badassery, though.  More on that in a moment.  He also gets at least one scene in which he gets to let his playful Bond out to stretch his legs: the car chase with Melina, which finds him disgruntled at having to drive such a lowly car as a Citroen, and also finds him smirking good-naturedly at various henchmen as they race up beside him.  He fires off some amusing one-liners, and is making jolly sport out of the whole thing; it's a good Moore-era Bond scene, and the movie needed more of them.

The moment of badassery comes when Bond, having been in pursuit of the henchman Loque, finally catches up with him, shoots him through the windshield of his car, and then kicks the car off a cliff while it teeters precariously on the edge.  Moore, who seems to be a genuinely gentle sort of fellow, frequently laments that he feels his Bond is at his worst when he tries to show steel of that nature, but I've never felt that's accurate; Moore, if coached (as he clearly was here) to actually play the edge, brings it quite nicely.



In those two examples -- the lighthearted chase through the countryside, and the stone-cold killing of a man who needed some killing -- you see Moore's Bond at his best, and there is really no reason why his movies couldn't have mixed those two seemingly opposite styles more frequently.  In For Your Eyes Only, it was frequently the case that nobody -- Moore included -- wanted to commit to that approach, and so they end up with a film that doesn't seem entirely sure of what it wants to be.

Points awarded:  004/007.  I think Moore's performance itself is more good than bad, but the unwillingness of the producers' part to deal with his advancing age costs a point.  It's going to hurt the overall score more than I'd like, but I think it's deserved.


(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain: The intent with Ari Kristatos, clearly, was to get away from the world-domination-crazy megalomaniacs who had opposed Bond over the previous couple of films.  Simultaneously, the goal seems to have been to create a more realistic bad guy, and so here what we have is a film where we are not even aware who the real villain is until halfway through the movie; and even then, he's just a smuggler whose counter-intelligence services have been hired by the Russians.

The fact is that Kristatos is a bore.  Julian Glover plays him capably, but -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- is basically given nothing interesting to do the entire movie.  Kristatos's only quirk is that he seems to be trying to screw a potential Olympian; that's a bit on the distasteful side, but does that really require James Bond's intervention?

As far as main villains go, the Bond series has never done particularly well when the producers have opted to keep the baddie totally grounded in reality.  Maybe that's a good thing, and maybe that's a bad thing; but it does seem to be inescapable.




Points awarded (Main Villain):  003/007, and thanks for the drowsiness.
 
Henchmen:  The movie fares a bit better in the henchman department, mostly courtesy of Michael Gothard as Locque.  Locque, for whatever reason, is utterly despicable.  Is it his silence?  His lack of emotion?  His glasses?  Is it just because he kills Ferrara?  Surely not; Ferrara sucks.

I think it boils down to nothing more complicated than the fact that for the majority of the movie, he has the upper hand over Bond.  He keeps beating Bond, mostly when Bond isn't even quite aware that he's been beaten.  Because of that, and aided probably by his cold implacability, it is extremely satisfying when Bond gains the upper hand over him and shoves his car over a cliff.  Does any of this put him in the running for all-time-best-henchman status?  Certainly not.  But Locque helps to make up for some of what is lacking in Kristatos.




Elsewhere, we get Gonzalez, a boring assassin; Eric Kriegler, a poorly-written Russian agent and athlete (who is an obvious, and unsuccessful, attempt to clone Red Grant); and Charles Dance -- who would go on to play Ian Fleming in a now-obscure 1989 biopic titled Goldeneye.




Dance plays a generic henchman, and if he had not gone on to be a notable actor in his own right, he would not be receiving mention here.

Who else...?

Should we count General Gogol as a secondary villain?  I toyed with the idea of designating him as the primary villain, and if I felt certain that the film wanted me to view him as a villain -- I'm not certain it does -- then I might have done.  So let's rule him out; as a result, this scoring system has no means of accounting for him here, and I guess we're all gonna have to agree to be okay with that.

The sole remaining noteworthy villain, then, is Blofeld, who appears in the pre-credits sequence.  Yes, yes, I know: he's not actually called Blofeld.  Fuck that noise; he's Blofeld, and the fact the for legal reasons he went unnamed is of no consequence to me.

Of consequence to me: the fact that he sucks in this movie.




Played -- and I use that word lightly -- by John Hollis and dubbed by Robert Rietty, this version of Blofeld is poor in conception and in execution.  It wasn't a bad idea for a pre-credits sequence: Bond, paying his respects at Tracy's grave, is lured into a trap by Blofeld, only to turn the tables on his arch-enemy and finally achieve a permanent revenge.  That's workable.  And I like parts of the sequence, but Blofeld himself is a non-entity.  We are obviously meant to remember Telly Savalas, since this Ernst Stavro wears a neck brace (still smarting from being shoved into the fork of those tree branches).  So why does he speak with a German accent when Savalas did not?  Why not shell out a bunch of money and, you know, just GET TELLY SAVALAS?  Failing that, get Donald Pleasance -- who also had no German accent -- or (shudder) Charles Gray?

