The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

LEGENDS OF THE SILVER SCREEN: ROGER MOORE

I know it’s not a popular opinion, but to me, Roger Moore was the best James Bond. That just may be because he’s the Bond I grew up with, but that’s the way I feel. When I close my eyes and think of James Bond, it’s Moore who immediately comes to mind. This week on Legends of the Silver Screen we’re going to take a look at three of Moore’s non-Bond outings.

First up is…

BULLSEYE! (1991) *

Michael Caine and Roger Moore impersonate a nuclear scientist and his partner in order to steal their safety deposit box full of diamonds. After successfully pulling off the heist, the CIA ropes them into posing as the scientists again so they can prevent a special formula for nuclear energy from hitting the open market. Meanwhile Caine learns the young CIA agent assisting them is actually his daughter.

There’s no other way to say it. Bullseye is the pits. What makes the film especially disappointing is the fact that it was directed by none other than Michael Winner. We’ve all seen Death Wish 3, so we know the man can do action, but you’d never know it from watching this turd. As bad as the action is in this movie, the comedy is even worse. Most of said “comedy” revolves around Caine wearing a funny nose and trying to talk in an American accent. Honestly, I didn’t laugh once.

Another thing that kills the movie is Caine’s constant narration. I’m sure the narration was trying to make sense out of the already messy plot, but all it does is make things even more confusing. It also has a knack for gratuitously over-explaining everything. Take the John Cleese cameo at the end. OK, we all know it’s John Cleese playing himself; so why does Caine’s narration have to remind us it was him?

It’s particularly sad to watch two great talents such as Michael Caine and Roger Moore wallowing in such pathetic material. While some fun can be had from watching them side by side, they’re basically just going through the motions. In fact, you can almost see their paycheck stubs sticking out of their coat pockets in some scenes. The pairing of two such legendary actors SHOULD have been a bullseye. Sadly, the movie winds up about as far away from the mark as you can get.

(Special Note: I think I deserve a pat on the back for not referring to Michael Winner as Michael LOSER in this review.)

Our next Moore movie is…

THE NAKED FACE (1984) * ½

Roger Moore stars as a psychiatrist accused of murdering one of his patients in this tepid and boring thriller from Cannon. Cop Rod Steiger has a personal axe to grind with Moore (his testimony once allowed the killer of this partner escape the death penalty) so he does all he can to pin the murder on him. Elliott Gould co-stars as Steiger’s new partner who feels bad about Steiger’s tactics and secretly helps Moore find the killer.

The Naked Face gets off to a decent enough start, but things get dull real quick. The film runs out of steam way too early and director Bryan (The Stepford Wives) Forbes particularly drops the ball when it comes to the twist ending. (Spoilers follow.) In the end, we find out that it was really The Mob that was behind it all? Really? Lame. To top it all off, the last scene is a real head scratcher too. (End Spoilers.)

I love Roger Moore as much as the next guy, but he gives a pretty weak performance in The Naked Face. He underplays things perhaps a bit too much in the movie and as a result, it’s really hard to care what happens to him. Moore is the kind of guy who made his bread and butter playing suave and debonair characters (which made him the perfect James Bond). He’s so good at it that when he plays against type, it’s actually detrimental. We pay good money to see Moore being cocky and banging broads, not acting all timid and mousy.

The supporting cast is solid though. In addition to Elliott Gould, we also have Anne (Patriot Games) Archer as one of Moore’s patients and Art (The Star Wars Holiday Special) Carney as a private detective. And it was also nice seeing Moore teamed up with his Live and Let Die co-star David Hedison yet again. Rod Steiger comes off the best, mostly because he goes way over the top. He really goes off the rails here and watching him chew the scenery is about as close to “fun” as the movie gets.

Gould also appeared with Moore in our next movie…

ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979) * ½

You know when Roger Moore stars alongside Blofeld (Telly Savalas) and a fake James Bond (David Niven), you just expect more. (Moore?)

Moore stars as a German POW camp official on a Greek island with a penchant for antiques. Growing tired of fighting, he decides to break his prisoners out as long as they help him find a cache of Greek gold. That leads to an uneasy reliance between him and the leader of the Greek resistance (Savalas).

If there’s one nice thing I can say for Escape to Athena, it’s that it has a terrific cast. We’ve got Roger Moore, David Niven, Telly Savalas, Claudia Cardinale, SONNY BONO, Elliott Gould, and Richard Rountree in this thing, but none of them are given anything worthwhile to do. Seriously, you’ve got James Bond, Shaft, Trapper John, AND Kojack in your movie and you STILL manage to fuck it up? Shame on you George P. Cosmatos.

A lot of the problem is that the tone is out of whack. Elliott Gould is given a lot of shtick that just isn’t funny and it doesn’t really jibe with the rest of the flick. Imagine if Hogan’s Heroes made The Great Escape and that should give you an idea of what we’re up against.

And nearly all the action sequences are blandly staged and decidedly unexciting. The lone exception is a decent motorcycle chase through the narrow alleyways of Greece. Other than that, the flick is about as much fun as watching shit drying in the sun.

Thankfully for the action film community, Cosmatos got much better behind the camera and went on to direct the immortal Stallone classics, Rambo: First Blood: Part 2 and Cobra.

Next week’s Legend: Peter Fonda.

Tags: .legends of the silver screen, action, b, cannon, comedy, e, n, thriller
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