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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Shaken not Stirred, a history of 007: Part Four - the 1980s

The moment many felt Bond became history (Photo: Sue Ream)


For at least the first half of the decade, many people wondered if they were going to be still alive by the end of it, or if they would be killed in a Third World War that turned nuclear. This possible fate for humanity and what might happen after it was explored by a large number of works, in cinematic releases (Red Dawn), TV movies (The Day AfterThreads), novels, songs, war games (although these tended to focus on conventional superpower conflict) and the increasingly popular, albeit misunderstood by certain sections of society, medium of the table-top roleplaying game (Twilight 2000[1]).


The continuing Cold War also provided a big focus for entertainment. After the sci-fi boom of the late 1970s petered out, action and espionage become popular on TV, with a number of very good and not so good shows produced during this decade.


This was a prolific decade for 007 – five films (one less than the next two decades combined), a whole batch of continuation novels, an RPG and even the first Bond video games. During this time, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took increasing roles in the Bond family.


However, as the decade opened, a big problem was brewing for the studio that produced Bond.


(As I have not read most of the non-Fleming novels, these will not be covered in any real depth)




As the Cold War turned hotter, the 1980 Moscow Olympics were widely boycotted by Western nations, although the British team did compete under the Olympic flag. Jimmy Carter was defeated in his bid for re-election by former actor Ronald Reagan in an Electoral College landslide after a fractious primary process and strong performance by independent John B. Anderson. Also instrumental in his defeat was a botched attempt to rescue 52 Americans held hostage in Iran that ended with a collision between a helicopter and a C-130 resulting in the deaths of 8 US servicemen.


Saddam Hussein started an eight-year war with Iran.


United Artists spent $44m on an Western film called Heaven’s Gate. Unfortunately, the film had massive negative publicity, was panned by critics, pulled from cinemas after a week, re-released in a shorter cut the following year and got panned again. It flopped massively at the box office – making only $3m when it closed. UA made a major loss for that year and its parent company, Transamerica Corporation sold it to MGM. While the UA name would survive, its days as an independent studio came to an end. In addition, director Michael Cimino’s career still has not recovered from the film (he has not directed since 1996), the Western declined massively in cinemas and the animal abuse in the movie led to a radical change in practices. Thus, this movie joins the select few that killed their studios due to poor returns[2].


The MGM sale of UA also meant it got its library of pictures, including the Bond films.


Meanwhile, Roger Moore wasn’t looking likely to come back for a fifth film – he’d been operating on a film-by-film contract. EON looked around at a number of candidates, including Michael Jayston (who would play Bond in a BBC radio version of You Only Live Twice in 1985), Timothy Dalton and James Brolin. Maryam d’Abo played Tatiana Romanova in the screen tests – yes, you’ll be hearing her name again.  They also drew up a pre-titles sequence to introduce a new Bond, before persuading Moore to come back for another go.




Ronald Reagan became President, minutes before the 52 hostages were released. He survived an assassination attempt, but Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was not so lucky. Martial law was imposed in Poland to deal with the increasing activity of trade union Solidarity. Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, the US shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra and ten IRA members starved themselves to death in prison, most notably Bobby Sands (who got elected as an MP during the process, leading to a law change to prevent something like this happening again). A Soviet ‘Whiskey’-class submarine ran aground in Swedish territorial waters, causing a standoff with Stockholm until the boat was towed off.


It was a very busy year, but at least the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest.


At the beginning of the year, after filming had begun but before his scenes came up, Bernard Lee died. Out of respect, the role of M was not recast for this new darker take on 007, his scenes going to his Chief of Staff, Bill Tanner (his first appearance).