Was the fear that Kevin McClory would cry foul and sue?  If so, why take the risk on doing even this much?

Beats me, but what is here is uninteresting as hell, and makes for a rather ignominious end to the Blofeld era.




Points awarded (Henchmen):  004/007, minus one point for a lousy Blofeld, so 003/007.
 
Total points awarded (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.):  003/007.

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:  Melina is a solid Bond girl, and at this point in the series was probably the best one since Diana Rigg way back in 1969.  She's tough, determined, and self-reliant; she doesn't spend much time worrying about ole 007, and you definitely get the sense that she would do alright if he had never even shown up.




My only huge complaint about Melina -- apart from one notable complaint that I will tackle a few categories from now -- is that her lines are dubbed for the majority of the movie, and consequently she never feels entirely present.  There is no evidence out there (that I could find) indicating that Bouquet's voice was replaced by another actor's, although certainly the Bond series has done that many times; either way, many of the looped line readings are flat and emotionless, and this creates a disconnect: Melina is a fiery, vengeful person, so why does she so frequently sound as if she just stepped off the last starship out of Vulcan?




Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  004/007; I wanted to go a point higher, but the looping issue talked me out of it.





Secondary Bond Girls:  I'm going to mention three secondary Bond girls, one of whom doesn't really count (for multiple reasons).

Firstly: Bibi Dahl, played by champion skater Lynn-Holly Johnson.  Get it?  Sounds like "baby doll."  Get it?  Oddly, I don't think you ever hear Bibi's last name spoken during the film, so the pun is completely dead in the water.  What up wi' dat?  Did a scene get cut somewhere?  Did somebody feel that such puns were beneath a "serious" Bond film like this one?  Did the screenwriter forget to actually put the joke in the foreground?

Beats me; it's weird, though.  So is Bibi as a character; when I was a child, watching this movie, I used to just loathe her, a feeling that persisted for many a year afterward.  I'd wager that many another Bond fan was in the same boat with me, flipping Lynn-Holly Johnson off while she stood on the shore weeping.




Thing is, as I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate Bibi a bit.  Not in the jailbait way, although I bet that's what you assumed, you degenerate.  No, in fact I don't find Bibi to be especially appealing; on the Boner-Meter, assuming Tatiana Romanova is a 10 (which she is) and Rosa Klebb is a 1 (which might be a point too high, even), I'd say Bibi rates about a 4.  Nothing special.  So, no, when I say "I've grown to appreciate Bibi," that doesn't mean I'm taking from a cheesecake point of view.

Instead, I noticed something, finally: she's a pretty good model of liberated sexuality, in that she obviously just enjoys a good roll in the hay, and has no problem going and getting one when she feels the need.  Now, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter to be discussed between you and the God of your understanding, but within the confines of a Bond movie, I think it's being pitched as a good thing.  The fact that Bond here is too much of a gentleman to take advantage of her is an interesting note for the series to play, and is the lone concession the filmmakers seemed to willing to make toward the idea that Roger Moore might be a bit too old for the role.  The movie seems to want to use Bibi as a means by which we can measure the differences between Bond and Kristatos; I'm not sure it works entirely, but it was an interesting idea.





Lynn-Holly Johnson is not particularly good in her role as Bibi, either, although I don't think she's bad.  She's just a very bubbly, energetic type who doesn't really fit the Bond ethos very well.  Her skating and skiing skills add a dimension that would have been lacking otherwise, though; it's by no means a total wash, and I'd take her over certain other Bond girls any damn day of the week.

Secondly: the Countess Lisl, if indeed that is her real name, which I don't think is the case.  She's played by the lovely Cassandra Harris, who was at the time married to some dude named Pierce Brosnan.  Brosnan made a trip to the set at one point, and was apparently mentally bookmarked by everyone involved.

Lisl isn't much of a character, sadly.  She's purely a pawn, albeit a pawn who at least knows she's a pawn.  The film never even bothers to make it clear whether she is actually Columbo's mistress or not; we are left to wonder, which seems like the wrong decision.  She's basically there for no good reason other than to get killed and provide some tension.  Really, though, she doesn't work even as a mere plot device, because what does her death matter, ultimately?  Bond never seeks revenge for her; Columbo never seeks revenge for her.  The two of them could have been brought together just as easily by her living -- i.e., Columbo kidnaps Bond out of her bed while she smiles at him regretfully -- as they are by her dying.

The plot mechanics make no sense, frankly.  Let's not blame Harris, who is faultless; but Lisl herself is a dud.

