A View through the Wormhole – The 007th Minute rides the blimp!
This time CBn’s resident dimension hopper and psychic Jacques Stewart takes readers into the shocking parallel universe of The Ken Loach Bond Film ™. Harrowing insights are revealed, most of them concerning our own universe and ‘A View to a Kill’.
May contain traces of ectoplasm.
Should you spot any please report them here.
Unusually for A. Bond. Film, we start with a disclaimer.
Neither the name A View to a Kill nor any other euphemism or prolix self-indulgence in this piffle is meant to portray a credible review or an acceptable film.
I recently took a holiday and wrote this to you – you, specifically (get your hair cut and ‘phone your mother, she worries, although I couldn’t care less) – from my saver citibreak in an alternative universe. It has more varieties of cheese, warm unsalty seas, plentiful honeybees, cheap school fees, money grows on trees, every child says please and no dog has any fleas. ‘Tis bliss, even if everyone – everyone – appears to be called Geoff. Admittedly, the journey through the wormhole – the Octowormhole (fnarr, and I can’t believe I missed that one in the last “review”, must be losing my grope) – is two hours of misery and pointlessness. Oddly apt.
In this parallel dimension, the Bond films of the 1980s don’t exploit our patience-tested forgiveness for their tediously cynical habit of emitting lukewarm reheated thrills every couple of years. Instead of unleashing their pliant stooges, the producers hired award-winning film-makers to produce actual films containing proper characters and diverting plots that don’t just get by on the lazy premise that it’s A. Bond. Film, it’s got a dinner jacket and a gunbarrel, it’ll do, hand over the money you scum, yes of course this one is different, it has airships in it. That makes it sufficiently different. Different enough for your money, anyway, you pathetically-grateful-that-we-made-another-one dunderhead. What do you want, effort? Fur cough. Money. NOW.
I acknowledge that taking some care to spew out something with qualities other than the moth-eaten cloak of Bond Film routine is patently a ridiculous idea, but stick with it.
Anyway, having spent a day scooting around this same-but-not reality via my personal greengage-powered jetpack, was a hell of a job avoiding all the flying wolves, and their pooh, I settled down in a cinema in which persons were silent, did not clap and did not smell – I am obliged to accept this as an impossible fantasy – to watch the critically acclaimed, Palme d’Or bothering, A View to a Kill: un film de Ken Loach.
WARNING! Girthsome spoilers ahead!
Filmed entirely on location in the bleak Trent Valley and in grimy handheld monochrome shakycam, on a budget of eleven pounds (in sympathy with the monthly income of sweatshopped Guatemalans, probably), it’s experimentally in negative (which actually saves on neon paint, clever budgetary control) – for there was nothing positive about life in 1980s Thatcher’s Britain, given that its cultural highpoints were Five Star, Battle of the Planets and Jim’ll Fix It. Ken Loach’s seminal (fnarr) A View to a Kill (yes, it’s from a hunting song and yes, hunting’s for richfilth and yes, it’s IRONY, stroke your hypocrisy in satisfaction) is the harrowing tale of decrepit paedophile “The Commander” a.k.a. psychopathic delusional moth-eared alcoholic “Jimmy”, played not by Roger Moore (as a UNICEF ambassador it’s very unlikely he would agree to be in it; equally unlikely, though, that he would actually be cast) but by, hmm, I think it was Denholm Elliott. It was hard to tell under all the scabs. And the balaclava.
Jimmy’s tragedy is under-diagnosed booze-triggered dementia that makes him believe that he was associated with a right-wing secret conspiracy to protect Britain’s toasters from being neutralised by a Death Bomb from Space; a searingly powerful indictment of NHS care funding under Thatcher that such a person could roam the streets, never mind pilot an iceberg. The tone is set by the pre-credits sequence, an unsettling depiction of human degradation in which disgraced Scout Master Jimmy shuffles crustily around a park in Nuneaton, steals some chips from an unburied corpse – the man’s starving, the state pension’s a pittance, blame the Tories – and is chased down by a vigilante gang of Eastern Europeans who want to hurt him for no better reason than it would be a passing distraction from their own rain-soaked grind. Evading his fate as a local-press headlining battered pensioner, Nonce Were Mugged For Chips And Fifty Pee, Jimmy finds refuge in the public lavatories and therein exploits an underage homeless person for his grimy and verucca-tongued gratification. Chilling stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s not his fault, though; capitalism has made him this way, the abused becomes the abuser, something hammer-and-sickled home by the song, brought unto us by Billy Bragg and an atonal pan pipe kolkhoz, with its powerful refrain:-
James Bond, coming atcha / Blame Thatcher
James Bond, bit fat, yeah? / Blame That-Yer
Moribund cradle snatcher / Blame Thatcher
Total lack of social mores / Blame the Tories
Shocking rheumatism / Blame monetarism
He’s gone and baked a quiche / Smash the nouveau riche
Urr, he’s kissing ‘er / Blame Kissinger
What’s happened to his mole? / Three million on the dole
Ancient bedwetter / And Reagan’s no better
Has he no shame? / Maggie’s to blame.
