AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD
RUNNING TIME: 131 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In Siberia, 007 locate the body of 003 and recovers a microchip originating from the Soviet Union. Q establishes that it’s a copy of one designed to withstand an electromagnetic pulse and made by government contractor Zorin Industries. Bond visits Ascot Racecourse to observe the company’s owner Max Zorin, whose horses keep on winning and are hard to control. Through Godfrey Tibbett, a racehorse trainer and MI6 agent, Bond meets with French private detective Achille Aubergine who informs Bond that Zorin is holding a horse sale later in the month at his estate, though he’s assassinated by Zorin’s bodyguard May Day. At the sale, Bond is puzzled by a woman who rebuffs him and finds out that Zorin has written her a cheque for $5 million. At night, Bond and Tibbett break into Zorin’s laboratory and learn that he is implanting adrenaline-releasing devices in the horses, but that’s nothing compared to Zorin’s plan involving Silicon Valley….
One if my favourite moments of Roger Moore’s one-man show was when he was asked about his A View To A Kill co-star Grace Jones and replied: “My mother once said if you have nothing good to say about someone, then say nothing at all“. He wasn’t too keen on the film anyway, a view [sorry] that seems to be shared by many. Indeed it isn’t great and probably the weakest Bond film to date [at least The Man With The Golden Gun looked great and had a fantastic villain], though taken on its own it’s still pretty good fun and I cannot help but have some fondess for the first 007 flick I saw in the cinema. Only taking the title from an Ian Fleming short story, it basically combines the approaches of For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, trying to be reasonably serious and even down to earth but throwing in some Moonraker-esque hijinks here and there, though the latter tend to be far more jarring than they were in Octopussy, not something I’d remembered being the case but which was very notable on this viewing. And, despite some great stunts and the interesting decision to send Bond to more familiar locations than normal, there’s a tired feeling to the film, with even Moore, sporting some obvious plastic surgery, looking worn out and even positively ill-at-ease. At least in Octopussy they gave him a leading lady closer to his own age. Here it’s just frankly embarassing seeing him cavort with four [a record so far for 007] much younger women [at least Sean Connery’s similar antics in Never Say Never Again were given a wry sense of perceptive]. And the cobbled-together storyline, much of it borrowed from Goldfinger, has at least two subplots which are no importance whatsoever.
Richard Maibaum’s and Michael G. Wilson’s first draft had Zorin attempt to crash Haley’s Comet into Silicon Valley, but sadly that concept was junked. A certain Timothy Dalton was asked to step in should Moore say no, and everyone seemed to be aware that this would be his last one, Moore himself deciding to end his run as James Bond when he realized that co-star Tanya Roberts’s mother was younger than he was. David Bowie and Sting turned down the part of Zorin. Several leftover canisters of petrol used for Legend caused Pinewood Studios’007 Stage to burn to the ground, though it was soon rebuilt and filming resumed, also taking place in Iceland [doubling for Siberia], Paris, San Francsico, Ascot Racecourse and Amberley Chalk Pits Museum in Sussex for the exterior mine footage. In Paris two stunt men, B.J. Worth and Don Caldvedt, were to do the parachute drop off the Eiffel Tower. However, sufficient footage was obtained from Worth’s jump, so Caldvedt was told he would not be performing his own jump – but went to do one anyway without authorisation and was sacked. Two comical scenes, one involving ‘Snooper’ getting in on some action, and another of Bond being freed from a Paris police cell and having various gadgets given back to him – were cut. The BBFC required two shots be cut from one fight scene, and, when a company with a name similar to Zorin was discovered, a disclaimer was added to the start of the film affirming that Zorin was not related to any real-life company. The film was a hit, but stil the lowest grossing Bond since The Man With The Golden Gun.
The pre-credits ski chase, the similarities to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service enhanced by John Barry’s theme basically being a variant of his main theme for that movie, proceeds fine until California Girls, and a cover version to boot, begins over the soundtrack in one of the series’s crassest moments. And the credit sequence re-uses some naked silhouettes on skiis and shots of Bond from The Spy Who Loved Me’s titles. A woman unzipping her coat to reveal the 007 symbol on her cleavage, girls dancing with fire round either eyes or the whole body, an ice sculpture melting: it’s a silly mess and dated in the worst way. At least the Duran Duran theme still rocks, probably the best of the 80’s ones. Then for a while we are basically a watching a horse racing mystery. It’s not unabsorbing, but we’re not allowed to feel any anger or sympathy considering we have horses being mistreated so they will race faster, and all this has hardly any bearing on the main story, which really begins when Zorin holds a meeting with a load of investors, replete with a model of the target under a large table and tells them he intends to destroy Silicon Valley [one could also be forgiven for thinking that, unless you didn’t know otherwise, microchips were dug out of the ground] which will give him – and the potential investors – a monopoly over the microchip industry, before executing one who expresses reservations. Yes, it’s all very Goldfinger, and we also have Bond writing info down on some paper as he overhears important stuff, a villain who cheats at English country sports, etc.
