Duranalysis: A View to a Kill

Back in 1985, when I was young and the world was dazzling and new, I thought Duran Duran’s video for their hit single “A View to a Kill,” the theme song for the James Bond film of the same name, was really, really cool.

As it turns out, I was mistaken.

The video was directed by Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, who were also responsible for the boys’ extra-sleazy 1981 “Girls on Film” video (and who, performing as the pop duo Godley & Creme, had their own big hit in 1985 with “Cry” -- you remember, “You don’t know how to ease my pain…” In the realm of weird Duran Duran-related music trivia, this is right up there with Nick Rhodes producing Kajagoogoo’s “Too Shy”). The “View to a Kill” video features the Duran Duran boys as a quintet of gorgeous, glamorous spies who swarm around the Eiffel Tower and try to kill each other. Conceptually, this is a goldmine. The execution, however, is… problematic.

I should be clear: It’s not a disaster. In fact, there’s some pretty good stuff here. Overall, though, it’s a little lame and a little smug, and it isn’t clever enough to support the smugness. The video is interspersed with scenes from the film -- specifically, the sequence where Roger Moore’s Bond and Grace Jones chase each other all over the Eiffel Tower -- cobbled together to make it look as though the Duran Duran boys are interacting with the Bond characters. Fun concept, but it doesn’t quite mesh.



The video opens on a catering van (“Chez Tayloire,” geddit?) parked at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Roger, who is sitting in the driver’s seat, teleports himself into the back of the van.


Yeah, Roger can teleport. Just shrug it off and move on. We’ve got a lot of material to cover, and if I stop down to scrutinize every last example of nitwittery, we’ll be here all day. Anyway, he’s got a cool super-spy control room set up in his van, featuring lots of big, clunky artifacts of Eighties tech.

Aw, no! What have they done to our fresh-faced, adorable Roger? Sure, it’s just the unflattering lighting, but he looks haggard and unwell. Not long after this video came out, Roger quit Duran Duran and went into semi-reclusion until he was coaxed back into the spotlight some fifteen years later; I’m not suggesting that seeing how ghastly he looks here drove him into hiding, but it surely couldn’t have helped his mental state.


Roger sends a camcorder sailing out of a hatch on the roof of his van. It flies up the side of the Eiffel Tower and hovers in the air, monitoring the action on the upper decks. I will not be discussing the special effects in any detail. They haven’t stood the test of time; I’ll just leave it at that and move right along.


Simon leans against the wall on one of the observation decks and listens to his Walkman. With his striped shirt, white trench coat (collar popped), and beret (tilted at just the right jaunty angle), he looks like a million francs, the world-famous pop star disguised as a secret agent disguised as an everyday French tourist. All he needs to complete the image is a glass of red wine and a pack of Gitanes.


John saunters around the deck, trying to look casual and doing a terrible job of blending in with the other tourists. John is really, really beautiful. Has anyone ever noticed this before?


In strolls Andy, who is sporting dark glasses, a white cane, and a monstrous mane of gigantic, snarled, ratty hair. I’d say the hair was just to lend credence to his role as a spy disguised as a blind accordion player, but I’ve seen the video for “The Reflex.” Hair aside, I don’t want to bag on Andy (I say blithely, having just bagged on Andy), because he’s kind of awesome and hilarious here. When he has something concrete to do in a video, instead of just being The Guy Hanging Out in the Scaffolding (“Union of the Snake”) or The Guy Making Awkward Small Talk With Nick (“Hungry Like the Wolf”), he can steal scenes away from his glamorous show-pony bandmates.


Speaking of glamorous show ponies… Andy throws a covert glance over at fashion photographer/spy Nick, who is snapping pictures of a gorgeous model. At this point, we only get a tantalizing glimpse of Nick’s hair (spiky, streaky) and makeup (smoky), but it all looks very, very promising.


John skulks around the observation deck and watches through a telescope as Roger Moore and Grace Jones get into a big shootout on the upper deck. Gunshots ring out, but the tourists thronging about the tower don’t seem to notice. Yeah, this is sort of what I mean about the film footage not meshing well with the video footage.

From his super-awesome control room, Roger sends up three more cameras.


