The Spy Who Loved Me Review by Jake

"All those feathers and he still can't fly!"

The Spy Who Loved Me is the tenth entry in the James Bond franchise and the third to feature Roger Moore in the lead role. The film is one of the most famous and pivotal in the series and is generally regarded to be the one that established Moore as 007. The backstory to the film, as you are probably aware, is that The Man With The Golden Gun met with a very apathetic reception in 1974 and shortly after Harry Saltzman left the franchise because of financial difficulties. Not for the first (or last!) time people started to wonder if the Bond series had ran its course. The Spy Who Loved Me, destined to arrive in 1977, was seen as a make or break film for Cubby Broccoli.

The Spy Who Loved Me marked a return to the epic extravaganza Bond pictures of the sixties like Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, with incredible fantastical sets by Ken Adam and lavish photography. Lewis Gilbert, responsible for directing You Only Live Twice, was brought in to handle the most ambitious and complicated film yet attempted in the series. The Spy Who Loved Me cost twice as much as any previous Bond and the money is on the screen. It feels like a big and ambitious film compared to many previous - and subsequent - Bond entries. Broccoli built the largest soundstage in the world at Pinewood and spared no expense with the special-effects and spectacular locations, which include Sardinia, Egypt and Austria. Baffin Island in Canada was used for the pre-credit ski sequence and the Bahamas was used for key underwater scenes.

The film opens with probably the most famous and iconic stunt in Bond history. After a fantastic ski chase with funky music by Marvin Hamlisch, 007 (in a banana yellow jumpsuit) skis off a mountain top cliff and seems to fall forever before a Union Jack parachute opens. According to the DVD extras they thought they had actually missed the stunt (by Rick Sylvester) through technical problems with the various cameras but one managed to capture everything and a shaft of sunlight at the right moment, which seems to illuminate Bond as he reaches the edge, made it all almost too good to be true. The amazing stunt is an audacious start to The Spy Who Loved Me and an early sign that Broccoli meant business after being written off. The confident beginning is continued by Maurice Binder's pre-credit sequence and theme 'Nobody Does It Better', sung by Carly Simon. Both continue the impression that everyone has worked hard to make The Spy Who Loved Me special and not just another Bond film. The sequence at the start of the PTS onboard a British nuclear submarine is also well done and reasonably tense. To go off at a tangent for a moment, the PTS of The Spy Who Loved Me was memorably described by Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge in the following way!:

"I'll tell you about "The Spy Who Loved Me". All do that with your fingers round your eye. I am Roger Moore. Bang! Blood dribbles down. We're on a submarine. Two sailors sit down and have a game of chess. Then the cups start wobbling and then a man who used to be in "The Onedin Line" comes in and goes, "Why are the cups wobbling? What's going on?" And then... yeah, you can stop doing that now. And then he peers down the periscope thing and looks through it and goes, "Oh my God. The submarine's being eaten by a a giant tanker!" And then we cut to Moscow. And there's a man there and he's Russian - he's got eyebrows, you know - and he's on the phone going, "What, a whole submarine? You're joking! I'm gonna have to tell some other Russians. See ya!" Right, and then, and then, it cuts to James - Roger Moore - and er, yes, he's with a lady. Yeah. Yeah. He's, he's necking with her. And he goes, "I've got to go, love. Something's come up. Anyway, then he puts on his underpants and his ski suit and he gets on his skis and he starts skiing. And he's being chased by these Russian shits in black jumpsuits with lemon piping. And, er, he's just skiing along like that, and they start shooting at him, and he goes, "Right! I've had enough of that! Just stop it!" And he turns round with his gun and then he does a backward somersault off this ramp, and he, he lands on his feet - I'm not sure why, but he's not showing off. And then, then he goes over a cliff and he's falling and you think, oh God, James Bond's going to die! He's going to die! But then at the last minute..." 

The Spy Who Loved Me, in the best tradition of James Bond films, features a megalomaniac with a grand-scheme to alter the planet. Carl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) is a potty shipping tycoon who has been capturing nuclear submarines using a gigantic supertanker! He also has an undersea base called Atlantis which majestically rises from the sea like a giant spider as he listens to classical music. The futuristic Atlantis and production design give the film a sci-fi feel much more in the spirit of the gilt-edged sixties Bonds like You Only Live Twice, whose plot is borrowed here. Atlantis and the hijacking of the nuclear submarines are superbly realised by the model work of Derek Meddings. I am often nostalgic for the days before CGI when models ruled the world of film and FX and The Spy Who Loved is great fun for this reason alone.

