After British and Russian nuclear submarines are hijacked, the two antagonist nations unite forces to find the culprit. MI6’s James Bond (Roger Moore, The Man who Haunted Himself) is forced to work with a KGB spy, Agent XXX (Barbara Bach, Caveman), who has no intentions of playing fair.
Reaction & Thoughts:
After a few missteps the franchise regains some composure and delivers a true action-packed gem. Although this is the tenth Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, written by Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, feels fresh, belying the fact that the series had been around for nearly two decades. There is a high level of enthusiasm that permeates throughout all sections of the movie. I had a smile on my face the whole time — I savored all jokes and I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular action sequences.
Director Lewis Gilbert (Alfie and Shirley Valentine) makes a triumphant return to the series. Gilbert had pulled out all the stops to make You Only Live Twice (1967) a fun movie and he pretty much does the same thing here. Gilbert has a predilection for grand action set-pieces. He also accentuates Bond’s lager-than-life personality.
The nonstop sense of excitement begins with an amazing pre-title sequence (a ski stunt done by Rick Sylvester), one of the franchise’s very best. Production designer Ken Adam outdoes himself with some incredible sets (director Stanley Kubrick helped Adam with some lighting issues). The submarine dock, nicknamed “supertanker” and constructed at Pinewood studios, England, is incredible. Gilbert embraces all these over the top elements with glee.
Gilbert allows room for some humanity too. Bond decides to forgo official instructions in order to save XXX, a clear sign that he really cares about her. There is also a small, but lovely scene with Bond visibly upset during a conversation about his late wife, played by Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
“Jaws,” played by Richard Kiel (So Fine and Pale Rider), is probably the most fondly remembered villain in the series. He’s not really scary — more like a comical henchman — but he’s a huge, huge guy and that alone makes him appear invincible. The beautiful Bach is pretty good as Bond’s Russian counterpart.
My only complaint is that Curd Jürgens’s (The Inn of the Sixth Happiness) Carl Stromberg is not as intimidating as he could have been. He’s not very menacing. I did like the fact that Stronberg is presented as a misguided villain. It’s hard to argue against Stromberg’s pro-environmental attitude; baddies are more interesting when they make sense. The cast also includes cult actor Caroline Munro (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Maniac). With Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), and Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny).
The Oscar-nominated song “Nobody Does It Better,” written by Carole Bayer Sager, music by Marvin Hamlisch, performed by Carly Simon, is fantastic. It’s one of the very best Bond songs.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Spy Who Loved Me has so much going for it — excellent script, high production values, and nonstop action and adventure. First appearance of General Gogol, played by Walter Gotell. Also the first appearance of Victor Tourjansky, who plays a “the man with the bottle.” Color, 121 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return