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Should I Watch..? 'For Your Eyes Only' (1981)

Benjamin considers himself an authority on James Bond, having reviewed every film and many more over a number of years.

Poster for "For Your Eyes Only"

Poster for "For Your Eyes Only"

What's the Big Deal?

For Your Eyes Only is an action spy thriller film released in 1981, and it is the 12th entry in the James Bond series. It stars Roger Moore who plays 007 for the fifth time and sees the British secret agent take on an ambitious Greek smuggler who wishes to work for the KGB. It marks the directorial debut of John Glen, who had previously served as editor and second-unit director on three previous Bond films. Glen would go on to direct all five Bond movies produced in the 1980s. Along with the rest of the crew, he decided to get Bond away from the wild excessives of Moonraker in a much-more gritty and stripped back story. The film is a blend of two short stories written by Bond's creator Ian Fleming. The film is mainly focused on the title story from For Your Eyes Only as well as Risico.


What's It About?

The ship St Georges is accidentally sunk in the Ionian Sea after trawling an old naval mine. On board was a device called the ATAC which not only allowed the Ministry Of Defence to contact Royal Navy submarines but also to allow the subs to launch ballistic missiles. British secret agent James Bond is assigned to locate and retrieve the ATAC before the Russians as the KGB are also aware of the St Georges sinking. But the man hired by the British to locate the St Georges - Sir Timothy Havelock - is assassinated before he can locate the wreck.

As Bond delves deeper, he uncovers a war between shipping magnate Aris Kristatos and criminal underworld boss Milos Columbo who both accuse each other of killing Havelock. Bond must decide who is telling the truth before the vengeful daughter of Sir Timothy, Melina, has her revenge and the ATAC is lost forever.


What's to Like?

At its heart, For Your Eyes Only is a serious film dealing with the theme of revenge and its consequences. Thank God they made the effort to ease up on the madness that ravaged Moonraker because this is a Bond movie that actually feels like one instead of some cheap knock-off. The story may be pretty threadbare compared to tales of megalomaniacs pursuing world domination but it links the various action scenes together well enough. However, those of you who enjoy 007 going off the rails into self-parody won't be entirely left out either - the movie still has enough goofiness to satisfy almost every type of Bond fan.

The action is the main draw here as Glen throws in a ski-chase that utilises every kind of obstacle you can think of and possibly the only car chase featuring a Citroen 2CV outrunning the baddies in high-powered Mercedes cars. The rock-climbing sequence is also very well shot, giving the film a tension that had been missing until that point. There is also quite a bit of underwater action but nothing like as much as Thunderball which was damn-near the majority of that film.

Moore's age was alreayd beginning to catch up with him, forcing the film-makers to use body doubles for many action scenes.

Moore's age was alreayd beginning to catch up with him, forcing the film-makers to use body doubles for many action scenes.

Fun Facts

  • The opening sequence, featuring a Blofeld-lookalike being dealt with by Bond, never refers to the character by name or lists them in the credits. This is due to legal action by ex-Bond producer Kevin McClory who claimed ownership of both the Blofeld character and his organisation, SPECTRE. It was Albert Broccoli's way of telling McClory that the Bond films didn't need Blofeld any more.
  • The first and only Bond film that doesn't feature M, due to the actor Bernard Lee dying in January 1981. As Lee had played M since Dr No, Cubby Broccoli insisted that the character would not be recast as a mark of respect. An unintended consequence of this is Q being given much more screen-time, to fill in M's dialogue.
  • Cassandra Harris was married to future Bond Pierce Brosnan at the time of shooting. Brosnan would be offered the role of Bond for The Living Daylights but had to turn it down.
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What's Not to Like?

The film relies on dialogue as well as action and I'm afraid that is where the wheels start to come off. Other than the wildly charismatic Topol, the film is populated by stereotypes and forgettable characters. Bouquet may have more to do than most Bond girl up to then but her performance is one of much middle-distance staring. Even Moore, who was starting to look his age here, seems uninterested in the picture and if he can't be bothered, why should we?

I liked the fact that Bond displays some of the dark ruthlessness the character in the books has but all too soon, Moore goes back to his cheesy one-liners as if he was embarrassed to be playing a tough man of action. It's the same with the score - aside from Sheena Easton's theme tune, the music is a horribly dated mishmash of synthesizers that's about as contemporary as Stevenson's Rocket. But my biggest problem is that For Your Eyes Only tries to appeal to everyone - fans of the books as well as fans of the comic-book lightness of the movies. But the film's insistence on cheap comedy puts off true Bond fans while popcorn-munching viewers will get bored between the stunts.

Bouquet's Bond girl is more than mere eye candy for once, making the role an integral part of the story.

Bouquet's Bond girl is more than mere eye candy for once, making the role an integral part of the story.

Should I Watch It?

It's not the riotous return to form that Roger Moore needed but For Your Eyes Only is certainly better than some other Bonds out there. There is enough in the film to suggest that it could have been great but the movie sticks with cheap laughs and forgettable dialogue, which makes the film entertaining in a vapid, mindless way. It's definitely better than the rancid mess that the previous film was...

Great For: Greece's tourism industry, extreme sports enthusiasts, Desmond Llewelyn

Not So Great For: the Bond series, Bond girls much younger than Roger Moore

What Else Should I Watch?

It was becoming clear that Roger Moore's best films were behind him as age crept up on him as 007. His best film as Bond would remain The Spy Who Loved Me which, while still a decent enough picture, would never quite the giddy heights of Sean Connery's Goldfinger. His last two films - Octopussy and A View To A Kill - were by-the-numbers efforts as Moore slinked his way around the sets like a lounge lizard whilst everything else around him blew up.

Modern Bond fans should not despair as there are still Bond films worth watching. GoldenEye brings the series back up to date while still retaining enough of the old formula to feel familiar while Skyfall is a glorious celebration of the series as a whole, certainly much more than the abominable Die Another Day was with its invisible cars and dreadful CG surfing.

Main Cast

* credited as "Topol"


Roger Moore

James Bond

Carole Bouquet

Melina Havelock

Julian Glover

Aristotle Kristatos

Chaim Topol *

Milos Columbo

Michael Gothard

Emile Locque

Lynn-Holly Johnson

Bibi Dahl

John Wyman

Erich Kriegler

Cassandra Harris

Countess Lisl Von Schlaf

Desmond Llewelyn


Technical Info

* based on the short stories "For Your Eyes Only" and "Risico" by Ian Fleming

DirectorJohn Glen


Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson *

Running Time

127 minutes

Release Date (UK)

24th June, 1981




Action, Spy, Thriller

Academy Award Nomination

Best Original Song

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

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