James Bond: “If I don't report in by tomorrow, not only will my people, but the entire Greek police, will come down on you like a load of bricks.”
Columbo: “By tomorrow, we'll be good friends. Let us drink to that.”
―James Bond and Columbo
For Your Eyes Only (1981) is the twelfth spy film in the James Bond series, and the fifth to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It marked the directorial debut of John Glen, who had worked as editor and second unit director in three other Bond films.
The screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson takes its characters and combines the plots from two short stories from Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only collection: the title story and "Risico". In the plot, Bond attempts to locate a missile command system while becoming tangled in a web of deception spun by rival Greek businessmen along with Melina Havelock, a woman seeking to avenge the murder of her parents. Some writing elements were inspired by the novels Live and Let Die, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
After the over-the-top, science fiction-focused Moonraker, the producers wanted a conscious return to the style of the early Bond films and the works of 007 creator Fleming. For Your Eyes Only followed a more gritty, realistic approach, and an unusually strong narrative theme of revenge and its consequences. Filming locations included Greece, Italy, Spain and England, with underwater footage being shot in The Bahamas.
For Your Eyes Only was released on 24 June 1981 to a mixed critical reception; the film was a financial success, generating $195.3 million worldwide. This was the last Bond film to be distributed solely by United Artists; the studio merged with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer soon after this film's release.
While visiting the grave of his deceased wife, Tracy, James Bond is called back to MI6 headquarters. A helicopter arrives to transport him. During the flight the pilot is killed by electricity that surges through his headset and a familiar voice begins to taunt Bond over the chopper's loudspeaker; it is that of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond's arch-nemesis. As Bond struggles to gain control of the chopper, he notices a man in a motorized wheelchair nearby. Bond manages to reach the pilot's seat but cannot operate the 'copter. Blofeld, controlling the 'copter with a small console, flies the chopper into a giant foundry building, with the intention of letting it crash. Bond realizes that a set of cables have been wired to the chopper and he rips them out, regaining control of it. He flies after Blofeld and hooks his wheelchair on the end of the chopper's landing skid. Though Blofeld pleads for his life, Bond vengefully drops him down a nearby smokestack, finally killing his nemesis for good.
In the Adriatic Sea, a disguised Maltese fishing ship, the St. Georges, trawls off the coast of Albania. Inside is a hidden control room for British defense. The spy ship is equipped with ATAC (Automatic Targeting and Attack Communicator), a valuable defensive and offensive device that the Soviet Union would like to obtain. When the ship's decoy fishing crew hauls in a net, it brings with it an old anti-warship mine which explodes, sinking the St. Georges. At MI6, M's temporary replacement, Chief-of-Staff Bill Tanner, is informed of the incident. When he asks how deep the water is off the coast of Albania, he is told it isn't "deep enough." Hoping to find the St. Georges and the ATAC discreetly, Tanner orders a British underwater archeologist, Tim Havelock (Jack Hedley), to find the St. Georges. Meanwhile, Tanner's KGB counterpart, Anatole Gogol, is told that the ATAC is in play, and instructs an unknown contact to procure it for him.
The Havelock's daughter, Melina, arrives by plane at her father's yacht near the site of the St. Georges' sinking after taking a vacation in France. While she reunites with her parents the plane she was brought in suddenly strafes the yacht with a burst of machine-gun fire. Both Havelock and his wife are killed, however, Melina is unharmed. She looks on with a look of despair and rage on her face.
In London, James Bond is called into M's office to meet with Tanner and Minister of Defense, Sir Fredrick Gray. He is ordered to find the ATAC, his first lead being the man, Hector Gonzales, a pilot and Cuban national who killed the Havelocks. Tanner orders Bond to find Gonzales near Madrid and interrogate him for information.
Bond goes to Gonzales' home where he's throwing a party. Bond observes that Gonzales is meeting with a mysterious man in an elegant suit and octagonal wire-framed glasses, and deduces that he is paying Gonzales for the assassination he performed. Bond is captured by a security guard and brought to Gonzales who identifies him immediately as British Secret Service and orders him taken away. As he dives into his pool, Gonzales is struck and killed by a crossbow arrow fired by an unseen assassin. The distraction allows Bond to escape. Wire-Frames does not intervene and instead leaves with the money that he intended to pay Gonzales. As Bond makes his escape, one of the security guards chasing him is killed also by a crossbow bolt. The shooter is revealed to be Melina Havelock, who has been seeking revenge for the deaths of her parents. Before they can escape in Bond's Lotus Esprit, it explodes when a guard tries to break one of its windows. Bond and Melina use her car, a small, clunky Citroen, in a furious chase where they evade Gonzales' men in a wild chase through a small town and through an orchard.
