James Bond
The Living Daylights

Starring: Timothy Dalton
16193DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available now

When a Russian defector claims that the KGB's new chief has reinstated the hostile policy of Smiert Spionem (Death to Spies), James Bond is embroiled in a web of murder and deceit...

After the softer approach taken by the ageing deliverer of double entendres that is Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton couldn't have been more different. Dalton sought to give Bond a harder edge, basing his interpretation more closely on the character that Ian Fleming had written about. This attitude coincided with an approach that director John Glen had been edging towards ever since For Your Eyes Only, but which had previously been hindered by Moore's lighter touch. Together, Dalton and Glen give us a Bond who, while indisputably still the good guy, looks as though he is capable of killing when necessary (witness Bond's murderous expression after his fellow agent is killed at the fun fair). Bond's return to cigarettes (Moore had favoured cigars) and references to Smiert Spionem (i.e. SMERSH) also echo Fleming's novels.

But heroes need to change with the times, so the production team stop short of resurrecting Fleming's 1950s creation wholesale. Bond's notorious bed-hopping and misogyny are played down - after the pre-credits sequence, he is intimate with only one woman, Kara (Maryam d'Abo). Critics have poured scorn on the notion of a "politically correct" Bond but, to be frank, a woman-hating "hero" was simply not palatable in 1987, any more than it is in 2001. In fact, 007's monogamy helps to strengthen the plot by creating a real sense of emotional attachment between hero and heroine. And it's not as though Bond has suddenly gone all soft on us, is it? He remains an extremely rough diamond, whose friendly patting of Moneypenny's backside would be grounds for a sexual harassment tribunal in any real-life workplace! Unfortunately, d'Abo is not given a particularly strong role as Kara, who comes across as rather feeble and helpless. However, she remains one of the loveliest actresses ever to have played a Bond girl. She and Dalton ooze sexuality during their love scenes, even though Dalton is briefly let down by scriptwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson, and has to deliver the horrendous line, "Are you calling me a horse's arse?" Whoa!

The Living Daylights has also been criticised for its lack of a powerful central villain. I prefer to regard the use of a villainous duo as a strength, being more original than the standard Bond movie template. Jeroen Krabbé is delightfully eccentric as defector Koskov, who is not immediately revealed to be a bad guy, while Joe Don Baker is suitably unhinged as the war-obsessed arms dealer Brad Whitaker.

Ultimately, two principal ingredients make this movie. One of these is Dalton, and the other is the music - not the insipid title song by A-ha, but John Barry's final Bond score to date. Barry's action themes, featuring a pulse-pounding, dance-style beat, accentuate the numerous stunt sequences and visceral fight scenes to perfection.

The DVD's extras include a lengthy deleted scene in which Bond escapes from his pursuers on a "magic carpet". Both the music video and the making of the music video to A-ha's title song are included (should you ever wish to hear that again). Curiously, the pop video that accompanied the chart release of The Pretenders' end title song, If There Was A Man, is absent. However, we do get to see Sam Neill's screen test for the role of Bond, and learn just how close Pierce Brosnan came to playing 007 back in 1986.

But let's not dwell on what might have been (such as at least four more Dalton films) and instead enjoy the goodies that have made it onto this disc. You'd be a horse's arse to miss it!

Richard McGinlay