Musings on Bond at 50: A View To A Kill

Posted: 21 September 2012 in entertainment, film
Tags: , , , ,

A View To A KillDuran Duran’s theme song is the most memorable aspect of A View To A Kill as Roger Moore finally departs in an ill-judged swan song.

In Roger Moore’s final outing as 007 any credibility that may remained for the actor at the close of Octopussy had been lost. More than ever he was merely a stand in when close-ups to cover the stunt men were required. Due to poor camera angles and editing choices it is blatantly obvious in numerous scenes that Martin Grace is on film and not Roger Moore. Such doubling is most obvious during the car chase in Paris when the back of Bond’s Renault is sheered off and through the fight in Stacy’s house. Whacking great close-ups of Grace occur.

When Harrison Ford participated in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom and the Crystal Skull he was 65, nearly 10 years older than Moore in A View To A Kill, yet he remained entirely convincing as an action hero despite being of pensionable age. Granted advances in safety technology and digital editing made Ford’s presence in several stunt sequences far more possible than even a few years before, but quite clearly he undertook a huge amount of his own action and had remained very fit in the near two decades that had elapsed since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In A View To A Kill Moore required doubles to run yet the audience is expected to believe he is leaping around glaciers and hanging from airships!

A View To A Kill - Bond and StacyBefore signing aboard for his seventh outing the actor reached an absolute agreement with producer Cubby Broccoli that this was his swan song. No eighth film no matter what incentives were offered. Moore’s resolution was strengthened when he learnt that he was older than the mother of Tanya Roberts (who qualifies as the worst Bond leading lady ever). Broccoli’s resolute clinging onto Moore for so long is a mystery, especially given the fee negotiation headaches associated with most of the actor’s appearances. Was the producer afraid of change unless there was absolutely no alternative? Afraid of another debacle similar to the one with George Lazenby?

In comparison to previous productions A View To A Kill was not a happy experience for Roger Moore who was well renowned for lightening the mood with jokes and pranks. He often replaced Desmond Llewelyn’s cue cards (known as “Q cards”) with ones containing completely changed dialogue, and on one occasion simply the word “Bollocks”, to throw his co-star. A genuinely personable and generous man Moore got on with everyone on a film set – except Grace Jones, who appeared as villainess May Day. Moore has been reticent to discuss his tense relationship with Jones on the grounds that he was taught that if you do not have anything nice to say about someone then it is best to remain quiet. After the release of the film Moore expressed disdain for the gratuitous violence on show in A View To A Kill – in particular the massacre of the miners at the hands of the psychopathic machine gun touting Zorin.

Departing the series alongside Moore was his old friend Lois Maxwell. After fourteen films Maxwell’s character of Miss Moneypenny would be recast for the next film to reflect the age of the new James Bond, who was expected to be many years younger than the current incarnation. Maxwell holds the record for having appeared in the most consecutive Bond films having debuted in Dr. No in 1962 alongside Sean Connery. Now only Desmond Llewelyn’s iconic Q remained from the early days.

A View To A Kill - airshipMichael G Wilson’s central concept of the destruction of Silicon Valley by means of deliberately engineered earthquakes returned 007 to the fantastical era of the late 1970s and eradicated the work done in For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy to restore the agent to his 1960s status as a Cold Warrior in the battle against the Soviet Union. Whilst KGB elements under the command of series regular General Gogol were a peripheral factor it is Bond’s battle with genetically engineered madman Max Zorin that is the central element of A View To A Kill. Incredibly the first draft of the script by Wilson and his co-writer Richard Maibum was even more fantastical as it contained the plot device of the course of Halley’s Comet being manipulated in order to crash into Silicon Valley. Amazingly some ideas were even too far-fetched for the James Bond who had travelled into outer space.

From the ski chase staged in Iceland and Switzerland, to the spectacular parachute jump from the Eiffel Tower, onto the fire truck destruction spree in San Francisco, the stunt work was once again of the very highest order with the thin gruel of the A View To A Kill narrative merely an excuse to move characters from one of the action sequences to another. Undoubtedly the most breathtaking part of the film came with Bond’s dangling from Zorin’s airship and their subsequent confrontation atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Filmed using a combination of doubles on the real structure and the actors upon a replica of the bridge’s framework, the final battle of good vs. evil for Roger Moore’s James Bond restores a modicum of credibility for the actor as he is ruthless and energetic in a way that would have been welcome on so many other occasions in his unequalled seven films in the role.

A View To A Kill - Zorin and May DayInitially David Bowie was courted for the role of Max Zorin and the character was written with the actor/singer in mind. However Bowie turned down an offer to appear as he had no wish to spend weeks and weeks on end hanging around a set waiting to be called upon to double his stunt man. Subsequently Christopher Walken accepted the role of Zorin and in doing so became the first Academy Award-winning actor to star in a Bond film.

Duran Duran’s title theme to A View To A Kill is rightly regarded as one of the classic songs of the series. The first James Bond song performed by a group it is also the only one to ever reach #1 in the USA charts and it peaked at #2 in the UK charts. Though possessing fairly nonsensical lyrics it has an energetic pace and riff that conjures up a spirit of epic Bondian adventure in a way not experienced since Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the 1960s.

The series had sunk to lows not experienced since The Man with the Golden Gun over a decade earlier. When a James Bond film is most remembered for its theme song in favour of quality of script, kudos for performances, and audience involvement the time for a changing of the guard is long overdue. James Bond 007 needed to be dangerous again.

1 From Russia With Love
2 Goldfinger
3 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
4 The Spy Who Loved Me
5 Thunderball
6 Dr. No
7 For Your Eyes Only
8 You Only Live Twice
9 Octopussy
10 Moonraker
11 Diamonds Are Forever
12 A View To A Kill
13 Live And Let Die
14 The Man with the Golden Gun

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