Thirdly, and finally: one of the poolside girls at Gonzalez's villa was a post-op transsexual named Tula.  How weird is that?  She's really quite attractive, too:



 
Gotta be honest; not sure I'd care that she used to be a man.  She, of course, is a not a Bond girl in the traditional sense (she has no interaction with Bond of any kind), but it seems like a fun piece of trivia, so I figured it merited a mention.


apologies for the crude box ... so to speak

 
Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  003/007, because the characters don't quite work but have enough good qualities to keep them from being awful.

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  003.50/007
 
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  This movie has its problems, but very few of them are related to the action and stuntwork, which is customarily great (if maybe a bit less so than the past couple of movies).




There are a few moments here that don't quite work, such as the weird hockey attack.  Overall, though, it's one glorious scene after another: there is some great helicopter stuff in the opening sequence; there's a great car chase in which Bond is driving a Citroen; there is some spectacular ski action -- including the magnificent sight of a motorcycle chasing Bond as he skis down a bobsled run, with a bobsled team ahead of him trying to go fast enough to stay out of their way!
















There are two terrific crashes at the end of the ski sequence, both of which might for all I know be standard-issue stuff as far as stunts go, but which look dangerous as hell (and unplanned, to boot, even though they clearly can't have been the latter).  They look like a million bucks, and I have multiple screencaps to prove it:






















There is a very excellent explosion at a warehouse:




There are, of course, some genius climbing stunts at the location where Bond and team are assaulting Kristatos's hideaway.  I wanted to take some screencaps, but I couldn't get any decent ones; they don't work very well as still images, even when sequenced.  Alas!

For me, though, the most impressive stunts may come during the scene in which Bond and Melina are dragged by Kristatos's boat.  Not so much the dragging itself, but the presence of sharks during the whole thing.  You can see the stuntpeople being dragged right past a live shark; you can see their legs just a-wigglin' up a storm, and you can practically hear the voice of one of those sharks from Finding Nemo coming out of that shark as it notices them go by.







Later, I swear to God, they just feed a henchman to the sharks.  See this image?




Everyone in that shot -- human or otherwise -- is alive and kicking in that scene.  After?  Who can say?

By the way, the answer to this riddle is supposedly that the sharks were drugged or something, or possibly had been tied in one place, which makes them lethargic as hell.  Either way, they were released, and swam right for the stuntman, who -- so it is said -- bopped them on the nose and scared them away.  Well, you can believe THAT if you want; I think I'm going to believe that Cubby Broccoli just fed the sharks a stuntman.  Either way, it looks incredible on film.

Points awarded (Action/Stunts):  007/007.  There isn't a standout setpiece like the cliff jump in The Spy Who Loved Me or the skydive in Moonraker (although the rock-climb fall here comes awfully close), so in a sense, this is a step backward.  No matter; this is superb action through and through.

Editing:  With former editor John Glen stepping up to the director's chair, editing duties here were handled by another J.G.: John Grover, making his feature-film debut at the splicer.  Editorially, it is very solid work.  Sequences that stand out in my mind include Bond's pursuit and capture of Locque, the sinking of the St. Georges, and the keelhauling sequence.

I also really like the edit that happens when a henchman takes a knife to cut open the front of Melina's wetsuit, which edits to a scene inside the ship's cabin and uses a panicked squawk from Max the parrot to bridge the transition.

My only complaint is that in numerous sequences, it is clear the the on-set dialogue -- especially Melina's -- has been replaced by ADR looping.  This happens on movies all the time, but is especially noticeable here for whatever reason.  To be honest, I'm not even sure that that element of the film falls under the purview of the editor, but since I short-sightedly do not have a sound category (a mistake I'll remedy in a future version of this system), this is where I'm putting it.

Points awarded (Editing):  006/007.

Costumes/Makeup:  Alright, so, look ... I noticed something on this rewatch that I'd never noticed before.  I feel bad in advance for even bothering to point it out, but if I don't point it out then I know it's going to bug me, so I'm just gonna go ahead and do it and suffer whatever fell consequences befall me.

Check it out:




Carole Bouquet has a mustache here.

There, I said it!  Jesus...

Now, I should point out that it doesn't much matter to me that Carole Bouquet has a mustache, in terms of her attractiveness.  She's hot as balls; what do I care whether her upper lip has a little hair on it?  Don't matter to me; remember, I'm the guy who thought Tula was pretty hot.  Hell, I always thought the bearded lady on Carnivale was sexy; no skin off my nose one way or the other whether she needs a shave.

It amazes me, though, that the producer, director, editor, and so forth permitted this to make it onto ginormous movie screens worldwide.  It's a decidedly unBondian flourish.

I would also point out that in the casino scene, Cassandra Harris's makeup and hairstyle makes her look about twenty years older than the 31 she (allegedly) was at the time of the movie's release.  Does this look like a 31-year-old woman to you?




How odd.

