The James Bond Films - 1981-1992 Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The James Bond Films - 1981-1992

2 Conversations

  • The first part of this entry covers the story of the James Bond films from Dr No in 1962 up to the retirement of Sean Connery after You Only Live Twice in 1967.

  • In the second part, the story covers George Lazenby's one film, Sean Connery's brief return, and Roger Moore's 1970s Bond films.

After 1979's Moonraker, Roger had decided to resign...

More of Moore

With Roger apparently gone, the search began for a new Bond, and a number of screen-tests took place, including Michael Jayston, who eventually got to play the part on the radio ten years later. However, the personal intervention of producer Cubby Broccoli and the heads of United Pictures eventually led to Roger's return to the role, in what was to be one of his best performances as Bond.

For Your Eyes Only

Bond: Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.
Q: That's putting it mildly, 007.

As the script for For Your Eyes Only had been written on the understanding that there would be a new Bond, the opening scene was designed to link the new actor to Bond's history - Bond is seen leaving flowers at the grave of his dead wife, Tracy. His reverie is soon interrupted as he is whisked off in a helicopter, allegedly to some emergency or other, but in reality it turns out to be a deathtrap organised by an 'anonymous' villain. The villain in question, who is in a wheelchair and only ever seen from behind, bears an uncanny resemblance to Bond's arch-enemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, as last seen in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. For legal reasons, the character could not be positively identified as Blofeld - rival Bond producer Kevin McLory had taken out an injuction on the name, as well as all other references to secret organization SPECTRE. The implication is, however, unmistakeable, and there is a certain sense of closure when Bond drops the villain to his death down a chimney. Sadly, in typical Moore-era style, the moment is almost ruined by the unnecessarily humorous overtones. Still, Bond can probably relax a little knowing that, both in the fictional and real worlds, he is never likely to be bothered by SPECTRE again1.

Fortunately, the main body of the film, the first to be directed by former Bond editor John Glen, is far better. Bond is sent on a mission to recover the ATAC - a device used for signalling nuclear submarines - which has gone missing after the sinking of a British spy-ship. The agent originally trying to locate the ATAC is killed, and his daughter Melina (Carole Bouquet) has vowed revenge. Bond and Melina recover the ATAC from the wrecked ship but are captured by smuggler Kristatos (Julian Glover2), who is planning to sell the ATAC to the Soviet Union. With the help of Kristatos' smuggling rival, Columbo (Topol), Bond and Melina carry out an assault on Kristatos' mountain-top hideaway. Bond recovers the ATAC and, rather than letting it fall into Soviet hands, destroys it.

Sadly, FYEO was to be the first Bond film without Bernard Lee, who had played Bond's boss, 'M', since Dr No and had died shortly before filming began. As a mark of respect, the character of M did not appear in the film.

The return to more 'old-fashioned' Bond, with suspense and characterisation replacing the 'gadgets and laughs' formula, was a definite success, with fans, critics and audiences alike.


Suddenly, in 1983, Bond was facing competition - from himself. Kevin McLory's long-threatened plan to remake Thunderball had finally reached fruition. McLory's film, Never Say Never Again3, starring Sean Connery, was originally scheduled to open at exactly the same time as Octopussy, putting old friends Roger and Sean in a potentially awkward position. In the end, Never was delayed and Octopussy won the day.

Octopussy opens with Bond undercover in an unidentified South American country4. After being discovered, he makes his escape in a miniature jet aircraft - the smallest in the world at that time. Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, General Orlov (Steven Berkoff) is disgusted by the improving relations with the West. He plots with wealthy Indian jewel smuggler Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan) to smuggle a nuclear bomb onto a US airbase, using the jewel smuggling activities of cult-leader Octopussy (Maud Adams) as a cover. Bond, following a trail from a fake Faberge egg recovered by agent 009 eventually joins forces with Octopussy, revealing Orlov and Khan's plan to her. Bond deactivates the bomb, timed to go off while Octopussy's travelling circus is performing at the airbase. Bond, with the help of Octopussy's army, and Q, finally rescues Octopussy from Khan.

