For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only (1981): John Glen
For Your Eyes Only was supposed to follow The Spy Who Loved Me, but the success of a certain space-based Best Picture nominee from 1977 sent producers back to their libraries to look up Moonraker.
The James Bond action returns to Earth, and delves beneath its waters for some stunts that probably rate as some of the series’s most difficult.
ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: James Bond tracks a Greek smuggler who stole a British missile targeting system and plans to sell it to the Soviet Union.
For Your Eyes Only opens with James Bond (Roger Moore) visiting his wife’s grave. Moments after that he’s picked up in a chopper, which happens to be controlled by a wheelchair-bound man stroking a white kitty cat. It’s longtime nemesis Blofeld! Blofeld seizes control of the chopper after killing its pilot and remotely flies it around an industrial base, laughing.
Bond climbs outside the chopper and gains the pilot’s seat and control of the joystick. He spots Blofeld on a roof and picks him up with a landing skid before dropping him into a smoke stack. It’s an ignoble end to Bond’s all-time greatest villain.
After that silly cold open, Bond finds himself pursuing an ATAC machine, a British coding device lying on the bottom of the Adriatic after a sea mine accidentally exploded and sank a secret British naval intelligence ship.
The seaman manning the ATAC at the time was meant to detonate the machine, but could not during the chaotic sinking. Now, several parties are searching for the wreck and the machine inside.
Bond’s handlers send him to Greece to meet the Havelock family, archeologists and clandestine MI-6 contractors. Mr. and Mrs. Havelock are shot to death by a plane that day, and it’s the younger Melina (Carole Bouquet) who becomes Bond’s sidekick.
Bond tracks the hitman to a sexy pool party and runs into another hitman named Locque (Michael Gothard). He also finds a crossbow-wielding Melina there, after she kills the man who killed her parents. She spends the rest of the movie trying to avenge her parents while Bond tries to stop her. That’s kind of what he’s there for.
The mission takes Bond to Switzerland, where he runs into some dangerous Olympians, one who tries to kill Bond and another who tries to bed Bond. He’s not into either. He meets Melina again, and again tries to protect her from her vengeful tendencies.
Turns out some drug smugglers are behind the theft of the ATAC, and one wants to sell the device to the Soviet Union. Bond joins forces with someone on the wrong side of the law, an unusual tactic for the spy, but probably something that happens all the time in spy craft.
For Your Eyes Only makes Bond into a romantic. He visits his wife’s grave in the opening, and the trips to Greece with an angry daughter set to avenge her parents makes for some hot blood, especially compared to the cold confines of space and the unfriendly relations between Bond and Dr. Goodhead in Moonraker.
What is this ATAC machine, and why is it scary? The British Navy uses the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator to coordinate submarine targets. In the wrong hands the device could make British submarines target British cities. That would be bad.
Chasing this device is a Greek smuggler known as Kristatos (Julian Glover). In a previous war Kristatos earned the King’s Medal from Queen Elizabeth for helping oppose the Soviets. What the Brits didn’t know, and what Bond didn’t know for some time in For Your Eyes Only, is that Kristatos is actually a very bad guy.
Columbo (Topol), the Microsoft to Kristatos’s Apple in the Greek smuggling world, outs Kristatos as a traitor to Britain and a premier heroin refiner. Kristatos, not Columbo, employs the octagonal-glasses-wearing and murdering Locque.
We can say for Kristatos that he’s doing his part for the Olympics, as he sponsors a young American named Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson) and possibly also the East German biathlete Eric Kriegler (John Wyman).
Kristatos’s major flaw is that of all villains–overconfidence and joy of torture. A later scene shows Kristatos capturing Bond and Melina. Instead of killing them, he ties them together for some fun in attempting to drown them.
Kristatos drives his boat around the archeological site beneath the Havelock boat. Bond and Melina are dragged behind, between them a buoy. The boat speeds through the water, and the bedraggled pair struggle to breathe. The sea is shallow here and the coral sharp, and it cuts the pair several times.
Instead of driving straight on, Kristatos has his boat circle the same area a few times. These lulls allow Bond and Melina to dive down and cut their ropes on the coral. They need two tries at this. On the third try they wrap the rope binding them to the boat around a rock on the sea floor.
