Monday 29 July 2013

A View To A Kill

Keeping Up With The Jones

A View To A Kill 
1985 UK/USA 
Directed by John Glenn
EON Blu Ray Region A/B/C

After the dire spectacle of the previous EON film Octopussy, I had definitely had enough of the Bond franchise. A View To A Kill was released at cinemas when I was 17 years of age and, frankly, I wasn’t going to sit through another film which had the potential to be as bad as that last one. I’d had way too much Moore in the role of a “softened” James Bond anyway. So A View To A Kill is, as far as I can tell, the only Bond movie I’ve still not seen screened at a cinema (although, to be fair, when I did catch it years later, I did at least see it projected as film onto a screen, at a film club).

When I did eventually catch it, probably a couple of years after the next movie in the franchise, I actually didn’t think it was all that bad, for a Roger Moore film and even decided that I liked it almost as much as Live And Let Die at some point. I think, looking back at that initial screening now, I was probably responding to two main things about it almost exclusively... one being that, once you get the “submarine shag pad disguised as floating ice” thing out of the way, along with the truly dreadful opening titles design that followed it, you have a film which is not reliant on any real gadgetry and, the second thing being a script where the detective work, while still just following link by link, is a little less infantile and reliant on the “bad guy” tipping his hand than a few of the previous Moore movies in the series. So I responded quite well.

However, time has not been kind to the movie and looking at it again, I find that it is actually, in fact, quite dire in places and, although director John Glen is as solid and reliable as he always is, I think it’s overall not that much better than the likes of stuff like the dreaded Octopussy. This was also Lois Maxwell’s last film in the Moneypenny role so that’s a bit of a shame. It’s nice, though, that she got out of the office for a bit and even indulged in a mini-tribute to My Fair Lady in an infamous Eliza Doolittle quote when she’s at the racetrack (and no, before you ask, I’m not sure if that line is in Shaw’s original Pygmalion... you tell me).

There’s some nice stuff thrown into the mix in this film but it all seems so tempered with the bad stuff that it comes out as a bit of a non-entity as a Bond entry, to be honest.

You have Christopher Walken really going for it as the main villain, Max Zorin, and he’s almost over the top in his enthusiasm with this larger than life Bond villain. Never mind listening to the dialogue he is asked to deliver (it’s really quite bad in some sequences) and look at the way he uses his body language and the inflection of his words to play what is essentially a “test tube psychopath”... it’s pretty interesting. He really seems to get into it with his plot which, quite frankly, is a little similar to Goldfinger, in concept if not execution. But he’s very watchable and one wishes he had more scenes in the film.

Grace Jones, also, adds an interesting texture to the movie... possibly due to the fact that Moore, among others, allegedly couldn’t get on with her very well. Her villainess is interesting and they play the “Jaws” card from Moonraker with her because, at the end, she sacrifices herself to foil her former lover Zorin’s plan... admittedly due to the fact that he’s double crossed her more than any real change of heart but, since she does deliberately blow herself up, the act can seem to be at least a little like an act of redemption.

Of note, also, is another appearance by running character General Gogol, who appears to be almost shoehorned into the plot this time by being Zorin’s former boss at the KGB. And in the role of Jenny Flex, we have an early appearance by Alison Doody, predating her Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade “Jones-girl” role by four years. The main Bond girl of the piece is Tanya Roberts, who does a more than serviceable job with her role (people may remember her from The Beastmaster and Sheena) but the real find in terms of on-screen Bond girl sexiness is a turn from Fiona Fullerton, all grown up now from the role people might remember her from in the 1972, John Barry scored movie of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. She is seriously steamy in her brief appearance in this film and makes for some good eye candy, if you are that way inclined.

There’s also some really strange stuff happening here. Patrick McNee has a turn in the movie but comes across more as irritating in this than anything else... a far cry from his more famous John Steed personae which, given the usual campy writing associated with the Moore era of Bond films, might have been a better role for the producers to cross over into this film. Steed helping out Bond in a few scenes would have been much more interesting.

There’s also a very bizarre scene where Bond tells a police officer he’s James Bond and the police officer replies that, if he’s James Bond, then the police officer is Dick Tracy.

What the @&$*£!? Really? Let me get this straight in my head. He’s responding to Bond’s identity like Bond is either a) a fictional character or b) so famously well known that he’d be useless as a spy to any government. What kind of metatextual mind buggery is this? It makes no sense unless the director wants to play some Godardian mind game in order to get an odd joke in. I think I’ll just leave that where it lies.

John Barry’s score is, of course, one of the highlights of A View To A Kill. Quite apart from having a title song which is actually pretty energetic and addictive, his score is classic Bond although, to be fair, the action music is very repetitive in this one. I tend to see the main action theme as an homage to his work in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because it kinda reiterates, although not as blatantly, that same descending base line and we first hear it while Bond is on a snowbound, pre-titles mission.

At the film’s close, the card “James Bond will return” comes up, with no hint at what the title will be. This is the first of many times (every Bond film since) where this phrase doesn’t set up the next title. I guess the film’s producers had had enough of getting the title of the next film wrong. It had happened twice in the sixties movies and at the end of Octopussy, they had put the full title of the short story from which this film takes it’s title (and pretty much nothing else from the pages)... From A View To A Kill. So a smart but admittedly disappointing first here. Grace Jones and Christopher Walken do say half of the original title each to make up a mention in the film (reportedly changed to “...from a view”... “to Tokyo” on some Asian prints of the film... which makes absolutely no sense given they’re flying over San Francisco at the time) but, again, this comes across as really lame, it has to be said, and that’s another line of dialogue I wish wasn’t in the film. You can almost see Walken cringe in embarrassment.

All in all... this isn’t a terrible Roger Moore as James Bond film... it just isn’t particularly good either, it has to be said. Lovers of Moore’s Bond probably won’t have a hard time with it (although Moore apparently doesn’t think much of this one at all) and if you’re not that fussed about how your action is delivered, you’ve certainly got a director who can at least deliver it well and keep the pace moving. Not as good as Moore’s Live And Let Die or For Your Eyes Only, though. Duly warned.

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  1. Oh, thank you for seeing this so I don't have to. I thought the Moore-as-Bond films were so silly, but a friend of mine (also from UK) proclaimed up and down that Moore was the best of the Bonds. We have remained friends, luckily--there are enough Bonds out there for all tastes.

    1. Hi Bucko,

      Thanks for stopping by. Nah. The Moore films are so NOT what the Bond films are all about. If you want to see a really good one, check out On Her Majesty's Secret Service. That one's quite amazing.

      Thanks for reading.