The James Bond Film Festival. Part 15: The Living Daylights

The James Bond Film Festival. Part 1: Dr. No
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 2: From Russia with Love
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 3: Goldfinger
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 4: Thunderball
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 5: You Only Live Twice
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 6: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 7: Diamonds are Forever
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 8: Live and Let Die
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 9: The Man with the Golden Gun
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 10: The Spy Who Loved Me
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 11: Moonraker
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 12: For Your Eyes Only
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 13: Octopussy
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 14: A View to a Kill

I’ll confess straight away: I find Maryam d’Abo (“Kara Milovy”) very attractive. She has that certain kind of face that just melts me.

The Living Daylights is the first time Timothy Dalton appears as James Bond. Bernard Lee has been replaced as “M” by Robert Brown. Moneypenny is now played by Caroline Bliss.

I really liked this one. After years of generally cartoonish behaviour by Roger Moore, Dalton returns to the grittier James Bond of the first Sean Connery films. (Remember when Connery shoots the unarmed man? “You’ve had your six.”) Some people find Dalton to be “humourless”. I think he is playing a secret agent. Unlike the Moore films (and indeed, the later Connery ones), The Living Daylights plays like a spy movie! The cinematography is good, a sharp contrast to the “TV movie of the week” look used in the 1970s and early 1980s. From the pre-title sequence to the end, this is a good, well-paced film with very little wrong with it.

Of course, it did have its bad points. Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) was a cartoonish character. I didn’t believe him for a minute. Just… bad. The “gadget car” was, as usual, over the top. Still, what’s a Bond film without a gadget car? I’m only complaining because it seemed that it was in the picture for the sake of being in the picture. With the rest of the film being played so straight (except for Whitaker), it would have been nice to play the car straight as well. But gadget cars are what the audience wants. Taken in the context of a “Bond film” it worked well enough. Nitpicks include the piston engine sounds when the C-130 ran out of fuel, and the aircraft exploding in a ball of flames… without any fuel!

For me, the most memorable scene was the C-130 fight and the coldness of Bond “giving the bad guy the boot”. Virginia Hey (Farscape) makes an appearance as General Leonid Pushkin’s (John Rhys-Davies) wife.

Has anyone else noticed that almost all the important Russian generals (Orlov, Gogol and most obviously Pushkin) in the series were been named after authors?

I liked this entry, but not as much as Licence to Kill. I just wish Dalton had been able to make more than two appearences.

This one’s high on my list, as well. The stunts felt fresh and exciting, and Dalton was much more believable as a super-spy than the smirking tail-chaser that Roger Moore was becoming. Was this the only Bond movie where 007 doesn’t bed anyone until the end?

While Dalton’s Bond was colder than Moore’s, the humor in this one was still quite enjoyable (“We’ve nothing to declare!”)

This one’s high on my list, as well. The stunts felt fresh and exciting, and Dalton was much more believable as a super-spy than the smirking tail-chaser that Roger Moore was becoming. Was this the only Bond movie where 007 doesn’t bed anyone until the end?

While Dalton’s Bond was colder than Moore’s, the humor in this one was still quite enjoyable (“We’ve nothing to declare!”)

I feel like a real loner saying I like Dalton the best, and this movie is the reason for it.

I was barely even bothered by the huge flameball from the crashing airplane, or the fact that the Russian air force was using a Hercules. Hollywood will be Hollywood, after all. (They used those same gasoline/napthalene explosions when two asteroids hit each other in The Empire Strikes Back, for goodness’ sake!)

Joe Don Baker’s character was painful. I was more impressed by the Moscow gangster.

But in all, I remember saying to myself, “Wow! James Bond is in a spy movie, again!”

Knowing what I thought was the conventional wisdom out there, I’m shocked to see that everyone here thus far shares my favorable impression of Dalton’s Bond. Jeroen Krabbé made a wonderful non-megalomaniacal villain as General Koskov, while Joe Don Baker’s Whitaker was not only cartoonish, but rather superfluous and uninteresting.

