Directed by Lewis Gilbert
British and Russian nuclear subs are disappearing and Agent 007 James Bond (Roger Moore) must work with Russian agent Anya Amasova/Agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) whose lover Bond killed while on a mission. They are teamed up in order to find out why and stop the mad plans of shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens) bent on creating a new world order.
This is the film where Roger Moore’s James Bond finally came into his own. Live and Let Die was a good movie and The Man with the Golden Gun was just okay but here he actually blossomed. He became unapologetically emblematic of Britain and truly a British secret agent.
The opening sequence just before the song plays and the parachute opens is said to have made Bond a genuine British agent in the minds of the public. And honestly, I can see why. He fights off dozens of men intent on killing him on as he skis through the mountains and the moment he makes his escape he opens up a parachute with his country’s flag. That would work for the fictional agent of any country. It is just a demonstration of pride in your nation that can only be done on film.
Triple X is probably one of the more over the top Bond Girl names. Barbara Bach is a little bit on the wooden side at times, but the character of Triple X is more independent than previous Bond Girls. She does not need Bond as much and has designs of her own that don’t exactly coincide with Bond’s interests. In fact some of them are downright dangerous to what he wants.
What is Bond without the bad guy with an audacious plot? Bond is not much without a good villain with a plot equal to the character and Stromberg’s plot is appropriately over the top. He wishes to wipeout human civilization by starting a nuclear war and begin a new society under the ocean. I have only ever seen the actor Curd Jürgens in a handful of things, but he was always so very good.
This is among my favorite of the Roger Moore outings. Not only does it have one of the best Bond themes in “Nobody Does It Better” (written by Marvin Hamlisch and sung by Carly Simon) but it introduces my favorite James Bond henchvillain. The metal toothed Jaws (Richard Kiel) was just so cool. I wish they would bring the character back. He was goofy yet quite intimidating. It is implied in the film Jaws talks but in all his time onscreen in both appearances he only ever says a few words and those come in Moonraker.
This movie has great action and the exotic locales you would expect. My favorite scene is the one set at the Sphinx. I just love the super spy drama mixed in with that iconic ancient monument. It is strange and mysterious and even a bit otherworldly. For some oddball reason it always feels like this scene should belong in Moonraker and not in The Spy Who Loved Me. I somehow associate this scene with the film that follows it.
Reportedly this film was a bit of a troubled production. They had difficulty securing a director. Guy Hamilton was originally supposed to direct but he got an offer to direct Superman which was eventually directed by Richard Donner. Steven Spielberg was even approached before they settled on Lewis Gilbert. You have to wonder what a Steven Spielberg directed Bond film would have been like.
Originally Blofeld was supposed to be the villain but Kevin McClory who owned the movie rights to Thunderball obtained an injunction and the producers couldn’t use the character or even the organization of SPECTRE from that point until the Daniel Craig film containing that organization’s name. They just changed the villain name and eliminated the organization. The use of one or both would have made for a very different film and perhaps a bit less enjoyable.
Roger Moore’s turn as James Bond was marked by a more lighthearted tone and this film is no different, but it is much more serious than The Man with the Golden Gun. The stakes are more serious, and Bond even casually kills a man when Sandor (Milton Reid) is holding on to Bond’s tie while leaning over a ledge. After Sandor gives Bond the information he needed, Bond breaks Sandor’s grip and he falls to the street. Maybe I have seen The Naked gun one too many times but does anybody else expect a marching band to walk over that guy when the camera cuts to his body lying on the ground? Anybody?
This movie came out in 1977. If you are a fan of Star Wars you are no doubt familiar with the scene when they’re trying to escape from the prison level of the Death Star. If you take notice you will see that the set used for the prison level of the original Death Star also appears to be part of the set of the bad guy’s secret lair. You cannot miss it. At least that is how it looks to me and I’ve seen both films too many times. I picked up on that when I was a little kid and it just makes this movie a little bit better for me. They were after all both filmed at Pinewood Studios and it was not uncommon for sets to be reused back then. That is especially true of special effects heavy films which The Spy Who Loved Me and the original Star Wars both are.
The Spy Who Loved Me is yet another exciting entry in the James Bond film series and a turn for the better for the Roger Moore era. It is a wonderful film and a worthy addition to the franchise. You will enjoy.