Challenging stuff, shouted tunelessly over photocopies of British armaments contracts with vile despotic fascist regimes (Belgium), although oddly these are reproduced in day-glo green and pink. But, ah, t’was the age.
The plot really gets going when “The Commander” joins his “ring” of friends at the Ex-Servicemen’s Club, a motely bunch of deeply suspect and dankly moist men including Mr Kew – a useless old fool with no apparent purpose to serve – and Fred Grey, corrupt (there is no other kind) local councillor, a Stakhanovite Traitor to the Revolution so riddled with capitalism that he simply will not believe that anyone wealthy can be evil. Birch him. Flay from him the ruddypink hide grown flabby on the toil of the workers. Gut him and use his intestines as sausages for the children of the poor. Then punch him in the face. The group is led by a man calling himself “M” (it stands for “Molester”). These men are bound together by the need to preserve (very) terrible secrets, and to club together to pay for their prescriptions.
Establishing that the chips Jimmy stole from the corpse are not local to Nuneaton (too much potato, insufficient syringe), the threat to this failed industrial hellhole of a region’s Fish & Chip shops becomes clear. Suspicion quickly falls – because he’s foreign, inescapable xenophobia, blame Thatcher – on immigrant fast-food magnate (he has a burger van in a layby) Max Zorin, played by Special Guest Star Christopher Strauli in a Thatcher wig; it’s that subtle. Zorin owns a string of (mostly) four-legged greyhounds, kept in the most debased of conditions, and operates out of the back of a transport caff on the A5. The Commander’s doubts about Zorin are raised when he goes to the Tamworth dog track and watches Zorin’s three-legged favourite – Pegaleg – win easily. Jimmy’s suspicions, and not just his suspicions, are aroused by noticing Zorin’s henchperson – May Day Workers’ Holiday Burn The Banks – an exploited illegal immigrant and depressed transgender drugs mule who knows no better, capitalism has just made her/him/…erm that way. As well as some bodged pharmaceutical experiments that she/he/…erm underwent in the pitiful need for money. Look at what the corporations have made us do to ourselves. Just look. Look and go “hmm”. God almighty, this film makes you think, and not just “aren’t its politics tediously undergraduate?”
Having started to investigate Zorin’s dogs – in a very bad way in a fifteen-minute, one-take scene that burns the concept of animal husbandry into the innocent minds of all subjected to it – steady, Pegaleg; steady, steady – Jimmy encounters May Day Up The Revolution Heads On Spikes when for no apparent reason other than knowing no better due to The System she/he/ …they? murder(s) Jimmy’s mendicant chum with whom he was sharing a can of Special Brew he found in a bin, and then basejumps off Lichfield Cathedral. It is a devastating critique of the corruption of organised religion, or something, and the poor abused woman/man/person/thing was probably looking for escape from sinewy sex-slavery, needle-dependency and uncaring suppression by the state that was in some way racist / sexist / Butterkist. Or she was trying to catch a wolf.
Accompanied by an elderly “friend”, hmm, Jimmy (undercover as Sair Jahames Fortherington FipsyFopsy Privileged O’ldwhoopsie, they’re all called this, they ARE), prowls around Zorin’s draughty portakabin, the both of them trying to avoid the alarm system being triggered by their ankle tags. After a grimly loveless encounter with May Day Parade Your Nukes Now in Zorin’s leaking portaloo, Jimmy is discovered and, in a scene of unflinching realism, is dumped into a potato sack weighed down with a couple of emaciated half-dead greyhounds and hurled into the Shropshire Union canal.
Following his escape, the plot shifts artlessly (in a terribly meaningful critique of the vile capitalist demand for narrative coherence, patently) to Nottinghamshire where, after a further souldestroying fumble with a Russian prostitute out of her mind on insouciantly gravelly smack that has been cut with dog poison (something has to keep the flying wolf population down), Jimmy establishes that Zorin’s plot, supported by corrupt local government officials (told you), is (in a parallel of the Glasgow ice-cream wars) to take over all of Retford’s chip shops by triggering a bomb in an abandoned coal mine and that this will somehow work. Filmed at the height of the Miners’ Strike, it is of course a hugely clever – feel the clever – criticism of Thatcherite policy on the basis that if the noble mineworkers had kept their jobs, the mine would not be abandoned and the rapacious infliction of capitalism would have failed. Obviolutely.
