Ian Fleming described the hero of his best-sellers as being in his forties, but fit as a fiddle. Roger Moore possibly fit this description in 1973, but mother nature can have her wicked way with anyone in twelve years and by the time he stepped onto the Bond stage for the last time, it was obvious that the only gadget he wanted was a Ronco Stair Lift.
Things don’t look too promising from the opening seconds, as our hero looks knackered just spinning round in the gun barrel sequence-perhaps the arthritis was already getting to his knees? However, this doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem as he goes on to systematically take on the entire Russian polar force, armed only with a pair of skis and many years of hard won experience. There is a down side to being around this long: everybody starts to recognize you. Even the Russian soldier he pulls off a snow bike shouts: “Aaargh! Roger Moore” as he disappears over a cliff.
Having escaped that little close shave, James retreats to his lavishly appointed submarine/bachelor pad and settles in for a long ride. How the Soviet airforce manages to miss something that looks like a hearse that’s been tarred and feathered we never discover. But at least Rog looks happy to be sitting down at last. For some reason, the British Secret Service have deemed it appropriate for him to be accompanied by a blonde nymphet in a Wilma Deering jumpsuit, and she steers him away from danger. All the controls are at the front, with the exception of a single lever that does nothing other than conveniently shake the sub around a bit. Was this installed at James’ own request? It’s all very well for him to get his nuts in the Arctic Circle, but the rest of us have to sit through the title sequence and marvel at the graphics so crap that Maurice Binder might have nicked them from the bin outside the TRON production office.
By this point in the series, the film proper always starts with a briefing scene in M’s office. Having circumvented the maiden aunt that is Moneypenny-presumably by promising to meet her later on at the bingo-James dares to question the integrity of Maximillian Zorin.
“Zorin?” barks the minister. “Impossible-he’s a leading French industrialist”. Rog is far too much of a gentleman to point out that this should obviously make him the number one suspect in any case-even if he had no connection to it whatsoever-and that’s exactly what he, and half the audience, are thinking. Plainly, he’s having none of it and has already decided he’s got his man. As soon as you see Christopher Walken, you know he’s right. Bleach blond, grinning insanely, accompanied by the muscular figure of Grace Jones in a massive red hat that she only abandons when she has to stare down a rearing horse-this is clearly a man who craves the anonymity required to be a genius megalomaniac. Walken is already chewing scenery and he’s yet to say anything. Rog even manages to uncannily predict the winner. Is this ESP? Gambling skill? Or has he just read more than his own pages for a change?
As it happens, the French take a bit of a kicking in this movie, as James follows a lead to Paris and meets up with the local contact, a detective names Aubergine. Vegetable by name soon becomes vegetable by nature when James is lulled into a coma by the quite spectacularly dull butterfly act and poor Monsieur Aubergine gets a fishhook in his neck. Taking off after the assassin, Rog once again doesn’t look too happy about this running lark and when his quarry starts to ascend the Eiffel Tower, he decides to take the lift instead. Hijacking a car from an outrageously French taxi driver (he’s drinking wine and eating a baguette, for God’s sake! Why not just give him a stripy shirt, beret and string of onions and be done with it?) He proceeds to deal out the sort of punishment to it only previously employed by Edward I to deal with William Wallace. As if this wasn’t enough, jumping out of his quarter car, Bond crashes in on a wedding cake and has to give up the chase as it becomes second priority to dealing with some cleaver-wielding chefs who evidently don’t care how far past its sell-by-date their food (or indeed the joke, for that matter) is. Lucky for him, the whole affair is simply covered by virtue of a massive bribe to the Parisian authorities. I wonder if this film did well in France?
Now, I don’t wish to suggest that Bond’s tactics are predictable, but you’ve got to wonder how many times he can get away with heading straight for the villain, letting him know he’s on to him, and then shagging his bird before someone realizes that all they have to do is kill him when he first arrives. For all his advanced years, Roger still can’t seem to keep it in his trousers, and engages in a little badinage with the lovely Jenny Flex:
“I expect you spend a lot of time in the saddle?”
“Yes, I love an early morning ride.”
“Oh, I’m an early riser myself.”
Initially, it looks like he may have gotten away with his, but a little exhalation from Alison Doody lets you know that hell would freeze over before she grabs granddad.
Still, the old guy packs a lot into a day; a fight with Big Ron Tarr is followed by vigorous sex with Grace Jones, from which he gamely manages to avoid being eaten alive, which is in turn followed by a confrontation with Zorin. Max Zorin is obviously an astute businessman who invests in nothing but the best equipment, as we can see from his state of the art ZX81 which picks Bond out of the KGB files in no time at all. Despite looking more like David Bowie by the second, it soon becomes clear that Zorin’s plan involves rather more than a giant glass spider and a pale blue suit; instead he plans to destroy Silicon Valley and cash in on the world shortage of computer chips by opening sweatshops in Scottish new towns. Well, that last bit was made up, but it’d explain a lot, wouldn’t it?
Offering a deal to the world’s leading computer businessmen, Zorin conveniently outlines his own plans to the audience. Quite apart from the cash to be made, everybody knows that you never turn down a Bond villain-he’ll always throw you out of an aeroplane, or crush you in a car, or feed you to the piranhas.
