"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

A View to a Kill

May 24, 1985

On the subject of James Bond movies I’m ignorant. A very casual viewer. I come to A VIEW TO A KILL as an ordinary civilian perusing the films of Summer 1985 and hoping this could be a good action movie for its era. According to publicly available data, it is the seventh and final of Roger Moore’s outings as 007. All of his except THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN were summer releases like this, attempting to fulfill that popcorn blockbuster kind of slot, drawing in regular chumps like me along with the generations of die hards.

Last year I reviewed LICENCE TO KILL in my summer of ’89 series and it was cool how much that one combined the standard Bond material with the tropes of ’80s action movies, to the point that he turned in his badge to go get revenge on a South American druglord played by Robert Davi. During the opening credit sequence of A VIEW TO A KILL I could imagine it being a very 1985 Bond in a similar way, and for that brief moment it was beautiful.

The sequence is designed by Maurice Binder, who invented the Bond credit sequence with DR. NO and did 14 of them in total (and also BARBARELLA!), but he captures a neon new wave sort of feel here when his women with black-light lips, eyelashes, body paint and guns dance through flames to the tune of the extremely of-its-time theme song by Duran Duran. This is a movie that kicks off with a model’s glowing orange fingernails slowly unzipping her fur-lined ski jacket, a luminescent 007 logo revealing itself as her breasts spread open (I honestly can’t tell if its printed on a t-shirt, or painted on her skin, both of which have their strengths) but that’s the peak. It never reaches that majesty again, in my opinion

The sequence includes some goofy imagery of skiing and a melting ice sculpture of a woman – kinda weird since we’ve already made it past the snowy part of the movie, when James Bond (Roger Moore, SPICE WORLD) recovers a microchip from a frozen corpse in Siberia and then skis away from The Russians (remember the threat of communism? Also mentioned in GOTCHA!, GYMKATA and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II).

That opening is directed by Willy Bogner, who also did ski sequences in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, plus ski documentaries and (non-documentary?) FIRE AND ICE (1986).

There’s some good stuntwork there – one of Bond’s skis gets knocked off, so he keeps going, balancing on one foot. He manages to steal a snowmobile, which gets shot and blown up by a helicopter gun (another connection to RAMBO). One nice ‘80s-in-a-good-way touch that first shows up here is that John Barry’s score is infused with little hints of electric guitar noodling.

Also it’s cool when he shoots a red smoke bomb into a helicopter to make it crash. But when he uses a pontoon from the wreckage as a snowboard the novelty of the stunt is overshadowed by a total record scratch of a joke: they abruptly start playing “California Girls.” Worse, they didn’t pay for the original recording, using a soundalike by “tribute band” Gidea Park. See, that’s why Vin Diesel in xXx was so xXxtreme and Not Your Father’s James Bond. Both of them ski and snowboard, but Vin doesn’t think it’s funny to play a Beach Boys cover over it. Totally different sensibilities.

The microchip is something designed to withstand the magnetic pulse of a nuclear blast. MI6 fears that The Russians could use them and then set off a bomb in space to destroy everybody else’s computers. So they send Bond to a horse race to spy on Max Zorin (Christopher Walken, hot off of THE DEAD ZONE), openly sinister CEO of the company that makes them.

There are many things that are fun about the James Bond character. One of them is not “he can pretend to be a rich guy interested in buying horses.” He spends a surprisingly long chunk of the movie pretending he’s trying to learn about horses when actually he’s trying to prove Zorin’s use steroids. Not my kind of party. About the only interesting part of the horse section is when Zorin leads him on a crazy full contact horse race obstacle course which I feel should be against regulations.

But it’s at the race that we first learn of by far the best part of the movie: Zorin’s henchwoman/martial arts instructor/lover May Day (Grace Jones between CONAN THE DESTROYER and VAMP). I don’t think it’s meant as a joke, but I got a big laugh when Bond and his spy friends are watching Zorin in the stands through binoculars, this incredible woman standing out in a startlingly red robe and enormous pope hat/graduation cap, looking like an extra in a Star Wars prequel, and Bond asks, “Who’s that with him under the hat? With the red dress?” as if he has to be specific. And the guy takes a second to say, “Oh, that’s May Day.” As if it wouldn’t go…

“Who—”
“May Day.”

Anyway, May Day is A VIEW TO A KILL. If you’re gonna watch it, she’s the reason. She sports a variety of interesting hairstyles and hoods, does some fight training in a leotard, dead lifts a guy and tosses him. She’s as intimidating as any Bond henchman I know of, but way more fashionable. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t treat her with the proper respect at all times. When she has figured out that this annoying dipshit staying in their mansion is a spy, but then he “outsmarts” her by getting into bed really fast and saying he was waiting for her, Zorin smiles at her and it’s kind of like, “Oh well, I guess I have to have sex with him.”

Worse, at the end when she realizes Zorin is a creep she seems helpless all the sudden. Okay, she sort of saves the day, but only after Bond literally leads her by the hand out of a flooded mine. And she screams when some sparks shoot out at her. It just doesn’t fly. If I know May Day at all I know she’d be carrying him out of there like John Matrix carries a log.

One nice touch in that scene is that she sees one of her fellow henchwomen dead and gets upset. “Jenny!” We never saw enough of that character with the solid Bond name of Jenny Flex (acting debut of Alison Doody from INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE), but I like the acknowledgment that these two must’ve worked together and care about each other.

There’s a part where Bond finds out that Zorin might have been an experimental steroid baby created in a Nazi experiment. Good to know. He’s also an ex-KGB agent. We learn that his movie-Lex-Luthor style plan is to inject water into the San Andreas fault to cause an earthquake that will destroy Silicon Valley and give him a monopoly on microchips. Just think how many apps we wouldn’t have had he been successful!

