Monday, March 11, 2013
Double Oh...12: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
For Your Eyes Only preamble: I really need to take a couple weeks off work just so I can get back to the pace that I started this Double Oh series at. Anyway...
When I think of Bond, the cold open at the start of this film is what I think of. I don't know how, I don't know why, or when, or where, but I've seen this teaser dozens of times. Or at least, I feel I have. The memory of Roger Moore flying a helicopter into the back end of an electric wheelchair, the bald man within attempting to race away from it on a long stretch of factory rooftop, picking it up off the ground then dropping down a factory smokestack is burned into my memory, and for some reason it epitomizes Bond for me. Vengeful, yet quippy. Action oriented and fearless (or senseless maybe). I'm sure I watched the rest of the film before but strangely this is the only part I remembered.
Villains: Blofeld appears, sort of, in that opening sequence, which again defies continuity, upholding Bond's marriage and his wife's death from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond boards a helicopter after tending to Tracy's grave, only to have it remotely hijacked by Blofeld. Only seen from behind and his face never revealed (a return to his anonymous origins in the early Connery films), neither is Blofeld referred to by name, perhaps a concession of the legal issues then-still revolving around rights ownership of Thunderball. He only appears in the teaser, and, after Bond finally gets his revenge, I believe, is never heard from again.
The main film's main nemesis is Aris Kristatos (the suave Julian Glover), a former resistance fighter, now rogue and smuggler. We meet him first as an ally of sorts. Bond's contact in Italy introduces him, and Kristatos tells Bond of "the Dove" Columbo (no, not played by Peter Falk, but instead by the delightfully exuberant Topol), a rival smuggler, and one time accomplice in the resistance during WWII. Kristatos is full of lies, however, and Columbo engages Bond to set things straight.
The main source of confusion was who the East German Olympic Biathlete/henchman Eric Kriegler was working for, as Kristatos indicated he was in the employ of Columbo (Locque murders Bond's Italian contact and leaves a dove pin in his hand), but turns out he was really under Kristatos' thumb. Kriegler is almost too much a match for Bond. He's a better skier, in far better shape, he's bigger and stronger, but his failing is he's not as resourceful.
Locque is a hired killer who doesn't have much of a role, but is the central instigator to much of the plot. He's also part of one of the best Bond scenes ever, Bond kicking Locque's car off a cliff
Kristatos is cunning and sly, and his plan to obtain the film's Maguffin and sell it to the Russians, in hindsight was perhaps a little too elaborate but made for some interesting twists along the way. Columbo turned out to be a wonderful associate for Bond, and a thoroughly enjoyable character.
Bond Girls: Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) is the primary Bond maiden in this one. She's the twenty-something daughter of the marine biologists who are gunned down by Locque for discovering the whereabouts of the British naval sub carrying the ATAC (Automated Targeting Attack Computer) that could threaten the security of all of the British and American military communication channels, or something like that. Melina is out for revenge, but perhaps a little too in-over-her-head. To her credit, no matter how deep and troubled it gets, she's always ready to put up a fight. She also gets plenty of opportunity to show off her own intelligence, skills and resourcefulness. All around, she's a very confident and bold, crossbow-wielding character.
Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris) is Columbo's mistress. She works his casinos in a bit of a grifter role, dazzling winning patrons with her cleavage, egging them on to bigger bets until the house wins. Bond, well, naturally, pumps her for information, and just as naturally his death cock strikes and she's dead shortly thereafter, run over on the beach. She at least seemed a more mature vixen and age appropriate for Bond.
Finally there's Kristatos' ward, the aspiring Olympic figure skater he's sponsoring, Bibi Dahl (oh, Baby Doll, I just got it!). She's a brash, forthright, sexually empowered American teen who doesn't chase boys, she tries to maul men. She takes a shining to Bond and turns up naked in his bed, much to his horror. Bibi Dahl proves that even Bond has standards, and he turns her down, repeatedly. She's a really fun character serving a very useful purpose in the series.
Theme/Credits: I must have stuck around after Blofeld gets dumped down the stovepipe, because just as that epitomizes Bond to me, this kind of epitomized for me for a long time, for better or worse, what a Bond credit sequence should be. Essentially, a music video. Sheena Easton, an attractive lady herself, is featured prominently in from and behind the silhouettes and projections of dancing, swimming and jumping nude figures. Water is a prominent theme in the visuals, implying that there will be water work in the film, and of course there is.
As for the song, it's the gateway between the '70's romantic ballad and the '80's power ballad. You're either going to dig it or loathe it. I know I should hate it, but I really like it.
Bond: Wow. It's so weird for Bond to have standards, but here, a decidedly aging Bond (though not directly pointed at) seems a lot more paternal to Melina and Bibi. Moore has a weariness here for Bond that is directly juxtaposed to his frequent quipping. He's not quite Dirty Harry grizzled, but he's not as thoroughly cheeky as he once was. Strange that as Moore aged as Bond, he's also called upon to appear more physical, in his fights and his chases, but he seemed up for the challenge, though it's hard to believe he can sustain it for another two films. It's also rare that Bond isn't so focussed on sex, and I always appreciate it when he powers past his primal urges and focuses mostly on the job at hand.
Movie: I really dug the weave of the characters in this one, how it introduced and brought all the players together. It's not straightforward, but also not overly complex, just the right level of complication. Kristatos' elaborate deception is a clever tweak for a Bond film, while the influence of Locque in bringing Melina into the plot was just another of the moving pieces in the film. The Maguffin of the ATAC is typical of a Bond film, but it's only one of the motivators for the characters.
For Your Eyes Only seemed to ramp up on the exotic action setpieces. The 1956 Winter Olympic village of Cortina provides dangers for Bond including another deadly ski-chase that heads into a bobsled run, a ski-jump action sequence (which is far superior to Superman III), and hockey rink. Later Bond and Melina take a 2-man submersible to the submarine wreck to retrieve the ATAC. They don heavy deep sea scuba gear and venture out to the sub, having to deactivate the self-destruct device, only to be ambushed by Kreigler. It's an intense fight sequence where the good guys are incredibly vulnerable, and terribly cool underwater sequence unlike any other that I've seen (instead of trying to recreate the mania of Thunderball's melee, they go for something more like Alien).
The final act of the film includes another methodically paced lead in as Bond scales the side of a rock pillar to reach Kristato's retreat in an old monestary, but before he can reach, he's discovered and there's a dangling melee which is really quite cool. I have to wonder if the film was poaching the Eiger Saction (Clint Eastwood's repectably writer-director-star stab at a Bond-like role). Again the lair, perhaps not quite as cool as a space lab or a submersible habitat, but still very unique, visually and conceptually appealing.
I should also note that it ends with a parrot talking to a Margaret Thatcher impersonator, which, you know, kind of plays both silly and charming (though that Bond invariably does wind up with Melina is kind of icky).
Q gadgets: beyond the Lotus that Bond drives (and wrecks again), we're treated to a few ridiculous items in Q's lair: a fake cast that can bust up a wall and an umbrella which can gore it's holder when it closes (... how would that ever be useful?). The main purpose for Bond's visit is to use the Identograph, primitive facial recognition software.
Classification (out of 01.0): 00.8. This one is solid through and through. A couple of too-cheesy bits, and perhaps not the most memorable plot, but otherwise very engaging and still dazzling today.