THE BOOK: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
"FOR YOUR EYES ONLY"
A British couple named Havelock are murdered by Cuban gangsters, led by a former Gestapo officer, for their estate in Jamaica. The Havelocks are close friends with M, who sends Bond on an off-the-books mission to assassinate the killers, who are hanging out in a rented hunting lodge in Vermont, near the Canadian border. Bond runs into the Havelocks' daughter Judy, who is there on a mission of revenge, which causes complications.
The murder of the Havelocks is genuinely disturbing, even scary. Fleming has a real gift for grabbing the reader at the beginning of a story with a disconcerting, well-described scene. One reason, at least in this story and the last, is because Bond isn't involved — meaning no one has plot armor, and people die.
When Bond is called to M's office, M whines about the burdens of leadership. I get an itch when I read this or hear it in real life. Yes, the burdens of leadership are real. But so are the perks, pay, retirement and relative safety (in M's case). And it's your job.
I get the same itch when rock stars complain in song about being on the road. (See: "Turn the Page" by Bob Seger.) Boo-hoo. It's your job, and you are well compensated for it. You also don't really have to work again after your 20s. I guess when you have little to complain about, little things get big enough to complain about.
And so it is with M. It's his job to make decisions. Aside from some logistics, it's arguable that making decisions is his primary job. This is not only because someone has to do it, but so that someone sees the big picture and assigns assets accordingly. And he must take responsibility for those decisions — because his subordinates shouldn't have to. Accepting that burden is a mark of courage and character, and a sign that you're the right person for the job.
Bond idolizes M for his character. We readers are invited to admire him right along with Bond.
That all goes out the window in this scene. "Bond realized why M was troubled, why he wanted someone else to make the decision. ... M wanted someone else, Bond, to render judgment."
Sadly, this strikes me as gutless. Regardless of M's reasons for not wanting to make this call — and I understand the ethical dilemma — it is still his call to make and cowardice to avoid it. If M wants advice, or for someone else to make the decision ... well, that's what his superior officer is for. Not a subordinate. Chains of command exist for a reason.
Yes, I'm being harsh. But M is making extra-legal decisions, involving his nation's honor, treasure and blood. Not to mention making decisions that can end the lives of his subordinates. He can't be pusillanimous about it.
Nevertheless, this bit was very effective, very well written. It's a twist on the standard Bond/M scene, which is welcome. Maybe what I should take away is how awesome Bond is that M trusts him in this way. (Still doesn't feel right.)
It is at this briefing about the Havelocks that M mentions daughter Judy, who is roughly 25 years old. Honestly, as soon as I read that, I knew she was going to turn up, I knew she was going to be attractive, and I knew Bond was going to sleep with her. Didn't everybody?
Bond decides to take the mission, which is off the books, so the file is marked "For Your Eyes Only." There's your title drop.
“Hammerstein had operated the law of the jungle on two defenseless old people," Bond thinks. "Since no other law was available, the law of the jungle should be visited upon Hammerstein. In no other way could justice be done. If it was revenge, it was the revenge of the community.”
I'm no fan of extra-legal executions, but this is as good a justification as I've ever heard. Moreover M and Bond wrestling with the morality of their actions makes for riveting reading. Judy, too, is eager for an "eye for an eye" until she achieves it — and leaves empty and deflated.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Bond flies to Canada, and grows nostalgic for the transatlantic flight that used to take 10 hours. Bond is supposed to be under 40, as M points out in this very story, so it struck me as unlikely that he'd be nostalgic for anything, much less something that takes a long time. (Young people are in a hurry.)
Clearly this is Fleming speaking, in lion-in-winter mode. In his biography Ian Fleming (1996), author Andrew Lycett noted that, at the time, "Ian's mood of weariness and self-doubt was beginning to affect his writing, and this can be seen in Bond's internal monologue in some stories." This is one such story.
Once in Canada, Bond is to be equipped by local law enforcement, and then make his way to Vermont on foot. He makes contact at Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters.
