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Mr. Bond! We Can Do a Deal! I'll Buy You a Delicatessen in Stainless Steel!
Nov 29, 2005 (Updated Dec 12, 2005)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
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After the over-the-top special effects extravaganza that was Moonraker, producer Albert R. Broccoli realized that the series needed a change of pace for the twelfth film a back to basics spy thriller drawing on the roots of the franchise's first four films. Even Ernst Stavro Blofeld was brought back for one last curtain call. To engineer this change of pace, Broccoli brought in John Glen to direct the film, a man who had previously worked as film editor on three of the 007 movies.
Historical Background: English director John Glen helmed the filming of five of the Bond movies, beginning with the present one. He was born May 15, 1932, in Sanbury-on-Thames, England and entered the film industry at age 15 as an apprentice. He worked as a film editor on three films in the Bond series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Moonraker (1979) and gained experienced as a director outside the series with Murphy's War (1971) and A Doll's House (1973). Glen finally got a shot at the director's chair for the Bond series with For Your Eyes Only (1981). Later, he directed Roger Moore's final two entries in the series, Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985), and the two films starring Timothy Dalton, The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989).
The Story: The pre-credit sequence opens with a conscious effort to recall the earlier days of Bond films. James Bond (Roger Moore) is paying a visit to the grave of his deceased wife, Tracy (1943-1969), who was murdered by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, as the newlyweds drove away from their wedding ceremony into what they had hoped to be the rest of their lives. A priest interrupts Bond's contemplation to tell him that there was an emergency call from his office and they're sending a helicopter to pick him up. As the helicopter with Bond aboard approaches South London, the pilot is suddenly electrocuted and Bond realizes that his transportation vehicle is under the remote control of some villain below. The cackling, crazed voice over the helicopter's communication radio plus the telltale white cat soon reveal that Blofeld (John Hollis) is back again, having somehow survived an apparent watery death at the end of Diamonds Are Forever. He's in bad shape, wearing a neck brace and confined to a wheelchair. He's back for one last go at exacting revenge upon Bond. "I've looked forward to this moment, Mr. Bond. I intend to enjoy it to the fullest! Heh, heh, heh, heh!" Like every great Bond villain, this one feels the need to gloat in his moment of apparent triumph, thus sealing his own doom. Bond manages to dump the electrocuted pilot from the helicopter and take his place. "Really," says Blofeld, "have you no respect for the dead?" As the helicopter is about to crash into a large warehouse, Blofeld cackles, "Goodbye, Mr. Bond, I trust you had a pleasant fright." Blofeld, like Bond, knows a few one-liners. The warehouse has a large opening, however, and the helicopter simply enters the gap intact. "You're fading from my picture, Mr. Bond, but I trust that the end cannot be far away." Guess again, you creepy evil man! This is Bond's film! Bond manages to break away the cable connecting the remote control to the helicopter and gains control of it. The whirlybird swoops down on Blofeld and his wheelchair and picks up the chair on the landing blades of the aircraft. The tables have turned. "Mr. Bond, Mr. Bond," pleads Blofeld, as though now trapped in an Ionesco play, "we can do a deal! I'll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel." That, my friends, is my single favorite line of dialog from the entire Bond series. Finally, Bond's arch-nemesis has lost all reason and there's nothing left to do but dump him in a giant industrial smokestack.
The opening credits now play over a lovely music video collage and the film's title song, sung by Sheena Easton. The companion sequence, featuring naked dancers, oozing bubbles in red and orange liquids, and close-ups of Easton's eyes and face, was produced by Chritopher Neil.
