Because A View to a Kill was Roger Moore’s seventh and final James Bond movie and he’d been trying to wind up his involvement with the franchise for a while by this stage, he’s a bit long in the tooth for sprinting after supervillains with a machete clenched between his soot-blackened teeth and a bazooka strapped over his shoulder. OK, so I may be confusing him with Arnie, you get the gist.
Roger was 57 years old when he starred in A View to a Kill and so his lothario antics involving girls young enough to be his daughter, or even granddaughter, can appear a wee bit awkward. Or to a 12-year-old YouTube ranter who hasn’t yet come to the realisation that everyone gets older, “OMG! He’s so past it, that’s disgusting!”
And it isn’t just a modern-day snowflake phenomenon. At the time of release, a critic working for the Washington Post wrote…
“Moore isn’t just long in the tooth – he’s got tusks, and what looks like an eye job has given him the pie-eyed blankness of a zombie. He’s not believable anymore in the action sequences, even less so in the romantic scenes – it’s like watching women fall all over Gabby Hayes.”
Hmm, I think they all miss the point. If we’re to buy into the idea that the former Saint has the capacity to make any woman swoon at his feet with adoration at the merest hint of an eyebrow raise, age shouldn’t be a factor. Notorious womaniser, Fonzie, was still in nappies compared to 007. Wait ’til you see Roger racing up the Eiffel Tower to avenge the assassination of an aubergine, and balancing precariously on the Golden Gate bridge as he scraps with Nick Chevotarevich! I mean the part you’re not supposed to stand on, obviously. That’ll stretch your Suspension of disbelief to the Max.
After Little Chef went bust, their mascot flew off the rails, turning to the dark side for solace
This was only two years after Octopussy anyway. There wasn’t nearly the same degree of indignation levelled at that entry in the Bond pantheon. Panther-eon? Sorry, I’ve not had my Whiskers yet.
Nevertheless, where it was felt that the plausibility of Roger’s fight scenes might suffer from his advancing years, he was substituted with a stunt double. This approach applied to almost everything except for light walking duties as it turned out, whilst little effort was made to hide the fact that Bond (and other members of the cast) keep morphing!
Pola Ivanova: The bubbles tickle my… Tchaikovsky!
If anything is wrong with View to a Kill, it’s not Roger’s performance. He’s as entertainingly witty as ever, gifted plenty of one-line zingers. They’re all as sexist as ever, but, erm, well, there isn’t really a but, is there?
Although there nearly was on a couple of occasions when the clothes of former Charlie’s Angel, Tanya Roberts, are accidentally-on-purpose ripped off. Cubby Broccoli was adamant he was going to get his money’s worth!
It’s of its time and you wouldn’t want a reprise in a modern Bond movie. Actually there’s been a bit of gender reversal sexism more recently to redress the balance. You can still get away with that these days, although it might be easier to drop it entirely.
No, what spoils View to a Kill, aside from shoddy editing, is that its pacing is totally off-kilter. That tedious horse-doping diversion filmed at Ascot could easily be cut entirely, leaving a tighter, more focused movie. For a 131-minute film to only get started around the 100-minute mark is ridiculous. That’s where the high-velocity, death-defying set-pieces it’s famous for finally come into effect, yet by this stage, you may be too weary to care about Bond girl Stacey being kidnapped by a covert Skyship 500 blimp (she really doesn’t notice until it’s too late!), or Bond stealing an emergency fire engine and being chased through the streets of San Francisco in it by the cops. Roger did actually drive this himself since the stunt driver was injured. He used to be a trucker so knew how to handle it.
U.S. Police Captain: You’re under arrest.
Stacey Sutton: Wait a minute, this is James Stock of the London Financial Times.
James Bond: Well, actually, captain, I’m with the British Secret Service. The name is Bond, James Bond.
U.S. Police Captain: Is he?
Stacey Sutton: Are you?
James Bond: Yes.
U.S. Police Captain: And I’m Dick Tracy and you’re still under arrest!