The death of French contact Achille Aubergine by a poisonous buttefly on a rod is neat, and just after there’s a good stunt where Bond drives his car onto a ramp, then the top of a bus, then back onto the road where it’s then severed in half, though you can see the edits and the sequence ends up in Looney Tunes-land. Later Bond takes part in a dangerous steeplechase with automated obstacles and awful back projection, but why does Zorin have these obstacles in the first place? Eventually we switch to San Francisco and gradually find out exactly how Zorin is planning to carry out his plan, plus a totally unnecessary diversion when Bond meets up with an ex-lover [Fiona Fullerton] who was, and still is, a Soviet agent. The character was intended to be The Spy Who Loved Me’s Anya Amasova, which would have been great, but Barbara Bach said no and it was rewritten. These bits are fun and it’s nice to see General Gogol out in the field again, but almost exist in a vacumn. Then we have a genuinely tense sequence of Bond and the heroine Tanya in a burning lift followed by Bond hanging onto a loose fire engine ladder while a comical police captain and his incompetent men are in pursuit. This kind of silliness may have fit into Diamonds Are Forever as that film was just so arch throughout, but just seems desperate here, and out of place in a film which is soon followed by Zorin machine-gunning loads of his own men, as well as containing a minor villain probably inspired by Josef Mengele in the form of Dr. Carl Mortner, who injected pregnant concentration camp inmates with steroids and thereby created Zorin. At least the pace is a little faster than Octopussy‘s until the final half hour at least, and we do get a good climax atop the Golden Gate Bridge. And Moore’s final moment as Bond has him literally throwing in the towel, which is neat enough to atone for the presence of that stupid dog-like surveillance device Snooper, ‘Q’s dumbest gadget ever.
An actually nearly gadget-less 007 seems to be amusingly outdone by his two much younger opponents throughout, which at least believable. He seems genuinely taken aback when May Day insists that she be ‘on top’, though the film seems to build up to a major fight between the two which fails to materialise, May Day conventiently changing sides near the end and helping to save the day Pussy Galore-style. I guess it was thought that Moore’s Bond couldn’t be seen fighting women, even one as formidable as Grace Jones. Moore shares a considerable amount of chemistry in his scenes with Patrick McNee who poises as his beleagured valet, and some double entendres can’t fail to raise a smile, but this film also contains one of the worst jokes in the whole series, when Bond tells the police captain that he’s James Bond and he replies “And I’m Dick Tracy”. I did notice a very funny bit for the first time where Bond asks for Stacey’s help in carrying a body and she just picks up the man’s hat, but Stacey might be the most underdeveloped Bond heroine of them all and she spends most of the action crying:” James, help me”. It doesn’t help that Tanya Roberts, while very pretty indeed [to my mind she’s the loveliest looking Bond girl in the official series since Lois Chiles], borders on being downright inept as an actress. As usual for Bond heroines with whom he doesn’t sleep with until the end of the film, there’s no sense of an attraction developing- he just ‘has’ her at the end because that’s what’s required.
It’s often hard to buy Moore in this one considering that stunt doubles are used so often and tend not to look much like him to boot, and he doesn’t seem to be having much fun, but he still has that Moore style and charisma. Walken is uneven, sometimes scarily convincing, elsewhere a bit monotonous and with mannerisms that are awkwardly timed. Barry’s score, which has a less lush sound than his previous two, is actually better than his one for Octopussy, the composer seeming to have more fun what with things like the guitar licks heard during the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service– like action theme, plus a bit of synthesiser hear and there, though his ‘filler’ music is darker in tone than many other Bonds. It’s unclear how much input Barry had into the Duran Duran song, and like in Octopussy he only uses it as a love theme except for that great, if cheesy, mock heroic moment where Bond rescues Stacey from the burning San Francisco City Hall. And come to think of it there’s a great jazz version of the chorus heard as source music. A View To A Kill certainly contains stuff to enjoy, and it’s a mark of how consistent the Bond franchise is that even the lesser films still entertain repeatedly [well, all but two of them, though I haven’t got to those yet].