Now the story turns to a British spy ship, the St. Georges, in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Albania. It's a lazy day of routine work until a fishing net hauls in a leftover World War II torpedo, which detonates and blasts a hole in the side of the hull. On board the ship is a British ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator) unit, critical to the Great Britain's defense system. As soon as it becomes apparent that the ship is going down, the captain orders the ATAC destroyed. The officer in charge of it is unable to do so, however, and the ATAC goes down with the ship, intact. Now, Britain has a national emergency brewing. If the ATAC should fall into the hands of the Russians, Britain's own missiles could be programmed to destroy its own cities. The British need to recover the ATAC discretely because the spy ship went down in Albanian territorial waters. The head of the Soviet KGB, General Anatol Gogol (Walter Gotell), in the meantime, hires an unidentified Greek gangster and part time Soviet operative to try to get to the ATAC first.
Sir Timothy Havelock (Jack Hedley), an archeologist studying underwater ruins in the Aegean, undertakes the secretive salvage operation on behalf for the British, from his research ship, the Triana. He and his wife Iona (Toby Robins) take a few moments from their work to greet their daughter Melina Hevelock (Carole Bouquet), when she arrives via a water plane for a visit. It's a warm family greeting until the pilot of Melina's plane, Hector Gonzales (Stefan Kalipha), turns out to be a hit man sent to kill the Hevelocks and delay the British salvage effort. He strafes the Triana with his machineguns and Melina, though not hit, suffers the painful ignominy of watching both her parents murdered before her eyes. Melina is a Greek woman, in the tradition of Electra, and viewers can see the fury in her eyes as she becomes consumed with thoughts of vengeance.
Bond reports to MI6 and is briefed on the disaster. Gonzales has been identified and Bond is sent to Madrid, where the notorious killer lives in a high-security villa. Bond penetrates the villa but is captured. He observes a man with octagonal spectacles, later identified as Emile Leopold Locque (Michael Gothard), making a payoff to Gonzales, presumably for the murder of the Hevelocks. As Bond is being led away, an arrow from a crossbow suddenly pierces Gonzales's heart, courtesy of Melina, who has tracked down the assassin as well. Bond is able to use the ensuing chaos to escape with Melina. Bond's white Lotus self-destructs when it is discovered by some of Gonzales's security guards, so Melina and James have to make their escape is her car, which is some kind of beat-up little sedan, no bigger or faster than a Volkswagen Beetle. An exciting chase scene ensues through the narrow streets of a rural Spanish village and a series of olive groves. Cars flip over and spin around, leap over one another, and fly off ledges. One car even ends up atop an olive tree!
Bond tries his best to discourage Melina from further pursuing her course of revenge, reminding her of an old Greek saying, "Before setting out on revenge, first dig two graves." Melina, however, has that Greek passion for avenging her loved ones. Only Bond's assurance that he will track down whoever hired Gonzales buys her patience.
Back at MI6, the Minister of Defense, Sir Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen), is miffed that Bond permitted Gonzales to be killed before identifying his employer. Working with Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and the Identograph, Bond is able to identify the man with octagonal glasses as a former hit man of the Brussels underworld, now working out of Cortina for the Greek mafia. Bond arrives in Cortina and checks in at a ski resort, the Cortina D'Ampezzo. There, he rendezvous with Luigi Ferrara (John Moreno), a British Secret Service agent operating in Northern Italy. Ferrara knows a man who he believes will be a useful source of information, Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover). Bond meets with Kristatos at an ice rink, where Kristatos is observing the young protégé whom he sponsors, figure skater and Olympic aspirant, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), who is being put through her paces by her coach, Jacoba Brink (Jill Bennett). Kristatos informs Bond that the man he wants, Emile Locque, works for a Greek smuggler named Milos Columbo (Topol), a.k.a. the White Dove, who deals in drugs, white slavery, and smuggling. Meanwhile, Bibi wheedles Bond into agreeing to take her to see the biathlon on the ski slopes that afternoon. Kristatos encourages Bond to escort her.
Bond meets up with Ferrara, who tells him that Columbo operates a fleet of intercoastal freighters and would have the capacity to launch a salvage operation. Bond spots Melina, who has been lured to Cortina by a false message, supposedly from Bond. Two assassins are awaiting her on motorcycles. Bond intervenes, killing one of the two in a florist shop, where flowers for his funeral are conveniently dispensed. In a poignant scene in a horse-drawn carriage, Bond urges Melina to return to Corfu. When she agrees, after a bit of a spat, the driver quietly intones, "Amore, amore."
