Hello everyone and welcome to the landmark tenth edition in my series of reviews chronicling the James Bond film franchise. Tonight the film we will be taking under the microscope for special examination is one of my all time favorites in the Double O’ Seven series, and what may be also hands down the best James Bond film of the Roger Moore era (according to this humble reviewer anyway), that being 1977’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring of course, Roger Moore in the role of Agent 007, James Bond. Now I must say it is quite ironic to note that the man here who directed what I just called my favorite film of the Roger Moore era also happened to direct what I would say was without question my least favorite film of the original Sean Connery era just a decade prior in 1967’s ‘You Only Live Twice’. However, I will say that with this movie Mr. Gilbert more than atoned for any past sins in my view, as he created here in this film what is without question one of the most sweepingly epic, engrossing, and yes, downright entertaining Bond flicks of all time.
‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ has got all the usual cheeky and over the top ingredients you’d expect from a Bond film of this era, but dialed up to eleven so to speak, and most importantly, anchored down by a solid love interest and one of the better villains since old Ernst Stavro Blofeld himself (who ironically was going to be the villain here before the producers got into some legal hot water with the person who at that time owned the rights to that character and his likeness). This film also boasts one of the more memorable opening sequence songs of all time as Carly Simon sets just the right tone for this picture with her lovely little ballad entitled ‘Nobody Does it Better’ which plays over the usual collage of floating naked women and so on. So with that said, let’s not waste any more time on the preliminary introductions, let us instead skip right onto the main event itself.
We’ll start as we typically do with a description of the main villain and his zany plot to take over/destroy the entire world and/or all of humanity. His name is Karl Stromberg, and he is a megalomaniacal (emphasis on maniacal) billionaire who, as all good Bond villains do, has his own private and seemingly impregnable fortress, the only difference being that his fortress (dubbed the Atlantis) is a floating one, complete with its own private elevators, and a beautifully stocked aquarium that happens to contain a few sharks that will come in handy at various moments throughout the picture. In fact it is more like a floating city rather than a simple hideaway. It can be concealed totally underwater or be raised above sea level and can sustain itself and all who live on it indefinitely. Stromberg you could say fashions himself as a bit of an environmentalist, sort of like a precursor to Al Gore you could say, only not quite as hate-able. He has a deep knowledge of and love for the Ocean and all things aquatic, but an equally deep hatred for the human race, as it exists now that is, which he considers to be so vile and obscene to him that it no longer deserves to exist in its current form.
So his plan is to begin a nuclear war between Soviet Russia and her enemies that will effectively wipe out all humanity, and then begin a new fresh uncontaminated civilization under the sea, in which he will be able to oversee everything to his own peculiar likings. So then after consulting the services of a few brave intellectual Benedict Arnolds who give him the means to privately track nuclear submarines, (for which he has them promptly killed) he sends his own private tanker out in the world’s largest game of ‘Hungry Hungry Shippos’ to swallow up these humongous subs and of course, their nuclear arsenal, which he then intends to use for his own devices, such as firing a few missiles at Moscow or New York City in the hopes of setting off World War Three. All of this naturally pays off in the end with a giant fun gun battle aboard his tanker featuring a hundred or so of his own private paramilitary force and the British Royal Navy, along with captured Soviet and American soldiers as well, all being lead heroically of course, by Commander James Bond himself.
When we first see James Bond in this movie, he is laying cozily on a bearskin rug, in a warm winter cabin on the outskirts of Austria with yet another gorgeous female plaything stocked from his never ending supply of temporary conquests, and is just being informed of this whole dilemma through a ticker-tape message system built into his custom Q-branch designed watch, which leads him to hop on a pair of skis in order to get down the snow covered mountains so he can then parachute into his (presumably) awaiting ride back to Britain for a fuller debriefing by S.I.S officials. In the meantime a band of conveniently located Russian agents begin pursuing him and in the chase he manages to slay one of them with a nifty device built into one of his ski stocks. This event will later turn out to be a very serious issue for him when he is paired up on the nuclear submarine case officially with a beautiful Russian secret agent, of whom he develops quite the relationship with over the course of the film’s events. Speaking of her, the main drawing point of this movie for me here is the interplay between Bond and this movie’s customary ‘Bond Girl’ (although she is one of those rare ones of whom it could be said that the title of ‘Bong Girl’ was perhaps beneath her and even an insult to her in all honesty…) Agent Triple X. No not Vin Diesel you perverts, but the lovely and vivacious Barbara Bach in the role of ace Russian secret agent Anya Amasova.
Bond and Amasova initially meet by accident as they are both pursing the same evidence containing device for their respective governments, both of whom are being used unknowingly as pawns by Stromberg of course. Since the two top agents, of rival nations at the time, both have a natural distrust of one another, it is interesting to watch how the relationship progresses over the course of the movie, and how Bond fairs with this, a woman who could be seen as his equal, rather than just another of his endless trivial pursuits. They run the gambit of emotions for one another before all is said and done, and I for one, went along for the ride full throttle. No other female lead in Bond’s entire history, perhaps besides the infamous Teresa, whom he married in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was ever as well written or proved to have such depth and a capacity to make me actually care about her and her relationship with James Bond than Anya did here. Speaking of Teresa, there is an absolutely great moment in this film where Agent Triple X, upon first meeting Bond runs down a list of brief biographical facts about him and the cold stare Roger Moore gives her when she brings up his deceased wife is perhaps my favorite moment in the movie bar none. It’s both a great nod and wink reference to fans of the overall series, and an emotionally powerful moment to boot. Aside from Agent Triple X the only other Bond Girl of note here would be Stromberg’s assistant and helicopter pilot Naomi played here by Caroline Munro who is quite fetching herself, and also quite deadly.