For this film, the role of 'M' was finally taken over by Robert Brown, who had made a brief appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me as Admiral Hargreaves. The leading lady, Maud Adams, earned the distinction of being the only woman to appear as two different 'Bond girls', possibly as compensation for putting in one of the few decent performances in the otherwise fairly awful The Man With the Golden Gun. Octopussy also features the film debut of ex-tennis professional Vijay Armitraj as Bond's contact in India, who is brutally killed by Khan's men.

Despite the rivalry with Never Say Never Again, Octopussy was another box-office hit, particularly in the USA, where it led to renewed interest in the Bond films. Never went on to perform well when it opened later in the year but, as always, the real Bond came out on top.

A View To A Kill

Despite Roger's claims that Octopussy would be his last Bond film, he signed on once more for 1985's A View To A Kill. It is generally agreed that this was, in retrospect, a mistake on Roger's part. By this time he was beginning to show his age, and the film was not one of his best - a shame for the man who had been in some of the biggest and best Bond films of the series.

In A View To A Kill, Bond is sent after millionaire Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), who is suspected of supplying information about a new type of microchip to the USSR. Posing as a horse dealer, Bond and MI6 agent Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) investigate Zorin's estate, where Zorin is using drugs to win horse races. Bond escapes and teams up with Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), whom Zorin is trying to bribe into selling her shares in an oil company. Bond learns that Zorin plans to destroy Silicon Valley, thus leaving the microchip market free for his company to dominate. Eventually, Bond manages to defeat the scheme with the help of Zorin's former mistress May Day (Grace Jones). Zorin himself is killed in a final battle on top of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

As well as being Roger's last film, A View To A Kill was also the final appearance of Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny. At that point, Maxwell was the only actor to appear in all the Bond films since Dr No, but with a younger Bond about to be recruited, the producers sadly said goodbye.

All in all, A View To A Kill was not terribly successful. The slapstick comedy that had almost been eradicated from the previous two films was starting to creep back in, and many of the performances were unconvincing. What the series needed was a fresh start and a new Bond. The producers initially approached Pierce Brosnan, who was keen to take on the role, having just finished his last series of detective series Remington Steele. The producers of that series, capitalising on the new publicity around Pierce, decided to use his contract to start a new series, forcing him to give up Bond. Unfortunately for Pierce, the new series of Remington Steele was cancelled shortly afterwards, leaving him to rue his missed opportunity.

The Dalton Years

As a replacement for the unavailable Pierce Brosnan, the producers went back to Welsh actor Timothy Dalton, who had turned the part down some 14 years previously. This time, Timothy accepted and set about creating his adaptation of Bond. He went back to Ian Fleming's books and decided to portray Bond in a more serious way than Roger had. Opinion is divided as to whether his approach succeeded, some praising Timothy's darker interpretation of the role, others criticising him for being too serious and unable to deliver Bond's puns and one-liners convincingly.

The Living Daylights

The Living Daylights has one of the most convoluted plots of any Bond film to date. Bond is initially assigned to protect Soviet defector Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe). The defection succeeds, although Bond is reprimanded for failing to kill an 'assassin' who was apparently trying to kill Koskov. Back in Britain, Koskov reveals that Soviet General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) has reactivated the old smiert spionom ('death to spies') operation. Bond is therefore assigned to kill Pushkin. Meanwhile, Koskov is snatched from the British safehouse, allegedly by the KGB, but in fact by Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), a hit-man employed by American arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker). Bond finds Pushkin and, instead of killing him, fakes his death to bring Koskov and Whitaker out into the open. To track the villains down, Bond teams up with Koskov's girlfriend Kara (Maryam d'Abo) by pretending to be an old friend of Koskov. Eventually, Bond and Kara find themselves at a Soviet military base in Afghanistan. Koskov and Whittaker have used Soviet money to buy diamonds, which they plan to trade for heroin, allowing them to turn a quick profit. Bond convinces the leader of the Afghan resistance (Kamran Shah, played by Art Malik) to help him defeat Koskov's plan. Finally, Bond tracks Koskov and Whitaker to Tangier, where Bond kills Whitaker, leaving Pushkin to arrest Koskov.