Bond returns to his hotel room and discovers it occupied by the precocious but underage Bibi, who is naked in his bed with an offer that few could refuse. Bond has his limits, however. He may be a womanizer, but he's no pedophile. Besides, he explains to her, "I don't think your uncle Harry would approve." "Him!" she retorts, "He still thinks I'm a virgin." Bond begs her not to grow up anymore. "The opposite sex would never survive it." Bond does, however, keep his promise to accompany Bibi to the biathlon.
On the slopes of Cortina D'ampezzo, Bond is soon the target of an assassination attempt, spearheaded by German skier, biathlon champion, and KGB agent Erich Kriegler (John Wyman) and supported by a couple of henchmen on mountain bikes, all with the oversight of Locque. It's a dramatic sequence involving daring stunts on skis, a race down a bobsled track, with Bond on skis, preceded by a bobsled and followed by a killer on a mountain bike. There are some comic scenes on the beginners' slope mixed in and an impressive stunt over the porch of a ski lodge.
Bond survives, of course, and heads off to say goodbye to Bibi at the ice arena, with Ferrara waiting outside. "I could eat you up alive," Bibi tells him, as she is dragged off by her coach. Before Bond can exit the arena, three thugs wearing hockey outfits lay into him. The ensuing melee is almost as violent as an average Boston Bruins hockey game! Bond manages to dispose of each of the three men in the goal, winning the contest 3-zip. When he returns to where Ferrara is waiting, he finds him dead, with a white dove clasped in his hand.
Bond now returns to Corfu, where he meets up with Melina. In a lovely segment, the two take in some of the Greek vistas and atmosphere. That night, Bond heads to the casino, where he soon cleans out a gambler named Bunky (Paul Brooke) and observes the fabulously lovely but fake Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris), shilling for the house. Bond meets up with Kristatos, who points out Columbo sitting at a nearby table, with the Countess. The Countess and Columbo pretend to have an argument and the Countess, as she struts away, drops a handkerchief at Bond's feet. It's obviously a set-up, but Bond never refuses a trap, expecting to turn such snares to his own advantage. Bond spends the night and the next morning with the Countess, until Locque and some other killers in dune buggies attack Bond and the Countess as they are strolling along a beach. The Countess is killed and Bond very nearly so, but he's rescued, surprisingly, by a team of frogmen emerging from the ocean. The frogmen forcibly escort Bond to the headquarters of Columbo.
Having now introduced all of the main characters, I won't add more, except to say that there are still three very impressive action scenes to go. One is a major shootout at the warehouse of Kristatos in Albania, that culminates in Bond taking revenge for the death of Ferrara, by giving the boot to one of the arch-henchmen, as the man's car dangles precariously on the edge of a cliff. Another brilliant and intense action scene begins underwater in a battle of two miniature salvage submarines and culminates in Bond and Melina being used as shark bait by the villain. Their escape from that predicament is especially ingenious. The movie's finale takes place at a spectacular location where an old monastery, Ciceros, rests atop a volcanic column with sheer vertical ledges. Bond and his helpmates have to scale the ledge in order to take control of the villain's lair and recover the ATAC. It's an amazing action sequence sure to induce vertigo in attentive viewers.
Production Values: The screenplay for this film was written and Richard Mailbaum and Michael G. Wilson. By the time the series had reached the eighties, all of Fleming's full novels had been previously used. What remained were some interesting short stories, including a collection entitled "For Your Eyes Only." The scriptwriters drew a few elements from a couple of those stories for the present film, mostly the names and general characteristics of a few characters, including Hector Gonzales, the Havelocks, Columbo, and Kristatos. The twist relating to which of the two Greek men is the villain was Fleming's idea as well. The rest was the work of the scriptwriters.
