Tuesday, 3 January 2012

BlogalongaBond / For Your Eyes Only: Brutally Brutal

By this point, almost everyone involved in BlogalongaBond has had enough of Roger Moore as James Bond. But in 1980, after Moonraker had stretched the character's credibility to gossamer-thin levels, someone else felt pretty much the same way: Roger Moore himself. Not by coincidence did he pick this moment to thoroughly extract every last drop of piss from his secret agent persona by playing a Roger Moore-obsessed crackpot in The Cannonball Run. And to think people said he wasn't taking Bond seriously.
With Moore's contractual obligation for four Bond films fulfilled and the script for the new one heading in a deliberately anti-Moonraker (i.e. vaguely believable) direction, the time was perfect for a new 007. The hiring of a previous Bond editor as director, a focus on a more human Bond and an igloo-full of snow-based set pieces suggested that the only thing left to make For Your Eyes Only another On Her Majesty's Secret Service was to give RoMo the heave-ho and bring in someone slightly more capable of crossing the road without assistance.

Sadly Cubby Broccoli and director John Glen chickened out, figuring it would make life easier not to have to introduce a new James Bond, and so Moore signed on for a wallet-bursting fee, thereby undoing all the hard work aimed at bringing a more realistic Bond kicking and punching into the eighties. The result is a series of impressively brutal scenes and amazing action sequences carried out by an unconvincing 54-year-old so crinkly that he gets the soft-focus treatment from cinematographer Alan Hume's camera more often than his leading lady.
Actual, non-photoshopped still from film

While it's easy (and fun) to blame Rodge for For Your Eyes Only's faults, the script is equally culpable. Its insistence on stripping Bond back to his self-sufficient, gadget-free roots is commendable, and it's great to see some callous violence replacing double-taking pigeons, but in the process writers Michael G Wilson and Richard Maibaum also hollowed out most of the excitement and fun from the story's core, instead deciding to bookend it with two painfully comic scenes that should have both been dumped down an industrial chimney before they made it to the filming stage.

Fortunately those elements of the script that remind us that Bond is, at heart, a vicious bastard and not a cuddly senior citizen are good enough to hold the interest, and much has been made of the ruthlessness on display in the film. But just how brutal are For Your Eyes Only's hardest-hitting scenes? It's time to unveil...
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Scene 1: Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet)'s parents are murdered before her eyes, causing her to dress as a giant bat and become a lone vigilante mooching about on rooftops. No hang on, I'm thinking of something else.
How brutal? When Mr & Mrs H are gunned down in a hail of bullets in the film's opening minutes, it's an immediate announcement that the bad guys really are bad. It's a more graphic scene than we're used to in Bond at this point (Melina's dad's shirt becomes the biggest victim of the increased fake blood budget), and it's made more chilling by the hit man's weird pre-hit grimace. Sadly Bouquet's been told to remain improbably impassive, preventing the audience from getting as upset as they probably should.
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Scene 2: No sooner has Bond removed his penis from the improbably named Countess Lisl von Schlaf than she's rammed again, only this time by a baddie in a beach buggy.
How brutal? As sick as it sounds, Lisl's uncharacteristically vicious death is excellent cinema. She's hit by the buggy with considerable force and the sound effect of her head smashing against the windscreen is wince-inducing. It's alarmingly realistic and John Glen doesn't cut away from the impact: he wants you to feel this. Rodge's resulting Angry Face is the scene's crowning glory.
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Scene 3: Having forced a villain's car onto the edge of a clifftop, Bond finally gets the chance to be bad, helping him over the edge with a hefty kick.
How brutal? Despite all the talk about For Your Eyes Only bringing us a more merciless Bond, this is the only scene in which he's the one being the bastard. It's a great one though: he didn't even need to kick the car - it was already on its way over the edge - making the kick more of an expression of anger than a necessary action, and the bad guy's body flopping out of the window on the way down must have been a happy accident for the filmmakers.
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Scene 4: In the film's most brutally painful scene, Bond is congratulated on the success of his mission by none other than Margaret Thatcher.
How brutal? Nothing in For Your Eyes Only is as shocking or difficult to watch as this comedy epilogue. Being forced to accept that the Prime Minister and assorted Whitehall bigwigs might mistake a squawking parrot for their top agent is the most unpleasant thing we've been subjected to since pigeongate, and it cements the film's reputation as a challenging watch for even the strongest of stomachs.
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Tracy's grave
For Your Eyes Only declares its intention to return to the 007 of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in its very first shot, with Bond visiting his wife's grave. It's a brave way to open a James Bond film and a touching and heartfelt scene that gives the character some welcome depth. It's a shame, then, that the following scene - in which he finally bumps off the man responsible for her death - is treated so lightly. Still, HELICOPTERS NNNEEEEEOOOWWW!!!
Topol
The astonishingly-coiffured, mono-monikered actor gives Bond's Greek ally Milos Columbo such ebullience and sly suavity that he's probably the most fun of 007's right-hand-men since From Russia With Love's Kerim Bey. Not just handy in a fight, he's also so polite that when Bond raises a glass to him and says "yasu", Columbo doesn't even say "Yasu means hello, you ignorant twerp. I think you mean yamas".