Back in London, Bond reports back to MI6, where the upset Tanner reprimands him for failing to obtain any information from Gonzales. However, Bond, with Q's assistance, uses a highly sophisticated database called an Identigraph, to identify and locate Wire-Frames. The man is revealed to be Emile Leopold Locque, a Belgian assassin who has worked as an enforcer for numerous crime syndicates. The most recent intel suggests he is operating in Cortina d'Ampezzo in northern Italy.
Bond travels to Cortina and meets Luigi Ferrara (John Moreno), an Italian Secret Service agent who tells him that Locque may be associated with an organization called the White Dove (indicated by the pin Locque and it's members wear). He directs Bond to his most reliable contact in the Greek Underworld, Aristotle Kristatos. Kristatos identifies the White Dove's leader as Milos Columbo, the kingpin of Greece's heroin trade. Kristatos asks Bond to be an escort for his young skating protege, Bibi Dahl, while she watches the biathlon. Bibi tries to seduce Bond in his hotel room, but Bond refuses her advances due to her young age.
At the biathlon, Bibi points out a friend of her's, Eric Kriegler, a competitor in the event. Bond bids Bibi farewell and leaves the event; as he skis away, he is attacked by a small group of thugs on winterized motorcycles. One of them is Kriegler himself, who tries to kill Bond with his sniper's rifle, another is Locque. Bond is able to escape his attackers, killing several of them in the process.
Bond meets Bibi later at the Olympic skating rink where Bibi is practicing. He asks her about Eric and finds out that he is an East German defector. After Bibi leaves, he is again attacked, this time by three hulking hockey players. Bond beats them all and returns to his car. There he finds that Ferrara has been killed. In Ferrara's dead hand is a White Dove pin.
Bond goes to the business section of Cortina the next day and spots Melina buying a crossbow. As he approaches her, they are both attacked by men on motorcycles, much like Bond the previous day. Bond kills both attackers and orders Melina to leave Cortina. He also tells her that her need for revenge may get her killed too. She agrees to return to her father's yacht and wait for word from Bond.
Bond travels to Greece to continue his investigation of Columbo. At a nightclub, he meets with Kristatos and asks how to meet Columbo, not knowing that Columbo's men are secretly recording their conversation. Columbo is at the same club and is sitting with a woman, Lisl von Schlaf, a countess. She becomes openly insulted by one of Columbo's comments and proceeds to leave. Seeing an opportunity to learn more about Columbo, Bond approaches Lisl and offers to have Kristatos' valet, Apostis (Jack Klaff), drive her back to her hotel. After Apostis leaves, Bond and Lisl spend the night together. Lisl confesses that Columbo knows that Bond is a secret agent, and has asked her to learn more about him. Unbeknownst to either of them, Apostis is secretly listening in on their conversation.
In the morning, the two walk on the beach and are attacked by Locque and another White Dove member, Claus. Locque kills Lisl by running her down in his dune buggy, and he and Claus capture Bond. Claus is suddenly shot by a harpoon and several men wearing the White Dove emblem appear out of the surf and capture Bond.
Bond is taken to Columbo himself on a yacht, who tries to convince the spy that Kristatos is actually the real villain and the one behind the search for the ATAC. As a means to prove this, he invites Bond to accompany his men to Albania, where Kristatos is using a shipping warehouse to process heroin. Bond reluctantly agrees, and they find Locque overseeing a shipment of raw opium smuggled in enormous rolls of newsprint. They also discover some old naval mines, implying that the sinking of the St. Georges was no accident. As his men provide cover, Locque wires explosives to one of the mines, taking the detonator with him to a nearby escape car. Locque detonates the explosives to cover his escape, but Columbo's raiding party are able to flee the warehouse before it explodes. Using an underground tunnel, Bond is able to get to the shipyard's entrance before Locque does. He opens fire on Locque's car, hitting the assassin in the shoulder and causing him to lose control of the vehicle, which careens of the road. As Locque's car precariously teeters on the precipice of a cliff, Bond shows him the dove pin he'd gotten from Ferrara, throws it to Locque; the tiny shift in weight causes the car to slide off the cliff. Bond gives the car a hard kick and it plummets, killing Locque.
