The 007 Collective is a bi-monthly column in which I revisit every official feature in the James Bond franchise and review how they hold up today. Along with a review of each film, each article in this 10-month-long series will dive into the historical place and production of each film in question. It will also feature a dossier i.e. a fact sheet with superlatives, ratings, rankings, best, worsts and other fun stuff in line with the format you’ve seen in my annual Year in Superlatives articles. This project isn’t meant to be the final word on the Bond franchise. It’s merely my take on the series. For previous entries, click here.
The 007 Collective returns with the 14th entry in the James Bond franchise A VIEW TO A KILL.
When a microchip is retrieved from the body of a murdered 00 agent, MI6 assigns James Bond to investigate Zorin Industries, the corporation the microchip was manufactured at, as well as its owner Max Zorin. While Bond’s initial dalliance in Zorin’s affairs leads to him discovering a bizarre scheme to increase the performances of his racehorses using performance enhancing drugs, he eventually stumbles upon Zorin’s more nefarious plot to control the microchip industry.
A View to a Kill was Roger Moore’s seventh (and final) feature as Bond—one more than Sean Connery—thus making him the longest-serving James Bond actor. Unfortunately, chasing this record also meant that by the time production began on this 14th entry in the Bond franchise, he was nearly 58 years old! Yes, fifty-eight! For comparison’s sake, the two actors who were being considered to replace him—Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan—were both young enough to be his sons when A View to a Kill opened in the summer of 1985.
This isn’t to say that Bond is off-limits for an older actor. It’s all in the attitude and the physicality of the performance. Just take a look at Liam Neeson for instance. The Irish actor is pushing 63 but I wouldn’t even dare arguing with him, forget fighting him! But Roger Moore is no Liam Neeson. Or even Tom Cruise for that matter. He may have cut a dashing, sometimes imposing, figure in his earlier movies but by the time For Your Eyes Only opened in 1981, he was already beginning to look too slow and haggard for the part. When A View to a Kill opened four years later, Moore’s age wasn’t just a cause for concern, it was a major distraction. The fact that he couldn’t perform any of his stunts only made things worse. Even Moore admitted that he was too old for the part after resigning a few months after the film’s release stating, “I was only about four hundred years too old for the part.” Apparently the tipping point came during filming when he found out he was two years older than his female co-star’s mother! Pobrecito Roger.
Even if you’re able to get past Roger and his turkey neck (and that’s a tough ask), there’s no escaping A View to Kill’s utter ineptness as a piece of filmmaking. I haven’t watched Die Another Day and Moonraker in a long time but there’s not much of a bar to leap. Moore’s films were renowned for their cheese, and when he did it well (like in The Spy Who Loved Me), the results were campy fun! Alas, this is where the campiness devolved into bad ‘80s shtick. There are cringe-worthy one-liners galore (“Hmm, she’ll bare closer inspection”), a chase sequence complete with lame cop cars that keep crashing into each other, and most embarrassing of all, a ski chase scored to the Beach Boy’s ‘California Girls.” Again, what?
Worse, for a Bond film, this is an enterprise that’s sorely lacking in the action or spying departments (only the Eiffel Tower sequence is worth remembering). The rambling plot, which has Zorin attempting to destroy Silicon Valley by inducing an earthquake so he can take over the microchip industry, is a rehash of Goldfinger but more illogical. Furthermore, a subplot involving racehorses that are injected with performance-enhancing drugs by a mad Nazi scientist is abruptly discarded halfway through the movie. How could you not take advantage of Nazis in a Bond movie? Nazis. James Bond. Come on! All in all, John Glen’s uninspiring third outing in the director’s chair reeks of hack-work. It’s a wonder they hired him two more times!
Just about the only things worth watching A View to a Kill for are its villains. Christopher Walken’s portrayal of Zorin is a riot! He doesn’t go as over-the-top as he does nowadays but he’s nevertheless in rare form here, mixing menace with creepiness equally. I’d say he single-handedly elevates the picture if it weren’t for Grace Jones’ towering Mayday, easily one of the most striking villains in the series. Jones isn’t much of an actor but she left more of an impression with her deadly stares and body language than Tanya Roberts’ stunningly beautiful but vapid Stacey Sutton who has to rank as of the most inane characters ever put on film.
An interesting bit of trivia: Walken was the first Oscar-winning actor to play a villain in a Bond film. Since then, Benicio Del Toro, Javier Bardem (Skyfall) and Christoph Waltz (SPECTRE) have joined the fray, even if Del Toro’s Oscar came 11 years after starring as a pervy henchman in Licence to Kill.
A View to a Kill’s banality begins with its cold open, a rip-off of the iconic ski sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me. Set somewhere in Siberia, the sequence finds Bond salvaging a microchip off the body of a murdered 00 agent. Once he’s discovered by enemies, he’s chased across the snow slopes until he upstages everyone by using shrapnel from a snowmobile as a snowboard, thereby inadvertently inventing snowboarding. The sequence ends with Moore escaping into a iceberg-disguised submarine and into the arms of a Charlie’s Angel lookalike. This is also the sequence that houses the woeful “California Girls” music cue (a cover version no-less).
Title Designer: Maurice Bender
Title Song: “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran
Famous Quote: “But can we dance into the fire, that fatal kiss is all we need!”
