A View to a Kill

“Okay — pant, pant — let me get my breath — gasp — “

WHO IS JAMES BOND? A very, very old man — older than M, it seems.  M at least carries his age with more dignity (which is, admittedly, more than I can say for Moneypenny).  Bond is saved only by his rug, which at least is more professional than anything Sean Connery ever came up with. When Bond jumps onto a snowboard, climbs up a flaming elevator shaft, clings to a flying metal object, dangles from a blimp or jumps on a horse, the schism between “actor” to “stuntman” could not be more apparent. I only wish that a similar trick could be pulled when Bond gets into bed with 30-year-old women.  In order to deflect attention away from the crinkly skin now covering his entire face, Roger Moore smiles a lot and, when he’s not smiling, pulls looks of bug-eyed surprise.  It’s scary.

WHAT DOES THE BAD GUY WANT? Max Zorin wants to flood Silicon Valley and corner the microchip industry. Unfortunately for the viewers of A View to a Kill, this scheme is not revealed, nor even hinted at, until a good hour into the movie.

WHAT DOES BOND ACTUALLY DO TO SAVE THE WORLD? Bond retrieves a stolen microchip from another 00 agent in Siberia, who was trying to get it out of the USSR before he died somehow. Zorin is the manufacturer of the microchip. Bond investigates Zorin and finds that he is — gasp! — fixing horseraces. That devious so-and-so! Fixing horseraces? That won’t do! Her Majesty’s Secret Service must investigate, lest, um, lest — um — hmmm….

Anyway, Bond suspects that Zorin is giving his horse steroids, which has nothing to do with microchips. He travels to Paris to meet with a detective investigating Zorin.

QUERY:  You’re a professional killer.  You need to kill a detective, somewhere in Paris. It needs to be foolproof and undetectable, and you need a swift, untraceable getaway. What do you do? What do you do? If you answered “Kill the detective with a poisoned butterfly dangled from a fishing pole, in clear view of hundreds of people, during a cabaret act at the top of the Eiffel Tower,” congratulations! You could win a top position on Max Zorin’s staff of assassins!

Bond, determined to get to the bottom of this world-shaking horse-race-fixing scheme, travels to Zorin’s ginormous country manse in rural France, posing as a horse-breeding guy. Having already married one Avenger, he now teams up with the other — with exactly the same results, the death of his partner. Bond 2, Avengers 0. He meets a bunch of people and stumbles across Zorin’s infernal horse-steroid vet lab. The blackguard! A secret steroid lab! Some guards chase after him and he stumbles across — hey! A secret microchip-hoarding warehouse! What a break! The World’s Greatest Detective is back, wandering around sumptuous locations, stumbling into rooms and uncovering fiendish plots! Why, Zorin is hoarding a valuable commodity, of his own manufacture! It’s unheard of! We must investigate!

And here the movie begins. Bond goes to San Francisco to investigate some oil pipelines Zorin has bought. The pipelines have been re-purposed to pump sea water from the ocean to somewhere inland. Bond goes to City Hall, posing as a reporter for the London Financial Times. There, he just happens to bump into a young woman named Stacy Sutton, whom he had met before at Zorin’s manse. Stacy Sutton, alas, cannot possibly be of any importance to the plot because her name is not a smutty pun. If her name were, say, Eatmy Drippingcooze, she’d have a shot. Despite this tragic flaw, Bond, faultless detective radar on full-strength, tails Sutton to her empty country house. Sutton, who looks like she’d have a hard time hitting her mark in a photo studio, we learn works as a State Geologist ever since her mine-owner father lost a proxy battle with Zorin to keep control of his abandoned silver mine.

So, for those of you still interested, here is the story so far: FIXED HORSE RACE leads to COUNTRY MANSE which leads to SECRET STEROID LAB which leads to MICROCHIP HOARD which leads to OIL PUMPS which leads to CITY HALL which leads to NON-PORN-NAME BOND GIRL, which leads to, you’re way ahead of me, ZORIN PLANTING A GIGANTIC BOMB IN STACY’S DAD’S ABANDONED SILVER MINE, CAUSING AN EARTHQUAKE THAT WILL FLOOD SILICON VALLEY.

Bond and Stacy then travel out to Zorin’s mine just in time to witness him planting the bomb and killing all of his workers. He minimizes the impact of the bomb, then catches up with the fleeing Zorin and blows up his blimp (no, that’s not a euphemism).

