A View To A Kill’s script: Q goes out in the field

A View To A Kill’s poster

In 1984, the writing team of Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson commenced work on their third consecutive James Bond film.

A View To A Kill (shortened from the Ian Fleming short story title From a View to a Kill) would go all-in on a contemporary plot involving computers and microchips.

A copy of a script identified as a first draft (but with some pages saying they had been revised later) indicates the Maibaum-Wilson team had worked out most of the story issues.

The script is similar to the final film that reached audiences in 1985. But, as is often the case, there are interesting differences.

The most significant is that Q is out in the field during the long San Francisco sequence.

As in the film, Q first shows up in the briefing scene shortly after the main titles. He explains the importance of computer chips and how they can be rendered useless by electro magnet pulses. Bond also comments, “expertise showing,” according to the script.

From there, we’re off to Ascot, where the MI6 crew is at the races. We’re introduced to Max Zorin, described as “tall, slender, impeccably dressed, in his late thirties. Unusually handsome he has one grey eye and one blue eye.”

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Eon initially courted David Bowie to play Zorin. Bowie turned 38 in 1985 and had two different eye colors. He turned down the part and Christopher Walken. who turned 42 the year the movie came out, got the job.

The script also describes May Day as “a shapely, tall, somewhat bizarrely dressed twenty eight year old girl with a distinctively short hairdo and a beautiful but saturninely placid face.”

Most of what follows mirrors the final film until the story shifts to San Francisco.

Bond and Q are in a van using’s Q’s surveillance device, identified in the script as “Snooper.” They’re spying on Zorin and his minions, trying to figure out what he’s up to in his operation in San Francisco Bay. A sample:

IN VAN BOND Q

watching and listening at TV SCREEN showing GROUP in STATION CONTROL ROOM. Voices from TV are faint and somewhat obscured by sound of pumping.

CONLEY ON TV
We’re at maximum pumping now…

ZORIN ON TV
We have a deadline. I’ll hold you personally responsible if we miss it.

A guard dog menances the Snooper. The device sprays the dog with repellent that Q describes as, “Foul smelling stuff.”

Thanks to the Snooper, Bond and Q discover that the Russians are also trying to plant bugs on Zorin’s operation. One Russian is captured by May Day while the other escapes. The second Russian, of course, is Pola Ivanova. Bond intercepts her and things proceed more or less as in the movie.

Desmond Llewelyn (1914-1999)

In the script, we don’t hear anymore from Q until the end of the movie. Still, one suspects this idea resonated with the Eon creative team.

Previously, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) journeyed into the field to provide Bond with gadgets (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me). But in the script, Q is working with Bond side by side.

Q would venture out into the field to assist Bond directly in Licence to Kill.

A few more things of note:

–No Dick Tracy joke when a police captain tries to arrest Bond. In the script, the captain is in plain clothes, rather than a uniform as in the movie.

–Some lines of dialogue between Zorin and Mortner in the blimp were switched between this script and the final film.

–The scene where May Day, having been betrayed by Zorin, sacrifices herself reads flat. It has the dialogue (“Jump! “Have to hold the brake off…..Get Zorin for me!”). But it’s mostly explaining how we get from point A to point B.

After reading the script, I again watched the scene in the movie. Roger Moore and Grace Jones did a lot more with it than what was written. It’s possible director John Glen influenced that (an observation from reader Matthew Bradford made on The Spy Command page on Facebook). Also, having a John Barry absolutely increased the drama. I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie but you couldn’t tell it by reading the script.

–At the end, it’s the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and not Gogol (as in the movie) who is visiting M (who “looks very glum,” according to the stage directions).

“The president is most anxious to personally thank Mr Bond and inform him he will be the first foreigner ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor,” the U.S. ambassador says. In the final film, Gogol shows up with the Order of Lenin for Bond.

Bond is missing, which accounts for the sad mood at MI6. But, as in the movie, Q is on the job (and still in San Francisco) using the Snooper to track Bond down. In the script, Q shuts off the monitor and quickly calls M. In the film, the gag would be extended for a bit.

