This entry will take us into the middle ranges of the films – the not so bad but still deeply average region. You’ll have noticed I’m only skimming the surface of what can be said about the Bond films and probably leaving out some significant points – I’m drafting these by hand in an A5 notebook, with one page for each film. Stops me from rambling and stops you from being bored to death! You’re welcome. And now, back to your regular program.

18. For Your Eyes Only
James Bond is caught in the middle of a young woman’s revenge mission. Her vendetta has deeper implications, and before long, Bond is fighting two Greek crime lords AND the KGB in a race to track down a missing British naval computer.

Controversy (and other things) arose over this poster.
Controversy (and other things) arose over this poster.

Roger Moore gets his second “back to basics” movie, and on the whole it works much better than Live And Let Die. Many people applaud it, but it can be hard to take seriously after the excesses of Moonraker, even if they probably couldn’t have topped that film’s spectacle anyway. The first Bond film of the 1980s is much more restrained in tone, setting and style, almost as a reflection of a more conservative era. This is also reflected in the plot, which is a mishmash of material from several Fleming short stories, plus a key scene from the novel Live And Let Die.

Speaking of a more Conservative era, they even managed to shoehorn in Mr and Mrs Thatcher.
Speaking of a more Conservative era, they even managed to shoehorn in Mr and Mrs Thatcher.

As mentioned, after spending so much time being over the top, a return to small-scale crime busting by Bond is a bit jarring, especially with Roger Moore suddenly being expected to play a darker, broody man. To be fair, he actually does quite a good job of this; for example pushing a villain over a cliff in cold blood, all this not long after a splendid turn of being freaked out by the advances of a teenage ice-skating champion girl – whose inclusion is largely unnecessary but does show us that 007 DOES have a line. Somewhere.

"Now put your clothes on, and Ill buy you an icecream."
“Now put your clothes on, and I’ll buy you an icecream.”

Other positives include Julian Glover and Topol as Greek smuggling rivals Kristatos and Columbo; both are charming and effective. Less effective is the musical score by Bill “Theme From Rocky” Conti, which works only when he uses disco instrumentals to underscore chase scenes and not when he attempts high drama or suspenseful atonality.

This is one of those disco instrumentals I mentioned. It is amazing.

Really, on the whole, this isn’t a bad movie at all. Just an average one.

17. A View To A Kill
James Bond becomes involved in billionaire Max Zorin’s attempts to monopolise the world microchip market. Can Bond corner Zorin, and solve cases of racing and property fraud, before Silicon Valley drowns in its own lake?

If by "met his match" they mean his stunt double, then yes, James Bond has.
If by “met his match” they mean his stunt double, then yes, James Bond has.

This movie contains liberal amounts of Christopher Walken, and that is almost enough to save it! While this is the second last story to take its title from a Fleming story, there is no relation to any written work by said author. Roger Moore is well past it by this time, and he knew it, but it doesn’t stop him giving it one last red-hot go as Britain’s number one spy!

Maybe if we hide him behind an 80s glam-rock hair-do and some huge sunnies, no-one will know hes 1026.
“Maybe if we hide him behind an 80s glam-rock hair-do and some huge sunnies, no-one will know he’s 1026.”

The scenes Moore shares with Patrick Macnee are particularly enjoyable – Moore as Bond as a snob and Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett as his long-suffering valet. These two were the stars of prominent ITV spy shows in the 1960s, and so to see the Saint reparteeing with John Steed from The Avengers is very enjoyable.

Later in the film, these guys dish out some fairly convincing old school fisticuffs. I really wanted to make it seem like Roger Moore was saying something snide here, but you can make up your own caption to that effect if you like!
Later in the film, these guys dish out some fairly convincing old school fisticuffs.

Alas, pretty much all of the rest of the film leaves much to be desired. Tanya Roberts’ husky screams as Bond’s female ally begin to grate, and honestly, whose idea was it to cast Grace Jones as a genetically engineered superhuman…oh, actually, that makes a lot of sense.

