Friday, October 06, 2006
For Your Eyes Only was the fifth James Bond film with Roger Moore in it. It came out in 1981. The title comes from a book of Ian Fleming short stories. The film uses elements from two of the stories, "For Your Eyes Only" and "Risico." And it also uses the ending of the book version of Live and Let Die, where Bond and Solitaire were tied together and dragged behind the boat and cut up by the reef. (It was supposed to draw sharks or something.)
The movie also has skiing (like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and The Spy Who Loved Me) and underwater sequences (like Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me).
Before I continue, I want to say that I do like this movie. I saw it twice when it first came out. I was 17. I saw it with my mom and my brother. And I saw it again with some friends. And I enjoyed it when I watched it this morning.
But it is really average, without much going for it to make it a special James Bond film.
As a matter of fact, the best thing about For Your Eyes Only is Carole Bouquet's hair.
It opens with Roger Moore leaving flowers at Teresa Bond's grave. Then Blofeld tries to kill him with a remote control helicopter but Bond turns the table on him and drops him into a smokestack. (His Persian cat is shown jumping from his lap just before Bond gets him, which was a big relief. Whew! Can't have anything happen to the cat!)
(They don't actually call him Blofeld because there were legal problems. There was another producer who had the rights to make another version of Thunderball (which eventually came out as Never Say Never Again) and he claimed he had the rights to Blofeld. His case wasn't that good but the other producers were sick of his whining so they got around it by not using Blofeld by name and identifying him by his cat.)
It was about damn time they killed Blofeld! Sheesh!
A British sub goes down in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Brits have to find it because it has some magic computer whatchamajiggy called an ATAC that the Russkies can use to take control of all Britain's defense system or something. The Havelocks take their boat to the area to look for this ATAC thingie using their archaeological work as cover but they are murdered before they can retrieve the magical doodad.
Which brings us to Carole Bouquet as the revenge-seeking Melina Havelock, traveling all over the Mediterranean with her nasty crossbow and her totally cute determined look. She’s pretty awesome. And really beautiful. She makes the movie. She keeps mucking it up for Bond. Just when he is about to make his move and get the information, Melina shows up and shoots an arrow into somebody. He lectures her, he reassures her, he saves her, she saves him, they look at scenery in Greece, they ride a sleigh in the Italian Alps, they swim naked.
You know. The usual.
She has really great long, black hair. Her hair defines her, framing her face, blowing around as she shoots her crossbow at some villainous ass-wipe, or is getting thrown around or fed to sharks. Her facial expressions are great. For most of her screen time, she has just one expression: grim determination. The lady is hell bent on revenge on the people who killed her parents. She smiles and softens a bit at times because Roger Moore is so charming and witty, but her face is mostly unsmiling and determined.
There is also an Olympic skater named Bibi Dahl played by an Olympic skater named Lynn Holly Johnson. She is really cute but her character doesn't really add anything to the plot. And there's a mysterious countess who gets run over by a dune buggy. She didn't really have a whole lot to do with it either, but she was from the short story "Risico," so they had to put her in somewhere. Also, she was married to Pierce Brosnan at the time and she introduced her husband to the filmmakers.
Sheena Easton is in the credit sequences, singing "For Your Eyes Only." She's looking pretty nice, despite her stupid '80s hair.
This is also the James Bond film where one of the Bond girls turned out to be a Bond man. In the scene where Melina kills the assassin in the pool, there are a bunch of hot babes hanging out in bathing suits. It came out later that one of the chicks was a transgendered person who had once been a man. Her name was Caroline Cossey. She was apparently quite hot, hot enough to be a Bond girl. I had long assumed this was an urban legend, but they talked about it on the documentary on the Special Edition DVD of For Your Eyes Only. (Click here to see what snopes.com has to say about this.)
So, getting back to the plot, Bond and Melina travel all over the Mediterranean and meet a good guy who turns out to be a bad guy (Kristatos) and a bad guy who turns out to be a good guy (Colombo). (This is lifted from "Risico.") And they travel around and kill people and stuff and they finally get the magical ATAC thingamajiggy back and Melina sees that all the people involved in the killing of her parents are killed. The End.
