Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A View to a Kill - Dir. John Glen (The Bond Project #14)

A View to a Kill (1985)
Dir: John Glen

Pushing Sixty, Roger Moore Bond Makes Good, Ends on High Note
Jay Maronde

                 A View to a Kill could easily be one of the most underappreciated James Bond films in the entire canon. There have always been many complaints about Roger Moore’s ridiculous agedness, but even a geriatric Bond could not stop the cinematic genius provided in this well-paced, action-packed James Bond adventure. This would be Roger Moore’s seventh and final appearance as James Bond, and rumors have always swirled that he only made this film to overtake Sean Connery’s legacy as Bond. Connery, for his part, weighed in himself on Moore’s age, commenting that, “James Bond should be played by an actor 33-35 years old. I’m too old myself, but Roger is certainly too old.” Needless to say these slightly disparaging comments did nothing to help the film’s press, but as I’ve already said—even Moore’s age is completely outshined by the rest of this fantastic movie.
                The film centers around the evil industrialist and all-time great Bond villain Max Zorin, played classically, perfectly, and brilliantly by a young and delightfully evil Christopher Walken. Walken is at his absolute best. He’s easily one of the greatest, most evil Bond villains in the entire franchise. He’s fabulously wealthy, he lives in a striking French château that actually manages to put the home of Moonraker’s Villain Drax’s château to shame (the compound is so freaking amazingly nice that when Bond arrives he incorrectly assumes that the servants’ quarters are the stables), he lies and cheats at every turn, and he cackles maniacally as he murders his own henchmen. Walken with his weird Walken self could have been born to be a Bond Villain, but his casting as the genetically-engineered, psychopathic, defected KGB agent Zorin is film genius. Shockingly, the role was written specifically for David Bowie, who refused the role saying that he didn’t want to spend 5 months watching his stunt double get thrown off of cliffs.
                Speaking of stunt work AVTAK has numerous fantastic stunts right from the beginning of the film. As the movie opens, Bond is on a mountaintop supposedly in Siberia recovering a stolen microchip from the corpse of a dead 003. Enemies come, and Bond escapes in an expertly choreographed alpine skiing scene. The filming was done in Iceland and Roger Moore never actually went there because, aside from a few studio-shot close-ups, the entire opening scene is all fantastic skiing stunts. During this opening scene the James Bond franchise actually introduced the burgeoning sport of Snowboarding to the world as when Bond is eventually forced to use a single snow mobile ski to avoid capture and make his way down the mountain. The film also ends with a remarkable and memorable final sequence where Bond fights Zorin on the top of the tower for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Franscico. The real life suave of Roger Moore actually aided immensely during the San Francisco shooting as Moore was in real life very good friends with the current Mayor Dianne Feinstein.  Feinstein, being a huge Roger Moore Bond fan, was more than happy to expedite all the necessary filming permits, and the producers eventually felt that the city had provided so much for the production that this film is one of the very few Bond’s not to premiere in London, and the only one to premiere in San Francisco.
Another famous stunt in the movie involves a knocked-out, automobile-entrapped Bond being pushed into a lake by Zorin and his cohorts (the Rolls Royce used in the film is actually owned in real life by producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, even though a dummy car was used for the lake scene). After Bond is in the water, he needs to hide from the villains until they leave, and so cannot surface for air. Instead, Bond uses air from the tires to breathe underwater for a short period of time (this scene has had plentiful homage paid to it throughout cinematic history including a great scene in the Jason Statham classic The Transporter 3). Another scene which is quite notable for being ripped off is the fire truck chase through the streets of San Francisco, which was most notably ripped off for the end of the movie Con Air (it turns out that Moore actually drove the fire truck during filming as the stuntman was too short to reach the pedals, making it his only actual stunt work in the entire series).
                This Bond film is also notable for Bond’s amazing way with the ladies, as during this film he beds a series record of four different Bond girls. This film is filled with very beautiful and famous women including the two female leads Tanya Roberts and Grace Jones. Jones was incredibly famous all on her own and still has a very successful career even though I have quite a few (female) friends who all claim this to be their favorite Bond based exclusively on the revolutionary woman’s casting in it. Personally, and not to be at all offensive towards her, Jones is way too much man for me, as I prefer my women a little bit more feminine. However, when cast as the crazy Zorin’s also genetically-engineered and psychopathic lover/henchwoman MayDay, she absolutely lights up the screen. Luckily the film also has three other very feminine Bond Girls including Ms. Roberts (who would later become the neighbor mother Midge on TV’s That 70’s Show.) It also worth noting that Ms. Roberts’ grace and youthful beauty eventually became the reason that Roger Moore relinquished the role of Bond, as during filming he found out that he was older than her mother. 
                Another facet of the Bond magic that this movie doesn’t disappoint on is the music. As usual the score was done by the master John Barry, and it is high quality, classic, and very well done. However one of the biggest stars and biggest successes of this film is the song “A View to a Kill,” by none other than the 1980s pop-stars Duran Duran. The story behind how the group (who Barry hated and didn’t feel should be making a Bond song) got the gig is rather amusing. The group’s bassist John Taylor (who was a lifelong Bond Fan) happened to be drunk at party one night, and heard that Bond producer Cubby Broccoli was in attendance at the party. He stormed up to the great man and demanded to know, “When are you gonna get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?” Broccoli being Broccoli knew a good thing when he saw it and quickly signed Duran Duran to do the song, which was the first and only Bond song to chart #1 on the Billboard Top 100. It’s also notable that the group’s lead singer Simon Le Bon, shares the same last name with James Bond’s ancestors as explained during the genealogy section of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and as a result Le Bon can be heard at the end of the album version of the song saying “Le Bon, Simon Le Bon.”
                This film is fantastic. The settings, actors, plot and music are all top notch. I could easily go on all night about all the different parts that I really like, but I would rather go back to listening to Duran Duran rock out James Bond style and let you all enjoy this great movie for yourselves.

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