I discuss Col. Schreiber in "From a View to a Kill," the sort of man Bond doesn't like. This story gives us the opposite, RCMP Col. "Johns." He's a no-nonsense combat vet who knows guns and tradecraft. He and Bond are two peas in a pod. If we like James Bond, we like this guy.
Fleming then does a decent job of a difficult one: Making Bond's on-foot trip from Canada to his Vermont sniper's nest less than boring. Although I will take exception to some of Bond's observations, such as "the best things about America are chipmunks and oyster stew." I know these thoughts are supposed to be random and maybe a bit silly, but chipmunks? Surely we've more to offer than that. That's like saying the best things about England are hedgehogs and spotted dick.
While moving into sniper position, Bond meets daughter Judy (of course he does), who presents a genuine tactical complication. She is there for revenge, but is armed only with a bow. She can only shoot one of the four bad guys with her archaic weapon, before they start shooting back with modern ones. Which will torpedo Bond's mission. And he can't just knock her over the head and go off about his business, because daughter Judy anticipates that. (I smiled at a woman showing the same sort of situational smarts as Bond, even if was just to facilitate the plot.)
Her weapon is, objectively, an odd choice. If I'm going to assassinate someone, even if I'm good with a bow, a sling, a spear, a boomerang, or The Deadliest Joke in the World, I'm still going to get a sniper's rifle. Seriously, they're really good for sniping! Says so right in the name! They can even fire more than once in quick succession! But I guess it's just more colorful for daughter Judy to be an archer, with an exotic Native American subtext, here in the Forest Primeval of the New World. To wit:
"She looked like a beautiful, dangerous customer who knew wild country and forests and was not afraid of them," thought Bond. "She would walk alone through life and have little use for civilization."
Initially he calls her "Robina" (awkward, derived from Robin Hood), but I'm surprised he didn't land on "Pocahontas."
Unsurprisingly, she's a very good archer. She takes out her target with a single, well-timed, well-placed bolt. That just leaves the three other targets, all armed with automatic weapons. Whoops! Even Bond gets in trouble, before eventually wiping out the opposition. He and daughter Judy, who was wounded in the exchange, rendezvous at the tree.
Sadly, she becomes an obedient mouse after she's wounded. I take issue with this, especially since it could easily have been Bond who got wounded. (Since he never takes cover behind the gigantic tree he is standing in front of.)
I know this was necessary for Fleming to make his point about "man's work," but it's not a point I agree with. Nor does history agree, as it is replete with Viking shield-maidens, Russian night witches, Scythian warrior women and other lethal lasses. So I hate to see Fleming's gender bias turn a unique character into just another notch on Bond's belt. Plus, the abruptness of it, the falseness of it, undercuts Fleming's point. At least to me.
Despite my likes and dislikes for various bits, the story holds together pretty well, is well-paced and is occasionally thrilling. The only false note to me was at the end, when daughter Judy suddenly had a personality-ectomy.
- Did your mind go to the theme song from The Jetsons every time you read "daughter Judy"? I bet that happened to the For Your Eyes Only screenwriters, too, because they changed her name to Melina.
- The original name of the story was "Man's Work," a point made clear by the ending. Another possible title was "Death Leaves an Echo," which is kind of clever. As a possible TV episode, it was titled "Rough Justice."
- "Agatha, a huge blue-black Negro woman, wearing the old-fashioned white headcloth that has gone out in Jamaica except in the hinterland, came out through the white and rose drawing room, followed by Fayprince, a pretty young quadroon from Port Maria, whom she was training as a second housemaid." One wonders just how many racial stereotypes Fleming can pack into a single sentence. And I find it hard to believe anyone was still using the word "quadroon" in 1960, even in Jamaica.
- "In London, October had begun with a week of brilliant Indian summer, and the noise of the mowers came up from Regent's Park and in through the wide-open windows of M's office. They were motor-mowers, and James Bond reflected that one of the beautiful noises of summer, the drowsy iron song of the old machines, was going forever from the world." Fleming — through Bond — is waxing nostalgic for the sound of human-pushed lawnmowers. Likely because he never had to push one.
