James Bond Movie Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

In honor of the 60th anniversary of James Bond, I’m revisiting and reviewing all the movies. Next up, The Spy Who Loved Me! Read on for my thoughts on this explosive entry in the James Bond film franchise.

The Story

After British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads vanish, James Bond travels to Egypt, where illicit microfilm plans for a submarine tracking system are being offered for sale. In Cairo he meets KGB agent Major Anya Amasova, who is on the same mission. After their contact is murdered, they fight Jaws, a steel-toothed villain in the pay of industrialist Karl Stromberg. MI6 and the KGB order Bond and Amasova to work together. In Sardinia, they encounter Stromberg and suspect that he is behind the submarine disappearances. After being chased by Jaws and Stromberg’s henchmen, they escape underwater in Bond’s amphibious Lotus Esprit. Onboard a US submarine, the spies learn more about Stromberg’s underwater base, Atlantis, and about the supertanker The Liparus. When their sub is captured by The Liparus, a huge vessel, that “swallows” submarines, Bond discovers Stromberg’s plan to trigger a nuclear war. Bond leads the captured sailors against The Liparus’ crew and defeats Stromberg. Atlantis sinks but Jaws escapes.

Double-O Insights

The second time we see James Bond on skis – this time played by Roger Moore

In July 1976 John Glen directed a skeleton crew and stunt performer Rick Sylvester at the remote location of the Asgard Peak, a 3,000ft cliff on Baffin Island, Canada for the Union Jack parachute jump for the pre-title sequence. After waiting weeks for good filming weather conditions, it took three minutes and three cameras to successfully put this opening stunt in the can on the first and only take

The production team could only get to the summit of Mount Asgard by helicopter but you can’t fly helicopters all the way from Frobisher Bay. They had to dismantle the helicopters, pack the parts in crates, fly the crates to the take-off point in the area, then reassemble them

Glen was reunited with champion skier cameraman Willy Bogner Jr. to complete the opening ski sequence on location in St. Moritz, Switzerland

Filming in St. Moritz had to be abandoned when bad weather descended. Visiting press photographers were evacuated first. The weather deteriorated and – with the exception of Glen, Bogner and stunt skier Ed Lincoln – the remaining crew were forced to stay put and survived the blizzard by building a snow house

Bond’s ski pole gun used in the opening sequence is on display at 007 Elements

The Spy Who Loved Me is the first time a James Bond actor (Roger Moore) has appeared in the main title sequence

Producer Michael G. Wilson took many of the underwater film stills which feature on several of the posters for The Spy Who Loved Me

My Thoughts

The Spy Who Loved Me was the 10th James Bond film by Eon Productions, and it was the first produced solo by Cubby Broccoli following the dissolution of his partnership with Harry Saltzman in 1975. Coming off the heels of The Man With The Golden Gun, which didn’t perform as well commercially as Eon had hoped, Cubby put everything he had into making The Spy Who Loved Me a success because if it failed, he’d be the one to take the blame.

With a budget of $13.5 million, The Spy Who Loved Me grossed $185.4 million worldwide. It was a commercial success and favorably reviewed. Many fans and critics still consider it the best Roger Moore James Bond movie and one of the top-tier films in the franchise’s illustrious history. I am among them.

“Nobody Does It Better” is one of the greatest James Bond themes of all time. Carly Simon’s vocals soaring over Marvin Hamlisch’s arrangement resulted in pure magic. I can’t get enough of this song and consider it one of the greatest pop songs of all time. So, for this reason alone, I have a soft spot in my heart for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Roger Moore has always been one of my favorite Bonds, and he came into his own in The Spy Who Loved Me. From Bond’s amphibious Lotus Esprit rolling onto the beach to the well-written puns throughout this tightly woven film, Roger Moore is James Bond. He exuded confidence, the dialogue was entertaining, and there were countless iconic moments to enjoy.

Ken Adam and the production team did a tremendous job this time out, with incredible sets and a miniature of a ship so detailed it fooled the captain of the oil tanker they initially looked to film on. Stanley Kubrick came to the set one day for three or four hours to provide Ken Adam with advice on how to best light the underwater set, which is pretty wild to think about now. He offered solid advice because it looked amazing on camera.

The Spy Who Loved Me also featured Jaws, one of the most unforgettable henchmen in 007 history. Played masterfully by Richard Kiel, Jaws would return in the future, not just because of his towering and menacing visage but because of the character’s staying power and likability.

The only shortcoming of The Spy Who Loved Me was its villain: Karl Sigmund Stromberg. Stromberg was a pedestrian character compared to those who came before (and after) him. The actor playing him, Curd Jürgens, was highly skilled and spoke (and acted in) multiple languages; so, maybe it was a case of the writers not creating a character worthy of his abilities. Stromberg wasn’t a bad villain, just a bland one.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the opening to The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring a death-defying jump off a cliff. Fans cheered in theaters when the Union Jack parachute burst open during Bond’s descent, so the desired result was achieved. This is easily one of the most deadly 007 stunts of all time, and the effort was well worth it.

The Spy Who Loved Me is arguably Roger Moore’s best outing as James Bond and one of the strongest entries in the series. The story was solid, the acting (aside from the rather dreadful Agent XXX) was believable, the stunts were remarkable, and the soundtrack and score were infectious. It had all the elements needed to revive James Bond, and it did so in a way that still has people talking 45 years later. It’s a testament to the fact that when it comes to over-the-top spy action movies, nobody does it better than James Bond 007.

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