Whilst all this is going on, Rog is in San Francisco and seems to have no idea whatsoever that this is the AIDS capital of the world, getting it on with dodgily -accented Russian agents that get aroused to the banging sounds of Tchaikovsky (remember that when you send your daughter to ballet classes) and meeting up with the Chinese Detective of the CIA, who in a classic case of missing a golden opportunity, isn’t called Ferix Reiter…
With all this on his plate, why he should want to team up with Stacy Sutton is a mystery that will never be solved. The woman is so wet she should be wearing a sign around her neck that says: ‘No ducking, no diving, no petting and no pushing’. A lot’s been said about Bond cooking quiche in the film, but to me it’s obvious that it’s all part of a clever plan and he’s taking the opportunity to ply her with red wine; unfortunately she keeps her knickers on and he has to keep her alive, despite her frequently achieving vocal tones that only dogs can hear. It’s notable as well that she’s never actually seen eating the thing, only commenting on how wonderful it is. Not surprising as she probably burns the lettuce on a regular basis.
As if that’s not bad enough, when David Yip becomes nothing more than Sherbet Dip, Stacey Sutton graduates to the position of main ally and we have to endure scene after scene of her screaming ineffectually at James to rescue her while he goes off to do something far more important. Every time your hopes are raised, he goes back to get her-he must have misplaced his glasses…
Give her credit, the skank seems indestructible, as she is pulled out of a collapsing, blazing building without her white dress being even slightly singed or blackened, and is immediately plunged into a high speed chase which similarly fails to kill her. Sadly it now seems that James’ mental faculties must also now be brought into question-would you hand the wheel of a speeding fire engine pursued by police cars to someone who quite plainly doesn’t have the necessary HGV license? He doesn’t even switch over the tachometer! He’s a danger to himself…
Having followed Zorin to his secret mine facility, James provides us with another insight into his accelerated decrepitude: Why walk when you can ride? And he misses a tour de force of classic villainy whilst he searches for his bus pass. Zorin cackles maniacally whilst indiscriminately gunning down his own men, before escaping in a massive airship with his name on the side in eight foot high red letters. As if this wasn’t enough, he then decides it would be a good idea to kidnap rather than kill the main witness to his antics. By this point the audience is wondering why Bond hasn’t killed Stacy: this is pushing it just too far.
You’d have thought an airship, no matter how ostentatious-would provide ample opportunity to scamper to safety, but only if you remember not to leave any convenient ropes hanging about. D’oh! Even so, surely no one could hold on over a few miles and several obstacles, unless he was a top secret agent? D’oh! Never mind you can just smash him off the Golden Gate Bridge, no one could survive that, surely? D’oh!
Personally, I’m still pondering over whether or not a slipknot would really hold an airship, but Bond wastes no time in trying to get his bird bad. To Zorin’s credit though: small airship-big balls, as he climbs out onto the bridge and goes after Bond personally with an axe. He may finally have snapped.
This really can’t be much of a surprise-just look at his father figure. Not long after his beloved Max takes the long drop cackling maniacally the older codger magics some TNT out of the fridge and starts waving it about. I am compelled to ask: was this standard behaviour about the house? Did the young Max come back from school to find his dad hiding in a trench he’d dug at the bottom of the garden, occasionally blasting away at passersby? Ten percent genetic, ninety percent environmental. That’s what they say.
As usual with Bond films, the final scenes are played out over a background of cheese factor ten: for a start, the audience had long since forgotten about the robot dog that Q bothered them with at the start of the film. But, having spent more on this that the title sequences and Christopher Walken’s wig combined, Cubby wants his money’s worth.
However, it must have been plain even then that this was to be Rog’s final scene, and no entendres are spared in seeing him off. Moore always had an effortless knack of making the crap line into an art form, transcending the material written by mere mortals to achieve a level of godlike cool that Pierce Brosnan can only dream of. Most actors flounder when they come up against a poor script-Rog simply takes what he’s been given, adds himself to it and immediately makes it entertaining. I couldn’t name too many others that share the ability, not without mentioning the Evil Dead trilogy anyway.
It’s very quiet, but turn up the volume during the final moments and the following exchange becomes audible:
“Where’s the soap?”
“There it is.”
“Oh, I’ve dropped the soap.”
“I’ll get it.”
“That is not the soap.”
This all culminates with a final little chuckle from Rog, leading into the end credits, and that’s your lot. Our hero toddles off to a green leather armchair somewhere, Tanya Roberts limps her way into The Beastmaster and Christopher Walken continues his distinguished film career apace. Life’s like that sometimes.
A VIEW TO A KILL is desperately overlong. It has too many girls, too many sacrificial lambs, too many locations and crucially too many years since its lead was born. It’s the height of Bondian excess, in desperate need of an overhaul and streamlining, and thankfully this was just around the corner. Still, the old warhorse has its moments and I do still have a small soft spot for it somewhere in my heart. Somedays, when life’s just gotten too much for me, all it takes to cheer me up is to remember perhaps the most fantastically delivered line in Bond history. Take it away Chris.
“More. More power!”
And all I can say is more, more power to your elbow Chris. You’re a star.