Even Roger himself hated View to a Kill, concurring with the critics and Sean Connery that he was too old to play Bond. In 2012 he revealed to Macleans.ca, “I was beginning to feel that leading ladies were about the age of my granddaughter, and it started to look a bit like Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon.”
Had Roger been thirty years old when it was filmed, he still wouldn’t have been impressed, believing that it had deviated too far from what makes Bond, Bond. Mostly owing to its excessive violence, of which he vehement opposed.
In the same interview with MacClean’s, Roger described it as “a bit too much”, “sort of destruction for destruction’s sake”. I expect the crux of his argument can be traced back to the supervillain I deliberately haven’t described yet to build up the suspense, mowing down his own team with an Uzi. That was a smidgeon OTT! Oh, yes, that was it…
“I was horrified on the last Bond I did. Whole slews of sequences where Christopher Walken was machine-gunning hundreds of people. I said ‘That wasn’t Bond, those weren’t Bond films.’ It stopped being what they were all about. You didn’t dwell on the blood and the brains spewing all over the place”. (Barnes and Hearn, 1997)
He’s right, not least because mostly the mega-baddies don’t like to get their hands quite this dirty. They push buttons that trigger events, which might cause harm if the victim lingers in the same position for an hour, buying them time to relay their devious rouse.
James Bond: With the cane, is that Max Zorin?
M: Yes. Born in Dresden. Fled from East Germany in the 60s. Changed passport. Speaks at least five languages, no accent. Now, the talk of the city and the bourse.
James Bond: The old rags to riches story.
M: He made his first fortune in oil and gas, James. Now, second in electronics and high tech.
Flaws aside, A View to a Kill is notable for co-starring Academy Award-winning actor Christopher Walken as capitalist megalomaniac, Max Zorin, and his principal henchwoman, Grace Jones, as May Day.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Grace’s then-boyfriend, Dolph Lundgren, enjoys a super-swift cameo as one of Gogol’s KGB agents.
Born of Nazi steroid experimentation, Zorin is as psychotic and arrogant as May Day is seductively intimidating, introducing a unique dimension to the recurring role. Grace’s idiosyncratic, androgynous appearance, coupled with her ethnic mystique and lack of humanity make her as unnerving as any of Bond’s adversaries to date.
OK, so you have to look beyond her gawky Kung-Fu to appreciate the full effect. Oh, and that weird jumpcut edit when she gets in bed with James, who has let himself into her bedroom and stripped off on the off chance she’s up for it. Is that supposed to suggest she’s faster than human vision can interpret? *Shrug* Maybe my disc just wobbled at that point, who knows? It could even have been the editor removing evidence of Grace’s infamous practical joke. You’ll have to Google it, this is a family site.
(May Day walks into her room and finds Bond naked in her bed)
James Bond: May Day, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you… to take care of me, personally.
(Zorin nods to May Day, and she enters silently in the room)
James Bond: I see you’re a woman of very few words.
May Day: What’s there to say?
As is customary with Bond movies, plot is secondary to special effects, stunts, innuendo and choreographed fight sequences. View to a Kill’s saga presents many glaringly obvious parallels with Goldfinger without veering too far into remake territory. All we really need to know is that technology entrepreneur and erstwhile KGB agent, Max Zorin, is in the computer chip business and would rather he didn’t have any competition.
Max Zorin: We are now in the unique position to form an international cartel to control not only production, but distribution of these microchips. There is one obstacle – Silicon Valley in San Francisco. Over 250 plants, employing thousands of scientists, technicians. This is the heartland of electronic production in the United States – which accounts for, what, 80% – of the world microchip market. I propose to – end – the domination of Silicon Valley and leave us in control of that market.
To make his wildest dream come true, he sets out to destroy Silicon Valley by rigging explosives in a mine situated beneath lakes demarcating the Hayward and San Andreas faults. A bonus bomb will also be planted to destroy the ‘geological lock’ holding the faults in place.
Scarpine: It’s time to flood the fault.
Bob Conley: But May Day and my men!
Max Zorin: Yes. A convenient coincidence.
Bob Conley: Mr Zorin, those men are loyal to you!
