Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.
Release Date: August 3rd, 1977 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Lewis Gilbert Actors: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Olga Bisera
Russian nuclear submarine has disappeared without a trace. In Moscow, Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) is requested to check in to headquarters immediately; British Agent 007 (Roger Moore) is also appealed to return to his base from a mission in Austria. This marks the very first time (since the appropriate but smaller scale of “Goldfinger”) that an introductory lead-in sequence is designed purely for high voltage action/adventure – and it works admirably with a spectacularly showy stunt of a nerve-wracking ski jump off a mountainous cliff (it’s actually three parts – one to show the primary conflict, and two others to introduce the Russian and British operatives). The theme music “Nobody Does It Better,” performed by Carly Simon, is a 360-degree turnaround from the last couple of strikingly unimpressive title tunes, demonstrating here that a more intelligent, romantic song definitely has a place in the James Bond series.
Jetting off to Cairo, James Bond must locate the source of the advanced submarine tracking system that has enabled megalomaniac millionaire Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) to capture nuclear vessels. Due to an inside betrayal, a microfilm copy of the system is circulating in Egypt for competing world powers to bid on. Stromberg’s singular lackeys Jaws (Richard Kiel) and Sandor (Milton Reid) are assigned to recover the microfilm, killing anyone who crosses their paths. Bond joins Major Anya Amasova, a.k.a. Agent XXX, contending with her to purchase the missing goods. Stromberg’s seizing of warheads also reveals a plot to wipe out New York and Moscow, with the ultimate scheme of (preposterously) a land-based Armageddon, allowing civilization to start anew at his personal Atlantis.
“The Spy Who Loved Me” has finally figured out the perfect formula for the more lighthearted, action-packed Bond film. Tongue-in-cheek dialogue, scantily clad women at every turn, assassination attempts, fight scenes, elaborate stunt sequences (the best of which is a chase by motorcycle, car, and helicopter all in succession), martinis shaken but never stirred, exotic locales, and awe-inspiring henchman designs are all done with a near perfection that fans could only every hope for from this frothy spy flick franchise. It also features a great new villain – an older, more sinister antagonist who uses his wealth to employ massive thugs. But he’s also grandly furnished with a shark-tank booby-trap in the massive dining room in his underwater lair (or marine research laboratory), where he can watch double-crossers get consumed via magnificent portals, all while classical music wafts serenely throughout the halls. Fort the first time in the series, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is also given a full workshop for demonstrating his wacky, disruptive, death-dealing devices. And there’s a brand new ride, complete with the now-expected disregard for precaution and instructions when handling the equipment.
The sets are phenomenal, realizing new potential for combat choreography (while also spoofing the picturesque, arid setting of “Lawrence of Arabia”) and cavernous bases of operation for criminal masterminds hell-bent on world destruction (not unlike the subterraneous hideaway from “You Only Live Twice” – with another similarity residing in the notion of a larger ship swallowing up smaller ones). Even the camerawork is an upgrade from previous outings. Plus, towering brute Jaws is the best baddie since Oddjob (and arguably more impactful), and while he’s particularly inefficient when it comes to grappling with Bond, his surprise appearances throughout the film are definitely thrilling.
Though opposing players, Anya and James make quite the pair as they repeatedly team up to achieve a common goal. She’s not one of the average, foolhardy floozies Bond finds himself surrounded by, instead living up to her secret agent status (generally staying on her feet and avoiding airheaded banter). When they finally do become more romantically entangled, it’s a humorous cat-and-mouse type of pursuit, rather than the incautious lusting so common to former Bond girls. And although used sparingly, the James Bond tune isn’t completely ignored, intensifying every second that it’s played. On his tenth adventure, 007 is finally where he needs to be – in an entertaining movie deserving of his iconic image.
– Mike Massie