When you set out for revenge, first dig two graves.
Perhaps the best entry in the Roger Moore era, For Your Eyes Only returns to a tougher, grittier Bond who saves the day but this time with very limited gadgets and some of the most amazing stunt sequences ever packed into a single movie.
Cubby Broccoli and the other keepers of the Bond franchise realized that in Moonraker the series had gone a little too far into sci-fi and campy territory, so they resolved to return James Bond to his roots as a tough, killer gentleman-spy. The result is For Your Eyes Only, where the action is fast and furious and firmly grounded in the essence of Ian Fleming's original works. The plot does not involve world domination, and the villains are real, if restrained, people. Based in part on two Ian Fleming short stories, For Your Eyes Only also includes the chilling keelhauling sequence originally found in the Ian Fleming novel "Live and Let Die." Sadly, this is the first Bond film to lack the touch of Bernard Lee as "M," who died prior to filming. If it were not for the opening sequence (a thrilling stunt sequence, but made possible only by Totally Stupid Villain Syndrome) and the Margaret Thatcher skit at the end, as well as a touch of slowness underwater, this would be a perfect Bond story.
Ah! The story, you said?
We open with a somber moment, as James Bond (Roger Moore) visits the graveside of his late wife, Teresa Bond, who was killed at the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He is called away, ostensibly on Secret Service business, but which turns out to be a trap by crippled SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (John Hollis). After a thrilling helicopter stunt sequence, 007 drops off Blofeld and we go into the opening credits, featuring Sheena Easton's beauty and vocal talents.
The main plot begins with a bang when the British spy ship St. Georges sinks off the coast of Albania with the ATACS system aboard. The Minister of Defence (Geoffrey Keen) fears that the Russians will get their hands on the ATACS system, which would allow them to send commands to the British ballistic missile submarines. Before 007 is on the case, the British try the talents of marine archaeologist Sir George Havelock (Jack Hedley), who we meet as his daughter, Melina (Carole Bouquet), flies in to meet her parents. The joyful reunion is short-lived, as the assassin Hector Gonzales (Stefan Kalipha) guns down both of Melina's parents. She is shocked, but her icy eyes are fired with the searing passion for revenge.
Sent to interrogate the assassin, Bond finds himself kidnapped but saved by the timely intervention of the lethal Melina. Seizing the moment (and Melina!), Bond escapes, but owing to an active anti-theft system in his prized Lotus, he is forced to use Melina's tiny yellow car (very unBondlike!). The ensuing car chase scene is simply amazing, and a testament to ingenuity, skill, and hours upon hours of planning and practice. Naturally, Bond escapes, but with Gonzales now unavailable, his only link to the ATACS is a distinctive man who seemed to be paying off Gonzales for a job. Between Q's efforts and an Identigraph computer system, Bond identifies the money man, Emil Locque (Michael Gothard), and jets off to confront him at the Italian ski-village of Cortina.
Local agent Ferrara (John Moreno) sets up a meeting with a local Anglophile and Secret Service resource Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover). Kristatos is willing to help, and introduces Bond to his skating protégé Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson). Bond is soon surprised to see Melina Havelock walking through Cortina, and is quickly engaged in saving her from the homicidal efforts of two motorcyclists. Someone lured Melina to Cortina, and Bond is on his guard. Facing a most dangerous foe, Bond resists the predatory advances of Bibi and instead escorts her to see her friend Erich Kriegler (John Wyman) at the biathlon competition. When he leaves the bubbly Bibi, 007 is set upon by a horde of bad guys, including Locque and Kriegler. The resulting chase involves skiing, shooting, motorcycling, and a bobsled run in spectacular fashion.
After another narrow escape, Bond dodges yet another group of thugs only to find Ferrara dead and Colombo's symbol on his body. Sensing his target, 007 links up again with Melina and in the usual Bond baccarat sequence identifies Colombo's mistress, Lisl (Cassandra Harris), and charms her back to her place and into bed. Walking on the beach the next morning, the couple is attacked by Locque and more thugs, only to be saved and captured by the miraculous intervention of silent men bearing Colombo's symbol.
