Wednesday, August 1, 2012

50 Years of 007 - A View to a Kill

Cody dances into the fire of Roger Moore's final Bond.

The end credits of Octopussy announced that James Bond would return in From a View to a Kill. Like Octopussy and the preceding For Your Eyes Only, the next Bond film would gets its title from an Ian Fleming short story, since Eon Productions had already used all but one of the novel titles for the movies. The only novel left was Casino Royale, but they wouldn't get the rights to do an adaptation of that one until the late 1990s.

Printed in the For Your Eyes Only collection, Fleming's story has Bond out to stop the murders of SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) motorcycle dispatch-riders on the backroads of France. He eventually observes, from his hiding spot in the branches of an oak tree, that the killers have a base hidden underground in a forest along the motorcycle route. The title was inspired by a line in a song written by John Woodcock Grave in 1820 about his hunting friend John Peel, "D'ye ken John Peel". "From the view to a death in the morning."

The film that used From a View to a Kill's title would have nothing to do with the short story, the closest it gets is having some scenes set in France. It would even lose the "From" from the title during development. The story of the film would be closer to that of Goldfinger, updated for the 1980s computer age.

With Eon's Octopussy having successfully bested the rival Bond production of Never Say Never Again at the 1983 box office, Eon had no reason to hold off on getting A View to a Kill together. They quickly began moving forward on getting Bond back on the big screen in 1985, keeping the schedule of a new cinematic
adventure every two years.

There wasn't much in the way of behind-the-scenes shake-ups between Octopussy and A View to a Kill. John Glen would be back to direct his third Bond film in a row, the second director to do so after Guy Hamilton's three Bond run in the '70s with Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun. Glen again brought on Alan Hume as his cinematographer and Arthur Wooster as his second unit director. Peter Lamont would be production designer, Peter Davies would again edit, composer John Barry would return to work on his eleventh Bond film.

There even seems to have been less of a chance that Roger Moore wouldn't return as James Bond in A View to a Kill than there had been during pre-production on For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy. Perhaps it was decided early on that he would play Bond again so that he would match the seven film record that Sean Connery had achieved with Never Say Never Again, to make the rival movie even less special. I've seen nothing to back up that theory, it just came to mind. Regardless, the contract was signed: Roger Moore would play 007 for the seventh time, at the age of fifty-seven.

The script was written by Eon's screenwriter of choice Richard Maibaum and his FYEO/OP co-writer Michael G. Wilson, who would also move up from the executive producer position he had held since Moonraker to full-fledged producer alongside his stepfather, series runner Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli.

Another Broccoli family member gets their first screen credit on A View to a Kill: Cubby's daughter Barbara Broccoli. Her IMDb page says that she did some uncredited assistant director work on Moonraker and Octopussy, but on AVTAK she gets credited as "Additional Assistant Director", a step on the path that will lead to her having a very large role in the future of the series.

The fourteenth Eon Bond film begins not with the gun barrel sequence, as every previous film had, but with a disclaimer promising that none of the companies or characters within are meant to be portrayals of real people or companies. Most movies have disclaimers like this in the end credits, but it was put up front here because of the character named Zorin. During the making of the film, Eon discovered that there were a couple companies with names similar to their fictional Zorin Industries, one being a company called the Zoran Corporation, a digital technology company founded in 1983 and based in Silicon Valley. Given what follows, Eon wanted to make sure that there was no confusion between Zorin and Zoran.

When the disclaimer fades away, then the gun barrel plays out.

The pre-title sequence finds James Bond on a Siberian glacier, sent there to retrieve a microchip from the frozen, snow-covered corpse of a killed-in-action 003. Bond has a gadget that leads him directly to 003's body, while the glacier is crawling with Soviet soldiers who are presumably also searching for it. Bond is spotted as he pockets the microchip, hidden in a locket. The soldiers give chase as Bond attempts to ski to safety, kicking off more snowy thrills shot by professional ski racer turned cinematic man of action Willy Bogner. Bogner had been involved with the series' snow-based action sequences starting with 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, working on 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me and 1981's For Your Eyes Only before making AVTAK his Bond swan song.

As with the other sequences Bogner worked on, the action here is quite good. Throughout the film, Bond will have trouble with his modes of transportation, and this time the trouble is because a machine gun equipped helicopter keeps shooting them out from under him: first, his skis are damaged mid-chase. He manages to steal a soldier's snowmobile, then has to ditch the vehicle as it's destroyed. One of its tracks lands near him, so Bond grabs it and essentially uses it as a snowboard. Snowboarding was gaining in popularity at the time of this film, so this is a cool moment, Bond giving snowboarding his stamp of approval concurrent with it being recognized as a sport.