I realize 1985 is 35 years ago, but this seems dated and clunky for 1985. Some of the action – courtesy of second unit director Arthur Wooster (HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING) and “action sequence arranger” Martin Grace (PATHFINDER) – is pretty cool, like when May Day parachutes from the Eiffel Tower and he chases her to the top of a boat, in part by driving only the front half of a car. But any time there’s fisticuffs it’s kind of saddled with its hero being an ordinary looking 57 year old. So every once in a while they pretend like he can flip off of some stairs or something but mostly he’s slow punching guys like it’s an old cowboy movie.

The old Bond posters were always incredible

There’s a scene in the Eiffel Tower involving a performance with butterfly puppets dancing around on strings. May Day comes in and replaces the puppeteer and uses a butterfly with a poison dart to assassinate a detective meeting with Bond. It’s a cool gimmick but it’s staged so that she walks out in the middle of a crowded room of onlookers and knocks the guy out. They show her in plain view of everyone and add loud sound effects but act like she’s invisible. No one notices at all.

It’s not really worth hammering on the trope that Bond runs into many beautiful young women that improbably go to bed with him, but it’s goofier with Moore because he’s not as suave as most of the other Bonds, and he’s undercover as an annoying rich brat who shouldn’t be attractive anyway. (I like the joke that he plays a recording of complaining to his servant next to a bug in his room). For a while he’s working with oil heiress/geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts, a few years after BEASTMASTER) and it literally seems like her uncle is in town to visit. Doesn’t quite have the sizzling sexual chemistry the series generally tries for.

Of course Bond’s terrible puns, which we now know as “dad jokes,” don’t help with that. Not just the sexual harassment ones but, like, he finds a hidden elevator and says, “Quite a letdown.” Jesus. In his defense, Zorin says, “So, does anyone else want to drop out?” after dumping a reluctant investor from his blimp (“Mayday will provide you with a drink”), so maybe it’s part of the secret agent culture.

It’s pretty cool to see Walken as a Bond villain, of course, but it’s not really a great villain or a particularly memorable Walken performance. David Bowie actually accepted the role early on, but backed out. Then Sting turned it down. Maybe that’s why Walken has that hair. Bowie would’ve been a pretty cool villain and added something to the movie, but it probly wasn’t worthy of his time.

The screenplay is by Richard Maibaum (DR. NO through LICENCE TO KILL) and Michael G. Wilson (FOR YOUR EYES ONLY through James Bond Jr.). Director John Glen had been an editor and second unit director since the late sixties, including on ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER, before he took over directing the Bond movies starting with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, OCTOPUSSY, and this. But nobody gives a shit about that because they only ever want to talk about him doing ACES: IRON EAGLE III. In my experience.

The movie and theme song were hits, though the reviews weren’t great for the former. I was relieved to find out that some people rank it as the worst or one of the worst Bonds, so it wasn’t just me who found it lackluster. Still, gotta love that May Day, and those opening credits. I don’t regret watching those.

SUMMER OF 1985 NOTES

Cold War themes:

The head of the KGB, General Gogol (Walter Gotell, SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS) is a reoccurring character who’s not portrayed as evil, and since Zorin is a rogue KGB agent he awards Bond the Order of Lenin for stopping him. So I’d say it’s kind of a ROCKY IV style conciliatory ending.

Robots:

Q (Desmond Llewelyn, from the James Bond pictures) introduces a stupid robot dog thing that he calls “a highly sophisticated surveillance machine.” Unlike the PROWLER in CODE OF SILENCE I’ve found no evidence that this was a real device.

Tie-ins:

There were two video games, one for Commodore 64 and various systems I never heard of, and one a text based game for DOS and Apple II. The movie also inspired four Find Your Fate books (like Choose Your Own Adventure, I think). And it looks like they were written by R.L. Stine!

Time capsule stuff:

There’s a joke about “women’s lib.” They explain E.M.P.s like you never would’ve heard of it before. The same blimp was used in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

Most important thing about the movie:

This is the film debut of Dolph Lundgren. I missed him though and had to rewind – he’s a Russian agent and I think his face is only very visible in one shot after Grace Jones body slams a guy. (He was dating her at the time and happened to be on set when they needed a guy.) According to Sylvester Stallone, Dolph’s screen debut was almost as the Russian villain in a movie released two days earlier, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, until Stallone realized this was the guy they’d already cast for ROCKY IV. (That sounds kind of made up, though. How would that slip past them?)

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79 Responses to “A View to a Kill”

  1. I agree this is the worst Bond movie. One of the worst things, of course, is that Moore is so old. I was always a Moore fan, almost certainly because he was my first Bond, but even as a young teen I knew this performance (and movie) was a disaster.

    However, I might rank License to Kill and The Living Daylights as the second- and third-worst Bond movies. I had no problem with Dalton himself. It was those damned movies. Granted, the cartoony plots of the typical Bond movies can be kind of ridiculous, but Bond shouldn’t be fighting a drug lord, not even for revenge.

    Walken has his moments, but I feel like he’s coasting, maybe on his bad hairdo. I know nothing about Walken’s personal life, but if you told me that he’s been on drugs at some point I would lay money that his habit peaked in ‘84-‘85.

    I think Tanya Roberts approached Denise Richards level of implausibility, but damn did I have a thing for her back then, so all was forgiven. But, yeah, Grace Jones was where it was at in this movie.

    Hehe, Vamp. There’s a movie that lives in my mind as a goofy ‘80s romp when it is in fact (at least) a little bit more than that. And Grace gets a lovely number that, while no Salma Hayek, is pretty great.

