A View To A Kill (Ultimate Edition) Review
Deep within Siberia, a disguised sub waits for James Bond, the Union Flag on its upper hatch being the only means of identifying it against the icebergs floating around it. Bond has been dispatched to track down 003 and recover a microchip that had been stolen by the Russians, who are in no mood to give it back. Escaping across the ice, snowboarding while Russian troops give chase, Bond recovers the microchip, makes it to the sub and, with the help of a glamourous assistant, journeys back to England in style.
Unfortunately, when Bond arrives back, the news about the microchip is not good. Comparing it to one made by Zorin Technologies, a contractor for defence systems, Q informs MI6 and the government that there must be a Russian agent within Zorin's factories. Unwilling to lose a valuable lead in the electronic arms race, Bond is instructed to find out what he can about Zorin (Christopher Walken), even to calling on him at one of his many mansions. With the help of Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee), Bond finds that Zorin is an unscrupulous businessman, whose horse breeding is as crooked as his electronics division. But with the shadow of the KGB behind him, Zorin has a sinister plan to boost his wealth, one that does not require any interference from James Bond...
Every Bond film has a moment when it's so utterly shit that you can't quite believe what you're seeing or hearing. Even Goldfinger has one, wherein Bond, showing himself to be less the icon of Swinging London than might have been expected, announces to Jill Masterson that The Beatles ought not to be listened to without earmuffs. Thunderball has Connery dancing to a hot Latin samba with such little rhythm that a baboon on rollerskates would have moved more gracefully whilst much of the plot of You Only Live Twice, which depends upon Connery being operated on to look more Oriental, would have fallen apart had anyone actually given him more than a cursory glance. George Lazenby has to say, "This never happened to the other guy!", which might well be an in-joke but left audiences wondering when he might step out of character once again to inform us of his thoughts on his playing of James Bond. He might well have interrupted his tears at the end of the film to say, "Thanks...but I doubt I'll be back!"
By the time of Diamonds Are Forever, the shit-meter was scoring record highs - A finale on an oil rig? A glaring continuity error involving the Mustang stunt? A dessert being a bomb? Even Wile E. Coyote would have passed on that one! But Roger Moore brought a whole new level of shittiness to Bond that proved beyond all doubt that the days of From Russia With Love were long behind us. The theme from The Magnificent Seven? Moonraker! A pigeon doing a double-take? Moonraker again! An age-old gag with a drunk casting a glance at his bottle of spirits as Bond does something wholly unexpected? The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker! Again! Blofeld falling down a chimney? For Your Eyes Only, to which you can add the 2CV and Roger Moore messing about with a girl (Lynn Holly Johnson) young enough to be his granddaughter. When Smash Hits coined the term Uncle Disgusting, I can only assume it was For Your Eyes Only that they had in mind.
But it was with A View To A Kill that the shit-meter ran so hot that one could probably have used it to power a small Scottish village. Even if you manage to overlook the playing of The Beach Boys' California Girls during the opening snowboarding scene, there's a wealth of problems in the film that followed. Dr. Aubergine, the horse breeder whom Bond meets at the Eiffel Tower could not have looked any more painfully and obviously French had he appeared on a bicycle, in a stripy shirt and with a garland of garlic around his neck. The show that Aubergine and Bond are treated to - a woman whistles while butterflies dangle off fishing line - would have stretched the patience of even the audience of The Good Old Days whilst, as the Bond girl, Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) does no better.
As for the villains, Christopher Walken is suitably unhinged as Max Zorin - his laughing during his final moments on the screen is his finest moment of utter insanity - but the shadow of Grace Jones falls heavily over him, her May Day being amongst the dullest villains in the series. That said, she is something of a mascot for the film, there being no good reason why someone famous for one club classic (Slave to the Rhythm), a song about anal sex (Pull up to the Bumper) and for slapping Russel Harty ought to be in a Bond film other than that the producers were quickly running out of ideas. And so it proves with A View To A Kill being a virtual rewrite of Goldfinger, down to Zorin's plan to flood Silicon Valley - Operation Main Strike - in order to monopolise the microchip market and to his silencing of a business partner who refuses to have any part of his plan.