Simons whips out his Walkman. Inside, instead of a cassette, there’s a little control panel with the word “HELICOPTER” flashing at the top. Simon pushes a button, and we see footage from the movie of a helicopter crashing and exploding in an arctic area. So Simon’s just loitering around the Eiffel Tower, blowing up stuff halfway across the world. Simon is a menace to polite society.


Roger picks up his enormous phone and mutters something in a foreign language to Simon, who receives the message over his Walkman headphones.


Roger, honey, please take a hot bath and crawl into a warm, soft bed. You’re scaring me.

Oh, wow. We finally get our first up-close look at lovely Nick, who is giving directions to his model while not-so-secretly snapping photos of Grace Jones and Roger Moore. This was worth the wait. A 1985 People magazine article on the boys describes Nick’s makeup job in this video thusly: “plum blush, black eye pencil and liner by Clinique and coral lipstick by Christian Dior.” Details are important.


Simon whips out his Walkman again and uses it to blow up a blimp that’s floating over the Golden Gate Bridge, and really, I still don’t have any idea why he has to do this from the Eiffel Tower.


From his control room, Roger gets on the phone and barks orders to Nick, who receives them through an earpiece. Much as this video makes me wince in parts, I dig the idea of shy, enigmatic Roger turning out to be the shadowy behind-the-scenes mastermind of Duran Duran.

(I recently browsed through some reviews of Steve Malins’s unauthorized biography of Duran Duran over on Amazon -- one reviewer complains that the book contains “…too many weird descriptions of Nick Rhodes as some kind of alabaster-skinned alien.” While at first this seems like a very valid and reasonable criticism, after watching this video, I’m not sure one can ever make the point too many times about Nick looking like an alabaster-skinned alien. A very pretty alabaster-skinned alien.)


Nick then starts secretly photographing John. Presumably Nick is following Roger’s orders, but really, if I spotted someone who looked like John Taylor and I had a camera handy, I’d probably start snapping away, too. I gravitate toward pretty things.

John inserts coins into the slot at the base of the telescope. A gun barrel slides out. He swivels it around and starts firing up toward the top of the tower, where Roger Moore and Grace Jones are still battling it out. Oh, dear. Whose brilliant idea was it to arm Duran Duran? This will end in tears. John manages to shoot down one of Roger’s cameras, which he seems far too pleased about.


Let’s sort out some loyalties: Simon and Nick are taking orders from Roger, and John, if he’s aiming at Roger’s cameras, is definitely their foe. And Andy? Why, surely he’s nothing more than a harmless blind accordion player! Andy looks around in apparent confusion as tourists scurry in panic at the gunfire.


Nick snaps a photo of Andy. Bad move. Andy, who is very plainly Not Really Blind, spots Nick and goes for the kill.


He plays his accordion, which turns out to be an Accordion of Death. When Andy presses a special red button, Nick screams in pain. His camera glows ominously, then explodes in a burst of flame, killing him.


Oh, Andy.

Sheesh. Nick might’ve been an enemy spy, but after all, he was just taking a few harmless snapshots. It’s not like he was blowing up helicopters and blimps, Simon. Murdering Nick -- tiny, pretty, glittery Nick -- is beyond the pale. It’s like stepping on Tinker Bell (here, my literate and high-minded sister would be quick to point out that, in the original J.M. Barrie books, Tinker Bell was a vicious and vindictive little sprite. I maintain the analogy still holds. Despite his dainty appearance, Nick has always seemed like the Duran most likely to wreak terrible vengeance against anyone who crosses him).

I feel like I just watched a Duran Duran snuff film. Oh, sure, there’s been a Duran body count in other videos -- all the boys except for Roger meet a bad fate at the hands of zombies in “Night Boat,” and it’s up in the air whether Andy and Nick make it out of the exploding underground fortress alive in “Union of the Snake” -- but this video marks the sole foray into the disturbing realm of Duran-on-Duran violence.

And Andy has never looked happier.


Andy packs up his accordion and triumphantly saunters off over the final chords of the song. There’s still twenty seconds left in the video, but do yourself a favor and stop watching right here. It’s just better that way.