(Scarpine knocks him out)
If everything goes according to plan, the faults will flood, separating the tectonic plates to cause an earthquake, submerging the computer capital of the world. Electronics and water aren’t the best of friends, erm, so this is bad news. Drowning everyone in the vicinity is arguably also an unpleasant outcome.
It sounds just like a rival-eliminating scheme monopoliser Bill Gates would concoct in a bubbling cauldron. He’s likely already pulled off similar hijinks without being rumbled. How else would you explain the most loathsome, incompetent products dominating the market for decades? You should be investigating him Mr Bond, not cuddly hero of the people Max Schreck, I mean Zorin. Had the cards fallen the other side up, David Bowie or Sting could have taken the lead baddie role. They were both asked before Walken.
Eminent geologist, Roger Musson, was quizzed on the feasibility of being able to artificially stage a natural disaster. He confirmed that while it would, in theory, be possible, the way Zorin went about it is “not very plausible”. Well, that won’t keep the reality nitpicker brigade at bay.
Max: I find a computer indispensable.
Interesting that in 1985 it was a luxurious choice. Being such a technologically attuned movie, it was appropriate that A View to a Kill would be the first Bond movie to be adapted to the medium of gaming. It wasn’t the first officially licenced Bond game, just the first to be based on a specific celluloid storyline rather than Bond the ‘concept’.
Domark were the lucky publishers awarded the immensely lucrative rights, whilst they, in turn, outsourced development duties to Softstone. Released in the same year as the movie of the same name, it was made available for the Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64 and MSX.
A proposed ‘Enterprise‘ port fell by the wayside. This was fleetingly alluded to in C&VG’s Bond Diaries double feature (beginning in May 1985) and also mentioned in promotional magazine adverts. Then promptly sidelined, likely owing to the system’s failure as a viable alternative to the top three 8-bit systems of the era.
Allocated so little time with which to complete the project so as to synchronise with the movie’s release schedule, you can imagine how well it turned out.
“The game starts with the classic James Bond film opening sequence, which I was led to believe was superb. It looks really good, until James Bond walks on. It doesn’t look like James Bond, rather like a stick insect holding a can of coke. Never mind, they tried.”
Julian Rignall (Zzap64, August 1985)
In its defence, View to a Kill was one of the earliest licenced games to attempt the formidable challenge of merging multiple genres into the same package, as well as incorporating authentic music and speech. To what extent and success these infused the various incarnations was dependent on the resources available to the host platform. On the Speccy that meant 48k of RAM compared to the Amstrad/Commodore’s extravagant 64k!
The Spectrum and Amstrad versions offer the levels in reverse chronological order, seemingly to present the most interesting first. In reality, this makes little difference since they can be attempted in any order in practice mode, although you achieve far more if you first acquire the relevant level code needed to make progress in the subsequent section. That is assuming you can cope with the bug invasion! Not in an Indy Jones sense, I mean it’s seriously broken. You can become stuck in walls, fall perpetually, find yourself spontaneously trapped in dead-end areas, and so on. You never know when the whole thing might fall over on its back. Such a shame considering the supreme effort injected to reach this half-baked stage.
“Writing A View to a Kill for Domark left me spending many a night sleeping under my desk in order to get it in on time and, well, the less said about it the better, probably. I think the general idea was OK, but we had so little time and resources to put it all together. However, it was my first job working for Softstone, and it taught me a fair number of do’s and don’ts!”
Grant Harrison, programmer of the C64 version
For all you discerning C64 owners expecting a superior experience, you’ll be disappointed to know that your variant is no more polished than the offering foisted upon Amstrad/Spectrum paupers like myself. It’s only the bells and whistles that vary between versions, the actual design of each SKU was based on the same proposal. Still, there’s a level to represent at least some of the key action scenes from the movie…
James Bond: Taxi!
Paris Taxi Driver: No, no, no English!
James Bond: (pulling him from the car) Out!
A top-down/3D driving section mirroring Bond’s pursuit of May Day across Paris in a stolen taxi as she descends to the ground from the Eiffel Tower via parachute-power.
