For Your Eyes Only (Ultimate Edition) Review

I have an odd relationship with For Your Eyes Only. Despite the fact I must have seen the film at least half a dozen times, it always fails to leave any lasting impression at all, so much so that on the rare occasions when I cast my mind to it I find it hard to recall a single scene or event in the entire picture following the daft pretitles sequence. I know all the bullet points about it, of course: this is the Bond where Moore got serious, the one with Julian Glover and Topol and the first Mrs Pierce Brosnan Cassandra Harris, the first one shot and released in the Nineteen Eighties, the first directed by John Glen, the first in which Michael G Wilson contributed substantially to the screenplay, and the first film without Bernard Lee’s M (Lee having died shortly before production began). All that’s fine and dandy, but beyond those solid facts there’s nothing: before sitting down to watch it again for this review all I could muster from my memory was that there’s a skiing bit and a climbing bit and that’s it. Could it be such an insignificant entry into the franchise to have nothing memorable about it?

The answer is yes and no. After the overblown, hyperactive Moonraker it was correctly felt that the Bond movies needed to calm down substantially, or run the risk of disappearing up their own arse in an ever-decreasing pattern of nonsensical action and humourless slapstick. The Seventies had seen each Bond picture trying to outdo the one before in terms of scale and outrageousness, so much so that the character was in danger of becoming a literal laughing stock, one that dropped over the edge from knowing humour to out-and-out parody. To rectify the problem, Cubby Broccoli and stepson Wilson, who after the departure of Broccoli’s original partner Harry Saltzman had increasingly become as integral to the making of the Bond pictures as Broccoli himself, decided to return substantially to the original Fleming source material for the first time since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and, with the advent of a new decade, present a new, more serious incarnation of Bond. Unfortunately this decision, while having many positives to it, also produced a film so determinedly low key that up against the more show-offy titles in the series becomes almost anonymous, so much so that it’s difficult to find a single point in the movie that is recognisably, uniquely Bond. There isn’t that moment, the moment that takes your breath away, a stunt only Bond could perform, a villain only Bond could face or a girl only Bond could have. Taken on its own merits it’s a fine little film, far more intelligent than any other Moore and more satisfying to fans of the literary secret agent, but as an entity in the Bond movie franchise it pales besides its more remarkable brothers.

The script, co-written by Wilson and veteran scribe Richard Maibaum (returning after a one-film absence to pen his eighth Bond screenplay) is an amalgamation of two Fleming short stories, For Your Eyes Only and Risico, both from the FYEO collection. It sees Bond investigating the sinking of a British spy ship which held the ATAC device, a mcguffin that can control missiles on nuclear submarines. He becomes embroiled in a local conflict between two rival Greek smugglers, Aristotle Kristatos (Glover) and Milos Columbo (Topol), each of who accuse the other of planning to sell the ATAC to Communist Russia. Together with Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), the daughter of a couple murdered after her father located the sunken vessel and who now seeks revenge against their killers, Bond must find the wreckage and salvage the device while at the same time working out which of the two smugglers is telling the truth, and which is working for the Soviets.

So from megalomaniac supervillains planning to destroy the world Bond comes crashing back down to earth with a small, relatively simple tale about two rival smugglers on the Grecian coast. The fact it is, relatively speaking, so small scale works in its favour, in that the situation is realistic and, therefore, more involving for the audience. This grounding in reality is heightened by the fact there are some honest-to-god themes running through the script, with characters far more rounded than the cardboard cut outs of the previous Moores. The main theme is one of revenge; all the primary characters, bar Bond, are out to get each other for past wrongs and while this isn’t explored at the same emotional level one would get if one was watching a serious drama as opposed to a James Bond film, it still makes for a pleasing thread. Melina’s desire to murder her parents’ killers is dealt with far more gravitas and conviction than Anya’s in The Spy Who Loved Me while Kristatos and Columbo’s feud is deep-rooted in a shared past of fighting in the Greek Resistance. There is a sense of weariness in the two smugglers’ battle, as though we are coming in during the last act of a Greek tragedy, but unlike the works of Sophocles, we never get to see them emote properly over these things. The script’s low key nature extends even to the feelings of those involved, making the characters far less memorable than they could have been, with the vengeance angle only achieving real power with Melina, the only character who shows real passion about the vendetta she is pursuing. There's also a dab of real world politics thrown in - when Bond destroys the ATAC in front of the Russian Gogol (both men seeming to have lost their chumminess from Moonraker) he cheekily tells him the fact neither of them can have it is in the spirit of detente.

First time director John Glen, who had previously worked on several previous Bonds as editor and Second-Unit Director, handles these films quietly and soberly but is still able to throw in a few light touches, enough to convince people Bond hadn't completely lost his sense of humour. He makes a good stab at his first feature (so much so that he also directed the next four Bonds), making few mistakes and, importantly, giving the actors room to, well, act. In keeping with the aims of Broccoli and Wilson, he presents a calm, smooth movie which, aside from the ski sequence which goes on for longer than is strictly necessary, never dips into lethargy but ensures the more emotional moments of the film are not lost in a mad rush either. The action sequences, while not top notch, are competent and not lacking, with the best probably being the early car chase, in which Bond and Melina are forced to abscond from some heavies in Melina’s little Citroen which gets increasingly battered as it virtually rolls down the hill. There’s also a decent shootout in Kristatos’ warehouse, particularly so for those that have read Risico which has a virtually identical scene. Similarly, the scene in which Bond and Melina are dragged through the water by Kristatos’ ship is taken from Fleming’s Live and Let Die and is also well thought of, although it doesn’t particularly thrill me. Even the underwater battle, often a problem in 007 pictures, is bearable and quite exciting, and Glen even achieves a rather nifty sleight of hand: Bouquet couldn’t actually dive for real because of sinus trouble, so all her scenes are actually shot in slow motion with a tank in front of her and Moore with bubbles rising up it, their hair being blown about by a fan to simulate the effect of the sea (a similar trick was used years before by Gerry Anderson in Stingray.) It works very well, and I doubt anyone would even conceive the actors are not actually underwater.

The underwater sequence is one of the few that is visually interesting; in keeping with the almost placid style of the film, Glen keeps the palate very muted, with the dry yellow sand and green vegetation of Madrid giving way to the white expanse of Cortina before ending with the dry brown backdrop of Greece. You can almost feel the dust hanging in the air, and at the end credits one is almost surprised that one’s face doesn’t need a good wash from the sweat and dirt. It’s not the most attractive film to look at, with the locations hardly the most exotic Bond has ever visited (even the setting of the climax, on top of a mountainous Greek rock, isn’t particularly exhilarating) but at least the visuals reflect the muted tone of the rest of the piece. This explains the presence of Cortina; the one major flaw in the script is that the middle portion, set in the skiing resort, doesn’t advance the story at all and spends too much time worrying about the character of Bibi who is utterly superfluous to the main story, the only advantage being that it adds a bit of brightness to an otherwise arid hue.

The serious tone can't be maintained throughout though. There are a few good (and more importantly, relevant) jokes scattered through, but sadly the two overt moments of humour fall utterly flat. With a rather pleasing symmetry, they fall at the very beginning and end of the film, and both irk, although in different ways. The pretitles sequence is painful; Bond is captured in a remote control helicopter and taunted by an unnamed bald nutter in a wheelchair (hmm, who could that be?) until, as ever, 007 manages to turn the tables, gaining control of the helicopter before scooping up the wheelchair and dumping his antagonist down an industrial chimney. It’s a bizarre sequence, that manages to spit in the face of the drama of Bond’s vendetta against Blofeld (the first shot is of Bond visiting Tracy’s grave) for a cheap gag at the expense of one Kevin McClory. As no doubt most readers of this review will know, Kevin McClory devotes his life to making new versions of Thunderball (for which we should feel pity: is there anything more likely to drive a man to despair than that? It’s not even one of the good ones!) who also claims to have the copyright on SPECTRE’s head honcho. With this opening sequence a very clear signal was being sent: Bond doesn’t need Blofeld, so get stuffed Kev. Which is fine, but in a film purporting to have a new, serious agenda, it is a sequence ill-conceived (although extremely well filmed with some nifty stunt work) with a tone completely at odds with the rest of the film and just very silly indeed - any point it tries to make about setting the film's themes of revenge up is lost by its style. The other faux pas the script makes, fortunately, is far more disposable, is a cameo by “Mrs Thatcher” and husband (played by Janet Brown and John Wells) at the end. Mildly amusing in the way exaggerated impressions of Thatcher always are but again oddly incongruous faced with the rest of the film.

