Super Serial aims to dissect series of pop art — be it a filmography, discography or run of comics — by looking at its individual components.
Welcome to the ‘80s! The third decade of the Bond series begins with For Your Eyes Only, the directorial debut of previous editor and second unit shooter John Glen. Although I wouldn’t lavish too much credit on Glen, I appreciate this film more than many others in the series. It has some painfully comedic side-steps, but, along with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, this has the most serious, realistic tone of any of the films. I don’t want to downplay that there are some major comedic misses here (see the “Random Thoughts” for examples), and this inconsistent tone may turn some viewers off, but I applaud For Your Eyes Only for striving for something with a little more resonance. It may not totally succeed, but an attempt is something.
Watching these films in a rapid-fire succession (due in part to Netflix Streaming only having most of the films available for one month), many of them blend together. By this point, we’ve been fully submerged in the formula of Bond films, so any change in tone, perspective, direction, etc. will probably have a positive impact on me. For Your Eyes Only in many ways is a middle-of-the-run Bond film, but because of a quasi-successful shift in Bond’s personality and the film’s tone, it will be a memorable one for me.
The film follows Bond on a mission to recapture a targeting system that was sunk with the spy boat The St. Georges. After a man working for the British government who tries to locate the ship is murdered, Bond gets caught up with a drug-smuggling ring in Italy before heading to Greece to find the device before the Soviets.
This might be the only Bond film to have a theme — others have used genre for an individual film, but none have had any sort of central exploration of a single topic. The major Bond girl of the film, Melina Havelock, is out to avenge the murder of her parents, and she provides both a romantic interest and a philosophical struggle for Bond. It’s not a groundbreaking dissection, mind you, and the film doesn’t completely cover the ground it could, but its take on revenge sheds a bit of light on the philosophies of Bond — something we’re never really privy to.
[Bond, James Bond]
The film opens with Bond visiting the grave of his dead wife, a plot point that has only been referenced one other time since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — in The Spy Who Loved Me, where Anya mentions it to Bond and he immediately shuts down the conversation. This opening reference is quickly thrown away for a stand-alone action piece, but the sentiment drives the emotional heart of this story. Don’t get me wrong, Bond still has his time as a mimbo, but he has some serious, romantic moments that we haven’t seen with Roger Moore. Two of the three Bond Girls from the film are presented with ballads playing and we see them interacting with Bond in non-verbal ways.
As for the revenge plot, Bond’s stance is both common and interesting — he tells Melina that striving for revenge will only get herself killed. There isn’t much said beyond one particular scene, but I think Bond’s take on revenge has a lot to say. Starting the film with him visiting his wife’s grave gives us a reminder that he has every reason to try and take revenge on Blofeld and those responsible, which is a nice subtle way to give his perspective on this moral dilemma. Of course, in many films, Bond goes out of his way to track down Blofeld after he has escaped his grasp and we see what might be their final showdown shortly after his burial visit. With his license to kill, does that take some of the moral struggle out for him? Because he can kill anyone for any reason, does he not need to justify it with personal revenge? It’s a complicated issue that obviously isn’t flushed out in this mainstream popcorn thriller, but the references are nice.
For Your Eyes Only is one of the few Bond films that has a self-contained opening scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the film’s plot. Here, after Bond visits his late wife’s grave, he’s picked up by a helicopter which becomes controlled by a returning Blofeld.
As for the actual mission? Eh. The one thing that works decently well is a misdirection with the actual villain. Through the first half of the film, Bond targets known smuggler Milos Columbo (played by Israeli actor Topol), but that’s all for naught. His informant, Greek businessman Aristotle Kristatos, is in fact a secret double-agent working for the Soviets and behind the murder of Melina’s family. As the plot has some of the smallest stakes in the series, the twist provides something to hold onto.
Without the reveal halfway through the film, Kristatos is one of the least memorable Bond villains of the series. He’s played well by Julian Glover, but there isn’t really a hook for the character outside of him being a double agent. When we think Columbo is our villain, he seems much more formidable, having a charisma we haven’t seen in any of the previous villains. Kristatos, though, is much more of the Bond villain mold: proper, money-hungry and humorless.
In the pre-credit sequence, we get another appearance by Blofeld, who once again has his sights on killing Bond. Like the first few films, we don’t get to see his face and has his signature look of a bald head and pale skin (really not sure what was going on with him in Diamonds Are Forever — he is exclusively shot from behind and with close-ups of his cat. He is, though, now in wheelchair and with a neckbrace, results from the last beating Bond put on him. It seems like being in a helicopter crash wasn’t enough to kill him, but perhaps this may be the end of the supervillain.
In the sequence, Blofeld has rigged up Bond’s helicopter to be able to control it remotely. After killing the pilot, who he calls one of his “less useful people,” he proceeds to yet again play around with Bond, never really going for the kill. You think he would have figured it out by now, but of course Bond disables his control of the helicopter and scoops down to pick Blofeld up, only to dangle him around and finally dispatch him down a factory smokestack. I believe Blofeld when he says he wants to enjoy his killing of Bond to the fullest, but come on man!
