Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bond Is Forever: “For Your Eyes Only”

When a British communications device, ATAC (Automatic Target Attack Communicator), is lost at sea, a marine archaeologist, commissioned to help in locating the device, is assassinated. MI6 agent James Bond (Roger Moore), assigned to recover the ATAC, tracks down the assassin but is unable to speak to the man before he is killed by Melina (Carole Bouquet), the marine archaeologist’s daughter. Seeking the man responsible for the hit, both Bond and Melina are led to Cortina in Italy’s Dolomites, where the two must elude various hitmen. A Greek contact/informant, Ari Kristatos (Julian Glover), tells 007 that the man most likely responsible for the theft of the ATAC is Milos Columbo (Topol), who in turn points the finger at Kristatos. Everything comes to a head at a monastery high in the mountains, where Bond and his allies attempt to keep the ATAC from being turned over to the KGB.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) was the cinematic de
but 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 a
nd 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 skat
er 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).


  1. Sark, that song is now stuck in mind for the rest of the day. You will be surprised, but I have seen this Bond film. Granted, only once, so I don't remember it as well as you. My favorite action sequence is the keelhauled one (as you describe). Those hungry sharks always give me the creeps. I don't recall (nor do I think you mentioned) any interesting female character names...what's up with that? Loved reading your informative review.

  2. Rick,

    I never cared for Roger Moore as Bond, that said, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is arguably the best of his Bond films (I still have not seen Octopussy). With James Bond I have always been fondest of the early Sean Connery films (Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love) though I think Daniel Craig has done a good job. Still watching a Bond film, any Bond film, is like visiting an old friend, you know what your are going to get. It’s comfortable and fun. Wonderful look at the film.

  3. After all of your Bond posts, you know me, Sark. I never liked Roger Moore as Bond. But I must admit, to my embarrassment, that I think this was a really good Bond movie, because it was well done and suspenseful, and Moore wasn't bad. High praise for Moore from me!

    I always like your background infomration about the movies and people involved. I still miss Bernard Lee and Blofeld! AND, like Kim, you are responsible for that song running through my head and driving me CRAZY!

  4. Sark, this is another outstanding review of a Bond film. I love this movie and it is my favorite one with Roger Moore. I like Roger Moore in anything. The plot is good and exciting. Carol Bouquet is a cool Bond girl, hey, I love a woman who can shoot a crossbow!! I remember Paul Brooke in SW: Return of the Jedi. I love the creature of nightmares. And I recall Jack Klaff in SW: Episode IV: A New Hope. As for Lynn-Holly Johnson, she is annoying but she is playing an "annoying teen" so I will give her a break. The underwater scenes are awesome. Moore is as good looking as always, Bouquet is beautiful, and the song, "For Your Eyes Only" is terrific. I don't have to hum it all day because I have it on my iPod. Great and well researched review which I truly enjoyed. I am off to listen to the song right now...

  5. This is my second favorite Roger Moore 007 after "The Spy Who Loved Me" and I think "For Your Eyes Only" belongs in the top 10 007 films of all time.

    It's probably the most serious Roger Moore entry, and all the better for it. After "Moonraker" the only way was up. He evokes memories of Connery when he interrogates one of the villains as the car is perched precariously on a cliff. After receiving the information he needs, Moore kicks the car over the cliff to the man's death.

    The amazing mountain climbing freefall stunt was performed by Rick Sylvester, who did the ski jump in "Spy Who Loved Me."

    One of the biggest laughs in the film comes when Bibi is trying to seduce Bond and he tells her to get dressed and "I'll buy you an ice cream." In the packed theater when I first saw this, the audience roared.

  6. You've penned another banner Bond review, Sark! I just love this series of posts. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is my second favorite of Roger Moore's 007 outings for all the reasons you've described (SPY WHO LOVED ME is still first). Carole Bouquet ranks with Honor Blackman and Michelle Yeoh as my favorite Bond heroines. (Interestingly, her leggy appearance on the film's poster ads was edited in many markets because newspapers thought it was too risque). The story is solid, Glen's direction ensures there are no lulls in the action, and the supporting cast--especially Bouquet and Topol--are first-rate. I liked Lynn-Holly in ICE CASTLES, but her appearance in a Bond film just seems out of place. And while I admit the title tune is catchy, I missed John Barry's music. I can explain why Sheena was shown singing in the title credits--she was cute! It was intriguing to learn that Glover was also in two of the other most popular film series of all all time. It just proves that the "Bond Is Forever" series as informative as it is fun. I'm already looking forward to CASINO ROYALE

  7. Moore's best, though I prefer Brosnan. Nice review. Made me want to see it again.

  8. Sark, every time I have tried to leave a comment on your excellent post my computer has done something odd and I haven't been successful. It is the wee hours of the morning and I alas am awake and hopefully my comments won't be simply for my eyes only again. This is another outstanding entry in your always looked forward to Bond series.

    I really liked Carole Bouquet who gives a very strong performance, literally. A crossbow can be quite heavy and to operate it well requires good upper body strength. Her performance is in stark contrast to Lynn-Holly Johnson who skates beautifully but is annoying off the ice here. I too was very glad that Bond did not attempt anything romantic with her character.

    I really liked your comments about Bond's self-reliance and not having to rely on gadgets in this film. Perhaps it is also indicative of Roger Moore's not being dependent on that other Bond fellow, either. Loved this blog, Sark!

  9. The best Roger Moore Bond film and my 3rd favorite Bond of all time. I saw For Your Eyes Only like 30 times like growing up. Great review Sark!