Elsewhere, the costumes and so forth are mostly unglamorous, presumably in keeping with the attempt to have this be an across-the-board stab at a more restrained 007 film.  They aren't bad costumes; they are simply restrained.
 
Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup):  003/007, which represents a docking of a point for the strange makeup choices that seem to have been imposed on Bouquet and Harris at key moments in the film.

Locations:  Well, it's a more restrained and sedate adventure for Bond, but he continues to visit some awfully impressive places.  From Corfu to Cortina, at the bottom of the ocean and the top of a weird rock formation in Greece, For Your Eyes Only is one lovely locale after another.  Not much more to say than that, really, so let's just post some photographic evidence.







Points awarded (Locations):  007/007

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  005.75/007
 
(5)  Q Branch


Bond's Allies:  The most notable thing in this section is that for the first time ever, M is not on hand.  Bernard Lee died before filming, which left the series without one of its key on-screen players.  Broccoli (or Glen, or somebody) made the decision to simply use the Defense Minister played by Geoffrey Keen to occupy some of the void that resulted.  We also get James Villiers playing a smarmy Tanner.  Both of these fellows are okay, but neither of them has the spark that Lee had; the series would continue to go without it until Judi Dench showed up over a decade later, but we'll deal that that when the time arises.

Luckily, both Moneypenny and Q are still on hand to give the film a boost every so often.  Lois Maxwell here is showing her age even moreso than Roger Moore, but she's still funny; this is one of her flirtiest scenes in the series, and a standout in this particular movie.




As for Llewelyn as Q, he gets to work a complicated ID machine, and also, in a completely nonsensical scene, goes undercover as a priest in Greece.  But it's always nice to see Q, and this is really no exception.

Bond's primary ally in the movie is Columbo, played by Topol, who is awesome.  Weird thing is, in my memory he is in the movie WAY more than he is in actuality; in actuality, he has only a handful of scenes, and feels grossly underused.  But he obviously made a big impact on me as a child, as he was perpetually one of the favorite characters in all of the movies.





The only other allies of note are Ferrara, the Italian agent who assists Bond, and Brink, the skating trainer who kinda-sorta assists during the climax.  Ferrara looks like Clouseau a bit, and is a complete non-entity; Brink has short blond hair and apparently never wants Bibi to rest.  These characters do little to hurt the film, but they do nothing to help it.




Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  004/007.  I feel almost as if I should go a point lower, but my memories of Columbo persuade me not to do so.

Direction:  John Glen was a first-time director, and it shows.  Visually, the movie is mostly uninteresting, and there are scenes where you wonder exactly what is being communicated.  Example: in one scene, Bond is meeting with the Defence Minister, who on two occasions makes a weird type of grunting noise to indicate that he wants Bond to proceed in the way Tanner -- I think Tanner is the other man in the scene, but might be misremembering that -- is indicating.  Bond gives the Minister a strange look, and I guess the idea is that we are supposed to find his grunting amusing.  But why would the Minister be making those noises -- which are not particularly funny -- in the first place?

Another example: in the pre-credits sequence, when Bond gets in the helicopter he looks out and sees the priest making the signs of the cross.  Bond gets a small worried look on his face.  Now, for my entire life up until this viewing, I assumed this meant that the priest knew Bond was going to die, and was therefore in on the plot.  But given that the 'copter is a Universal Exports vehicle, that's unlikely; the idea must be that Blofeld has somehow gotten access to it, rigged it to his purposes, and takes over.  The priest is probably blameless in the whole affair; he's just giving the flight a standard go-with-God type sendoff.  Either way, it really isn't clear; Glen gets the tone just wrong enough to have made me spend the last thirty years thinking something that probably isn't the case at all!

Overall, though, it mostly works.  Consider, if you will: a first-time director being put in charge of a film that purposefully tries to evoke the tone and memory of the least-successful film in the history of the series.  It could, theoretically, have been a franchise-wounding disaster; instead, audiences mostly responded to this change in tone very favorably, and John Glen probably deserves some credit for that.  I don't think he did particularly good work on the movie, but there's probably more good than bad.




Points awarded (Direction): 004/007.  Workmanlike, unspectacular; also efficient and mostly effective.

Cinematography:  The cinematography here is courtesy of Alan Hume, who would be around for the next two films in the series as well.  It's a rather dull-looking movie, one of the least-pretty of all the Bond films.  Lots of greys and browns, or at least that's how I remember it as I sit here trying to find something to say other than "this is the visual equivalent of oatmeal."

There is some good underwater work by Al Giddings, though; that helps balance things out somewhat.

Points awarded (Cinematography):  003/007

Art Direction:  Ken Adam, sadly, had worked on his final Bond film.  The production design here was handled by Peter Lamont, who seems to have been given the order to keep things looking as though they bore some relation to the world people actually live in.

