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:
“Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.”
After a few missteps, the franchise regains composure and delivers a truly action-packed gem. Although this is the tenth Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me feels fresh, belying the fact that the series had been around for fifteen years. There is a high level of enthusiasm that can be felt throughout all sections of the movie.
Director Lewis Gilbert (Alfie and Educating Rita) 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 does the same thing here. Gilbert has a predilection for grand action set-pieces. The director also accentuates Bond’s larger-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 opening sequences. Production designer Ken Adam (Barry Lyndon) outdoes himself with some incredible sets (Adam’s friend, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, helped with some lighting issues). The submarine dock, constructed at famous Pinewood Studios, England, is impressive!
The Spy Who Loved Me isn’t all action and adventure. There is some humanity too. For example, Bond decides to forgo official instructions in order to save the KGB spy, 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, a reminder of the sad events that transpired in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
The supporting cast is pretty good. “Jaws,” played by Richard Kiel (So Fine and Pale Rider), is probably the most fondly remembered villain in the series. He’s not terrifying — more like a comical henchman — but he’s a huge, huge guy, and that alone makes him appear powerful and invincible. The talented and beautiful Barbara Bach is completely believable as Bond’s tough Russian counterpart.
My only complaint is that Curd Jürgens’s (The Inn of the Sixth Happiness) super-villain isn’t all that interesting. 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 captivating when they make sense. The cast also includes cult actor Caroline Munro (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Maniac).
The Oscar-nominated song “Nobody Does It Better,” written by Carole Bayer Sager, and music by Marvin Hamlisch (The Way We Were and Seems Like Old Times), performed by Carly Simon, is simply fantastic. It’s one of my favorite Bond songs. Sager and Hamlisch’s melody lost the Best Song Oscar to Joseph Brooks’s tune “You Light Up My Life,” one of the Academy’s many miscarriages of justice.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Spy Who Loved Me is so much fun — I thoroughly enjoyed the exotic locales and truly spectacular action sequences. The film has so much going for it — excellent script, high production values, and nonstop action and adventure. First appearance by General Gogol, played by Walter Gotell. It’s also the first appearance of Victor Tourjansky, who plays the “man with the bottle.” Color, 121 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return