To try to link Timothy with the previous Bonds, Daylights saw the return of an Aston Martin, complete with missiles, lasers and a rocket motor. Daylights also saw the first appearance of Bond's CIA contact Felix Leiter (played this time by John Terry) since Live and Let Die 14 years earlier. One notable goodbye in Daylights was the character of General Gogol, who had been played by Walter Gotell in several Bond films. Previously head of the KGB, Gogol was now a member of the Soviet foreign office - a reduced part due to Gotell's ill health. In fact, Gotell's first appearance in a Bond film was a brief cameo as a member of SPECTRE way back in 1963's From Russia With Love.

An interesting feature of Daylights is the reduction in the number of Bond girls. Apart from a brief fling in the pre-credits sequence, Bond's only partner in the film is Kara. Although the producers denied it at the time, this is widely accepted as a concession to AIDS - the 'safe sex' publicity campaigns were at their peak at around the same time.

Daylights was a bigger success than A View To A Kill, but critics were not overly enthusiastic. While Timothy's acting ability was widely praised, his portayal of the role was different from both Roger's and Sean's and was going to take some getting used to. Sadly, Timothy's second Bond film was also his last.

Licence to Kill

Felix Leiter: He was married once... but that was a long time ago

By 1989, the producers had finally run out of Ian Fleming titles to use for their films. Of course, they had stopped using Fleming's plots many years previously, but Licence to Kill was the first Bond film with an original title.

The film opens at the wedding of Felix Leiter (David Hedison). Leiter and his best man, Bond, are delayed by the news that drug baron Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) is about to be captured. Bond and Felix succeed in their mission, and parachute into the wedding just in time. Unfortunately, Sanchez escapes and takes revenge by killing Leiter's wife and mutilating Leiter himself in a shark attack. Refused permission to go after Sanchez, Bond resigns from the secret service and sets out on a personal vendetta. With the help of ex-CIA pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and Q, who takes a vacation to assist Bond, Bond persuades Sanchez to employ him as a 'trouble-eliminator'. Having gained Sanchez's trust, Bond is taken to his heroin production facility. Bond destroys the plant and pursues Sanchez, who has left with his heroin hidden in oil tankers. Eventually Bond catches up with Sanchez, but it is Sanchez who has the upper hand. Fortunately for Bond, Sanchez is soaked in petrol from the tankers, which allows Bond to use the lighter given to him by Felix and his wife as a present to set Sanchez on fire. Bond has achieved his revenge.

Licence To Kill began life as Licence Revoked, and publicity material was prepared based on that title. When market research showed that, on hearing it, people assumed it was referring to a driving licence, the title was quickly changed... Licence also ran into trouble with the censors over some of its more violent scenes. Some, such as the scene in which Sanchez locks his associate Krest (Anthony Zerbe) in a decompression chamber until his head explodes, were cut in some countries. In the UK, Licence became the first Bond film to be rated as a '15'5.

For the part of Felix Leiter, the producers brought back David Hedison, the best of the various actors to play the character over the years. This gives the character some continuity, which is important as the audience has to believe that Bond would jeopardise his career and his life to avenge his friend. Licence also features Desmond Llewellyn's largest role to date. Despite the apparent animosity that has always existed between Bond and Q, when Bond is in trouble, Q is prepared to grab a handful of useful gadgets and set off to help him out.

After the release of Licence, the Bond franchise ran into legal trouble, with a lengthy court battle between Cubby Broccoli's company Eon and MGM/UA. It was to be 3 years before the problems were resolved and planning of a new Bond film could begin. In the meantime, Cubby Broccoli had retired as producer, passing the job on to his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G Wilson. More importantly, Timothy decided that he would not play the part any more. Despite only making two films, he had been associated with the role for seven years and he felt that this was enough. So, yet again, the search was on for the man who could play Bond...

James Bond Will Return

  • the fourth part, which takes the Bond story from 1994 to 2002

  • ...and the fifth part, which takes the story from 2006 to the present day and examines some of Bond's imitators and competitors.

1Although a version of SPECTRE, run by Blofeld's niece, has been revived by John Gardener in his Bond novels.2Another of the many actors to originally audition for the role of Bond in the 1960s.3The name is a sly reference to Sean Connery's claim some years earlier that he would never play Bond again.4Although, as the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina was still a recent memory, it doesn't take much to work out what the producers were getting at.5That is, only people aged 15 and over can legally see it in a cinema, or buy or rent the film on video/DVD.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more