Now then, to give you an idea how far the Bond-movie plots have gone off the rails at this point, compare this detective plot (and I’m only telling the Bond part of it — I’m leaving out the whole dove-tailing KGB -agents-trying-to-kill Zorin subplot) with that of Goldfinger, which A View to a Kill cheerfully cannibalizes to no avail. At the beginning of Goldfinger, Bond catches Goldfinger hustling gin in Miami and spoils one of his games. The scene takes five minutes and we’re off to the races. After that, Bond gets caught investigating Goldfinger’s smuggling operation and spends the rest of the movie as Goldfinger’s prisoner. In A View to a Kill, we spend 45 minutes getting to the bottom of Zorin’s horse-race-fixing scheme, which is not only entirely too long but has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

HOW COOL IS THE BAD GUY? I’m pleased to announce that Max Zorin is very cool indeed and is one of the only reasons to watch A View to a Kill. Chris Walken looks happier to be there than, I’m serious, any Bond Villain in history — even Gert Frobe looks like he feels like he’s slumming as Goldfinger. But Walken grabs the part by the lapels and shakes it ’til its brains fall out, as though he cannot think of a higher calling for an actor than to play a Bond Villain. We get a good dozen or so classic Walken line-readings, his sense of amusement and superiority are palpable, and the look on his face as he mercilessly guns down hundreds of mine workers is unforgettable.  If Max Zorin’s hobby was dancing instead of martial arts, this might be Chris Walken’s greatest role ever.

Who is Max Zorin, now? I’m glad you asked. He’s the product of a WWII Nazi biological experiment who grew up to become a psychotic KGB agent, in which capacity he became a gigantic microchip tycoon — who else would he be? And although Bond duly blows up his blimp, I’m pleased to announce that Zorin Industries is alive and well.

His Second Villain is Grace Jones, who actually does pretty good for herself.

Zorin gets points for staging at least one semi-realistic Bond Assassination Attempt, when he locks Bond in his car and dumps it into a lake.  But it’s unexplained why he shows up at San Francisco’s City Hall ready to firebomb the place, coincidentally when Bond and Stacy are there.

WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE: Bond arrives at Zorin’s ginormous country manse.  He points to a non-descript building and asks someone, “Are those the stables?”  The someone says “Ah, no, the stables are that way,” and re-directs his attention to A HUMUNGOUS  STRUCTURE, MERE YARDS AWAY, COMPLETE WITH PADDOCK, WITH DOZENS OF HORSES COURSING UPON IT.

NOTES: How deeply uncool is this Bond movie?  It contains a hip, knowing reference to My Fair Lady, that’s how deeply uncool.

When Bond jumps in the sack with Grace Jones, one can’t help but feel deeply uncomfortable, not because Jones is an assassin but because they play “God Save the Queen” on the soundtrack — implying that Bond can only screw a black woman if he holds his breath, bites his lip and thinks of Her Majesty.

When Bond gets to his room at Zorin’s country manse, he and his partner sweep the room for bugs.  This scene is repeated in a half-dozen other Bond movies and I can’t help but wonder why.  There is never anything particularly thrilling about Bond discovering listening devices in his room, yet they keep dragging this scene out of the vault and, what’s worse, keep shooting it the exact same way.  Bond always comes in the door from the right to the left, always crosses to the bed on the left, always has a plan for when he finds the bug.  Does market research indicate the overwhelming popularity of this scene?

Bond, running desperately low on detective skills, poses as a man named “Stock — James Stock.”  Because, you know, stock, bond, stock, bond — get it?  “James Stock” is the reporter who comes by to investigate Stacy Sutton, and who later comes back to discuss Zorin’s evil scheme with Stacy and a CIA agent.  And yet, it’s another 20 minutes or so before Bond finally tells Stacy that he’s not a reporter after all — after he’s saved her life twice and briefed her with the CIA agent.  All of which tells me that the list of applicants for the job of State Geologist for California must be very short indeed.

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30 Responses to “A View to a Kill
  1. curt_holman says:

    The thing that I remember most about A View to a Kill is the ripped-off feeling when Bond and May Day never actually FOUGHT.

  2. craigjclark says:

    My two favorite scenes in this film:

    1) Patrick Macnee, posing as Bond’s driver (and cast, I imagine, in an unsuccessful bid to make Moore look young and virile in comparison), is just finishing washing the car, at which point Bond happens along and tells him he needs to go into town. What excuse can he give for leaving the estate, Macnee asks. You need to get the car washed, says James. And so Macnee, who has felt put upon the whole time by having to pose as Bond’s servant, sighs and tosses the bucket of filthy water on the sparkling car.

    2) Christopher Walken is on his blimp, revealing his nefarious plan to his mostly horrified backers. One of them, in a fit of conscience, rises and declares that he’ll have no part of it. Walken regretfully tells the man that he’ll have to wait outside while he outlines the rest of his plan. Of course, as there is no outside on the blimp, the man gets unceremoniously thrown out. Walken turns to the rest of the backers. “Anybody else want to drop out?” In anybody else’s hands, that could have been a totally cheesy line. As delivered by Walken, it’s hilarious.

    One thing I should add about this film: for the first time since Live and Let Die, the Bond theme song has actually been written and performed by a rock group. So many of the theme songs from the ’60s and ’70s are interchangeable and probably appear on heavy rotation on your local soft rock station. Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill,” though, positively screams “THIS IS 1986!”