What fun is that?!?  It's a decision that leads to numerous boring sets, including hotel rooms and offices and so forth.




However, art direction and production design are about more than just that, and in other areas of the film much more interesting things are happening.  For example, the sunken-ship set looks terrific; it really looks as if the St. Georges has been sunk, and I'd bet that most people never even consider the possibility that there are two different sets (one underwater and one not).  I say that not knowing fully whether it is actually the case, but it certainly seems likely.




I also like the simple, but effective, props used to simulate an ancient temple that Melina is excavating/studying.




Points awarded (Art Direction): 004/007.  I probably ought to go a point lower, but I like that sunken-ship set a lot.

Special EffectsFor Your Eyes Only doesn't have the sheer number of effects that Moonraker had, and the ones it has are of a subtler variety, but in their own way, they are smashing successes.  There is some excellent work with miniatures, including the sinking of the St. Georges and an exploding warehouse, as well as some outstanding underwater miniatures.



not a miniature, but pretty cool


The best effect, though, is one that -- I betcha -- 99% of viewers have probably never questioned.  In the underwater scenes, when we see closeups of Bond and Melina, those are effects shots.  They weren't even filmed underwater; Roger Moore and Carole Bouquet are standing on a sound stage with wind machines blowing their hair, being filmed in slow motion.  The bubbles were animated in later!  Even knowing exactly how it was done, it looks fantastic, and if the beans hadn't been spilled on the DVD supplements, I'd have no clue at all.  THAT is great work.




Points awarded (Special Effects): 007/007, which is probably too high, but I'm sticking with it.  Effects don't have to always be showy in order to be worth praising.

Gadgets:  Not many.  The only notable one is the Identigraph machine, which is 2012 seems laughably crude and ancient, but serves as a nice way to measure how far the world has advanced during the Bond series.  This, in all honesty, is one of the reasons I still love the series so much; you DO get a sense, however shallow, of marching through the decades as you go from one film to the next to the next.  I can remember being highly impressed by the Identigraph back in the day; and I imagine I'm not the only one who was.




I also enjoy Bond using his shoelaces to help climb back up the mountain at the end, although if I'm being honest, I have no idea what he's actually doing.  I assume it's a real trick that one could employ, but maybe I've been hoodwinked all these years.

Final note, unrelated to anything: the guy wearing the "cast" in Q's lab is Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the Star Wars movies.





Points awarded (Gadgets):  004/007.  How to judge these films where the gadgets are purposefully diminished?  It's a difficult question to answer, so I tend to go middle-of-the-road leaning positive.

Opening-Title Sequence:  The story goes like this: title sequence director Maurice Binder met title-song singer Sheena Easton at some point, and more or less fell in love with her.  Or, more probably, lust.  And so he decided that she just had to be the first-ever title-song performer to actually appear in the titles sequence.





Bearing in mind that this decision was almost certainly made in a perverted attempt to try to persuade Ms. Easton into disrobing during the filming, I suppose that it'd be possible to feel as if the whole thing was creepy as hell.  Hey, it was the eighties; what can you say?

Either way, it's a great sequence, probably one of the best in the history of the series.  Easton is simultaneously cute, pretty, sexy, AND hot, which is quite an achievement.  And in case you mistakenly think those are synonyms, trust me, in the male mind they are not.

Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence):  007/007; Sheena was good enough for Prince, and that's good enough for yrs. truly.  Also for Maurice Binder, who, one suspects, never got to see Ms. Easton in the altogether; sad from his point of view, I imagine, but I hate to think of little Scottish Sheena Easton being ravaged by those pruny old hands.  Gross.  If you escaped those clutches, good on ya, girl!




