For Your Eyes Only
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1960)
Written by: Ian Fleming
The Bond short stories are nothing if not slight. They were typically written for a tv series that never got off the ground, so I guess that explains the fact that they’re very one-note adventures.
For Your Eyes Only, though, is a step above the others that I’ve read so far. It actually seems to be sort of “about” something: The difference between right and wrong killing. Is it wrong to kill a killer? Or is it just like putting down a bad animal?
You probably know Bond/Fleming’s view.
Two old British folks are hanging out at their Jamaican home. They’ve lived there their whole lives and the property has been in the man’s family for generations. The Havelocks have no intention of selling the property to anyone, much less the two strange men who burst into their home telling them that they have all the money in the world. The men keep pressing until, finally, the pull guns. They eventually kill the old couple, telling them that they’re going to go after the new owner: their daughter.
It turns out that M was the couple’s best man in 1925. The killers were Cuban, but they worked for an ex-Nazi. The man has made a habit of taking what he couldn’t have by force. Now he’s fled to his wooded property just south of Canada in the mountains of Vermont.
M wants to take these men out…but is it ethical? Is he too close to the job to see straight? He basically implores Bond to take that responsibility off of his shoulders and take it on himself. When Bond says that killers should be killed, M gets a relieved look on his face and pulls out a file folder. He stamps it with the title of the story and hands it over.
Cut to Bond flying to Canada. He meets up with a Mountie to get all of the equipment that he needs to kill the men, including a hunting license (not in his name, of course) and some sort of walnut varnish to cover himself in. (Don’t ask.) He’s told that the Canadian government is at his disposal, but only in an unofficial capacity. If he’s caught, they know nothing about him.
He slips his way over the American border into Vermont and spends time in the mountains. He watches the killer’s house and contemplates the mysteries of life: “Will the birds one day lose their fear of man? Why don’t they manufacture something out of the silver bark of birch trees?” My favorite: The best things in America are chipmunks and oyster stew.”
On his way back in the morning he is accosted by a young woman (“could be a beaver”) who turns out to be (surprise!) Judy Havelock there to kill the men. She is almost as cold and calculating as Bond, but he still needs her out of the picture so that he can do his job. Unfortunately, she threatens him with her bow and arrow anytime he tries to put her out of commission. It’s just not in the cards to do this alone, it seems. She HAS to kill her parents’ killer.
Very well, then. Let her do it. Bond will watch and, if she survives, give her a big spanking.
She runs off to her hidden vantage point where she can watch the killers swim with two prostitutes and a couple of Tommy guns. Bond runs off to his own. Eventually, the Nazi is having fun with everyone and goes to dive into the water. He jumps and a flash of silver flies at him. His guards know they saw something, but aren’t sure what until his body floats to the surface. He’s dead.
The guards go crazy, shooting everywhere. Bond takes them out one by one, each one harder than the last. When he’s killed the last one, he goes to look for Judy. He finds her bleeding and crying by a tree. She’s been winged, but it’s not bad. Her psyche is worse off.
“I didn’t know it would be like that.”
“But I told you this sort of thing was a man’s work.”
The two run off to get away from the eventual troopers. They’re going to stay in a motel. She’s never done that before.
Like I said, it’s a slight, but still interesting story. Judy is pretty hard for a literary Bond girl and does her job well, even if she sort of falls apart at the end. What Fleming doesn’t think of is that many men fall apart this way the first time they kill…I mean, if they have to do that sort of thing. It’s not an easy thing, killing a human being.
From what I’ve heard.
If I were to introduce someone to the world of Fleming’s Bond, I might do worse than to give them this story to start with. It may be the best written thing of his that I’ve read so far and, as I said, it actually seems to have sort of a point.
Oh yeah, and it would get them ready for the misogyny that they’re about to embark on if they decide to keep reading.