[The Bond Girls]
For Your Eyes Only features three Bond Girls, more than most films, and they are all quite notable — I’ve found most Bond Girls much less interesting than their villain counterparts, but this is certainly not true of this particular film.
The main girl is Melina Havelock, the young woman who witnesses the murder of her family and seeks revenge on the perpetrators. She is the second Bond Girl out for revenge (the other being Anya in The Spy Who Loved Me), but she has a much sharper edge. This is probably due to the fact that she is otherwise the sweetest, plainest Bond Girl we’ve seen. The scenes she has with Bond are filled with romance — a lot of montages where they seem to be on conventional dates with romantic ballads playing on the soundtrack. We don’t get to know much about her since she isn’t coded by a specific profession or trait — she just seems to be a normal sort of gal, which makes her new-found ability to be a crossbow assassin a little strange. Chock it up to revenge, I suppose. Overall, though, I like Melina for her simplicity and sweetness — she seems like a girl I would like Bond to stick around with.
On the complete other end of the spectrum is Bibi Dahl, a terrible name for one of the worst characters I have ever seen in a film. She is a Olympic-ready figure skater managed by our villain, and she’s about as bratty as you could imagine (her whining tantrum of “I wanna win a gold medal” is worth a good laugh). The main problem is, though, that she is incredibly sexual — the film actually plays with her sweet, innocent look against a mature, sexual being, but the effects are disastrous. Her sexual nature and lusting after Bond seems gross and pedophilic — although the actress is much older, the character is supposed to be 15. And with serious, adult relationship opportunities with other women in the film, the attempts at humor are shameful. Luckily, Bond doesn’t take the trap and have any sort of relationship with Bibi. She is redeemed at the end after realizing her manager is a criminal, but it doesn’t do enough to override my detest for her.
The third Bond Girl is much more minor, but she has a striking aura. Countess Lisl von Schlaf is a coded prostitute that has a relationship with Columbo while we still think he’s a villain. She is employed by her lover to find out more about Bond, leading to a normal sexual encounter we’ve seen dozens of times already. While she pretends to be Austrian, Bond notices a break in her accent, which leads to her admitting she is from Liverpool, and they develop a romantic bond. The next morning, though, she is grisly murdered by the henchman Emile Locque, mirroring the death of Bond’s wife. While her death isn’t mentioned much the rest of the film, it certainly has an impact on Bond and the scene is managed very seriously.
A few notable gadgets are seen during another gadget montage, including a fake cast that is used to smash baddies and an umbrella that closes upon its user with sharp spikes. I must say, both of these gadgets aren’t very practical. We also see Bond and Q use an “identigraph,” which is a primitive computer program that matches basic facial recognition traits to criminals in various databases. Although similar programs are used by law enforcement and TV show investigators, here it seems pretty simplistic and silly.
Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1982, and the singer holds the distinction of being the only title song contributor to appear in the films, as she is shown singing during the opening credits. The song is a bit sappy and a bit ‘80s, but it’s decently catchy and sung well. Having Easton in the opening credits enhances the song, making it more distinguishable from the run of ballads the films have had.
“For your eyes only, can see me through the night
For your eyes only, I never need to hide
You can see so much in me, so much in me that’s new
I never felt until I looked at you”
Although Melina speaks the film’s title with the last bit of dialogue, the song doesn’t seem to have a specific perspective, which helps it work as a song when stripped of its Bond context.
- Wouldn’t John Glen have been better served in directing Moonraker? Amiright?
- Bond would almost rather be shot than ride in a VW Beetle.
- The Beetle chase sequence seems like it would be product placement, except that it’s portrayed as an awful car that is slow and randomly flips over.
- In the world of Bond, bi-athletes are recognizable stars and also hired killers.
- Biathlons, though, do seem to be a sport catered for super spies. Skiing and shooting are two of Bond’s favorite pastimes.
- In order to up the ante with yet another ski chase scene: motorcycles.
- Although I see this as a more serious take on the Bond world, I don’t want to discount the ridiculously campy scenes. Take, for instance, the scene where Bond is attacked by three hockey players on an ice rink. He runs one over with a Zamboni and throws them each into the net, with cuts to the scoreboard giving Bond a goal for each. Probably the most deadly hat trick ever recorded.
- During a scene where Bond and Melina dive underwater, he tells her to conserve her oxygen by only speaking when absolutely necessary. I guess his one-liners are absolutely necessary.
- Even more sharks, but these are wild sharks, so they’re not man-eati… nevermind.
- Has there ever been a movie with a talking parrot where it hasn’t given away a key piece of information?
- It’s weird seeing Topol in a role where he is not extremely Jewish.
- Bibi Dahl reminds me of a mix between Chloe Sevigny and a contestant from Toddlers & Tiaras.
- Instead of the classy Ashton Martin, Bond drives this hideous Lotus.
- The film ends with a Margaret Thatcher impersonator talking with the parrot, who they think is Bond. This could have been Bond’s one chance at true recognition.
- The poster for this film is completely as(s)inine. Pun intended. Seriously, though, Melina is the least sexual Bond Girl, yet she’s given this ridiculous representation.
SERIAL, SUPER SERIAL will return in OCTOPUSSY
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more