For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Screenplay by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum
Directed by John Glen
I will always be a fan of the Sean Connery era of James Bond more than the others, but I grew up watching the Roger Moore films as they were released. Far campier and more outrageous, the Moore Bond was reluctant to kill an opponent and much more reliant on charm and grace to overcome an enemy. From Live and Let Die to The Spy Who Loved Me, he proved that he had what it took to bring the Bond films into a new era but while Moonraker was a roaring success, it pushed the envelope into science fantasy so daringly that it looked like the next movie would be pure silliness.
After Moonraker, the studio wanted to strip down the Bond franchise to a leaner and meaner version of the over the top action that it had ascended to. The result is a much darker version of Bond as played by Roger Moore than we had previously seen (as evidenced by his brutal murder of the killer named Locque). Less gadgets, less glamorous cars and a stress on action and adventure made For Your Eyes Only an unusual departure for the franchise that had previously given us laser cannons, crazy boat chases, and finally raygun battles in space.
The film opens with the first mention of Bond’s departed wife Theresa since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as if to set the tone of the movie. When the British anti-nuclear defense system ATAC is stolen, MI-6 contacts an agent in Greece to retrieve it via his undersea salvage operation. However, he is killed by an assassin, leaving his daughter Melina a survivor bent on revenge. When Bond arrives to investigate, he learns that the Russians are funding a local smuggler Milos Columbo (played by Julian Glover of Doctor Who and The Empire Strikes Back fame), whose operation is tightly embedded and aided by an army of killers. Despite the frankly silly sequence in which Bond drops his super nemesis Blofeld down a chimney, the remainder of the film attempts to deal with some strong themes regarding revenge and how violence can overtake anyone seeking it. Bond teams up with Melina and a band of Greek smugglers (led by Fiddler on the Roof star Topol) to retrieve the device.
There are some very ropy plot threads throughout this one that left me wondering what was going on from scene to scene and casting Topol as a gunhappy crook was a bold move to say the least. I am still overjoyed to see Julian Glover (once considered to play Bond) in one of these movies as he shines in the part of a cool and calculating villain. The bit about the oversexed underage ice skater wanting to sleep with a far older Roger Moore still gives me the willies, though.
The movie has plenty of hard-nailed action and seeing Moore take on a tougher approach to the part rather than his typical mugging to the camera (ala the Saint) was interesting. The result was a success and showed that there was interest for many more Bond films to come and of a wider variety than before.