Tuesday, November 6, 2012

View to a Kill: Geriatric Bond

A View to a Kill - 1985

Bond:  Roger Moore
Directed by: John Glen
Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli
Theme: "A View to a Kill" performed by Duran Duran

Wow. Just... Wow. While there were several tragically Seventies Bond films, this is movie is probably the poster-child for tragically Eighties movies in all their glow-in-the-dark neon glory. Just watch the opening title sequence set to the Duran Duran pop-hit title-song that remains the only Bond theme to hit #1 on the charts (Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" topped out at #2).

Roger Moore was 57 when this movie was made, and looks every bit of it. In a 2007 interview, he even said "I was only about four hundred years too old for the part." He did not have the presence to pull off an action film. True, Sean Connery had an action movie renascence in his 60s, but you'll notice Roger Moore didn't. And watching him put the moves on the Bond Girls in this film is just outright creepy and disgusting. Seeing Moore and Tanya Roberts in the shower together at the end of the movie made me want to take a shower and wash the image out of my brain.

And while Roger Moore looks ancient, Christopher Walken looks so young. For Walken, playing a sociopath is like shooting fish in a barrel (or fleeing miners trapped in a flooding mine), and he puts in a strong performance as a classic Bond villain. Producers originally offered the part to David Bowie. While he's not nearly as good an actor as Walken, that would have been awesome and probably better. "Better" in the sense that it would have taken the movie over the top and made it transcendentally Eighties. It would have been a little frozen cult-classic moment in time. Instead Walken reminds us that there were good actors in the Eighties who still have careers, only none of them except him were in this film. Walken is just too good for this movie. Like Corinne Cléry in Moonraker, his acting style just doesn't fit. Still, Zorin is really the first and possibly the purest psychopath Bond-Villain. He's just psycho to be psycho. He's something akin to the "Joker" of the Bond universe.

Then there's Grace Jones... Wow. She's a terrible actress, but you don't really cast her for her acting ability. And she's no worse than Roberts. May Day has a very unique character arc as a Bond-Girl/henchman hybrid character that kicks ass and turns good in the end. She's sort of the Pussy Galore of this movie, if Pussy had worn a thong and kamikazed her flying circus into Goldfinger's troops. Refreshingly May Day doesn't turn good because Bond seduced her (which he does, which is gross), but because Zorin betrays her (watching Christopher Walken and Grace Jones kiss is also gross... Grace Jones just looks uncomfortable kissing everyone in this movie).

A fair portion of this movie takes place in Bay Area. Bond finally gets his chance to have a car chase through the streets of San Francisco, which if you're familiar with the City is hilarious to watch as he jumps from downtown to Portero Hill and back again in mere seconds. Giants fans might recognize that the sequence with the draw bridge takes place right next to where AT&T Park is now. They also use the Wharf and City Hall and the Golden Gate Bridge and all those oil wells in the East Bay along the Hayward fault... wait a minute... Yes, somehow we are supposed to believe that there are oil wells running along the fault-line in the Berkeley and Oakland hills, where all those rich people have houses... in a state where even the mention of oil drilling anywhere causes controversy...

A View to a Kill is notable for several reasons. It's not only Roger Moore's seventh and last turn at Bond, but it marks the final film for Lois Maxwell as Miss Monneypenny. She'd appeared  in all 14 movies to that point. When she was cast in Dr. No, she was offered either the role of Monneypenny or that of Sylvia Trench, who was intended to appear in six films as Bond's off-duty girl-friend. She made a fortuitous choice as Trench's character was cut after just two films.

Given that Sean Connery and Roger Moore were roughly the same age, and Lois Maxwell appeared in every film, we can see how the characters aged over 23 years:

Miss Monneypenny and Bond in Dr. No.

Miss Moneypenny and Bond in A View to a Kill

Personal Rankings: I think this one scoots in right below Diamonds Are Forever mostly because of Roger Moore's advanced age.
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me
  4. Live and Let Die
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. For Your Eyes Only
  7. Dr. No
  8. Octopussy
  9. Diamonds Are Forever
  10. A View to a Kill
  11. Thunderball
  12. The Man with the Golden Gun
  13. Moonraker

1985 Context
President: Ronald Reagan
Queen: Elizabeth II

Coca-Cola releases New Coke

Best Picture Nominees:

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