- In his depiction of the Cubans connected with Batista, Fleming makes them vile. M basically refers to Batista's regime as a gangster clique. Bond does not disagree. But Fleming and his mouthpieces are studiously neutral in reference to Castro. It made me wonder what the attitudes in the U.S. and UK were in 1959 as regime change in Cuba became inevitable. I'm pretty sure U.S. law enforcement hated Batista, given the safe haven and profit center he supplied for American gangsters, but what about State or Defense and their realpolitik? Did we have any idea what Castro would be like, or were we just crossing our fingers? What about England, which had numerous colonies in surrounding waters? This transitional phase wasn't taught in my high school history class (which basically stopped in 1945) and I didn't experience it personally, so I don't know.
- Batista's Cubans weren't bad enough; Fleming put a Nazi — ex-Gestapo, even — at the top to make them really bad.
- That's the WWII connection for this story, BTW.
- Von Hammerstein's name was taken from General Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord (1878–1943), or so Wiki tells me.
- Fleming spent some summers at a friend's farm in Vermont, which became the model for von Hammerstein's hideaway at Echo Lake.
- "He also bought a large aluminum flask and filled this with three-quarters Bourbon and one-quarter coffee." Good grief! I thought coffee was supposed to keep you awake, not knock you out!
- "You can get far in North America with laconic grunts. 'Huh,' 'hun,' and 'Hi!' in their various modulations, together with 'sure,' 'guess so,' 'that so?' and 'Nuts!' will meet almost any contingency." True enough. But slang in Fleming's home country includes multi-use expressions like "innit" "bugger" "Oi" and "Bob's your uncle," so I don't think he really has much room to talk.
- spywhothrills.com calls daughter Judy "a very capable and noteworthy Bond girl, possibly the best in the entire anthology." Too bad she didn't stay that way.
THE MOVIE: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
Director: John Glen
Writers: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
Starring: Roger Moore (James Bond), Carole Bouquet (Melina), Topol (Columbo), Lynn-Holly Johnson (Bibi), Julian Glover (Kristatos), Cassandra Harris (Lisl), Jill Bennett (Jacoba Brink), Michael Gothard (Locque), John Wyman (Erik Kriegler), Jack Hedley (Havelock), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Geoffrey Keen (Minister of Defence), Walter Gotell (General Gogol), James Villers (Tanner), John Moreno (Ferrar), Charles Dance (Claus), Paul Angelis (Karageorge)
Notable songs: The title song, written by Conti and Michael Leeson, was sung by Sheena Easton. The song reached number four on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number eight on the UK Singles Chart. It was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1982.
James Bond is assigned to find a missing British vessel, equipped with a weapons-encryption device, and prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
The movie opens with Bond leaving flowers at the grave of his wife, Teresa Bond. This struck me as weird, because "Tracy" Bond (Diana Rigg), died five movies earlier, when somebody else (George Lazenby) was Bond. He's just now getting weepy?
Anyway, an unnamed bald guy in a Nehru jacket with a white cat — let's call him, I dunno, "Blofeld" — tricks Bond into getting into a helicopter that is remote controlled, and will kill him. But Blofeld plays with his prey too long, and Bond gains control of the aircraft. He then drops Blofeld down a smokestack, like Peter Parker's clone in Amazing Spider-Man #150.
The reason Blofeld isn't named, or his face shown, is because Kevin McClory, who owned the rights to Thunderball at the time, also claimed the rights to SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Eon Productions didn't agree, and the legal fight was ongoing. Meanwhile, Eon leased the rights to Thunderball to make that movie (released in 1965), with the stipulation that McClory could make his own version later (which he did in 1983, titled Never Say Never Again). I have to assume the rights Eon leased went as far as Diamonds Are Forever, the movie that followed Thunderball, which established that Blofeld had a lot of LMDs decoys, only for Bond to kill them all, then the real one at the end.
I don't know why the decision was made to use a faux Blofeld here, since nothing of the sort had appeared in the previous movie, Moonraker (1979). *Shrug*
Next we see a trawler named St Georges in the Ionian Sea, which is secretly a British intelligence vessel, with the A.T.A.C. (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator ) on board. The A.T.A.C., we are told, can command all Royal Navy nuclear missiles on Polaris submarines.
