- Year: 1981
- Director: John Glen
- Series Rank: #12
- Year Rank: #27
- Oscar Nominations: Original Song
- Nighthawk Nominations: Original Song
- Bond Girl: Carole Bouquet (Melina Havelock), Lynn-Holly Johnson (Bibi Dahl), Cassandra Harris (Countess Lisl van Schlaf)
- Bond Villain: Julian Glover (Aristotle Kristatos), Michael Gothard (Locque), John Wyman (Erich Kriegler), Stefan Kalipha (Hector Gonzales)
- Bond Support: Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Geoffrey Keen (Minister of Defence), James Villiers (Bill Tanner), Topol (Colombo)
It can say a lot about your view of James Bond in how you react to one particular scene in For Your Eyes Only. Bond and Colombo have staged a daring raid on the drug warehouse of the film’s primary villain. Locque, the main assassin, has escaped and is driving up to the top of a cliff while Bond is running up steps, hoping to cut him off. Bond does and shoots him and Locque ends up dangling off a cliff in his car. Bond makes it clear that he knows Locque was trying to set him up to kill Colombo. He then kicks the car and watches as Locque falls to his rather gruesome death.
Roger Moore objected to the scene. He thought it was “Bond-like, but not Roger Moore Bond-like.” That objection is reflected in those critics (including Roger Ebert) who disliked Timothy Dalton’s Bond because of the lack of a sense of humor. Yet, this was Ian Fleming’s Bond, and it was the Bond that would later return, rather forcefully, in the person of Daniel Craig. Bond is a British agent, licenced to kill. He is not a punster. He needs to be cold and calculating to do his job properly and this is the right move for this character. That Roger Moore didn’t want to do it says everything to me about the Moore films. This is by far the best because it is the film in which Bond is more the character as originally written.
There is actually a lot of that in For Your Eyes Only. After the ridiculous space scenes in Moonraker, we get down to an old-fashioned spy thriller. An important device (the ATAC – it can control Britain’s nuclear submarines) is missing and Bond needs to find it. He will also need the help of Melina Havelock, whose parents were helping the British government and were murdered. So now we not only have a mission, but we have some good old-fashioned revenge to go along with it.
I am slightly torn about Melina Havelock. She is not willing to sit on the sidelines. She wants her revenge, which makes her a bit of a badass, and she dishes out her revenge with a crossbow, which really makes her pretty cool. She is played by Carole Bouquet, who has a nice icy beauty, but Bouquet, whose natural language is French, doesn’t exactly give the best performance. In the end, we rarely get a particularly good acting performance from any Bond girl, and she is beautiful and she shoots people with a fucking crossbow, so I rank her fairly high among Bond girls.
This film also has a couple of other Bond girls. There is the Contessa, who doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than 1 – sleep with Bond, 2 – die rather stupidly and 3 – bring in irony, as the actress was married to future Bond Pierce Brosnan. There is also Lynn-Holly Johnson, whose main role aside from this film was Ice Castles, and was almost certainly cast because she was a professional figure skater before turning to acting. She has a bubbly blonde cuteness, but she isn’t very good, there isn’t much reason given why she supposedly falls so hard for a man over twice her age and she doesn’t even get to sleep with Bond, as he throws her naked body out of bed. The thought is that she is too young and this is where I bring in the whole point of “suspension of disbelief” because my mother always complains about how old people are in relation to how old they are playing. Johnson looks very young and you feel okay with Bond tossing her aside. Bouquet looks like she can be a match for Bond, even if Moore is too old at this point to really play the role. In real life, Buquet and Johnson are only a year apart in age. But it’s how you seem on-screen that matters, not how old you really are.
As for the villains, the film actually plays with us a little. In most Bond films, it’s immediately obvious (at least to us, if not always to Bond) who the villain is. But this time we know who the secondary villains are, especially after they chase Bond through the snow (more below), but we are actually being lead astray by the primary villain, who it turns out is the man Bond thinks is helping him. That works well because both men – the villain and the man Bond eventually finds to be an ally – are played quite well by Julian Glover and Topol. It adds an element of surprise to the film, although this Bond film didn’t even really need it.
It doesn’t need it because it has action aplenty. It begins with a nice little sequence that hearkens back to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with Bond stopping at his wife’s grave and then killing Blofeld (who is never shown or named because of an ongoing lawsuit). After Bond first meets Melina we think they’ll escape in his Lotus, but it blows up, so they have to escape in her tiny Citroën. Though it provides quite a bit of humor, it’s also a really great chase, through the narrow roads of Spain. Later, once we’re in Italy, there is a fantastic long chase through the snow that at one point involves a bobsled going down a track, followed closely by Bond on skis and he’s being followed by a gunman on a motorcycle. It again hearkens back to Majesty and it does so fantastically. For the conclusion, Bond has to scale a butte to reach an old Greek monastery.
In short, this Bond has everything that makes for a good Bond film and almost none of the baggage that had been weighing down the Moore films (excessive gadgets, characters in the film for comedic effect, lots and lots of bad puns). This was the Bond film I grew up with and the reason I became a fan of the character. And then, because of the timing of things, I had a chance to watch the Dalton films before I watched too many more of the Moore films. My Bond was cold and hard and didn’t need to always crack a terrible joke. We got our first VCR in the summer of 1985, but we mostly taped things at first. I remember the first time I bought some movies on video. Since I already had taped the entire Star Wars trilogy off HBO, I bought two movies, both of them from 1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark and For Your Eyes Only.