Colombo has some good arguments to convince Bond that Kristatos is the real enemy, and to prove the point he leads his men with Bond on an assault of Kristatos' heroin-filled warehouse. Now knowing his true foe, Bond returns to locate and salvage the wreck of the St. Georges with Melina, only to be captured by Kristatos and very nearly keelhauled to death. After another hairs-breadth escape, Bond and Melina meet Colombo and lead an assault on Kristatos' barely accessible mountain home. A tense mountain-climbing sequence and a liberal dose of firepower and unarmed combat finds the British ballistic missile fleet safe from harm and Bond and Melina taking a sensuous moonlight swim. Fini!
As hoped, MGM gives us a quality anamorphic transfer. I detected no film grain or video noise, and only the rare bit of dirt or film flaw. Flesh tones are accurate, blacks and shadow detail are solid, and the overall picture is crisp though perhaps a bit softer than I might like. Colors are moderately saturated, as expected for a movie that is nearly twenty years old. There was only an occasional and minor appearance of digital edge enhancement (most notable in the plane wing as Gonzales flies in to assassinate the Havelocks).
The audio is a decent Dolby Surround to Dolby 5.1 re-mix. Directional effects are moderately apparent, and the LFE channel provides sparing bass support and the occasional chest-thumping explosion. Dialogue is clear and understandable. The score is really the weakest point of the audio experience. Sheena Easton's title song is okay, but the real problem is the use of the disco-era remixed Bond themes. No thank you! I'll take the recent funky, techno-remixes any day.
The most prominent jewel of For Your Eyes Only has got to be the stunning and talented actress Carole Bouquet. Her uniquely stunning eyes and luxuriant long hair make her perhaps the most exquisite Bond leading lady ever, but it is the intensity of her performance as the revenge-minded Melina Havelock that I find most alluring. Just looking into her eyes you are utterly convinced of her passion and determination, yet she can still be pleasant and charming when called for. As a result, Melina more than holds her own across from James Bond and kicks some serious, ah, posterior.
Roger Moore is by this point in the franchise very comfortable with his role and it shows. His humor avoids going over the top, and is as convincing as the suave gentleman as he is as the cool killer. The rest of the cast has more talents. Topol, perhaps best known for his leading role in Fiddler on the Roof, is perfect as the gregarious Milos Colombo. Julian Glover is a low-key Bond Villain, who depends on his actions and a quiet menace to get his points across. The role of the Villain's Helper is divided into two characters, with Michael Gothard as Emil Locque (whose looks and evil silence are enough) and John Wyman as Erich Kriegler (whose athletic prowess makes him a worthy 007 opponent). The only grating role is that of skater Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi, whose bouncy, bubble-gum ways may induce some eye-rolling or nausea. Of special note is Cassandra Harris as Topol's mistress, who was to-be-Bond Pierce Brosnan's wife but who died tragically in 1991.
Extra content is superb, as usual. The two commentary tracks, though not hewing to the on-screen action terribly closely, give us the insights of Director John Glen and numerous cast members on the first and the anecdotes of Producer Michael G. Wilson and crew members on the second. There are several curious tidbits covered in these tracks, such as the battle in the Greek courts over land rights in the end sequence and a scouting crew's encounter with a tier-iron wielding cabby. The still picture gallery combines production notes with over 150 images. There is the usual entertaining extended featurette, "Inside For Your Eyes Only," narrated by Patrick McNee, 4 theatrical trailers (decent quality but lightly matted), two radio spots, the Sheena Easton music video "For Your Eyes Only," two storyboard sequences, and the inevitable "Tomorrow Never Dies" Sony PlayStation trailer. All this comes with snazzy main menus thanks to 1K Studios and a nice multi-page color insert with production notes and trivia.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Alpha Keepcase? Yeeecchhh! Come on, MGM, we want the Amaray keepcase for the next set!
A back-to-basics Bond, For Your Eyes Only should appeal both to the die-hard Bond fanatic and the more casual movie watcher with its strong lead actors and numerous action scenes. Rental is simply mandatory, but if you desire a purchase, be aware of its price ($35 retail).
The heck with the Official Secrets Act! I declare For Your Eyes Only and MGM released from the dock forthwith. Oh, by the way, MGM, drop the Alpha keepcase already!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Director John Glen
Review content copyright © 1999 Nicholas Sylvain; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.