Another View (to a Kill): Roger Moore’s farewell

A View to a Kill's poster

A View to a Kill’s poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer
Three decades have passed since Roger Moore bid farewell to the role of James Bond with A View to a Kill, directed by John Glen.

The film had a striking marketing campaign, an effective cast and realistic action sequences, but nowadays it remains hidden in the hall of shame by many Bond fans.

There are issues: Roger was getting old, turning 57 during production. The film is way too Americanized. See the “Dick Tracy” police captain lifted out of an Police Academy film. Bond has lost his mystery and his lethal side compared to the Sean Connery days, perhaps.

But why is it that some Bond fans still keep A View to a Kill close to their heart?

Maybe because it’s Roger Moore’s Bond farewell party – and it is done with a lot of style: KGB, explosions, ski chases, dances into the fire, lots of women, luxury, exotic locations. Moore said goodbye in his way.

Delivering punches to his adversaries like when he played The Saint, drinking his trademark Bollinger champagne, smiling to young ladies with his rather evident wrinkles and adopting a snobbish alias (James St John Smythe, pronounced Sin-jin Smythe), the third official 007 threw out a party and we were all invited, before the dark side of Timothy Dalton’s dangerous Bond debuted onscreen in 1987.

Music is a key element of every party. In the case of A View to a Kill we had not only master composer John Barry, but the popular teen idol band Duran Duran, with a rocking main title song that reached No. 1 in the U.S. charts.

Band member John Taylor confessed to be a Bond and Barry fan and approached the composer to sing the title song. Barry, surprised by the young man knowledge of his career, agreed. It was a hit. Every trailer and TV spot voiceover reminded the audience Duran Duran performed the title song.

Former KGB agent Max Zorin was effectively played by Christopher Walken, providing the first ruthless and fiercely violent villain on the series. He guns down his accomplices while trying to escape from a flooding mine and enjoys it. He orders an intruder thrown alive into a propeller. He tires to maim 007 atop the Golden Gate with an axe.

Grace Jones as May Day also provided a shake off as an exotic beauty, a deathly henchwoman who gets close –- literally — with the aging Moore. She was prominently featured in advertisements for the film which asked if James Bond had finally met his match.

On the other side, we had Stacey Sutton, portrayed by Tanya Roberts. Irresistible and charming, Roberts was perhaps not so memorable in acting, but definitively memorable in beauty and sweetness with every expression and glance with her incredible blue eyes.

The action sequences of the film took a realistic approach –- well, if we forget Moore used doubles — with Willy Bogner’s direction of the opening sequence in Siberia, where 007 escapes the KGB troops on skis, snowmobile and an improvised snowboard.

In the style of the Moore era of parodying popular culture (as the Close Encounters of the Third Kind tune in Moonraker or the Tarzan yell in Octopussy), a cover version of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” song is heard as 007 (actually stuntman Steven Link) “surfs” the snow successfully evading the KGB, but then the dramatic John Barry tune returns as Bond down a pursuing helicopter by shooting a flare into the cockpit.

Then we have Bond pursuing May Day through the Eiffel Tower and through the streets of Paris with a destroyed Renault and escaping the incinerated City Hall in San Francisco with his girl, in a thrilling scene where you’ll seriously wonder if he’ll survive or how he will do it.

A bit satirical and gag-filled scene is the part where Bond boards a fire truck and evades the police, yet Barry’s music brings needed drama to this sequence. Besides the Police Academy films with the silly cops, this action scene is unadultered Moore Bond fun, as is the fight atop the Golden Gate between Bond and his nemesis perpetuated on the film’s theatrical poster. A scene that is not out of drama, thrills, suspense and it still has Moore’s humorous touch.

The very last scene of Roger Moore as James Bond harkens back to the first shot we saw of him in 1973’s Live and Let Die: with a woman.

In his debut, Moore was with Italian agent Miss Caruso in his apartment following a mission. Unlike Sean Connery’s and George Lazenby’s detail close ups before their “Bond, James Bond” moment, Moore let himself be introduced in his incurable playboy fashion.

In A View to a Kill, 007, presumed missing, is sharing a shower with Stacey as Q’s robotic dog observes them. He throws a towel right over the device’s camera-eyes.

It’s pretty logical. The playboy won his girl on his farewell party.

007 things best to overlook while viewing Skyfall

Skyfall's poster image

“Don’t bother me with details, Bert!”

Skyfall is now out on home video on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and will be available soon worldwide after a Bond record-breaking run of $1.1 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

What does that mean? An opportunity for obsessive 007 fans to pause and check out the 23rd James Bond movie in even more detail. Most movies, even classic ones, have elements that are best to overlook.

For example, in 1952’s High Noon, embattled sheriff Gary Cooper spends an hour of screen time begging for people to help him. After his unsuccessful efforts, he then demonstrates he was so capable his time would have been better spent getting ready for the gang swearing revenge. But, if he had done that, there wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would there?

So in that spirit, here are some elements of Skyfall that are perhaps best overlooked while enjoying the hugely successfully 007 film:

001. Bond’s long fall near the end of the pre-credits sequence: Bond (Daniel Craig), shot by agent Eve (Naomie Harris) falls a looooong way from a bridge in Turkey. In fact, it’s at least as long, if not longer, that the fatal fall Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) took off the Golden Gate Bridge in A View To a Kill. On top of that, Bond then goes over a waterfall. Yet, he survives. Then again, it’d be a short movie if he didn’t, wouldn’t it?

002. M’s insubordination: After the main titles, M (Judi Dench), has a meeting with Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who helps oversee MI6 for the British government. Mallory says M is being eased out while having “a great run.” M spouts off that she’s not going to leave until she’s good and ready. In real life, Mallory would respond, “Then, you’re fired.” Then again, it’d be a short movie if that happened, wouldn’t it?

003. Bond’s culpability in Rapace’s killing spree in Shanghai:: Bond follows assassin Patrice (Ola Rapace) in Shanghai. Patrice kills a number of security guards and an art collector before Bond lifts a finger to stop him. Is the blood of those victims on Bond’s hands? That’s not really examined.

004. Bond’s lack of remorse when Severine is killed: Over the years, a number of women who allied themselves with Bond ended up dead. Jill and Tilly in Goldfinger come to mind. However, when they died, Bond registered a reaction. Ditto when fellow agent Paula was captured and took a poison capsule in Thunderball, and when Japanese agent Aki was poisoned by SPECTRE in You Only Live Twice.

Severine (Berenice Marlohe)? No reaction, although Bond gloats to Silva when the villain appears to be captured. One of Severine’s last lines is, “I’m sorry.” That takes on a whole new meaning in the Skyfall context.

005. M’s culpability in Silva’s killing spree in London: Tanner informs M, in the middle of a parliamentary hearing about MI6’s recent performance, that Silva has escaped. Does M let anybody know a terrorist with a group of trained killers is on the way? No. Instead, she reads a poem. That gives Silva and his men enough time to kill about a half-dozen police officers. Whether it’s five, six or seven is immaterial. You could argue that M’s ego resulted in multiple deaths.

006. The Aston Martin DB5: Bond drives M to a garage, where the Goldfinger-Thunderball, gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 awaits. This, in theory, undermines the whole “the series rebooted itself with Casino Royale” thing. Yet, based on our viewing with real theater audiences, this scene was one of the best received in the film. Clearly, audiences were more than willing to overlook the continuity problems introduced.

007. Was Bond’s mission a success or failure? If the mission was to kill (eventually) Silva, Bond’s mission was a success. If it was to protect M, it was a failure. At best, it’s a 50 percent success. M had agreed to be the Judas Goat in Bond’s plan, but did she really think she was going to be killed?

Daily Show does a (sort of) double 007

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart

Comedy Central’s The Daily Show did a (sort of) double 007 on its Jan. 24 edition.

First up: a clip from 1964’s Goldfinger, where James Bond (Sean Connery) was at the mercy of Auric Goldfinger, used as a joke during a segment concerning severe air pollution in China.