Jimmy finds himself strangely but tragically inevitably drawn, dangerously inappropriately, to a teenage boy, the future-denied, Thatcher-putting-the-crapheap-into-scrapheap grandson of a mineworker Stevie Sutton, who he tries but fails to seduce with two bottles of Buckfast and feeding him a Dairylea sandwich, the only food in the ‘fridge. Ultimately, with Stevie’s help (albeit he’s a bit thick but that’s the result of a criminally underfunded state education system deliberately made inadequate to oppress the radical thoughts of the proletariat) Jimmy foils Zorin’s plot to devastate the West Coast Main Line with an unwise fight atop a creaking, rusted-still pithead wheel – on, the metaphors, oh – Zorin falling to his death when he grabs Jimmy’s “dignity” bag which suddenly bursts all over him, causing him to slip (grey slip-on leather shoes will never catch on). Jimmy is believed / hoped dead. A bitter twist is revealed when Fred Grey is shown sharing a pint of Taboo with the local union rep, a previous chum of Zorin’s and owner of Chernobyl Fried Wolf on the Hinckley Road; snouts in the trough, the lot of them. The final scene is especially disturbing as Mr Kew reveals his true nature as a wizened Peeping Tom, watching Jimmy and Stevie… umm… that’s not the soap. Umm. Dear God, how degrading, although with its fascination with the shape of boys’ buttocks, how very Fleming. The final credits show Conservative Central Office burning to the ground as the liberated population of Britain dances into the fire, because they have no other options left in life. The fire doesn’t last very long for There Is No Coal. Then the police come in and, cackling wildly, club everyone to death as if they were mewling sealpups. Blame Thatcher.
A devastating criticism of the cycle of oppression foisted upon ordinary honest folk by vile multinational fast food outlets and the policies that let them do it, the film’s brave / most archly pretentious decision to have Jimmy smash himself in the face with the rough end of a pineapple every thirty seconds (hence the scabs and balaclava) is indicative of something or other and an indictment of thingy, y’know, stuff.
Those who have been permitted access to this alternative world know that, alongside never, never drinking the water (consider what the wolves do in it), A View to a Kill was such a success amongst persons with beards and Breton jerseys and, oh dear, students, that it triggered world socialist revolution, resulting in universal healthcare, a potato for almost every family and a black President, I think (I’m not registered to vote there so haven’t really looked into it). Even though there’s no income tax, there is a levy on being simplysupermah-Vellous so I can only go there on a visitor visa otherwise I get clobbered for the cash. For those of you who will never be allowed in, doubtless due to your adventurous faces and experimental spelling, an immigration policy that actually seems workable and just, the James Bond series, until an unwise recent reboot, was a byword for popular culture with distinct artistic vision, drawing in directors with proven records. Inspired by A View to a Kill’s “themes” Roman Polanski asked to do one: they didn’t let him. However Don Siegel’s brainburstingly harsh You Only Live Twice And That’s Twice Too Much, Punk, Werner Herzog’s Moonraker Via The Medium Of Cress and Bob Fosse’s poetical, delivered-entirely-in-choral-couplets homage to the traditional of Welsh druidical song – Llive and Llet Dai – are particular highlights (albeit Michael Apted’s allegedly “deliberately” (yeah, right) appalling The Word is not Enough is abject; can’t always get it right). Shame they went and changed it all in in the mid-2000s by promoting John Bloke from within to “direct” (a.k.a. shove the usual tired tat about a bit), thereafter coasting along to utter indifference with indistinct lazy old guff. Currently on hiatus due to litigation over the television rights to the recent films; whoever loses the case has to show them.
Y’know that feeling when you return from holiday and it’s a bit of a bumpy landing back down to Earth? (hint: if riding an airborne wolf through a dimension portal, and it could happen, always tip them 20% otherwise they get a bit “gnaw-y”). That feeling when you anticipate on your homeward journey that your email inbox is full of Nigerians again and that the eldest child you entrusted with the others’ welfare has sold its siblings in exchange for some disappointingly unfatal heroin; that feeling. That’s the feeling I get when, knowing now how splendid A View to a Kill could be, on my return to this grisly dimension I have to face the inalienable fact that this world’s version… isn’t. I suspect that it may be unfair to compare a film that couldn’t really happen (above) with one that shouldn’t really have happened (below) but if you’ve persisted with this “review” thus far, you don’t appear to be demanding fairness, justice or even sense, so what the Hell.