In any case, it is one of the best scripts of the series, with plenty of action, but also more character development and drama than one typically get in the Bond series. The role of gadgets is diminished, leaving Bond to make do with his ingenuity, much as he did in the old days. The present film is perhaps most like the second Bond film, From Russia with Love, with its emphasis on atmosphere and a nifty supporting ethnic character portrayal in each case. More than most of the films, this one seems to put Bond in real jeopardy. Bond has a harder edge here than in any of the other Roger Moore entries and there is less silliness and parody. The incorporation of cultural and historical traditions of the filming locale (Greece in this instance) into the script is outstanding, making this film second only to You Only Live Twice in that particular respect. With references to Electra, underwater ruins, and a Greek wedding, this film has color and ambiance. This film gives us an unusual number of distinctive characters, including Milos Colombo, the horny adolescent Bibi Dahl, the Liverpool lady turned Austrian Countess Lisl von Schlaf, the sinister Emile Locque, and the massive East German refugee and KGB spy, Erich Kriegler. All that's missing in the character department is a truly memorable villain.
The direction is superb throughout the film. A few of the action sequences seem to exist for their own sake (i.e., not really advancing the narrative), but action is part of what viewers want from 007 movies. Several of the action scenes are exceptional and a few generate genuine tension. My favorites are the scenes in which Bond and Melina escape from a towrope where they have been relegated to shark bait and the dramatic assault on the Ciceros redoubt. The vistas are as lovely as for any of the Bond films, from the ski slopes of the majestic Italian Alps to the Aegean underwater temples and the magnificent Meteora monasteries used for filming the cliff scenes at Ciceros. Cinematographer Alan Hume skillfully managed his camera placements for maximum effect in the action sequences.
The title song is one of the best of the series, though the remainder of the score, by Bill Conti, is not. John Barry was a tough act to follow. Conti's only remarkable success in the score is a reprise of the theme song on horns during an underwater sequence at ancient Greek ruins.
Although Moore was starting to show his age a bit in this film, he is still at his charming best and his tendency toward excessive smirking and witticisms was expressly reined in for this outing. I was very impressed with Topol's very ethnic performance as Milos Columbo. It's endearing without incorporating demeaning stereotypes. Born in Palestine, he appeared elsewhere in Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Galileo (1975), and in the Winds of War miniseries in 1983. Julian Glover does a decent enough job as Aristotle Kristatos, but the part as written is just not a memorable one. Glover appeared elsewhere in such films as Girl with Green Eyes (1964), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Some reviewers find Michael Gothard's performance as a henchman too bland, but I found his cold lack of expression part of what made him frightening. Charles Dance, who later played Soames in Michael Collins (1996), made his first cinematic appearance here in the minor part of Claus, one of Columbo's henchmen.
Carole Bouquet is one of the finest Bond girls ever, not only in sheer beauty of face and form, but by the depth of her portrayal, the richness of her character, and her skills as an actress. Bouquet knew how to deliver the fierce look of a Greek Electra. Bouquet had already appeared famously in That Obscure Object of Desire and was later recognizable as a model for Chanel perfume. You can see her as well in the film Lucie Aubrac (1997). When she drops her bathrobe at the film's end, while saying to Bond "For Your Eyes Only," I imagine every straight male viewer and perhaps half the gay ones would opt to be Bond at that moment. Lynn-Holly Johnson, as the second Bond girl (and here the emphasis really is on "girl"), was less successful and some viewers even find her downright annoying. I enjoyed her part to an extent. A couple of her other film appearances were in Where the Boys Are '84 (1984) and Alien Predator (1987). Cassandra Harris was very effective in a limited role as a middle-aged beauty, Countess Lisl von Schlaf. Her only other credits as an actress were for The Greek Tycoon (1978) and Rough Cut (1980).
This was the first film following the death of Bernard Lee. There's a touching scene in which Bond starts to carry a flower into M's office, but turns around and delivers it to Miss Moneypenny, saying, "As M has been called away . . ." That, I imagine, was intended as farewell tribute to Lee. Desmond Llewelyn has a nice turn as Q and Lois Maxwell is back as Miss Moneypenny. Also showing up as a recurrent character is Walter Gotell as the head of the KGB, Gen. Anatol Gogol. All are in fine form.
Bottom-Line: If you buy the DVD version of this film, you get a pair of commentary tracks, one with director John Glen and the other featuring producer Michael Wilson. There's also an inside documentary on the making of the film, radio spots, and a gallery of stills. This film is one of the very best of the entire series and certainly one of the two best from Roger Moore's portion of the series, along with The Spy Who Loved Me. For readers like jankp who cherished the early Bond films starring Sean Connery but who have heretofore resisted the Roger Moore part of the series, I recommend this particular Moore film as the one most reminiscent of the quality and feel of the early Connery films. This film combines the original spy thriller concept with great action scenes, while minimizing the farcical elements and flippant style for which Moore was otherwise known. In addition, it boasts one of the two most beautiful and fully three-dimensional Bond girls, superbly realized by a fine actress. Add in Roger Moore's strongest performance as Bond, one of the most amusing pre-credit sequences, a lovely title song, and a fine supporting performance by Topol, and you have most of the ingredients of great Bond entertainment. All it lacks from perfection is a more memorable villain and a stronger musical score. Here is my Overall Certified Gold Bond Rating for this film, using my system that facilitates comparisons across the series:
Bond: Roger Moore, at his peak Rating: 4/5
Villains: Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover); Ernst Stavro Blofeld (John Hollis) in pre-credit sequence only Rating: 3/5
Henchmen: Emile Leopold Locque 4/5; Erich Kriegler 3/5; Hector Gonzales 3/5 Overall Rating: 4/5
Primary Bond Girl: Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) Rating: 5/5
Secondary Bond Girls: Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson 4/5; Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris) 5/5 Rating: 5/5
Colleagues/Recurrent Characters: Q (Desmond Llewellyn) 5/5; Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) 5/5; Sir Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen); Milos Columbo (Topol) 5/5; Gen. Anatol Gogol (Walter Gotell) 5/5; Luigi Ferrara (John Morena) 3/5 Overall Rating: 5/5
Storyline: Missing ATAC, promising young figure skater, mountain redoubt, Greek atmosphere and historical context Rating: 5/5
Action: Pre-credit helicopter scene 5/5; sinking of the St. Georges 4/5; car chases through village and olive grove 5/5; pursuit on ski slope and bobsled track 5/5; hockey arena assassination attempt 4/5; sand dune murder and rescue 4/5; battle at Kristatos's warehouse 4/5; shark bait scene 5/5; scaling of monastery 5/5 Overall Rating: 5/5
Toys: Blofeld's remote controlled helicopter 3/5; Self-destructing Lotus 1/5; Identograph 2/5; Mini-subs 5/5; "give us a kiss" wristwatch communicator 1/5 Overall Rating: 3/5
Character Development: Skillful ambiguity about whether Columbo is good or bad; Bond the womanizer at least rejecting pedophilia; Melina Havelock's Electra-like thirst for revenge Rating: 5/5
Music: Title song by Sheena Easton and its incorporation into score 5/5; rest of score by Bill Conti 1/5 Rating: 3/5
Locales: Madrid, Greece, Aegean waters, Northern Italian ski slopes and ice rinks, Ciceros monastery redoubt Rating: 5/5
Overall Certified Gold Bond Rating: 52/60
You may also enjoy my other reviews for 007 films:
Casino Royale (1954), non-series, television
Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Casino Royale (1967), non-series
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Live and Let Die (1973)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Never Say Never Again (1983), non-series
A View to a Kill (1985)
The Living Daylights (1987)
Licence to Kill (1989)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Die Another Day (2002)
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