The winter sports
Where the Bond films had previously capitalised on popular fads like blaxploitation, kung fu and science fiction, this time it was the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics - in which US athletes did well enough to massively increase interest in winter sports in the States - which convinced Broccoli to return to the slopes. A terrific eight-minute skiing sequence conceived and shot largely by Willy Bogner (who filmed much of the action skiing backwards with a camera between his legs) includes motorbikes, a ski jump, a toboggan run, a tremendous score by Bill Conti, Charles Dance looking really ginger and Roger Moore in a silly woolly hat. What more could you ask for?

And finally: Sheena Easton's insipid theme song is bad enough, but she even has the temerity to appear throughout the titles as if she's proud of what she's done. Imagine how much better life would be if Broccoli had accepted Blondie's submission and an almost-dressed Debbie Harry had writhed around in that giant cocktail glass instead...

Blondie - "For Your Eyes Only"

BlogalongaBond will return with Octopussy

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
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8 comments :

  1. The title song was sung by Sheena Easton, the first singer to appear in shot in a Bond film. It earned the movie's only Oscar nomination for best original song for composer Bill Conti. Sheena performed it live on the 1982 Oscars show. (Arthur was the winning song.)
    23 year old stunt man Paolo Rigoni was killed while shooting a ski chase. The movie grossed nearly 200 million dollars. The stunt actors risk their bums to get our bums on the cinema seats. I salute them.

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  2. “Yasou” (για σου from ὑγεια σου) is used for both “hello” and “good bye”; its literal meaning is “health to you” deriving from the ancient Greek ὑγιαίνειν, “to be healthy”. Bond, in other words, is saying “your health” or “cheers” quite appropriately.
    Lucian of Samothrace devotes an essay, “A Slip of the Tongue in Salutation”, to defending his apparent solecism—he had said “be healthy” to a friend as a morning greeting, instead of the more usual “rejoice”—as a more propitious and suitable salutation.

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  3. You learn something new every day. And every day is another day closer to the Blogalongalongabondabondometer. You (mis)read it here first...

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  4. Great review. I am a trivia nerd so the first thing that sticks out to me is "SCORE NOT BY JOHN BARRY OR DAVID ARNOLD".

    Here's a fact that I always lament not showing up in reviews of FYEO: for all the flack brought about by AARP-aged Roger Moore being seduced by Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl ... Carole Bouquet was (and is) only ONE YEAR OLDER! I'm guessing that looks have a big part in it, but still ... how come it's "creepy" to have the age difference between Rog and LHJ, but not between Rog and Carole??

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  5. yuengsandwings, FYEO music not by Barry or Arnold. They never got an Oscar nomination for a Bond movie. In FYEO Bill Conti did.

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  6. for fucks sake. if only i had known about the incredible suit 12 months ago i totes would have played along. Sigh. but now i'm 13 movies behind.

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  7. Newbies are welcome at any stage. Join us!

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  8. They should have used the Blondie song "For Your Eyes Only" instead. Harder edge than the Sheena pop product.

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