Does it have anything to do with the movie? We’ll see…
CONQUESTS: Judy Havelock
GLOBE HOPPING: Jamaica (not Bond, just the story); Canada; Vermont
Directed by: John Glen
Written by: Richard Maibaum/Michael G. Wilson
Based on stories by: Ian Fleming
For Your Eyes Only is actually probably the only Bond movie that is REALLY based on a short story…two of them, even! (I could actually find out that this is wrong. I still have two short stories to read that have had movies based on them. Stay tuned.) If you take the short stories For Your Eyes Only and Risico (both from the same collection originally) and add a dash of the Live And Let Die novel, you get this movie.
The movie opens with EON Productions big F-U to Kevin McClory. We’ll learn a bit more about him when I get my review of Thunderball up, but the brief rundown is that he is the reason that they had to stop using Blofeld and SPECTRE as an enemy for Bond.
James Bond (Roger Moore) starts the film off in a morose mood. He’s visiting the grave of his wife, Teresa. Her headstone, of course, says, “We Have All The Time In The World.” (More on her when I get to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.) He’s interrupted by a priest coming out to tell him that there’s a helicopter waiting for him. It’s apparently an emergency.
“It usually is.”
After he gets in the air, the pilot is killed and Bond finds out that he’s locked in the back seat. The copter is being piloted remotely by a rather familiar looking bald man in a wheelchair with a rather familiar looking white cat. (We never see his face.) He tells Bond exactly what’s going to happen: he’s going to die.
Of course, Bond gets out onto the rail of the copter and manages to take control. He swoops down, picks up the offending cripple and neatly drops him into a waiting smokestack. Blofeld…I mean…the bald man is gone forever.
(The factory, by the way, is the same one that Kubrick used to turn into Vietnam a few years later for Full Metal Jacket.)
The opening credits sequence is the typical “silhouettes of naked ladies dancing around with guns while Bond shoots at things,” but there’s a huge difference here. This is the first time that the singer (Sheena Easton) actually shows up in the credits sequence. Why? Not really sure, but there it is.
I’ve always liked the theme song to this movie. Yeah, it’s schmaltzy 80s balladry, but it’s pretty good schmaltzy 80s balladry. And, even if it wasn’t written by John Barry, it at least sounds like a Bond theme song…kinda.
Now, forget everything that happened in the first sequence, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story. It was just kind of a way to tie this Bond back to the old days, because this is a classic Bond film. After the hugeness (and awfulness) that was Moonraker, EON and UA decided to go back to their roots. There are a few more hints along the way, but this movie is less sci-fi and more action. Still not super realistic, but much more so than the last few movies.
The actual story gets off the ground when a British spy ship is sunk somewhere off the coast of Greece. They have something called an ATAC on board. It’s some sort of transmitter that the Brits don’t want to fall into enemy hands. That means that they need to get there first.
They send Timothy Havelock and his wife out to try to find the ship and the ATAC. They are there under the guise of restoring an underwater ruin. Their daughter, Melina (Carole Bouquet), shows up to visit and, unfortunately, her parents are promptly killed by a man named Hector Gonzalez. (This is the name of one of the Cubans who kills the Havelocks in the story. He basically takes the place of the Nazi here, though.) He does a flyby and shoots them while she looks on.
As in the story, she is now bent on revenge.
Bond is sent off to find out what happened and who made it happen. He gets to Gonzalez’s house and sees him and his men (and women) having a ridiculous pool party, complete with dudes in too-short shorts and bad dancers. (One of the ladies here was a transsexual. I couldn’t spot her.) Of course, he gets caught.
Gonzalez jumps off the diving board is an arrow comes out of nowhere, killing him before he hits the water. Everyone gasps, and Bond uses the confusion to fight his way out. Before he does, he notices a rather Aryan looking young man who was giving money to Gonzalez. Who is this guy?
