For a dozen years, Roger Moore had played James Bond, and at the point of “Octopussy”, was pretty much equally matched with Sean Connery as far as the number of films were concerned (unless you count Never Say Never Again.) However, by the time of 1985, he would star in one more Bond-“A View To A Kill”-and that would be his curtain call for the character, especially due to his age-57. Unfortunately, along with “Moonraker” and “The Man With The Golden Gun”, it stands as one of his weakest films.
View pretty much starts off on the wrong foot right away. The opening sequence-with Bond in Siberia (recovering a microchip from yet another dead fellow 00)-brings in the camp right away, and it also kind of hurts that it’s clearly not Roger Moore doing the stunts-all the close-ups of Moore are clearly shot against a blue-screen, and then things get really goofy when Bond starts snowboarding when his jet ski is broken-to the tune of the Beach Boy’s California Girls.
Thankfully, Duran Duran’s “View to A Kill” is one of the better Bond opening songs. Although the rock/pop is a bit different from past Bond songs-including the romantic ballads which opened most of Moore’s films-it’s still a pretty decent song, with some interesting visuals, although pretty much every shot they use of Moore/Bond is from his other films, and the fire/ice/skiing theme doesn’t have much to do with the film’s plot apart from the opening sequence.
We later find out that said Microchip is similar to one made by the billionaire Zorin, who also breeds Horses. Also, Moore’s eyes look noticeably different, perhaps due to plastic surgery before the film. It’s a bit distracting.
Then it’s off to the races with Bond, M, Moneypenny and Q where they observe Zorin and his henchwoman, Mayday (as well as their horse Pegasus, who is fast, but acting strangely). I honestly kind of like this part of the film, it’s kind of cool to see the supporting members outside of “Universal Exports” offices in these films, especially since this would be not only Moore’s last film as Bond, but also Lois Maxwell’s as Moneypenny. She, like Moore, would be replaced by younger actors (Although Caroline Bliss’s Moneypenny only lasted as long as Timothy Dalton’s).
We’re also introduced to Patrick Macnee’s Sir Goddfrey Tibbet. Macnee of course was one of the leads of the Avengers TV series (John Steed), another British spy series. The Avengers also featured Diana Rigg, who starred as Tracy, Bond’s short-lived wife in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and Honor Blackman, who was Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger”. Before his death in 2015, Macnee would narrate several documentaries about the Bond films.
Bond then goes to Paris to meet with a detective at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This sequence starts off decently enough, with the impressive Eiffel Tower jump stunt….
…but then gets bogged down in goofiness with Bond driving half a cab around and literally crashing a wedding.
We then shift to more Horse stuff as Bond and Tibbet investigate Zorin’s stables. There’s some fun here as Tibbet pretends to be Bond’s servant, with Bond adopting the obviously fake alias of “Sir John Smythe” (Later he pretends to be a newspaper reporter for the London Financial times, “James Stock”). We also here meet Zorin and Walken’s performance here is pretty campy, with of course Walken’s usual acting ‘tics’ and emphasizes providing some amusement as well as amusement.
Grace Jones is okay as Mayday, she’s kind of bad-ass and has a unique look as oppossed to the usual mute-guys-in-fancy suits archetype of henchmen, but she doesn’t really seem that good an actress to be honest. Her delivery sort of comes across as stilted.
Unfortunately, who’s even worse is Tonya Roberts as Stacy Sutton. The Roger Moore films gave us some pretty strong female supporting characters such as Anya Amasova, Melina Havelock and Octopussy, but Stacy is a throwback to the somewhat more ditzy, damsel-in-distress types of Jill St. John (Tifanny Case) Jane Seymor (Solitare) and Britt Ekland (Mary Goodnight).
Still, there’s some fun and drama in this sequence of the film ,and it’s one of the few times we see Roger Moore’s Bond really express his anger and sadness at the loss of an ally, when Tibbet is revealed to be killed by Mayday (Other times including the death-and his revenge on Loque-for Ferrara and Lisl in “For Your Eyes Only”, and Vijay’s death in Octopussy: “No more problems”.) “Killing Tibbet was a mistake!”