Poor Timothy Dalton is my #1 nominee for the “actor who can’t get a break” title. He’s a great swashbuckling hero or villain in an era with precious little use for bucklers of swash. He routinely puts in great, distinctive performances, but just look at the litany of thermonuclear-scale bombs in his filmographySextette, Flash Gordon, Brenda Starr, The Beautician and the Beast.

Is there something about the writing, or tone, or look of Dalton’s Bond films that limited their mass appeal? Or does the mass audience’s affection for the character depend on some je ne se qua that he and Lazenby didn’t possess, but Connery and Moore and Brosnan apparently do?

From Umbriel’s post:

I’m putting this at the beginning of my post on this film because it captures my thoughts on it, and Dalton’s Bond in general. My first Bond was Octopussy, and what hooked me on the character of Bond was that suave humor, that twinkle in his eye when he got the better of a villain. Two things that stand out for me in Octopussy that defined what Bond is to me:

  1. The scene in the casino where Kamal Khan is using his loaded dice to win at craps, and tells the crowd “It’s all in the wrist.” Then Bond comes over, sits in on the game, and insists on using Khan’s dice. Of course, Bond wins, and repeats, “It’s all in the wrist.” This, of course, leaves Khan seething, but helpless to do anything about it.

  2. Bond is being chased through the streets of Calcutta. The villains are hot on his trail, and he can’t shoot them. What does he do? He takes a wad of money (his winnings from scene # 1 above, IIRC) and throws it into the street, flooding the street with civilians and making it impossible for his pursuers to get through.

Connery had that quality…in fact, the beginning of Goldfinger plays out almost the exact same scenario as # 1. Brosnan has less of it, but still some. Problem with Brosnan is that the humor doesn’t seem as natural as it did with Moore, it feels more forced. Dalton? Zero.

Now, mind you, for most of you that is what you like about Dalton. But I’d wager that in 1987, following 14 years of Moore as the public’s image of Bond, the sentiment of mine above was very likely representative of the viewing public.

The Living Daylights - I loved the opening sequence, culminating in Bond’s drop-in on that girl’s boat. I really, really like the theme song.

As for the plot…I didn’t feel it was anything special. There was good action and good stunts (sliding down the snowy hill, done way often in prior films, definitely seems different in a cello case), but there was no “gotcha” anywhere in there, it seemed to be a simple follow-the-numbers villain chase. There wasn’t anything outrageously wrong with it, but I certainly didn’t get that much enjoyment out of it either. It pretty much rated a “Blah” with me.

The best Bond in a long time. at least as good as For Your Eyes Only, and probably a lot better. Again, we get the tie-in to a Fleming Story (the opening portion of the “real” movie follows the plot of the Fleming short pretty closely). In addition, we get the reference back to earlier Bond films – the whole deal with “SMERSH” = “Smert Shpionem” was in From Russia with Love, and in several Biond Books. As I’ve said above, a Bond film that looks back on its past is usually pretty good. It means they’re paying attention to their history and their roots.
Timothy Dalton is, I think, a GREAT Bond. He’s the first one that came close to Fleming’s description. His cool manner, he tooth-gritting, work really well. You get the impression that the occasional witticism is a necessary blowing-off of steam, rather than an attempt to be coy.

Bond is pretty chaste in this one, too – Maryan d’Abo is his only love interest. IIRC, he’s off the tobacco products, and either this movie or its successor has a notice in the closing credits about it.

Dalton is the first young Bond in a helluva long time, and it’s not surprising the3y brought in a new Moneypenny. The Bond of the novels served during WWII. Even the Bond of the movies would have to be pretty long in the tooth by now (an idea they played to wonderfully in For Your Eyes Only), but Bond only really works as a relatively Young guy, so they’ve gone the route of keeping the hero about the same age (as they do – appropriately – with comic book characters, but also with literary ones. Rex Stout deliberately kept Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin about the same ages, despirte having trhe series run from pre-WWII to the 1970s. And Robert Goldsborough kept them going through the 80s and into the 90s. Sherlock Holmes and Watson were, except for a couple of the acknowledged “last” stories, of undefined age throught their run.) So our Bond gets redefined in his age to keep current.
They kept the ridiculous stuff to a minimum. A gag with a “flying carpet” (during the chase after the “false shooting”) was thankfully cut. I also like the way that the minor British operatives get to put up good fights before they’re overcome. Brad Whittaker was a bit looney, but not as ridiculous as the character Baker would later play in the series.
Overall, one of the best Bond films ever, IMHO. Certainly up there with From Russia with Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only.