But uh oh, the St Georges pulls up an old mine which goes splodey, sinking the ship with an intact A.T.A.C. This sets off a race to get the machine.
The Royal Navy asks marine biologists Timothy and Iona Havelock to fetch the A.T.A.C. for them, but they are strafed by a plane piloted (we are later told) by a Cuban named Gonzalez, while daughter Melina watches horrified. This is a lift from the short story "For Your Eyes Only," when a couple named Havelock — they are retired colonial types in Fleming's work — are murdered in Jamaica by a Cuban named Gonzales. Their daughter Judy finds their bodies.
So, OK, this is a loose adaptation. But what the heck is a Cuban doing in Greece as a hitman? Why not just make him Spanish? How did he know to shoot these two people? And why didn't he finish the job by shooting the daughter?
Daughter Melina is played by actress/model Carole Bouquet (right), who seems to only have two expressions: bored, and half asleep. Sometimes she combines them for that coveted "the downers are kicking in now" look.
Anyway, now it's up to the Secret Service to get the A.T.A.C., because apparently the UK doesn't have a navy. They should look into getting one. Being an island nation, a navy might be useful.
And evidently NATO partners Greece (1952) and Italy (1949) don't have navies either. And the U.S. Sixth Fleet apparently doesn't exist. I guess we'll just have to let the Soviets get it. Unless James Bond can save the day!
Bond has a briefing with M — oh, wait, Bernard Lee had just died. Let's try again.
Bond has a briefing with M's chief of staff, Bill Tanner, and the Minister of Defence. The Minister of Defence is played by Geoffrey Keen, who has played the role before, with the name Sir Frederick Gray attached, which is not used here. Gray has been Bond's foil in previous films, but plays the scene straight here.
Apparently, the A.T.A.C. isn't coded, can't be disengaged from the submarines, can't be ignored, can't be altered, works just fine after being submerged in salt water, and is really portable (it's a keyboard). The chief of staff tells Bond orders from A.T.A.C. can't be countermanded, and the transmitter could make British submarines attack British cities.
OK, all together now: Why would anybody build such a thing? "Sir, I have an idea. I want to build a small, portable transmitter that, if stolen, will give foreign powers control over our nuclear weapons." "Capital idea, lad! Hop to it!"
Bond asks if a salvage effort has been started, but is told that it's a no-go because of where the St. Georges sank. Is it off the coast of Russia? Is it in international waters? Is it some other place NATO nations can't go?
Salvage is "out of the question," the minister says solemnly. "The wreck is off the Albanian coast."
To which I say: So what?
The wreck is said to be in the Ionian Sea which, for those who don't know, is between Greece and Italy. So NATO, the U.S., the UK and any other Western nation with a navy can bigfoot in there pretty much all they want.
Sure, Albania was a Soviet client state in 1981. But that's all. Invasion of its territory doesn't trigger war with the USSR. If the Royal Navy shows up and says, straightforwardly, "We've lost a ship in these waters and we're going to go get it, talk to the hand," what's Albania going to do? File a trespassing complaint at the U.N.?
Or the UK could argue the ship is in international waters, even though it isn't. Albania would protest, but the Royal Navy would salvage its equipment and scoot in a matter of days, making it all moot. Albania could file a case at the international court in Geneva, or throw out some British diplomats, or hold its breath until it turns blue. In the end it wouldn't matter, and Britain would have its McGuffin back. Saving London from a nuclear attack (or just blackmail) is worth whatever diplomatic kerfuffle they stir up. The risk/reward ratio here is pretty obvious.
But it's a movie, so there's nothing for it but to send in Bond. He's given a folder marked "For Your Eyes Only" as the name drop.
Bond is almost captured in Spain spying on Gonzalez, but is spared when an unknown someone fires an arrow into one of his attackers. Yep, it's the Havelocks' daughter, still wielding her bow from the short story, despite being renamed Melina and not being in Vermont or being a Native American proxy. Melina uses the bow a few more times in the story, but it's never a critical plot point. In fact, if you haven't read the story, you might be wondering why this sleepy girl in the background doesn't use a more modern weapon.
