Basic problem is on the script level,
with the intricate plot never offering
the mindless menace necessary to propel [itself]....
- Variety (May 1985)
A View To a Kill
Film: 1985 (#14)
Book: 1960 (#8)
Max Zorin, lunatic industrialist, wants to flood Silicon Valley in order to remove competitors for his own computer-chip making cartel.
Max Zorin, Nazi genetics experiment, contrives to rig horse races by embedding drug-injecting computer chips into his racehorses.
Max Zorin, former KGB agent, endangers world security by making and selling knockoffs of a line of EMP-resistant computer chips.
Take your pick. Take them all. It won't matter anyway.
Book vs. Film
Although the film takes absolutely nothing from the short story "From a View To a Kill" (in the collection For Your Eyes Only) save its title, I did promise to discuss it here.
In the story, a motorcycle dispatch-rider has been killed in France while en route and his documents stolen. Bond, who is in Paris already for other reasons, is sent to assist the investigation. He decides that the best way to find out who the killer is is to be the next dispatch-rider himself and thereby invite the assassin to try again. Live bait. He does and it all works out as planned. The end. Fleming's plots were actually not nearly as convoluted as the films would have you believe, and this is especially obvious in his short stories. This seems particularly pertinent given the incomprehensible plot of the film this title has unfortunately become attached to.
I'll write about how Moore does in this film in the Briefing below, but I wanted to note here that Moore is on record as being "horrified" by the tone of this Bond film, particularly sequences where "Christopher Walken was machine-gunning hundreds of people." He may therefore be the only person to have ever objected to this film because of its violence, rather than its quality.
Moore also says (in his autobiography) that this is the film where he finally realized he was too old for the part (OK, so he's a bit slow sometimes), that there was no chemistry between himself and Tanya Roberts (true, but how can you have chemistry with someone who's MIA?), and that he disliked Grace Jones - which latter is surprising to me; see below.
This film has only one romantic/dalliance female part in it (unless you count the barely-there Pola Ivanova), and Tanya Roberts is useless. Grace Jones is not useless, but I prefer to discuss her below. So would you mind if I broke from my own format for a moment and talked about Moneypenny?
I have always wondered how much of the obvious fun Moneypenny is having at Ascot is because Lois Maxwell had already been told "no more after this" and she knew she was finally done with the role which effectively ruined her career. It typecast her, it interfered with her other jobs, the pay was lousy - so the question is, why did she keep coming back? Why was she so attached to the part that she requested the character be killed after her departure? (Broccoli said no.)
You can't trust what you read. Certainly she had to be talked back into the role at least once, but other stories say that by the end of her run, she really didn't want to leave. (There's a persistent story that Maxwell tried to talk Broccoli into casting her as M, and was told that a female M would not be believable. The world would have to wait for Judi Dench - and for Stella Rimington of MI5, whom some say was a cultural influence that made Dench's casting plausible.)
While a lot of other commentators seem to feel that Maxwell got worse as Moneypenny the longer she did it, I tend to go the opposite direction. Her later characterization is of a woman who knows perfectly well nothing is going to happen between her and Bond (which, realistically, it never would have), who doesn't mind flirting with him anyway, but also will only tolerate his bullshit up to a point. I don't want to simplify it to "she got better once she stopped pretending to hope," so let's instead say I like an older and wiser Moneypenny better than the young disingenous one.
Anyway, salute to Lois Maxwell, who gave twenty-three years of her life to Bond. Makes one think of Bond's ruminations on the confidential secretarial staff in Moonraker:
If you were a woman there wasn't much of you left for other relationships. It was easier for the men. They had an excuse for fragmentary affairs .... But, for the women, an affair outside the Service automatically made you a 'security risk' and in the last analysis you had a choice of resignation from the Service and a normal life, or of perpetual concubinage to your King and Country.
So far as the Personnel Branch was concerned, her destiny in twenty years' time would be that single golden line right at the end of a New Year's Honours List, among the medals for officials of the Fishery Board, of the Post Office, of the Women's Institute, toward the bottom of the OBEs ....
The only thing I can think of to note in the backlot tales for this film is that the "007 stage" at Pinewood burned down on 27 June 1984, just before production was to begin on this film. By January 1985 it was rebuilt, and was officially named "Albert R. Broccoli's 007 Stage," and this film was the first to shoot there after its completion.
No, really, that's it. Same usual suspects, script by Maibaum and Wilson, et cetera. Wilson gets a full producer credit on this one.
Welcome to the worst Bond film ever to date. We're glad you could join us. Let's start by recapping the good points (and they are few indeed).
Moneypenny's glee at Ascot (see remarks above).
All scenes involving the inimitable Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey, especially the whole night burglary sequence where Bond proves he can open a safe the hard way, and Macnee proves he can still throw a punch. Sir Godfrey's death in this film hits hard, and we completely believe Bond's cold anger when he tells Zorin that was a mistake.
