A View to a Kill poster


VHS Revival attempts to revitalise a cruelly maligned addition to the Bond Canon


A View to a Kill gets something of a bad rap.

Sure, there are plenty of things to decry in regards to Roger Moore’s seventh and final outing as the irrepressible James Bond, but there is also a lot going for the movie, and in my opinion a large percentage of those critics who panned it beyond salvation are invariably children of the 1950s — those who can’t look past Sean Connery as the one and only 007. But times change, and, as they would one day discover, so would the actors who went on to play cinema’s best-loved super spy. As a universal concept, it doesn’t get much bigger than Bond, and with a few minor tweaks the character would transcend generations, tapping into the various fashions, cultural movements and sociopolitical issues along the way. Like any secret agent worth their salt, 007 was wired to adaptation.

Moore’s Bond had been criticised before, in spite of appearing in some of the better instalments, but by the time Roger creaked his way to his final appearance those critics finally felt justified in pushing him towards retirement, and very few of us could argue otherwise. Playing James Bond is the ultimate emblem of cool, one that guarantees actors the kind of lavish persona they are tasked with portraying, and regardless of how burnt-out those actors may become, it must be difficult to relinquish that status. Being Bond is an honour bestowed upon very few people, but time catches up with everyone, and after more than a decade of safari suits, ludicrous Star Wars rip-offs and ridiculous clown suits (and his fair share of outstanding moments too), it was finally time for Moore to move on.

A-View-To-A-Kill-Eiffel

Roger had been set to leave the series after The Spy Who Loved Me — his third and for many best outing as 007 — but the financial cherry that was Moonraker, that year’s most successful worldwide release, was too big of a payday to turn down. He would then be tempted back for John Glen’s debut For Your Eyes Only, the sober antithesis to Moonraker‘s gaudy spectacle. Everyone has their favourite Bond, and in terms of staying loyal to Ian Fleming’s version of the super-spy, Connery and eventual Moore successor Timothy Dalton are both superior, but with For Your Eyes Only Moore showed that he could do serious too. Still, Bond is a series that inspires great loyalty in the actors who portray him, and having played Bond when he was still very much a novelty, Connery was always going to be a tough act to follow. After all, it was he who had helped establish the kind of franchise never before undertaken, and never to be seen again.

By the time Moore finally took the mantle the Bond formula was becoming just a little tired, as was Connery’s enthusiasm for the role, and the prospect of imitating a much loved and overexposed cultural icon would have been tantamount to career suicide for the actor formerly known as The Saint. Physically, Moore was cut from a silkier cloth. Slight and smarmy in demeanour, he would never be the hard-edged Bond of days gone by. For that reason the series took a more ironic approach, but this was also due to the changing times. By the 1980s audiences had matured along with the action movie formula, and people would find it increasingly difficult to accept the grandiose caricatures that were once central to the Bond recipe, something that was tackled by Glen’s relatively muted entries.

MSDVITO EC008

Still, Roger was Roger, an actor who had made Bond his own with his repertoire of eyebrow-raising quips, but by the time A View to a Kill came around the joke was wearing just a little thin, and if 1981‘s For Your Eyes Only was aware of the increasing age of its star actor, making a point to depict him as too old for the young and persistent Bibi Dahl, what chance did we have of accepting the same man canoodling with the avant-garde Grace Jones almost five years later? Roger was 58 when he finally drew the curtain on his Bond career, and 007’s salacious antics were becoming a little embarrassing, stooping closer to the lecherous granddad than the sophisticated stud. Equally embarrassing were the various battles and stunts we were expected to swallow, particularly A View to a Kill‘s prologue, one that saw the ageing Moore (his stunt double anyway) snowboarding and surfing to a getaway to the ironic sounds of The Beach Boys. Utterly ludicrous, and purposefully so, but it’s still a fantastic set-piece to thrill audiences as we enter the gorgeous, neon-scorched credit sequence.

James Bond: Well my dear, I take it you spend quite a lot of time in the saddle.