Originally this new approach was also going to bring with it a new Bond. Moore felt he would less comfortable with the serious stylings and, together with the fact he felt he was getting a little too old for the part, considered that Moonraker would be a good moment to leave. Actors considered to take over the role included fellow Saint Ian Ogilvy, Lewis Collins and Michael Billington but in the end Broccoli managed to persuade Moore to come back for another turn. And, even though Moore is right that he is beginning to look a little long in the tooth, this is actually used to the film’s advantage (unlike the following two). This Bond is acknowledged to be a little older than we’re used to, one with extra burdens on his shoulders, whether it be the continued grief for his murdered wife or the responsibility that comes with age towards youth. He’s less flamboyant this time around, with no flashy gadgets at his disposal and fewer one liners to hand. He’s also more vulnerable: unlike previous Moores, Bond really gets beaten about this time and one feels his aches and pains more, most notably in the sequence in which he slowly, painfully, ascends his climbing rope after a hundred foot drop over a cliff edge, a rope which, one feels, Connery would have scooted up like nobody’s business. He’s also more responsible, with a key scene being when he rebuts the advances of Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), a lithesome young skater who climbs into his bed stark naked and invites him to join him. In a moment that defines the Bond of this film, the agent tells her to get dressed and flippantly adds he’ll buy her an ice cream. Agent 007 is getting on, and these days young women are for protecting in an almost paternal way as much as seducing these days. We can also see this in the Moneypenny scene. Lois Maxwell, bless her, has long since entered middle age by the time this film was made, and the flirtation scene between her and Bond is more that of old friends playing through a much-loved habit rather than having any genuine lust behind it. It’s affectionate and nice to see.

Despite his qualms regarding the material, Moore rises to the challenge (no pun intended) fairly well, and manages to get through the picture with little sign of his trademark smirk, with even the eyebrow behaving itself. That said, I don’t feel he ever truly convinces as a cold-hearted assassin; in the scene in which he knocks Kristatos’s sidekick Locque (Michael Gothard) off a cliff, often cited by critics as a sign Moore could be as clinical about such matters as Connery, there’s not nearly the power in the actor’s performance that there is in, say, the thematically equivalent scene in Dr No when Connery’s Bond shoots Dent after questioning him (as opposed to Gothard’s performance, which I remark more upon below). At best Moore is adequate in such moments; it’s in the more fatherly moments, such as when he’s consoling Melina over her parents or reassuring her “We’re not dead yet,” when all seems lost where he’s truly effective. Still, it’s a different side to Moore and a very welcome one; shame the potential for continuing the mature Bond line was squandered in his final two films.

Of his fellow thespians, most accounts of the film will tell you that Glover and Bouquet walk away with the honours, but for me Julian Glover plays exactly the same villain he always plays, from Doctor Who’s City of Death through to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and on, while Bouquet, while not a bad actress, paradoxically feels a little reserved, even in the moments when she's directly grieving for her parents - her rage never quite convinces, and at times she seems far more sad than angry about what has happened. Instead, it’s two secondary players who surprisingly impress the most, namely Gothard as Locque and Johnson as Bibi. Such is the subtly menacing constant presence of Locque that one only realises he hasn't had a line in the entire movie when he's teetering on the edge of the cliff that spells his doom and his formerly inscrutable, coldly Gestapo-like façade crumbles in naked panic. He’s the most threatening thing in the first half of the film, far more so than Kriegler (John Wyman), the Aryan super strong man who comes across as a far less effective version of Red Grant from From Russia With Love. Locque’s panic is a little-noted but nonetheless striking moment, far more so than Moore’s contribution to the scene. Similarly, Johnson usually falls in the shadow of Bouquet but lights up the screen far more than the French actress does. Although suffering from the fact her character is a waste to time and at times behaves as though she’s wandered in from one of the worst Moores (this ingénue falls for Bond within seconds of meeting him, and seems to develop a strong attachment to him even though they only share a day or so together), she’s a perky little actress who throws herself wholeheartedly into her inconsequential role and enlivens what is otherwise a fairly dour atmosphere in the film. The character was crowbarred into the script precisely for this reason; the decision is questionable but one can’t take away from the actress herself. Of the other leads, Topol is his usual charmingly charismatic self but isn’t on screen long enough for his innate appeal to shine through. Only once, during the scene in which he and Bond first meet, does he get any chance to be himself, which he does, and his appearance other than that can only count as a wasted opportunity.