  2. Roger Moore starred in Bogner’s Fire, Ice & Dynamite (1990) sequel.

  3. Apologies for coming in guns-a-blazin’ but in my opinion Roger Moore is far and away the worst Bond and the fact that this is the worst Bond movie doesn’t surprise me (it and “Octopussy” are the only Bond films I haven’t been able to get through, but “The Man With the Golden Gun” is the worst of the ones I have seen). I don’t begrudge anyone else having a different opinion but whenever I hear “He was the Bond I grew up with” as a disclaimer I privately downgrade whatever positive opinion follows. We’re all adults now and we’re capable of recognizing that the quality level of these movies is pretty low. Sorry if that sounds like negativity. I just had to get it off my chest. I’m glad that Vern came to this objectively and arrived at the conclusion that it’s terrible.

    p.s. I also think Timothy Dalton is a top three Bond and I prefer him to Daniel Craig

  4. Follow-up post to clarify that my Roger Moore screed was not directed at Johnny Utah. Johnny you seem like a cool guy and I wasn’t responding directly to you mentioning that you grew up with Mr. Moore since you acknowledge that this movie was “a disaster.”

  5. This is actually one of the classic Bond movies that I have seen in full, although I don’t remember much.

    That said, things you didn’t mention:

    – Patrick McNee has a supporting role and it had quite the event character, to see John Steed (of the british THE AVENGERS show) appear in a Bond movie. Especially since Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman already had pretty iconic roles. Unfortunately he doesn’t do much.

    – The theme song by Duran Duran was not just a hit it was (maybe still is, not sure) the commercially most successful of the series!

    – It was Roger Moore’s last, because he basically agreed with the bad quality, hated the violence in it (especially the scenes with the guy getting shoved into a turbine and Zoran machine gunning down everybody)

    – When it comes to great death scenes, Zoran’s one is often mentioned, because of the look on his face, right before he falls off the bridge. And I agree. The “Fuck, NO!” look is a great touch.

  6. Believe It! – Thanks for pointing that out, I didn’t catch that when I looked at his filmography. That’s pretty funny/cool.

  7. I was seven years old and this was my first theatrical Bond film. For that, I retain some residual affection for it but no, it’s not a good movie. I can recall watching a few Bond films on VHS with my parents but the main draw at that age, of course, was the Duran Duran song. That and John Barry’s penultimate score for the series are its enduring legacy for me.

  8. CJ, let me add to the John Steed/James Bond connection that – beside the fact that they badly needed a sidekick who looked older than the hero – Moore and McNee played Sherlock Holmes and doctor Watson in the 1976 TV Movie SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK. I believe Bond even says “elementary” at some point during the break-in in the stables.

    But, yeah, everybody’s right, this is one of the most boring 007 adventures ever.

  9. I am a Bond fan so I appreciate the most magnificent low points as much as the best ones. View to a Kill to me is one of the most magnificent ones along with Moonraker. They just tried so hard, as opposed to forgettable Octopussy and no fun Die Another Day.

    The practical action is always good. I like the fire truck chase and Jones is fantastic. I guess the lack of chemistry and stuff never bothered me because it’s like oh well, they’ll try again in two years.

    My greatest cinematic regrets are not going to see No Retreat No Surrender with my friend and not seeing this in theaters because I didn’t get into Bond until the ‘90s.

  10. And Spy Who Loved Me was my fav til Casino Royale. That just had everything.

  11. Gidea Park had actually had a Top 20 hit in the UK with a Beach Boys megamix/medley a couple of years before this

    Tony Scott was supposedly a bit can of May Day, and cited her as the inspiration for the “look” of Bridgette Nielsen in BEVERLY HILLS COP 2

  12. Daniel- I wouldn’t say “the quality level of these movies is pretty low”. I get that a lot of people don’t like the tongue-in-cheek tone, the deviations from Fleming, the Connery movies etc. But for the most part, especially the Lewis Gilbert films, we’re talking about a sequence of films with some of the best scores, stunts and cinematography of their era. Born at the end of 86, I’m out of touch with my generation’s views on the Bond films (I vastly preferred SKYFALL to CASINO ROYALE, and enjoy quite a bit of DIE ANOTHER DAY), I accept that, but at the same time I don’t think the double-taking pigeons, space stations and inappropriate slide-whistles of the Moore era negate all the entertainment they have to offer.

  13. I recommend Willy Bogner’s FIRE AND ICE. It’s not a documentary, it’s technically a romantic comedy, but the plot is extremely thin and it’s about 90% ski stunt montages, like some kind of DEATH CHEATERS thing.

    I have a soft spot for the old Roger Moore bond pictures, I’ll take something goofy like MOONRAKER over morose post-action stuff like QUANTUM OF SOLACE any day.

  14. I never really understood what Bogner was doing. There was some big hype around him when I was young, but I guess he was skiing really good and filmed it? Maybe he was some kind of upperclass Tony Hawk precursor? I don’t know. It’s 2020, so I should probably google it.

  15. I love how we all agree the action in this movie doesn’t really work because Moore is 57 and too old.

    In other news, James Mangold announced this week he is working hard on a new Indiana Jones script for Harrison Ford, who is 77.

    Also, my two cents, as a huge Bond fan who has spent a lot of time with these movies: I’m not sure Moore is the worst Bond, I think he just got stuck in a really bad stretch of Bond movies. I’m not sure if any of the Bond actors would have survived this and Octopussy and For Your Eyes Only.

  16. And I keep forgetting to comment on the posters. Yes! Yes, they were incredible. I’m not a 007 FAN, but so many of the classic posters should hang on my wall, including the one pictured in your review. They really make the modern ones, that are basically just fashion shoots of Daniel Craig, look even worse in comparison.

  17. AVTAK also had the memorable Moore/Jones back to back poster, and the poster that was withdrawn for shockingly putting Bond in a white tuxedo.

    I guess my hottest take on the Bond films is that I personally don’t think there’s a bad one in the bunch. Lesser ones obviously, but none I would say come under the 5/10 barrier. To that point I would note there’s never been a BATMAN AND ROBIN moment, they’ve always had the sense to know when to reign it in before things get to that point. The flipside of that is that I’m not sure there are any true masterpieces, and the lesser ones don’t have the fascination factor of a BATMAN AND ROBIN, they’re just less good

  18. This is really very poor but, like Krautsalat, I’ll take it over QUANTUM OF SOLACE any day. At least the pre-credit sequence, with its awful, awful snowboarding+Beach Boys thing, signals a desire to entertain rather than a total lack of understanding of action.

