MGM/Sony has chosen a strange soupcon of classic Bond movies to release to Blu-ray first, which mixes a little of the older Connery outings with a couple or Moores and one Brosnan. I’m not sure why they did this, but it’s a very interesting mix.
For Your Eyes Only came along at an interesting point in the franchise’s development, coming directly after the gadget-fests of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. It marked a real turning point, with previous Bond editor and second unit lead John Glen getting into the director’s chair, a place he’d remain throughout the end of the Moore era and all of Dalton’s stint. His contribution was a much edgier feel to Bond, and this movie also reflects the historical changes that occurred as the Cold War finally began to warm.
So how does this 007 adventure stand the test of time?
I’d say that of the Moore Bond’s this is actually one of my favourites, well above the rubbish that was construed in View to a Kill and Moonraker. But watching it again highlighted strange tonal inconstancies that I’d previously not been so aware. It has a serious start at the grave of Bond’s wife, and then swings wildly comical with its debunking of Blofeld. In fact that sequence is so heavily pastiche it actually makes Austin Powers a feather light satire in comparison.
Thus, through the movie it pitches uncontrollably from being dark and disturbing to satirical and coy. From the grim demise of the Havelocks to the 2CV car chase. I can’t quite rationalise a movie that has the violent death on the beach of the ‘Countess’, and Janet Brown impersonating Margaret Thatcher in it!
The Moore Bonds did mix more comedy into their blend, but given very personal and graphic nature of the deaths in this one, it seems curiously schizophrenic. When I first saw the film I recall being slightly appalled by the death of Emile Locque, who – while a nasty piece of work – is dispatched while he’s entirely defenceless seated in a Mercedes on the edge of a cliff. Bond kills people for a living, but usually while they’re trying to kill him.
That said, for me the film works best when it’s dark, and the light comedy interludes entirely flush whatever mood was being created. I just wish John Glen had exhibited the nerve with EON support to reboot the franchise in the fashion they eventually did with Daniel Craig, as is hinted here. Had he done that we’d have being saved from some of the worst excesses that came later. If you cut out the jokes and eye-brow raising close-ups, this had the potential to be a tight action adventure which for a Bond movie is strangely plot driven.
I’d also like at this point to mention the delicate subject of Roger Moore’s age, as this is the first film to my mind where it really starts to become a big issue. Even the scriptwriters accepted that getting him into bed with the enthusiastic ‘Bibi’ was a stretch, but frankly his interest in Melina Havelock is beyond borderline creepy. His accumulating years also results in more back-projection close-ups of Moore during action scenes than before, although I’m not for one moment suggesting they should have hung him on the outside of a helicopter, for example. To his credit Moore had not wanted to do this one, citing his age as an issue, but that didn’t stop him eventually agreeing to this and the two that came after. In retrospect, maybe he should have stopped with this one.
Another slight anachronism is the music. The Sheena Easton title is unspectacular but inoffensive, but some of the other work that Bill Conti did for this movie in the incidental department now seems wildly dated. He keeps inserting what sounds like electro-pop jingles from an entirely different era. Why? There is however one musical interlude I really like where he uses a brief twist of “Engulfed Cathedral” from Debussy’s first book of Préludes as an intro to the sky-jump sequence. That was cool, some of the rest arrives like an end-of-the-pier Hammond organ recital.
In performance terms it’s a mixed bag. Moore dials in his accomplished if slightly hammy Bond, while Carole Bouquet as Melinda is great to look at if not exactly displaying an emotional range as such. Better work comes from Julian Glover as nemesis Aristotle Kristatos, a fine actor who never really had the parts his abilities genuinely warranted.
Topol turns up to play himself, a character called Milos Columbo in this film, as he does in almost everything he’s in. But he resists the temptation to sing or dance for once, thankfully. For Bond historians Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn both make appearances as Moneypenny and Q respectively, but there is no ‘M’ at all due to the unfortunate death of Bernard Lee just before filming began. For before-they-were-famous spotters, Charles Dance is one of the heavies in the alpine chase.
So how does this look on Blu-ray? Very nice, in fact well beyond ‘nice’. Where it really shines is in the location work, especially those sequences set in Greece and the Alps. The stunning vistas are well captured, and the restoration work by Lowery Digital looks like it was worth every dollar paid for it. My only concern is that seeing it so pristine tends to highlight the location vs. studio shots, given the discontinuity of lighting. This discord is brought into fine focus by an ‘underwater’ sequence where Bond and Melinda are in scuba gear. With this restoration it’s entirely obvious that they’re not even underwater, and have been shot in slow motion with a fan blowing to simulate the water moving the actress’ hair. It’s explained in the extras that this was done because the gorgeous Carole Bouquet has a sinus issue that prevented her diving. But whatever the reason, the exceptional quality of this transfer has its downsides, I’ve concluded.
In terms of the extras this shows the same dedication presented in the other Blu-ray Bond releases. In this one they’re rebuilt the ‘Inside For Your Eyes Only’ featurette in HD, and also some deleted scenes and alternate angles. It’s got no less than three commentaries, including one with just Sir Roger Moore giving his perspective. Shame they couldn’t convince Connery to be so forthcoming for his movies.
Overall if you like the Moore era this is one of his better outings, and its restoration is excellent on Blu-ray. I’m sure they’ll do an ultimate edition at some point with even more extras, but for most people there is more than enough on this disc.