I am very, very fond of A View to a Kill, although given the manner in which I’m going to lay waste to the next ten minutes of your life kicking its walking stick away, you may wonder whether that’s true. The truth is that I am fond of what it represents. Seduced into Bond, but roundly abused, by the Octohamclam, A View to a Kill was my “first”. Not the first Bond film I saw, but the first one I waited to see, anticipating its release, desperate to touch it, stroke it, undress it. I was 12. Forgive me. You never forget your first time, and experience dictates it’s never the same from then on, the excitement building and, even if horrendously anticlimactic – which it patently was, it’s A View to a Kill, remember? – as I enter my dotage it’s all still capable of raising a rueful smile, if little else. A salutary lesson though, in inflating my expectations to blimp-like proportions and then blowing them out of the sky. Still, the shiver of anticipation it still creates, imprisoned in the cosiness of my associated memories despite knowing full well the misery to come, means I cannot actually dislike A View to a Kill as much as its jawdroppingly meagre qualities deserve, in much the same way as I cannot dislike [name (household) redacted]. I was 16. Forgive him. Additionally, in lowering my expectations for the next round of Bond, it meant that the (largely) glorious The Living Daylights exceeded them massively, so logically I should thank A View to a Kill for allowing that to happen. But more on that one later; we’ve got to gnaw our way gummily through this nonsense first.
Prior to the 007th minute, the nature of the enterprise become pretty clear. Picking a wintry scene for a pre-credits stunt sequence not because it’s novel but because the lead character can remain well-wrapped up and we can’t see the join between the lead “actor” and the stuntmen quite as obviously as in other scenes, this is a deception that only works so far, that “so far” being the moment at which Roger Moore invents snowboarding. Maybe that’s meant to be a signal to mere whippersnappers, that even if someone is more GoldenAge than GoldenEye, they can still rock on-daddio, listen it’s (not) The Beach Boys, they’re very happening aren’t they, they’re in the Hit Parade, and we have Duran Duran coming up, yes, look at the groovy on us, it’s got a really good beat, although you just can’t make out the words in these modern songs, can you? Whatever happened to Matt Monro, I liked him. Lovely diction. Pass the Werther’s Originals. And the Ralgex.
Admittedly, as a parent there is no finer game when bored than to wind up one’s offspring by (feigning) interest in their youthful enthusiasms and, much more humiliating for them, to participate in them in an embarrassing way and thus sully these expensive and transient fads forever, requiring them to fall back on hateful pastimes such as talking to their parents in anything other than grunts or reading or spelling or going outside and getting some exercise. A house littered with Ex-Boxes and Wees rendered shaming and hotplate-untouchable by my having a go on them (and, it has to be noted, usually winning – how gratifyingly enraged the little mites get when that happens). I am assuming that this is the point of much of A View to a Kill. Middle-aged power joining in, playing the young person’s game, winding them up something rotten and then winning, rather easily. Admittedly I have yet to throw one of the kids off a bridge but if taller twin doesn’t tidy his room by 5 p.m. today, it’s going to happen. A quick drowning in the Novembered Thames will sort him out.
Anyway, until he pops into Q’s Iceberg of Lurve, softfurnished and appointed by, well, the 1980s and piloted by a breathy Miss World – this is the same series in which an already dying Professor Dent has his spine sadistically shattered by Bond’s bullet, isn’t it? – and subjects the poor girl to five ghastly confined-space days of his Dementor’s Kiss, and no evident toilet, Roger Moore is James Bond 007 for about eleven seconds. Touch and go whether he’s onscreen more as the dummy in the pre-credits of The Man with the Golden Gun; indeed, slightly suspect scalpelling rendering him a smidge waxy raises the suspicion that “they” got the mannequin out of storage and jiggled it about in front of the rolling camera and nailgunned it to the skidoo to suggest “alive”. Sufficiently convincing, evidently they tried the same trick with the Tanya Roberts doll, albeit with less success.
Ignoring the fact that the pre-credits is one of the more cynical attempts to disguise – but ironically, horribly expose – the age of the lead, the stunts are pretty jolly; the snowboarding is clever – how it’s engineered into happening is very amusing – and the final scoot across the lake is tremendous. I also know that as a 12 year-old I laughed gleefully at the cover version that wantonly undermines all this good, Bondy stuff, but then a ) 12 year-olds are basically rubbish when it comes to critical faculty, especially 12 year-old Jims who have dragged along parents who happen to have read the reviews for the film and are sitting there wondering which is more concerning, that they’ve wasted their money on this rot or that they have bred a cretin, and b ) as a penance for my crime, I shall now take the Loach approach and administer the harsher parts of a citrus fruit to my heartstoppingly beautiful face. It’ll distract me from witnessing Roger Moore blow up a model helicopter with a firework, anyway.
And as the poor, helpless girl with the charming overhead rack is trapped for a working week in a beigely interiored submersible with a man old enough to be her grandmother – those aren’t ski boots, they’re surgical clogs – so tanned and leathery she could make a terrible error and sit on him – in his dreams – the song strikes up and we are promised that Albert R. Broccoli presents Roger Moore. This is a shameless lie; he’s barely in it.
