The Weekly Bond Countdown: #15 – For Your Eyes Only (1981)

For Your Eyes Only starts off with probably the funkiest Bond openings you will ever hear.  It’s part badass and part disco thanks to Bill Conti (from the Rocky films) and that cowbell!  Introducing the cowbell is something new and it’s certainly memorable.  Just thinking about it, it’s probably Moore’s best gunbarrel entrance.

From the get go, For Your Eyes Only sets the tone and agenda straight away.  After saving the planet from total annihilation in Moonraker, Bond is brought back down to Earth…in a very hard way.  The very first moment we see Bond is not gallivanting around stealing secrets from the enemy like he usually does.  No – it’s spending a solitary moment at his dead wife’s graveside.  It’s a very nice moment to see for the franchise.  We sometimes take for granted the Bond clichés and yet in this small moment, he reflects on the past, remembering that causalities, especially the ones you love are always the first to get hurt.  It also represented the first real moment of continuity, linking back to the forgotten Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

This is definitely one of Roger Moore’s best outings as Bond.  Whilst Moore is naturally a charmer, in For Your Eyes Only, he presents Bond with a tougher edge.  After that moment of personal reflection, he gets his eventual revenge on the man responsible for his wife’s death – Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  Now I would have preferred a proper toe-to-toe fistfight between the two men, but a helicopter battle will have to do, even though it’s a little cheesy.  I mean, why didn’t Blofled just crash the helicopter and kill Bond and be done with?  Why does he let Bond do what he did?  Or was he just having too much fun, like some weird Ying Yang complex because if Bond died, a part of Blofeld would die too because he had no one to play with?  And where is this Delicatessen you can buy in stainless steel? (Seriously watch the clip!)

Unfortunately I don’t have the answers to that…especially the last one!  It’s the weirdest beg plea for a life I’ve ever heard in a movie.

Anyway, from that moment on, For Your Eyes Only excels.  The comedy drops (mostly) and Moore takes Bond up a level.  Instead of the extravagance of space, we get spies double-crossing each other in this grounded adventure.  Less emphasis on gadgets, and more reliance on wits, as demonstrated when Bond’s Lotus car was blown up very early in the film!  From watching the special features on my Blu-ray disc, Moore was apprehensive about showing Bond in this nature given what Bond had become with him in the role.  However, I welcomed it especially after witnessing the awesome car kick scene.  I love it just because it was different.  I know Moore struggled with Bond’s identity in the beginning but because his Bond was fully established by the time this film rolled out, the car kick was acceptable and fully represents the realistic tone they were achieving.

Another nice change is we get to see how Bond handles revenge from another viewpoint, with Melina being the case point, played by Carole Bouquet.  Her parents were murdered in cold blood and she was powerless to stop it.  Not to sound like a cliché (because of the film’s title) but her piercing eyes really do show the hurt and her eagerness to take revenge.  And despite Bond trying to protect her, I love that she shows some resilience in the matter, taking no for an answer.

But my favourite part from For Your Eyes Only comes towards the end when Bond has to climb up a mountaintop to a monastery headquarters where the main villain, Kristatos is hiding.  Not since the days when Bond had to ski off a cliff in The Spy Who Loved Me would you see the audience hold their breath during key sequences from the stunt.

If there are disappointments with For Your Eyes Only then it lies with two things.  One is the character of Bibi Dahl – a teenage ice skater who becomes besotted with Bond.  I’m glad Bond does his best to repel her advances because it’s kinda creepy, especially with the age difference.  It’s also because she does nothing to really excel the plot.  She doesn’t make any telling contribution to the film other than to be this ditzy girl.  It’s a little bit over the top for me.  The second lies with the film score.  Wait – I said this Bond film had the funkiest opening ever, and that’s true.  Yet at the same time, my mind was crying out for a John Barry-esque theme and Bill Conti delivered tracks akin to a Winter Olympics highlight reel.  Maybe he thought he was scoring Rocky again but it’s always something that has bugged me for a long time because the tone is not right for this movie.  At least Sheena Easton redeems the soundtrack with one of the best Bond themes and also becomes the first and only singer to appear in the title sequence of a Bond film.  That’s only because Maurice Binder, title designer of the Bond films was besotted with Sheena and wanted to capture her on screen.

Those two points I’ve mentioned are not the end of the world but it does spoil the film.  But take nothing away, For Your Eyes Only is a good film.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #14.


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