For Your Eyes Only
Ultimate Edition
U.K. | 1981
Directed by John Glen
Starring
Roger Moore
Carole Bouquet
Topol
Color | 128 Minutes | PG
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
MGM Home Entertainment
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James Bond Ultimate Collection, Vol. 3
2012 Blu-ray edition

Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
 
6
    8   10 = Highest Rating  
Replaces EC's review of the 2003 edition
Roger Moore, in his fifth outing as secret agent James Bond, finally takes 007 a bit more seriously. Unlike his previous Bond films, For Your Eyes Only incorporates elements from Ian Fleming's original writings into the plot. Prior to this, all the Moore pics (beginning with 1973's Live and Let Die) had used only the Fleming titles and a few character names; everything else was fashioned anew to fit both Moore's lighter approach to the superspy and to reflect then-current trends in pop culture. Once 007 had ventured into outer space, however (1979's ridiculously over-the-top Moonraker), there was really nowhere else to go with the series except a more reality-based approach. Moore wasn't truly the right actor for this that would be Timothy Dalton in later '80s films, and nowadays Daniel Craig but he gives it a pretty good shot.
    The sinking of a disguised Royal Navy spy ship kicks off this Mediterranean-flavored adventure. The vessel, holed by a magnetic mine, goes down with all hands in Albanian territorial waters, thus precluding an official salvage operation by the British government. (Albania was a communist country at the time.) It is vital that the wreck be reached before the Russians or any other interested parties can get to it. Aboard the doomed ship was a super-secret ATAC (Automatic Targeting and Communications) machine, used to control Britain's fleet of ballistic nuclear submarines. In the hands of a foreign power it could countermand official orders from the Admiralty or even send fake ones
in effect, rendering all British subs useless. The ship's crew was to have destroyed the ATAC in the event of an emergency but it is not known if they were successful. The gray eminences at the Ministry of Defence can't afford to take any chances.
    A patriotic private citizen is their best hope to either verify the ATAC's destruction or salvage it from the wreck. Marine archeologist Sir Timothy Havelock (Jack Hedley) has the perfect cover as well as the right equipment for the task. Unfortunately he and his wife are murdered by a freelance hitman before setting out. Their assassin is traced to a villa in Spain, so James Bond is called in to "isolate" the killer and "apply the necessary pressure" to find out who hired him. Someone beats him to the punch, though
the Havelock's beautiful, revenge-obsessed daughter, Melina (Carole Bouquet), who has tracked the hitman down on her own to put a crossbow bolt into him. Since a dead man can't talk this appears to mark an abrupt end to "Operation Undertow"... The ever-resourceful Bond, of course, always has at least one more card he can play. 
    Technically at least,
For Your Eyes Only is 007 cinema of the highest caliber. Amazing stuntwork from the likes of Bond veterans Remy Julienne (driving), Willi Bogner (skiing) and Rick Sylvester (climbing); marvelous miniature effects by Oscar-winner Derek Meddings; Al Giddings' spectacular underwater photography we're talking some of the best in the biz here, all working their wizardry the old fashioned way, without the benefit of CGI. Backed by such formidable experts, first-time director John Glen (previously an editor and 2nd Unit director for the franchise) gets our hero from Point A to Point B in solid if unspectacular fashion. His debut film is well-paced, generating real suspense in a couple of the set-pieces (something conspicuously missing in most of the Moore pics). Richard Maibaum, who scripted the best of the Bond movies but hadn't been involved with either The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) or Moonraker, returns to the fold here and it shows. It's great to see James Bond in action against criminal gangs and the KGB instead of a megalomaniacal supervillain in a Mao jacket, the kind with an army of henchmen kitted out in color-coordinated jumpsuits.
    On top of the technical credits we've got a terrific supporting cast, including Julian Glover (Quatermass and the Pit) and Topol (1980's Flash Gordon) as the rival Greek smuggling chieftains whom Bond must play one against the other to achieve his mission. French actress Carole Bouquet is one of the most alluring of the Bond Girls; she's effective as a strong-willed young woman who sometimes gets in over her head but deals with it no hysterical screaming for "James!" from this gal when the chips are down. Since Bond doesn't get amorous with Melina until the very end of the movie, the fact that Moore is old enough to be her father never really becomes an issue. (His comical rejection, earlier in the film, of some hot young 'jailbait' played by professional skater Lynn Holly Johnson was probably written into the story to make Bouquet seem more mature.) As for Sir Roger himself, by somewhat curbing his impish impulses he delivers one of best performances as 007.
    So what went wrong? For one thing, the film's opening and closing sequences are completely out of tune with everything that comes in between. The pre-titles 'teaser' has nothing at all to do with the plot, succeeding only in turning Bond's all-time archnemesis, Blofeld, into a "Dr. Evil" figure worthy of ridicule. (Some bravura helicopter stunts and models can't redeem it.) The less said about the Margaret Thatcher 'skit' at film's end, the better. (I'm pretty positive Maibaum didn't write that.) Another serious detriment is the absolutely terrible music score of composer Bill Conti (Rocky). The computers may use 5.25" floppy drives and no one has a cell phone, but nothing dates this movie more than the music. It sounds like the score to some cheesy late '70s TV adventure show (Danger Spy! starring James Franciscus), albeit with a bigger orchestra... It's that bad. The title song, sung by Sheena Easton (the only singer to physically appear in a Bond main titles sequence) is okay, I guess it was actually an international Top 10 hit and nominated for an Oscar but it's a bit light and sugary for a Bond theme. Finally, can we really suspend our disbelief enough to buy Roger Moore as a super-athletic action hero?
    Didn't think so. Nevertheless, For Your Eyes Only has more going for it than against it. The cartoon formula used for the previous three Bonds is refreshingly absent no flying cars, no laser guns, not a single explosion in the tense, low tech climax. (Don't worry, there are plenty of neat-o 'splosions peppered throughout the first two-thirds of the flick.) This return to Earth was exactly what the series needed after the silliness of Moonraker. Unfortunately, by the time the producers recognized that Moore could play a harder-edged Bond he'd gotten too old to believably do so.

