Now Put Your Clothes Back On, And I’ll Buy You An Ice Cream (1981)

James Bond (Roger Moore), forced to answer to The British Minister of Defence (Geoffrey Keen) and MI6 Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (James Villiers) when M proves too busy to play, is tasked with retrieving the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator from a sunken spy boat before it falls into the wrong hands, as it could be used by the Soviets to order attacks by the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarines’ ballistic missiles. With his predecessor, a marine biologist named Havelock, dead, and the KGB already hot on the ATAC’s trail, Bond teams up with his deceased contact’s daughter (Carole Bouquet) and former crime lord Milos Columbo (Chaim Topol) in a bid to stop deceptive smuggler Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover) from acquiring the transmission device and delivering it to the head of the KGB.

No sooner had Lewis Gilbert returned to the director’s chair than Bond was back to his old tricks, hijaking hovering gondolas, prancing around space ships and making a general mockery of Ian Fleming’s cherished icon. EON, apparently as embarrassed as the rest of us, put replaced Gilbert with a franchise editor in the hopes of streamlining the character and hopefully making him half kind of respectable again. The result is a jarringly straight laced addition to the James Bond series, but rather than striking the perfect balance between fantasy and realism, John Glen comes alarmingly close to stripping For Your Eyes Only clean of fun.

This balance is important, and Bond is at its best when it can sustain a thematic duality which allows the series to both have its cheese and eat it. The character is just as well known for his double entendres and gratuitous gage try as he is for his wit and brawn, both parts of equal importance when making an engaging – but still enjoyable – 007 movie.  For Your Eyes Only‘s gritty, no-nonsense demeanour is curtailed rather than complimented by its more flamboyant elements, a ridiculous pre-titles sequence re-introducing an unnamed Blofeld only to drop him down a chimney stack and a sequence in which a computer picks one face from thousands from Bond’s description alone are completely at odds with Glen’s harder-edged directorial style.

While it might ultimately bore with a story hinged on a few bonkers codes rather than the end of the world, For Your Eyes Only isn’t without its stand-out moments. As I’ve noted, realism is integral to the Bond ethos and duly compensating for the madness of Moonraker is a collection of scenes and an overriding theme apparently warning against vengeance  helping to offset the plot’s monotony. The startlingly brutal death of Columbo’s mistress, Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris), is uncharacteristically impacting, while a later assault on an abandoned cliff-top monastery in  St. Cyril’s is deliciously high on tension, as Roger Moore’s stunt double dangled precariously while an ill-fated henchman attempts to cut him from his perch. For me, however, it was an ice rink-based skirmish between Bond and a gang of hockey players that made the biggest impression of all, while Milos Columbo and Melina Havelock’s able assistance marks a welcome change of dynamic from Bond’s more traditionally solo adventures.

While a laughably drawn out pre-titles sequence might give way to a surprisingly well-directed and economic story that brings Bond crashing back to the real world (one in which people mourn their loved ones and where sharks live in the ocean), For Your Eyes Only takes its threadbare story too seriously to ever truly engage with its audience. Despite a scattering of brilliant stunts, astute characterisation and jaw-dropping set pieces, this may be Bond’s most uneven and uninspiring adventure yet.

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