Posts Tagged ‘Roger Moore’

Urgh, the end is finally in sight. Yes, we’ve finally reached the end of a Bond era, with The Indestructible Iron Man Fights The Electronic Gang (1985), known outside Hong Kong as A View to a Kill. And in every respect, it’s not come any too soon. 

There is some innovation and energy in this tale of a eugenically-bred psychopath (Christopher Walken) attempting to corner the world market in microchips by triggering a disaster (one of several echoes of Goldfinger the movie indulges itself in), but Roger Moore’s advancing age (he was 58 when this movie was released) and weariness with the part just seem to permeate every aspect of the production. The movie doesn’t do itself any favours on this front – at one point a group of crack British secret service personnel go on an intelligence-finding sortie, and the average age of the performers involved is 61. It is, obviously, par for the course for Bond to be rather older than the leading lady, but on this occasion Bond is also older than the leading lady’s mum.

As the foil, Tanya Roberts certainly looks the part but she is a bit whiny and annoying. Possibly due to this, Bond spends more time than usual looking elsewhere in A View to a Kill and by the end of the movie he has indulged himself to a record-breaking extent, with an unnamed chick from the pre-credits sequence (apparently for five days straight, which may explain how tired he seems for the rest of the film), a beautiful KGB agent (not played by Dolph Lundgren, though he is in the movie), and – most startlingly of all – the villain’s chief henchman (this, in case you were wondering, is not an echo of Goldfinger).

This last is made possible by the fact that the chief henchman – henchperson – is a lady, played, if that’s not too strong a word for it, by Grace Jones. Jones remains a ferocious screen presence throughout, and works well with Walken’s slightly spacey performance, even if in the final analysis she mainly contributes a distinctive haircut and some wacky costumes. Very disappointingly, Jones and Moore never actually square off to each other in more typical hero-and-henchman style, though it is pretty clear that she would destroy him in any fair fight.


There are some fun moments along the way in Paris and atop the Golden Gate Bridge, and the soundtrack has moments of inspiration during some of the action scenes, but there’s nothing you could really point to here as an example of Bond at its best. (The movie even wastes Patrick Macnee as Bond’s sidekick.) And forget about casting Daniel Craig – virtually terminal damage is done to our hero’s reputation when, after saving her, he offers to cook her dinner. Ah, we think, this is Bond. It will be fillet steak, or possibly clams – something that epitomises his sophistication and virility. What does he eventually whip out of the oven? Quiche.

It seems something of a shame to conclude my trek through 70s and early 80s Bond on a such a negative note, but I have to call ’em as I see ’em, and at least this one isn’t as flat-out frivolous as Octopussy. A View to a Kill deserves some praise if only because it stops Moore’s weakest film from being his final one – and if you think that sounds like the faintest of faint praise, you’re absolutely right.

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I know, I know, it’s another Bond movie review. What can I say? Only another couple to go, and I can promise you my thoughts on Let Me In and Metropolis over the next few days (and maybe even some wargamesy stuff if we’re all really lucky).

Anyway, tonight it’s 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, which for me has long been the Moore Bond that it’s difficult to categorise. The first two are the vaguely-sleazy following-the-market ones, the next two are the lavish, bloated fantasies, and the two after it are the jokey, slightly bland Bonds. I must confess to not having actually seen this one since 2002, which is very unusual as I’ll usually watch any Bond that’s on (as the direction of this blog sort of indicates).

I have to say that watching it at the moment I’m having something of a Damascene conversion regarding its merits – because, folks, it’s great. It establishes a serious tone from the very first shot, and while it doesn’t always stick to this, it does so far more than any other Bond from around this time. It doesn’t feature any of the standard Bond Plots, the main villain’s identity is unclear for quite a long time, and the characters have trivial things like emotions and motivations. In short, it’s trying very hard to be a grown-up thriller, which even extends to putting bits of Fleming into the movie – two short stories get stapled together to make the main storyline, while there’s a set piece straight out of the climax of Live and Let Die (book, not movie).

The scene in which Bond rebuffs the slightly manic advances of a winsome young figure skater (Lynn-Holly Johnson) is somewhat startling and a bit out of character, given how indiscriminately priapic Moore’s Bond’s been in previous outings, but I think this is a sign of the producers realising there is something a bit icky about coupling 54-year old Roger Moore with an actress less than half his age (presumably for the same reason, Moore and rather lovely foil Carole Bouquet don’t do the thing at all in the course of the movie – it’s clearly on the agenda at the end, though). Shame they didn’t stick to this in later movies. Set against this you have to put the sequence in which Moore boots a wounded henchman off a cliff, which is surely the hardest and most properly Bondy moment of any of his films.