Then, a bad choice ruins it for me. As Bond snowboards down the glacier, Gidea Park's cover of The Beach Boys' "California Girls" incongruously starts playing on the soundtrack. This sequence isn't so cool after all. The song was added with the intention of making the chase more humorous, which is totally unnecessary. At this point, I'm wary going into a Roger Moore Bond film, I felt his era had run its course years back and I'm not a fan of how silly the humor is that they keep adding to his movies, and just over 3 minutes into the movie this song choice is the first warning sign that this might not be my type of Bond film.

The song thankfully stops playing, Bond manages to escape the Soviet soldiers and take out that pesky helicopter, and as he nears the water's edge the top of a small iceberg opens up to reveal a Union Jack symbol on the underside of a hatch. Bond goes through this hatch and pulls it closed behind him, and we realize that the iceberg is actually a boat in disguise... Well, it's better than the Octopussy alligator boat.

Waiting for Bond inside the iceberg boat is fellow agent Kimberley Jones, played by Mary Stavin. The boat is stocked with caviar and vodka (which Bond describes as "rather shaken", the closest Moore gets to saying the "shaken, not stirred" line in his run), the agents have a five day ride to Alaska, and Kimberley is a beautiful girl. Bond has an idea of how he wants to spend those five days with Kimberley, and quickly starts charming her out of her clothes.

The Maurice Binder-designed, black light-heavy title sequence, which is a bit overly preoccupied with the ski sequence we just saw, kicks in with Duran Duran's title song playing over it. The lyrics are kind of weird, but it's a catchy tune that was quite popular at the time; it's the only Bond theme song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It remains popular with many Bond fans, particularly those of the '80s generation.

For anyone familiar with the established formula that the series was strictly adhering to at this point, it should come as no surprise that the first scene following the title sequence has Bond bantering with the secretary of his boss M, Miss Moneypenny, on his way into the boss's office.

Waiting for him in the office are M, Minister of Defence Sir Frederick Gray, and Q, showing off the prototype of a "highly sophisticated surveillance machine", a remote controlled gadget that looks like a robot dog. Not the most inconspicuous surveillance device.

The robot dog is just there to set up a joke that will come at the very end of the movie, Q is actually in the room to talk about microchips. A private contractor has recently invented a microchip that would be impervious to the magnetic pulse emitted by a nuclear explosion. This new type of chip is identical to the one that Bond found on 003. Since one of their chips turned up in Siberia, someone within the research company that produced it must be leaking tech to the KGB. The company was acquired six months ago by Zorin Industries, owned by Max Zorin, a French industrialist with influential friends in the government. Born in Dresden, Germany, he fled from East Germany in the '60s and is a staunch anti-Communist. It's impossible that Zorin could be directly involved with the leak, but since it did occur under his watch, he'll have to be investigated just the same.

Having made fortunes in oil and gas as well as electronics, Zorin also makes good money from horse races. The first step in Bond's investigation is to go to Ascot Racecourse, where Zorin's horse Pegasus is in competition. Bond spots Zorin in the crowd, accompanied by the American woman who is never far from him, May Day.

It's said that musician Sting was an inspiration for the character of Max Zorin and he may have been offered the role at one point. It was originally announced that the role would be played by David Bowie, but Bowie ended up turning it down. Eon may not have gotten their first choice, but things turned out very well: Max Zorin is played by Christopher Walken.

May Day is played by tall, muscular, androgynous model/performer Grace Jones, said to be a committed actress once she was on set, the problem was getting her there. The task of getting Jones to set on time became one of Barbara Broccoli's duties as additional assistant director. This was apparently not a very easy job at times, but according to Jones they became good friends.

M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny all go along with Bond to the races, where they meet up with Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a character who was written to be a jockey in the early drafts of the script, but was changed to a veteran trainer when Barbara Broccoli suggested Patrick Macnee be cast in the part. Moneypenny loses a bet on a horse named Fluke when another named Pegasus makes it to the finish line first with an extraordinary burst of speed in the final moments. Tibbett says that in all his years as a trainer, he's never seen a horse run such a fast last furlong as Pegasus just did. M says that Zorin is a lucky man, but Tibbett thinks there may be more than luck to it. He can't confirm that the race was fixed, but the French Jockey Club has a detective looking into Zorin's suspicious wins.

Seeing the heroes assembled is an odd sight for an adventure film, the youngest among them is Roger Moore at fifty-seven.

After Pegasus displays some aggressive behavior and has to be subdued by May Day, the scene ends with Bond revealing to Moneypenny that he bet on Pegasus. He promises to buy her dinner with his winnings.
Bond meets with French detective Achille Aubergine over dinner and drinks at the Eiffel Tower. Aubergine doesn't know much about Zorin's background - there is no information available on him from before he left East Germany - or why his horses beat others with superior bloodlines, but he intends to get to the bottom of things at Zorin's stud farm near Paris, where he'll soon be holding his annual sales.

Aubergine never has a chance. The show going on in the restaurant includes fake butterflies being flown around the room on fishing lines, and one of these butterflies smacks Aubergine in the face, sticking a poison-tipped hook in his cheek. Aubergine is killed instantly.