After this we’re given the film’s Russian connection which is a bit tacked on, revealing that Zorin is ex-KGB (hence his microchips being in the Siberian facility). Gogol shows up for the fifth time in the Moore films (The first film with Dalton, The Living Daylights, would be his last, but more on that next time), and we even have Dolph Lungren make his film debut here, as one of Gogol’s agents. Lungren was actually dating Grace Jones at the time. Lungren of course would later play Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV”, “Universal Soldier” He-Man in “Masters of the Universe”, the first of three movie Punishers, and is one of the stars of the “Expendables” franchise.
Next we go to San Francisco, and this part of the film is pretty boring as Bond tries to discover what Zorin’s evil plot-“Main Strike” is. It’s pretty much a retread of Goldfinger’s plot, “Grand Slam” instead with Microchips instead of Gold, Sillicon Valley instead of Fort Knox, and floods and earthquakes instead of nukes and poisonous gas. It’s even got a miniature, like it’s predecessor.
There is a bit of fun with Bond and a female KGB agent working with Gogol to also get dirt on Zorin that Bond outwits, but it’s mostly a lot of Bond and Stacey trying to figure out Zorin’s plan, with Bond forced to use a rock-salt gun at one point to defend her.
Things pick up again when their investigation is interrupted by Zorin, and Bond and Stacy are framed for murder and arson. Unfortunately, despite a cool opening with Bond saving Stacy via ladder to the tune of the instrumental version of Duran Duran’s theme this leads to a ‘keystone cops’ segment as Bond tries to escape from the police on a firetruck, which, like Stacy herself also seems like a throwback of sorts to the first two Roger Moore films (as well as Connery’s swan song Diamonds Are Forever).
We finally come to the end of the film, which although it has an impressive set, isn’t really that good or particularly well-paced. The most memorable scene is that of Zorin turning on his own men with psychotic glee (only sparing his ‘creator’, a German scientist, and his most loyal henchman, Scarpine, who gleefully joins in the massacre) with a machine gun and flooding due to the first wave of explosions. Roger Moore reportedly has stated that this is his least favorite of his films for mainly this reason (Despite playing Bond, Moore is actually fairly against a lot of film violence.)
This of course causes Mayday to switch sides, especially when her own henchwomen become victims of Zorin’s madness.
That’s Allison Doody on the right, BTW, who would also appear as the female lead of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and a slightly similar fate, dying in a chasm.
The film then ends with Bond grabbing on to Zorin’s airship-which is a pretty good mix of sets, miniatures, and an actual blimp, and then the Golden Gate bridge fight, which looks okay and impressive from far away and stunt doubles:
But like in the Siberian opener, the close-ups with Moore, Walken and Roberts on-set kind of kill the illusion with poor blue screen:
Then we get pretty much the ending of all Roger Moore Bonds, with Bond in a compromising position with Stacey, discovered by Q via his remote control robot dog, one of the film’s few gadgets.
Speaking of gadgets, the film is fairly light on them, keeping up with director John Glen scaling them back in his early Moore efforts. The robot isn’t used by Bond at all, and pretty much all the gadgets save a Sharper Image door opener are used in the party scene at the beginning of the film. It’s something that would be kind of thrown out by the next film, as Living Daylights made use of Bond’s new Aston Martin and key-ring.
Overall, View To A Kill takes the Roger Moore era out not with a bang, but more of a whimper, copying much of “Goldfinger”‘s plot, with Moore too old and obviously not doing much of his action scenes, and sort of going back to the beginning of his era with a ditzy side-kick and chases played more for laughs than with any sense of danger and seriousness. There’s a few good parts like Patrick Macnee and the song, but overall, a poor ending for Moore. Then again, has any Bond really gone out in style? Connery’s “Diamonds Are Forever” is one of his worst films (Never Say Never Again ain’t so great either). “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is well-liked now but of course Lazenby left and the film’s legacy is still up to debate, “Licence to Kill”, although it broke a bit with some aspects of the Bond formula was considered mediocre to some and contributed in part to the series being delayed for a few years due to it’s poor box office; and “Die Another Day” was so over-the-top the series took a totally different direction and let Pierce Brosnan go…Craig of course, is still attached to the role as of this writing, so we’ll see about him.