0.06.00 – 0.07.00 A View to a Kill
Setting the tone from the off, we have 007 presented as neon-dripped teats. A View to a Kill in a nutshell, there, again this slightly knowing habit of the film providing its own review. Obviously the young lady concerned is not evidently wearing a nutshell as she jiggles abite a bit. I’m assuming someone thought this was funny, the spraying of day-glo gunk over a set of mummylumps, and that someone is a half-wit. A case could be made, however, to justify it as referencing Zorin’s pair of big blimps. We are told that the film will feature Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 and the 007th minute itself doesn’t tell us who’s playing him, which is entirely appropriate as it’s about fifteen people, one of whom might be Roger Moore (albeit he doesn’t look much like Roger Moore any Moore), all of whom have fluorescent russet hair in sympathy with this girl’s plight.
The role of singer is played, not that well, by Simon The Good and in time with the “singing” we get the title played out for us, which is fun. I do miss that sort of thing; didn’t even happen in the last one even though the word Ssskyfaww is used rather a lot, which is handy guidance for those hard of thinking. A View to a Kill is a splendid song – albeit it’s utter nonsense – its instrumental versions rather super, and overall it’s a marked improvement over the last one’s adult jazz snore, adult in the sense that it’s the sort of thing played in Rotterdam sex boutiques (I know this). Something that has always amused me about the video for the song is when it shows the bit when May Day Redistribute Wealth jumps off the Eiffel Tower, the platform highly visible in the film itself seems to have been removed. Most curious, although not as curious as the fact that this song is plainly called “Dance into the Fire” and works perfectly fine like that, should have had the courage of their convictions, although were Roger Moore to dance into the fire one suspects the face would melt like a church candle. Shrewd move to involve Duran Duran for the publicity angle amongst the younger audience – something needs to draw them in given that were this film’s Bond down wiv da kids, he wouldn’t be able to get up again. I wonder who chose them? Can’t really imagine Mr Broccoli dancing around New Romantically to the Duran Duran back catalogue, clad only in ruffled shirt, a silver leotard and cerise leggings but I realise that I have lied and I can indeed imagine it, have indeed imagined it, and must now retire for a few moments of gentleman’s privacy.
Hello again. That’s better. Right, here’s a sort of diamond gun thing firing a neon bullet and it’s pretty clear that Maurice’s idea this time around is to put the Eon into nEon and try to maim us with colour. As ever with things that are bang-up-to-date, the date they are bang-up-to quickly passes leaving them a bit stranded on the shores of hilarious old naff. I like this set of titles a lot but they do smack of “look, young persons, we have bright and distracting things for you! No, ignore the pensioners and the whiff of routine decay about the whole sorry enterprise, look at the colours, they’re youthful and modern aren’t they, you like that sort of thing apparently, and listen to these ker-azy beats. Now. Give. Us. Your. Money.” Few lessons learned from this, it would appear, given that a subsequent effort will have James Bond – just dwell on that for a mo-mo: James Bond – surf. Twice.
Here comes a young lady done up in woad and trying to wrap up warm. View the chill, indeed. Put some proper clothes on, love – various bits of you are already bright blue. You’ll catch your death. Talking of things that appear to be frozen stiff, here comes Tanya Roberts, who gives us our generation’s definitive reading of the challenging role of Stacey Sutton, geologist (passing interest in rock-hard fossils; rock-hard fossils have more than a passing interest in her, if the last scene is any clue). Well, she comes in for a fair bit of abuse, doesn’t she, and it is a foul and weak performance and does little to disabuse the popular (but usually wrong) perception of the acting quality of many female leads in the Bonds, but are you actually that surprised? It’s Tanya frickin’ Roberts, not Diana frickin’ Rigg. Can’t really be dismissive as one suspects she’s exhausted and trying her best, as she sounds out of breath the whole time. Far more aggravating are those folks who are otherwise probably sound actors turning up in a Bond and not showing their best. Chap called Brosnan springs to mind. The fragility of Ms Roberts’ performance is not helped much by a script that renders her “character” a total nincompoop – tearing up the $5 million cheque is the act of an imbecile, but she might be out of her tiny mind on a very eggy-looking quiche, so fair enough – and the, um, “direction”.