Aubergine's assassin is May Day, taking no chances and killing the detective when he still knows absolutely nothing. Bond pursues May Day out of the restaurant and up the tower. The foot chase ends with May Day jumping off the Eiffel Tower, opening a parachute and floating off over Paris... The jump off the Eiffel Tower is real, with Grace Jones doubled by BJ Worth, the stuntman who had previously worked on the airplane/freefall sequences in Moonraker and Octopussy. Worth's authorized jump was bookended by a couple of unauthorized jumps off the tower. The first was by a civilian couple, and even though they weren't connected to the movie, their actions almost got the filmmakers' permission to perform the stunt revoked. The second unauthorized jumper was stuntman Don Caldvedt, who would've performed the stunt on film if a second take had been necessary. But Worth's first take had gotten the job done, and Caldvedt was so disappointed that he wouldn't get to jump that he snuck up on the tower the next morning with a friend and jumped anyway. This got Caldvedt fired from the production.

May Day is using her parachute to fly along the river Seine, but Bond doesn't give up after her jump. He rides the roof of an elevator down the Eiffel Tower, commandeers a taxi at the base, and speeds through the city after the flying killer. Famed stunt driver Remy Julienne coordinated this car sequence and doubles Roger Moore behind the wheel of the vehicle. Impressive and reckless driving is displayed, including driving the wrong way down a one-way road and a great moment when the car hits a ramp and lands on the roof of a double-decker bus, driving on top of the bus and off the front, dropping back to the street and continuing on its way. Bond again has trouble with his mode of transportation, as the taxi takes heavy damage, losing its roof and even its back half. Luckily Bond has "borrowed" a car that has apparently been converted to front wheel drive.

May Day manages to land on a boat, so Bond stops his half-a-car and jumps onto the boat from a bridge. But his efforts are all for naught. While Bond is stuck on the slow-moving tourist boat, May Day is picked up by Zorin in a speedboat. Zorin has confirmed himself as the villain of the piece and he takes his henchwoman off down the river. Bond is the one who gets arrested.

M and Sir Godfrey Tibbett pick Bond up at the jailhouse soon after. While M is upset that Bond's approach to the situation has cost them six million francs in damages and penalties, Bond is only concerned with continuing the investigation. He wants to be at Zorin's thoroughbred sale, and Tibbett can help him there.

Bond and Tibbett make their way to Zorin's property, which is in reality the Château de Chantilly, a beautiful estate just north of Paris, and the nearby Chantilly Racecourse. On the land is the awe-inspiring Great Stables. The housing of the horses was built so extravagantly because the man who ordered its construction in 1719, Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon, Prince of Condé, is said to have believed that he would one day be reincarnated as a horse.

Bond's cover at Zorin's sales event is a wealthy prospective buyer named James St. John Smythe, and Tibbett acts the part of his put-upon servant. Bond really enjoys playing up his role and puts on a show of hilariously constantly berating Tibbett.

While scar-faced head of security Scarpine shows Bond to the sales preview in the stables, where Bond hints that he may be interested in buying the colt brother of Pegasus for over three million dollars, Tibbett stays outside and again witnesses unruly behavior from Pegasus. Pegasus is led into a small barn by a mysterious old man and Tibbett sees which stall he's taken into. But when Pegasus is left alone in the barn, Tibbett goes in for a closer look... and finds that the horse has disappeared.

After the preview, Bond is shown to his room in the Chateau by lovely equestrian/henchwoman Jenny Flex. Tibbett follows along behind him, loaded down with "St. John Smythe"'s luggage. Once left in the room, Bond switches on a tape player and the pre-recorded sample of St. John Smythe complaining about Tibbett's incompetence keeps the eavesdropping security team amused while Tibbett uses a gadget disguised as an electric razor to locate the hidden listening device.

Since the place is bugged, Bond and Tibbett have to step out on the balcony to have a conversation. The disappearance is Pegasus is discussed and the mysterious old man is spotted walking around the estate. They also witness the arrival by helicopter of a beautiful blonde woman, Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton. Bond thinks she bears closer inspection.

Bond does some snooping and hobnobbing at the reception in the chateau gardens that evening. With a snazzy pair of sunglasses that can be adjusted to eliminate reflections on a window from the wearer's view, Bond watches from outside as Zorin writes out a check to Stacey in his office. Sneaking into the office after Zorin and Stacey leave, Bond is able to use another gadget to make a perfect copy of the check from the indentations on the check below it. Zorin has paid "S Sutton" five million dollars for something. Returning to the party, Bond meets the old man, who introduces himself as Doctor Carl Mortner. Mortner is Zorin's breeding consultant, and when asked how he succeeds with breeding bloodlines thought to be inferior, he replies that while selective breeding is important, conditioning and desire is more important. That applies for humans as well as it does to animals. Mortner introduces Bond to an oil man named Bob Conley, who handles Zorin's oil interests in San Francisco. Bond takes pictures of these men with a camera hidden in a ring.