The tension causes the boat to struggle, and then the rope to snap, sending the trailing buoy onto the boat like a missile, where it knocks a henchman into the water. This guy is eaten immediately by sharks.
Melina leads Bond underwater to where she VERY conveniently left an air tank earlier for no known reason. She and Bond share the air and wait to resurface. Kristatos, meanwhile, impatient, is fine to let the sharks finish the job.
Kristatos might not be an effective villain, but he does show disloyalty. When his henchman fell in the water, Kristatos told his other men to ignore him as he’s eaten by sharks. Later, at St. Cyril’s, the moment Kristatos sees Bond enter his command room, he calmly takes the ATAC machine and leaves, leaving Kriegler to do the fighting.
Much of For Your Eyes Only action occurs around water, either in it in Greece or on it in Switzerland. Bond returns to Switzerland for plenty of frozen water action.
You might remember an extended chase scene in On Her Majesty’s Secreet Service about 10 years before. Bond again returns to the slopes to avoid bad guys. This time, however, a named henchman chases him, Eric Kriegler, one of the world’s best biathletes.
We watch Kriegler during a race as he expertly shoots targets during the biathlon. This guy is such a dedicated henchman that he leaves the race to try to kill Bond. Once Bond enters the snowy woods, Kriegler makes his move.
With a smirk Kriegler shoots Bond’s gun away from him. Bond hides behind a tree. He sees his gun a few feet away, and tries to fetch it with a ski pole. Kriegler shoots that away, too.
Bond skis away. Kriegler follows, but his ski skills are not in the realm of his shooting skills, and he wipes out after leaping over a small hill. Also chasing Bond are two men driving motorcycles with spiky tires to grip the snow. Bond leaps over a hill and does a 360 spin to smack one driver in the face.
Quickly Bond skis into a crowd waiting for an elevator, boards it, and finds himself in line for the ski jump. Also there is Locque and other henchmen. Bond waits his turn, with no way to escape otherwise. At the bottom he spots Kriegler waiting with the two bikers.
Bond starts his descent on the jump ramp. For some very dumb reason, one of Locque’s men joins him on the run and bumps Bond. His presence forces Kriegler to hold making the sure shot.
Bond flies askance off the ramp to discombobulate the bikers waiting for him. Back onto the slopes we go, this time a beginner route full of civilians. The bikers pursue. Bond leads them over a deck, skiing on a table and ruining everyone’s lunch.
In the woods Bond places his lone ski pole between two trees, and the pole serves its purpose in dislodging one rider from his bike.
Bond next finds himself on a bobsled run. The biker pursues. Both men show exceptional skill in staying on the icy run. There’s no way a motorcycle could make a turn on a bobsled run in real life, but it happens in Bond Life.
Not until Bond leaves the track and sails over a barn does the chase end, when the other bike tries the trick and is damaged in the landing. Turns out Kriegler was driving the bike. Dude’s so mad he throws the motorcycle at Bond as the latter skis to safety.
For Your Eyes Only throws plenty of action at us. A car explodes in the early going as an anti-theft device. There’s crossbow shooting, a submarine fight, and a SCUBA suit fight. A mine explodes. Two people are gunned down by airplane. A woman is run over by a dune buggy. Car, motorcycle, boat, SCUBA suit, airplane, skis, basket on a wire, helicopter, and submarine are all methods of transport in the movie.
Crossbow, gun, grenade, throwing knife, airplane, timed bomb, mine, and even an ice skate: just about any weapon one can use is explored. Much of it silently. Scenes underwater are dialogue-free by nature, but the harrowing rock climb in the third act is also without speech. These moments are terrific to watch, improved by their lack of music.
Melina Havelock is the beautiful daughter of one of Greece’s best archeologists and MI-6 contractor. Melina joins her family on their yacht one afternoon, only to watch a hitman murder her parents a few minutes later.
Melina, being part Greek, knows that, like Electra, she must avenge her family’s death. She starts on a crusade to kill everyone involved, and that gets her mixed up with Bond.
