Countdown to Spectre: For Your Eyes Only Revisited

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The Bond: Roger Moore.

The Release: Released June 24, 1981 in the UK and two days later in the in the US, the film made $196 million worldwide. While short of the franchise’s Moonraker peak, it was impressive considering this installment was made with a–relatively–modest budget of $28 million.

The Girl: The film sticks to the 3-Girl structure, but this is the moment the franchise started to deviate. Bond doesn’t even sleep with one of them, Bibi Dahl played by ice skater Lynn-Holly Johnson. Producers included the 23-year-old to capitalize on the popularity of winter sports in the wake of the 1980 Olympics and even they knew having her character sleep with a 53-year-old Moore was too much.

For Your Eyes Only Poster

Bond actually doesn’t score until halfway through the film with the villain’s girlfriend Lisl. The actress who plays her, Cassandra Harris, was married to future Bond Pierce Brosnan at the time and it was thanks to a visit he paid her on the film’s Grecian set that Cubby Broccoli turned to him after first Moore and then Timothy Dalton vacated the role.

The final and main Bond Girl is Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock. Melina has a stronger character arc than many of her predecessors and her desire to avenge her parents’ deaths receives equal if not more narrative importance than Bond’s quest to retrieve the A.T.A.C nuclear control console. Unfortunately, also like many of her predecessors, Bouquet isn’t much of an actress. That said, Bouquet, with her flowing dark brown hair and almost grey-blue eyes, is striking. There’s a reason she eventually became the face of Chanel.

The Villain: For Your Eyes Only doesn’t have a traditional villain in the Blofeld sense (though that character–unnamed–does appear in the pre-credits sequence). Instead, there are two villains, with a fake out reveal halfway through. Initially, the man behind the death of Melina’s parents and the theft of the A.T.A.C. seems to be a man known as “The Dove,” AKA Milos Columbo (Topol). However, it turns out the man Bond thought was his ally, Kristatos (Julian Glover), framed “The Dove” to cover his own crimes.

The Gadgets: After the tech extravaganza that was Moonraker, producers wanted to bring Bond “back to earth” and this film has probably the least gadgets of any since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Even his car self-destructs early on thanks to a rather excessive anti-theft measure.

The Song: “For Your Eyes Only” by Sheena Easton. Cloying and with lyrics that completely waste the bawdy potential of the title, the song is barely made tolerable by Maurice Binder’s titillating credits sequence. He did underwater silhouettes better in Thunderball and the bleed-through shots of Easton singing are just weird.

The Book: While the gruesome scene where Kristatos ties Melina and Bond together and drags them behind his boat through a coral reef comes from Live and Let Die, most of the movie is based on the short stories “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico.”

The latter gives the movie its villain switch structure, the boat fight with the newspaper rolls full of raw opium and Columbo’s girlfriend Lisl, who doesn’t die in print. Most of the plot, however, comes from the shorty story with which the film shares its title. In it, an ex-Nazi kills the Havelock parents and M–who was best man at their wedding–tasks Bond with avenging them. While he’s traipsing through the woods outside of the villain’s Vermont lake house, their daughter, named Judy here, gets the drop on him with nothing more than a bow and arrow. Completely powerless at the hands of a 24-year-old girl, Bond is forced to act as her back-up and comforts himself by imagining what he’ll do to Judy (presumably sexually) once they get out of this mess. That actually brings me to a subject that nagged me while rereading these novels.

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That James Bond is dominant in bed seems pretty clear. He likes control and spends a lot of time planning exactly how he’ll bed the women he meets. However, Ian Fleming also seems to imply that Bond is strictly a missionary position kind of guy. In Live and Let Die and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond is injured in such a way that he deems sex in the “proper way” impossible and the women he’s with have to argue that there is more than one way to skin a cat, as it were. The only places Bond seem to consider other positions are in You Only Live Twice, where Kissy Suzuki buys a sex book in hopes of getting an amnesiac Bond to touch her and Casino Royale, where Bond describes bending Vesper’s back in such a way that could only work if they weren’t facing each other, if you catch my drift. Now, you may ask what any of this has to do with the movies or the Bond series as a whole and to that I say, screw you. I’m doing the writing, so I’ll talk about whatever I damn well please.

Anyway, if you really want to talk about the book versus the movie for FYEO, the most important difference is that Fleming has the the decency to let Judy get her revenge while Moore’s Bond spends so long lecturing Melina that Columbo gets the completely unsatisfying kill.

The Movie: Director John Glen deliberately distanced himself from his immediate predecessor Lewis Gilbert’s style and went for Peter Hunt’s more realistic, outdoor photography-based aesthetic from OHMSS. The long time Bond editor, however, lacks Hunt’s sense of scope and while some of his shots impress (like the opening helicopter sequence), they mostly feel like imitations of better versions from either previous Bonds or other action movies.

That’s true elsewhere too. The underwater scenes move slightly quicker than the similar scenes in Thunderball, but that’s mostly thanks to Al Giddings, a former National Geographic photographer who worked on the The Deep in 1977. That film is, however, far more visually interesting—and I’m not just saying that because Jacqueline Bisset’s braless chest deserves second billing. As for the Cortina scenes, most of the skiing seems like a retread of OHMSS. There’s even a bobsled chase, but this time Olympic skier Willy Bogner Jr. (who also did stunts in the earlier film) was crazy enough to ski down the bob run.

The film’s biggest problem though is that references to Bond’s past like Tracy’s death and Blofeld’s return not only feel out of place, but emphasize just how old Moore is. His Bond no longer feels like an equal or a believable adversary for his female counterparts and his attempts to help Melina avenge her parents and his freaked out attitude with Bibi feel decidedly fatherly. Thankfully, he’s not quite at Diamonds are Forever-level Connery yet, but don’t worry, he’s still got two movies left before he leaves.

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.

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