The spectre of death: revenge and retribution in For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingChapter


As Lisa Funnell and Klaus Dodds point out in Geographies, Genders and Geopolitics of James Bond (2017), by connecting the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only (1981) to Bond’s grief for his late wife, the film frames his actions as vengeance (36). Admittedly, the rather comical dispatch of Bond’s archenemy Blofeld was principally motivated by the ongoing litigation regarding the rights to the screen version of the character (see Sellers, 2008). Nonetheless, in doing so, the pre-credit sequence highlights what Lynette S. Moran (2016) labels a distinctly ‘masculine experience of grief’ frequently articulated in popular culture (14); even in mourning, men at any age can use action-based plots of thrill and adventure to reconcile their past traumas. Such an association between violent (male) revenge and retributive justice has long been a staple of Western art and culture that long predates cinema (see Schumann and Ross, 2010). In his study of revenge drama, for example, literary scholar John Kerrigan (1996) argues that despite the increase in vengeful narratives across contemporary American culture, “there is nothing new in all of this” (vii). He even goes so far as to position revenge as one of the defining themes of narrative construction; ‘a building-block, the seed from which something larger can grow, since, one man’s vengeance being another man’s injury […] will breed others as blood calls for blood and the symmetries of action extend into plot’ (14). As Kerrigan’s distinctly gendered language indicates, violent revenge has historically been the purview of men. In For Your Eyes Only, it is the grieving daughter of Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) who seeks revenge for the death of her parents. In this chapter, I argue that the film's inversion of traditional gender roles, particularly as they relate to the execution of grief and revenge, strikes a ready chord with the radical feminist movement of the second wave and present Melina as one of the strongest Bond Girls in the franchise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJames Bond will return: critical perspectives on the 007 film franchise
EditorsClaire Hines, Terence McSweeney, Stuart Joy
PublisherWallflower Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780231556965
ISBN (Print)9780231207409
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'The spectre of death: revenge and retribution in For Your Eyes Only (1981)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this