Of course, it was Melina who was Robin Hooding the place. She’s not nearly as apprehensive about killing as Judy was in the story. She meets up with Bond and they try to get away in his Lotus, making its second appearance after The Spy Who Loved Me. Unfortunately, one of the bad guys is trying to get into it and breaks a window. It explodes. (One more indication that this is a more realistic Bond…he won’t be relying on gadgets so much this time out.) They get away in her clunker in a pretty awesome car chase.
Back home, Bond is admonished by the Minister for allowing Gonzalez to be killed before they could question him. (This is the only official Bond film to not feature the M character. Bernard Lee died just before filming started and Cubby Broccoli refused to recast right away. They just split the role between the Minister and Q.) Bond tells them that they still have a chance: the Aryan dude. He runs off to Q’s lair to use the Identigram, finally making an appearance after showing up in the novel of Goldfinger.
(Keep an ear out for the song that plays when Q is using the keypad to get to the Identigram. It’s the notes for Nobody Does It Better.)
Locque (Michael Gothard) is the man they’re looking for, a ruthless killer also known as The Dove. He’s part of the Brussels underground. Bond heads to the Italian Alps (Cortina, to be exact) to talk to a man who might know more. Kristatos (Julian Glover) is there with his “niece,” Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson). She’s an Olympic ice skater hopeful who instantly takes a liking to Bond. And by “liking,” I mean that she wants to be naked with him. Lots.
Kristatos tells Bond that Locque is working for a drug smuggler named Columbo (Topol). It must have been Columbo who ordered the hit and, therefore, is looking for the ATAC.
(This is where Risico comes in.)
Of course, Melina is in Cortina, too, saying that Bond sent her a telegram to meet him there. He did no such thing and Bond has to save her life. He gets her to leave town and heads back to his hotel…where he finds Bibi in his shower. Even James Bond has his limits, though, and he takes the little girl back to the Olympic training village where he sees Henry Kriegler (John Wyman) for the first time. He’s a biathlete that Bibi is also in love with. When he starts shooting at Bond, though, things start to come together…a little bit.
Cue the ski chase with motorcycles…and bobsleds. I’m ok with this because, as outlandish as it is, it’s kinda cool.
(The Winter Olympics had just happened and everyone suddenly became all in to winter sports. Otherwise, there’s really no reason for Kristatos to have a young “niece” that he’s sponsoring. She’s kind of useless.)
After all of this, Bond finds Bibi again to ask her about Kriegler. She leaves him alone in the ice rink where he’s attacked by hockey players. (One of them is Charles Dance in his film debut.) This is also when he finds out that his Italian contact has been killed by Locque.
Bond heads back to Greece to meet up with Melina. He also finds Kristatos again, who thinks that he is with the British narcotics board and is gunning for Columbo. Kristatos shows him Columbo who puts on a little play for Bond with his mistress, Countess Lisl (Cassandra Harris, who brought her husband, Pierce Brosnan, along to the filming). She runs off and Bond runs after her. Of course, he takes her home and they do it all night long. He finds out that, not only is she Liverpudlian, but that Columbo knows exactly who he is and she was meant to find out why he’s there. Instead, she ends up getting killed by Locque in a dune buggy.
Wait…what? Doesn’t he work for Columbo? Why would he kill Lisl?
Melina shoots one of the men and Locque runs off in his buggy, but more men show up to take Bond away.
It turns out that these men work for Columbo, but Locque does not. Kristatos is the drug runner and is looking for the ATAC to sell to the Russians. (Remember that little thing?) Columbo wins Bond over and the two start working together to take Kristatos down.
The two men head to Kristatos’ operation and, of course, are attacked. On their way out of the factory, Bond kills Locque in a pretty ruthless act. (Moore was actually unhappy with this. He thought it was a Bond thing to do, but not a Roger Moore Bond thing to do. I kinda like it.)
So, back to Melina. She and Bond meet at the underwater ruins that she is now working on. She leaves an oxygen tank there. Why? No clue, but it comes in handy later. They resurface to her boat and Bond meets Max, the parrot. He comes in handy later.