…Still watching? Okay, let’s get this over with: A beautiful blonde strolls up to Simon and tugs on his arm. “Excuse me. Aren’t you..?” she asks. With an unsettling mixture of smug and goofy, Simon responds, “Bon. Simon Le Bon.”

Ugh.

It gets worse. Simon glances down at his Walkman and sees that it’s now flashing “EIFFEL TOWER.” He grows alarmed (in a goofy way), but there’s no need for panic -- on a rack at a souvenir kiosk at the base of the Tower, a postcard of the Eiffel Tower explodes. Fade out.

I repeat: Ugh.

After that, I need a quick palate cleanser: The official Duran Duran website has some gorgeous behind-the-scenes video of their cover shoot for this month’s issue of L’Uomo Vogue, in which the boys, minus prodigal-son Andy, wear sumptuous tuxedos and loll about on a four-poster bed at the Duke of Northumberland’s majestic estate. Nice work, if you can get it.



It’s been thirty years since the boys first rose to worldwide prominence, and time has been kind to them: Roger has transitioned gracefully from looking like someone’s super-cute brother to looking like someone’s super-cute dad, John still has those killer cheekbones, Simon is rocking his new beard, and there’s still more than a little of the alabaster-skinned alien about Nick, who, naturally, managed to snag the shiniest, flashiest tux for himself. I would expect nothing less.


Related Links:
Duranalysis Main Page

Comments

Dan said…
... extra-sleazy 1981 “Girls on Film” video ...

You've lost me here. I recall studying this video extremely closely as a young man and, to the best of my recollection, it is the embodiment of High Art™.
Morgan Richter said…
I understand the confusion, Dan. There's a surprisingly fine line between joyous sleaze and High Art™. More often than not, mud-wrestling is somehow involved in both.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
Thank you for another laugh. I always hated the ridiculousness of much of this video. But the parts with Nick, and Simon's goofy ending, were always my favorite bits that made it worth watching(oh, and John's strutting about, too, till he starts "shooting").

On another note, thanks to your lovely links in prior posts to the online clips of Nick with Andy Warhol, and his moments gluing sparklies to his Arena-wear, I had a silly Nick dream last night where he was being so very cool.

Then somehow today I got in my head the Arcadia song "Election Day" and went looking on YouTube for it, only to stumble upon the totally forgotten "The Flame" which had me chuckling and cheering in nostalgic glee. I would LOVE to read your analysis of this, their most comedic mini-film that makes me wonder if whoever produced/directed it was the same person to come up with the silly Huey Lewis videos.
Morgan Richter said…
Cheryl, I love Arcadia's Flame video. Love, love, love it. It was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who worked with the boys on so many of their other great videos (Night Boat, Wild Boys, etcetera). Brilliant stuff. I might have to tackle it next.

That clip of Nick happily covering his Arena wardrobe with glittery things always makes me laugh out loud. Nick is sometimes so far off in his own (fabulous, sparkly, wondrous) world that it takes my breath away.
Ingrid Richter said…
You know, Walkmans™ can't have that much of a range... even Duran Duran spy versions. Maybe Simon was at the Eiffel Tower to boost the 'blow stuff up' signal?

So it's Power Station vs. Arcadia here, eh?
Morgan Richter said…
So it's Power Station vs. Arcadia here, eh?

Heh, yes, I couldn't help noticing the spy teams broke down along Power Station (John, Andy) versus Arcadia (Simon, Nick, Roger) lines. Funny how that worked out...

Ingrid, I like your idea of Simon needing to use the Eiffel Tower to, uh, boost his Walkman signal to aim in blowing up random stuff halfway around the world. Let's just assume that's exactly what was intended.
Lou said…
I wish I could remember enough of the 80s to appreciate Duran Duran. All I recall with any clarity: my bright yellow space hopper; Fraggle Rock and Slush Puppies.

However in spite of my ignorance, I am enjoying all this Duranalysis very much.
Morgan Richter said…
I wish I could remember enough of the 80s to appreciate Duran Duran.

Aw, yeah, I always feel bad for people too young to remember the eighties. Good times. The hair was big, the pop culture was weird, and the music was fantastic.
April said…
I was just happening to check out this video again, years later thanks to songpop and wanted more info. I found your blog, just what I needed, the view from another Duranie. Tres Cool. thanks

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