She sure knows how to pick up!
She sure knows how to pick up!

Zorin’s lacklustre scheme to monopolise the microchip industry seems absurd – naturally, this being another “real-world issue” Bond film – though, small computers were a big new thing in 1985, so maybe not so silly at the time. However, the scenes set in his mansion are magnificent, and so is everything involving his blimp. But, considering the creators don’t even try to disguise the fact that Roger Moore is only playing James Bond in about 5% of this film, the other 95% being stunt doubles, you can sum it all up in one word – lazy. If it wasn’t for Walken and the fun aspects of the old spies sparring, this would be much lower in my list.

I gotta have that cowbell!
I gotta have more cowbell!

16. The Man With a The Golden Gun
James Bond is in a race against time to find contract killer Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous Man. On the way, he encounters shipwrecks, kung fu, and sumo wrestlers before an exciting climax and an attempt to save the world’s solar energy!

Lasers, little people, comedy kung fu - yep, definitely a bad genre movie from the 70s!
Lasers, little people, comedy kung fu – yep, definitely a bad genre movie from the 70s!

Why is it that whenever they got really killer actors in for the classic series that their casting is was completely squandered in completely average movies? Christopher Walken in A View To A Kill is an example, and another can be found here, in the form of Christopher Lee! They had Dracula in this movie and they still struggled to put together something credible.

Of course, they veered quite far from the source material in an attempt to make the film more relevant – energy crisis? Solar power? Quick, make a movie to be released two years after the very worst of it! This is a third example which empirically proves my earlier hypothesis about real-world issues making bad Bond films.

SCIENCE
SCIENCE.

The Man With The Golden Gun ambles along from exotic locale to exotic locale, with M getting angrier and angrier every time he appears on-screen, even telling Q to shut up at one point!  But there is seldom any sense of urgency about all this. Moore smugs his way through South East Asia, doggedly aided at one head scratching point by the appalling Sheriff JW Pepper from Live And Let Die.

I like to think Moores cringe here wasnt acted.
I like to think Moore’s cringe here wasn’t acted.

Having said all this, the cool stuff in this film manages to save it. Christopher Lee is perfectly menacing as Scaramanga, and his amazing island abode – especially the death match Fun House – is captivating. The use of the wreck of the Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbour as the field office for MI6 is a particularly nice touch. The idea that James Bond might have a hit out on him is a great idea used effectively. And finally, I’m at odds with most of the fandom when I say that this film boasts one of John Barry’s finest scores for the series, with a tonne of local flavour but also hints of the orchestral majesty that was to come from Barry later in the series. All in all, this is a fairly enjoyable movie, but on the same mediocre level as the rest of the era.

But, it must be said, this song is really great.

15. Moonraker
James Bond investigates the mystery of the stolen space shuttle. The case will take him all the way to outer space, via a Brazilian cable car and a fight in a china shop) before he can stop the world being destroyed!

"Outer space now belongs to 007!" NO! The whole point of the plot is Bond stopping any one person owning outer space and the Earth, of course.)
“Outer space now belongs to 007!” NO! The whole point of the plot is Bond stopping any one person owning outer space (and the Earth, of course)!

When I watch a Bond film, I first try to think of it as its own film, as opposed to part of a wider series an; an approach which, if I may say, is entirely justifiable considering the loose grip on continuity usually shown by the producers. This is what helps me enjoy Moonraker. From the get-go, this film is just a huge amount of fun.

And surprisingly Freudian - Bond seen here battling a snake.
And surprisingly Freudian – Bond seen here battling a snake.

Yes, the idea of James Bond in space is ludicrous. Yes, it’s blatantly cashing in on the Star Wars craze. Yes, a pigeon does a double take. Yes, it marks the end of Roger Moore’s side part, and, I suspect, his 100% organic face. And yet, it’s not the worst entry in the series. Anyone who says so has no imagination.

