The divers race across the ocean floor from their submersible

Movie: For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only

A Top Gear special about James Bond’s cars put us in a frame of mind to enjoy some vintage Bond. Tony thinks Roger Moore was the best Bond; I am torn between Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, and Daniel Craig. For me, Roger Moore is at the bottom of the list (jostling for position with George Lazenby). Chronology, Tony’s fondness for Moore, and the fact that we only have about three James Bond DVDs swayed us towards a re-viewing of For Your Eyes Only.

For Your Eyes Only doesn’t only feature a convoluted plot, ridiculous foreign villains with hilarious accents, and a ridculous foreign Bond girl – also with an hilarious accent. It also contains extensive underwater footage that can teach us about the behaviour of sharks, what to wear when diving (yellow PVC overalls and gumboots), and how to manoeuvre a hard diving suit inside a shipwreck.

That said, the underwater scenes are surprisingly slick and well-shot for a movie made in 1981. They were filmed in the Bahamas. Carol Bouquet, the actress who plays Bond’s main squeeze, Melina, apparently had a sinus condition that prevented her from doing underwater stunt work, so the close-ups of Moore and Bouquet were filmed on a sound stage with fans blowing and special lighting. Bubbles were added afterwards. If I’d had this knowledge when I watched the film I’d have looked more closely at those sequences; without knowing they were filmed on dry land, I admit that they are very convincing.

In the screen capture below, I’ve grabbed a moment of the action as Bond and Melina take a submersible down to a shipwreck (the St Georges) lying over 100 metres under the sea, and exit at depth to penetrate the wreck and retrieve a very important computer. They run across the sand in their yellow gumboots. While inside the wreck they encounter a villain in a hard one-man diving suit, and a vigorous battle ensues. They blow him up, but are unaffected by the concussion despite being only a couple of metres away when his suit explodes. Upon returning, victorious, to their submersible, they are set upon by another villain in a one-man submersible with various pointy bits and cutting devices. There is an extended wrestling match between Bond’s submersible and the villain’s.

The divers race across the ocean floor from their submersible
The divers race across the ocean floor from their submersible

Curiously, although both Bond and Melina are breathing a mixture of helium and oxygen (because they’re diving so deep), their voices are unaffected by the helium, and sound completely normal. They also move through the water with remarkable ease, and – mysteriously – a large amount of light penetrates down to the shipwreck at 100 metres. No mention is made of the decompression obligation they’d have after their underwater high jinks.

If you want to combine a love of diving with a fondness (or love) for James Bond, you could do a lot worse than For Your Eyes Only. You can also check out Thunderball. You can get the DVD here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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