While escaping, Bond's Lotus blows up and he and Melina have to flee in a small Citroen. The ensuing car chase is supposed to be amusing, I think. To me it borders on self-parody. That's dangerous in a Bond movie, especially one with a mid-50s Roger Moore that's already on the cusp.
Bond and Melina go diving and, for no apparent reason, Melina takes off her aqualung and leaves it on the bottom of the ocean. I said "What th--?!" aloud on the couch, wondering how she was going to get back to the surface without air. Presumably she did the buddy system with Bond. But why?
Later, she and Bond use the oh-so-convenient aqualung to escape being keelhauled/drowned later in the movie. Which isn't just writer's fiat, it's deus ex machina. She didn't know she was going to be keelhauled directly above that spot later in the movie. I didn't either. Only the screenwriters did, and apparently told Melina.
Afterward, Bond uses the "Identigraph" to ID the leader of the men who attacked him, who is some guy named Locque (left). Maybe he comes from a story I haven't read yet. The Identigraph isn't from "For Your Eyes Only," but is instead from Goldfinger, where it was called "Identicast."
Us olds probably felt a wave of nostalgia when Q attached big drums of digital information for the Identigraph to look through in this pre-Internet movie. These kids today (tm) are probably baffled by that scene.
Bond goes to Locque's base in Cortina, Italy, where he hooks up with some guy named Luigi Ferraro. I don't know him from any story I've read yet. He's a decent sort who ends up dead, and might be my favorite character in the movie, just because he doesn't do anything straight-up stupid, like everybody else.
Through Ferrari, Bond meets Aristotle Kristatos, who's a big wheel in Italy. You may remember that name from "Risico." (Although I don't think he ever got a first name in "Risico").
He's also a sponsor of a teen Olympic skater named Bibi that he wants to have sex with, but she isn't interested. She wants to have sex with Bond, though, who ... turns her down? I guess she's too young even for him. She's also really annoying, speaking almost exclusively in 1970s slang ("I'm splitting!" "Don't blow your top!")
She's always accompanied by a stern older woman named Jacoba Brink, who is a coach or a chaperone or something. I keep expecting her to do something nefarious, but she doesn't. She's just ... there.
Like in "Risico," Kristatos tells Bond the man he's looking for is a competitor named Milos Columbo (Enrico Colombo in the book). It is he who employed Locque to kill Bond in Spain, Kristatos says.
Bond survives many further attempts on his life although, as noted, Luigi becomes a casualty in one of them. At an ice rink, he is attacked by hockey players. In another, he escapes in a horse and carriage because ... I don't know, taxis are expensive?
No, it's local color. Of which there is a lot in this movie. There are many, many stunning landscape scenes.
A whole bunch of people try to kill Bond at some sort of winter sports festival. This movie takes place right after the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, which explains why you see skiers, lugers, biathletes, and so forth. (Bond movies never met a trend they didn't want to jump on.) One of the would-be killers is another guy Bibi wants to sleep with, stern East German biathlete Kriegler. (Biathletes ski and shoot rifles, so Kriegler is always plunking away at Bond.) Kriegler is the Soviet contact man.
For reasons I've forgotten, Bond goes to Corfu. At the casino there he meets Kristatos, who points out Columbo and his mistress Lisl von Schalf (Lisl Baum in "Risico"). Columbo records their conversation, and has a fake break-up with Liesl, and Bond comes to her rescue. Bond uses the "writing a book" dodge with Liesl, all of which is right out of "Risico." Bond then takes to her home and beds her, which is not.
In another divergence from "Risico," Lisl (left) tells Bond she's from Liverpool; she's faking her Austrian accent. And the next morning Locque and his men attack and kill her. Bond is saved by Columbo's men. (Lisl survives "Risico.")
And then the plot follows "Risico" again. Columbo tells Bond that Kristatos is the real KGB man, and they go on a raid against an Albanian newsprint warehouse, where the newsprint rolls are full of heroin. (There are, however, no grappling hooks. Because there's no Albanian ship, like in "Risico." Shame.)