Bond tries at every turn to keep Melina out of harm’s way, but Hell hath no fury, as the saying goes. Also applicable: Hell hath no fury like Melina with a crossbow, because she is light’s out with that thing.
She proves highly useful, despite being clouded with rage. She can read her dead father’s shorthand, and her underwater skills save Bond’s ass several times. I don’t know why she chose to leave behind an air tank on the sea floor earlier in the movie, but it proves life-saving.
For some time we believe Columbo to be the villain. We only have the word of Kristatos for that. Both men are smugglers, but only Kristatos deals in hard drugs. Columbo owns many money-making outfits, including a casino, where we see one of his employees encouraging a gambler to bet more.
Columbo is a smart smuggler, sticking recording devices in places where they need to be. That’s how he learns things, though how he learned about Bond’s identity is left a mystery. Once we learn who’s side Columbo is on, it’s easy to like him. “By tomorrow we’ll be good friends,” he tells Bond.
Here’s a guy with a nose for fun. He raids Kristatos’s compound with a grin. Being shot at appears to be his raison d’être. He enjoys fighting at St. Cyril’s, especially with Kristatos, his long-time nemesis, and he’s the one to kill him.
Locque: Kristatos’s chief hitman is a Locque, a man of octagonal glasses who Bond identifies after seeing him for a few minutes. He learns his face well enough that a new machine called the Identigraph identifies Locque from a computer-generated image of his features.
Locque shows up when people die, and he has a prevalence for dune buggies, but otherwise he doesn’t have much to do except appear menacing. His coolest moment comes in the raid on the drug-smuggling compound, when he goes double machine guns for a brief period.
Kriegler: Few ethnic archetypes evoke fear like the chiseled blond Teutonic male. That’s exactly what Kriegler is. He adds Olympic-level marksmanship to his skill set and a humorless personality. Bibi says that Kriegler “won’t even talk to girls,” so he might be gay. Good for him.
The fun stuff in For Your Eyes Only occurs underwater. Have you ever seen a submarine fight before? This is your chance!
Bond and Melina take a special sub called Nautilus to find the ATAC machine in the sunken ship. After a harrowing battle inside the wreckage, they return to their sub with the ATAC thinking they are safe.
A smaller sub comes into view and attacks. Using its pincers, it tears cables on Nautilus. Melina struggles at the controls. Bond is helpless. The other sub uses pincers to grip a Nautilus rudder.
While the enemy craft is more nimble, it doesn’t have the power of Nautilus, which gets its engines running and drives the other sub into the hole in the ship blown by the mine. The other sub is briefly stuck, and it releases its grip on Nautilus, enough let the heroes escape.
Thank you, For Your Eyes Only, for showing us the dangers of submarine fighting.
Many of the closeups, especially of Melina, were shot using dry for wet filming techniques, in which smoke, fans, tints, and slow motion simulate being underwater. Carole Bouquet had a medical condition preventing her from being underwater.
Once Columbo figures out where Kristatos is hiding, it’s a simple matter of raiding the compound after Bond free climbs 500 feet of rock. Piece of cake.
St. Cyril’s monastery is perched atop a rock outcrop hundreds of feet high. The only way up is in a winch-operated basket, and the only way to operate the winch is for someone to climb the rock and operate it. That someone is Bond.
Bond’s mountaineering skill is put to the test, but he ascends the rock face quickly and, from his performance, without breaking a sweat or breathing hard. Bond hammers anchors into the cliff and hooks lines into carabiners. Columbo below watches for guards above, signaling to Bond when he needs to hide.
Bond reaches the top, only to find a guard ready to kick him in the face. Bond falls, and many of his holds yank out, leaving three. Bond dangles at the end of his rope, literally, but does not give up. He unlaces each shoe and fashions some kind of climbing knot allowing him to climb the rope and regain the ledge.
Except, this guard has serious guts. After kicking Bond he returns with a rope and belays down the angled rock ledge. Using his gun as a hammer, he bashes the remaining three holds keeping Bond from falling to his death. The guard is only using one hand to keep himself alive.
Bond works the shoelaces, even as two pins are knocked loose. Bond, down to one pin in the rock, climbs to a precipice, offering a hold and a chance to even the score. Bond pops over the edge and throws a knife into the guard, sending him into the air. He dies on the ground far below.