Bond travels to the Havelock's yacht and finds Melina. Bond asks Melina if her father possibly left behind any information about his work for the British government. Melina shows Bond her father's journal and they discover that her father had been diving in an unusual underwater location.
The two go there in her father's mini-submarine and find the St. Georges. The enter the wreck and find the ATAC attached to an explosive charge which had failed to be activated. Bond disarms the bomb and takes the ATAC when the two are attacked by a diver in a JIM suit. Bond manages to escape the killer and attaches the ATAC bomb to the JIM suit, destroying it. Nearly out of breathable air, he and Melina return to the mini-sub but are again attacked by another mini-sub. They are able to escape this man as well.
They return to the surface to find that Kristatos, accompanied by Kriegler and Apostis, has seized the Havelock yacht and killed the crew. Kristatos takes the ATAC with the intention of selling it to the Soviet government; Kriegler is revealed to be his KGB contact. Using Melina and Bond as "bait" they tow them behind Kristatos' yacht hoping that sharks will eat them. Bond is able to snap the line binding them and they retreat to a SCUBA tank Melina left on the ocean floor. Kristatos, assuming Bond and Melina are both dead, leaves.
The two make it back to their yacht and hear her father's parrot reveal the destination of the ATAC, a location only called "St. Cyril's." Q informs Bond that there are over 300 locations with the same name in all of Greece, however, Bond knows that Columbo will know where Kristatos has retreated to.
The St. Cyril's that Columbo knows of is a monastery in the northern mountains of Greece and sits atop a series of sheer cliffs. It is only accessible on the ground by a cabled basket; Bond must scale the cliff to reach the machinery controlling the basket. As he climbs, he is found by Apostis, who tries to loosen the spikes and climbing rope Bond is using as a safety line. Bond is able to make it up the cliff far enough to throw a spike at Apostis and send him off the cliff. He makes it the basket house and lowers it for the rest of the crew to come up.
General Gogol is on his way to the monastery to collect the ATAC. Kristatos attempts to flee with the ATAC, with Columbo and Melina in hot pursuit. Kriegler attacks Bond, nearly overpowering him due to his size, before Bond takes him out with a spiked candelabra and races after Columbo and Melina. Kristatos and Columbo fight. Kristatos knocks Columbo out, only to be cornered by Melina, who seeks to kill him to avenge her parents' death. While Bond and Melina argue over whether to execute Kristatos or simply arrest him, Kristatos pulls a switchblade out of his jacket. Before Kristatos can attack Melina or Bond, Columbo regains consciousness and kills him with a throwing knife. Gogol arrives and genially asks for the ATAC; Bond suddenly throws it over the side of the mountain where it shatters hundreds of feet below. Gogol is visibly shocked at first but Bond replies "That's Detente, Comrade! You don't have it, I don't have it." Gogol suddenly smiles and leaves, obviously humored.
Melina and Bond share a romantic evening on board the Havelock yacht when a call arrives from MI6 on Bond's wristwatch. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher wishes to speak to Bond personally. Bond gives the watch to Melina's parrot and the PM is tricked into thinking she's still speaking to Bond, who has joined Melina for a nude moonlight swim.
Behind the scenes
For Your Eyes Only is perhaps most notable for its pre-title sequence which shows the final comeuppance of the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond's enemy in five previous films (although the character here is unnamed due to legal issues). The opening of the film revisits many older elements of the Bond character, beginning with Bond laying flowers at the grave of his wife, Tracy Bond (one of the few times she is mentioned in the series after On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and culminating in Blofeld's attempt to exact revenge on Bond for foiling his plans and for the downfall of his criminal organization SPECTRE. The whole sequence was initially scripted to aid the introduction and establishment of a new actor to portray James Bond since Roger Moore, who had starred in four previous films, was reluctant to return - Timothy Dalton is often cited as the planned replacement, and indeed the film overall features many darker moments and a more down-to-earth feel more suited to Dalton's portrayal than to Moore's. The industrial chimney used in the opening scene was part of the North Thames gasworks in London.