Not wholly convinced he’s an actor’s director, this Mr Glen, save for pigeons and pussies. The casting tactics of the 1980s begin to dawn on one with the likes of Ms Roberts in this film and previous encounters with Mesdames Bouquet and Johnson, young Mr Amritraj, and Ms Soto yet to come. Having, let’s say, “strong” actors of the Glovers, Topols, Berkoffs, Macnees, Walkens, Krabbes and Davi-s of this world, amongst others, and a lead whose style is pretty much set, he seems to let them get on with their patented thing and not interfere. Not that I am advocating interfering with Ms Roberts but this suspicion of a “hands-off” approach doesn’t serve his – how shall I put this? – less impactful cast members that well. In other words, they appear abandoned to fend for themselves whilst John gets on with the explosions; trouble is, they could have benefited from a bit of a help. I’m probably being very unfair and it’s only an impression rather than being asserted as a truth but there is such a gulf in performance quality in several cases in each one of the Glen films that my conclusion is that for differing reasons he didn’t bother his actors much. Perhaps that’s how a pretty underwhelming series by this stage could actually attract the likes of Christopher Walken; a promise to be left alone to do some Christopher Walkening. If I have things totally wrong and Mr Glen did try terribly hard to coax something acceptable out of Ms Roberts, I unreservedly apologise, although query whether it is actually better to have tried so much yet failed so horribly.
Young miss has decided to dance about a bit to keep warm, which is making an old man very happy. She appears to have neon snowflakes across her airships and I think we’re meant to see them unless it’s some sort of wardrobe malfunction. Now someone’s trying to shoot at the words “Grace Jones”, which is a bit unfair, with a big red gun and firing Stormtrooperesque blasts and, just like a Stormtrooper, missing completely. I rather like Grace Jones – like her even more since her truly wonderful hula-hooping insanity for Her Maj earlier this year, a defining moment of one’s life – and although the character’s change of allegiance towards the end of the film is totally fatuous and her reaction to being near-drowned is hopelessly PG-13 given what we thought the character was, but there’s certainly a bit of a “presence” going on. Utterly oversold as a menace, really – she kills two portly old men, that’s it – and the bit that seems to work people up is the bedding of Bond; frankly I’m amazed she didn’t snap the poor old sod. A much-needed injection of “interesting” into an otherwise bland affair and even if you’re not that keen on her, never less than watchable. I’m not sure the film could cope without her.
Dancey lady is trying to cover her eyes at this point and I can’t say I blame her, really.
Ah, Patrick Macnee. Well, he seems terribly nice but I’m not totally sure that the Tibbett character adds anything very much except an opportunity for Roger Moore and Patrick Macnee to muck about in a pretty bit of France. What larks to have John Steed as James Bond’s lackey. What larks. WHAT LARKS. Ungallant though it may be, but surely a bit, y’know, old and fat to have fights in factories? Admittedly he makes Roger Moore look lithe so I guess that explains pretty much everything. Killing Tibbett was indeed a mistake; after that point, pretty much everyone else Bond encounters is considerably younger than him and it gets quite ghoulish. Still, the boringly underwhelming horse-racing story is done by that point (and never mentioned again) so before the transatlantic flight it was probably sensible to discard the excess baggage. I know it’s a standard Bond tick to have Bond start investigating one thing – jewellery smuggling / disappearance of nuclear submarine / theft of aquatic typewriter / defection of Russian general – and it to turn into something else – plan to invade Germany / plan to start a war / erm… theft of aquatic typewriter / no idea – but at least with Octootterpocket there’s some tying of the lesser, cheeky, villainy to the grand plan. Here, we just dump one thing and move onto the other, utterly crunchingly. Perhaps, and I may have suggested this point before, they couldn’t really be bothered.
So the markswoman wobbles into view, slightly unsteadily, and by crikey she’s got a bad case of the fluorescent acne there. I can understand her tremble, though, as the words “Christopher Walken” have appeared on screen and she’s probably very nervous he’s going to do something barking. James Bond defeats the mad capitalist scheming of rantingly-spoken special guest star Christopher Walken in a Thatcher wig; it’s that subtle. Less subtle – not that the point of the hairdo is particularly understated – is the rest of the performance from this erstwhile Best Supporting Actor, all mad cackles and giggles and starey eyes and violent moodswings and dressing up as a London policeman and… no. Shame he had to nick his scheme so obviously from Goldfinger, although it is a better plot than having one’s blast-impervious microchips – another plot strand completely abandoned – survive, oh I dunno, the setting off of a stolen EMP in space and thereby killing every computer, and all the toasters, that haven’t bought your kit and achieving much the same result as the one you wanted but with fewer zeppelins and substantially less dynamite. I mean, that would be ridiculous. It does set one thinking that if the British Government were fitting their stuff with Zorin’s magic microchip, Trevelyan’s plot in GoldenEye was bound to fail even without sending a strangely-spoken hairdo in a suit to chase after him.