The filmmakers took such a cookie-cutter approach to this movie that, while fun to watch, it unfortunately leaves little impression at the end of the day. They were also trying to tone down the super-heroics of Moonraker, to make it a little more "realistic," and it doesn't quite work. I love A View to a Kill for Grace Jones hang-gliding off the Eiffel Tower, Zorin's totally insane plan and the fire truck chase through San Francisco. And Octopussy has a tiger hunt, Octopussy's weird island palace and Bond dressed as a clown trying to defuse an atomic bomb. Wow!
For Your Eyes Only doesn't have anything that quite lives up to some of that madness. It's not lacking in exciting fights and chases – I like the forest chase in Melina's little car a lot, as well as the alpine pursuit with Bond on skis, a bob sled and a motorcycle – but none of the sequence has that extra mad spark that characterizes the best Bond films. (Note: Sometimes, they go a little too far and that mad spark becomes a conflagration. See: Die Another Day. Which was fun to write about at least.)
Not my favorite Bond film. It's passable. I've seen it three times. Mostly for Carole Bouquet's hair.
For more information on For Your Eyes Only, check out the wikipedia entry.
NEXT: LIVE AND LET DIE with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
And the local library in my new town (Palmdale, California – it's like Las Vegas without the Strip) has the comic strip version of Goldfinger from the 1960s. I hope to review that.
And don't forget: the 2006 movie version of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig opens Nov. 17. Daniel Craig doesn't bother me at all. They're playing poker instead of baccarat. That bothers me. I will be there and I will review Casino Royale for the fourth time, but I expect it will be more like Die Another Day than You Only Live Twice. (Pray to the Movie God it's not like Moonraker. Only the Godzilla series could survive two movies as bad as that.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Movie
Sean Connery IS James Bond. Roger Moore Is James Bond. Pierce Brosnan is James Bond. Timothy Dalton is James Bond having a bad day.
Which brings us to George Lazenby.
Even though it's been a while since I saw it, I remember On Her Majesty's Secret Service vividly. It's a lot of fun. Lots of skiing. James Bond is Australian. Pretty girls. (including Patsy Stone from "Absolutely Fabulous" and the shape-changing girl from "Space:1999." And Emma Peel.) James Bond wearing a dress. (A kilt actually. He's an Australian pretending to be Scottish. Kind of like Mel Gibson without the homophobia and the anti-Semitism.) The villain is Telly Savalas. A lot of talk about heraldry. Great theme song. (It's an instrumental, so you can't sing it. But I did write some lyrics for this movie. The thing is, you have to sing them to the tune of "The Man With The Golden Gun.")
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George Lazenby makes me nervous
His voice changes several times
And the word "service" never rhymes.
One Her Majesty's Secret Service
I'm glad I'm not a Swiss tourist
What is Joanna Lumley doing here
I advise you to steer clear.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
The villain is Telly Savalas
And 007 is doing fine
with the chick from "Space: 1999."
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
The cafeteria is serving asparagus
James Bond and Emma Peel will get married
just before Emma Peel is buried
So what’s not to love about this movie?
Well, it's kind of weird. The film on its own isn't weird. But in the context of the early Bond films, and appearing in sequence as it does between two Sean Connery films, it's a little out-of-place. It doesn't feel quite right in a number of ways.
It has the familiar James Bond music, the great credit sequence, and all the other James Bond movie ingredients – action, guns, gadgets girls. (No sharks and no piranhas this time around.)
Remember what I said about Never Say Never Again? It isn't a James Bond film so much as a movie with James Bond in it.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service has a similar dissonant ring. It is a James Bond film. And it has a perfectly acceptable actor playing James Bond. But it still isn't quite right.
Why? Because it's the only James Bond film where he develops as a character, where he seems to be about to move on to a new phase of life, but his future is shattered at the end when his wife is killed by Kojak. (Blofeld, I mean.)
It's more like a James Bond art film.
Most Bond films are very predictable, as Bond gets involved with putting a stop to some weird, unbelievable scheme, shoots people, gets beaten up, meets some chicks, displays an amazing proficiency with a gaggle of gadgets and beats the bad guy at the end every time.
All this happens in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. But there's a little more to it. At the beginning of the film he meets Emma Peel, the troubled daughter of the head of the Corsican Mafia. (I suspect she thinks her father killed JFK.) Bond and Emma fall in love.