The reason the appearance of the Blofeld character remains somewhat ambiguous here (he is not explicitly named, despite his demise clearly being of huge importance to the series) relate to a legal battle dating back to the publication of the James Bond novel Thunderball in 1961. At that time, Kevin McClory claimed that Ian Fleming had adapted the novel from a screenplay for a proposed film adaptation of the Bond character that the two had worked on together, and that he, not Fleming, had come up with the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organisation and the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. As the legal dispute had left McClory with the rights to the Blofeld character, the studio was forced to leave Blofeld's appearance in For Your Eyes Only ambiguous (while at the same time using many of the character's well-known traits from earlier movies - bald head, white cat - to convey the message of who he really was). The demise of Blofeld finally tied up the plot hole of his disappearance in Diamonds Are Forever, and was added by the production staff to show that the James Bond series did not need Blofeld and was content to move on after a number of attempts by Kevin McClory to produce a rival Bond film based on his ownership of the character. This includes a failed attempt in the late 1970s of an original Bond film that resulted in a lawsuit brought about by EON and United Artists. Nevertheless McClory was able to film a remake of Thunderball entitled Never Say Never Again which was released opposite Octopussy in 1983.
Two other controversial incidents also occurred with the release of For Your Eyes Only. The first involving the film's teaser poster artwork, which showcased a model in thong-like shorts holding a crossbow with Bond framed between her long legs. This was deemed in some U.S. states as indecent exposure. A later version of the teaser was released with a superimposed pair of shorts painted over the original artwork. The other controversial incident wasn't revealed until some time after the release, in which it was discovered that one girl, Caroline Cossey (aka Tula), that was used in a pool scene turned out to be a transsexual.
For Your Eyes Only marked a creative change of direction for the Bond film series. John Glen was promoted from his duties as a film editor to director, a position he would occupy throughout the 1980s. A result of this being a harder-edged directorial style, with less emphasis on gadgetry and large action sequences in huge arenas (as was favoured by Lewis Gilbert). More emphasis on tension, plot, and character was also added in addition to a return to Bond's more serious roots.
A good example of this is a scene in which Bond kicks a car with a villain inside over a cliff, essentially murdering him in cold blood. This was, and still is to this day controversial amongst fans to whether Ian Fleming's James Bond would do such an act. Roger Moore was also strongly opposed to the aforementioned scene in which Bond kills the villain Locque, claiming his Bond wouldn't do such a thing. This, however, contradicts the fact that his Bond kills at least two, possibly three people in cold blood in the earlier film, The Spy Who Loved Me (namely, a thug Bond lets fall off a roof, the villain Karl Stromberg who Bond executes after he's been disarmed, and possibly a woman who Bond may or may not intentionally use as a human shield). Nonetheless, this scene was the strongest display of Bond exercising his licence to kill since the killing of Professor. Dent by Sean Connery's Bond in Dr. No.
Throughout the entire James Bond series of films, this is the only movie where M is absent. Bernard Lee had died while preparing for the film, and instead of recasting, the role was left vacant out of respect. Miss Moneypenny, M's personal secretary claims that he is on leave, and his chair is filled by his 'Chief of Staff', Bill Tanner, with M's lines being shared between Tanner and the Minister of Defence. The role was recast for Octopussy.
Today For Your Eyes Only is often considered a contender alongside The Spy Who Loved Me as Moore's best Bond film. Overall, For Your Eyes Only accumulated a box office gross of $195,300,000, which at the time was the second highest grossing Bond film after its previous entry Moonraker.
As mentioned earlier, this movie turned from deux ex machina gadgets and wide-open action sequences to smaller and more "personal" scenes. The resulting sequences are arguably some of the best of the series, and are generally extremely well filmed.
One example of the change in thinking is the simple scene in which Bond confronts the killer Locque. Locque is attempting to escape in a car, but is forced to drive up a steep hill along a road containing a number of sharp switchback curves. Bond follows on foot, running up a set of stairways bisecting the road. When the race first starts, Locque is far ahead of Bond, but as Bond reaches the next section of the road after climbing one section it is clear he is gaining on him. The scene ends with Bond climbing the last remaining flight, quite out of breath, with the camera positioned to show him reaching the road slightly ahead of Locque. The entire scene is perhaps 30 seconds, and is extremely suspenseful.
