Back to basic Bond: For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only is a good film, something I appreciate much more watching it so closely after Moonraker. While the big box office of the previous film could have encouraged more SF, Albert Broccoli and his crew went in the opposite direction, a relatively simple, low-tech adventure.
It’s a solid example of the increased focus on the female lead that begins with Spy Who Loved Me. Villainous Kristatos (Julian Glover) is a nonentity who has nothing to do but smile evilly (although he’s still more interesting than Moonraker‘s Drax). Carole Bouquet as Melina, a Greek woman avenging Kristatos’s killing of her parents, is far more interesting—and like Barbara Bach in Spy, doesn’t fall in bed with Bond until the finish, after he’s helped her find justice (just to reassure us Bond hasn’t lost his mojo, Lynn-Holly Johnson plays a young skater hot for him. She didn’t work when I saw this in theaters, and doesn’t work now).

The poster is an example of both aspects: It’s Bond and the crossbow wielding Melina (though only her legs) and it’s relatively spare, in contrast to Moonraker‘s hyperactive imagery.
The film opens with Bond visiting his late wife’s grave. As a helicopter takes him back to base, Blofeld takes over the helicopter by remote control. Bond has to climb into the pilot’s seat, deactivate the remote and save himself from crashing, then deal with Blofeld. Other than one silly line, it’s an effective bit, the only use of Blofeld in the regular series after Diamonds Are Forever (Kevin McClory, who co-created SPECTRE, had sued over Fleming’s later use of the concept, and won. So Blofeld isn’t actually named here).
Then we move into the main plot: A vital British high-tech McGuffin has been lost in the Aegean. Russian spymaster General Gogol (Walter Gotell) hires Kristatos—a supposed Greek war hero on the British side, actually a treacherous double-crosser—to recover it. Melina’s parents are searching for the British, so Glover murders them, then tries to pin the blame on his rival Columbo, played with affable charm by Topol, who ends up allying with Bond and Melina against the villain.
What makes it work isn’t the story but the back-to-basic struggles. Bond escaping a sniper across the snow when he’s lost his gun. Bond and Melina battling various underwater attacks. Bond hanging from a climbing rope as one by one, a villain roots out the pitons holding him in place. In each case he makes it out without any miraculous gadgetry from Q—just quick thinking and well, being Bond.
A minor note is that Bernard Lee, who plays M, died after Moonraker (they stick a temporary minister in his place).

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One response to “Back to basic Bond: For Your Eyes Only

  1. Pingback: Skyfall: Back to basics again (spoilers) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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