The two of them (Bond and Melina, not Bond and Max) head out on the Neptune, a small, two-person sub, to follow a lead. They find the ship and leave the Neptune to get the ATAC. They don’t have long because of the depth, although there’s a lot of light for being so deep.
Kristatos, meanwhile, is right above them in his boat. He sends a man down in a JIM suit (a giant underwater robot-like suit with pinchers for hands) to take them out and steal the ATAC. Of course, they make short work of him. They get back to the Neptune where a single-man sub comes along to try to kill them. They get away, but are greeted on Melina’s ship by Kristatos who has killed all of her workers.
Kristatos ties Bond and Melina together and drags them behind his ship through a small coral reef. (This is the scene from Live And Let Die.) They get away while the boat is briefly stopped to turn around and go down to the ruins…where there just happens to be on the floor of the ruins. (Convenient weirdness from earlier!)
Kristatos thinks the sharks got them, so he leaves. They go back to the ship and Max tells them a secret…although I wasn’t really sure what it was. Something about a church, apparently, because Bond goes there to meet Q in a confession booth. I also don’t really know why this happens because Q doesn’t tell him anything important. It’s just to show Q in a priest costume and a fake beard…which he takes off so that we’re absolutely sure it’s him.
I said it was a good movie, not that it wasn’t occasionally silly.
Bond, Columbo and Melina head up to the mountaintop Monastery of the Holy Trinity where Kristatos is supposed to meet the head of the KGB. Bond climbs up the mountain…which allows the rest of his crew to come up the easy way. Damn ‘em.
Bibi and her trainer, Brink, are there, too. They want to leave Kristatos behind, mainly because he wants to doing his little “niece.” Brink helps Bond find her boss and chaos ensues. Kristatos runs off with the ATAC, but Columbo fights him for it. He makes it out to the helipad where the KGB man is about to land. Melina shows up and points her arrow right at the killer of her parents. Bond really can’t talk her out of killing him, but Columbo kills him first. Bond grabs the ATAC and throws it off the mountain. “You don’t have it. I don’t have it.”
Next up: The Bonin’ Bond Show! Bond and Melina go back to her boat and strip down. “For you eyes only, darling.” And this is where Max ends up talking to Maggie Thatcher.
For Your Eyes Only was supposed to usher in a new era of Bond. An era of a harsher Bond. One who would kick a car off of a cliff to kill a killer. One who wouldn’t joke every time he killed someone. One who wouldn’t rely on sci-fi gadgets to get his job done.
Unfortunately, the next movie would go right back to the days of big gadgets and silly names like Octopussy…and Roger Moore in clown makeup.
More on that later, though.
For now though, For Your Eyes Only was a huge hit. It actually pulled UA out of the shitter that it had gotten into after Heaven’s Gate. The movie was such a hit that UA decided that personal films just weren’t where it was at anymore. It was time to go big or go home. MGM fully took over the studio and they decided to only make blockbusters.
For better or worse.
Either way, this is quite possibly Roger Moore’s best film of the series. The only one that might be better is The Spy Who Loved me and that one’s pretty silly…but in a good way.
After the movie it was rumored the Moore would give up the character. The series, however, would get him two more times…again, for better or worse.
It also shows us the right way to adapt a short story. You take what is important from the story and add to it. This time out, writers Maibaum and Wilson took the essence of two decent, if slight, short stories and turned them into one of the best stories of the series.
If, for some reason, you haven’t seen For Your Eyes Only…well, why are you reading this? Don’t you know I put LOTS of spoilers in these Bond reviews? Go watch the damn movie! It’s not just a good Bond movie, but it’s a good spy film in its own right.
CONQUESTS: Countess Lisl; Melina Havelock
GLOBE HOPPING: Greece; Italian Alps (Cortina); Albania