A View to a Kill is a strange one in the canon. Generally seen as one of the weakest entries, it definitely isn’t anywhere near as bad as it’s reputation would suggest. Yes, Moore was too old and there was too much stunt double work, but really the only thing that really feels off about this film is that it feels the most formulaic. It never tries to be anything more than another one. However, that is really the only downside. Well that, and Stacey Sutton being the WORST Bond girl. It’s not even close.
On to the good:
Barry’s score is absolutely fantastic and one of my favorite of the entire series (exception for California Girls). Duran Duran gives an all-timer of a theme song, still the only one to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. My favorite track is Golden Gate Fight.
Max Zorin is one of the greatest villains in the franchise. Walken is perfect and overloads on the camp, making everything better. His death maybe his best scene and that’s saying something. May Day is one of the best henchmen, strong and charismatic, her stalking of Tibbet is one of the scariest moments in the series. Her heel turn at the end and death stare to Zorin is perfect.
The film opens with a fantastic icy chase, undone only by the egregious use of the Beach Boys. The entire sequence at the French chateau is excellent: Bond’s and Tibbet’s interactions being hilarious, Zorin’s reaction when he discovers who Bond is, Stacey’s rejection of Bond being creepy (which is undrecut by her later actions. The fight in Stacey’s house is entertaining, as is the fire truck chase through San Francisco. The burning of city hall is excellent and perfectly setup by Zorin. The climax in the mine is a bit of a let down (as most Bond film’s climaxes are), but May Day’s defection and helping Bond to save the day is a nice usurp on the usual Bond formula. Also, the final fight on top of the Golden Gate Bridge is fantastic.
Overall, it isn’t a perfect film, but one that I believe is unfairly maligned. Sure Pola Ivanova should have been Anya Amasova, but that doesn’t really hamper the film or the enjoyment of the scene in anyway. AVTAK is by no means the greatest film ever, but there is so much to like here. Walken, Jones, the setpieces, the soundtrack, it makes for a fun, if maybe not the greatest of Bond films.
What really undermines AVTAK in my view is the lack of really using its potential. Walken can act far more psychotic and threatening than the film lets him, the fight scenes for Moore are a far cry from even the standard of the series and should rightfully have involved at least one with May Day, ideally right in the middle of the bed scene. Then there were some creative decisions - no doubt due to the aim to include the formula ingredients - that just didn’t sit well and were rightfully criticised as Keystone Cops parody. Finally, San Francisco wasn’t used as well as in, say, Vertigo or Bullit. This is of course always a financial matter as well. I could have done without the fire truck chase and would have preferred showing more of the city in a less hectic atmosphere.
Then again, AVTAK has a number of memorably bizarre moments, Moore in dinner jacket in bright daylight coughing up the Eiffel Tower after May Day, then driving the wrecked Renault, the Ascot scenes (rehashing a Gardner plot element there) and the dirigible meeting. Like often in those days, the nature of it is a bit episodic, they way scripts were written around stunts and set pieces. But even if it didn’t satisfy (for long), it had the potential to make one wish for more. If perhaps not with Moore any more, who now really was far beyond it.
It’s unfortunate that Roger had a facelift, which made his eyes seem scarily wide, plus the bright blue contacts. He had looked great in FYEO and OP.
Films are still written around set pieces, so I don’t see this as a problem here. The fire engine chase, though, is just too much and the stuntmen appear too obviously in places. On the plus side, there’s the fight at Stacy’s house, as is the car sink scene, the dirigible, that German scientist guy, and Zorin.
I loosened my feelings towards it long ago. I used to dismiss it, and I think mainly because I bought into the tired reputation it seems to have - Roger had a facelift, he’s too old, been in the role too long and should’ve left after Octopussy, etc.
Is it my favourite Moore film? No. But when you brush the stigmas aside and focus on the content it’s way better than given credit for. It has a lot going for it and upholds the spirit of the Moore era.
The first half I really enjoy and it has a nice flow. The scenes at Sutton’s house and the firetruck chase don’t hold my attention as much, and they would be the weakest stretch of the film for me. I’m also still not a fan of Roger’s last scene being with Sutton in the shower, but it is what it is.
The positives far outweighs any negatives.
I love the snowboarding scene as people probably know by now.
The iceberg sub is absurd but pure Moore, ala OP’s crocodile disguise.
The title song doesn’t need defending, nor does John Barry’s score.
The Paris set piece is enjoyable.
Zorin and May Day are a very formidable villain combination.
Love Tibbett and the taskmaster routine Bond puts him through.
Bond wearing a white tuxedo is always welcomed by me.
Bond and Tibbet’s night excursion and the race back to May Day’s bed is great.
Zorin looking at Bond’s file while using the secret camera is amusing.
The horse race is one of the best scenes, and one of the best from Roger’s era.
Tibbett’s death hurts given the warmth of Macnee’s performance.
Staying alive via the car tyre - inventive.
Dropping the man who wants out from the airship - funny and brutal.
Investigating the oil rig has tension and allows Zorin to showcase his brutality.
May Day teaming up with Bond evokes Jaws’ turn to the light in MR.