Jenny Flex: Yes, I love an early morning ride

James Bond: Well, I’m an early riser myself.

As Bond plots go, A View to a Kill also featured one of the weakest. When ranking the most extravagant schemes for world domination, the flooding of Silicone Valley for the purposes of controlling the microchip market is hardly the most striking of spectacles. Yes, Glen was moving away from that kind of Austin Powers kitsch, but the movie’s main villains deserved much more, both having the potential to be two of the very best in the series. We have the freakishly strong May Day (Grace Jones), a cultural enigma readymade for the Bond formula, and Christopher Walken’s deliciously insane Max Zorin, the latter the product of a Nazi experiment which developed steroid-fuelled super-children who possessed the kind of extraordinary intelligence that can only lead to world domination — or regional domination in this case. In spite of what he had to work with, Walken bounces around with a mad effervescence and flip sense of entitlement that gets the best out of Moore’s Bond (his aloof reaction after uploading Bond’s real identity is just priceless), and despite the usual repertoire of cheap double entendre and sexual innuendo, Moore can be untypically serious this time around, particularly when his faux-servant and CIA cohort Sir Godfrey (Patrick Macnee) is ruthlessly murdered.

View2Kill2

Bond’s love interest is the positively smouldering Tanya Roberts (Stacey Sutton), the granddaughter of an oil tycoon locked in a lawsuit with Zorin. Sutton may not be the greatest actress, her character may come across as somewhat helpless and weak willed, but she is dazzling enough to fit the bill, maintaining a conservatism that keeps Moore’s ageing sexuality firmly in the shadows, as the two escape a burning City Hall and set off on a fire engine led high-speed chase through San Francisco, one that features a typically ignorant police captain and a closed bridge pile-up that proves a lot of fun, in spite of its obvious attempts to cover up our leading man’s dwindling mobility. John Barry’s superlative score also lends Sutton a sweeping elegance, particularity an orchestral variation of the movie’s title track entitled Bond Meets Stacey (A View to a Kill), a sumptuous and befitting introduction to the character and a reminder of just how important Barry was to Bond’s glamorous reputation.

Even more notable is A View to a Kill‘s left-field titular theme. Performed by ’80s pop mainstays Duran Duran and written by Barry, the track was produced by one time Chic bassist Bernard Edwards. Known for his ‘chucking’ bass technique, Bernie would become a real-life mentor to Duran Duran bass player John Taylor, and his style is evident in one of the freshest Bond themes ever produced, a heady mix of synthetic urgency and funky mainstream pop which offered the franchise something entirely new, embracing the MTV new wave and a then pioneering sense of glamour further punctuated by the inclusion of Jones to the marquee. Like all of the greatest Bond themes, A View to a Kill is successful both as an accompaniment and as a standalone track.

James Bond: My department knows that I’m here. When I don’t respond, they’ll retaliate.

Max Zorin: If you’re the best they’ve got, they’re more likely to try and cover up your embarrassing incompetence.

James Bond: Don’t count on it, Zorin.

Max Zorin: [laughs] Ha ha, you amuse me, Mr. Bond.

James Bond: It’s not mutual.

If we were judging A View to a Kill on its first two acts, I genuinely believe we would be talking about one of the better instalments in the series. Not only do we get May Day parachuting from the Eiffel Tower after fleeing the scene of a butterfly-orientated assassination, we have Bond pursuing her in the front half of a taxi, before crash-landing a boat-based wedding and fleeing the wrath of some machete-wielding French caterers. Bond’s stay at Zorin’s country mansion is also a lot of fun, featuring an unlikely late-night rendezvous with Moore and Jones and a heavily rigged steeplechase of ferocious whipping and sly booby traps. Even the chase with the fire engine has all of the action/comedy balance of classic Moore, with more than one foot in the evolving action genre of the mid-1980s.

