(John Glen, UK, 1981)
Ignoring the dreadful pre-credits sequence, this twelfth entry in the Bond film canon is a remarkable change of direction and style what was midway through Roger Moore's tenure in the starring role. It is a shame the opening is so bad, certainly a strong contender for the worst, because the very beginning has a thoughtful Bond leaving flowers at the grave side of his dead wife, Teresa from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. A nice emotional touch of which there were far too few during the Moore years. He is called away to deal with arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld. But oh, how the mighty have fallen. From Donald Pleasence's classic portrayal (in You Only Live Twice) to some extra in a bald-head cap that would look laughable in a children's TV show. Bond scoops the wheelchair-bound villain up with his helicopter and drops him down a chimney stack in the London docklands. If this is meant to be funny then John Glen (if it was he and not the second-unit director responsible) should never have attempted humour again in his career or done everything within his power to see it was left on the cutting room floor where it belongs. Normally I wouldn't get so bothered by the pre-credits sequence. We know they are largely there just to let the audience know that 'Bond is back' - hopefully in some style. But in FYEO it grates so much against what comes.
In stark contrast to the above, the rest of the film is played relatively straight. Certainly, of all the Moore Bond films it is the closest in style to the Ian Fleming novels. No loopy mad men planning on taking over the world/oceans/space here. Just some classic international espionage involving the recovery of a 'lost' British transmitter - the ATAC - used to launch missiles from nuclear submarines. Bond turns to a Greek 'resistance' style movement for help in the mission. To Glen's credit he manages to show in FYEO how well he could work within the Bond formula which at the time was not known for taking risks. Therefore, we have ski and motorbike chases through the snows of Cortina, and the siege on the villains remote stronghold (in a more conventional version of the finale in OHMSS). Unfortunately, working against Glen throughout is Bill Conti's totally inappropriate disco-inspired funky music, which goes a long way to ruining what atmosphere director Glen tries to create. In contrast, the title theme song (sung by the Scots lass of the hour Sheena Easton) isn't bad at all.
The locations aren't as glamorous or exotic as many other Bond films but Glen gets the best out of them with some great location filming. Corfu and Cortina are both memorable - creating the kind of interest that makes one say "You know, I'd really like to go there for a holiday". In keeping with the mostly straight approach, there is one great moment, that for me displays the Moore Bond's most mean on-screen streak, and that is when Bond stares at a nasty henchman in a wrecked car, balancing precariously on the edge of a cliff, as the henchman begs for mercy Bond finishes the job by kicking the car over the precipice. Terrific stuff. There's even a tense underwater sequence which when compared to similar but monotonous sequences in Thunderball, shows why John Glen has directed more Bond films than any one else. Enjoy.
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