It’s a bit Bond-by-numbers, and certainly near the bottom of the list for me, but it’s good all the same. I quite like the horse-racing angle, even if it does disappear, as it’s somehow very English and the sort of backdrop which compliments the gentleman spy that is Our Rog . Put Craig in there, for example, or even Dalton or Brosnan, and it wouldn’t work.
I touched on the whole facelift thing up thread, slightly, so I don’t want to repeat myself, but I’ve always been a little bit fascinated - in a sad sort of way - with facelifts and hair treatments, etc. There’s something vaguely ghoulish and Frankenstein-like about any plastic surgery which involves a knife, which you don’t get with Botox or fillers. It’s probably the bandages.
He claimed his mole was removed as a skin cancer precaution, which could be the truth but could also be a reasonably plausible fib. More likely, it was removed so it wouldn’t change position when his skin was pulled back. I’ve heard he had to have hair added before every take. Which is kind of clever, really, and I wonder how they could have done that.
AVTAK wouldn’t work with any other Bond. The entire Smythe-Tibbett exchange is just pure Roger Moore. For the film to work with Dalton or Brosnan, the film would have to be reworked. And yes it is fairly paint by the numbers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.
I wish they didn’t have that shower scene at the end. Maybe I’m a prude, but a shower snog is too sexual. Usually, in the snog-at-the-end, like in Thunderball and From Russia With Love, it’s more conventionally romantic, and therefore appropriate for younger viewers. But that could be just me. The age gap makes it especially cringey.
I like the film, despite its faults, but it isn’t one I would show to a newbie.
I respect TracerBullet’s POV. AVTAK actually makes a good entry-level Bond, as everything else after (and before) is an improvement. DAF was my first, and although it gets a lot of flack for not being an adequate follow-up to the film before, it can still do no wrong for me.
I am with you on DAF. I re-watched it the other night, and I was still entertained and aesthetically satisfied. Although my seeing-a-Bond-film-in-a-theatre history starts with Roger Moore, I bet I watching DAF on television was my first Bond movie experience.
I am now re-watching the films, and after viewing DAF, I decided to work backwards toward DR NO (skipping OHMSS until I finish with Connery Bond). Having just re-seen YOLT and TB, even more apparent is the crucial role played by Peter Hunt’s editing technique–one of the first examples of intensified continuity–a style better suited to Young’s and Gilbert’s approach than Hamilton’s–hence Hunt’s dislike for Hamilton’s work.
I never really understand how a film can be favoured simply because it was the first one seen at the cinema. Mine was TWINE, but it holds no particular significance because of that fact, though I once knew someone who prized that film simply because it was his first. I like to judge a film on its own merits. Mind you, I’m not a particularly nostalgic person, anyway, so maybe that’s it.
TWINE was also my first theater viewed Bond film, but I don’t really have any special feelings towards it. Tomorrow Never Dies was my first Bond film outright and I do look upon that one fondly. Though it is true that later on I realized I saw a bit of The Man with the Golden Gun when my dad had it on tv, I don’t count it as TND was the first time I watched one in full.
I love TND. It’s a bit machine gun-y in the climax, and I usually find submarines boring, but it’s still a corker, in my view. The bike chase, the car-park scene, Dr Kaufman, Bond getting beaten up during the party, “They’ll print anything these days”, the banner falls etc. Great, also, seeing Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer together, as they were a couple in the long-running sitcom As Times Goes By.
I am not sure that this phenomenon is an instance of nostalgia. I came of age in the 1970s and so was shaped by its culture/ethos/aesthetic. For whatever reasons, my personality/outlook meshed well with the 1970s. The aesthetic of social change/upheaval/possibility is one I am comfortable with–both in its 1970s manifestation and its earlier post-WWII occurrence (1945-1952 by my reckoning).
Of course, I have only understood this aspect of myself retrospectively. For decades I was (and still am) a voracious experiencer of art of all kinds. But when I now look for patterns in my aesthetic, I see how transitional periods–periods of rupture/possibility–produce(d) the art which I best respond to and value (to the point that I most love the plays of Shakespeare’s transition from Elizabethan to Jacobean playwright. “Coriolanus” is my favorite play of all time. The number of editions I own is shameful).
I adore the rupture with the Bond films of the 1960s that DAF represents. Fresh, sardonic, and unsettling air blows through the film’s mise en scene. DAF also restored the franchise’s viability–it was the third highest grossing movie of 1971 (trailing BILLY JACK and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF). While in some ways more genial than other 1971 films such as THE FRENCH CONNECTION, STRAW DOGS, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, DAF fits right in among them as movies of skepticism and critique.
That’s so true , when I watch DAF I tend to listen to it whilst I drift in and out of the visuals ( I’ve said it before that it is great to listen to) that skepticism is very apparent, also without DAF there would be no space for the Moore era this movie was the bridge and what a fabulous bridge it is.
Back to AVTAK I’m reminded of Mark Gatiss talking about the movie and suggesting if you rewatch it as a character study of dotty geriatric who thinks he’s a spy it is a very charming watch. It’s a good little documentary actually.
Ah yes, Premium Bond. Must have seen it three times. Matthew Sweet is great. He also did a documentary on ITC adventure shows, though I’ve never seen it, and would love to find it on the internet somewhere.