Later in the film, she helps him escape from Blofeld. She even gets captured by Blofeld! (This last part doesn't happen in the book.)
Emma Peel and Bond get married at the end of the film. And then Blofeld kills her within a few hours of the ceremony. (For the most part, the movie follows the book pretty closely.)
So it really is the only Bond film where anything really happens to him.
It might be less noticeable, scarcely worthy of attention, if Sean Connery or Roger Moore had played Bond. Both men played Bond seven times, we had plenty of performances to get used to both of them, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would have just seemed "a little unusual" the way that, for example, Octopussy is a "little unusual."
But On Her Majesty's Secret Service has George Lazneby. I am not going to say bad things about George Lazenby as James Bond. He is a fine James Bond. He is eager to do his job for crown and country, he is efficient, he does what has to be done.
He is not Sean Connery. He is not Roger Moore. He is different. That's all.
But he was only in this one movie. And he falls in love, gets married, and his bride is killed. And that just doesn't happen to James Bond. Not our James Bond. A James Bond. The James Bond in this movie.
George Lazenby is a James Bond.
Way back when I started writing these essays, I mentioned the 1967 film version of Casino Royale, in which David Niven is James Bond. In this film, the real James Bond is upset about the people who are being assigned the James Bond name and the number of 007. By the end of the film, nearly everyone is James Bond. This includes, but is not limited to, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Barbara Bouchet, Amanda Pettet, Ursula Andress, and Daliah Lavi.
I love this concept. In the James Bond films, it's not just a different actor playing the same guy. It's a bunch of different guys assuming the identity of James Bond because it's a practice of the British Secret Service.
The Sean Connery James Bond was a big Scottish guy with a dry wit who got kinda bored with the job. Then there was an Australian fellow who took over the job, but he didn't do it very long. He fell in love (unexpectedly) and then went on a mission where he underestimated or didn't really understand the cruel efficiency and vindictiveness of some of the people he was dealing with. Distracted by his new life as a married man, he was unable to protect her, and he blamed himself for her death. For whatever reason, he was unable to pursue Blofeld to extract his revenge.
In the next film, Diamonds Are Forever, the Sean Connery James Bond returns. He is pursuing Blofeld. This Bond probably feels kind of responsible. He left the service kind of abruptly and didn't really make it clear to his superiors and his successor just how dangerous Blofeld really is. He finishes off Blofeld (he thinks) and retires for good, clearing the way for the Roger Moore James Bond.
Blofeld does return, though, in For Your Eyes Only. (He is not named because of a legal dispute that I'll go into when I review For Your Eyes Only, hopefully in day or two. But you can tell it's him because of the Persian cat.) The Roger Moore James Bond is leaving a wreath on the tombstone of Teresa Bond. This imperils my theory a bit. But I suspect it can be explained away pretty easily. If the George Lazenby James Bond was killed or incapacitated, it is not at all hard to imagine a bond between the Bonds to look after her grave and remember him by remembering her. (He doesn’t have a stone because there can not be a stone for James Bond, get me?)
One more little bit of implied evidence? When Roger Moore James Bond kills Blofeld (by dumping him into a smokestack), he has a smile of satisfaction that seems very inappropriate for someone who has just killed his wife’s killer. He doesn't really look that sad about Teresa being dead, a bit grim, yes. He certainly doesn't look like he's killing his wife's murderer. (He should be gritting his teeth and saying, "Take that, you bloody bastard!") But Roger Moore's satisfied smile seems (to me anyway) an entirely suitable reaction for a member of this exclusive club, the men who have been James Bond. By avenging Theresa, he avenges his predecessor, he avenges James Bond, the identity, as well as every man who has been James Bond. (And the Roger Moore James Bond may also be gloating a bit because he disposed of Blofeld when the Sean Connery Blofeld couldn't do it.)
But I love On Her Majesty's Secret Service anyway. It was one of the reasons why the 1960s were so great, and why James Bond was one of the great things about the 1960s. George Lazenby can be proud that he played James Bond once and he pulled it off admirably.
(And he shouldn't feel bad that he couldn't get Blofeld. Blofeld is hard to kill. After all, Sean Connery couldn't get him. And he had five tries!)
For more information, see these Wikipedia entries on George Lazenby and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Next: For Your Eyes Only as a Harold Pinter play.