I was hoping for a long exploration of the plot, common in Johnny L.A.'s OPs. Because this movie’s story always confused the hell out of me. First you have this Russian officer, whose defection Bond is supposed to protect by killing his would-be assassin. But the whole thing is staged so Koskov can defect right back(?). There’s this Greek guy killing agents, but working for the Russians or the American arms dealer? Bond is supposed to kill the guy from “Sliders,” but it’s faked too. And how does the plot to exchange arms for opium in Afghanistan tie in?

Or was I supposed to do the reading before class? :confused:

Anyway, I will make a few comments. The gadget car, as others have mentioned, is cool. I like Bond’s comment to a mystified Kara: “I’ve had a few minor modifications installed.”

According to the IMDb, the casting of the two other 00-agents in the teaser was deliberate because of their resemblance to Moore and Lazenby. I guess this was in case there was no one left in the world who didn’t know Dalton would be playing Bond…

As a violinist, I think I can safely say that d’Abo’s choreography with the 'cello is pretty bad, at least in the close-ups. OTOH, that’s one of those things that few movies can pull off convincingly. If anyone cares, these are the pieces used in the various performances:
1st orchestral concert: Symphony # 40 in G minor, 1st mvt. by W.A. Mozart
Chamber concert: String Quartet # 2 by Alexander Borodin
Kara practicing alone: Excerpt from Cello Concerto, 1st mvt. by Antonin Dvorak
Ending concert: Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello & Orchestra by Tchaikovsky

Let me take a whack at the plot.

General Koskov wants to make a quick business trip out of the Soviet Union so he can make a deal with Joe Don Baker’s character (JDB). (More on the deal later.)

In order to make this unauthorized trip, he needs the help of the British. I guess to make the ‘defection’ seem more authentic and less dangerous than it really is, he gets his squeeze to play the part of the KGB sniper assigned to watch him. Somehow, he has circumvented the real KGB sniper. Whatever.

Anyway, his plan works well. He gets out, meets with JDB, then makes up some story of how he ‘escaped’ the west to get himself back into the Soviet army.

He needs to be back in the Soviet army in order to make the drug deal with the Muljahadeen (or whoever) so he can very quickly turn a lot of money into a very huge lot of money.

I believe he still intended this money for further arms deals, with JDB. The original slug of cash used for the drug deal must have come from JDB.

Who gets the arms is somewhat beyond me. Perhaps the arms go to the Soviet army, as Bond suggested. In that case, Koskov’s ultimate motive is: get good weapons for the Soviet army, major brownie points for setting up that deal, and probably some cash on the side from all that shady dealing.

Complex, but then spy movies should be.

Oops. I mentioned a Moscow ganster in a previous post. I was thinking of the dude from Goldeneye. I’m getting ahead of things.

Heh. I thought I was being overly verbose before.

*Pre-title sequence
The British are having a training exercise in Gibraltar. A SMERSH assassin infiltrates the games and kills an MI6 agent, leaving behind a calling card – “Smert Spionom”, “Death to spies.”

After the concert
MI6 learn that General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) wants to defect, and that there is a KGB sniper that will shoot him. Bond (Dalton) and another agent are sent to shoot the sniper before he can kill Koskov. The sniper turns out to be Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo). Bond sees that “she doesn’t know one end of a gun from the other”, and shoots her gun instead of her. Bond smuggles Koskov out of Eastern Europe by putting him in a “pig” – a device for cleaning pipelines – after which Koskov is flown to England in a Harrier.

At the safe house Koskov explains that General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) has reactivated the long extinct (or dormant?) SMERSH. The Soviets will kill British agents, and the British will respond in kind. This could eventually result in nuclear war. The assassin from the pre-title sequence infiltrates the grounds disguised as a milkman. (I think that his name was “Necros” (Andreas Wisniewski – someone please correct me if I’m wrong). In a well-planned operation, Koskov is kidnapped.