Stromberg wants the nuclear missiles from the submarines to destroy the human race and build a new future for mankind under the sea. Jurgens is nicely deadpan as Stromberg and has some good lines; "Farewell, Mr Bond. That word has, I must admit, a welcome ring of permanence about it." Sadly for him, he's made a big mistake by hijacking a Royal Navy submarine. This means that James Bond 007, in the suave guise of Roger Moore in a pair of cream flares, is sent to investigate by the British government. Moore is soon dispensing quips and throwing people off roofs in Egypt before straightening his tie in his usual unflappable syle. 

The humour in Spy is up on previous Bond films and Moore seems much more at home than his previous entries where he was still required to play agaisnt his personality a little. Moore was lighter in tone than the other Bonds but provides a suave, funny and, amidst great mayhem and silliness at times!, commanding presence throughout the film. He seems to have a better grasp here of when to play it straight and when to wink at the audience in contrast to his first couple of 007 adventures. After a vague attempt to avoid comparisons with Connery by stressing Bondian traits, Moore is seen in Naval Uniform here and a reference to his (Bond's) dead wife is made. The Spy Who Loved Me explicity states that Roger Moore IS James Bond and feels much more Bondian than his first two adventures.

Bond has to team up with Soviet Agent 'XXX' (Major Anya Amasova), played by Barbara Bach, after they cross swords both chasing a vital submarine tracking system. The chase takes them to the pyramids where they first meet Henchman for hire, and killer, Jaws, played by the 7ft 2 Richard Kiel. Jaws' indestructability is used for a lot of jokes, Kiel often dusting himself down and walking off with a stoic expression after crashing his car through someone's roof or being thrown out of a moving train! Jaws sums up the comic book and sci-fi themes running through the film. I think the character is great fun and the film hugely entertaining. The Spy Who Loved Me's funky seventies feel and lavish production design make a winning combination for me.

The photography is superb and it's great fun to see Roger Moore walking around in the desert in a tuxedo. Barbara Bach, a bit like Jane Seymour in Live and Let Die, is not the world's greatest actress but is one of the more memorable Bond ladies, not least walking around the pyramids in a slinky black dress. There is a sub-plot where XXX finds out that Bond killed her lover during the (pre-credit) ski-chase and promises to kill him when the mission is over but it never quite works because Bach isn't very convincing and Roger Moore's Bond doesn't seem like the stressful type! XXX and 007 do have amusing moments of one-upmanship as they work together.

After another classic Roger Moore Bond train punch-up, this time with Jaws, Bond literally being pinned to the ceiling before deploying elecrical sparks from a lamp on Jaws' metal teeth!, 007 and XXX investigate Stromberg's Sardinian base. This section of the film is about as much fun as a Bond film can get. Bond recieves his iconic seventies white Lotus Esprit and has a typical encounter with Q.

"Now I want you to take good care of this equipment."
"Have I ever let you down, Q?"

Bond poses as marine biologist Robert Sterling and is allowed to meet Stromberg on Atlantis. Jurgens and Moore are good fun together in this scene. Back on dry-land Bond and XXX return to Q's gadget-laden Lotus Esprit and, in a fantastic chase sequence that lasts for ages, survive numerous attempts on their life by explosive motor-cycle side-cars, gunmen and a helicopter! Roger Moore is in his element here, dispensing quips and deadpan looks at Caroline Munro's seductive helicopter pilot as she tries to kill them. There is some great model work with lorries exploding and the chase between the Lotus and helicopter is amazing. Most people remember this film as the one with the underwater car. This is superbly done (by Meddings again) and leads to another action sequence underwater! The music by Marvin Hamlisch for this sequence is great fun. Hamlisch wisely came up with some action cues of his own and avoids overdoing the James Bond theme. The Sardinia section really highlights the intention and spirit of The Spy Who Loved Me.

The climax of The Spy Who Loved Me features a spectacular battle scene in the submarine dock located within Stromberg's supertanker as the submarine crews are released and fight a battle against Stromberg's men. The return to grand production design and over the top sets pays dividends and the technical complexity of shooting such an action-packed scene is well handled by Lewis Gilbert. The final encounter between Bond and Jaws is memorably funny too; "How does that grab you?"

Atlantis blows to smithereens and Bond disposes of Stromberg before rescuing XXX. Bond and XXX use an escape pod and are picked up by a warship. The final scene is a bit Carry On, but it's Roger Moore afterall!

How would I describe The Spy Who Loved Me? Colourful, fantastical, and action-packed. It's the best of the films that Roger Moore starred in, the mixture of humour and technological escapism striking a better balance than some other slightly silly entries in the series.

The Spy Who Loved Me is carried off with considerable panache and style and is as grandly entertaining as any film in the long running series. Perfect bank holiday fare and a reminder of the days when James Bond films were tremendous fun.


c 2007 Alternative 007