With insufficient plot from the short story, a second of Fleming’s tales, Risico, was combined to make the first Bond movie of the 1980s…


For Your Eyes Only (film)


“The Chinese have a saying: ‘before you set out on revenge, you first dig two graves’”[3] – James Bond, advising Melina Havelock


When a British spy ship carrying a communication system for talking to missile submarines sinks off the Albanian coast, Bond has to find it before the Russians do. He teams up with marine archaeologist Melina Havelock, whose parents were murdered while looking for this and is highly proficient with a crossbow…


·         The PTS sees a bald wheelchair-bound man clearly intended to be Blofeld (in a calculated insult to McClory) trying to kill Bond via remote-controlling a helicopter. Bond dumps him down a factory chimney, killing him. This was intended to introduce a new Bond had Moore not signed up.

·         Sheena Easton appears in the credits sequence singing the title song, which was Oscar-nominated. No Bond movie has received a nomination since, although some think Skyfall is due one.

·         This film features not only one, but two actors who would get big roles in Game of Thrones – Julian Glover and Charles Dance.

·         A 14-year old character by the name of Bibi Dahl (groan) attempts to seduce Bond. Bond, demonstrating he has some standards, turns her down.

·         This is probably the only spy movie which features a car chase involving a Citroen 2CV. Bond’s Lotus got blown up.

·         One of Moore’s conquests in this movie is played by Cassandra Harris, then married to Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, she died of cancer before Brosnan took on the role.

·         The keelhauling sequence here from Live and Let Die is used here, although Carole Bouquet (Melina) had to have her close-ups done with blue screen and a fan due to sinus problems.


One of the best Moore films (and a personal fave of mine), FYEO saved UA from going bankrupt after pulling in a $190m gross, although that was well down on Moonraker.



A month before the release of the Bond film, Gildrose published the first of the continuation novels by an American author named John Gardner, entitled Licence Renewed. None of these novels have been adapted by EON (who have stated they are not planning to) but certain bits may have influenced later films. In these books, Bond operates in the present day, with earlier adventures implied to have taken place in the 1960s and 1970s.


Elsewhere, Steven Spielberg did the first Indiana Jones movie, with clear Bond influences – he had been approached to direct this year’s Bond, but this clashed with it.




Israel invaded Lebanon and British intelligence completely failed to anticipate the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, resulting in a two-month war that brought down the Argentine junta. Yuri Andropov stood down as Chairman of the KGB a few months before the death of Leonid Brezhnev, a move that aided him in succeeding him as Soviet leader.


In Britain, a former GCHQ employee called Geoffrey Prime was arrested for indecently assaulting children and in the process was found to have been passing considerable amounts of intelligence to the USSR. He was sentenced to 38 years with the judge at his trial (and also the one at his appeal) stating that in wartime, his actions would have been eligible for the death penalty and he would have no compunction in imposing it.[4]


Gardner’s second Bond novel, For Special Services, was published. This was the last one that was a big success, with a sharp decline in sales from here on in.


EON were undergoing their own case of For Legal Services – McClory was back in business. He’d managed to find a backer for his “renegade” Bond film in the form of Warner Bros and his co-producer Jack Schwartzman persuaded Sean Connery to star in it for $3m ($7m in 2012 dollars), a percentage of the profits and casting approval. An attempt by EON to stop the film in the courts failed, with McClory being allowed to produce the film, provided it was an essential Thunderball remake. One further attempt at stopping it by Fleming’s estate the following year failed as the film was well into a troubled production that required Schwartzman to use his own money to support the project.


With this film happening, there was no question of replacing the now 54 year old Roger Moore as Bond, who headed to India to produce a less serious Bond. While other actors were considered, Moore was lured back with a $4m basic salary (and a percentage) although he was now feeling he was getting too old for the role.




NATO deployed highly controversial cruise missiles in Western Europe, while Labour ran on an anti-nuclear platform in the British general election… where it achieved its worst result since 1945, Thatcher gaining a parliamentary majority of 144. A Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 after mistaking it for a spy plane and Moscow Centre came close to mistaking a radio comms exercise codenamed ABLE ARCHER 83 for the preparations for a surprise nuclear attack.[5]


A new espionage/action series arrived on US airwaves in this year: The A-Team. Across the pond, Thames Television aired a miniseries called Reilly, Ace of Spies, based on the life of Sidney Reilly, an early 20th century Russian-born Jew alleged to have spied for at least four nations and a possible model for 007, starring Sam Neill. It’s rather good actually.


