A View to a Kill
Has James Bond finally met his match? asked the poster to Roger Moore's seventh and final outing as the British secret service agent. The year is 1985; Roger is an old 57; Duran Duran is topping the charts and the world seems a different place from Live and Let Die, let alone Dr. No. So I guess the answer was probably an immediate YES!
I know that throughout this Bond blog I've resisted the joys of the "so bad it's good" brigade. But with A View to a Kill, I feel the temptation to succumb. One of the reasons might be that following Octopussy my critical faculties are so atrophied they might as well wither and flop off at this point. It might also be that the producers obviously don't give a shit anymore and that is exhilarating. One thing is at least clear. Roger Moore is definitely on his last legs. At 57 he is beginning to look about 80. A disastrous face lift has left him with the expression of the permanently startled. One imagines he has to sleep with his eyes open now such is the tension pulling his eyelids apart.
Luckily the filmmakers have cottoned on to an essential ingredient to the Moore Bonds. He needs to be surrounded by other exciting elements. So we have a wonderfully muscular and feral Grace Jones, a beautifully gleeful villain in Christopher Walken as Max Zorin - David Bowie turned down the role - and a number of stunts which are so obviously performed by a stuntman, the phrase stunt double seems redundant.
Add to this Patrick MacNee of Avengers fame, the future Indiana Jones Nazi Alison Doody as Jenny Flex (great name) and some exciting stunt work along with one of the best Bond songs, courtesy of Duran Duran and you can see that it defied critics and gave Roger a nice last bow, albeit three films too late. The Eiffel Tower sequence is well done and the San Francisco scenes have a demolition derby feel worthy of Diamonds Are Forever. But director John Glen continues his penchant for reaction shots and 'comedy' musical cues, such as the use of the Beach Boys in the opening sequence when Roger snowboards across a pond. Who sat in the screening room and saw that and nodded and said 'perfect'? It's the kind of joke you'd get on a weak ITV clip show, but that was more or less where Bond was.
So back to Moore on his last outing. I'd always considered Moore to be my Bond. He was the first one I saw at the cinema - For Your Eyes Only - when I was too young to have any notion that a bad film could exist. I just assumed all films by virtue of their existence would be amazing. Watching A View to a Kill I would have been 13 and I remember already being nonplussed. Revisiting in 2020 at the age of 47, I have to say there's hardly anything I liked about the Moore Bonds. Intermittently good stunt work, the odd moment of camp amusement - not actually funny, but you know sort of - a good villain or two, but the fact of the matter is they are unfunny, often boring and never believable. Thinking of Martin Scorsese's vilification of the Marvel movies, I think his criticism of non-cinema would absolutely apply here. You learn nothing; you believe in nothing; you feel nothing. And for those who call them a bit of fun, believe me watching these last ones has been a chore. If I wasn't so OCD about completing stuff I've started, I'd have given up around about The Man with the Golden Gun. Fortunately, though I survived and now we can look forward to a reinvention that has some teeth. In more ways than one.
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John Bleasdale is a writer, novelist and screenwriter.