After having reached the dizzying heights of Outer Space with the previous movie, it was time to give Bond a makeover, and ground the character in reality once more. Bring him back down to Earth, so to speak. It was felt by both the filmmakers, and producers, that the character had strayed too far from the source material, and become over-reliant on gadgetry to accomplish his missions. With a new director, who was familiar with both the mythos, and history of the character on-screen, it was time to give it a more subdued, but equally dangerous threat to deal with, without losing any of the glamour and style the character had acquired over the years.
A new director
John Glenn was a familiar face for all the Bond aficionados, as he’d been associated with the Bond movies as far back as on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). It was actually the director of that movie, Peter Hunt, who had recruited him to helm Second Unit directing duties on that movie for the brilliant skiing action sequences. From then on, he’d worked on and off on the Bond movies, and had moved up from Second Unit Director to Editing. Glenn had a clear understanding of the material, and had the experience to back him up. That didn’t make the prospect of helming his first Bond movie any less of a daunting task.
When “Cubby” Broccoli offered him the job, he accepted on the condition that he’d have a say of who he wanted to work with in the crew. Fortunately for Broccoli, he didn’t go too far away from home, as most of the people he’d end up picking were frequent collaborators in the Bond family. People like Peter Lamont, who’d been recently promoted from Set Decorator to Production Designer, Visual Effects Supervisor Derek Meddings, and screenwriter Richard Maibaum, who this time around would be working with Executive Producer Michael G. Wilson on the script. He also got to choose who would be directing Second Unit. For this he went with Arthur Whooster, who was an experienced Director of Documentaries. With this team around him, they set about working on the next movie.
Back to basics
The filmmakers wanted to take Bond into another direction, but didn’t want to deviate too much from its origins, and thought it would be a good idea to go back to basics, to the novels, and draw from there. At this point in time, the screenwriters had pretty much done away with most of Ian Fleming’s novels. Almost all of them had been adapted to the big screen in one way or another. For Your Eyes Only was a collection of 4 short stories from which the screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson decided to take elements from two of them; from For Your Eyes Only the took the murder of the Havelocks, and based their hell-bent on revenge daughter Melina on their daughter on the book, Judy; who also avenges her parents’ murder with a bow and arrow; but the story they took more elements from was Risico, in which Bond goes to Italy to stop a drug-smuggling operation. In the story, Bond is also duped by Kristatos into believing that it’s really another smuggler by the name of Colombo, who is really in charge of the drug-smuggling operation, when is the other way around. As per usual, a few locations, names and events are moved around, or altogether altered; and there are even a few references by other Fleming novels already adapted to the big screen; like the original ending of Live and Let Die, in which Bond and his companion are tied to a boat and dragged over coral reef to make them bleed, and entice the sharks to eat them. The two writers mashed all these elements together, and built a story that was ultimately a blend of Roger Moore’s first outings as 007, and his last two outlandish romps. The result; one of the most grounded Bond movies in years, but not without its fair share of thrills. The plot revolves around the loss of a valuable piece of decoding equipment by the British Secret Service, known as the A.T.A.C, when the boat that carries it is sunk to the bottom of the Aegean sea by an underwater mine. Immediately after, a British marine archeologist Lord Havelock, who secretly works for the British government to try and locate the wreckage, and his wife, are assasinated by a Cuban hitman in front of their daughter Melina. Bond is tasked with locating the hitman, and bringing him in for interrogation, to find out who hired him. Unfortunately, it all goes awry; Melina gets to him before Bond, and they have to leave in a hurry. Following some clues, Bond ends up in Cortina D’Ampezzo, where the local Secret Service liason puts him in touch with a man named Kristatos, who may put Bond on the right track, or not…
For the cast we have British stage actor Julian Glover to play the role of Aristotle Kristatos, Israeli Actor, Comedian and Singer,Topol, from Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Norman Jewison fame, to play the role of Greek smuggler Milos Columbo, British actor Michael Gothard to play the role of Kristatos’ right hand man Emile Locque, American Actress and Ice Skater Lynn Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl, Australian actress and, at the time married to Bond-to-be Pierce Brosnan, Cassandra Harris, to play the role of Countess Lisl; and most importantly, French Actress and Model Carole Bouquet to play the role of Melina Havelock. The casting process was a fairly straightforward one, as per usual when it came to casting for the Bond movies. In the case of Topol, it was actually “Cubby’s” wife, Dana Broccoli, who gave him the idea of hiring him after running into him in a party. Carole Bouquet had a fairly substantial career by the time she came to the filmmakers’ notice, having worked for the likes of filmmaker Luis Buñuel in the acclaimed That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). John Glenn was mostly impressed by, not only her natural beauty, but her striking looking blue eyes; which he intended to tie in with the movie’s title.