With Koskov “kidnapped”, Bond seeks out the cellist/“assassin” Milovy. He discovers that she is Koskov’s girlfriend, and that her rifle was loaded with blanks. Obviously, the British were supposed to think Koskov’s defection was genuine.

In Tangier
Pushkin confronts Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) and tells him that the arms deal they had is off. Whitaker temporizes and is given two days to get the money back. ($50 million?) Pushkin must be killed. Of course, the best outcome would be that it looked as if the British did it. Necros is ordered to kill another British agent so that the British, already clued in by Koskov that Pushkin is behind the assassinations, will send James Bond to kill Pushkin. Necros is to kill Pushkin if Bond doesn’t do it before the end of a conference.

Necros kills the agent in Vienna, where Bond and Milovy are hanging out hoping to find Koskov. Bond captures Pushkin in the latter’s hotel room and makes like he’s going to execute him. Pushkin basically says, “Who do you believe? Me, or Koskov?” In the next scene Pushkin is about to give a speech at the conference. Bond shoots him in the chest just before Necros makes his own attempt. Necros, Whitaker and Koskov are all pleased that Bond has killed Pushkin for them.

But Bond didn’t hill him! Pushkin was outfitted with a bulletproof vest and blood packs. Bond shot the blood packs. “This is the first time,” says Pushkin, “that I’ve ever been glad James Bond is a good shot.”

Meanwhile, Milovy finally reaches Koskov. When Bond gets back to his hotel room, Milovy has a martini (“Shaken, not stirred.”) waiting for him. Bond drinks it to discover it was drugged. He is captured by Koskov & Co.

Here’s the plan: Whitaker arranges for a human heart transport to Afghanistan to cover smuggling diamonds to there which he will trade for opium. He sells the opium to the corrupt Russian military for $500,000,000. He plans to use $50,000,000 of the money to buy the arms he has promised to the Russians (the “other” Russians, I suppose) and keep the profit. Bond is able to open the case with the “human heart” in it. It’s an animal’s heart, and the diamonds are being smuggled in the ice.

When the plane lands in Afghanistan, Bond is taken away to await his fate. Milovy, having served her purpose, is sent with him. Bond uses one of the gadgets Q gave him (aside from the car, I think this might have been the only gadget – again, correct me if I’m wrong) to escape custody. He also releases an Afghan man who is to be shot in the morning.

By disguising themselves as Russians, Bond and Milovy get to the boundary fence and hop over it. They are captured by the Mujahiddeen, but they are not killed because their leader is the one in the cell. Turns out the guy is the Deputy Area Commander (and was educated at Oxford, to boot!).

Bond impresses upon the leader that it is imperitive that he stop Koskov. The leader has a war to fight, but says he’ll see what he can do. The next day the Mujahiddeen and a powerful drug-trading tribe meet the Russians to make the trade. Bond plans to plant a time bomb in the shipment, but gets carried away… in the truck. Milovy, with no military training (except, presumably, what little Russian girls learn in school – I have a friend who was shooting a Kalashnikov when she was 12) takes off to rescue “James!” The Mujahiddeen have to follow. There is a battle at the air base and Bond makes off with the planeload of opium. Milovy is in trouble, so she drives up the ramp as the aircraft is taking off. Unfortunately Necros also makes it aboard.

Bond goes to defuse his bomb and is jumped by Necros. Milovy, who has never flown an airplane before, decides to pull a lever. The lever opens up the rear ramp of the C-130. Bond and Necros duke it out and tumble out of the airplane, clinging to the cargo net full of drugs. Bond finally gets the upper hand. Or “upper foot”, rather. Necros has grabbed onto Bond’s boot to keep from falling. Bond pulls out a knife and cuts his laces. Necros plummets, still holding the footwear. “I gave him the boot,” says Bond.

The aircraft has taken some fire and is leaking fuel. And the Mujahiddeen are under attack by the hotly persuing Russians. Bond lines the plane up with a bridge and hands the controls to Milovy, then resets his time bomb and drops it on the bridge. The Russians are defeated and the Mujahiddeen are safe.

But there’s that little issue with the fuel. There’s no place to land, so Bond puts Milovy in the Land Rover (or “jeep”, as he calls it). He deploys the parachute which drags the vehicle out of the aircraft – with Bond jumping in just in time – just before the plane crashes and explodes. (Again, how could it explode when there was no fuel? Also, if there was enough room to drop the “jeep”, then why wasn’t there enough flat space for it to land? Eh, “dramatic license”.)

Back in Tangier
Bond infiltrates Whitaker’s stronghold. To digress, Whitaker’s hobby is the study of famous battles. He has remotely controlled drawers in the tables upon which he displays his battleground dioramas. (Incidentally Whitaker is a poseur, having only limited military experience after being kicked out of West Point for cheating.) Bond says he wants Koskov. Whitaker says he can have him – as soon as Bond returns the opium he stole. Bond informs Whitaker that it was destroyed, which leaves Whitaker incredulous. “You burned up half a billion dollars!?”

Whitaker activates one of his drawers which knocks Bond back. He grabs a submachine gun, and the battle is on. Whitaker grabs one of his niftier weapons and chases Bond. Bond (stupidly!) aims right at the bulletproof shielf instead of Whitaker’s unprotected centre of mass and runs out of bullets in his PPK. Whitaker closes in for the kill, but Bond slips away. He plants his keychain by on a bust of Wellington. (The keychain had two functions: the gas bomb that he used when he escaped the Russians in Afghanistan, and an explosive.) At the critical moment Bond activates the bomb and the bust flattens Whitaker on a diorama table. “He met his Waterloo.”

Bond is about to be taken out by a henchman, but Pushkin and his men come to the rescue. They get Koskov who plays at being happy to be “rescued” by his comrade.

Pushkin: “Take him back to Moscow.”
Koskov: “Oh, thank you! Thank you, comrade!”
Pushkin: “In a diplomatic bag.”

Concert Hall
I don’t remember where this happened. Maybe England, mayby Austria. Kara Milovy plays a very successful concert. The heavily armed Mujahiddeen leader and some men barge in after the show. “Sorry we missed the performance. We had a little trouble at the airport.” (“I can’t imagine why,” says M.) General Gogol (Walter Gotell) is now in a new position and he has granted Milovy an emmigration visa so she can come and go to and from Russia as she pleases. But Milovy is sad that Bond didn’t make the show. She goes to her dressing room.

Bond is there with his keychain which is equipped with one of those “finder” features. Whistle to find them. Milovy finds Bond and they shag happily.

I think that’s it. If I missed anything, please post it! :slight_smile:

OK, that was verbose enough… :stuck_out_tongue: Nangleator is right, it is supposed to be complex.

So, regarding this exchange, obviously Koskov isn’t going back to Russia in First Class. So what is a diplomatic bag, other than a not-too-pleasant way to travel?

“A container or bag in which official mail is sent, free from customs inspection, to and from an embassy or consulate.”

A “diplomatic bag” might be an attaché case, which is too small to hold a human being. You can see Pushkin’s intent. :wink:

May I say that, after the slow agony of the later Moores, The Living Daylights made me feel optimistic about the nascent Dalton Era (OK so I was to be disappointed…) But my reaction to this movie at the time I saw it (first-run) was the old tagline “Bond is Back”. I wasn’t squirming half way through it as with some others earlier; it had a nice late-cold-war Nefarious Plot that involved raising tensions between the Great Powers, as well as the “dark Bond” we have mentioned in other installments ( " :smack: Oy! That’s right! He’s a spy and an assasin!" Writers keep forgettingn that he’s not a cop ). Introducing the contemporary-real-world Afghan War into the mix raised it a couple of levels in my appreciation, too.

And Maryam D’Abo, well… not bad, not bad at all.

I liked it too, for most of the reasons already mentioned. And I think Dalton was a very good Bond.

Here’s the thing I could never figure out, though. If you’re a Soviet General, what do you tell your cellist girlfriend to get her to aim a sniper rifle out a window?

Yeah. Still, I perfer her cousin Olivia.

Later on he associated with the Taliban to avoid being killed, and is currently serving as Deputy Prime Minister. grin

Yeah, it’s funny how things change. I remember when the Soviets were the big bogeyman and we saw the Mujahiddeen as “allies” in the fight against them.