Wednesday, April 29, 2020

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

In a time when fan reactions have become a corrosive influence on pop culture, it's worth remembering fan responses have always influenced creators, Sherlock Holmes being an example. Fans were aghast at the demise of Holmes in "The Final Problem" so Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected the detective. For Your Eyes Only marked a return to the basics, an attempt to recapture the tone of the early Connery films, and in that regard it was successful. 

John Glen made his directing debut and would go to direct three more - moving the series away from its more fantastical tendencies. The restrained tone of For Your Eyes Only is film's greatest strength and weakness. The classic approach compensates for the sometimes workmanlike plot which involves a McGuffin, a missile guidance system the British lose during a submarine accident. Bond's assignment is to track down the system and prevent the Soviets from obtaining it, leading him into the European underworld.

Screenwriter Richard Maibaum drew upon some Ian Fleming short stories and even used some scenes from the novels, for example the scene when Bond and Melina (Carole Bouquet) are dragged through a coral reef was directly taken from Live and Let Die. So we get a film from the world of Ian Fleming, one often filled with smugglers and gangsters with the Cold War as a backdrop.

Most remember the cold open which featured the return of "Blofeld," who once again gets dispatched by Bond. I like how it acknowledges the continuity of the series. It was also there to take a jab at Kevin McClory who tied up the producers in litigation over the creative rights to the SPECTRE concept. 

The theme performed by Sheena Easton remains memorable, staying faithful to the style of the film.

The film also ends with a "cameo" by Margaret Thatcher which was oddly out of tune with the rest of the movie. But everything in between is mostly engaging, a lo-fi entry that dispensed with gadgets and a garish last act, instead we get a realistic confrontation on a mountain with one of Roger Moore's best lines as 007, "That's detente comrade, you don't have it, I don't have it."


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