For Your Eyes Only (1981) was the cinematic debut for director John Glen, who’d worked in the capacity of editor and second unit director on previous Bond films and would continue as director for the next four films in the 007 series (to include the remaining films with Moore and both films with Timothy Dalton). The film, a vast improvement over the preceding Bond effort, Moonraker (1979), has a pleasant sense of humor and entertaining action sequences. Interestingly, a skiing scene that leads to a bobsled track is reminiscent of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, on which Glen worked as editor/second unit director. Moore, who has always been memorable in his portrayal of 007, is unmistakably comfortable in the role, and his scenes with Bouquet are highlights, as the couple works well together. Bouquet’s Melina is one of the best Bond Girls: independent, athletic, and unparalleled, all of her qualities exemplified by her chic weapon of choice, a crossbow.
One of the film’s best sequences is when Bond and Melina are tied together and keelhauled (dragged underwater by ship, with marine growth causing serious injury and/or blood in the water and movement attracting sharks). This scene was likely inspired by Ian Fleming’s novel, Live and Let Die, in which Mr. Big dispatches similar punishment to Bond and Solitaire. The sequence in For Your Eyes Only is not only superbly filmed, but it also allows for a terrific line: “Hold tight,” Bond says to Melina, as the line wanes and the two are yanked from the ship’s deck into the water.
Perhaps more importantly, the keelhauling sequence is an expression of Bond’s self-reliance in the film, as he is not dependent upon gadgets. Bond effects escapes and dodges assassination attempts with his skill and cunning. Even Bond’s car, a Lotus Esprit which viewers can assume is armed to the teeth, has not a chance to display its equipment, as a villain tries to gain entrance by smashing a window and detonates the car and himself. Bond must then evade the bad guys in Melina’s Citroën 2CV, a standard, unfurnished vehicle (though it does prove versatile). When the spy goes to see Q (the always charming Desmond Llewelyn), he receives no gadgets, as he and Q utilize the Identigraph to help identify a potential lead. Bond is supplied with another Lotus, but, like the first one, its presumed accessories are never shown.
The pre-credit sequence features Bond’s nemesis, Blofeld, his face once again unseen, like in the films preceding You Only Live Twice (1967). The scene also features a reference to Bond’s love, Tracy, from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This would be a final farewell to Blofeld, who would not appear in further 007 movies.
Australian actress Cassandra Harris has a small role as a countess and Columbo’s mistress. At the time of filming For Your Eyes Only, Harris was married to actor Pierce Brosnan, who producers hoped would follow Moore as 007. However, Brosnan’s TV series, Remington Steele, conflicted, and the role ultimately went to Dalton. Harris and Brosnan were married until the actress’ death from cancer in 1991. Four years later, Brosnan would finally take over as Bond in GoldenEye.
Lynn-Holly Johnson plays Bibi, an accomplished ice skater and Olympic hopeful sponsored by Kristatos. Johnson was a professional figure skater (her ability is displayed in the film) who made her film debut in Ice Castles (1978), in which she played a young skater who overcomes a debilitating accident that renders her blind. In For Your Eyes Only, Bibi is undoubtedly quite young, so much that when she attempts to seduce 007, it’s more than a little disturbing (and a relief when Bond is clearly neither interested nor tempted). Despite playing a juvenile character, Johnson was in actuality only about a year-and-a-half younger than French actress Bouquet, who was Bond’s romantic interest. Bouquet had a successful film career in her native country, winning a César (the French equivalent of an Oscar) for Best Actress for the 1989 movie, Trop belle pour toi (Too Beautiful for You).
Aside from Bond alumni Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, Geoffrey Keen as the Minister of Defence, Walter Gotell as KGB head General Gogol, and Llewelyn as Q, there are a number of familiar faces in For Your Eyes Only. Glover has had the distinction of appearing in two additional series which were popular with audiences, as Walter Donovan, the antagonist in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and General Maximilian Veers in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Star Wars fans may also recognize Paul Brooke, playing a man who loses to Bond at the casino table: he was Malakili in Return of the Jedi (1983), keeper of Rancor, the creature whom Luke Skywalker faces in Jabba the Hutt’s pit. Likewise, Jack Klaff, a notable villain in For Your Eyes Only, was a pilot for the Rebel Alliance, call sign Red Four, in 1977’s Star Wars (or, for the purists, Episode IV: A New Hope). Chaim Topol, typically credited as Topol, was Tevye in the award-winning Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and also played Zarkov in the campy Flash Gordon (1980), which has since garnered a cult following.
Bernard Lee, who had played MI6 head, M, in every Bond film up to and including Moonraker, died from cancer in January 1981. In the film, M is on leave, and Bond receives his orders from both the Minister of Defence and M’s Chief of Staff (James Villiers). Robert Brown would debut as M in the subsequent Bond film, Octopussy (1983).
Following the disastrous box office results of Heaven’s Gate (1980), United Artists was essentially bankrupt. For Your Eyes Only was financially successful and helped save the company from bankruptcy, though United Artists was purchased by MGM and future Bond releases would be distributed by MGM/UA and/or would be a co-production.
The film’s title song, written by composer Bill Conti and lyricist Michael Leeson, was performed by Sheena Easton, who, for whatever reason, appears in the opening credits sequence. American rock band Blondie had written a version of “For Your Eyes Only,” but reportedly declined an offer to record the song written by Conti and Leeson. The Blondie song appears on the band’s 1982 album, The Hunter.
For Your Eyes Only is my favorite Bond film with Roger Moore. It is a favorite for my wife as well, although she must suffer through my seemingly nonstop renditions of the title song for a week or two after each viewing. The film boasts reliable characters and story, and action scenes that are profound and, best of all, unadulterated fun. What does everyone else think of Moore’s fifth go-round as James Bond?
Bond Is Forever will return next month with Casino Royale (2006).