Walken’s good fun though, isn’t he, totally unbalancing the film with his scary gibbering and whacked-out pantomime balefulness and hilarious period attire. In much the same way as President Reagan claimed to have been capable of receiving inspiration from Rambo in relation to some madcap foreign policy, one wonders whether Max Thatcher caught Maggie Zorin’s gunning down of the mineworkers and considered this – if but for a moment – an appealing way in which to curtail industrial action. I’m assuming that’s the allegory of the scene and it’s not just some violence to try to keep us awake. It’s terribly effective and whilst it is a shocking sequence in certain respects – there’s an awful lot of dying going on – the response really is more a reaction to how sedentary and comfy the Bonds had become rather than the scene itself, surely? Admittedly the threats posed in this film have been “a bit milky” at best to this stage so the mine killings do jar in relation to the content of the rest of the film, but that content is uniformly insipid. It also reinforces that Zorin is a nutter, although it’s questionable how much reinforcement that particular point needed.
Roger Moore. Christopher Walken. Grace Jones. Tanya Roberts. To call this a challenging cast underplays it. It’s a death-defying cast. Nowhere in one’s most crazed moments would one consider that these four people would actually meet, let alone have to “do acting” in each others’ personal spaces. I salute A View to a Kill for grouping together the least predictable quartet of artistes in history, at least until Queen re-form again with their next “New Freddie”, and this time it’s Michael Dukakis. Moore does his usual and almost makes these strangers plausibly hang together as a supergroup; again, not really given the credit he is due for remaining calm as things become ever crazier around him. The leather blouson’s a mistake, unless it was a good way to use the off-cuts from his face.
Ooh, she’s holding that gun right up to her lips and blowing it gently. I wonder what Maurice is trying to encourage us to think of here?
Say what you like about Tanya Roberts – keep it clean – but for my money (oodles) the worst performance in the film is seeped out of Patrick Bachau who seems to be about three beats behind the bar on everything he utters: the opening exchange with Mr Saiinnjooonsmythhe, that member of the AA, RAC and, um, the Variety Club (dirty ping pong ball act), is an object lesson in a ) the charm of Roger Moore and b ) catatonically and cataclysmically awful acting. I’m sure he’s a great chap and delightful company and I accept that “the unexciting one of the henchpeople” isn’t going to call for much in the way of development but he seems desperately disengaged. A saving grace is that he evidently is French and playing French, unlike his employer who doesn’t seem terribly concerned to attempt an accent (but this is probably because everyone was too scared to ask). David Yip gives better in an even more thankless role – should really have been Felix Leiter, time to kill him off, the useless berk – and obviously the Chuck Lee introduction gives us an opportunity for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from a star of a previous Bond film. Roger Moore.
Woman! Fire your gun! Ah, well done. Right some smoke to the left and to the right, cross-hairs with a neon beauty – that blue/orange thing again – jigging about behind some frozen Binderspunk. Was wondering when that would turn up. Talking of “wondering when the same old same old hoves its wrinkled backside into view”, here come for the umpteenth time Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Walter Gotell, Lois Maxwell and Geoffrey Keen. Oh good. OK, so number 1: what is Q in this film for? He doesn’t give Bond any gadgets, he plays with his robot sex-pest toy that he lets into the houses of young women a-showering, he cadges a free trip to the races and basically does NOTHING. Except be there, because it’s some sort of mysterious edict and probably because he holds the blackmail photos of Broccoli in the leotard get-up mentioned earlier. I genuinely don’t get why he’s in this one. At least he’s not evidently racist this time: seems to have swapped that lifestyle choice for sexpervery. Er, good. Number 2. Robert Brown has really weird eyebrows. I’d never noticed those before. He also has to deliver the phrase “untimely demise” which is hilariously awful. Rock on. Number 3. General Gogol seems to have developed a mucky mac habit – hanging around Q too often, I suspect – and ultimately confesses that Bond is his agent and is engaged to smash capitalism. Why some folk think that Bond is pro-West I have no idea; this is a deftly subversive film, a Loachian study of industrial relations, political hypocrisy and strike-breaking disguised as a flabby old lollop around tedious clichés. Pretty good disguise, has to be said. Number 4. Lois Maxwell wears pink. That’s it. Number 5. Sir Frederick Grey, at the height of his powers as a double-agent and hilariously thinking – or deliberately misdirecting – that Max Strauss-Khan can’t be a villain because he’s “a leading French industrialist”. I do so hate this man. Anyway, the regulars, being as regular as a load of old prunes allows.
