1970s, 3/4, Action, James Bond, Lewis Gilbert, Review

The Spy Who Loved Me

Image result for the spy who loved me poster

#8 in my Ranking of the James Bond Franchise.

Finally, Roger Moore gets a good Bond picture. I have two largish problems with it, but everything else works with Moore’s interpretation of the character so well that I happily forgive the film the other issues. Moore finally feels like he belongs in this Bond picture, more than in his previous two outings.

In what feels like the undersea version of Blofeld’s plot in You Only Live Twice, two nuclear submarines, one from the UK and one from the Soviet Union, disappear, stolen by a tanker ship that swallows them whole. Both Bond and his Soviet counterpart, Anya Amasova, Agent XXX, get sent to investigate. Their relationship starts antagonistically with each working to undermine the other in the interests of their own countries. That won’t last, though, when the two countries decide to work together to investigate the matter and use their two agents cooperatively.

Along the way, they encounter Jaws, the chief henchman of Karl Stromberg. Jaws is seven feet tall with metal teeth that can cut through chains. He’s not really a character, but at least he’s interesting to look at and is an imposing physical antagonist to the smaller Bond. Stromberg, though, is just about as generic a Bond villain as can be. He’s barely in the movie, but when he’s there, he’s going to be generically villainous. He gets a very late speech where he describes how he wants to kill all life on the land in order to…live life under the sea. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He’s really just the vehicle to get things moving, and at least he has an awesome base and tanker that swallows submarines whole. He, himself, might be generic and uninteresting. His plan might be generic and a retread. But, you know what? He’s got a great couple of places to have the climactic action scenes.

Getting to that action scene is a fun adventure that takes Bond and Amasova across the world through Egypt where they chase around the pyramids and fight Jaws in a ruin. They travel together to meet Stromberg outside of Sardinia and get into a chase with Q’s newest car which can turn into a submarine. The underwater action scenes here are much better filmed and more exciting that what we got in Thunderball. There’s some under-cranking and faster editing that really add a kick to the scenes that the previous underwater Bond adventure was missing.

Well, needless to say with the film’s title, the two central characters sort of fall in love. This being a Roger Moore Bond film, though, I never got the sense that he felt anything towards Amasova more than a mild lust. She seems smitten with him, but Barbara Bach is not nearly as convincing an actress to sell it. Moore hasn’t built a Bond capable of long term affection for a woman, embracing the lothario aspects of the character more than either Connery or Lazenby. So, Bond deciding to face certain death to go into Stromberg’s base to save Amasova feels rote instead of emotional.

And those are really my only two problems with the film. Stromberg’s painfully generic and Amasova tries to be a repeat of Countess Traci in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (including the first indirect reference to her since that film), but she doesn’t rise to the occasion.

Outside of those two things, though, I kind of love the movie. It’s the most fantasy driven form of Bond so far, and it works. It finally fully embraces the fact that it’s not a deep adventure but just a fun one. The gadgets are amusing. Bond floats through it. The action scenes are exciting and the finale is the best action finale of a Bond film since You Only Live Twice, fully taking advantage of the huge sets and creating thorough chaos. It’s a fun Bond escapade, and I want Moore to keep hitting this tone just right.

Rating: 3/4

6 thoughts on “The Spy Who Loved Me”

  1. What an odd poster. We have an Andorian on the far left, action figure toys in front, and the Legion of Doom’s Summer Place near the right edge. Still, sounds like a film worth checking out.

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  2. heh, stronberg,, the great german actor, curt jergens, does look blue there, might have been another standin for Onassis, if the latter were Norwegian, and Barbara bach, who was the model for katya in the archer series,

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  3. Just watched this. Yeah, it’s definitely a good Bond film, and certainly the best Moore I’ve seen. (The others were Moonraker, which was fun but overwhelmed with silliness, and For Your Eyes Only, of which I remember nothing.)

    My only real criticisms would be about the “fake suspense” bits which always annoy me. In this case, the “Bond has to remove the detonator from the bomb but if he touches the sides they’ll all die.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen. Please, can we move on?

    As far as Barbara Bach goes, she’s beautiful and that’s all she really brought to anything she was in, and that was all that was needed of her. That’s why making her Russian was a smart move; she can seem awkward and you can put it down to Eastern girl in a Western world.

    My only other question, is how much money did Tobasco have to pay to get a bottle of their sauce at Stromberg’s last meal.

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    1. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Octopussy. It’s the wrong kind of silly in a few places, but it handles the spy stuff in the best way with Moore. This one is more consciously outlandish, and it handles that well.

      Speaking of product placement, I was watching a movie from the 30s and there was a shot with a very prominent and clear Coke sign in the background. Made today, that would have been pointed out as product placement, but back then it was probably just in the shot and no one really cared. The Bond movies have always been about product placement, though, ever since Bond first drove around in an Aston Martin. I’d guess five figures for the Tabasco.

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