Overall points awarded (Q Branch):  004.71/007
 
(6)  Mission Briefing

There are a lot of plot holes in this screenplay, which was written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.  I don't want to dwell on them too much, but a few need to be made example of:
  • Kriegler's actions in Cortina make no sense at all.  This guy is a Russian agent, but is also a presumably-famous athlete.  So here he is in Cortina, competing in a ... well, whatever sport it is.  (Triathlon?)  One moment he's competing, the next moment he's firing at Bond, then pursuing him on motorcycle, sniping at him while he descends a ski jump, etc.  Now, I know he's a blonde, but how dumb is all this?  There seem to be 1,768,982 tourists in Cortina; does he think every single one of them is going to somehow fail to identify him?  This is all pretty silly.
  • Is Lisl actually Lisl's name?  Seems unlikely.  Is Lisl actually Columbo's girlfriend?  The jury is out on that one, but if she isn't, who is Columbo to her that he would be able to use her to get close to Bond?  Either way, he doesn't seem very upset to learn she has been murdered by Locque.
  • Speaking of that murder, WTF?!?  She and Bond are running away from the villains (who are driving dune-buggies), and seem to be about ten feet away from her (Columbo's?) cabin, when she inexplicably decides to veer off in another direction.  Presumably this is because she knows that unless she does, Locque will have a hard time running her over; it's really rather thoughtful.  Apart from abetting her own demise, though, it's a profoundly moronic moment.  I'm tempted to chalk it up to bad editing and/or direction, but lacking concrete evidence of that, I'm going to take the writers to task for it.
  • Who is Bibi, exactly?  How did Kristatos become her sponsor, or her guardian, or whatever he is?  Understand that I don't really care, but given how much emphasis is placed on Bibi, it seems odd that the movie never took a few moments to try and develop this a bit more.
  • Melina is a vicious sort of warrior woman when she goes into that mode.  Why, then, does she seem so concerned with the one henchman she shoots with her crossbow as she is ascending in the rope basket?  She's all, like, doctoring him and shit.  Since this man works for the people who murdered her father, and was probably one of the people responsible for keelhauling her and Bond, doesn't it seem more likely that she'd just cut his throat or something?  It's an odd, inconsistent moment.
  • More worrying, is the climax of the film at all satisfying?  Bond fights Kriegler and tosses him out of a window, then Columbo throws a knife into Kristatos.  Bond flings the ATAC off a cliff to stymie Gogol; and that's it.  Now, granted, the series was trying to go back to a more realistic sense, but this climax is decidedly anti-climactic.  It doesn't kill the movie or anything, but we're used to these movies at least trying to send us out on a high of some sort.
  • So instead we get a cameo by "Margaret Thatcher," which is surely one of the strangest decisions ever made in the entire history of the series.  I can't even honestly say that it doesn't work.  It's just ... bizarre.

Points awarded: 003/007.  WAY too many plot holes, but the tone is fine and the intent is solid.  I am strongly tempted to go a point lower, but I'm not going to do so.



(07)  The Music

Title Song:  I suppose you could level the charge that the title song is guilty of being cheesy eighties-style pop balladry; you could almost certainly get a convictions on those charges.  So what?  This is a great song, and maybe it's nostalgia making me say that, maybe it isn't, but the fact is that I love the song and always have.  Probably always will, too.

Not much more to say than that, is there?





Wrong!  Let's have a digression, shall we?  Anyone who listens to pop music has undoubtedly had numerous instances in which they listen to a song for years without being able to quite understand some of the lyrics.  Or maybe you think you understand them, but actually are getting the words quite wrong.

I've been plagued by numerous instances of this, and I've got to tell you, the Internet sure has lessened the severity of the problem.  I love being able to get online and find out what the hell such-and-such singer is actually singing.

Even better: those moments when your brain finally finds the right key and slides it into the lock, and figures it out on its own.  "Holy shit!" you may say to yourself; "it's hold me closer TINY DANCER, not hold me closer TONY DANZA!!!"  Or, "Holy shit, it's excuse me while I kiss THE SKY, not excuse me while I kiss THIS GUY!!!!!"

Those are facetious examples.  I spent the vast majority of my life, though, not quite knowing what Sheena was singing toward the end of "For Your Eyes Only."  It sounded like she was saying "the passions that collide in me are wound up and inside of me," but I deeply suspected that wasn't it, because what the hell sense did that make?!?  So imagine my glee when, listening to the song for what must have been the 7000th time one day a few years back, the key clicked into place finally: "Holy shit," says I , possibly literally, "it's the passions that collide in me, the wild-abandon side of me!!!!!"  I yawped and claimed a major mental victory, and yes, I've held onto that moment for years now and have finally found the right moment to write about it.

It barely seems possible, but once I finally got that bit of the lyrics down, I loved the song even more than I already had.  It's a pretty little line, and I'm pleased as punch that I finally understand it.

(In related news, just moments ago, I thought of another lyric that has been deviling me my entire life: the final verse of the theme song to The Addams Family.  So I Googled that sucker, and found the lyrics printed out, and what is said is this: "So get a witch's shawl on / a broomstick you can crawl on / we're gonna pay a call on / The Addams Family."  Never had a freakin' clue what those first two lines were.  So, another weight has been lifted; this one took the might of the Internet, but I'm okay with that.)

Points awarded (Title Song): 007/007; one of the very best, and if you don't agree, so be it.


found this pic of Sheena Easton on a foot-fetish site, and yes, that WAS an accident -- thanks, Google Images!

when she wasn't letting '80s fashion/hairstyles victimize her, Sheena Easton was HOT AS BALLS

The Score:  Of all the scores not written by John Barry for the Bond films, this is easily my favorite, and in fact -- blasphemy! -- I prefer it to a few of Barry's scores.  It took me years to warm up to it, though; the disco sensibilities used to put me off, but I got over that around the time the old millennium ended, or maybe a bit sooner.