    For me, one of the incidental pleasures of Bond movies, and particularly Moore era Bonds, is seeing British character actors who mostly worked on TV in my childhood getting a big movie outing. Here we have Fiona Fullerton. who’d been in a hospital soap in the ’70s, playing a KGB agent, and David Yip, who admittedly had been in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM the previous year. playing a CIA agent, Chuck Lee (Does anyone know if this is a deliberate nod to WAY OF THE DRAGON or just me over-reading happenstance? It feels unlikely, but there it is). Yip to this day remains one of Britain’s most visible actors of south-east Asian origin.

    Also we have Willoughby Gray, who played recurring characters in two unrelated TV sailing dramas in the ’70s and ’80s, as the old Nazi doctor. Gray had spent the war commanding an artillery reconnaissance unit and been commended for gallantry for action in Belgium.

    And yeah, sure, Grace Jones own this one. It’s just a shame it doesn’t deserve her.

  19. Haha, no sweat, Daniel! I get you.

    But it reminds me of something I failed to mention, which is that I don’t argue on any objective level for the quality of Moore’s Bond, or Moore’s Bond movies. There’s some good ones with weak parts, there’s some bad ones with strong parts, and there’s A View to a Kill. Moore and his Bond movies light a warm fire in the heart of my gone childhood, and Moore’s a perfectly fine actor, but I understand much of my warmth is subjective and rose-tinted.

    On the other hand, I still find the Jaws material from The Spy Who Loved Me to be kind of chilling. Is this just because I was 6 and it was my first Bond? Maybe, but he’s pretty nasty in that movie, even on modern-day rewatches. On the other other hand, the Jaws stuff in Moonraker was laughable in a bad way then and remains so now.

    At least the sheriff doesn’t pop up again in TSWLM!

  20. Borg9 — I’m not sure if I like Quantum less than View to a Kill, but it IS awful. Easily the worst Craig.

    Having said that….

    The villain’s scheme in Skyfall was preposterous, but then Christoph Waltz came along and made Bardem look like Stephen Hawking. Jesus Christ, screenwriters.

  21. My hot take: The only Bond films that don’t overstay their welcome by at least 25 minutes are QUANTUM, LICENSE TO KILL, GOLDENEYE, and maybe FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE but it’s been a while so don’t quote me on that last one. All the others have at least one extraneous love interest and location change that only serve to extend the part where it drags in the middle, which, with all the product placement and poncing about in these films, is already way too long as it is. QUANTUM in particular is underrated simply for being the only film in the series that’s the proper length for material this slight. The editing is atrocious but at least I don’t have to watch this smug prick play cards or buy racehorses for a half hour.

  22. My second hot take, probably much hotter, you might want to wear oven gloves for this one pal, is that I rank FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE fairly low. I get the sense it’s more admired for what it isn’t (ie the majority of films afterwards) than for what it is. Which is cool, there’s no wrong way to like a movie (independent of ways that are a symptom of more serious tendancie), but as I prefer a good number of the films afterwards it doesn’t do it for me. I’m also not a huge fan of the “acceptable” Moore film FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, although I think it was a necessary step after MOONRAKER

  23. Majestyk,

    I’m a huge Bond person, and I 100% agree about the “overstay their welcome” line. Many of the movies are pretty anticlimactic. If, off the top of my head, I put together the top 20 scenes in a Bond movie, I doubt many of them would be in the last Act, and most would be before the credits run. As always, you surprise me: that is an unusual foursome of Bond movies you chose to give a thumbs up to. (side question MM, any good horror movies lately?). I love Casino Royale, but man once they get out of the casino, after the ball slapping, it gets pretty forgettable.

    A few random Bond Thoughts: George Lazenby was a sneaky good Bond and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the few Bond movies where they actually tried to do something interesting with the character.

    Until reading this feedback, I forgot how many bad Bond movies Roger Moore made. Not that he was bad, they were just bad movies. Spy Who Loved Me though is a ton of fun. Connery’s Bond is so different from Moore’s bond, I would love to have seen how they would have fared in each other’s movies.

  24. I started a project of rewatching the Bond films in order this year. The Moore era seems to go on forever, though, and I’ve been stalled before A VIEW TO A KILL for a month. It doesn’t help that my memory of it is that it’s a mostly nothing entry, despite Jones and Walken and the only 007 theme song to hit #1 (which seemed better when I was a kid).

    For me, MOONRAKER and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY are highlights of this Bond period, despite the former’s bad reputation and the latter being thought of as a “return to form,” when the two films are incredibly similar in approach. This is the point where Bond story lines became untraceable. I can tell you what happens in FYEO but not what it’s about. And I sort of always enjoyed being lost in Bond plots. These two movies really shine on a moment by moment basis. They play into the character’s douchiness, and are full of crazy stunts and hijinks involving gondolas and different winter sports.

  25. I have a strong nostalgic fondness for the Bond series and continue to enjoy returning to them now despite their, uh, quirks (to put it generously). I actually recently read all the books for the first time last year and was really surprised by some of the differences to the movies. The biggest surprise to me was how Bond is a lot more of a *character* with a real internal life in the books. That doesn’t come through in the movies as much, but in the books he’s often hurt, scared, and sad about the way his job impacts his life.

    Anyway, this isn’t one of my favorites (though I really have to laugh at Walken’s plan to increase the price of his microchips by blowing up Silicon Valley- the main market for microchips at the time. Good thinking there, Goldfinger), and for some reason when I think about it, I always remember/imagine it stars Dalton instead of Moore.