Conley asks Zorin if a project called Main Strike is all set, and Zorin replies that they'll know after the 22nd. The check Zorin wrote out to Stacey was dated May 3rd, 1985 so whatever Main Strike is, May 22nd, 1985 is an important date for it. May 22nd, 1985 was also the date of this film's premiere.

Bond and Zorin meet face-to-face during the party, with Bond passing St. John Smythe off as inexperienced in the horse business. He inherited some stables from an aunt and decided it'd be fun to raise horses. Referring to Zorin as a "fellow sportsmen", Bond then alludes to the murder of Aubergine by asking him if he's into fishing. Fly casting? This quickly ends their conversation.

Zorin excuses himself and goes off to confer with May Day while Bond takes the opportunity to introduce himself - still as St. John Smythe - to Stacey Sutton. Stacey isn't there to buy or sell horses but she doesn't give any information about herself, not even her name, and isn't receptive to Bond's charms. Zorin also doesn't want them around each other, so he sends May Day - who recognizes Bond from somewhere - to break them up and notify Stacey that her helicopter will soon be leaving.

That night, the tape player in Bond's room has the security team thinking that St. John Smythe is in bed asleep, while Bond and Tibbett are actually checking out the barn where Pegasus disappeared. The men step into Pegasus's stall and with the press of a button the stall is revealed to be an elevator down into a secret laboratory. Examining a horse in the lab, Tibbett discovers that it has had surgery. Cracking a combination-locked refrigerator, Bond finds vials containing liquid and microchips. Zorin's horses have been implanted with microchips that are programmed to control an injection of steroids. The injection is triggered within a switch that could be hidden within a jockey's whip or Zorin's cane. When the injection happens, it allows the horse to overcome fatigue and gain speed. The secret of Pegasus's come-from-behind win.

Bond and Tibbett then find a room where automated machines are packing microchips into Zorin Industries crates, leading Bond to deduce that Zorin is hoarding chips for some reason. Then, the men are caught. Two thugs enter the room and an extremely awkwardly choreographed, shot and edited fight plays out. It comes across so poorly that one of the baddies appears to just agree to slowly lie down on the crate conveyor belt and go to sleep rather than continue to fight.

Meanwhile, Zorin and May Day are having a sparring session that ends with the highly disturbing sight of a sweaty, red-faced Christopher Walken pinning a struggling, gnashing Grace Jones down to the floor and attempting to force himself on her. This is interrupted by a phone call notifying Zorin that there's been an intruder in the warehouse. One of the thugs that Bond subdued was found packed in a crate.

Finding St. John Smythe's room empty, May Day finally remembers where she saw him before. The Eiffel Tower. Before going out to search for him, she needs to change out of her sparring outfit. She goes to her room... and finds a naked Bond waiting for her in bed. Our fifty-seven year old Bond proceeds to get it on with a woman who could break Roger Moore in half.

Zorin and Mortner check the laboratory and find that a vial has been misplaced. Zorin tells Scarpine to bring St. John Smythe to his office first thing in the morning.

Sitting at his desk and working on his computer, Zorin pretends to be using a Progeny Index to find the perfect horse for St. John Smythe to purchase that afternoon, but he's really using an identification system to find out who Bond is, using pictures taken with a camera hidden behind a mirror. The computer gives him the information - James Bond. British secret agent. 007. Usually armed. Extremely dangerous. Licensed to kill.

Bond sends Tibbett into town to have M run a trace on the check to Stacey. While Bond is joining Zorin on his morning ride, Tibbett is followed into town by henchwomen and murdered by the obscured figure of May Day. During the horse ride, Zorin makes an offer to Bond: if he runs a steeple chase course, Zorin will give him Pegasus's brother for free. This is all a set-up to get Bond injured or killed during the ride. The jumps are tampered with as he attempts to get his horse Inferno over them, and Zorin presses a button in his cane that causes the microchip implanted in the horse to inject it with steroids, speeding it up and sending it out of control.

Bond gets Inferno out to the road, where he meets up with the passing Rolls Royce that was part of his St. John Smythe cover and dismounts. But he hasn't made it to safety. May Day is driving the car, Tibbett's dead body in the backseat. When Zorin and his men catch up with Bond, Bond tells Zorin, "Killing Tibbett was a mistake." The villain replies, "I'm about to make the same mistake twice." Don't take that to mean he's going to kill Tibbett again, he's actually informing Bond that he's about to be executed. Bond tells him that if he's killed, his department will retaliate. A threat like this convinced Goldfinger to keep him around, but Zorin isn't concerned. Amused by the threat, he says that if Bond is the best they have, his department will more likely try to cover up his "embarrassing incompetence."