Bill Conti's style is different from Barry's, but he carries over two of Barry's signatures: incorporating the theme of the title song into numerous sequences, and also creating several standalone musical setpieces.  Here, I love Conti's music for the chase through the Spanish countryside, and for the ski chase sequence, and for the scene in which Melina and Bond find the wreck of the St. Georges.  There is excellent music throughout, though, including the climbing-scene music toward the end, and the softcore-porn-style music in the scene where Bond and Lisl seduce each other.

I'd like to make mention, finally, of a couple of sequences in which the lack of score is used extremely well.  Whether Conti should get the credit for this, or director John Glen, or maybe even the editor, I don't know, but it's irrelevant, because whoever the credit goes to, it works.

One: the pre-credits sequence, in which Bond's helicopter is taken over by Blofeld.  There is no score in this while Bond is at a disadvantage, but the moment he finally gets the upper-hand Conti's disco-style horns kick in.  It's hard to imagine a modern action film using the lack of score this well.

Two: similarly, in the car chase that results when Bond and Melina escape from Gonzalez's villa, the first part of the chase involves Melina driving her own car (a dumpy yellow Citroen, much to the elitist Bond's chagrin).  Again, there is no score.  But when the car turns over onto its roof and they bail out to turn it back over, Bond takes advantage of the situation to take over the driver's seat.  Immediately, the score kicks in, the intensity of the filming and the stunts increases drastically, and we find ourselves in the middle of a James Bond car chase, rather than a mere car chase.  It's another win for everyone involved.

Points awarded (The Score): 007/007; again, there are probably Bond (or Barry) enthusiasts who would disagree with me, but they are cordially invited to start their own blogs.



Total points awarded (The Music):  007/007.  Now, admission time: I was tempted to lop off a point for the terrible song "Make It Last All Night," which plays during the poolside scene at Gonzelez's villa.  Awful.  However, it receives little attention in the movie, and is mainly a problem for the soundtrack CD moreso than the movie itself.  And even there you can just skip it!  But I was tempted...




Double-0 Rating for For Your Eyes Only:  004.42/007, which seems to make it likely that the Double-0 Rating system is going to leave Moonraker as my favorite of the Roger Moore films, which is a result I would have bet against going into this experiment.  I think I can live with it, though; a deeper look at Moonraker allowed me to appreciate it on its own terms, whereas a deeper look at For Your Eyes Only showed me that it has just as many story problems, but without some of the technical virtues that you have in that outer-space adventure.

So on the whole, to be honest, I think it's the right call.

The tally so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
004.84 -- Moonraker
004.76 -- Dr. No

004.42 -- For Your Eyes Only
004.39 -- Live and Let Die


You Only Blog Twice will return in ... Octopussy.

11 comments:

  1. "I also really like the edit that happens when a henchman takes a knife to cut open the front of Melina's wetsuit, which edits to a scene inside the ship's cabin and uses a panicked squawk from Max the parrot to bridge the transition."

    Man, that takes me back! I haven't seen this film in years, unfortunately, but I totally remember this.

    I kinda went into reading this review thinking meh, this one I don't remember all that well, but as you described things, it all came back to me. I must have watched this one a lot more than I recall... the dead faces in the submarine, the nuclear briefcase, the claw-hands deep-water suit, being dragged behind the boat, the Identigraph (!!), the alpine climbing scene, the bobsled ski-chase, the dead woman on the beach getting run down (I never understood why she made it easier for herself to die, either) - all came very vividly to mind.

    Those bubbles were animated? Whew - yeah, totally seamless.

    I thought David Cronenberg was "that bad guy from From Your Eyes Only" the first time I saw him. My brother never lets me live that one down.

    I loved (and still do, at least in my imagined-recall of the film; I'll have to watch it again) Colombo, as well. Good old Dr. Zargon.

    "Sheena was good enough for Prince, and that's good enough for yrs. truly...." and "I hate to think of Scottish little Sheena Easton being ravaged by those pruny old hands. Gross. If you escaped those clutches, good on ya, girl!" made me lol twice in a row, good job. Damn, too, those pics of her on the beach are evidence somebody up there likes me. (Which, given all the evidence to the contrary, is evidence I enjoy collecting!)

    Over-using "evidence," there? Who knows.

    My only regret with this entry in your series is that it's now over... I wish you were more machine than man and did not require sleep or sustenance so I could read the next one immediately.

    Personal-lane memory - the VHS tape I had this on back in the day either had Condorman or Romancing the Stone also on it, as I have those two films racing through my head inexplicably. I should ask my parents, but they likely won't remember... Another mystery for the ages...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice on the Dr. Zargon reference.

      Yep, it's gonna be a while before the Octopussy review shows up. I wish I could pound these things out quicker than I'm actually capable of!