I mentioned the main villain up above, but another person who deserves a special mention here is this movie’s primary henchman, that being Jaws, played here by the mammoth Richard Kiel in a role that had to be designed as a subtle wink of the eye to director Steven Spielberg (who for many years stated that it was long his dream to direct a James Bond film himself..) Jaws is an abnormally tall man due to being born with acute gigantism, and who like any good Bond henchman is blessed with both abnormal strength and amazing recuperative abilities (at one point he crashes a car off a cliff into a house below… and simply walks out the front door of the house and grimaces…) but what is most notable about him is that he has a set of false teeth that would make your grandparents green with envy. They are made of solid steel plates, and can cut and crush steel cables if need be. In the early parts of the film Jaws has a Dracula like habit of stalking people into dark secluded areas and then killing them off with one casual bite to the neck that gives the film an almost horror movie kind of vibe to it. Richard Kiel in the character of Jaws was such an effective adversary in this movie in fact that he was even brought back in the next one (Moonraker) in virtually the same capacity under the supervision of a new madman bent for world domination/extermination.
Next to only Oddjobb, from Goldfinger, I’d say Jaws has to be included in any list of the all time great Bond henchmen. Fans of professional wrestling will also note with me that Jaws, or Kiel I should say bares a striking physical resemblance to WWE superstar ‘The Great Khali’… It really is to the point where you could mistake them for twins. In the unlikely scenario that the Jaws character should ever return to the Bond series in this new reboot of the franchise, he would be an obvious shoe-in for that role. Jaws best scene to me is one in which he boards a train where Bond and Amasova are and engages Bond in a battle where his metallic teeth prove to be quite the detriment to him in the end. I also love that scene because it reminds me a lot of my favorite Bond movie, ‘From Russia With Love’ which features a good deal of scenes featuring Bond (played by Connery in that movie) on board a passenger train with a lovely female companion.
We also have here a splendid return to form for the nearly lost art of the ‘Bond Car’, which was not seen in quite a few pictures sadly before this one brought it back. But return it did, and with a vengeance here. It was not the signature Aston Martin from movies gone by this time but a sleek looking Lotus Esprit that got a few special tweaks designed in by that crafty old genius Q. This car of course has all the usual features such as rockets, machine guns, and bullet proof everything, but is also able to be driven underwater, at which point it becomes something of a miniature submarine complete with surface to air torpedoes and other nifty little accessories that make it both the most tactically proficient and stylish underwater combat vehicle imaginable. Along with the car we also get the usual scene in which Q demonstrates his latest wild inventions to Bond in his testing laboratory which always makes for a welcome bit of comedic relief. Aside from Q, Moneypenny, M and the entire gang reprise their roles here, and everyone is truly in tip-top form for this movie.
This film also has some of the best Bond scenery and locations in the entire series, as we see Agent 007 travel to exotic Egypt to get a debriefing from an old friend and confidant who now has his own private harem of hotties with which to occupy his time. As much as it might behoove James to stay and enjoy all of those local delicacies, Bond still has way more to do and see though, including a trip to the Great Pyramids where he almost finds himself entombed permanently among the Pharaohs. Other great locations include a museum and a massive construction site in the middle of the desert, where Bond and Amasova barely escape with their lives after an intense battle with Jaws who single handedly dismantles the van they are riding in. That leads to the most iconic moment of the film, which sees Bond and Amasova wandering together through the barren desert sands while strings from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ can be heard playing in the background. That little bit was originally thrown in as a gag by one of the editors, but when the producers saw how effective it turned out, they decided to leave it in the final cut of the picture, and I for one, am very glad they did.
All in all and in conclusion I have to say that ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ has absolutely everything you could want and then some from an old school James Bond movie. It has a great evil villain (with an equally great accent) hellbent on nuclear annihilation, a very memorable Bond girl (with a sexy Russian accent), a scary henchman, (who doesn’t speak, so therefore I have no comment on his accent) and also a very capable James Bond in this his third outing in the role and of course, tons of great action sequences and the usually great and funny James Bond witticisms, delivered in that impeccable dry British style of Moore’s. This film is truly a classic, without peer in my estimation, in the Roger Moore catalog anyway. In fact if you are only going to see one movie from the Roger Moore era of James Bond films, do yourself a favor and make it this one. I promise you that you will not regret it.
While maybe not quite a five star classic, this film comes closer to achieving that designation than anything after it would in this movie series for a long, long time to come, and with that I give it a very, very strong recommendation indeed, both to anyone who hasn’t seen it, or to someone who perhaps hasn’t seen it in a while at least. I’d say that this is one Bond feature well worth seeking out on some kind of special edition DVD and keeping as either (or both) a commemorative item, or as a good old piece of popcorn cinema to sit down and watch on a rainy day, or any day for that matter. Well anyway, that concludes our review for ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. I do thank you all for reading with me this far, and rest assured although our hero will require a good long respite with a few of his chosen harem mates mentioned above in order to recover from the events of this last picture, James Bond will still return in tip top shape once again, next time, when he battles space tycoon Hugo Drax in my review of 1979’s ‘Moonraker’.
The Spy Who Loved Me gets a four out of five: GREAT.