The third continuation novel, Icebreaker was released – as was the first James Bond computer game, James Bond 007, released by Parker Brothers for three Atari  consoles, the Commodore 64 and the short-lived ColecoVision. This was a side-scrolling driving/shooting game that an indie developer could do easily today.


Also the gaming arena, Avalon Hill’s Victory Games arm published James Bond 007: Role-Playing In Her Majesty's Secret Service, a table top RPG system, which won an Origins Award. A number of adventures based on the films (with some plot points changed to surprise players) and supplements would be released until 1987, when their licence to publish lapsed.


Meanwhile, the press geared itself up for the ‘Battle of the Bonds’. While the two movies would not be released simultaneously (months apart in fact), there was much at stake in claiming the prize for the highest box office take.


Octopussy (film)


“Look, I haven't time for these adolescent antics” - Q


A crazy Soviet general teams up with an exiled Afghan prince to try to force the collapse of the NATO alliance. Bond teams up with a diamond smuggler to stop him.


·         The PTS sees Bond flying a real mini jet, the highlight being said jet flying through an aircraft hangar.

·         This is the first film in the series where the lyrics of the title song (“All Time High” by Rita Coolidge) do not mention the title of the film at all.

·         Robert Brown makes his first appearance as M. He played Admiral Hargreaves in TSWLM and fanon holds that this is the same character who became M.

·         Maud Adams becomes the first and so far only woman to have played two Bond girls on screen in EON films – although Nikki van der Zyl of course voiced a number in the early ones.

·         There is extensive location filming in India, with Vijay Amitraj (a well-known tennis player at the time) playing an MI6 agent who assists Bond.

·         The film takes elements from “The Property of a Lady” and “Octopussy” – the auction comes from the former, while the plot of the latter is used to explain the story of Octopussy’s father.

·         This is the final film in the series to have the name of the next film accompanying “James Bond Will Return…”


Arguably the last decent Moore film, this one has some great action sequences, some funny moments and a scene with James Bond dressed as a clown that actually is tense.


Never Say Never Again (film)


“Good to see you Mr Bond, things have been awfully dull around here...Now you're on this, I hope we're going to have some gratuitous sex and violence!” – Q (played by Alec McGowen)


It’s the same plot as Thunderball, only slightly updated. Also, I won’t do the seven points for this film, for the simple reason I haven’t seen it – although I plan to.



The Moore film won the box office battle by $23m, but the sum was down noticeably on the previous film. With McClory’s rights limited to a Thunderball remake, he wasn’t exactly in a position to challenge EON anytime soon. Unless of course, he decided to do another remake.




Yuri Andropov died and was replaced (against his wishes) by the ailing Konstantin Chernenko. Under his leadership, the USSR led a (much smaller) boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. A major famine broke out in Ethiopia – moving BBC news reports eventually led to the Live Aid concerts the following year. Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory against Walter Mondale, who had called for a ‘nuclear freeze’. The UK and China agreed that Hong Kong would be handed over in 1997.


The beginning of the year saw another spy action series arrive on CBS – Donald P. Bellarsio’s Airwolf[6].


Moore had planned to hang up his PPK after the last film and James Brolin was almost given the role before the former was persuaded back for one last go. Gardner released Role of Honour, which sees Bond get a large inheritance from his uncle (a continuity error – Bond has no living relatives) and go freelance for a bit.


A potential hitch arrived when the 007 Stage burned down at Pinewood – but it was rebuilt in less than four months, being renamed “The Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage”.




Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader, implementing policies of perestroika (restructuring of the economy) and glasnost (openness). Israel conducted an airstrike on PLO headquarters in Tunis after the murder of three Israelis on a yacht – there were many deaths and a big diplomatic outcry, with the US allowing a condemnatory UN Security Council resolution to pass by abstaining. In response, the PLO hijacked a cruise liner, murdering a disabled Jewish-American during the standoff before being allowed to board a commercial airliner bound for Tunisia – which then got intercepted by US naval jets and made to land in Italy, where the hijackers were arrested.


