The 1980s were pretty much the inverse of the 1960s; liberal consensus had mutated into the New Conservatism; youth culture had been superseded by the Sloane Ranger and the Yuppie. Old heroes, like Mick Jagger or Michael Caine, looked hopelessly lost, while some, such as John Lennon, didn’t even make it that far. Likewise, the Bond series began to look badly shopworn.
A View to a Kill, coming as it did in the middle of the decade, is a fascinating time capsule of this generational malaise. Aside from the notorious fact that Bond is played by a man nearing pension age (Roger Moore was 58 and beneficiary of multiple facelifts), the rest of the film seems like an effort to encompass everything that would seem retrospectively embarassing about the 80s. The villain is a yuppie who plans to destroy Silicon Valley; he owns a BBC Micro Computer and a corporate blimp (borrowed from the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles). Before Christopher Walken was cast, the producers wanted either Sting or David Bowie (Bowie looks uncannily like Walken in the video for 1983’s Let’s Dance); any of these men facing an aging Bond would have been a sight to behold, but Walken’s avant-garde delivery (he transforms a simple line of five words into two separate sentences) and Bronx accent make for a particularly bizarre contrast with the embalmed Moore.
At points, it feels as though the producers were deliberately trying to humiliate their leading man; he spends most of the film in jackets almost as leathery as his face, cooks a quiche for Tanya Roberts (star of 1982’s Beastmaster) and is roughly humped by Grace Jones (playing herself). Apparently Moore and Jones didn’t get on, partly because she insisted on playing loud rock music in her dressing room; one can only guess what he thought of Duran Duran’s theme song.
Rock music has never worked particularly well in the Bond series, and though the song itself is one of my favourites, its power-synths and overwrought yelping seem somehow comical when contrasted with the elderly bent to proceedings (Moore’s back-up in the film is the even older Patrick Macnee, and their antics together have the faint air of Last of the Summer Wine). Wisely, the band filmed their own video for the song, as the title sequence used in the film is a vision of 80s cool as seen by an old man (title designer Maurice Binder was in his 60s). The dancing girls are plastered in day-glo body paint and labour under immaculately feathered mullets, shooting flourescent laser beams or gyrating in a vaguely tribal fashion, all interspersed with old footage of Moore from The Spy Who Loved Me.
All of this probably explains why I think it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.