Host Jon Stewart made the point that Americans ought not be afraid of a nation of people who have become “instant smokers” because of China’s air pollution problems.

“We’ve got to stop being afraid of China and just think of them as another wheezing smoker,” Stewart said. “Very hard to be an evil arch villain with a heavy smoker’s cough.” That’s when the Goldfinger clip (Bond about to be dissected by Goldfinger’s laser beam) pops up. Stewart then talks about what it would have been like if Goldfinger kept hacking and couldn’t say, “No, I expect you to die.”

The second: Stewart’s featured guest was actor Christopher Walken, who played villain Max Zorin in 1985’s A View to a Kill, the final Roger Moore 007 film. No mention of Bond came up. But Walken is an interesting guy (among other things he mentioned how he still doesn’t use computers and doesn’t have his own cell phone) and the segment went by quickly.

You can CLICK HERE to see the entire Jan. 24 show. The Goldfinger gag comes up around the 11:24 mark. The Walken interview comes up at the 14:55 mark.

Purvis & Wade: who loves ya, baby?

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, having concluding a run of working on five James Bond movies, have been hired to script a Kojak film starring Vin Diesel, according to the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Here’s an excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is getting serious about Kojak, hiring the scribe team of Neal Purvis & Robert Wade to script a movie around the tough-talking, smooth scalped cop played by Telly Savalas on the CBS series. Vin Diesel, who just wrapped Fast And Furious 6 for the studio, will play the chrome-domed cop in the film, which he’s producing with Samantha Vincent for their Universal-based One Race Films.

The original 1973-78 series originated with a made-for-TV movie called The Marcus-Nelson Murders that first aired in March 1973. That original project was scripted by Abby Mann, an Oscar winning screenwriter, and directed by Joseph Sargent. It gave Telly Savalas, normally cast as villains (including 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), a chance to play a sympathetic role. The story was based on the Wylie-Hoffert murders, also known as the Career Girls Murders, which led to to Miranda warnings.

Director Sargent won an Emmy and a Directors Guild of America award for The Marcus-Nelson Murders while Mann was nominated for an Emmy.

The CBS series made Savalas a big star and, for a time, a sex symbol (starting in the second season he doffed neckties a lot and didn’t button the first button or two of his dress shirts). Kojak’s catchphrase was, “Who loves ya, baby?” Kojak, trying to quit smoking, frequently sucked lollipops. The cast included the star’s brother George as one of the New York City detectives that worked with Kojak. The first season of the series included Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel as guest stars. Richard Donner directed some episodes.

Savalas reprised the role in a some TV movies on ABC (part of a Mystery Movie revival that included Peter Falk as Columbo). There was also a brief revival series on cable television in 2005, starring Ving Rhames as Kojak.

To read the entire Deadline story, just CLICK HERE.

A View To a Kill, a reappraisal

If there ever were a James Bond movie that suffered from a split personality, it would be A View To a Kill, the 14th entry in the series produced by Eon Productions.

The 1985 007 film is not a favorite of HMSS editors. It was Roger Moore’s seventh, and final, appearance as Bond. A good many HMSS editors never liked Moore to begin with and weren’t about to cut him any slack. The actor was 56 when filming began and he’d celebrate his 57th birthday during production. But upon viewing the movie again, the future Sir Roger is the least of the movie’s problems.

How’s that? Well, Moore soldiers on despite the movie’s wildly uneven tone. Want a serious Bond? He does what the story calls for. Want a jokey Bond? The actor delivers. He gets the blame from fans for the uneven tone but that blame probably belongs elsewhere. Was he too old to play Bond? Easy to say in hindsight, but Moore didn’t hire himself. Perhaps it was a reward for 1983’s Octopussy doing better box office than the rival Never Say Never Again.

The pre-titles sequence, set in Siberia, is a microcosm of what follows. Some moments seem absolutely brilliant, with tension, drama and great stunts. Then the movie abruptly switches to slapstick, with Bond escaping Soviet soldiers, accompanied by a Beach Boys song (without the Beach Boys performing it). Then, we’re back to tense excitement as Bond gets out of his precarious situation followed by a light, if cheesy, moment.