Rock Hudson became the first major celebrity to publicly die from HIV/AIDS, raising the profile of the relatively new disease considerably. This carried over into the Bond films – no longer would Bond sleep his way through an entire Swiss allergy clinic[8].


There was no Gardner novel this year, but there was one last Roger Moore film. Moore was now 57 and during filming, he learnt he was older than his leading lady’s mother – making it clear to him that it was really time to go. He was also unhappy with some of the violence in this movie with one of the craziest villains to date:


A View To A Kill (film)


“May I remind you that this operation was to be conducted discreetly. All it took was six million francs in damage and in penalties for violating most of the Napoleonic Code.” - M


The mad product of Nazi science (it sneers at plot logic![7]) wants to destroy Silicon Valley to dominate the world microchip industry… Bond teams up with a geologist who at times seems to have rocks for brains.


·         Duran Duran’s title song is the only Bond song to have ever gained a US number one - it’s one of the best bits of the film.

·         The “From” is dropped from the short story, which only lends its Paris setting to the title.

·         Christopher Walken plays main villain Max Zorin, who in one scene brutally guns down a whole batch of mine workers. Grace Jones also features as henchwoman May Day.

·         The film features a parachute jump off the Eiffel Tower. This sort of thing is normally illegal and when two crew members later did it, it cost them their jobs as it jeopardised the filming.

·         Tanya Roberts, who appeared in the last season of the original Charlie’s Angels, plays Stacey Sutton, a character so dumb she gets successfully ambushed by a blimp.

·         This is Lois Maxwell’s final appearance as Moneypenny – she did suggest she could become M, but Broccoli did not think audiences would accept that.

·         Then Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein (now US Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA and oddly the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence) allowed a huge amount of access to the film crew, including allowing scenes to be filmed inside City Hall – Cubby was so grateful, he insisted the world premiere take place there.  One scene at City Hall includes a shooting of an official – Feinstein became Mayor after the killings of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, Feinstein finding the bodies.


AVTAK has a poor reputation (it’s the lowest rated EON film on Rotten Tomatoes) – the villains are decent, but most of the rest of the cast isn’t… Moore is extensively stunt doubled in this one. That opinion may change on a re-watch. Box office dropped again, the film barely making more than five times its budget[9]


AVTAK also got a highly buggy game adaptation from Domark (which later ended up being part of Eidos) as well as a text adventure game from Mindscape. Elsewhere, Richard Dean Anderson’s show MacGyver began a seven-season reason, the titular character eschewing firearms and preferring to rely on his wits, plus ingenious uses of everyday objects.




After a Libyan bombing at a West Berlin nightclub killed three American soldiers and injured 230 other people, the US launches Operation El Dorado Canyon, a major (and complex) airstrike against a number of targets in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi narrowly survived, although his house was destroyed and he claimed his adopted daughter was killed in the attack (doubts have been raised since).


In the US, the Iran-Contra scandal began when it was revealed that the US was covertly selling arms to Iran (to get them to use their leverage to release American hostages in Lebanon, or at least that’s how it ended up) – then using the proceeds to arm the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. There were a number of convictions over the matter, although evidence that Reagan fully knew what was going on was not found – much of the documentation was shredded.


Mindscape published a text adventure game of Goldfinger, while Gardner released Nobody Lives Forever.


With Moore gone, the producers had to find Bond number four for the next film. They were initially interested in Timothy Dalton (with Sam Neill also auditioning), but he was committed to an adaption of the Brenda Starr comic strip, so they went for Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan had been playing the main role in NBC’s comedy drama Remington Steele, doing a good part of the job already. That show had just been cancelled, so all they needed to do was wait for the 60 day option to end…


Just before it did, NBC renewed the show hoping to cash in on the Brosnan hype – at which point Cubby decided he was not going to share his star with a TV series and withdrew the offer to Brosnan – who did five more Remington Steele episodes before the show finally got eaten by The Cancellation Bear (or rather one of his predecessors). A schedule re-jig allowed Dalton to do the next film after doing Brenda Starr[10] and he signed on the dotted line.


