"Try to keep it up, and ease it in" — looking back on For Your Eyes Only
After the outlandishness of Moonraker, it was time to rein it in. The result was For Your Eyes Only (FYEO): one of the elite films in the James Bond series and arguably, Roger's most fantastic outing as 007.
By the 1980s, Roger was playing hardball over money and only committing himself to one picture contracts. Other actors were screen-tested, hence why Bond visits his wife's grave in the pre-titles sequence (PTS) to establish some continuity for Roger's replacement.
Coupled with the killing of the 'Wheelchair Villain' — who couldn't be named Blofeld for legal reasons — the PTS was to assure the audience that it's the same British agent throughout — despite the four different actors. Roger did, of course, return, and the scene was kept in.
With so many jarring discontinuity holes in the series, this attempt at continuity was something the producers wouldn't give much attention to until the Daniel Craig era, who isn't the same man as the other five actors.
With a non-spectacularly partially sunny day in London, the church scene sets the tone for John Glen's 'workmanlike' approach to directing the non-action scenes, which work understatedly well. It's also two fingers up to Kevin McClory before he got to use the character in the non-Eon Bond film: Never Say Never Again.
FYEO is wall to wall breath-taking stunts, directed by the Don of action: Glen. Despite being an action-heavy film, at no point does the rest of the film's elements suffer.
The supporting performances are all exquisite with rich characterisation, and there's no dodgy Bond girl performance from Carole Bouquet. The death of her parents is one of the many hard-hitting violent scenes. Countess Lisl von Schlaf's at the hands of Emile Locque is also brutal.
There's plenty of Ian Fleming throughout. One thing that does stray from Ian Fleming is the portrayal of Bill Tanner. He's supposed to be Bond's closest friend in the series, but James Villiers plays him as the opposite. Still, Villiers is magnificent, and if I could've brought back any actors from the series who only made one appearance, it would’ve been him.
The plot and main villain are extraordinarily ordinary. Aris Kristatos has no desire for world domination or to start WWIII; he's simply a selfish crook who steals and sells. With a colossal cohort of thuggish and psychotic killers who work for him, he gets others to do his dirty work while slipping off in the background.
We also see some different elements to Roger's Bond. He's bashed around a lot and doesn't rely on gadgets or pushing buttons. Despite being well into his 50s, Roger doesn't look too old to play 007. You really do believe that is Roger's Bond who can drive, ski, shoot, jump, fight, climb, outthink and outsmart others better than anyone else.
There's no attempt to hide Bond's advancing years, and he seems more world-weary and father-like. He even resists Bibi Dahl's sexual advances; a '70s Roger Moore Bond would've undoubtedly jumped into bed with her.
When Claus and Locque stalk Bond up and then down the ski jump, Bond genuinely looks frightened, as if there's no way out and the Grim Reaper is finally closing in on him. The silent stares by Charles Dance and Michal Gothard are just superb. We even hear Roger's Bond panting and wheezing as he chases Locque's car up the stone steps — a sign that age is catching up with him.
The Maggie and Denis finale is a guilty pleasure, and we also get to hear possibly the rudest song ever recorded. The Bill Conti-penned Make It Last All Night, performed by Rage (whatever happened to them?), makes Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax sound like a nursery rhyme.
Conti's super score underpins what would've been a high for Roger Moore to bow out on. Yet we'd see him for two more films yet, where there would be no attempts to play on Bond's advancing years, but instead: cover it up.
Copyright © 2022 J W Emery Ltd. All rights reserved.
Joe is Editor of For Bond Fans Only and a writer by trade. When he's not watching Bond, he can be found listening to The Beatles and worrying about West Ham. You can find him on Twitter @JWEmeryLtd