For Your Eyes Only today. (Though, I also saw In the Fade in the theater and watched The Wizard of Lies at home.) I've written about this film before. I wrote:
Plotwise, like any Bond film, it is all over the place. But, that is what Bond films do. And, as a kid, sitting down for more than an hour and a half [correction, this movie is just over two hours], that's kind of what you need. Star Wars works because it jumps from location to location, setpiece to setpiece, introduces characters, kills them, introduces more. Throw in a session or two of offscreen sex with different partners, some complex Cold War politics and spy machinations, and you've got a Bond film.
I wrote further about how parts of the plot (like Bond going to Spain) end up being pointless. But, the best part, when I was talking about how much more of a man James Bond (here, Roger Moore) is than any other man (cinematically, anyway), was this:
And, he kicks a car down a cliff. Rambo never kicked a car down a cliff. John Matrix never kicked a car down a cliff. John McClane never kicked a car down a cliff.
These are the measures of what it meant to be a man that I had as a kid. In movies, anyway. Throw in Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, a handful of Tim Conway and Don Knotts characters, a whole lot of Dean Jones characters, and, well, wade back through these past few months of blog entries about the movies of my childhood, and you can see the building blocks.
Bond is all skills in this particular film, not too many fancy gadgets--his best here is a car that blows up when you try to break into it. (In fact, the best "gadget" of this film is how the seemingly innocent seaplane that brings Melina to see her parents circles around and of course, it's got a machine gun under its belly now. (It also makes the exact same diving airplane sound that the helicopter made in the cold open, but I wrote last time about this film's generic sound effects.) The motorcycles in the snow later also have hidden guns. Though, to be fair, the MacGuffin of this film is a gadget, so I guess the rest of the film (i.e. Bond) didn't need them. Or were gadgets a later thing for Bond? I only know a few of the Bond films really well. The ones we had on video and watched over and over. (And, I also used Live and Let Die as one of my case studies for a paper about the representation of Voodoo in film, once, so there's that.) I've seen (I think) every one of them at least once, but so many of them blend together that I have trouble remembering when certain events happen.
Something I never put much thought into when I saw this film back in '81 was that the cold open is both a clever link to the revenge plot Melina is intent on later and a cheap disposal of a major villain. I mean, imagine if, say, instead of killing Jabba the Hutt in the opening of Return of the Jedi, instead Vader caught up with all of them and they killed him and we still had an entire movie to go. Quite anticlimactic. (The death of Snoke in The Last Jedi is close, except it is placed farther into the film, so his death is not an arbitrary disposal but a deliberate plot point to set other gears into motion.)
(There's a nice moment when Bond meets Ferrara (John Moreno) at Tofana. Bond does his usual thing of adding his first name after saying his last, and Ferrara seems almost gleeful at being offered a first name, like every other spy he has ever worked with has used just a last name or a code name. He replies quite happily, "Luigi.")
Blofeld's unnamed appearance here, and his quick death, were of course part of the legal dispute over Bond that resulted in Never Say Never Again, an out-of-continuity (if Bond films can even be said to have continuity) Bond film. What better way to say "fuck you" to the producers who are fighting you over story and character rights than to throw one of those characters into an industrial chimney?
Great action sequences, even if the setups don't always make sense. World-famous biathlon Kriegler (John Wyman) just happens to be friends (sort of) with Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson) and a KGB agent, but even though he is world famous, no one recognizes him when he tries to shoot the guy making the ski jump, or when he crashes his motorcycle through a crowded patio. Random hockey players just happen to also be guys who want Bond dead. But they don't even try to kill him, just hit him a few times... I suppose someone could have just paid them to rough up the guy out on the ice talking to Bibi, but that is a setup that is easily covered with a single line of dialogue. Locque (Michael Gothard) shows up with dune buggies and makes a big thing when a sniper rifle would do just fine (and was seemingly the go-to plan at the ski jump).
Backtracking, because I've been reading, apparently the lack of gadgets here was a deliberate choice, as was the focus on plot and tension (especially after the science-fiction-angled Moonraker). Roger Moore had apparently been reluctant to play Bond a fifth time (though he would go on to do two more Bond films after this one). And, Timothy Dalton was already in the running as a replacement (and is a lot older than I thought; purportedly, he was offered the part in 1969 to replace Sean Connery after You Only Live Twice; to be fair, Dalton thought he was too young for the part at 25. He was offered the part again after Diamonds Are Forever). When Moore was going to retire from the part after Moonraker, Dalton was offered the part again. But, Moore opted in and Dalton had to wait another six years. And, by then, Pierce Brosnan was now in the running (after Sam Neill had screentested for the part as well), but he could not take on the role just yet because of his commitment to Remington Steel. And, though I was only 11 when The Living Daylights came out, I was a regular viewer of Remington Steele, would have loved to see Brosnan in the part and knew all about him being in the running. I did not however know about Sam Neill but that might just be because prior to Jurassic Park I don't think I really knew who he was. Dalton, of course, I knew from Flash Gordon. I was paying attention to this stuff already by 1987. In 1981, not so much.
Just wait until I get to Octopussy and Return of the Jedi in 1983--that is when I was definitely starting to pay attention to behind-the-scenes stuff.