Hooray! We’ve reached the last of the Roger Moore Bonds! Although on recent viewing, none of them were as terrible as I remembered them, although certain aspects of some of the films have been terrible, for sure.
The precredit sequence sees Bond in Russia to recover something from the dead body of a fellow agent, frozen in the snow in Siberia. (It’s supposed to be Siberia but Husband and I both recognised the lake with the icebergs and shouted “Iceland!”). Bond escapes the Russians, and, to the sound of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys, snowboards to safety. (Another unnecessary sound effect.) Safety being a submarine piloted by a female agent. “Be a good girl and put it on autopilot will you?” he asks, drawing her down onto the bed. (And she’s trapped on this submarine with him for five days. I hope she files a harassment claim when she gets back to the office.)
The opening credits roll and here we have Duran Duran, taking us away from the sweet drowsy melodies of recent films, and bringing back the character of the Bond theme tune that we came to know from the early movies. Although, listening now, Simon Le Bon’s voice does sound a little scratchy on some of those high notes. But no matter, the tune’s a cracker. The visuals are very 1985 – lots of neon women shooting neon lasers and skiing and skating. There’s fire and there’s ice and to my practised 80s eye, it looks a lot like the video to Power Station “Some Like it Hot“.
The film takes us across several exotic locations – Russia (actually Iceland and Switzerland), France (the Eiffel Tower and Chateau de Chantilly) and San Francisco (with the stomach clenching climax taking place on and above the Golden Gate Bridge). I’d never heard of the Chateau de Chantilly before but it’s 50km north of Paris and open to the public. The reference in the film to the grand stables is true – the Duke/Prince believed he would be reincarnated as a horse and wanted stables built that would be appropriate to his rank.
The villain is Max Zorin, although with his white blonde hair and guileless face, he looks more like he should be doing an ad for laundry powder that gets your whites brighter. But that’s the thing with psychopaths, they can be friendly and charming one minute, and laughing while shooting you dead the next.
Zorin has a new design of microchip, and wants to corner the market, but one thing stands in his way – Silicon Valley. If only there were some way he could make it drop into the sea and disappear. Oh now wait, isn’t Silicon Valley located on a fault line? Hmm… How could this fault line be exploited? Yes, Zorin’s villainous plot is to trigger a massive earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.
Zorin is equal opportunity when it comes to his immediate entourage. He has the men – Scarpine the thug and Dr Carl Mortner the scientist, but he also has a number of women in his inner circle: May Day (played with extreme physical menace by Grace Jones in a series of amazing outfits), Jenny Flex and Pan Ho.
After murdering the amusingly named but otherwise unimportant M. Aubergine, May Day evades Bond and jumps off the Eiffel Tower, parachuting to safety. In a film series that prides itself on great stunts, this one stands out for me.
But for every bad woman there has to be a good woman and in this movie the good woman is Stacey Sutton, played by Tanya Roberts. She’s not great in a crisis situation, always seems to be screaming and dangling off something and needing saving. But she’s a geologist, and Bond is going to need someone with specialist knowledge to work out what Zorin’s plot is and how to thwart it.
General Gogol is in this film again, and we discover that Zorin was trained by the KGB, but is now following his own agenda and not theirs. “No one ever leaves the KGB” Gogol threatens. I think Zorin laughed at this. He’s probably seen Gogol’s underfurnished office. Zorin’s office is much better equipped.
Another interesting thing in this film is Zorin’s preferred method of transport being by zeppelin. You don’t see zeppelins much in use these days. The scenes with the zeppelin are much more fun than the US police smash-em-up car chase through San Francisco. (Which, considering it’s San Francisco, makes virtually no use of those steep hills for dramatic effect, like they did in Bullitt.
This film marked Lois Maxwell’s last appearance as Miss Moneypenny. When Bond arrives at headquarters to get his briefing for his new assignment, as he does at the start of every film, Miss Moneypenny is always there to greet him. They exchange some flirtatious remarks and I think in one of the Sean Connery films he hugs her, but it never goes further than that.
I could write a whole separate piece on Moneypenny, but someone else has already done that.
I haven’t touched on spycraft here; there really isn’t any in this film. Hardly even a gadget to be seen.
Film epilogue: Stacey Sutton eventually wins back control of her family’s oil company, but she sees the way things are going, and embarks on a 180 degree turnaround of the company, getting them out of oil and into geothermal, wind power and solar power. Being based in California, she’s perfectly placed to capitalise on the rising interest in green energy, and by the 2000s, she starts turning up in Forbes magazine whenever they talk about green energy or women in the energy business. The early switch away from oil means her company goes global, and eventually she also starts to feature in profiles of the richest women in US business.