For Your Eyes Only
When you look at the collective art of cinema there is one franchise that has stood the test of time. Most series of movies are identified with the decade that they were released. This is not possible for the films involved with the world’s greatest spy, James Bond. He has lasted as a character longer than any other in film; going on forty six years at this point. With such a long enduring series of films it was only natural for changes to occur at fairly regular intervals. One of the biggest was in 1973 when Roger Moore took over the iconic role from its film originator, Sean Connery. It took awhile for Moore to find his rhythm and remake the character in his own image by 1981 with the release of ‘For Your Eyes Only’ he had it down pretty well. This film was his fifth time up at bat; he would go on for an additional two Bond movies after this one. The fans have come to grips with the new Bond and the concurrent changes that entailed. These films were campier than the original movies. It was now part of enjoying a Bond movie to have a few laughs between the all out action sequences. Of all the 22 Bond flicks we have so far this is one of the more enjoyable mostly because it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. It is meant to be the good old fashion thrill ride that was less prevalent in the early eighties. Bond, as always, was the definition of the phrase ‘smooth operator’. He would joke in the face of mortal danger and go from a tumble with the bad guys to a romantic time with the Bond girl of the moment. For those collecting these films for their home theater there is another new release from MGM/UA. They have several editions of this film already out but this one has been included in the six that have been chosen for release as an ultimate edition. It is available either in DVD or Blu-ray and as an individual film or in a set of three. Which ever way to decide to go this is the best looking and best sound presentation yet.
The script for this was done by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson. Unlike other Bond flicks this was not even loosely based on a novel by Ian Fleming. It came from a couple of short stories that Fleming did about Bond. Maibaum is the most prolific of the Bond screen writers. He was responsible for 13 of the 22 films so far. He was there at the beginning with ‘Dr. No’ and ‘From Russia with Love’. He helped usher in the age of gadgets with ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’ as well as making the change from Connery to Moore possible adapting to their different styles of acting. Maibaum was the heart of most of the Bond stories shown on the screen helping establish this time honored franchise. Simply put he was brilliant. Wilson was his partner on this and many other Bond films. After the untimely death of Mr. Maibaum Wilson would take the franchise into the following four films continuing the traditions set by Maibaum. In many ways this was a return to the old school Bond. The gadgets were present but not as elaborate as in other films. There was more of a dependency on Bond’s wit and skill than devices. It is also a story that harkens back to the perennial favorite theme for spy flicks; the cold war. By the eighties the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union was on the decline. Still, the public saw the Russian espionage network as a threat to our safety. The KGB makes a come back here and it shows. Moore has stated that this was his favorite Bond film; a sentiment that is shared by many fans.
Bond films are usually classified by the actor in the main role. It is also important to realize that there are eras for the writers and directors in this franchise as well. This was the first film in the John Glen directorial era. This was the first of five Bond films that he would direct; more than any other director in the series. Glen would finish the Moore age of Bond and see the films through the two subsequent Timothy Dalton flicks. One of the best things about his style is how he was able to infuse the right amount of tongue and cheek humor into a serious espionage movie. He has a tight style here that propels the film into the definition of what a Bond movie should be. It may be one of the more overlooked of all these films but it certainly is one of the best. Audience for the most part don’t realize how difficult it is to direct a stunt heavy film like this. It is like being both a ringmaster at a circus and drama coach all at the same time. Glen has mastered this art and this is one of his finest moments.
When the film begins Bond is at the graveside of his wife. He leaves and gets into a helicopter only to find it is remotely controlled and the people in charge are not concerned with his safety. Bond manages to gain control and uses the copter to scoop up the man with a remote, presumable his arch nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He picks him up and dumps him in a nearby smokestack. After the well known title sequence we go to the Ionian Sea were a little fishing ship is floating. It is actually a secret vessel working for MI6 using Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC) to guide submarines. The ship runs into an old mine and sinks. A marine archaeologist, Sir Timothy Havelock (Jack Hedley) is asked to find the sunken ship. Before he can file his report he and his wife are murdered. Bond is assigned the task of retrieving the ATAC so it doesn’t fall into the hands of the Soviets. If the Soviets got their hands on the ATAC then the whole submarine fleet would be compromised. Bond tracks down the murderer, Hector Gonzales (Stefan Kalipha) but what he is really after is who ordered the hits. Bond winds up working his way up the chain of command realizing that it was a KGB plot. Bond crosses paths with the daughter of the murdered couple, Melina (Carole Bouquet) who is after revenge. Unlike a lot of actresses who have played the Bond girl this one could act. She has a range of emotion that helps to make this film a serious contender outside its genre. The man in the direct employ of the Soviets is Aris Kristatos (Julian Glover) and it is now up to Bond to keep him from getting the prize.
Like the other Bond films in this latest home video release by MGM/UA this one is done to perfection. Many sets claim the title ‘ultimate’ but few live up to it; this one does. The DVD and Blu-ray offer the best video around. The Blu-ray version features both the original Dolby Surround sound track and the new re-mastered DTS HD audio. Like the other members of this release set there are enough extras too keep everyone happy. You may not think of this when you think of Bond but you should.