There are guns pointed at Bond, but rather than anybody shooting him, they knock him out and stick him in the Rolls Royce beside Tibbett. The car is driven to a nearby lake and pushed into it. Zorin and May Day watch the vehicle sink into the water until they're content that Bond has drowned. He hasn't, of course. He's on the bottom of the lake, sucking on the air from one of the car's tires so he can stay submerged until the villains leave.

Soon after, General Gogol (Walter Gotell reprising his role from the previous four films) meets with Zorin at the racecourse. One member of Gogol's security team is Dolph Lundgren, making his screen debut a few months before his role in Rocky IV would really bring him some attention. Lundgren ended up in AVTAK because he had been around the set, being Grace Jones' bodyguard-turned-boyfriend at the time.

Gogol has come from Russia to reprimand Zorin. Zorin is an agent of the KGB, but he hasn't been a good one lately. He refuses to answer to control, doesn't follow procedure, wouldn't have been given approval to eliminate 007 if he had requested it, as he should have, because reprisals could jeopardize operations. Zorin's racing activities draw too much attention and he has made unauthorized commercial ventures. Zorin is not happy with Gogol and says the issues are irrelevant, he doesn't consider himself a member of the KGB anymore. He's made new associations. Zorin's attitude sets off one of Gogol's guards, who says that without the KGB, Zorin would just be "a biological experiment, a physiological freak." May Day grabs the mouthy guard and lifts him into the air, Zorin's security team rushes in and points guns at Gogol's men. Gogol manages to defuse the situation without anyone getting killed and exits by telling Zorin that he'll come back to the KGB eventually, "No one ever leaves the KGB."

Aboard his personal Skyship 6000 blimp, Zorin holds a meeting that is very reminiscent of Goldfinger addressing the gangsters in his rec room. The men gathered for the meeting are manufacturers who Zorin has passed industrial information to over the years to better their businesses. Now Zorin wants to form them into an international cartel to control production and distribution of microchips. The only obstacle is Silicon Valley, an area near San Francisco, a model of which rises out of the table the men are sitting at. Silicon Valley is where 80% of the world's microchips are produced, at over two hundred and fifty plants. Zorin intends to end their domination of the market with something called Project Main Strike. To get this project done, Zorin requires each of the manufacturers to pay him one hundred million dollars.

One hundred million dollars plus half of his business's net income is too steep of a price for one of the manufacturers to pay, so he opts out of the project. The rest of the conversation must be confidential, so Zorin has May Day lead the man out of the room. She not only leads him out of the room but also off the blimp. He falls to his death and Zorin asks the others, "Does anybody else want to drop out?"

After the meeting, Zorin and May Day go up to the blimp's cockpit as it passes over the Golden Gate Bridge. May Day is impressed, "What a view!" Zorin nods, "To a kill." The title has been worked into the film, but I'm not sure I understand it.

Also in the San Francisco area is James Bond. He arrives at Fisherman's Wharf on a trolley and meets up with CIA agent Chuck Lee, who gives him all the information he has on Zorin and associates. Bob Conley is a geologist who runs Zorin's oil reclamation project in the East Bay. There are too many "S Sutton"s in the country for Lee to be sure who the woman is that Zorin wrote the check out to, and the check hasn't been cashed. Doctor Carl Mortner is actually Hans Glaub, a German pioneer in the development of steroids. During World War II, he did some horrible experiments, injecting pregnant women in concentration camps with steroids, attempting to enhance the intelligence of their children. Most of the pregnancies aborted. The children who were born had very high IQs, but were also psychotic. Mortner/Glaub wasn't tried for war crimes because the Russians took him away to develop steroids for their athletes. He left Russia around the same time that Zorin left East Germany. The question is pondered, could Zorin be one of the psychotic steroid kids?

Somewhere in the Fisherman's Wharf scene, Maud Adams makes an appearance in her third Bond film, after playing the titular Octopussy and Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun. Here she's a background extra, just stepping in front of the camera because she happened to be on set that day, visiting her Bond friends. There are two different opinions on where Adams can be spotted. Some think she's on the trolley that brings Bond to the wharf, others think she and her boyfriend are behind Bond and Lee during their walk and talk. The woman on the trolley doesn't look like Adams to me, the one walking on the wharf seems more likely.

Zorin's oil pumping operation appears to be clean, although it has ruined one of the best crab patches in the Bay. The crabs all just disappeared. Bond figures that the station is worth checking out.

Bond takes a SCUBA dive around the heavily guarded oil pumping station that night, but things don't go smoothly. He's swimming around in the pipes when Zorin orders Conley to activate the pumping procedure at its maximum level, a terrible coincidence. As water is sucked into the pipes, Bond is almost sucked into a large, spinning fan. He manages to jam the blades with his oxygen tank and swim out to safety.

Bond isn't the only person snooping around the station, he also spots a couple Russians eavesdropping on Zorin with sound recording equipment. As the failure of the pumps stirs up a lot of activity around the station, the Russians start to leave, planting a bomb on their way out. One of the Russians is captured, and while his companion escapes, Zorin makes him defuse the bomb. After the bomb is defused, Zorin has the man dropped into a pump fan.