Add to all that a Bond who was nearer retirement than the prime of his life - Roger Moore was 57 when the film was completed - and Lois Maxwell and Moore flirting with each other like a pair of pensioners who've hit the sherry at a Darby & Joan tea dance and A View To A Kill is quite rightly regarded as one of the low points in the series. What was needed was a change and with Timothy Dalton waiting in the wings, a change is what we got, even to the entire style of the films being sacrificed for a return to the sharp violence of the Connery era.
I can't help but feel that I actually prefer the Special Edition this time around rather than this Ulitmate Edition. Skin tones may well be more natural but I always considered Walken's pallid look more fitting for an Aryan psychopath than the bright, almost sunburned pink that he sports here. Even the blue sky of the Special Edition, as shown in the screenshot below, looks more convincing than the dull colour of the Ulitmate Edition, leading this viewer to conclude that on A View To A Kill, the restoration process isn't what it could have been. Granted, A View To A Kill wasn't ever the best looking of the Bonds, being far too soft, but this Ulimate Edition does it few favours.
MGM Special Edition (Above) / Sony Ultimate Edition (Below)
MGM Special Edition (Above) / Sony Ultimate Edition (Below)
The DD5.1 of the old Special Edition appears to have been remixed but it's difficult to tell the difference, other than a slightly more impressive range in the Ultimate Edition but you have to listen hard to hear the benefits of the remix. Switching between the two DVDs playing on separate systems, this Ultimate Edition may be just a little better but given that the equipment was different, that may be more a hardware issue than one of the audio tracks. The DTS is an improvement on both, however, never offering any more clarity but an improved range and more immediacy.
I am enjoying these newly recorded commentaries from Sir Roger Moore a great deal, particularly when he begins this one with a, "Hello, my name is Roger Moore and I sort of attempt to play James Bond!" How he then goes on to describe his commentary as something like a conversation, telling us that he can't describe the shooting of the film in chronological order, "...because I quite honestly do not remember after this number of years", is a rare display of honesty in these sorts of things but so it follows in that vein. Moore tends to drift and to bob in and out of the production in favour of bits of trivia that draw his attention but he's good nonetheless and often very entertaining.
The other commentary, the one brought over from the old MGM Special Edition, is a cut'n'paste job made up of contributions from various members of the cast and crew with David Naylor bringing some structure and analysis to it. There is a lot of director John Glen, lending this the feel of a director's commentary, but given the nature of it, this feels underwhelming to how a group commentary might have been.
The new content on the second disc includes an Interactive Guide, Deleted Scenes & Expanded Angles and behind-the-scenes looks at the production. The Interactive Guide is, as mentioned before, simply a collection of clips from the film and is of no interest whatsoever. There are seven Deleted Scenes/Expanded Angles, all of which are introduced by John Glen and suggest, despite how incredible this might sound, that A View To A Kill could have been even worse! As for the three features, Float Like A Butterfly Test Footage (1m31s) is a look at preparing for the filming of the terrible butterfly act in the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower while The Streets of San Francisco (3:02mins) is a short feature on the stuntwork in the city as Bond drives a fire truck through it, wreaking havoc as he passes. Finally, though without Barry Norman, Film '85 BBC Report (7:24mins) is a short behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film for the BBC's movie show.
The material brought over from the old MGM Special Edition is actually rather good, amongst the best that was produced for the Bond DVD releases. Inside A View to a Kill (37m26s) is the original making-of and, though short in comparison to some of the others produced for these sets, it's a good feature, interviewing all of those involved in the production and constructing it in such a way that it's a fresh look at the film. The Music of James Bond (21m37s) is a fabulous look at the music produced for the Bond films, from Dr No to Goldeneye and features a good many interviews, not only with John Barry, Monty Norman and David Arnold but also Nancy Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Simon Le Bon and, best of all, Vic Flick playing the James Bond theme on the original guitar.. Speaking of Le Bon, there is also a music video for Duran Duran's theme to A View to a Kill (4m31s), which features the original band members fooling around on the Eiffel Tower pretending, as we've all done at some point, to be spies. Finally, there are the Original Trailers (1m23s, 1m27s and 2m47s), TV Spots (4x 30s) and a Photo Gallery.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 04:56:59