    I am also a big QUANTUM OF SOLACE defender to be honest. It’s one of my favorites of the whole series, and I think it’s a lot more interesting than it gets credit for. I think it’s the most “realistic” Bond in a lot of ways, aside from perhaps the very earliest films. Speaking of, I think it’s paced a little poorly, but FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE has one of the first all-time great fight scenes in movie history between Robert Shaw and Connery on the train. I think that fight *still* holds up as one of the best the series has ever done.

  26. This one is so weird because it is overall pretty bad but then has these flashes of greatness like Grace Jones. It’s like there’s a good Bond movie hiding in there which just never materializes.

    Also, the opening sequence drove me crazy back then as one of the few people I knew who was even aware of snowboarding at the time. He pulls the ski off the snowmobile and it is suddenly transformed into an actual snowboard with proper bindings and everything. What?!?

    Side note: what is it with James Bond and skiing? Overall, there are a lot of skiing scenes in Bond movies. It’s not like that was a trope of their eras, I don’t think. It’s just weirdly over represented in Bond movies going back to the second installment if memory serves.

  27. Also, the villain of QUANTUM is a particular favorite *because* he’s not a colorful weirdo. He’s just a 1%er rich prick who thinks his money gives him license to do whatever he wants, and gets a hilariously gruesome death for it.

    (Favorite “colorful weirdo” Bond villain is definitely Jonathan Pryce in TOMORROW NEVER DIES, playing a *slightly* more evil version of Rupert Murdoch. He’s so evil that it’s on his board meeting agenda to provide evil updates to his equally evil minions).

  28. Dtroyt- I actually think that thing you mention about there being “flashes” of a great Bond movie in there is true for a lot of the franchise. It’s a rare one that’s solid all the way through, but imo they each have at least a few moments where it gets there.

    Also, I think the skiing is just a holdover from when skiing was a big popular thing to do in real life. bond movies have a tendency to pick up sports trends and throw them in a new flick about five years after the height of their popularity. See also: parkour in CASINO ROYALE, surfing in DIE ANOTHER DAY, skiing in like every Moore flick.

  29. Palermo,

    There are so few ‘plots” that stick out to me amongst any of the Bond films. I can tell you which action scenes are in which, which villains are in which, give you a general “go from point A to Point B” of each one. But if you asked me what the evil plan was for each villain, I would be hard pressed to even put forth a good guess. And I think I have seen all of them at least a handful of times. I probably saw the Dalton movies the least of all of them, but even those I can remember a little bit.

    The Roger Moore films, particularly Spy Who Loved Me, are so full of traditional Bond tropes, that they almost look like an Austin Powers movie when you go back and rewatch them. I feel like they became a parody of themselves. I think this was more a reflection of the changing “Blockbuster” culture. Live and Let Die (1973) and Man with The Golden Gun (1974) are way different than the 5 films that followed, but they were also pre-Star Wars. Moonraker was 100% a response to the wave of sci-fi that started to get pumped out after Star Wars. Man, I was surprised those first two Moore movies were that old when I looked them up.

    And I am not sure why Solace gets so much hate. I think it is the weakest of the Craig Bond films, for sure, but I don’t think it is bad by any stretch.

  30. Hot take or not, over the years I’ve concluded that you only need to watch five of these movies to get the full experience;

    1. CASINO ROYALE to understand where the character comes from.
    2. DR NO to see how a problem solver for the government operates.
    3. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE to witness how the character learns to pretend to be a seducer and a playboy, but still being a blunt instrument.
    4. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME as a lesson in how you can go over the top with the action while still having a serious thriller at the centre.
    5. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE to get the seriousness and tragedy of it all.

  31. Another hot take: These days people only watch James Bond movies, because they are used to them. No offense to those who genuinely like and enjoy them, but I think they lost their appeal around the 90s.

    Back in their first three decades, it was understandable why they were a success. Bond was a manly man (as the cliche says: “Women want him and men want to be like him”) who went on adventures, that were an outstanding mix of (for its time) top notch action, exotic locations and a bit of a SciFi/Fantasy/Pulp angle too. During the Brosnan era, they became pretty interchangable, although competently made action movies, that failed to set any standards, like the series originally did. Even stuff like the popular CASINO ROYALE was basically just trying to jump on Jason Bourne’s post 9/11 pseudo-realism bandwagon.

    Again, if you genuinely see something in the modern 007 output that speaks to you, that’s awesome. But to me, it seems like the commercial success of these movies is these days only because of brand recognition only.

  32. I think “James Bond” is basically a genre unto itself at this point. It succeeds or fails in how it plays off its own troupes, not unlike a slasher movie or a romantic comedy. I’m not necessarily coming to them for innovation, but because I am in the mood for particular beats to be hit in a story. None of this is a defense of James Bond movies per se, but rather as an experience which one may grow a taste for even in its lowest outings. The attempts (and, usually, failures) to keep up with modern sensibilities and trends are just part of the charm.

  33. Kurgan- Good point about most Bond movies being uneven. I personally love them but there is usually some boring stuff even in the best movies.

    As far as the sports go, you’re right that they often jump on trends but man they have A LOT of skiing. Just off the top of my head, there’s this movie, OHMSS, the Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, the Living Daylights, the World is Not Enough and Spectre. I might even be forgetting some.

  34. I adore the bad Bond movies as campy fun and this is one of the best/worst, just an absolute joy. Give me this over the grim awfulness of “Live and Let Die” any day.

  35. Those of us who read the books first have sort of been waiting for a movie that encapsules what Fleming was going for. Terence Young was on the right path with the first two, and then Guy Hamilton came along and ruined everything. And since then it’s only OHMSS and parts of CR that have been close. Craig has nailed the character, and you can sort of accept that Connery in DN and FRWL, Lazenby in OHMSS, Moore in the last part of TSWLM, Dalton in LTK and Brosnan in GE, are the same guy. But why the hell can’t we get a proper, hard spy thriller to come with him?