Bond catches up to the other Russian on the beach. They have a tussle, during which the Russian's wetsuit is pulled off, revealing that it's a woman. A woman who Bond recognizes. Fiona Fullerton as Pola Ivanova. With Zorin's guards getting near, Bond and Pola drive off together. A waiting car follows them.

The driver of the mystery car waits outside the Nippon Relaxation Spa as Bond and Pola spend some time together in a hot tub inside. The agents have history with each other: in London, Pola performed with the Bolshoi, undercover with orders to seduce Bond in her dressing room after the show. Bond knew all along, that's why he sent her three dozen red roses. Music is playing from a nearby boombox, and Bond briefly leaves the hot tub to switch tapes, putting on some Tchaikovsky, much to Pola's delight.

That's not the only switch Bond makes. As he showers after their hot tub session, Pola rushes out of the spa to the waiting car. The driver is Gogol. Pola hands him a cassette to put in the car's tape player, but they don't hear what they expected to. From the speakers comes the spa music that Bond traded for Tchaikovsky. Bond has the tape that they wanted, the recording of Zorin's conversation that Pola and her late partner made at the oil pumping station. From the tape, Bond learns that Zorin is planning a Silicon Valley operation called Main Strike that is set to happen in three days and must not be delayed.

Bond, under the guise of James Stock of the London Financial Times, visits San Francisco's City Hall to talk to W.G. Howe, head of the Divisions of Oil and Mines. Howe is fully supportive of Zorin, the California economy needs investors like him. Stock/Bond asks Howe why Zorin is pumping sea water into his pipeline instead of pumping oil out, and Howe explains that the water is used to test to see if the pipeline has any leaks. If it is leaking, better that water come out than oil.

As Bond goes to exit the building, he spots Stacey Sutton talking to Howe about porosity tests. Bond waits for Stacey to leave, then follows her car - which has a State of California Department of Conservation: Mines and Geology decal on the side - back to her home, a mansion near the San Andreas Lake Reservoir. He breaks into the house with a Sharper Image card, using it to unlock a window. His credit card break-in is a bit different than the norm, the card is a gadget that magnetically turns the lock.

Stacey's home contains almost no furniture, but a horror movie-style jump scare does reveal that she has the loudest screeching cat on the planet. It doesn't take Stacey long to realize that there's an intruder. She turns on the shower as a decoy, and when Bond enters the bathroom she emerges from a closet behind him, pointing a shotgun at him. She assumes that he's "just another Zorin stooge". He keeps up the James Stock, London Financial Times cover, but she still intends to call the police. As she raises the phone, Stock/Bond mentions that he saw the check Zorin wrote to her, a five million dollar payoff. Putting the phone to her ear, Stacey discovers that it's dead.

The phone line has been cut, and not by Bond. There are some real Zorin stooges around, and they make their presence known by attacking Bond and Stacey. During the fight that ensues, Bond takes the shotgun away from Stacey and starts blasting away at their attackers. To little effect. The gun is loaded with rock salt. Still, the rock salt, the fighting skills of Bond (mostly Roger Moore's stunt double), and a vase containing Stacey's grandfather's ashes busted over the head of one of the men is enough to send the stooges running away.

The fight is also enough to get Stock/Bond into Stacey's good graces. They decide to have dinner together and Bond cooks a quiche for her, a fact that some fans still like to mock him for to this day. Stacey tells him how she's mixed up with Zorin: the grandfather whose ashes ended up all over a henchman left Sutton Oil to her father, which then ended up getting passed down to her. Preparing to take over the family business, she went to college to study geology. But then Zorin took Sutton Oil over in a rigged proxy fight. Stacey has been fighting him in court to get the company back, and paying the fees has wiped out her bank account. That's why the home is so sparsely furnished, she had to sell everything. With her job as a state geologist, she has managed to hold on to the house and her shares. The five million dollar check was Zorin's attempt to buy her shares, for ten times what they're worth, and get her to drop the lawsuit. She still hasn't cashed it. The stooge attack was meant to convince Stacey to get on with it and accept the deal, but it's had the opposite effect, strengthening her resolve to fight. She rips the check up.

Bond sits guard over Stacey while she sleeps that night (she fell asleep before he could try to get in bed with her.) In the morning, he wakes to find that her pet birds are freaking out in their cage because there was an earth tremor. Stacey gets on her computer to check the Earthquake Center and get info on the tremor. It was minor, 2.5 on the Richter scale, the epicenter near Zorin's oil field. This spurs Bond to tell her about Zorin pumping sea water. Despite Howe's assertion that it's just a harmless leak test, Stacey says it's incredibly dangerous for Zorin to be pumping sea water into his wells in the Hayward fault.

