The Roger Moore Bond series reached its pinnacle with The Spy Who Loved Me. Moore, by then, was comfortable as 007, carving his own style into MI-6’s famous superspy. This film is an excellent assortment of Bond girls, fearsome henchmen, an exotic sports car and hi-tech gadgets, concocted together shaken not stirred. Ironically, it is a Fleming work in name only, as copyright stipulations by the author prevented the contents of the namesake novel from being adapted.
Bond’s latest mission takes him face-to-face with shipping magnate Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens), whose idea of world domination is complete liquidation of the entire planet, i.e. sinking the Earth 20,000 leagues under the sea. However, Stromberg is hardly a man of action, spending all of his time indoors plotting and executing his schemes. He is sadly overshadowed by every other character, including the set props. First, by two gorgeous Bond girls: 007’s Russian counterpart Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) and Stromberg’s right-hand pilot Naomi (Caroline Munro). Next, by the tall and powerful henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel). To add insult to injury, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) introduces Bond, and the entire world, to “Wet Nellie” the white Lotus Espirit that doubles as a submersible. The home-ridden Stromberg, barely articulated by Jürgens, looks washed up against such star power.
While The Spy Who Loved Me is barely a match for Connery’s Bond series in plot quality, it offers many gems that make it a true contender. Moore is at his best. He exudes wit and confidence. His chemistry with Bach is delicious. As Agent XXX, Bach wonderfully portrays the feminine version of 007, which also includes her taste for men and her “take charge” attitude. The romance is spiced up by Bond’s connection with her previous love. Jaws is superhumanly strong, complimented with metallic razor-sharp teeth. He is more than a match for 007, and has two memorable fight scenes: the close encounter in the train, and another in Stromberg’s underwater hideout. And Kiel delivers in every bite. Sharing the spotlight with Jaws is “Wet Nellie”, probably the most beautiful car turned submersible ever to grace a Bond film, armed with surface-to-air rockets, depthcharges and smokescreen. Munro’s brief appearance showcases her fabulous figure and her impressive charm.
The action sequences are more abundant, lengthier and more fast-paced than Moore’s previous Bond adventures - Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun. They compensate for the thinly styled plot. The elaborate skiing chase in the opening sequence, followed by an equally elaborate automobile chase with “Wet Nellie”, ending with the gun-filled showdown between the British sailors and Stromberg’s men, not to forget Bond’s one-on-ones with Jaws, are exciting and well choreographed. Though, Bond’s showdown with Stromberg is a letdown, largely due to the weak characterization (and performance) of the villain.
The Spy Who Loved Me also features a lovely music score by Marvin Hamlisch, who also wrote the wonderful theme song ”Nobody Does It Better” performed by Carly Simon. Rounding up the cast are Bernard Lee as M, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, and Walter Gotell as KGB’s version of M General Anatol Gogol.
Clearly spoken and eloquently sung, nobody does it better than Bond. James Bond.
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