As for the rest of the cast, all came back except for Bernard Lee, who died while preparing to participate in the movie. That’s why they came up with the line that M was on leave during the movie, and Chief of Stuff Bill Tanner and Sir Frederick Gray, played by James Villiers and Geoffrey Keen, respectively, are there.
The movie is famous for the sheer amount of stunts performed in it. Right off the bat, on the pre-credits sequence that opens the movie, we have one of the most daring stunts with Bond climbing his way from the back to the front seat of a radio-controlled helicopter, while the helicopter is zooming around the Industrial area of London. The sequence is a mixture of on-location and on-set filming, with Moore shooting his close ups in a mocap of the helicopter against green screen on Pinewood, while his stunt double Martin Grace, performed the stunt on location. A foreground miniature of the building that Bond goes through had to be built by Derek Meddings, while a life-size replica of the helicopter was built to be used for the scenes in which it flies through the building, that could be radio-controlled by the crew. But, one of the funniest, but most difficult to shoot, was the chase sequence that takes place in Spain (the small Madrid village was actually recreated in a small and twisty village in Greece), in which Bond is trying to escape Locque’s goons in a mini car. The stunt is a showcase of precise driving, and was coordinated by French Stunt Driver Rémy Julienne, and his team. His talents would be called upon once again for the adrenaline-inducing sequence in which Bond is chased by motorcycles down the snowed slopes of the Northern Italian Sky resort of Cortina D’Ampezzo. The sequence was achieved with the combined efforts of Julienne, and professional German Skiier, Cameraman, and Bond veteran, Willy Bogner. Bogner had worked in a Bond movie for the first time on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, planning and executing, along with Second Unit Director at the time, John Glen, the groundbreaking skiing sequences. He’d come back to do the skiing sequences on The Spy who Loved Me, too. Every time he was asked to come back, he had to dream up more and more elaborate action set pieces, but had always managed to deliver. This time was no different. The whole sequence that takes Bond from being pursued by mountain motorcycles down skiing slopes, and ending up jumping onto a Bobsleigh run, was heavily storyboarded, planned out, and executed to perfection. So was another one of the most vertigo-inducing action set pieces of the movie; that of Bond climbing a rock pinnacle atop which sits Kristatos’ hideout. The sequence came with its fair share of problems apart from the difficulty of the stunt itself. The striking location where the sequence was shot is a series of pinnacles atop which sit a series of monasteries from the Bizantine period in a region called Meteora, in Greece. The crew wanted to use the location of the rocky natural fortress and its monastery to shoot the sequence, and actually asked, and was granted permission by the Archbishop to do so. Unfortunately, whatever amount of money was paid to the Church didn’t reach the monks living in the Monastery, and they did all they could to disrupt the shoot; like hanging their laundry outside all the windows and putting up banners. In the end, the crew managed to shoot the scenes they needed on the next pinnacle over, leaving the monks well alone. As for the Monastery itself, it was painstakingly recreated at Pinewood Studios, using building materials from the period from an old Monastery soon to be demolished. The climbing stunt was performed by professional climber Rick Sylvester. Sylvester had previously worked on The Spy who Loved Me, performing the skii jump at the end of the pre-credits sequence. This time around, he was given the difficult task of letting go on purpose. The stunt involved Bond being kicked off, after having reached the top of the mountain, and slowly trying to make his way up while one of Kristatos’ men gets rid of all of Bond safe lines to the mountain. The difficulty was not so much the sheer drop itself, but the jolt the climber would receive when reaching the end of the rope, that could result in serious injury. It was actually Derek Meddings, who built a sort of brake system using sacks as counterweight to try and, slow down the fall.