The rest of the movie more or less follows this pattern. We get some yuks as Bond and Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) pose a vapid rich guy and his valet to infiltrate a horse auction held by villain Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). When Sir Godfrey ends up as the movie’s sacrifical lamb, Bond appears genuinely upset and PO’d with Zorin, looking like he really wants to kill the bad guy. Later, Bond and heroine Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) narrowly escape a Zorin deathtrap it’s appropriately tense (though Roberts’s screaming can be annoying). That’s followed up by a bad joke that breaks the fourth wall which also implies Stacey and a San Fancisco police captain know all about the famous James Bond. “Yeah and I’m Dick Tracy and you’re still under arrest!” the police captain says. And so on.

It’s almost as if director John Glen, with his third consecutive 007 outing, decided to, at times, channel Jules White, who helmed many of the classic short films of The Three Stooges. But at others, the movie takes on a very dark tone. One example: when Zorin and right-hand man Scarpine (Patrick Bauchau) gun down a work crew the villain has hired as part of his plot. It’s as if Glen, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Wilson couldn’t quite find the right mix of drama and humor so they opted to go extremes both ways.

Walken, as Zorin, also reflects the odd back-and-forth tone. At times, he seems like a true psychopath, at others as if he knows it’s a big joke and he’s playing along. Walken is a wonderful actor. Still, we’re also told that Zorin is French and speaks five languages without an accent. Then it’s revealed he’s the result of a genetic experiment held in a German concentration camp during World War II. Yet, we only hear Zorin speak in English with a Brooklyn accent. “MO-ah! Mo-ah POW-ah!” he proclaims after Bond has enared Zorin’s blimp at the Golden Gate Bridge in the film’s climax.

John Barry is the one member of the creative team who performs at his best. The composer, scoring consecutive 007 films for the first time since 1969 and 1971 (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever), does his best to elevate the proceedings and succeeds. Even when action sequences get too jokey at times, his music keeps things moving. If you ever hear somebody claim say that underscore in a movie doesn’t matter, A View To a Kill is Exhibit A that the opposite is true.

The movie was an end of an era. Besides Moore’s final 007 appearance, it was also the finale for Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny and she’s fine. Desmond Llewelyn’s Q reports for duty. In one shot in the final scene, he goes a bit over the top with a leering expression and askew headset, but that’s what his director presumably wanted. (“Desmond, as you do this scene, I want you to look like Curly Howard seeing a naked beautiful woman for the first time!”)

Finally, there’s an in-joke for those familiar with the business side of 007. Bond, desperately holding onto a rope attached to a blimp, has his manhood imperiled by the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. That structure was home to the conglomerate that formerly owned United Artists, the studio that released Bond films. Transamerica dumpted UA, selling it to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after the movie Heaven’s Gate bombed at the box office.

With A View To a Kill, there are times it’s as if a classic James Bond movie is fighting to get out. There are flashes here and there, but the film never escapes its wildly inconsistent tone. Life’s that way sometimes. Mo-ah POW-ah, indeed.

007’s homage to The Deer Hunter?

Over the weekend, two Bond fans (including one on our own staff) registered surprise when we said there was an homage to 1978’s The Deer Hunter in 1985’s A View To a Kill. Maybe we’re reading more into it, so judge for yourself.

A View To a Kill, in addition to being Roger Moore’s farewell to the 007 role, also included Christopher Walken as villain Max Zorin. Walken had won an Oscar as best supporting actor in The Deer Hunter. That movie had plenty of intense scenes, including this one where Walken and Robert De Niro, as American soldiers in the Vietnam War, are forced to play Russian Roulette by their captors:

Flash forward seven years to A View To a Kill. Deep into the movie, Zorin kills an official on his payroll. At the 1:27:19 mark of the film (or about 11 seconds into this video), Walken seems to briefly reference his Oscar winning performance: