John Glen made his Bond debut as director on this movie, Moore’s fifth and one of his best. It starts with a tender moment, Bond laying flowers at the grave of his wife Tracy, a nice piece of internal continuity, followed up by an appearance by Blofeld (at least that’s the implication, legal difficulties made it impossible to name the character on screen). Bond is then tasked with recovering the ATAC, a device for controlling Polaris submarines, which has been sunk on board a ship. Kristatos is working for the KGB and once Bond and his accomplice Melina Havelock recover the device, he steals it from them, intending to deliver it to General Gogol but Bond regains the machine and destroys it, Kristatos being killed in the final conflict.
Location filming took place in Greece before returning to the 007 stage at Pinewood. As the vengeful Melina, Glen cast French actress Carole Boquet who gave a strong and magnetic performance, a perfect foil for Moore. Renowned British actor Julian Glover played the villain of the piece, Aris Kristatos giving him great charm and panache over a heart of stone. Kristatos is nakedly out for anything he can get and doesn’t care what he has to do to achieve his goals. Michael Gothard is silent and sinister as henchman Loque, making the most out of a role with no dialogue. Topol, best known for “Fiddler on the roof” played Kerim Bey with tremendous energy and impersonator Janet Brown made an appearance in the final scene playing Margaret Thatcher, the first time a real life politician had been directly linked to the series.
Aside from the tongue in cheek inclusion of Thatcher, this film marks a change in style from “Moonraker”, eschewing the more camp elements for realism and a down to earth plot. John Glen makes for an excellent director, handling action with skill but knowing when to slow down to allow the characters to breathe. Notably, there is less reliance on gadgetry after the excesses of the previous film and many fans have seen this as the point where the franchise started finding it’s feet once more, paving the way for the serious minded tone of the 80s movies. Humour still plays it’s part however and there is an excellent and hilarious chase sequence involving a Citroen 2CV, quite possibly the most unglamorous vehicle that Bond ever drove!
Sheena Easton provided the theme song, becoming the first performer to actually appear in the titles and in a departure from the usual work by John Barry, composer Bill Conti provided the soundtrack, one of the less successful aspects of the film.
Released in 1981, the movie was warmly received and grossed over $190 million, making it the second most successful Bond film after “Moonraker” and due to it’s success, John Glen would return to direct the next four movies. On a sad note, this was the first film in which Bernard Lee did not appear as M, the actor having died before production began.