UK / USA, 1977
Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 19 March 2005
Source MGM VHS
Features: The Genealogy of James Bond
The Spy Who Loved Me opens with what is arguably the greatest action montage in the history of Bond films, with Roger Moore, in his third contribution as 007, making a daring escape down a snow-covered mountain, and fending off hordes of Russian agents with nothing but a pair of skis and his wits (and a ski pole that fires exploding projectiles). It is truly an action masterpiece, reportedly costing the filmmakers over $30,000 for the stunt man work alone, and serving as a vibrant declaration to Moore-as-Bond detractors that 007 was better than ever.
And although the remainder of the film doesn’t quite live up to the cinematic perfection this electrifying opening promises, it does weave together a rip-roaring action adventure story, replete with pilfered submarines, underwater cars, and dangerous encounters in the Valley of the Kings. And by returning to an easily followed, Bond-versus-evil-genius storyline, and incorporating a script better suited to Moore’s talents than his two previous Bond outings, viewers were finally able to witness a definitive example of Roger’s slightly tongue-in-cheek version of 007.
As in so many Bond films before and after, the story of The Spy Who Loved Me is one of world conquest; a rich fusspot named Stromberg convinced that all life on the surface of planet Earth should cease to exist. His plan? Abduct some nuclear warheads, aim them at major population centers, and detonate. Once the face of the land is wiped clean of disgusting, destructive humanity, a new world can begin, under the sea, a veritable aquatic utopia. And of course, there is only one man that can possibly put an end to this diabolical scheme.
In search of clues, Bond, as always, roams the globe extensively, though this time round he is accompanied by an alluring travel companion named Triple-X, a Russian secret agent with a similar vested interested in stopping the designs of Stromberg. At once sexy and strong, capable of cutting Bond down to size, or saving his life when necessary, Triple-X, played by the lovely Barbara Bach, represents a nice change from the rather useless female characters James had to deal with over the course of his previous films. Sure, she still manages to fall under the 007 spell, and can’t help but utter the most oft spoken of Bond Girl taglines, “Oh, James!” but overall, her character remains a respectable, intelligent counterpart to James; the first in an impressive string of worthwhile Bond women.
In addition, the film features the introduction of one of the best accessory villains in all of cinematic history, the steel-mouthed Jaws, played by Richard Kiel. Every scene he’s in, whether biting sharks on the neck or crushing James with a bear hug, is a treat to watch, so much so that the character was brought back in Moonraker, the first recurring henchman in the Bond series.
But of course, even with the addition of Bach and Jaws, The Spy Who Loved Me is not perfect. The film’s Benny Hill style escape sequence alone can attest to that, and critics of Roger Moore will surely complain that the film is too lighthearted, too tongue-in-cheek, and too silly. And, when compared to the no-nonsense Connery offerings, The Spy Who Loved Me does seem fairly silly. The point here is that the silliness works, and the film is great fun. Moore is confident and witty, Bach is beautiful and smart, Jaws is terrifying and colorful. Even Stromberg, while a rather one-dimensional and tame villain by SPECTRE standards, adequately serves his purpose.
What The Spy Who Loved Me proved was that Roger Moore was capable of molding the character of James Bond to suit his own particular style. You may love or hate Moore’s take on 007, but with this film, we are at least offered a comprehensive look at another side of Bond, a fully realized and unique characterization of the iconic secret agent. The specific qualities that make for a classic Bond film will no doubt be debated for ages to come, but, at the very least, it must be admitted that The Spy Who Loved Me succeeded in rendering a definitive Moore Bond.