A more famous scene occurs late in the movie when Bond's team attempts to break into a mountaintop monastery being used by Kristatos to meet Gogol and turn over the ATAC. In order to gain access to the mountaintop one would normally use a cablecar, but this is being guarded. Instead Bond climbs up the sheer face of the mountain, out of sight of the guards. As he climbs he has to knock pitons into the rock face, and eventually one of the guards hears him and investigates. He sees Bond, who hides, and instead climbs down a rope of his own to start knocking out the pitons. The scene continues with Bond attempting to climb back onto the rock face, but falling further as each piton is knocked out. He eventually reaches a safe position just as the guard is in the process of knocking out the last piton, potentially sending Bond falling to the rock far below. Bond then whistles to attract the guard's attention, and uses a piton as a throwing knife to kill him, using the guard's rope to climb the rest of the way.
Cast & Characters
- Directed by: John Glen
- Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli
- Written by: Ian Fleming
- Screenplay by: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
- Composed by: Bill Conti
- Cinematography by: Alan Hume
- Production design: Peter Lamont
Many of the "underwater" scenes, especially involving closeups of Bond and Melina, were actually faked on a dry soundstage. A combination of lighting effects, slow-motion photography, wind, and "bubbles" added in post-production, gave the illusion of the actors being underwater. Apparently actress Carole Bouquet had a preexisting health condition that prevented her from actually attempting any underwater stuntwork.
Vehicles & gadgets
After the ever-more outlandish plots of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker - the latter film literally taking Bond out of this world - it was decided that the James Bond series needed to return to reality. For Your Eyes Only attempts to go back to the more basic style of Dr. No and From Russia with Love. One of the most famous sequences of the film is when Bond's venerable Lotus Esprit is destroyed after a henchman working for Gonzales attempts to break into the car, which in turn activated the car's self-destruct function that was built into its security system. The destruction of his car forces Bond and Melina to make an escape in a Citroën 2CV, which was considered symbolic of Bond turning away from the more extreme gadgets of the past. Bond later acquires another car, a red Lotus Esprit Turbo from Q-Branch when he arrives in Cortina.
- Stuntman Paolo Rigon was killed during filming of the bobsled track portion of the ski chase. During the sequence Rigon's sleigh overturned with Rigon trapped beneath. He later died due to the injuries he sustained.
- The scene in which Melina and Bond are dragged across a coral reef for the sharks to eat was a sequence originally appearing in the novel Live and Let Die.
- The "Burglar Protected" stickers on Bond's Lotus came from a car alarm company called Autosafe.
- In the end credits of The Spy Who Loved Me it says "James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only, however after the tremendous box office success of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977 the producers decided they wanted to cash in on the subsequent science fiction craze and make Moonraker instead, thus For Your Eyes Only was held back to become the next Bond film after Moonraker.
- Cassandra Harris was married to future Bond actor Pierce Brosnan.
Comic book adaptation
Prior to the film being released Marvel Comics was given permission to publish a two-issue comic book adaptation of the movie, For Your Eyes Only. The first issue was released in October 1981 and was soon followed by the second issue in November of the same year. It was also reprinted the same year in magazine and paperback book form.
Two major differences in the comic book include the addition of M, who was technically in the initial drafts of the screenplay until Bernard Lee's death in early 1981 and the villain's given name, which for unknown reasons was "Ari Kristatos" instead of the film version's "Aris Kristatos." The comic also includes additional suggestive dialogue by Bibi Dahl (aimed at Bond) that was never used (or was perhaps edited from) the film.
Credits for both issues of the comic book adaptation include:
- Written by Larry Hama
- Penciller: Howard Chaykin
- Inker: Vince Colletta
- Letterer: Jean Simek
- Colorist: Christie Scheele
- Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Opening Title Sequence
||Car on the cliff||Bond and Melina escape in a Citroën 2CV|
|James Bond films|
Dr. No (1962) - From Russia with Love (1963) - Goldfinger (1964) - Thunderball (1965) - You Only Live Twice (1967) - Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
| George Lazenby |
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Live and Let Die (1973) - The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - Moonraker (1979) - For Your Eyes Only (1981) - Octopussy (1983) - A View to a Kill (1985)
The Living Daylights (1987) - Licence to Kill (1989)
GoldenEye (1995) - Tomorrow Never Dies (1998) - The World Is Not Enough (1999) - Die Another Day (2002)
Casino Royale (2006) - Quantum of Solace (2008) - Skyfall (2012) - Spectre (2015) - Bond 25
Casino Royale (1954) - Casino Royale (1967) - Never Say Never Again (1983)