That harrowing sequence was made without spoken words; all hand motions, wind, and sweat, though mine and not the characters’.
Once Bond reaches the clifftop, the silent infiltration continues. The winch-operated basket brings Columbo, Melina, and three others to the compound, where they disable a guard.
They come across Bibi’s skating coach, who tells them she is leaving Kristatos and will gladly help the raiding party defeat him. She leads them to a barracks, where they capture several bad guys sleeping.
Bond and Columbo move on, get into fights, and fall into Kristatos’s headquarters. Bond fights the German behemoth Kriegler and his rock hard abs. Also rock hard is the rock planter Kriegler throws at Bond.
Bond, holding a candelabra, stabs the planter, which carries Kriegler backward through a window and over the roof, sending him flipping down hundreds of feet to the valley floor.
While all this is happening, a Soviet general choppers toward the base, where he plans to receive the ATAC machine. He finally lands in the middle of a fight between Greece’s two top smugglers, Columbo and Kristatos. The two fight like young brothers, grabbing the other’s legs and punching wildly.
Columbo seems worse for wear, but Bond and Melina attain the upper hand when they stand above Kristatos. Melina is all set to fire a crossbow bolt into Kristatos’s face until Bond steps between them. “Be prepared to dig those two graves,” he tells her, a reference to the proverb about those who set out for revenge.
While Bond is being a sexist asshole, Columbo throws a knife into Kristatos’s back, killing him. Bond doesn’t mind a moment that Columbo did that.
And how about the ATAC, the cause of all this misery? Bond has it. As the Soviet approaches, Bond throws it over the cliff. We watch it fall in slow motion and shatter on the rocks. The Soviet laughs and returns to his helicopter.
I only counted a single one-liner in For Your Eyes Only. They saved all the comedy for the groaner of an ending, in which “Bond” speaks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the first time the Bond franchise has depicted an actual living British PM. Thatcher speaks with a macaw, who impersonates Bond and tells her to “give us a kiss.”
Bibi Dahl is the thirstiest figure skater in Switzerland. Her desire for Bond to sleep with her is funny/cute, and Bond, for the first time in his life, perhaps, shows restraint. “Don’t grow up anymore,” Bond says, “the opposite sex would never survive it.”
Gaze upon the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Meteora, in central Greece, and you have the exterior location of the St. Cyril’s monastery at the end of the movie.
What a sight this place is! High, isolated, rocky–we have the quintessential Villain’s Lair. Having his headquarters in a monastery gives Kristatos an edge on other Bond villains.
Switzerland is a tried and true location for Bond, but Greece is a new one. Most of the Greek action occurs on or under the water. That’s a shame, for the sake of Greece’s fabulous beaches, but the underwater sets are inspiring.
Bond and Melina explore the wreck of the St. George’s, complete with dead bodies stuck on the ship. The pair also explore an archeological site underwater with columns and mosaic floors and such.
Despite a missing missile targeting system and a Soviet general, For Your Eyes Only somehow avoids overt political commentary. It makes stronger statements about Greek culture, and its tendency for revenge.
Bond tries to warn off Melina from revenge, telling her about an old proverb in which one embarking on revenge should first dig two graves. OK, good talk. Later, when Melina has her enemy in her sights, Bond steps in front to remind her of the proverb.
Get the fuck out, James! He believes he’s saving her from a tortured soul, but I have a different theory. Bond can’t believe a woman could kill and not have it destroy her. Moments after “saving” Melina, Kristatos’s other enemy, Columbo, kills him, and Bond doesn’t bat an eye. No lectures for him. Bond is full of shit and he doesn’t know it.
- “This machine thanks you for your attention.” Good job, creepy Identigraph.
- Melina’s car is so small a group of villagers can flip it over.
- Blofeld, while dangling from the helicopter piloted by Bond, offers to buy him a delicatessen if he’ll release him.
Summary (30/68): 44%
Yet another entry in the James Bond franchise, For Your Eyes Only took a step back from Roger Moore’s highest box office total in Moonraker, dropping below the threshold set by Sean Connery’s top performance Thunderball.