'Get lost, grandad.'

Of course, all this admirable focus on character and plot means that the larger-than-life action and set pieces you tend to remember from a Bond movie aren’t always there when you want them, which may be why this film tends to get forgotten about. But I would argue that the opening helicopter stunts, the ski sequence and in particular the 2CV chase should not be under-rated. The last in particular shows the film’s consistent inventiveness and energy.

Clearly one’s tastes change as one grows older. As a callow youth I was very much an admirer of Moore’s Bond movie in their bloated fantasy phase, but after a while I found the funky vibe of his first couple of outings more engaging and rewarding. And yet now… well, heavyweight Bond authority Raymond Benson says he thinks this is Roger Moore’s best film in the role. And at this moment I have to say I agree with him.

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An onslaught of cringeworthy double entendres and a frenzy of wah-wah guitar heralds the next phase in our quest to make the ‘James Bond’ tag swell up to the point where it bursts. Yes, it’s 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, a rare example of a rush-released Bond film – in this case, done so in order to consolidate Roger Moore in the part.

As I mentioned when I was talking about Live and Let Die the other day, this is a Bond movie which seems like more of a period piece than many. Ian Fleming’s original plot is almost totally dispensed with, in favour of a storyline revolving around the then-topical energy crisis (that’s what you go to see a Bond film for, to be reminded of grim current affairs issues), extensively flavoured with locations and sequences that seem very much inspired by the previous year’s smash hit Enter the Dragon (a film with its own debt to Bond, of course).

Having said all that, the last couple of times I’ve seen this movie it hasn’t really reminded me of a kung fu movie as much as something equally exploitative and even less respectable. To be blunt, in many ways this seems like a really sleazy movie – I expect you could edit some proper soft-core stuff in here and it wouldn’t seem that out of place (the edit that ITV4’s showing has, on the contrary, had at least some of the really gratuitous stuff snipped). There’s a lot of suggestive stroking of gun-barrels, and the rather salacious incorporation of a number of Asian babes in an even more advanced state of undress than usual. In many ways it all seems just a bit more coarse and obvious than you’d expect for a Bond movie.

Whether this was a conscious stylistic choice or just the inadvertant result of setting the majority of the film in Hong Kong and Thailand I’m not sure. What does seem to have been deliberate is the choice to funny the movie up – hence the return of comedy redneck J.W Pepper, the inclusion of a pair of kung fu fightin’ schoolgirls to save Bond’s bacon, and giving Bond a properly dippy blonde foil. Despite all this the script also seems intent on hardening up the image of Moore’s Bond – he’s considerably less laid-back than usual here, verging on the snappy in places, and even slapping a woman around at one point. As a result the tone of the film seems to shift from scene to scene almost at random.

It’s not all bad, though, as the movie isn’t completely bereft of good Bond stuff – the sequence in the kung fu school has its moments, and the car chase towards the end is okay (the corkscrew car jump still looks great). But the main saving grace of The Man with the Golden Gun is the actor in the title role. 

A guy arrives at Christopher Lee's island by seaplane looking for a girl... what do you mean, this is the wrong Britt Ekland movie?!?

I’ve thought for a very long time that Christopher Lee is one of the most underused actors in cinema, in that he so very rarely gets given enough to do. Even in all the Hammer Draculas, with his name above the title, all he does most of the time is sweep about the place and glare viciously at the supporting cast. He was fairly fresh from The Satanic Rites of Dracula, his final outing in the fangs, when he made this film and he does seem to relish the opportunity to play a part with (relatively) more depth and complexity (and, of course, dialogue). I expect the chance to work on his tan also made a nice change for him. Being Christopher Lee, he does take it all a bit more seriously than it probably deserves, but this is surely only to the great man’s credit.

Take out Christopher Lee and this would surely be bottom-of-the-barrel Bond, down there with Octopussy and Diamonds are Forever. As it is, this isn’t really premium stuff, and the franchise is fairly obviously in need of the kick up the backside it would receive prior to the next installment, but you’re never more than a few minutes away from a memorable moment of one kind or another. Passable, but undemanding.

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