After that little diversion off to the side, it’s time to return to the Old Firm as the tyranny of Roger Moore’s smirk comes to an end. We bring you the fabulous A View To A Kill!
Perhaps trying to recapture the ice magic of The Spy Who Loved Me‘s prelude, we come across Bond trying to retrieve some stuff in the Siberian tundra from a body, which we learn later is another Double-0 agent. It’s a microchip! But soon the Russkies are upon 007 as well, and he needs to flee. After getting his skis shot out from under him, he blows up a pursuing snowbuggy and improvises a snowboard. And “California Girls” starts playing. Gnarly. Anyway he finally reaches his submersible escape vessel, where he gets all nice and cosy with the pilot.
The Titles and Soundtrack
Yeah, Duran Duran are all over this like a rash. Actually, it’s not such a bad song, and fits the film in the end, probably due to John Barry putting it into some kind of order for the band. As far as the main score goes, the OHMSS theme also gets another welcome workout in parts. The imagery itself is very dark and moody and conforms very much to the Moore-era template.
The whole MI6 massive gather at Ascot for the horse races to glare at Max Zorin, not to make him uncomfortable or anything like that, but then most of the action focuses around the sights in and around Paris and San Francisco.
We’re finally back to having a properly nutso lead villain. Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken, is a billionaire industrialist who’s also a completely psychotic product of eugenic tomfoolery, and while being mentored by the KGB, has turned his back on Mother Russia to indulge in such bourgeois pleasures as horse racing.
At his side, ladies and gentlemen, Miss Grace Jones, playing May Day, who is apparently almost as nutso as Zorin. She also has a couple of assistants in Jenny Flex and Pan Ho (Alison Doody and Papillon Soo Soo) whom job is to be glamourous and presumably deadly, although Ms Day is a hard act to follow.
Completing his retinue is Scarpine, who is, yes, nutso as well. And Grandpa Nutso, who is apparently the whole reason for Zorin being a freak. He also enjoys breeding thoroughbreds and doping them to the gills so they bug out after crossing the finish line, so you know, basically there’s a whole entourage of weirdos hanging out with Zorin.
Anyway, Zorin, while getting a foothold in the microprocessor market, wants to corner the market by, well, wiping out Silicon Valley. I can get behind that. The plan is to trigger the faultlines on either side of valley, causing a double earthquake, sinking the valley into the bay and drowning lots of techbros. To do that, he’s making use of a whole lot of old mines and oil drilling operations, including those of a company once owned by the family of…
Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), who’d inherited a bunch of oil rigs or whatever, but with Zorin taking over much of the company shares, she’s pretty much being squeezed out forcibly. However, as Bond stumbles across her and they nut out what Zorin is actually up to, they’re well on the way to foiling the plan. I don’t think it’s much of a shock that she’s who Bond ends up with, although he also gets to shag May Day, and Pola Ivanova, a KGB spy who was also on Zorin’s case, and his squidgy submarine pilot right at the start of the movie.
So I think that’s four during this adventure? At least equal with his record so far.
There’s Achille Aubergine, the French connection who puts Bond closer to the trail. He gets killed by May Day.
Sir Godfrey Tibbett, also of MI6, assists Bond in figuring out what’s going down at Zorin’s horse stud outside Paris, as he plays the ruse of being Bond’s manservant. He gets killed by May Day.
Chuck Lee, of the CIA, helps Bond out a bit in San Francisco as the case progresses. He gets killed by May Day.
Actually, while the movie is pretty much standard Moore-era cheese, there’s nothing really awful about it. It was pretty weird skimming some of the contemporary reviews with someone complaining about the dumb police chase, like that was anything particularly new. In fact it seems de riguer for Bond films set in America to have some dumb police chase, and at least the SFPD chief wasn’t as terrible as the Louisiana sheriff guy.
Another thing that seemed to cause complaint was May Day’s apparent face turn at the end. Look, I don’t know about you, but if my psychotic boyfriend decided he was going to drown me and all of my pals, I wouldn’t take it lightly. Yes, May Day killed a bunch of folks, but at the end of the day she sacrificed herself to saved Silicon Valley, so I think we can give that a pass. “She wasn’t all bad”.
At least the turn wasn’t all corny like Jaws’.
Even after the plot is foiled, Zorin and the crew (what’s left of it) snatch Sutton and Bond rather implausibly grabs one of the mooring lines, getting the blimp tangled up in the Golden Gate Bridge and of course Bond and Zorin have a big dumb fight and Zorin falls down, although Scarpine and Grandpa Nutso are still in the blimp. Grandpa gets some dynamite with the intent of chucking it at Bond but drops it, blowing himself and Scarpine up.
Finally, Bond and Sutton gets some time to themselves, at least until Q uses a Tandy version of K-9 to perve on them. Exit Roger Moore, who did indeed roger more.
Moore’s last film, dare I say it about three films too long (quite probably even by his own admission) when the credibility disappeared, but on the other hand, the casting of Walken and Jones is at least out there enough (I note David Bowie and Sting was also mooted, Bowie would’ve been so out-there the whole movie would’ve collapsed, and as for esteemed Gordon Sumner, well, if you’ve ever watched the Dune movie – yeah), possibly the best mastermind-henchman pairing since Scaramanga and Nick Nack, but as Golden Gun demonstrated, not even a charismatic rogue’s gallery can help if the film loses direction midway through, as seems to happen after Bond arrives in San Fran, although at least it does get going again once Bond and Sutton turn up at the mine and we find out exactly how bonkers Zorin really is.
It’s also the last appearance of Lois Maxwell in the role of Moneypenny, as the final link with the cast of Dr. No. Front office chat will never be so awkward.
Given the uneven quality of the series, particularly for the 80s films, AVTAK sits quite solidly in the realm of “ehhh, that wasn’t terrible, I’ve seen worse”. Of the seven films in Roger Moore’s stint, it’s certainly the most seventh.
Maybe not in quality – it’s not a stinker by any means. The thing is, while I’m getting a pretty clear idea of the best 2-3 of each era, this ain’t amongst it, it’s sitting in that very watchable but not terribly brilliant niche. Like all Bond films, if this comes up on telly when a bunch of people are watching it at the same time, it’d be fun to snark about on socmed.
Pretty good bad guys, pretty good evil plot, maybe it just gets a bit lost in the middle.
As such, I’m giving it 15 out of 20 killer butterfly lures.