Stacey goes to Howe to tell him about the danger and get him to stop Zorin. Howe fires her for her troubles. With twenty-four hours to go before Main Strike is set to happen, Bond calls Lee over to Stacey's place to see if he can come up with some anwers. Lee doesn't come up with much of anything, just that he'd like to know Zorin's intentions before alerting his higher-ups. Stacey tells them that if Zorin were to flood a fault, it would cause a major earthquake. The Hayward fault would be too far away from Silicon Valley to affect that area, but the well at Hayward may not be the only one that Zorin is pumping water into. Information on the number of wells that Zorin has is kept in City Hall, Bond and Stacey will need to see it. And her security clearance hasn't been taken away yet.

As Bond and Stacey prepare to go back to City Hall, Lee goes to contact Washington... and before he can leave, in a repeat of what happened to Tibbett, May Day rises from the backseat of his car and strangles him.

The visit to City Hall starts well, but quickly goes downhill. Bond and Stacey find a copy of papers belonging to Zorin filed away that show a place called "Main Strike Mine". Stacey recognizes it as an abandoned silver mine near the San Andreas fault... That's as far as they get before Zorin and his thugs walk in on them. Zorin quickly comes up with a way to get Bond and Stacey out of the picture - he kills Howe, traps Bond and Stacey in an elevator, and sets fire to City Hall. The idea is that Bond and Stacey will take the blame for Howe's murder, a revenge killing for Howe having fired Stacey, then set a fire to conceal the crime, but were trapped in the elevator while trying to get away and perished in the flames.

City Hall becomes an inferno. Bond has a hellish time getting himself and Stacey out of the building. Making their way through the smoke and flames, they reach the roof and then Bond has to take a long firetruck ladder down, carrying Stacey over his shoulders. The "observer with alcohol" gag that started with Victor Tourjansky in The Spy Who Loved Me gets a reworking during this sequence. A crowd gathers around the burning City Hall, among them a scruffy homeless man who takes swigs from a bottle as he watches Bond's progress. When Bond slips at one point, the man drops his bottle.

Once safely on the ground, Bond is confronted by a belligerent police Captain who acts like he graduated from the J.W. Pepper Police Academy. During their talk, Bond's real name is finally revealed to Stacey when he tells the Captain - "My name is Bond. James Bond." The Captain doesn't believe or care that Bond is really a secret agent and attempts to arrest him for the murders of Howe and Lee. That's an inconvenience that could keep him from stopping Main Strike, so Bond and Stacey have to make an escape. They steal the nearest vehicle. Which happens to be a firetruck.

San Francisco police, led by the Captain, chase the firetruck through the city streets. Stacey asks Bond if it's true, what he said about being a secret agent. Bond confirms that it is, and repeats his real name. We get "Bond. James Bond" twice within a minute. The vehicular chase is complicated when Bond has to give the wheel over to Stacey and climb onto the outside of the truck to lock its ladder down in place. It's not so easy to do, he ends up swinging around on the loose ladder for a while. The firetruck loses the chasing police by making a jump over an raising drawbridge, a stunt that the camera doesn't quite catch, and the police Captain gets some comeuppance for not listening to our hero.

Bond and Stacey take the firetruck directly to the Main Strike Mine, arriving at daylight. The "abandoned mine" is crawling with workers and trucks hauling in large amounts of explosives. The firetruck is ditched and Bond and Stacey commandeer one of the explosives haulers, driving the truck to its destination at the opening of the mine. They then hitch a ride on a train of mine cars and ride down into the tunnels.

The mine set was built in the new 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios in England. The first 007 Stage was built for the production of The Spy Who Loved Me, but accidentally burnt down after Ridley Scott's film Legend shot in it, right when it was needed for A View to a Kill. Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli was able to get the stage rebuilt in one month. The new stage was named Albert R. Broccoli's 007 Stage and was immediately put to use for AVTAK, with production designer Peter Lamont starting work on getting the mine set put together while the building was still under construction.

Zorin himself is in the mine, supervising everything that's going on. He personally activates a bomb that is lowered down into the massive pile of dynamite that has been trucked in. A huge explosion is set to happen in 3600 seconds.

Looking at a display of all of Zorin's wells in an office, Stacey is able to figure out exactly what the villain has planned. While Zorin is pumping sea water into the Hayward fault, he also has tunnels beneath the lakes in the area that run to the San Andreas fault. If he blasts through the bottom of the lakes, the water will flood the San Andreas fault and activate an earthquake. Below the Main Strike Mine is the geological lock that keeps the Hayward and San Andreas faults from both moving at once. If the bomb in the mine breaks the lock and the water sets off earthquakes in both faults simultaneously, millions will be killed and Silicon Valley will be submerged beneath the San Francisco Bay. For maximum effect, Zorin has set the bomb to detonate at the peak of spring tide.