Altogether it’s a decent little picture. There isn’t a bad performance to be had, Moore is bearable as a serious Bond, there’s some intellect to be found in the script and overall it works as a very convincing, small scale spy film. However in its eagerness to convince everyone that it is taking things very seriously once again it forgets that every so often Bond has to be outrageous, or he no longer remains unique and becomes just another spy in just another movie. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this film, but there’s nothing remarkable either, nothing extraordinary or noteworthy. The villains aren’t sufficiently memorable, the girl is rather flat and there aren’t any of the breathtaking stunts that often help define a Bond picture (which is sad, especially given that Paolo Rigoni died during the filming of the ski chase), while in the absence of Ken Adam you’ll be hard pushed to recall a single set once the closing credits roll. The title song, sung by Sheena Easton (who also appears visually in the opening titles, a first), sums the film up as a whole; quiet, pleasant to listen to, but eminently forgettable (although it was a huge hit at the time, even garnering an Academy Award nomination). I’ve used the expression several times in the review already but “low key” really does sum the experience up, and while that’s not a bad thing, it’s not quite Bond either. It certainly doesn’t come close to From Russia With Love or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which it really wants to emulate. If Bond had never descended into juvenilia in the Seventies and had continued to adhere to the Fleming originals, I suspect this would be seen as a deeply average entry into the canon. As it is, it's well above par in that regard, but in every other it remains average. Good, but not nearly as good as some critics will make out, and I suspect that within a week of finishing this review I'll have forgotten it all over again.

The Disks
The film is presented in an uncut format in its original 2.35:1 ratio.

The style of this release is identical to the previous sixteen Ultimate Editions, with very stylish menus. Featuring a background that mixes up a typical Binder opening sequence with a techno-chrome finish, complete with silhouetted girls and guns rolling by, they capture a perfect Bond atmosphere which, together with the movie’s soundtrack accompaniment, put one in the mood for the film immediately, as do the clips that run in gun-barrel-shaped logos that drift slowly across the screen. Each menu has its own entrance motif, from an X-Ray shot of a bullet entering the barrel of a gun through to the world itself, being danced on by, of course, another female. Disk One holds the film itself and commentary, Disk Two all other extras.

For a look at more of the menus click here.

The film itself, and all extras bar one, are subtitled.

Very nice. I don’t actually recall whether I ever saw the Special Edition disk (see what I mean? This film draws a complete blank from me) but this is far clearer than some of the UEs I've seen, with a nicely crisp picture and a transfer that handles the choked atmosphere of the early scenes just as well as the brightly white Cortina sequences and the final third in Greece.

Same as the other Moores I've seen, perfectly fine. The skiing sequences come across particularly well this time, but again the DTS is not dramatically superior to the 5.1 and not worth an upgrade.

Disk Two is divided into several sections, namely Declassified: M16 Vault, 007 Mission Control, Mission Dossier, Ministry of Propaganda and Image Gallery, and these are delineated below. The reviews have been divided into Old Extras and New Extras, indicating which have appeared on a previous release.

New Extras

Good old Roger Moore. By this time he’s clearly struggling with giving commentary after commentary, freely admitting at the start of this one this won’t be a commentary about onset anecdotes because he can’t remember a lot of things, and instead it’ll be just a general one about Bond and himself but while it’s a bit rambly in places it’s also very amusing and he’s great fun to share a couple of hours with. After all, how many Bond commentaries will you find that mention Spiceworld?

Declassified: MI6 Vault

Bond in Greece (5:54) Michael G Wilson talks over some behind-the-scenes footage during the shoot in Greece. The highlights, if you can call it that, are seeing Topol getting hit by some masonry and some local monks, annoyed at the presence of the film crew, erecting plastic sheets to disrupt filming.

Bond in Cortina (4:16) The same as the above, only this time the sun-drenched locales are replaced with a colder, whiter outlook. Not as exciting, in that in this footage nothing exciting happens, it’s just watching a bunch of people working on a film set. Wilson, as before, provides the narrative.

Neptune’s Journey (3:31) And the same again, but this time watching the filming of the underwater sequences with the Neptune submarine. Wilson’s narration this time details what happened to the Neptune once the shoot was finished which, together with the underwater footage, makes this the most interesting of these three featurettes.

John Glen Intro - Death of Locque (1:04) Why isn’t this attached to the extra immediately below? This is just Glen talking about the filming of the scene - hardly a featurette in its own right!

