After a ship is sunk off the coast of Albania, the world's superpowers begin a feverish search for its valuable lost cargo: the powerful ATAC system, which will give the bearer unlimited control over Polaris nuclear submarines. As James Bond (Agent 007) joins the search, he suspects the suave Kristatos of seizing the device. The competition between nations grows more deadly by the moment, but Bond finds an ally in the beautiful Melina Havelock, who blames Kristatos for the death of her parents. Agent 007 navigates his way through passionate encounters and risky confrontations which draw him into a world of arduous challenge, including, automobile chases, underwater battles, a tour over razor-sharp coral reefs, and an assault on an imposing mountaintop fortress. (Synopsis from Hollywood.com)
After the mess that was Moonraker, I went into For Your Eyes Only expecting more of the same; after all, the trend of the Bond films has always been to move toward the bigger and more outrageous. Fortunately, in the same manner that On Her Majesty's Secret Service put the brakes on the skid after You Only Live Twice,
The only truly terrible aspects of For Your Eyes Only are the ludicrous and unfulfilling dispatching of Blofeld in an otherwise engaging pre-credits sequence, and the wholly unnecessary inclusion of Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl, a young ice skater whom Kristatos sponsors, who falls for Bond to embarrassing effect. Fortunately, Bond is considerably classier here than in Moonraker (in fact, Moore turns in his best performance as 007 in this film) and handles Bibi with something resembling dignity ("Well, Bibi, why don't you get dressed, and I'll buy you an ice cream.")
Composer Bill Conti, of Rocky fame, gets us off to a good start with the song "For Your Eyes Only," sung by Sheena Easton, who actually appears in Maurice Binder's beautifully conceived title sequence. But the score soon shows itself to be an all-too-contemporary exercise in disco and jazz, dominated by trumpets and synthesizers, sounding almost dated even by the time it hit movie screens. The Rocky-style horns and guitar riffs are all there, and the Bond theme gets the treatment even more severely than it did at Marvin Hamlisch's hands in The Spy Who Loved Me. The best usage of the Bond theme is in the track "Submarine," which features some nice Barry-like brass highlights, and is perfectly timed to the action on the screen.
"A Drive in the Country" is a rousing little number with a pop beat and occasional interpolation of the Bond theme, highlighting Bond and Melina Havelock's (Carole Bouquet) escape from assassin Gonzalez's (Stefan Kalipha) compound after she puts an arrow in the killer's back—revenge for his murdering her parents. "Take Me Home" slows down the pace with its Herb Alpert-like melody utilizing a mellow, romantic fluegelhorn played by Eddie Blair. Conti uses a swirling, Greek-sounding string arrangement as something of a "Melina theme"—an overly melodramatic touch—featured prominently in "Melina's Revenge." And a light, Mediterranean motif with castanets and horns provides local color in "Gonzalez Takes a Drive" (sic), but with saccharine results.
A little genuine suspense comes in the form of "St. Cyril's Monastery," an almost Barry-like composition that works well as Bond attempts to gain access the eyrie-like setting where Kristatos has hidden the ATAC. "Make It Last All Night," a Latin-tinged disco song that we first hear in the background at Gonzalez's pool party, comes to the forefront to surprisingly good effect as Bond and Melina separately infiltrate the killer's property. "Runaway" follows, with a wailing synthesizer, pop percussion, and a brass lead line, providing an unsatisfying backdrop for the otherwise exciting motorcycle/ski chase. After the frenetic "Runaway," the instrumental version of "For Your Eyes Only" is a welcome breather, its mellowness attributable to Derek Watkins' fluegelhorn solo.
"Cortina" is a romantic but unremarkable background for Bond and Melina's interlude in the Italian town, followed by the musically anticlimactic "P.M. Gets the Bird," a scene that ends the film on a silly but not inappropriate note—featuring hilarious impersonators of Margaret Thatcher (Janet Brown) and husband Dennis (John Wells) on the phone with Bond and Melina's parrot. The end title reprises Sheena Easton's vocal version of the title theme.
on the Remastered CD
Happily, the remastered, extended CD includes the opening "Gunbarrel" theme, which leads into "Flowers for Teresa" and "Sinking of the St. Georges," a very good composition highlighting the film's first moving and then exciting opening. "Unfinished Business/Bond Meets Kristatos" features the swirling Greek horns, a somewhat romantic-tinged piano verse, and a silly, if grandiose finish with brass. The suspenseful but initially colorless "Ski...Shoot...Jump" introduces Eric Kriegler (John Wyman) as a Kristatos-employed assassin who pursues Bond relentlessly; however, the music increases its tempo as it nears climax, culminating in a several satisfying, dissonant crashes of percussion and piano keys.
"Goodbye, Countess/No Head for Heights/Dining Alone" meshes several unrelated cues, the first of them being the best, as Colombo's men appear on the beach to accost Bond following the tragic killing of Countess Lisl (a scene directly from "Risico," although the countess does not die in the story). "Sub vs. Sub" provides an almost atmospheric backdrop for the effectively chilling scenes of Bond underwater, as he is ambushed while investigating the wreck of the St. Georges, the ATAC ship, on the ocean bottom. "Run Them Down/The Climb" also combines unrelated tracks, and these are again reasonably effective on screen but hardly distinctive on their own.
Conti's work for For Your Eyes Only is competent and often enjoyable, but the departure from established style is distracting while viewing the film, much in the way of Hamlisch's score for The Spy Who Loved Me. While it would be a fallacy to expect mere homages to Barry from other film composers, the Bond films have earned a unique visual and aural identity that virtually transcends the contributions of individual directors and composers. David Arnold's work for the Brosnan Bond films indicates an understanding of this concept, even if his compositions sometimes fail to distinguish themselves. Conti deserves some credit for his uniqueness, but his lack of consideration for the Bond musical modus operandi serves to seriously undermine his score.
For your eyes only can see me through the night.
For your eyes only, the nights are never cold.
For your eyes only, only for you.