walken and moore View 2

However, it’s that pesky final act that damns the movie to mediocrity in the minds of many. Bond is all about the final act — the elaborate spectacle to cap it all off — but the movie just seems to fizzle out without any real enthusiasm for the plot or its characters, with mundane sets, pseudo-spectacles and a final battle that only seems to highlight Moore’s advancing years. Who thought it would be a good idea to have a near 60-year-old man edge along the Golden Gate Bridge in a confrontation which consists of the occasional scratch or slip? Whose idea was it to film the movie’s climactic scene in an underground mine away from any potential victims, asides from those idiots who the maniacal Zorin would inevitably double cross? This traitor deserved the meanest, most elaborate death in the series, and instead we watch him plummet into the bay with little more than a whimper (albeit it a wonderfully deranged one). Barry’s score does a fine job of raising the spectacle, and the sight of German geneticist and Zorin ‘father’ Dr. Carl Mortner flapping after a bundle of dynamite is a deeply satisfying one, but it all seems just a little conservative.

The likelihood is, this was again a result of Moore’s dwindling mobility and the measures that had to be made in order to conceal it. In many ways, this was Roger throwing in the towel, a fact punctuated quite literally during the actor’s final scene; the last time we would ever witness Moore uncomfortably kissing a beauty less than half his age. There is also closure in the form of the similarly departing Lois Maxwell, her teary-eyed final appearance as Miss Moneypenny proving rather poignant. Some may feel that none of this was necessary, that Moore should have retired quietly and gracefully, but if you are one of those who condemned A View to A Kill long ago and have refused to revisit the film as a consequence, go back and give it a second chance. Moore may have been well past his suitability for the role of a deadly philanderer, but the movie is much better than most give it credit for.


A View to a Kill Logo



Written by Cedric Smarts Editor-in-Chief

Science Fiction Writer, Horror Enthusiast, Scourge of Plutocracy, Creator of vhsrevival.com

8 comments

  1. I have always been partial to this Bond film because I love Chris Walken’s acting. Of course, Duran Duran was like one of my fav groups back in the day. Grace Jones was always different . Yes, Moore was renowned for not liking stunts & it was implausible at his age that he would be getting the younger women & doing athletic activity as you so aptly pointed out. Great review! Not the best Bond but fun.

    Like

    1. Hi, Susan.

      I recently revisited A View to a Kill – my Bond movie as a kid – and it is safe to say that old Roger is looking rather creaky. The fact that he is still alive and well today is something of a miracle – unless the wealthy elite have some kind of life-prolonging treatment that we unfortunates are unaware of, which really wouldn’t surprise me – but I digress.

      Asides from that, I’m with you. I love everything about this Bond movie, Walken and Duran Duran being just two winning factors. The climax is pretty monotonous, and there is probably some childhood bias involved on my part, but for me, this is what a Bond film is all about. I like my Bond campy and my double entendres terrible. If I want depth of characterisation within an action formula I can always revisit the Bourne movies. And that, as they say, is that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always preferred Moore over Connery. Moore’s Bond was suave and debonair. Connery in real life, and as Bond, was a sexist pig.

    Like

  3. Hi, Louis.

    Thanks for reading.

    I can’t attest to Connery’s real-life persona, but Moore was and is my favourite Bond. Perhaps there is a little bias due to the fact that he was Bond when I was growing up, but for me the series works best as a formula that is taken with a pinch of salt. I have no time for the modern incarnation of 007. That serious spy stuff has been done before, and more effectively. For that kind of cinematic experience, I would rather watch the original Bourne trilogy.

    Like

  4. I truly wanted to like this one, given how much Walken was born to play a Bond villain. I’ll admit that Sir Roger isn’t my favorite Bond, but he had truly great moments and two of the best entries in the series. This one calls out for a younger actor. I would have loved to see Dalton in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I love Dalton as Bond and AVTAK was made for him. I think he also would have fit the bill in FYEO, though Moore gave us a darker side in that movie and gave arguably his best performance as 007. That movie was certainty a welcome antidote to Star Wars cash-in Moonraker.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.