  36. There’s a lot that’s wrong with one, but goddamn, I’ll take it in a heartbeat over a lugubrious slog like SKYFALL. I remember the first time I watched this, cackling all the way through the scene where Zorin machine-guns his own men while my cousin sat horrified. “Give me some spare clips.” I understand why people wanted more intensity from Walken, but I enjoy his take on the character — Zorin is just very nonchalant about little things like mass homicide.

    I also remember Tanya Roberts squealing “James!” about three million times, which wasn’t quite as fun.

    I doubt we’ll ever get a Bond on screen just like the one in the books. It gets harder with each passing year unless they go for a Cold War period piece. And he’s too vulnerable — we’ll never see anything like the opening chapter in the GOLDEN GUN novel, where a brain-washed Bond tries to assassinate M.

  37. I hate all Bond movies – and the character of James Bond – but thanks for writing a cool review about it. Like you say, the stuntwork can be great… then the yawning misery of the dialogue and stupidity fills 90% of all of the movies.

  38. grimgrinningchris

    May 29th, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Why did they give Doody (who was all of 19 at the time) a great Bond girl name when she was in like 5 minutes of the movie… but gave Roberts a boring, lame normal person name?

    With a couple of exceptions, Moore’s movies were by and large the worst of the series.. I won’t say HE was the worst, cuz he is a fine actor and The Saint is awesome… but he was saddled with his own age and increasing cheese… but man, they had most of the best themes… fromLive And Let Die to Nobody Does It Better to For Your Eyes Only and View To A Kill…

  39. I watched THE RYTHM SECTION with Blake Lively the other day. It’s produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, and it’s just what I want from a Bond movie. Why can’t they just reboot the damn franchise into something just as intimate and intense. Preferably with a woman as 007.

  40. Yeah, this is one of the weaker entries. May Day is cool and the opening sequence and Paris sequence have a lot of memorable gimmicks and stunt work.

    I strongly oppose the idea that Bond became irrelevant after the 90’s. Casino Royale had tremendous WOM and re-ignited the passion for Bond among mainstream audiences. It’s also quite easily the best Bond movie ever. It’s a great action film and a great film in general, regardless of the franchise fame.

    Lazenby is by far the weakest Bond. Guy lacks charm completely. Moore is pure masculinity and charisma compared to him. I also think Lazenb’s film is by far the weakest Bond movie ever made. Yes, that final minute is great, but everything the precedes it is terrible. Even the action is terrible, which is maybe the worst sin a Bond movie can commit to.

    Quantum is unfortunately a very good Bond flick completely destroyed in the edit. I blame the director, not the editor. So much of the film is terribly paced, and the action scenes are sometimes completely incomprehensible. If the film would be 10 minutes longer, it could be very good. But now I find it largely unwatchable.

  41. Bond already became pretty irrelevant in the 70s. In the 60s there were hundreds of movies imitating the style of the 007 pictures, but since the 70s the Bond films have been chasing trends. That’s something I still enjoy, I can dig Blaxploitation Bond, Space Bond or 80s Action Bond.

    I disagree about ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE having bad action scenes, Lazenby brings a real physicality to those fights, something Connery lost in his later films and Moore never had.

  42. I was never into May Day in this film, but Chris Walken is great. The score is great (echoing the great theme song). Otherwise it is kinda bad, but I have a nostalgic soft spot for it since it was probably my first Bond movie. I read most of the books as a kid. The title is from one of the short stories I think, where Bond has to assassinate a cellist with a sniper rifle and bails out (I think) because she is beautiful. This of course became a plot point in the next film instead.

  43. I think that short story might have actually been called THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Think FROM A VIEW TO A KILL was also an assassination story, and was actually set in Paris, so there is some small influence on the movie. I could look this up of course, but that’s no fun

  44. I looked it up, you are right. No fun!

  45. When I was a little kid, I had a big anthology book of adventure short stories with all sorts of different themes, one of which was “Spies”, and that had THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS in it. I always remembered the ending because I think it was one of the first times I’d encountered that thing where the title is actually in the story. At the end, he hasn’t killed the rival assassin (a beautiful cellist), but he reckons he “scared the living daylights out of her”.

  46. Bond. James Bond.
    Having read all the comments I think I can easily crown myself the “biggest Bond fan of outlawvern”.
    Seen all the movies numerous times. Bought the bluray boxset. Saw all the documentaries of said box set times infinity. Saw “everything Or nothing”. Bought the taschen table book. Bought the time special issue. And have been there opening day since I was 7. Want to guess which one was my first theatrical experience?
    A view to a kill! I won’t bother you with a current opinion on the movie. The concensus has been for years now that it’s one of the weaker ones. I just want to help people who didn’t live through that time understand us “tinted by nostalgia” guys.

    James Bond by 1985 was a religion. We awaited every two years for another coming of our lord and savior. He was THE superhero of our time. And Roger Moore was the “fun” Bond. So successful and ingrained in the role that he wanted to stop since before octopussy / THEY (the producers) also wanted to change him for monetary reasons and still when push came to shove they sent the truck with even more money to his doorstep for every new installment.
    He won the “Connery Bond / Moore Bond” match-up at theaters in 1983 for Christ’s sake! Even after “A view to a kill”, where now retro-actively everybody sees him as “too old for”, they desperately tried to keep him on board and it was he who quit for good. And believe me fans where GUTTED. As good as an actor Timothy Dalton is EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER wanted Roger Moore to continue and where enormously underwhelmed from “The Living Daylights” and it’s half-seriousness at the time. The next full-serious try was the weakest box office ever and coupled with rights problems resulted in a 6 year hiatus.
    So don’t be too hard on Roger. He was (and if we are counting movies not years) the longest running bond for a reason. And he made fans of 2 generations in his time who all together would have gladly taken him as Bond until the next generation too.

    PS Culturally the Duran Duran song was HUGE. And the blending of the biggest band in the Universe with Bond was another huge factor in the film’s success. They showed the video clip before the movie in cinemas here!