Duran Duran’s title song is the best thing about A View to a Kill, by a wide margin. Easily the best Bond song since Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better,” this was a huge hit and to date, the only Bond song to hit number 1 on the Billboard charts. Not even Adele’s Oscar-winning title track for Skyfall hit number 1. Yes, the song is quintessential 80s but it does a lot to make the film that follows it less like a relic that it is, especially it’s leading man (okay, okay, I’ll back off on poor Roger!). But the less said about the band’s official video, the better. I’ve only included the title sequence below, in which Maurice Bender incorporates ice, black-lights, ’80s hair, skiing and the usual guns and girls trademarks.
The Big Bad: Megalomaniac and microchip industry magnate Max Zorin (Christopher Walken)
Henchman: The tall and imposing martial artist/gymnast/weightlifter and assassin Mayday (Grace Jones).
Organization: Zorin Industries, formerly KGB and Nazi Germany
World Domination Plan: “Project Main Strike” (i.e. a variation on “Operation Grand Slam” from Goldfinger) in which Zorin and cronies hope to create a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Silicon Valley by flooding the San Andreas fault, thereby eliminating all competition and becoming the sole provider of microchips in the world.
Primary: Oil heiress and sometime geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts). Sutton turns out to be less than Bond bargained for after he originally suspects her as an accomplice of Zorin. Dim-witted and atrociously-performed by Roberts, Sutton has a penchant for tiny robes and serves only as a piece of meat for creepy old Grandpa Bond to devour. Gross.
Others: Jenny Flex (Allison Doody), Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton), Kimberley Jones (Mary Stavin) and technically Mayday (Grace Jones).
Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee), a preposterously “British” aristocrat and horse expert who accompanies Bond on his trip to Zorin’s stables. Sir Godfrey poses as Bond’s chauffeur and trades quips and other “British” pleasantries with Bond during their brief tenure together.
Chuck Lee (David Yip)
M (Robert Brown)
Miss Moneypenny, as played by Lois Maxwell in her last appearance after 13 prior appearances.
Q (Desmond Llewelyn)
See-through Polarizing Sunglasses that allows Bond to see through dark windows
Check Scanner which allows Bond to scan the information left from the previous check—A fancier version of a carbon copier
Ring Camera which allows the wearer to take pictures of people and provide a dossier on the photographed individuals.
Electric Shaver Bug Detector
Iceberg-shaped Submarine (features include mood lighting and a 80s-era bed)
Credit Card lock picker: Used by Bond to gain access into Stacey’s house. The perv.
Snooper: A mobile robot dog invented by Q to spy on people. Only comes in use at the end of the movie when Q snoops in on Bond and Stacey getting it on. It was probably irreparably damaged after viewing that sight.
ODDS & ENDS
[After Sir Godfrey chides him for ogling Stacey Sutton from afar, Bond, rather annoyed, replies]
“Sir Godfrey, on a mission, I am expected to sacrifice myself!”
Most Memorable Moment:
After she leaps off the top of the Eiffel Tower, Bond follows Mayday through the streets of Paris by first taking an elevator down the Tower, then commandeering a cab, destroying it and then literally crashing a wedding party on a boat.
Most Cringe-Worthy Moment:
After Mayday sees the skyline of San Francisco, she exclaims, “Wow, what a view!” to which Zorin quickly replies, “TO A KILL!” Talk about shoehorning the film’s title into the script.
[Soviet agent Pola Ivanova exclaiming while in a bathtub with Bond]
“The bubbles tickle my… Tchaikovsky!”
Most Shocking/Outrageous Moment:
The awkward, uncomfortable scene in which Bond casually invites Mayday into her bed (“Mayday, I’ve been waiting for you.”). Mayday then proceeds to disrobe and then slips under the sheets awkwardly before mounting the 57-year-old Moore.
Best Pun/Double Entendre:
[After Zorin ejects a dissenting millionaire from his airship into the San Francisco Bay]
“So, anyone else want to drop out?
Worst Pun/Double Entendre:
[Zorin meets up with Bond the morning after his awkward sex scene with Mayday]
Zorin: You slept well?
James Bond: A little restless but I got off eventually.
Best Stunt/Action Scene:
After Mayday dives from the top of the Eiffel Tower, Bond proceeds to give chase through the streets of Paris in a taxi. When the taxi collides with another, much larger car, it breaks in half. But Bond keeps driving the front half of the car (with only two wheels) through the Parisian streets until he takes it to a bridge, gets out and jumps into a boat in the Seine.
Most Dated Reference:
Number of Times Bond Has Sex: 4 (Once each with Kimberley Jones, Mayday, Pola Ivanova and Stacey Sutton). A record for a Bond movie.
Number of people Bond kills: 6
Bond’s Best Kill: Bond fights with Zorin atop the Golden Gate bridge after which Zorin slips and falls off, plummeting into the Bay.
Locations visited (In order of appearance): Siberia, London, Paris, France, and San Francisco
Misogyny Meter: 5/10
Other than a scene in which Bond treats Stacey like an object, asking her to “Be a darling, won’t you and…” and the fact that Moore is old enough to be her father, Bond treats all the women he sleeps with rather respectfully—a massive departure from Connery’s rendition of the character.
Racism Rating: 1/10
Surprisingly little. It could be because Bond spends most of the movie in the U.S., England and France.
Box Office: $50.3 million ($115.8 million).
007 Chronological Listing: 14/24
Running time: 131 minutes
Companies: MGM, Eon Productions
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Recommended)
The 007 Collective will return in:
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
Previous entries in The 007 Collective: