A View To A Kill

A View To A Kill (1985)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee
Extras: Commentary Track, Making Of Documentary, Music Featurette, Deleted Scene, Music Video, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots

"A View to a Kill" has the dubious distinction of being both Roger Moore’s swan song as special agent 007 and one of the most critically-lambasted offerings in the entire James Bond series. Poor Roger, he probably should have hung up his Walther PPK following the very successful "For Your Eyes Only." But don’t let all the negative talk dissuade you, "A View to a Kill" is not as bad as some would have you believe and the very fact that we’re getting it on DVD as a full-blown special edition is reason enough to take a look.

The movie opens with the typical stunt sequence, which in this case actually does have something to do with the plot — a rarity for James Bond films. In this instance it’s yet another chase in which Bond makes his escape from the bad guys on skis, snowmobile, and an improvised snowboard. From there the film segues into the standard 007 opening sequence with the title song performed by Duran Duran.

As for the rest of the film, here’s a brief recap. Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken, is a powerful industrialist who is bent on cornering the market for computer chips by destroying Silicon Valley with a massive earthquake. With the aide of his able henchwoman, May Day (the ever imposing Grace Jones), he faces off against 007 and the latest Bond girl, geologist Stacey Sutton, played by ex-Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts. Well, that pretty much sums up the plot.

The real stars of the picture, as usual, are the exciting locales, stunts, gadgets, and girls. In "A View to a Kill," 007 travels from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge — and points in-between — and encounters dangers ranging from a poison butterfly on a stick to a runaway blimp. As usual, Bond is his typical promiscuous self as he sleeps his way across two continents. I must say that the image of a very buff May Day jumping 007’s geriatric bones has seared itself into my psyche and will be haunting me for weeks to come. Shudder. All in a day’s work for our intrepid hero, I guess.

The video is presented in <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. For the most part, the quality is fairly good. The image is nice and sharp — with one glaring caveat. Occasional close-up shots of Roger Moore are a bit on the soft side. This may have been an intentional device employed to hide his advancing age, much like the treatment Cary Grant received in his later films. Whatever the reason, the regularity of its appearance leads me to believe that the soft effect is intentional and, as a result, shouldn’t be counted against the quality of the DVD transfer.

But there are a number of other video problems that aren’t explained away so easily. The source elements are a bit on the rough side as blemishes and white specks pop up from time to time. Colors, while very balanced with no obvious bleeding, seem to be somewhat dull. Black level is generally solid but a few scenes have a tendency to render deep blacks as gray. Rounding out the list of nit-picks is the over-employment of edge enhancement. Shimmering is the inevitable result and, although it is limited in scope, it just shouldn’t be there in the first place.

When compared to the best of the Bond films, "A View to a Kill" comes up lacking in the video department. It isn’t a flat-out bad transfer but the fact that the few imperfections are so glaring indicates that they should have been caught at some point during the transfer process. Again, the video is good, it just isn’t great.

Now on to the audio. Sporting a new DD 5.1 remix, "A View to a Kill" sounds pretty good on DVD. The front soundstage is very broad with the audio flowing seamlessly from speaker to speaker. Rear effects kick in at appropriate times to add some punch to the on-screen happenings. Dynamic range is good with nice deep bass emanating from that mid-80s soundtrack. Some of the dialogue and sound effects are obviously looped, which is a common practice, but in some instances they come across as a bit harsh and don’t quite fit in with the rest of the soundtrack. While not a truly superb offering, the 5.1 track is more than acceptable and sounds better than many such remixes I’ve heard.

As a James Bond special edition you just know that "A View to a Kill" will come packed with extras. First up is an <$commentary,audio commentary> directed by David Naylor in which a whole host of actors and crew members relate their experiences in making this film. The discussion has absolutely nothing to do with the on-screen action and this juxtaposition can get quite distracting. While Mr. Naylor tries hard to create a cohesive discussion, there is an awful lot of jumping around and he seems to be straining to keep it all together. That being said, it is a nice commentary to listen to and does provide some interesting insight into the film. While I do generally enjoy these group commentaries, I find it easier to listen to them as stand-alone audio and turn the monitor off.

Next up is the 37-minute documentary entitled "Inside A View to a Kill." Hosted by Rosemary Lord, this feature takes a close look at the special effects and stunt work done for the film. While there is some overlap with the commentary, the information is presented here in a much more accessible format. The documentary winds down with Roger Moore discussing his decision to leave the role of James Bond and shows a short retrospective of his career as 007.

Taking a much broader view of the James Bond films is the 21-minute feature "The Bond Sound: The Music of 007," hosted by Patrick Macnee. Covering the evolution of the Bond theme songs and scores, this documentary offers interviews with Shirley Bassey, Carly Simon, and Bill Conti, among others. While a bit too short to adequately cover the material, the featurette does offer a nice overview of this very important facet of the James Bond series.

The DVD also includes a single deleted scene entitled "The Jailhouse" in which 007 is being released from a police station in France. Only about a minute long, the scene is somewhat entertaining and does make use of yet another new James Bond gadget.

The music video for Duran Duran’s title song, "A View to a Kill," is also provided and blends in shots of the band with the obligatory clips from the film. The non-<$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> video is pretty poor and the audio is nothing special but I’ve come to expect that from music videos of that era.

Rounding out the extras are three theatrical trailers and four TV spots. Displaying the same style we’ve come to know and loathe, these promotional pieces manage to show every good stunt and special effect in the film — leaving no surprises for the actual screening of the movie.

While the extras aren’t quite as abundant as those on other Bond DVDs, what’s there is pretty good and is certainly more than a fan of the film could have hoped for.

Like I stated before, many folks despise "A View to a Kill" and it frequently jousts with "Moonraker" for the bottom spot on many "Favorite James Bond Movie" lists. While the attempts to infuse the film with a hip 80s sensibility through creative casting decisions and soundtrack selections do date it somewhat, it is this same unique feel that sets "A View to a Kill" apart from the other movies in the series. The stuntwork is exciting, the villains are appropriately dastardly (if not particularly interesting), and Bond is his usual suave self. Really now, what’s not to like?

MGM Home Entertainment has provided yet another jam-packed James Bond special edition and the presentation as a whole is quite satisfying. No review is going to change your mind on whether or not you like this particular movie. Fans of the film, and the James Bond series in general, can rest assured that "A View to a Kill" is a worthy addition to the special edition DVD line-up.