    Love Petros.

  47. bastardjackyll

    May 31st, 2020 at 2:44 am

    I saw this and Rambo in the theater on the same day, I was 8.

  48. I found reviews from the time saying he was too old, so that’s not just a retrospective opinion. But I want to clarify – I love older action heroes. I tried to be clear by saying that he seems like a normal 57 year old, as opposed to a 57 year old Arnold, Stallone or Tom Cruise (who is in fact that age right now). But also I think someone who is physically older can still be an action hero, but it has to be handled differently from this to not be silly. Also, it could be counteracted by having older women in the cast.

  49. The previous film, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, had already acknowledged that Moore was getting a bit old to be a bed-hopping sex symbol, and rethought his character as more of an avuncular type. He even turns down the figure skater who sneaks into his hotel room. “You get your clothes on, and I’ll buy you an ice cream.” (Though Bond still has a fling with Carole Bouquet, who was 30 years younger.)

  50. Cruise is 57?? Jesus Christ. Yeah, Cruise can still be an action hero. Stallone can still make it work. But Moore always looks uncoordinated and weak in his action scenes. He can work well enough when it’s a ski scene or something and the stunt guy is doing everything, but his fight scenes sucked even when he first started. If he’s going to do Bond at that age they need to just let him get into shootouts.

  51. I don’t think it’s Roger’s age that’s the main problem with his later movies. John Glen sort of rebooted the franchise with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY after all the silly stuff in MOONRAKER. But all his movies after that got stupid, childish stuff in them. Cars cut in half and bar fights doesn’t belong in a Bond movie. And the hero dressing as a pensioner doesn’t help, either.

  52. Vern, you should check out the Who Dares Wins aka The Final Option combo of Lewis Collins and director Ian Sharp. Collins believed his interview with producer Cubby Broccoli nixed his chance at the job. I think the real loss is Timothy Dalton not having Ian Sharp behind the camera. Sharp would later be one of the second unit directors on Goldeneye.

  53. I second that. Haven’t seen it in over a decade but it’s great fun, with a thrilling finale

  54. WHO DARES WINS might not be the most rabidly right-wing thriller I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly the most rabidly right-wing British thriller. Dig the final scene, where an onscreen list of real terrorist murders is accompanied by the Labour Party anthem. (Though North Americans might mistake the tune for “O Christmas Tree.”) The single action sequence consists of a bunch of incompetent mooks getting shot up by special forces.

    I suppose Judy Davis is good in it.

  55. I tried to watch WHO DARES WINS again earlier this year, but I had to turn it off. Politically it’s just plain offensive, but what I didn’t remember is that it’s also boring as hell.

  56. All of my comments on this one are going to be a scattered bunch. It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but if I’m remembering correctly doesn’t Bond actually look frightened to have to follow through on sex with May Day? Haha, good times. I absolutely loved your scene, Vern on how it would’ve really played out seeing her for the first time.

    I can’t hate on Moore because he was also the Bond from my youth and there was no escaping the movies in my house with my dad and 2 older brothers. They’re totally ridiculous but fun and I would rather watch them over some dreary, depressing movie. I do remember thinking at quite a young age that he was not the sexy Bond, though. Probably one of my first thought out sexual preference ideations was that it seemed like he’d be the kind of guy to fold his socks before taking you to bed. I’m not sure I’d still hold that opinion, but he is a bit fussy. If another Bond is the one who can pull off the terry cloth, shorty shorts, belted jumpsuit bathing suit cover-up Connery wears in GOLDFINGER and is considered the sexiest one, you’re kinda fucked.

    Bond theme songs – Moore did get some of the best ones. Here’s a bit of useless trivia for you: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is the only opening credits to feature the singer. That’d be Ms. Sheena Easton, who I think was the first CD I ever owned.

    Bond posters – I know Bond girls have a rep for a lot of impossibility, but I didn’t realize being able to grip the cable on a suspension bridge with the sides of your feet was one of them.

    I’m not sure there are many of us on here who were around and old enough to be aware of just how popular Bond was in the 60s/70s/80s. He most definitely waned after that. In 1992 in a college history class of mine the professor asked the class to name off their heroes. He then filled the chalkboard with their names. He then added a name himself because it was a perfect example of something he wanted to illustrate. That name was James Bond. He said up until a year or two prior, he never had to add Bond because invariably, someone else would have.

  57. In 1992 we were too busy idolising that whippersnapper James Bond Jr.

  58. The first time I became aware of James Bond was when they ran a trailer for LIVE AND LET DIE on TV. I didn’t get to see a 007 movie until ‘79, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, but there were posters, toy cars, comics and books everywhere. You just knew he was a big deal.

  59. I was born in 1976, so I have a pretty good grasp how popular Bond has been in different decades. The series has thrived because it has always managed to re-invent itself just enough to become popular again after a relative low point.

    While you can’t directly translate B.O via inflation, and theater-going is much smaller than it used to be thanks to TV, VHS, DVD, Internet, video-gaming, social media, etc, it’s still interesting to look a the American domestic B.O for Bond movies, adjusted for inflation:

    Thunderball ($590 million)
    Goldfinger ($514.7 million)
    Skyfall ($358.3 million)
    You Only Live Twice ($336.4 million)
    Moonraker ($262.5 million)
    Die Another Day ($259.6 million)
    Tomorrow Never Dies ($255.8 million)
    From Russia With Love ($249.8 million)
    Diamonds Are Forever ($248.8 million)
    Casino Royale (2006) ($239.5 million)
    The World is Not Enough ($234.1 million)
    GoldenEye ($229.3 million)
    Spectre ($222.4 million)
    Quantum of Solace ($219.7 million)
    Octopussy ($202 million)
    The Spy Who Loved Me ($196.8 million)
    Live and Let Die ($187.3 million)
    For Your Eyes Only ($184.7 million)
    Casino Royale (1967) ($177.3 million)
    Dr. No ($177.1 million)
    Never Say Never Again ($164.9 million)
    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ($150.3 million)
    A View to a Kill ($132.8 million)
    The Living Daylights ($122.7 million)
    The Man with the Golden Gun ($105.1 million)
    Licence to Kill ($81.8 million)

  60. Of course when you judge the success of a franchise film, you always have to look at the film / films that preceded it. Goldfinger was universally beloved, which paved the way for Thunderball. Goldeneye came out after three low-points in the Bond franchise, so it hand uphill battle to become successful. But the great WOM from Goldeneye made Tomorrow Never dies into a smash, despite lesser reception. Etc.