Next up, Willoughby Gray – an interesting performance, let’s be nice – Manning Redwood (playing a San Franciscan rough and ready type with a big moustache – hmm…), Alison Doody who is very lovely and grotesquely underused and it took me some years to appreciate the “early riser” comment but fewer years to know she entirely justifies it. I’d genuflect, although I wonder if I’m too ancient for her (not that A View to a Kill suggests it’s a bad thing to be several childhood Doctors Who ahead of one’s young chum). I suppose she arguably justifies all the horse-racey grot, as it lends itself to substantial sexual imagery. Jodhpurs. Whips. Stirrups. Mucking-out. Mm. Papillon Soo Soo gives a turn best described as Soo Soo and here she comes, with that slightly bigger font for which she is notorious – known for her big fonts, she is – Fiona Fullerton. Perky sort of character and I suppose a totally-unconvincingly accented Russian in yer tub is better than finding a moustachioed oilman in there (but, given that it’s San Francisco, less likely). Rumour has it that the character could have been Anya Amasova but it’s better off not being so: Ms Bach’s “languid” delivery would have slowed an already sluggish part of a tortoise of a film to a standstill. For any children watching, when she refers to her Tchaikovsky, she means her Octopearlharbour. Curious euphemism, and seems to miss the obvious one, given that the scene is set in Vaginatown.
“The weekend’s why”. Is it, Simon? Is it really? Although that does offer up an explanation (only an explanation, not an excuse) for this Friday-afternoon, beat-the-traffic, it’ll do bodge job of a film.
The Second Unit was directed and photographed – they all said “bum!” – by Arthur Wooster (it is a very good looking film, even if stuff all really happens). Unfortunately the plentiful wrinkles between first and second units are beginning to show too much by now and unless it’s a deliberate homage to the only Bond film stupider than this one – the 1967 Casino Royale – the multiple James Bonds on screen is very distracting indeed. The age doesn’t help but it’s not really that – at whatever age, you’re not going to have Roger Moore (or anyone with half a brain) hang off an airship, have a fight on a very tall and narrow bridge or crash a Renault 11 around Paris, that’s not the point. It’s the lack of care taken to have the various stuntpersons look even remotely similar to the great man that irks. Look, gang, when he dressed up as a clown in the last one, that bright red hair sticking out from under his hat was part of the outfit. Promise you. OK, OK, I agree it’s confusing especially as those flappily outsized size 86 comedy feet were his own and it must have been hell to try to get a grip on the Golden Gate Bridge with those. As far as that sequence goes, it’s sort of OK but couldn’t you have waited until a sunny day to film the close-ups? And what sort of loony carries dynamite in an airship? Oh yeah, sorry, Zorin is a loony therefore that’s perfectly fine.
Willy Bogner’s ski sequence is, as noted, splendid to look at, less so to listen to, but insofar as action goes it does set one up to expect excitement that then doesn’t get delivered. Things seem awfully stretched out and I’m not just referring to Bond’s face. Still, it gives us an opportunity to stare now and again at scenes depicting a famous national monument and stifle a bit of a sob that we won’t see him more – any more, Roger Moore.
What follows is what follows. There’s Poirot. There’s firetruck. There’s quiche. The Fleming Bond was terribly keen on his heartstoppingly calorific scrambled eggs and the Gardner Bond – contemporaneously up to speed in his crepe-soled shoes, drab windcheaters and dull weaponry – seems fond of something called “chicken pie”, curry and Janet Reger underwear so it’s not that disastrous a moment in such company. Still, taking time out to do some “baking” does look a bit odd, unless it’s a retirement hobby and he is, indeed, going to open that stainless steel delicatessen after all. You should taste his pickled plums.
More disturbing is the final scene, soapy-hidey-oh-Jamesy, a young woman giving an elderly gent his wash whilst they are spied on by a hapless pervert. Grim. Is this all so far removed from the Ken Loach vision? It is a bit weird to have Bond awarded the Order of Lenin whilst the Americans seem to completely ignore his saving of millions of their people. Capitalism gets it right up the mineshaft in this one. John Glen, a hero of the workers? Hm.
From its 007th minute it’s hard to extract an exemplar that A View to a Kill represents for the Bond films – the initial purpose of this exercise – although it may be that, just like the series by this point, I can’t really be bothered any more. As a whole it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that ideas were dimbulbing so badly that a tactic of chucking great slabs of Goldfinger, Moonraker, National Velvet, Superman and Cocoon at a pot of neon paint and then blatting it out at us like a load of old Pollocks would just have to do. I can’t dislike it, it holds to ransom too many childhood memories, but I don’t have to respect it. It just seems so very unnecessary and, ultimately, it’s really not a very good film at all. As the lights went up on that 1985 cinema, I had already come to that conclusion and it’s never failed to disappoint me ever since. But life brings new disappointments daily; today’s is that the dimension stargate seems to have been closed – French portal traffic control on Main Strike yet again – and trapped this side of the hole is a winged wolf. He looks a bit demented. I suppose, in honour of the last few thousand words, I should call him Pegasus, although I know his name is obviously Geoff. I wonder how he’d take to Timothy?
A View to a Kill ably demonstrates that age is no guarantee of efficiency. Whether youth is any guarantee of innovation… yet to be determined.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of The Living Daylights. Jacques Stewart’s kiss is fatal. It’s the breath.