Cast: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Producers: Albert Broccoli
Screenplay: Richard Maibaum and Christopher Wood based on characters created by Ian Fleming
Cinematography: Claude Renoir
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
U.S. Distributor: United Artists Pictures
Of Roger Moore's seven James Bond pictures, The Spy Who Loved Me stands out as the best. Stripped of the extreme silliness of The Man with the Golden Gun and packed with style, action, and wit, The Spy Who Loved Me ranks alongside the Connery Bonds as a memorable cinematic representation of Ian Fleming's superspy (although the screenplay is not based on Fleming's novel of the same title).
For the first time in three films, Roger Moore starts to unearth a personality for Bond, and the fatuousness which was to mar his later outings rarely asserts itself. This version of 007 is suave, sophisticated, and only a little flat. He's good with wry humor and one-liners, and seems reasonably capable as a "man of action." In a nutshell, Moore isn't Connery, but he recognizes this, and doesn't try to be what he can't.
As usual, Bond's chief nemesis is a megalomaniac. This time, his name is Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), and he's out to destroy the world to fulfill his dream of creating and populating an underwater city. The first part of his plan involves destroying the over-water civilization by a nuclear holocaust. To that end, he steals British and Soviet submarines with the intention of using their nuclear capacity against the superpowers. 007, along with his Russian counterpart, Major Anya Amasova, aka agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach), is dispatched to stop this. There are complications, however, because, although the USSR and England are cooperating on the mission, Anya has a personal grudge against Bond, and she makes it perfectly clear that she intends to kill him at the first favorable opportunity.
The Spy Who Loved Me marks the first appearance of Jaws (Richard Kiel), who would prove to be 007's most dangerous and persistent adversary (he returns in Moonraker). So massive and powerful is Jaws that there's little Bond can do against him physically. He's the perfect supervillain, and it's great fun to see how 007 survives confrontations with the steel-toothed giant.
Barbara Bach proves to be a pleasant addition to the cast as the latest "Bond girl." Major Amasova is attractive, smart, sexy, and (of course) dangerous. Her repartee with Bond is scripted with the usual attention to double entendres and witty retorts (note especially the van exchange in the desert when Triple-X and 007 are trying to escape Jaws). There also seems to be slightly more tenderness in this relationship than is typical for Her Majesty's most promiscuous agent... but only a little. After his wife's death at the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, it's clear that Bond has no intention of ever again becoming involved in a serious romantic entanglement.
The second "Bond girl" of the film is Naomi, played by Caroline Munro. Her part is actually rather small -- she shows up, looks good, utters a few lines of dialogue, then tries to kill 007. Jurgens is adequate as the villain. There's nothing remarkable about his performance except that he remains more restrained than the average Bond madman. Old friends like Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Bernard Lee (M), and Desmond Llewlyn (Q) are back.
The single most impressive moment in The Spy Who Loved Me comes in the pre-credits sequence. Following a harrowing ski chase, Bond zips right off the edge of a cliff. Rick Sylvester was paid $30,000 to do this stunt, and it's worth the money, giving the film the kind of kick-start that no other opening has matched (before or after). It's the perfect lead-in to Carly Simon's rendition of "Nobody Does It Better", possibly the best-known of all the Bond themes. The rest of the film's action, directed by Lewis Gilbert (You Only Live Twice), is as impressively staged.
The Spy Who Loved Me has no shortage of gadgets. These include noxious cigarettes, ski pole projectiles, and, most impressive of all, a Lotus Esprit that swims rather than sinks. But such toys are only part of 007's appeal. Bond films attract audiences because they're solid fun -- light, uncomplicated entertainment that requires no more from a viewer than that he or she sits back and enjoys. Despite the recycled plot, The Spy Who Loved Me deserves its popularity as one of Bond's most engaging outings. Even those who swore off the films with Sean Connery's departure might consider checking this one out.
© 1995 James Berardinelli