Another key sequence in the movie is the scene in which Bond and Melina have to go down to the wreckage of the St George in a mini submarine to try and recover the A.T.A.C. It was a very difficult sequence to shoot, for two reasons; Carol Bouquet couldn’t do any diving because of a medical condition, and the difficulty of making it look like the sequence had been actually shot underwater. The underwater unit was headed by Al Giddings in the Bahamas, in which a Greek temple that had been built on Pinewood and shipped over to location, was placed on the sea floor, along with a life-size piece of the St George’s hull with a hole in it caused by the underwater mine, which Bond and Melina use as an entrance. The rest of the ship’s interior was recreated in a water tank on Pinewood. The close ups of Bond and Melina diving were achieved using an earlier technique of dry for wet in which the actors were shot in slow motion, with fans blowing their hair to simulate the effect of being underwater. The air bubbles were added by Derek Meddings later on in Post-production. All of the Deep dive equipment used in the movie existed for real. Production Designer Peter Lamont got in touch with the company that manufactured it, and the crew got to build models of most of it following the company’s specifications. Some pieces of equipment like with the diving suits and gear, they went with the real thing; others, like the bulky dive suit, or the one-man manned mini-submarine that Kristatos’ men try to kill Bond and Melina with, had to be built, as they would later on be smashed and blown up by the crew. Martin Grace doubled Roger Moore once more for the dangerous scene in which Bond and Melina are tied up to Kristatos’ boat and dragged underwater over coral reef.
Financial and Critical Reception.
For Your Eyes Only was a smash hit with both critics and audiences. It demonstrated that there was life after Space, and people got to see a more down to Earth and human character.
And what do I think about For Your Eyes Only? It’s definitely among the better Roger Moore movies. It doesn’t reach the levels of sheer wit and outlandishness that the previous ones had, but it doesn’t need to. The story is fairly straightforward, with no frills, but with a solid cast ensemble, and good performances all round. But the real star of the movie, as was the norm, are the stunts. As time wore on, the stunt people became bolder and bolder, but the level of professionalism went hand in hand. People like stuntmen Martin Grace, Bob Simmons, Rémy Julianne, and Willy Bogner always brought their A game to these movies, and it shows. That, coupled with Peter Lamont’s simple, but very effective Production Design, and Derek Meddings, and his amazing model, and in-camera work, make them the real stars of the movie. So much so, that even Roger Moore sometimes takes a back seat while we’re admiring the beautiful craftsmanship behind this movie. On a side note, I actually happen to enjoy what is generally regarded as one of the most bizarre, and out of place scores in a Bond movie. Bill Conti, who came highly recommended by John Barry, who was otherwise engaged, and unable to write the soundrack; comes up with what I think is one of the most energetic and fun soundtracks in the series. It’s, in my opinion, on par with what Marvin Hamlisch had done a few years earlier. You wanna listen to a weird soundtrack? Check out Eric Serra’s score for Goldeneye. Now, that’s an oddball.
This entry is one of the best in the series overall, in my book. It walks away from the campiness and outright silliness that marred Moonraker somewhat. Not that there isn’t any humour. But it’s less prevalent. The movie is played fairly straight, it’s got breathtaking locations (Cortina D’Ampezzo and Corfu had never looked this good on film), amazing stunts and action set pieces, an interesting villain, and a drop-dead gorgeous Bond girl in Carole Bouquet, easily one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen. It’s also one of the best looking movies in the series. Alan Hume does a wonderful job with the Cinematography, with its smoky ambient light, and soft lightning for the most intimate scenes, and bold and crisp colors for the scenes that take place in Italy and Greece. One thing that was definitely beginning to show was Roger Moore’s age. Even though he plays the role with his usual grace, wit, and charm; the producers did him no favours with either his wardrobe, or his leading lady. It’s negligible in the case of Cassandra Harris, but plainly obvious the age gap in the case of Carole Bouquet. He does save the day, however, through sheer charisma; but it was obvious that he was getting too long in the tooth to play the role convincingly. John Glenn also did try to give his Bond a harder edge, something that Moore wasn’t completely on board with; in scenes like the one in which after Bond shoots the windshield of the car in which Locque is trying to run away, the car ends up hanging on the edge of a cliff, and Bond kicks it over. Despite Moore’s misgivings, it was the right way to go, as that is exactly the way the character of Bond would react. As I said, remarkable stunt work and charisma saved the day, and he’ll always be my preferred Bond, regardless.
Thanks for reading.