  61. And Casino Royale was such a monumental debut for Craig that Quantum opened huge even though people ended up not liking it. Although Skyfall managed to go even bigger by playing up the apology for Quantum (“Don’t worry, this one is funny and comprehensible.”)

    I thought I was the biggest Bond fan here but I must admit the Tachen book was out of my price range.

  62. The Quantum of Solace videogame was a lot of fun. It did not care about story continuity andjust gottothe shooting parts. Which made a helluva lot of a better experience than theactual movie.

  63. Yeah, Skyfall managed to become huge despite disappointment to QOS, but it had a lot of things going for it: Goodwill from Royale, Adele’was massive at that point, very strong marketing, and especially 50-year anniversary which was covered in countless newspaper articles and magazine covers also here in Finland.

  64. I like this one more than you Vern, but I honestly can’t disagree with most of your problems with it.

    Roger’s a bit long in the tooth, and while it’s never quite as embarrassing as Connery in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN it’s unfortunate that he ends up shagging Tanya Roberts. At first it almost seems like the film’s willing to create a more paternal bond (whoops there’s my dad pun), like the scene where instead of trying to seduce her he tucks her in and guards her overnight with a shotgun in his lap. There’s really no reason for them to hop in the shower, except that this is the way Bond movies are supposed to end. I’m a fan of Moore as Bond, but honestly it might have been better if they’d already replaced him with Dalton. (For everyone but BRENDA STARR superfans.)

    Trysts with the other female characters are slightly less ridiculous. The Russian agent is a former squeeze (it was supposed to be Barbara Bach from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME but they changed it for some reason). The submarine pilot at the beginning…well, I’ll just say the British government’s shooting themselves in the foot hiring supermodel-level iceberg sub pilots to be stuck in that tiny boat with James Bond for five days if they’re interested in avoiding a sexual harassment case. Honestly I think Moore has the best chemistry with Patrick Macnee.

    Somebody commented that he looks scared during his sex scene with Grace Jones, I agree with that! That would have been one of the first sex scenes I ever saw in a movie when I was a kid, and witnessing sleek, muscular Grace Jones knock Moore around in bed was a pretty extreme introduction to what love-making is supposed to be like. For me that excuses the typical “ugh, another lady throwing herself at Bond”ness of the scene: if he wants the Mayday treatment, he’s going to get it on her terms! (“A little restless but I got off eventually.”)

    Speaking of scared, I like that Mayday loses her cool following the Zorin betrayal. It reminds me of a moment in MOONRAKER where a bad guy takes control of a centrifuge Bond is strapped into and tries to spin him to death; Roger Moore looks completely wrecked and terrified as he staggers out of the pod. I like seeing a tough character rattled, and with Mayday it’s no different. She still manages to give Zorin that look of utter contempt when she blows up with the bomb, effectively spoiling his big plan. Pretty badass.

    Personally I think the big action scenes make up for the lesser ones. Chasing Mayday off the Eiffel Tower into the halved-cab only to have her escape by boat is nifty. The finale on top of the Golden Gate is also pretty dope.

    One thing I’ve never seen brought up anywhere: Zorin executes the mayor of San Francisco after fabricating a tale where Stacy killed him for firing her. And he’s the mayor of San Francisco! This, uh, wasn’t too uncomfortable for anyone considering the real-life murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk under similar circumstances to Zorin’s invented scenario, less than a decade earlier? Yikes.

  65. Only somewhat related, but this is one of my dream possessions

  66. Ugh! This is no fun but Google SPY WHO LOVED ME/PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN QUAD POSTER

  67. Solongyoubastard: That’s not the mayor, just an official at the Division of Oil and Mines. (Does San Francisco’s city government have a Division of Oil and Mines?) Though now that you mention it, it is strange they’d stage an assassination at City Hall just a few years after the Milk and Moscone murders.

  68. I notice that the more conservative Bond fans are angry again. They’ve just barely gotten over the fact that a woman has taken the number 007 in the new movie, and now it turns out that their hero has a five year old child!

  69. SPOILERS FOR NEW BOND

    Have to admit my first reaction had visions of SUPERMAN RETURNS dancing in my head, by which I mean my first reaction was “ugh!” But thinking about it, it could make for interesting character development. I’m open; less concerned about that than I am them carrying on the Christopher Waltz Blofeld stuff from SPECTRE, which really didn’t work

  70. Child is an controversial choice, hopefully it will work. At least we can be 100% sure that Craig will make it work.

  71. A child is perfect for Craig because he acts like one every time he wraps shooting on one of these things. Can we be done with this miserable sour-faced stiff already?

  72. Eh? Craig is a terrific comedic actor.

  73. James Bond did have a daughter in CASINO ROYALE (the fun one)

  74. I don’t mind having Bond become a father BUT, what I *don’t* want is for it to be like in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and have a big status quo change only to end the movie (or have it happen halfway through or whatever) with murdering the kid and resetting Bond to square one.

  75. Pretty sure it’ll be a complete reset after Craig anyway (and probably after every actor leaves henceforth)

  76. Exactly!

    I hope Craig’s Bond gets a happy ending.

  77. New NO TIME TO DIE (2020) Trailer

    NO TIME TO DIE | Trailer 2

    The mission that changes everything begins… No Time To Die in cinemas this November.

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