Bond and Melina use high-tech diving gear to get the A.T.A.C., with the backdrop being a 5,000-year-old, underwater Greek temple (that looks like it's made of plaster). They are attacked by someone in diving gear that's even high-techier. They escape but the bad guys get the A.T.A.C. and Kristatos is going to give it to Soviet Gen. Gogol, who is played by a British-speaking, German character actor who is a charter member of the "It's That Guy!" club.
It should be mentioned that the Havelocks had a parrot, so like Chekov's gun, you know he's going to say something important at some point. He does, and Bond & Co. know the Soviet rendezvous is at St. Cyril's, an old temple at the top of a mountain. For no reason I can figure out, Bond has to climb the mountain with ropes and pitons and other serious mountain-climbing gear, while the rest of his team watch. One guard attacks Bond and gets himself killed, and after that, the rest of Bond's crew (Columbo, Melina, etc.) just sort of walk to the temple and greet Bond when he gets to the top.
Not only is the mountain-climbing thing seemingly irrelevant, but is mid-50s Bond really the guy who should be doing it? Surely among Columbo's crew there's a younger, fitter guy with more climbing experience.
Ah, well, it's Bond's movie. If there's a pointless stunt to be done, I guess he gets to do it.
Once everybody's on top of the mountain, there's a lot of fighty-fight and shooty-shoot, but at the end all the bad guys are dead. (Columbo kills Kristatos personally.) Bond smashes the A.T.A.C. in front of Gogol (right), saying something to the effect that this maintains the status quo, with neither side getting it.
But wait! Isn't that British property? Didn't they have it before the movie started? Smashing it doesn't "equalize" the two "teams," it gives away a British advantage. Oh well. I guess Britain can build another one. Maybe this time they'll just give it to the Soviets.
This is all part of the "detente" idea that permeated Hollywood at the time. See the "A View to a Kill" commentary for more.
Bond goes off with Melina for some long-delayed sexy time. (Although why she'd be interested in a man 30 years her senior is not addressed.) The Minister of Defence and M's chief of staff are very excited about Bond's coup, and try to put him on the phone with the Prime Minister. A dead-on Margaret Thatcher impersonator tries to talk to Bond, but gets the parrot. Eon uses a similar gag in Moonraker, where they connect Bond to the P.M. while Bond's having space sex with Holly Goodhead.
This movie's got too many characters, too many plots, too many plot holes and too many characters who don't seem to do anything except make the viewer remember too many names. It's a jumble of elements from two different short stories that don't cohere, sometimes due to bad writing, sometimes due to bad acting, and sometimes due to both. For Your Eyes Only isn't as bad as Moonraker, but it's still pretty bad.
- World War II connection: Kristatos and Columbo are both former WWII resistance fighters, as in the short story "Risico."
- For Your Eyes Only came out in 1981, so no woman under the age of 35 is wearing a bra. That was in vogue in 1981, and I didn't remember that until this movie. Hard to believe that look was once normal. In 2023, it's just jarring.
- Bond and Melina being dragged across reefs behind a boat is a swipe from Live and Let Die, where it was Bond and Solitaire.
- Locque is a Belgian assassin. Why not a Belgian assassin? They can't all make waffles.
- Bond warns Melina sternly that if she's looking for revenge she should dig two graves. That's direct from the short story "For Your Eyes Only," where Bond gives that speech to Judy.
- Various websites assert that the intention was for Bond and Melina to have a star-crossed romance, where he thinks he's found a replacement for Tracy, but she's too focused on revenge to give him a chance. None of that translated to the screen where Old Man Bond and Young Bored Melina both seem more interested in a nap than each other.
- Most of the underwater scenes were clearly not filmed underwater. In the sunken St Georges, almost nothing is floating except the occasional phone receiver (which is obviously "floating" due to a wire), which just emphasizes how nothing else is floating. (Like bodies.) This is clearly filmed on dry land with some underwater effects added in post. Close-ups are obviously done on a stage and edited into the "underwater" scenes.