In late 2006 MGM Home Entertainment released again! the first 20 James Bond films on DVD. This wasn't a simple repackaging, however, as all the films were remastered, frame-by-frame, by Lowry Digital Imaging. As good as earlier discs were they couldn't hold a candle to these new "Ultimate" editions. Judging by the titles I've screened, the visual improvement is remarkable especially with the films from the '60s and '70s. Every Bond flick received a new audio makeover as well.
    Originally these Ultimate editions were presented two discs per title, boxed five titles to a set, in non-chronological order. People complained that they couldn't purchase favorite flicks individually you were stuck with Die Another Day if you wanted Licence to Kill, for example but the price was right. (For Your Eyes Only is contained in Ultimate Collection Volume 3, released with Volume 4 in December 2006.) Those interested only in certain Bond movies should be pleased that MGM is now releasing the remastered Ultimate Editions in single-disc 'stand-alone' versions at budget prices. The first batch of these, to include FYEO, streeted February 6, 2007.
    With the single-disc Ultimate Edition of FYEO you get the movie and three separate audio commentaries. The completely remastered film, presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, looks absolutely incredible. It's gorgeously crisp and vivid, bringing startling clarity to the many beautiful Mediterranean land/seascapes. These dazzling visuals are matched by a topnotch Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track; DTS 5.1 is also available for those so equipped. As for the trio of commentaries, two are ported over from earlier DVD releases. Although these feature a number of participants (principal crew and craftsmen, actors Topol and Johnson, composer Conti) one is dominated by director John Glen, the other producer/co-writer Michael G. Wilson. Hosted/narrated by John Cork, each is a trove of information on the shooting of the film, the stunts, effects, locations and so forth. They're not "live" commentaries as such, but rather sections of audio interviews skillfully edited together.
    The third commentary track, recorded expressly for the new Ultimate Edition DVD, features a solo Roger Moore. ("Bond's the name and spying's the game!") In avuncular, laidback fashion the veteran actor discusses whatever crosses his mind as he watches the movie. This isn't the track to listen to if you want to learn anything substantial about how FYEO was made, but Moore's fans should enjoy it (despite some lengthy pauses)
he's an amusingly self-deprecating fellow. 2/21/07
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