Death of Locque - Multi Angle (0:40) And here is said death of Locque. Not an interactive multi-angle featurette in that this just shows the two different angles on screen, without the ability to switch between them (not that, given the scene’s brevity, you would have any particular wish to).

Deleted Scenes Glen introduces two deleted scenes, the first of which is titled “Joining Forces” (1:00) and sees Bond and Melina sussing each other out, and the second “Hockey 007 Style” (1:57) which sees a load of snow being dumped on Charles Dance.

Expanded Angles - Death of Locque (0:39) I’m getting a bit sick of Locque’s death now. This version is just a re-edited version using different camera angles. Yawn.

007 Mission Control
This feature consists of series of clips from the film, organised into various categories, namely 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch and Exotic Locations. Most of these main categories lead to a submenu, in which individual character clips can be selected - for example, the Allies category lists Tanner Chief of Staff, Miss Moneypenny, Q and Columbo. Each character has multiple clips, but no collection lasts more than a few minutes. The majority of this is utterly superfluous: does anyone really need to see all of Tanner’s finest moments collected together in one easy-to-watch package? Or all the fight scenes for that matter? Added to this the fact that some clips are repeated multiple times, and you have a section on the disk you can almost completely avoid. Almost: the two useful contributions being the chance to watch the opening sequence without any credits overlaid on them, and the Exotic Locations section, which is a five minute sequence of clips accompanied by a commentary from Maud Adams in which she disperses interesting trivia about the places we are seeing. These two aside, this smacks of padding the disks out.

Old Extras

The two commentaries from the Special Edition are ported across. The first is another of the enjoyable cut'n'paste jobs and is full of interesting anecdotes from Glen and various members of his cast. This only drags with some fairly lengthy pauses and whenever Lynn-Holly Johnson burbles on.

The second is more of the same, but for me was more enjoyable, principally because of the contributions from Derek Meddings. Meddings is one of the many production members who contribute to this more technical track, although there's still time for people such as cameraman Willy Bogner to pay tribute to Broccoli.

Mission Dossier

Inside For Your Eyes Only (28:32) Another of the splendid Patrick Macnee-narrated documentaries that are a regular highlight of Bond disks. Covering all aspects of production, with contributions from, amongst others, Moore, Glen, Wilson and Topol (who looks younger now than he did in the film!) this is very good. In fact, there’s only one question: what made 2nd Unit Director Arthur Wooster so nervous? He seems petrified during his interview.

Animated Storyboard Sequence - Snowmobile Chase (1:10) In the final film, of course, the chase is on motorbikes and not snowmobiles. This is the original version in storyboard form, set to some horrible music.

Animated Storyboard Sequence - Underwater (1:41) Interspersed with the relevant clips from the movie, this is set to slightly less horrible music and is therefore an improvement on the above.

Sheena Easton Music Video (2:36) Average Bond video, which looks a bit like a half-finished pre-titles sequence; the girls in silhouette are there, and some vague background design, but it’s not been filled in.

Ministry of Propaganda
A theatrical trailer, three TV trailers, and two radio trailers are included here. The visual trailers are virtually identical to each other (good news: they all contain Locque’s death, in case you haven’t had enough of it yet) and all are extremely lengthy for trailers - all but one clocking in at over three and a half minutes.

Image Gallery
I’ve included this in the Old Extras category as there was a Stills Gallery on the SE but not having done a picture-by-picture comparison I can’t say whether it’s the same stills gallery. Lots of categories to be found in this section - The Filmmakers, Portraits, The Pre-Credits Helicopter Sequence, Music and Titles, Gonzalez’ Villa/Deux Cheveux Chase, Cortina & Ski Action, Willy Bogner’s Ski Action Unit, The “Underwater” Scenes, Michael Wilson’s Cameo, Meteora, 007 Meets the Prime Minister, Donald O’Connor Visits the Set, Doubling 007 and Around the World With 007 all of which are pretty self-explanatory. I’m not usually a fan of image galleries, but this is a rather good one, with plenty of behind-the-scenes material and almost none of the usual selection of actual stills from the movie.

Sorry, which was this again? Another good package mind, although again I don’t think the new extras are worth upgrading for if you already have the SE, with the Macnee documentary, as is so often the case, being the highlight.

6 out of 10
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Last updated: 26/06/2018 21:58:33

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