Timothy Dalton – the Marmite Bond


Timothy Dalton (1946-) is a James Bond who divides opinions, although fandom is increasingly moving in his favour. He played his Bond hard-edged and gritty, spitting out his one-liners. Dalton consciously chose to go as close to the books as possible in his portrayal – something most Bonds haven’t.


Born in Wales, he started off in theatre, doing some performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He did a fair bit of television as well, finally settling on screen acting and going to the US. His notable early credits include a role in camp classic Flash Gordon and Mr Rochester in a BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre. He was approached for Bond in 1968, but felt he was far too young for it.


Dalton did two films before the extended MGM legal problems put the franchise into its hiatus, deciding to leave before the next film got going. Since leaving the role, he has had a diverse career, ranging from Toy Story 3 to a recurring role on Chuck to a superbly hammy turn in the final David Tennant Doctor Who story “The End of Time”, where you can literally see the spray from his mouth on the HD version of part one.




37 US sailors were killed when their frigate was hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles. A German pilot managed to fly a microlight through Soviet airspace and land in Red Square, resulting in a lot of dismissals. At the end of the year, Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty eliminating the medium and intermediate range land-based missiles of the USSR and USA.


John Gardner’s next novel was called No Deals, Mr. Bond, while the inevitable video game was based on the film released this year, this one being viewed more positively than the previous Domark release.


The plot of the next film was originally going to be a reboot with Bond’s first mission, but Cubby thought better – so the screenwriters merely went for bigger and better…


The Living Daylights (film)


“Kara, we're inside a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan” – Bond, pointing out that freedom is relative


James Bond helps a Soviet defector get to the West, but the defector is kidnapped and 007 is embroiled in a complex plot involving diamonds, opium and guns, combined with an attempt to set British and Soviet intelligence at each other…


·         This is the last film of the 20th century to use a Fleming title – the short story only provides the first 15 minutes of the movie, the rest being a new plot.

·         Norwegian band a-ha sing the very good title song.

·         Maryam d’Abo plays Czech cellist Kara Milovy; she would later co-write a book on the Bond Girl. After the titles, Bond is a one-woman man for the whole film.

·         John Rhys-Davies plays General Pushkin, falsely accused of the assassinations of British operatives. Walter Gottell would have been doing this part as General Gogol, but illness limited him to a brief scene at the end.

·         Joe Don Baker plays evil General Whittaker – and would later appear as a different character in the first two Brosnan films.

·         Bond’s Aston Martin is actually two different models – a soft-top Volante which has then ‘winterised’ into a hard-top V8 (with Volante badges) by Q Branch.

·         The Hercules flight was originally going to end with an attempted landing on a US aircraft carrier – this got to storyboard stage before being dropped. Part of the Tangiers chase filming saw Bond ride a ‘magic carpet’ down some telephone wires – this was dropped in the edit.


This is one of my favourite films of the series; I’ve watched it at least three times. I would highly recommend checking this one out. While the reviews were good, this film had a disappointing box office (better than the last two, but low in the US).




The USSR began its withdrawal from Afghanistan, while the Iran-Iraq War came to a close after US attacks on Iranian vessels trying to close the Straits of Hormuz and the accidental shooting down of an Iranian airliner.


Scorpius  by John Gardner saw Bond go up against a crazy cult leader, while Domark converted a planned speedboat racing game called Aquablast into a Bond game based on Live and Let Die.


Every Bond bar Connery and Lazenby have had difficulties with the production of their second movie. In this case, Licence to Kill had a change of title after test screens (from Licence Revoked, which 50% of Americans polled associated with the loss of a driving licence), a change in UK tax laws that combined with the weak dollar made it unviable to film at Pinewood, initial plans to film in China falling through due to local bureaucracy, severe problems with heat in Mexico – and a writer’s strike.


