In the No Time To Die Countdown, Jake Tropila takes a look back at every Bond film – official and unofficial – in anticipation of the release of the latest entry.

Sometimes the Bond franchise becomes too lavish and unwieldy for its own good. When this happens, the natural trend is for the next film to pendulum swing back into a more realistic direction. Consider You Only Live Twice: epic and out-of-this-world (often quite literally), but a far cry from Dr. No’s more grounded approach. Hence, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service served a dual purpose to introduce a new Bond and enact a course correction.

Moonraker was another case of Bond getting too big for his britches. Aping on the success and popularity of Star Wars delivered one of the series’ highest-grossing efforts, but Bond lost sight of who he was in the process. He wasn’t a space hero, he’s a spy for the British Secret Service! As a result, the series brings us For Your Eyes Only, originally promised to us at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

As much as I enjoy Moonraker, I love For Your Eyes Only. I teased this a few entries ago, but I’ll come right out and say it now: this is my favorite Roger Moore Bond film. It’s a much more down-to-earth feature than most, but it moves at a remarkably solid pace and features a few standout set-pieces. And most importantly, it’s a bonafide spy picture.

Part of what I also admire about For Your Eyes Only is its anonymity. There are no supernatural elements, no henchmen with steel teeth, villains with gilded weapons, and there’s not a space station in sight. It exists as a strong, unassuming entry without any outlandish elements that demonstrate Moore at his most Fleming-esque. We’re officially in the 80s; let’s go back to 1981 and check out Bond’s return to earth.

Past Connections

There have been brief allusions to Bond’s marriage with Tracy in previous films – namely in Diamonds Are Forever and The Spy Who Loved Me – but For Your Eyes Only is the first to make that connection explicit, as it opens with Bond laying flowers on her grave. It’s a lovely character moment, to be sure, but the intention behind this is far more insidious: it’s to serve as a reminder that Blofeld is back, and he’s out for Bond’s blood!

Well, it’s sorta Blofeld. Due to the ongoing rights issues concerning SPECTRE et al., Broccoli couldn’t legally identify this foe as Blofeld by name, instead of relying on visual cues to jog the audience’s memory (bald head, gray suit, white Persian cat). In any case, Blofeld or Nofeld, this fellow’s out to kill Bond by remotely crashing the helicopter Bond is riding in. But before he can deliver the coup de grace, Bond, master of all vehicles and aircraft, overrides the helicopter controls and quickly turns the tables. He scoops Blofeld up on the helicopter’s landing skid and dumps him down an industrial chimney.

And thus ends the mighty reign of Bond’s most nefarious villain. It’s an incredibly perplexing sequence and has zero connection to the rest of the movie. Why Broccoli chose to dispatch this enemy now, after having been absent for five films, is beyond me. But I gotta hand it to the stuntwork involved: the practical helicopter work with Bond/Bond’s double hanging onto the side of it are incredible. Anyways, onto the title sequence!

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Sheena Easton’s theme song offers something new: this is the first (and until No Time To Die confirms, only) time the musical artist physically appears in the opening title sequence. Backed by an aquatic motif that reverberates through the film, Easton joins the silhouetted women to sing another loving ode to Bond. The song totally rocks too, a glorious 80s ballad that offers Moore one of his best themes (“Nobody Does It Better” remains unimpeachable, of course).

The MacGuffin that drives much of For Your Eyes Only’s plot is identical to From Russia with Love’s Lektor device. Here, it is called the ATAC device, used by the Royal Navy to communicate with a particular fleet of submarines. If it were to end up in the wrong hands, it could countermand British orders, or even command British subs to fire on their own cities. And the St. Georges, a British spy ship that just so happens to be carrying the ATAC, is sunk in the middle in the Ionian Sea via an attack that was most certainly not random.

The race to the ATAC is on! Gogol, head of the KGB, orders his Soviet contact to find the missing ATAC, in hopes of gaining a military advantage against the British. Meanwhile, Greek marine archaeologist Sir Timothy Havelock and his wife have been tasked with finding the remains of the St. Georges underwater in their own hopes of retrieving the ATAC. Unfortunately for them, they are gunned down by a hitman before their mission can even begin. Unfortunately for the hitman, he failed to kill their daughter, Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet).

Determined, practical, and intensely stunning (that green-eyed stare!), Melina makes a case for being one of the best Bond Girls in the series. Few get to be as proactive as she does, and her quest to avenge her family yields some fantastically cathartic results. Did I mention those green eyes? The only real downside to Melina is Bouquet’s age difference with Moore. At thirty years, this remains the largest gap between Bond and Bond Girl. Bond gets older, they stay yada yada yada and all that.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Bond’s mission to track down the ATAC and search for the Havelock killer intersects with Melina’s own revenge mission. Turns out the hitman was hired by one Emile Leopold Locque (Michael Gothard), and Melina perforates the hitman with a crossbow before Bond can get a chance to interrogate him. This results in a fabulous car chase down a hillside, through a small town, and over an olive tree harvest (one bit I adore, pre-chase: Bond’s own Lotus Esprit activates its security system by self-destructing when a thug attempts to break through a window, blowing him away in a fiery explosion. Bond’s reaction upon witnessing this is priceless).

