James Bond in For Your Eyes Only: Book vs Movie

For Your Eyes Only Book vs Movie

This comparison is actually going to be easy, because unlike the adaptations we’ve already covered For Your Eyes Only took its inspiration from a short story. In order to flesh out the plot a bit, producers decided to fuse “For Your Eyes Only” with another story from the same collection entitled “Risico.” Let’s take a closer look at how they stack up, shall we?

For Your Eyes Only BooksThe Book Version

I have a full review here, so for now let’s just run down the plot. In the book, the Havelocks are British expats living in one of the most well-regarded estates in Jamaica. When three men representing Herr Von Hammerstein (a former officer for the Gestapo) come to inform the Havelocks that their employer would like to purchase their home, the Havelocks refuse. So the men murder them hoping to apply pressure on their daughter, who would inherit the property. You see, Von Hammerstein has been living it up in Cuba since the War, but now that Cuba’s revolution is changing everything he’s found himself on the outs and in need of a change of scenery.

Turns out M is a friend of the Havelocks. In fact, he was the Best Man at their wedding. So he calls 007 into his office to wrestle with an ethical question: sending Bond to take down Von Hammerstein’s empire would be an act of revenge, and in M’s business you have to take the personal out of the equation. Bond helps M along by suggesting that Von Hammerstein has committed an act of aggression against Britain–one that could easily be repeated or grow into something more if allowed to go unchecked. Dubious morals intact, 007 is sent to take out Von Hammerstein at his hideout in the mountains of Vermont. Along the way, Bond must wrestle with the morals of revenge–particularly given that his mission has no personal element for him, so does that make it revenge or cold-blooded murder? And is there a difference anyway, even when one has a license to kill?

Anyway, things get even more complicated when Bond arrives at Von Hammerstein’s hideaway and runs into Judy Havelock, daughter of the murdered couple. He wants her to leave but she’s come for revenge and she will not be dissuaded. So she and 007 go in together, take out the bad guys, and Judy promptly falls to pieces. Bond helps her away to take her to his hideaway hotel on the other side of the mountain, inappropriately kissing her all the way and inexplicably making her horny as hell.

For Your Eyes Only MovieThe Movie Version

Once again, the Havelocks are murdered in cold blood, but this time it isn’t over real estate. A British spy boat carrying a transmitter that communicates with the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarines has been sunk, causing a skirmish between the Brits and the Russians to get control of the device. Havelock, now a marine archaelogist, was leading the charge to find the vessel for the Brits. So 007 is sent to find out who ordered the assassination (and there’s no messy personal angle with M and the Havelocks to complicate things). He quickly begins working with the Havelock’s daughter, who is now named Melina instead of Judy, and who is out for revenge because her parents were murdered in front of her.

From there the plot takes inspiration from the short story “Risico” to flesh things out. 007 visits an informant named Kristatos to find out who hired the assassin. Kristatos points to a man named Milos Columbo and blames everything on him. Then there’s a totally weird digression that was invented for the movie in which a young figure skater Kristatos is sponsoring desperately tries to sleep with 007 even though she’s wildly underage (her name? Bibi Dahl. Of course). Then a biathlete who likes to spend time in skimpy bathing suits tries to kill 007. It’s weird.

Back on track, 007 meets up with Kristatos to get a glimpse of Columbo, who fights with his mistress. Bond seduces the mistress and in the morning they are pursued by the assassin who murdered the Havelocks. The mistress is killed horribly and apparently no one cares, even when it turns out Columbo staged the fight with her so she could find out what 007 knows (the mistress survives “Risico,” for what it’s worth. She lures 007 into a trap so Columbo can have a chat with him, but that’s all). Columbo also reveals that Kristatos is actually a two-timing d-bag. Kristatos is in some very bad business and works with the KGB on a regular basis. He tried to have Columbo taken out because Columbo is one of the only people left who know where Kristatos’ true loyalties lie.

Bond and Melina find the transmitter but Kristatos steals it from them and tries to kill them by cutting 007’s shoulder and dragging them through shark-infested waters (a move taken directly from the book version of Live and Let Die that never made it into the movie). Naturally the two survive, meet up with Columbo, and raid Kristatos’ incredibly scenic mountain lair. They get the transmitter back and Melina is stopped from killing Kristatos for revenge. But when Kristatos tries to kill Bond, Columbo is the one who finally takes him out. Bond and Melina then spend a romantic night on her murdered father’s yacht. Because nothing about that would be creepy.

You can get the full rundown on the movie version here.

Which is Better?

Both are actually pretty good but I definitely give the edge to the movie. The tinges of greek drama the movie employs work very well, and fusing Judy/Melina’s story of revenge with the story of betrayal between Kristatos and Columbo only enhances the effect. Yes, the whole thing with Bibi Dahl is incredibly misguided and gross (thank GOODNESS 007 didn’t sleep with her) and the biathlete/assassin scheme is ludicrous–but so is the way the story turns the strong-willed Judy into a simpering mess that is simultaneously sexualized and infantilized. The movie gets the edge here.

For more, check out my Bond page–which has movie recaps and best-ofs. Up next, we’ll compare the film and book of A View to a Kill.

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