    Also, I was always amused by the video for the song, which was set around the Eiffel Tower, and ended with somebody asking the lead singer who he was. He, of course, replies “Bon. Simon Le Bon.” This is the only reason why I remember who the lead singer for Duran Duran is.

  3. teamwak says:

    The Paris opening is pretty cool, and I still want to visit that stately home (or own if I win the lottery). I agree with you about Grace Jones too.

    Its quite a good dastardly plan. I always liked that. And one of the girls was called Jenny Flect. Always made me laugh.

  4. eronanke says:

    The best is how, at the end, the BLIMP sneaks up on Bond and Sutton. Like, they couldn’t hear it a mile away.

    Easily the best Bond movie with a Blimp.

    • Todd says:

      Yeah, my favorite line is “Stacy! Behind you!”

      • eronanke says:

        It immediately became this huge joke amongst my friends – resulting in this icon which a friend uses.

        • Todd says:

          If Zorin ever gets his hands on the technology that makes Bond’s car invisible in Die Another Day, none of us are safe.

          • eronanke says:

            It’s ridiculous- he’s supposed to be a SUPERSOLDIER, etc, a eugenics wet dream, but he thinks a BLIMP is adequate means of transportation.

            It makes me go :wtf:

            That being said, Blimps are awesome.

            • Todd says:

              I would think that a super-soldier wouldn’t care whether or not his transport is efficient — he can take on anything! Except a fall from a great height.

              While you were wondering how he thought he could sneak up on super-spy with a blimp, I was wondering why his blimp wasn’t outfitted with machine-gun turrets or a laser cannon. The fuck kind of supervillain is he?

    • greyaenigma says:

      Oh, the huge manatee

      Hey, blimps are quiet.

  5. planettom says:

    I for some reason enjoy this film, even though it’s a remake of GOLDFINGER the way THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is a remake of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

    I’m glad Roger Moore ended his Bond reign with this film rather than OCTOPUSSY.

    One improvement over GOLDFINGER is that, after the Supervillain reveals his intricate model of Silicon Valley aboard the blimp to his associates, he doesn’t kill them all. It is a bit odd in GOLDFINGER, where, after revealing his model of Fort Knox, letting the one guy drop out (and having Oddjob kill him and crush him in his car)… he then proceeds to gas all the other gangsters to death. For this he had someone build an enormous scale model of Fort Knox under a flip panel in the floor? If he’s going to kill them all anyway, why bother to let the one guy drop out and crush him in his car?

  6. strangemuses says:

    Christopher Walken is the ONLY reason to see this movie. Personally, I’ve decided that Max Zoran was such a cool villain that he was able to survive that fall from the blimp and he is, even now, hanging around somewhere plotting some insane and marvelous scheme.

  7. I think you forgot that Pussy Galore was an Avenger…

  8. serizawa3000 says:

    That Zorinco logo looks weirdly similar to the logo on the Zorin blimp… I also remember the disclaimer before the movie began about the whole “this Zorin is not meant as a smack at the real Zorin” or whatever…

    • Todd says:

      That disclaimer is still there on the DVD; I had no idea there was a real Zorin or that he seems to have swiped his logo from Max.

  9. Aw, come on. It’s not Grace’s blackness that requires the biting of the lip and the “God Save the Queen.” Be fair, now. I don’t even think he’s sure she’s a woman at that point.

    Speaking of being a woman, I have to confess the Duran Duran theme is probably #3 or 4 on my “All-Time-Best-Bond-Themes” list. There. Sue me.

    • josh_emery says:

      Leave me out of this.

    • craigjclark says:

      Consider yourself in litigation, sir.

      Actually, I quite like “A View to a Kill,” too. I also like a-ha’s “The Living Daylights,” after which I lost track of who was doing Bond theme songs (just as I stopped paying attention to Bond films in general).

  10. “When Bond jumps in the sack with Grace Jones, one can’t help but feel deeply uncomfortable, not because Jones is an assassin but because they play ‘God Save the Queen’ on the soundtrack — implying that Bond can only screw a black woman if he holds his breath, bites his lip and thinks of Her Majesty.”

    That sounds so awkwardly hilarious.

    • uthuze says:

      Yeah, I always read that as “Bond grits his teeth because she’s muscular and manly”, not “Bond grits his teeth because she’s black”. She dramatically rolls on top of him and we see her back muscles flex. I think the whole idea is that Bond isn’t used to surrendering to strong women.

  11. greyaenigma says:

    Re: Oh, the huge manatee

    What, that URL isn’t letting you in? I wonder whyever not.

    Try this one instead.

  12. markteppo says:

    For a long time, a pal of mine and I used to claim this is the film where Walken earned the nickname “One Take Walken,” but in the intervening years, I’m coming to realize that it isn’t so much that Walken’s Give A Shit Meter is at zero, but that he really does go Somewhere Else when he delivers lines. It’s a bit of Zen Mastery that borders on genius.

    These Bond assessments have been hilarious, btw. Thank you.