Adding to the pantheon of silent, creepy henchmen, Locque is a clear winner. Blessed with a slight perma-scowl and octagonal eyeglasses, Locque is ruthless and efficient but does allow some glimmers of a personality to shine through (note Bond’s escape from the villain compound early on – Locque waves down a guard to prevent him from gunning down Bond just so he can see for himself how skilled Bond is). He’s head and shoulders above the true villain of the film, who we’ll get to in a bit.

Before Setting Off on Revenge, First Dig Two Graves

For Your Eyes Only was directed by John Glen, and he will be the guiding voice behind Bond for the next four films beyond this one. A seasoned Bond editor, much like Peter Hunt before him, that experience shows in Glen’s work, knowing how to cut the action and keep things moving along for the sake of efficiency. I quite like him. Also surprisingly great is Bill Conti’s score, which does something different a la Marvin Hamlisch’s The Spy Who Loved Me score, but with a much greater success rate.

One thing I enjoy seeing in a Bond film is a little topographical variety, and For Your Eyes Only delivers this in spades. There’s plenty of air, sea, and land in this film, with the latter making terrific use of both snowy and tropical climates. As far as James Bond World Tours go, this is one of the more flavorful entries.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Bond’s mission brings him to Cortina, whereupon he meets and accompanies Aris Kristatos (Julian Glover), a Greek smuggler who identifies fellow smuggler and rival Milos Columbo (Topol) as the man who hired Locque to kill the Havelocks. Kristatos is also coaching his niece, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), to be the next Olympic gold medalist in ice skating. Bibi offers a few sequences of discomfort in the film, as the much-too-young skater tries to seduce Bond at one point. Thankfully, he rebuffs her advances and Moore delivers the funniest line in all of his tenures: “Yes, well…you get on your clothes, and I’ll buy you an ice cream.”

Locque also happens to be in Cortina, and he’s accompanied by a brute in the form of Erich Kriegler (John Wyman), a hulking blonde athlete and killer. Much like Hans from You Only Live Twice, Kriegler is another clone of Red Grant: tough, dangerous, Aryan. He’s more muscle than personality. A ski chase between him and Bond ensues, and this actually goes on for a thrillingly long time. Bond, unarmed and severely outnumbered, makes use of his wits as he skis through trees, down an Olympic jump ramp, and even through a bobsled course. One of the rare, extended action setpieces that work from beginning to end.

Having avoided certain death from Locque and Kriegler, Bond hunts down Columbo, the supposed brains behind the operation. But instead of delivering justice, we get an unprecedented twist: Columbo is actually an ally, and Kristatos was the villain all along. As played by the amazingly charismatic Topol, Columbo is nothing short of wonderful and makes for the best possible successor to Ali Kerim Bey. His enthusiasm and appetite for pistachios are infectious.

The ensuing raid on Kristato’s smuggling ship and heroin supply offer some mid-movie action delight, featuring exploding barrels and lots of gunned down enemies (the camaraderie between Columbo and his men is a lot of fun to watch). More importantly, this sequence features Moore’s coldest kill in any of his films, dispatching Locque by kicking his car off as it teeters off the side of a cliff and falls onto the jagged rocks below. Word has it Moore balked at doing this, and I’m glad he did not get his way.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Kristatos’ capture of Bond and Melina leads to another great sequence: attempted murder by keelhauling, taken straight out of Fleming’s Live and Let Die novel. Bond, once again vulnerable and tied to Melina, are dragged through the sharp coral reef in hopes of drawing in sharks. Once again, the Villain falls victim to providing an elaborate death for Bond (seriously, why not shoot him?), but the sequence is tense nonetheless.

All points come to a head in St. Cyril’s, an abandoned mountaintop monastery in Greece (and a prime location for a Bond finale). In one of Moore’s finest setpieces, he wordlessly scales the entire mountain in an exhilarating rock-climbing sequence, frantically working to gain altitude as one of Kristatos’ men systematically descends and begins knocking pitons out of the side of the mountain. Bond prevails, and the ensuing army vs. army showdown is perfectly satisfying, culminating with the deaths of Kristatos, Kriegler, and the retrieval and destruction of the ATAC.


Despite the bizarre opening with non-Blofeld and a painfully unfunny post-script with a Margaret Thatcher impersonator, For Your Eyes Only is still the most thrilling entry in Roger Moore’s tenure. A great song, a charming ally, a creepy henchman, a terrific Bond Girl, and a genuine espionage mission – what’s not to love? With the added value of some of the best action setpieces in the entire series, this truly is Roger Moore’s best Bond film. Ian Fleming would be proud.

Coming up next: It’s Battle of the Bonds, part 1! The No Time To Die Countdown will return with Octopussy.

What do you think? Could this possibly be Roger Moore’s best Bond film? Let us know in the comments below.

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