Splitting the screen to show two different perspectives is a clever idea, unfortunately, the 3D view is too disorientating to be of any use. Ignoring that leaves us with 50% of the screen to navigate within and judge upcoming obstacles.
Bouncy, rubber walls and illogical collision detection do nothing to facilitate the level of immersion, and don’t expect to be able to execute handbrake turns as claimed, to keep tabs on May Day as the wind thrashes her back and forth across the sky.
Any references to ‘control’ in the manual I expect were meant ironically. At least your Renault runaround can’t be chopped in half as on the silver screen. Small mercies and all that. Still, ugh, next.
A pseudo-3D, exploration-oriented action-adventure stage follows in the vein of Spy vs Spy. This one aims to replicate Bond’s efforts to breach San Francisco’s City Hall to root out plans of Zorin’s dastardly scheme to buy the oil business belonging to Stacey’s family from under her nose. He’s hardly likely to write down anything incriminating, is he?
Nevertheless, Bond is apprehended before getting the opportunity to find out, while Zorin murders chief geologist W.G. Howe with Bond’s gun in order to frame him. Not satisfied with having him locked up for a crime he didn’t commit, Zorin shunts James as well as love interest/Bond girl, Stacey Sutton, down a lift shaft and sets fire to the building to toast them in situ.
Trapped between floors amidst a blazing inferno deathtrap, they could both really benefit from the assistance of a daring MI6 agent with tried and tested people-saving credentials. Let’s hope one passes by above soon and chucks a rope down. Otherwise, we’ll have to climb out and rescue Stacey ourselves.
Howe: What have they done?
Max Zorin: You discharged her, so she and her accomplice came here to kill you. Then they set fire to the office, to conceal the crime but they were trapped in the elevator and perished in the flames.
Howe: But that means I would have to be…
Max Zorin: Dead!
Max Zorin: That’s rather neat, don’t you think?
James Bond: Brilliant. I’m almost speechless with admiration.
Max Zorin: Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius.
James Bond: Herr Doktor Mortner would be proud of his creation.
As wildfire engulfs the building one room at a time (creating an inventive countdown clock of sorts), it’s our duty to douse the flames, haul Stacey to safety with a fire hose and escape (preferably alive).
Elevating her out of the lift is just the beginning. Hastily evacuating the building afterwards is the tricky part, seeing as the exit is sequestered behind so many layers of unbreachable doors.
This entails collecting and manipulating various useful inventory items such as colour-coded door keys, cupboard keys and security passes.
Keep in mind that a loaded gun will open some doors just as effectively. It’s guesswork knowing which ones.
A runny, jumpy, somersaulty, climby 2D platform level similar to Mission Impossible (1984) completes the trio. Both of the on-foot stages seem to have been inspired by the same sci-fi puzzle-platformer actually.
James Bond: I should take a closer look at that mine.
Stacey Sutton: What’s stopping you?
This stage aims to emulate the movie’s penultimate action sequence set underground in an abandoned silver mine.
Geiger counter (and passcode from the previous level) at the ready, it revolves around defusing the bomb planted to cause a tectonic rift sufficiently forceful to cause an earthquake.
To achieve this we first require the newly-befriended May Day to lower Bond down the mine to retrieve the offending article and eject it on a rail pump truck.
She salvages the future of computing evolution, blowing herself up in the process. Well, in the movie anyway.
In the game, instead, we’ll need to rely on our grappling hook and a lighter/dynamite combo. Really? Is that wise? Once we reach the bomb we need to carry it out of the mine on our lonesome and apply the codes gathered along the way to disarm it once out in the open.
Make sure you take along Bond’s patented anti-glare sunglasses in case it ruptures! Believe it or not, these are almost all Q manages to pluck from his future-tech gadget bag for this outing (there’s also a more impressive ring camera). They’re so revolutionary they equip Bond with the capacity to reduce glare cast on glass to grant improved vision through it. Marvellous!
I think Zzap (36%, August 1985) explained it best when they surmised that, “A View to a Kill is a three-part aardvark based on the three main action scenes from the film of the same name.”
Beat the Amstrad game and we’re rewarded with… nothing. A simple text message to inform us of our success in the current mission, though no acknowledgement that completing all three in sequence amounts to anything more climactic.
Commodore users fare marginally better, presented with an animated scene depicting the movie’s steamy, shower-based curtain call. I don’t recall a flying baseball (?) shattering the glass screen though. That must have been a touch of artistic licence.
(Bond is in the shower with Stacey and Q is using Snooper to spy on them)
Q: 007 alive.
M: Where is he? What’s he doing?
Q: Just cleaning up a few details.
Stacey Sutton: Oh, James!
“View to a Kill offers either the famous James Bond theme music or a version of Duran Duran’s single. The music was programmed by Tony Crowther for an undisclosed but enormous sum of money somewhere over the 10K mark.”
Zzap64 (August 1985)
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this makes it a worthy £10 investment (and the 10k comment was surely a joke? 1 meeel-ion dollars!), yet Tony Crowther’s SID chip renditions of Duran Duran’s no. 1 title track and Bond theme are certainly the game’s finest and most accurately transcribed feature.
All Spectrum users received was a blippy downgrade of Monty Norman’s classic melody, and there’s no 8-bit interpretation of the Beach Boy’s ‘California Girls’ on any platform, sadly. Anyway, check out the audio delights that did make the cut on YouTube and you can save yourself the chore of wrangling with the game’s dodgy controls.
They’re an earwormy delicacy for your lugholes. The grainy speech, not so much. I gather the opening sample is supposed to say, “The name’s Bond, James Bond”, only it sounds more like, “Mames Bond, Dames Bond”. Die and the computer hollers, “Damn it, you failed Bond!”, to admonish us for our incompetence.
Meanwhile, in Speccyland, programmer Garry Knight attributes the game’s disastrous missteps to a lack of system resources, as expounded in a fascinating interview with Bond fansite, MI6 HQ.
One of the most interesting tidbits of insider knowledge he divulges is that there was to be a fourth level, allowing us to assume the role of Bond the pro skier, echoing the movie’s opening scene situated in Siberia.
This was sadly/blessedly absent from all incarnations of the title, yet it was Amstrad gamers who really drew the short straw. They weren’t considered worthy of an animated facsimile of the iconic gun barrel sequence, despite even the humble Speccy managing to rustle one up. Not that this was the only compromise made as already noted. You can open up the pictures in a new window to see which version is which – it’ll be a fun guessing game! I know, I live to spoil you.
Commodore 64 owners must have thought all their Christmases had come at once! Well, not exactly. Many other developers from the era would have stuck to one genre and focused on getting it right. View to a Kill, in contrast, attempts to nail three of the most popular gaming styles and misses by a country mile in each case.
It was an ambitious attempt to evoke the excitement of Bond’s escapades in the movie. Should anyone have been disappointed by its failure to do so? This was 1985 after all. Can you name any other licenced movie games that achieved this goal in the same era? Ghostbusters sort of almost blends two genres together, although there’s much debate concerning how successfully this was executed.
Given enough time and resources, even if the development crew were up to the task, perhaps the host devices simply lagged too far behind Softstone’s blueprint visions to work miracles.
Courtesy of Domark, Bond would live another day, and his next jaunt couldn’t possibly be as bad as View to a Kill.
The only really enthusiastic review I managed to dig up was on the game’s IMDb page (the one for the text adventure by Angelsoft as it happens), and that was posted by someone who had confused it with Licence to Kill. They also mistakenly claim that View to a Kill stars Timothy Dalton. Oh dear.
Roger retired from Bonding once shooting wrapped up on the View to a Kill set, turning his attention to the silver screen adaptation of The Saint. Much later he left the movie business altogether, instead, finding fulfilment in charity work. He continued to age gracefully, sharing Bondian anecdotes with fans at conventions and via the after-dinner speech circuit, until one day he stopped. Ageing that is. That ought to befuddle the shortsighted critics.