Posted December 10, 2010 by editor in Retrospectives
 
 

A View To A Kill


I could probably write this whole thing in five words; rubbish film, great theme tune. Alright, maybe that’s doing it a slight disservice. Actually, no, not really. Made in 1985, A View to a Kill is the fourteenth film in the series and Roger Moore’s swansong. It sounds great on paper; a re-hash of Goldfinger’s plan for global domination but with Silicone Valley and microchips (all the rage at the time) replacing Fort Knox and the shiny stuff, masterminded by the fantastic Christopher Walken as Zorin, a psychotic industrialist. Plus, Grace Jones parachuting off the Eiffel Tower (actually, that bit is quite good) and Patrick McNee from The Avengers. Put it all together and, despite the fact that it was a resounding commercial success, the film lacks any of the magic of earlier Bond films (so much so that I was trying to get away with writing this without actually watching it – I did catch most of it one rainy bank holiday a few months back… I did sit through it though – sometimes you’ve gotta take one for the team).

 

It’s impossible to escape the fact that Roger Moore was 58 years old at the time (as he himself pointed out in a 2007 interview: “I was only about four hundred years too old for the part”); he looks tired and jaded through the whole thing. His stunt doubles most definitely were not that old, meaning the action scenes look ridiculous. And the love-making is, quite frankly (sorry Roger), a bit gross. Tanya Roberts who plays Stacey Sutton, the granddaughter of an oil tycoon whose company is taken over by Zorin, was 30 years old at the time of filming. Poor Tanya. She definitely took one for the team.

 

Talking of Stacey, she is one of the most uninteresting Bond girls around – no good in a fight, fairly stupid and literally just there for eye candy purposes (Roberts definitely didn’t get the gig for her acting prowess). Sean Connery probably would have used her as a human shield very early on. Grace Jones as Mayday is a different story; pumped up on steroids she’s superhumanly strong, effortlessly lifting people above her head (although why she needs to kill a French policeman with a rubbish butterfly on the end of a fishing line is anyone’s guess). She’s more than a match for Bond, as evidenced in another cringe worthy sex scene; no “Oh Jaaaaames” for her – she shows him she means business by climbing on top straight away. The first truly sexually aggressive female we’ve seen in the series, she could have been up there with Oddjob and Red Grant in terms of legendary nut-job henchmen (should that be henchpeople?). Shame that the filmmakers pretty much ruined it by repeating the mistake they made with Jaws in Moonraker (why? WHY?!) and making her a good guy in the last ten minutes. Mayday and James Bond (or his stunt double at least) could have had one hell of a good dust-up. But, for whatever reason (maybe Moore’s Bond isn’t allowed to slap women; even ones that have strangled Steed!), we’re denied the pleasure. Christopher Walken as Max Zorin is also a bit of a disappointment. In a part originally offered to David Bowie, you’d think Walken would be camp gold as a Bond villain – and a genetically engineered Aryan one at that – but he looks like he’s sleepwalking through this.

As well as Moore’s last Bond film, this is also Lois Maxwell’s last outing as Moneypenny – at this point Maxwell and Cubby Broccoli were the only two people who had been working on the franchise since Dr No. Interesting fact: Moneypenny’s total screen time in fourteen films is under twenty minutes, with fewer than 200 words spoken. It’s a shame she spends her screen time in this film in one of the most hideous frocks I’ve ever seen. Despite this, she has of course been a stalwart of the series, so farewell to the lovely Lois.

 

Whether you love or hate Roger Moore as Bond, his previous outings in the tuxedo had a certain charm, a joie de vivre that raised the preceding films above mediocrity. Combined with strong villains and vibrant girls, we can perhaps put aside our disapproval at the crude double entendres and general smarminess. It’s a shame that these elements are sadly lacking in A View to a Kill. Even the finale, a hand-to-hand battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, promises much but fails to deliver, lacking as it does any fire in its belly, leading to a deeply unsatisfying whole. Weirdly, I loved this film when I was a nipper; all the Parisian stuff at the start, the horse racing/doping and big 80s hair seemed unspeakably glamorous to an eight year old girl (especially the up-the-bum leotard that Grace Jones wears in the slightly disturbing training scene with Zorin. I was a strange child). Inevitably it looks dated now, as any film from the 80s revolving around technology will (Zorin: “I find a computer indispensable”) but even putting this aside, on viewing it as a grown-up the whole thing feels uninspired; cast and crew alike phoning it in. The final nail in the coffin is when Bond makes Stacey a quiche. Yes, you did read that right.

 

All in all, thank god for Duran Duran! The theme song was co-written by the band and John Barry, and recorded with a 60-piece orchestra. So far, it’s the most successful Bond theme to date and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song. The story goes that Duran Duran got the gig after bassist John Taylor (a huge Bond fan) met producer Cubby Broccoli at a party, and, whilst three sheets to the wind, asked “When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?” It just goes to show that shouting drunkenly at important people at parties does sometimes do the trick (although more often than not it may get you sacked). The rest of the score is at times quite beautiful; the orchestral arrangement of the theme song is very haunting, although the slightly bizarre appearance of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” in the opening sequence when Bond is snowboarding down a hill mars it somewhat.

 

All in all, like I said at the start: bad film, great theme song.

 

Emma Wilkin


editor