Now that they know what might happen, Bond and Stacey have less than an hour to stop it. As time ticks down, Zorin turns out to be a terrible employer, repaying his workers by letting them die in the flooding mine, and those that don't drown are gunned down by him and Scarpine. The scene of fleeing workers being sprayed with machine gun fire is one of the reasons why Roger Moore himself doesn't even like this movie, feeling that that kind of violence has no place in a Bond film.

The Goldfinger similarities continue in this climactic sequence - like Bond was trapped in Fort Knox with main henchman Oddjob and a ticking time bomb in the 1964 film, here he's trapped in the mine with main henchwoman May Day and a ticking time bomb. This problem is not resolved in the same way, though.

Zorin attempts to make a getaway in his blimp, capturing Stacey on his way in a moment that has caused many viewers to wonder incredulously, how can someone be snuck up on by a blimp? As the blimp flies away, it's Bond's turn to make trouble for Zorin's mode of transportation, causing the final confrontation between our heroes and villains to take place on a location with a view: the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Like Goldfinger, Zorin has bad luck at a great height.

When all is done, General Gogol visits M's office to personally award Bond with the Order of Lenin, the first time it's ever been given to a non-Soviet citizen. But Bond isn't in England to accept or decline the Order of Lenin, he's still in California. Q and his robot dog are also there, searching for him, and they find him... in the shower with Stacey Sutton. In the last shot of him as James Bond, Roger Moore is making out with Tanya Roberts as they slowly descend out of sight behind the shower curtain.

As pointed out, like Octopussy, this film has a lot of elements that are lifted from or are callbacks to Goldfinger. And like I said about Octopussy, this film is no Goldfinger.

I already gave it away in the Octopussy article that A View to a Kill is one of my least favorite films in the series. Octopussy remains my least favorite, there's nothing in AVTAK that I actively dislike as much as some of things in Octopussy (Bond in a gorilla costume, as a clown, being disrespected by teenagers, etc.), but AVTAK doesn't rank much higher.

I just can't muster up any enthusiasm for the movie, it's not particularly interesting. It's very average, run-of-the-mill, and strangely feels like a made-for-cable movie at several points, despite clearly having much higher production value. Christopher Walken and Grace Jones try their best to liven up the proceedings, but they can only do so much. And Jones really isn't especially appealing to me.

By now, the character of James Bond has even lost something, as Roger Moore is far past his prime. His performance has gotten less entertaining as his stunt doubles have gotten more obvious. Moore was always most comfortable playing a safe, avuncular version of Bond, and the older he gets, the more creepy uncle his portrayal becomes. It's hard to imagine that the Bond films of this time were appealing to a younger audience and gaining new fans. As much as I love this series, the movies of this period feel stale to me. In an era when the series was getting some stiff competition in the action/adventure genre, the films were not living up to it.

The series was in need of a shaking up, and there was one right around the corner. On November 26, 1985, it was announced that Roger Moore had officially retired from the role of James Bond. He wasn't happy with A View to a Kill and knew that he was too old to be playing the character. About 400 years too old, by his estimation.

James Bond will return, the end credits of AVTAK promise, though this time the title of the next film isn't given. When he does return in the as-yet-untitled movie, he will be played by a new actor, one with a fresh approach to the character.


  1. I can't deny that Roger Moore was not at his peak here - but I also would never have told him he couldn't tie Connery for seven. I do enjoy this movie despite some shortcomings. Walken makes up for a lot of sins, and it's pretty amazing that they got him considering he must have been the fourth choice. I hadn't heard the story about Sting - but it makes sense. I know they offered to to Bowie (who did decline) - but there was another offer - to Rutger Hauer - who told them he'd love to be in the movie - if he could play James Bond. Finally, they went to Walken, not even believing he would take it - but he liked the movies when he was younger, so on he signed! He was, I do believe - the first Oscar winner to appear on screen in the Bond series - though there have been others since.

    I saw this one in the theater the night it opened - and as soon as Roger Moore went into closeup in Moneypenny's office - it was obvious that he'd had some kind of work done - a mole was missing from his face; it was tighter, but in that 80's plastic surgery way - and it gave him that same vaguely angry look when his face was at rest that many others have had since. You get all of this in his few seconds with Moneypenny. Speaking of Moneypenny, this marks the last series appearance for Lois Maxwell, making her the only actor in every film of the series to that time.

    Couple of bloopers - you can see the cable pulling the Rolls into the lake; and the double for Gogol on location in San Francisco is terrible. Lois Maxwell would have been more convincing.

    Lastly, watch that last scene as they disappear behind the shower curtain with the sound turned up - some typical Roger Moore ad libs are put in at a very soft sound level - but they're kind of funny considering they're his last words spoken as 007.

    Sorry these last couple didn't work so well for you - can't wait to see what you have to say about the next couple...

  2. I think 35-50 is the ideal range for a Bond actor. If they had kept Moore any longer he could have been doing Bond at 60!
    But like the poster above said he had performed the role for over a decade without complaint so I guess he deserved a seventh movie to tie Connery.