The last one is the key bit. From 7 March to 7 August 1988, the Writers Guild of America went on strike over residuals and creative control – a consequence was the revival of Mission: Impossible, which had unused scripts that could be used for it. A writer’s strike means an effective shutdown of many TV programmes as they are needed to do rewrites – in films, it means that others working on the project have to get involved. As Richard Maibaum, the incumbent Bond screenwriter, went on strike, he completed an outline beforehand and left it for Michael G. Wilson to finish off.




Communist control in Central Europe collapsed, mostly peacefully (except for Romania), but is upheld in China with brutal force. In the process, the East German Stasi manage to destroy 5% of their archive before demonstrators stop them.


Gardner’s Win, Lose Or Die saw Bond promoted to Captain. Dalton’s second movie now hit cinemas – and proved a far grittier and more violent tale than its predecessor.


Licence to Kill (film)


“Everything for a man on holiday. Explosive alarm clock - guaranteed never to wake up anyone who uses it” - Q


Felix Leiter gets married and widowed after a drug lord he put in custody escapes, in the process also being mutilated. Bond goes on a revenge mission, with M taking away his licence to kill. Not that it’d stop him for a second.


·         This was the first Bond film to be rated PG-13 in the US and got a 15 certificate in the UK; there is a lot of violence here and it is frequently edited for TV showings. It had to get cuts even for the PG-13.

·         Gladys Knight’s title song is the longest one in the entire series, at over 5 minutes long. She’s not credited in the title sequence. Those two are probably not related.

·         We get our first repeat Leiter - David Hedison previously appeared in Live and Let Die.

·         “The Hildebrand Rarity” and the novel Live and Let Die lend elements to this story.

·         This is the last appearance of Robert Brown’s M and the last of a male M until 2012.

·         This is the only Bond film to feature a health warning about smoking in the closing credits.

·         Q, who moans about Bond losing his gadgets, is seen actually throwing one into the bushes.


Not as good as the first Dalton, although I would need to re-watch this – it’s rather atypical for Bond in terms of grittiness.


LTK was released into a crowded summer market of action movies (including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, starring Sean Connery) and did pretty poorly as a result – it failed to cover its negative costs in the US and only made just over $150m worldwide. It also got a very successful Domark-published game adaptation.

As the 1980s came to a close, MGM and Broccoli were getting nervous about the franchise. Things were about to get worse, as changes at the former would put Bond into deep-freeze and when he thawed out, he would be played by a different actor.

[1]Produced by the prolific Game Designers’ Workshop (1973-1996), who still have some of their IPs going strong with other owners such as Traveller and Harpoon, T2K is set in the near-term aftermath of a late 1990s nuclear war. I’ve played this game – the combat system is a bit hard to follow, while character generation is a mini-game in itself, as characters can turn out very differently from your initial idea.


A new version, Twilight: 2013, was published in 2008 by 93 Games Studio, but that company has now gone bust.

[2]Other films in this category include Cutthroat Island, The Golden Compass (which ended New Line Cinema as an independent unit) and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

[3]Supposedly it’s from Confucius. Oddly enough, this quote is used in the first episode of ABC’s currently running series Revenge.

[4]Prime was released on licence in 2001, as per the norm for British prisoners and given a new identity to protect him from vigilantes.

[5]A big fear of the Soviet leadership that turned out to be totally without justification.

[6]This is going to be a future topic for a Cult TV article in The Burning Question.

[7]With thanks to David Morgan-Mar of the now concluded Irregular Webcomic!, which included spoofs of Dr. No and a bit of From Russia With Love in the ‘James Stud’ section – something he never personally liked too much, although I enjoyed.

[8]Discussions of Bond’s sex life generally conclude he must have picked up at least one STD, considering the amount of unsafe sex he has.

[9]You need 2-3 times your main budget to cover other costs like marketing and the money that the cinemas themselves take.

[10]In the end, the film wasn’t released until 1989 due to legal problems and not until 1992 in the US… where it bombed. At this point, Dalton had done his two films and due to the extended legal problems, was not going to be doing another.


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