      Delete
    2. I watched this over the past few nights. You're absolutely right in all your summary points about some of the flat-out poorly-designed aspects of the plot. And yet... like everyone, it seems, I always look at this one as the Moore Era's most airtight, serious-minded film. In some ways it is - at least serious-minded - but I'm realizing (or re-realizing, I guess) how the PR for the film defined how I continue to look at it.

      The song gets awesomer and awesomer either every time I hear it or the older I get. (shrugs)

      This time around I completely zeroed in on the stuff from the two Fleming short stories. It's great to have read that pretty closely so recently and to see it materialize so much more clearly than I previously appreciated. I have a renewed appreciation for Colombo. You're right that he's under-used, but he's my other favorite Bond ally after Kerim Bey. He was before this re-watch as well, but he and Roger Moore work so well together.

      You're so right about the pre-credits sequence. Awesome fun when you're a kid, of course. But sheesh. "NO MEESTER BOND! MEESTER BOND!!"

      At the other end of the film, the stuff with M's KGB counterpart is just great fun, from his absurd concentration on the ATAC's descent over the ledge, and all the cross-cutting as he squints his eyes, eager to see if it will survive its inevitable shattering after falling however-many-meters (I use the metric system for the benefit of your international audience, of course) from his laughter and hand gestures to Bond. Just great stuff, there. I miss Gogol.

      Bless you, sir, for screencapping the chase sequences you did - I was right there with you. All in all, whenever I rewatch a Bond, I try and keep the respective YOBT review open and have yet to be disappointed.

      Delete
    3. Well, I can't imagine getting a better compliment than that! Thankee-sai!

      The PR campaigns for the Bond films really HAVE played a huge role in perceptions of the films, haven't they? For example, if you watch interviews from virtually any of them going back literally generations, the filmmakers and performers talk about how the female roles are going to be strong and vital this time around, not like all those other ones. And yet, I'd say that most of the movies have strong female characters; certainly not all, but definitely most. Everyone is clearly scared to death of the repercussions of that not being true, I guess.

      Thinking about that ATAC sailing over the edge and shattering into a vigintillion pieces cracks me up. God bless the Roger Moore era; ridiculous in all the right ways. MEESTER BOND indeed!

      As for the screencaps, that's been a delightful phase of this project; time-consuming, but worth every second.

      Delete
  2. Can't really argue with anything you said. Maybe I'd give Moore a bit more of a break concerning his age. Like you, he's my favorite Bond.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Carole bouquet was great as Melina havelock. Her character would have gotten along fine without bonds help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She did seem to be getting the job done quite capably.

      Delete
  4. Oh man, this is probably my favorite Bond flick. Only "probably" because LALD was my favorite since I cared to keep track of such things as favorite Bond flick, but about a dozen years ago, FYEO crept ahead. However, LALD has been staging a comeback the last couple of times I've watched it.

    Also, it wasn't as if FYEO was my second favorite Bond when I was a kid and finally overthrew LALD, it crawled its way up from somewhere outside my top 5 to eventually become my favorite, so it holds an odd charm with me partly for having done that.

    As for the soundtrack, it's always been one of my favorites. Indeed, it's one of the reasons I feel so fondly for FYEO. When I first saw it in the early 80s, I hadn't yet become fully aware of who John Barry was, and I certainly wasn't aware that he didn't have anything to do with FYEO. I just knew that I loved the music in the movie (hell, I still listen to the soundtrack, or at least select songs, once in a while). You really hit on a couple of my absolute favorites. Of course, the theme song (as a little boy, Sheena Easton did a lot to help me understand that girls were, in fact, not icky), but also the music during the car chase when Bond meets Melina and the music during the ski chase scene hit that nostalgia button fucking hard for me. I used to get so jazzed up watching those scenes (still do, I just mean that extra level of hyped that kids get to). The musical cue that gets me the most amped is when Bond wrests control of the helicopter back from Blofeld and those horns kick in! My dude, when the horn kicks in, I can't help but make that pursed lip sneer that one involuntarily makes when their inner ten year old goes, "YESSSS!!!!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was my favorite Bond movie for many a year. 1982 to . . . oh, I don't know, probably for a good decade or so.

      One of my best friends has "Live and Let Die" as his favorite, and always has. We got to see it together in a cinema last year for his birthday, which was a treat for both of us. It -- like all Bond movies -- holds up REALLY well on a big screen.

      I'm glad to hear you enjoy the music of "For Your Eyes Only." It turns a lot of people off, apparently, and even the theme song gets slagged off some nowadays. Blasphemy! That song is great, and that is all.

      All the musical moments you cite are gold. Especially the one when Bond gets control of the helicopter. It's a verl well-scored movie from a standpoint of choosing exactly where the music comes in; and, by the same token, where no music exists at all. That's a key element of scoring that not every film understands.

      I feel your, uh, concern regarding Sheena Easton. As I believe I've said before, she's good enough for Prince, and that's good enough for me.

      Delete