All scenes involving Grace Jones as May Day. To my vast and continued surprise, this is Jones' finest hour; she plays her part perfectly, what there is of it, and is by far the most interesting thing on the bad guys' side of the roster. I would also have added that Moore seems to enjoy working opposite her, if not for the remarks he made about it later. Go figure. Must have been acting.
Willoughby Gray as Dr. Carl Mortner, there to show Christopher Walken the proper way to play a raving mad scientist.
And that's it.
Even when this movie is not actively bad or actively stupid, it is generally dull. I don't loathe the gimmicky snowboard sequence at the beginning, for example. I can even swallow the use of "California Girls" (a low-rent cover, I might add, not The Beach Boys). But the scene should be more interesting! It's like all the life is sucked out of it. And then any momentum that has been built up is stepped on by that stupid submarine.
Most of the other sequences are like this. The steeplechase setup is far less than it should be (which is a shame when you consider that the first 45 minutes of the film basically have no purpose except to lead to it). The fire engine chase is marred by slapstick and bad gags. Everywhere you look, there are either dumb jokes, tedium, or wretched excess. Even the titles are the worst ever.
Christopher Walken is phoning it in, and a day when Walken can't even make a psychopath character interesting is a sad day indeed. Tanya Roberts - I called her useless above, and that may be a bit harsh. She's not grating to watch (others disagree), but she's not really present. She delivers all her lines with a vacant, stunned expression that makes you think she must be an amnesiac. The best thing I can say for her is that she could be a lot worse, which is faint praise. Other characters are either given nothing to work with, or they come in and out so fast for the demands of the nonsensical plot that you can't really tell anything about them. Even Walter Gotell is not up to his usual standard in this film.
The script is the sort of thing where we are thrown Pola Ivanova for five minutes with no prior introduction just because they decided it had been far too long without Bond taking anyone to bed. Then she vanishes, never to be referred to again. CIA agent Chuck Lee gets a similar fate.
Much has been made of Roger Moore outstaying his welcome, but Moore is hardly the worst thing about this film; in fact, he holds to his more sedate, older-Bond style and keeps his end of the bargain extremely well for a 58-year-old man. He tries valiantly; he might even have saved the film if he'd had a little more assistance. He is not, in general, one of this film's problems. This film's problems are the script, the script, Christopher Walken, the script, and the script.
Lest you think I'm being too harsh on Walken, I will credit him with two good moments. He is obviously having a lot of fun in the Main Strike briefing sequence on the blimp (witness his arm motions as the Silicon Valley model rises out of the table), up to and including "So - does anyone else want to drop out?" And his whole betrayal sequence in the mine - the flooding, the machinegunning glee, and then the calm "Good. Right on schedule" is the sort of nutcase we were expecting from the rest of his performance.
In the minor cast watch, the blonde Jenny Flex is played by Allison Doody, who would later play another cold and dangerous blonde, one with decent lines this time, in the third Indiana Jones movie. Dolph Lundgren is in here as Gogol's bodyguard; he was pressed into service while visiting the set that day (he was dating Grace Jones at the time).
You can't have it both ways. One of my books lists the banter between Bond and Sir Godfrey as "the highlight of the film," and another lists it under "Patronizing Lines" and wonders that we are meant to find it humorous. I favor the former.
You may also disagree with me (everyone else does) about the title song. Most people seem to feel it is one of the film's few good points. I say it's just as below-par as everything else here. Yes, I recognize that it won a Golden Globe and was the only number one hit in the UK ever to come from a Bond film. Nonetheless I don't think it is anywhere near Duran Duran's best work and I don't find it particularly appropriate for a Bond film. Everyone's got to have a few irrational beliefs.
I admit to a certain fondness for the chase scene in Paris despite its silliness (May Day's leap, of course, is fabulous). Good thing that car has front-wheel drive, eh? But the best part is M's chewing Bond out about "breaking most of the Napoleonic Code" at the end.
Moore is actually driving the fire truck during some of those scenes - rather well. (The stunt driver, so the story goes, turned out to be too short to reach the pedals.) Moore claimed that he did some stints as a lorry driver before acting began paying the bills.
Grace Jones' scream during the mine flood when sparks from the electric cables go off around her isn't acting. The crew had forgotten to warn her it would happen.
The silver Rolls-Royce in the film - the working one, not the empty chassis they push into the lake - was Broccoli's.
This is long-time Bond stuntman Bob Simmons' final Bond film; he had been with the films from the beginning, as a stuntman and then as a stunt arranger. You may recall he was the original "gunbarrel Bond," and also got a little face time in Thunderball as the "widow." He did only one other film before his death in 1988.
If, god help you, you are looking for John Glen's signature startled bird, here he is forced to resort to using one of Stacey Sutton's pets. Let that be indicative of this film as a whole.
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