Also, the scene where James Bond nearly gets killed in a Gravitron is pretty awesomely done.
Also, the scene where James Bond nearly gets killed in a Gravitron is pretty awesomely done.

The special effects were designed by Derek Meddings of Thunderbirds fame – they are marvellous. From the opening shot of a space shuttle on the back of a 747 to the giant space station, truly the effects shots deserved their Academy Award nomination.

Life imitating art.
Life imitating art.

Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax is perhaps the best villain of the series. He is dripping with evil sarcasm, and his every line is perfectly executed.

"James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season."
“James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.”

To add to this cocktail of my gushing positivism, the filming locations are very well chosen. Rio de Janeiro during Carnivale is a nice colourful backdrop for the ironic juxtaposition of Jaws menacing Bond’s female colleague. Venice is, of course, breathtakingly beautiful, and I swear they use some of the back-alley locations again during the climax of Casino Royale.

My Dad, an avid collector, always looks away during this scene.

And, of course, outer space is super cool. Well, the sets of outer space are cool. Even Roger Moore seems to be having fun – he looks unusually smug during the gondola chase scene. And why not? Fun is what this film is all about.

14. Goldeneye
James Bond finds himself in 1995. All of a sudden, the world has changed, and everyone wonders if James Bond is still relevant. Fortunately, he proves himself to be, and excitement ensues in a pursuit of a stolen nuclear code key!

This poster is really, really 90s. Like, unbelievably so.
This poster is really, really 90s. Like, unbelievably so.

After the commercial disaster of Licence To Kill and subsequent legal wrangling over who owned what part of James Bond, there would be a six year wait before the release of another Bond film. Pierce Brosnan, who the producers wanted in 1987 but couldn’t get, finally makes his debut in 1995’s Goldeneye – as a post- Cold War Bond on the highly advanced electronic battlefield of…1995.

"I say, M, this interwebmail doodad isn't 'alf a lark, what?"
“I say, M, this interwebmail doodad isn’t ‘alf a lark, what?”

Bringing Bond back is director Martin Campbell, who lends a much-needed hard edge to things, much as he would do for Casino Royale 11 years later. It’s about the same level of violent as Licence To Kill, but audiences were finally ready to see James Bond be the man Ian Fleming intended. Also, Brosnan has an easy charm, which was something Timothy Dalton took out of his portrayal.

Brosnans Bond really knew how to wear clothes!
Brosnan’s Bond really knew how to wear clothes!

From a solid start, the film progresses in leaps and bounds across the globe – to where else in this new era than Russia? Here, Bond meets Valentin Zukovsky, Russian gangster and former KGB agent played by Robbie Coltrane; a character who amuses and was liked enough to return in a The World Is Not Enough. Another character who would later return is M’s Chief of Staff, Bill Tanner. Tanner is portrayed by Michael Kitchen, in an excellent performance as an underpaid, overworked and dogged civil servant. In the books, Tanner is Bond’s best friend, and this is well played by Kitchen and Brosnan.

Loose tie, tousled hair, plus Kitchens trademark earnestness. Works well!
Loose tie, tousled hair, plus Kitchen’s trademark earnestness. Works well!

Judi Dench’s new, female M is alright here – she doesn’t have the grating unpleasantness that made me so dislike her later. Finally, Sean Bean as the treacherous 006 is smooth, sleazy and exceptionally villainous – very much the dark side of 007.

Fortunately for James Bond, this is Sean Bean, so we know he wont last.
Fortunately for James Bond, this is Sean Bean, so we know how it ends.

As for the rest – well, it’s mainly just super cool stuff. There’s a tank chase through St Petersburg, a giant satellite dish in a lake, bungee jumping…it’s all happening. Except for the music. All synth, by Eric Serra. That shit is weird.

Kind of cool, but also not.

But, on the whole, a welcome return to form for the series, but the beginning of a downhill run for Brosnan films.

You can find the rest of the series at Part 1, Part 3, Part 4.

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