The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Director: Lewis Gilbert
The Spy Who Loved Me is the tenth Eon James Bond film, the third and best of the Roger Moore Bond series. The title is derived from the Ian Fleming novel -apparently Fleming disliked this novel so much that he refused to release it to be made into a film so studio executives created a whole new plot, but kept the title. They also wanted to re-introduce the infamous Blofeld character, after the somewhat lackluster villains in the previous two Roger Moore Bond films, but, once again, they were unable to acquire the rights for Blofeld. The Spy Who Loved Me is the first James Bond film made solely with Albert “Cubby” Broccoli as the producer, after his falling out with Harry Saltzman. Previously, Saltzman and Broccoli were the dynamic duo who produced every prior James Bond film, overseeing the franchise from a small-budget novelty film into a massive blockbuster series.
The Spy Who Loved Me opens with the mysterious disappearance of two submarines: one British and the other Soviet. The Soviets call up their best agent, Major Anya Amasova (a.k.a. Agent XXX, played by Barbara Bach -wife of Ringo Starr), and the British call up their best agent, James Bond (a.k.a. 007), who is predictably in bed with a woman in Austria, but when he gets the call he sports a vibrant yellow suit and starts skiing downhill away from a group of villains until he plunges off a massive cliff and opens a parachute revealing the British flag -the “Union Jack.” One of the skiing henchmen he kills is a rival agent -who turns out to be Amasova’s lover at the beginning of the film. Bond, then, travels to Egypt to seek out recently stolen microfilm plans for a highly advanced submarine tracking system, where he meets up with Amasova. The two reluctantly join forces, realizing they have mutually shared objectives in this case. Bond also encounters a massive henchman who is seemingly indestructible with steel teeth named Jaws (played by Richard Kiel -a 7 foot 2 inch tall man who struggled with gigantism all his life until his death in 2014. He also reprised the role of Jaws in Moonraker). Bond and Amasova encounter Jaws in a train scene that contains strong echoes of From Russia With Love.
Both agents learn the man behind the submarine attacks is a villain Karl Stromberg (played by Curd Jürgens). Stromberg brings the two scientists who developed the submarine tracking down to Atlantis to thank them, but he demonstrates his power to them by dropping his secretary into the shark tank where she is killed for stealing information from Stromberg. He then allows the two scientists to escape but he blows up their helicopter shortly thereafter. The two agents travel to Sardinia to investigate Stromberg’s secret base. Posing as a married couple, they infiltrate the base and learn that Stromberg has launched a massive underwater base called Atlantis. They are captured, and Amasova learns that Bond was the killer of her lover. She vows to kill Bond. Stromberg reveals his plan to use the two captured Soviet and British submarines to launch nuclear warheads from each, thus spawning a massive nuclear holocaust, while Stromberg remains secluded in his underwater lair, Atlantis. He hopes to create a new civilization under the sea. He takes Amasova as his prisoner down to the Atlantis, meanwhile Bond escapes his captivity and he frees the trapped British and Soviet submariners and they reprogram the submarines not to fire the nuclear warheads. Next, Bond goes to Atlantis to rescue Amasova -he encounters Jaws again and throws him into Stromberg lethal shark tank, but Jaws kills the shark and survives. Bond and Amasova leave in an escape pod together and Amasova decides against killing Bond. They are rescued by the British Royal Navy. Meanwhile, Jaws escapes the destroyed Atlantis and we see him swimming off into the ocean at the end.
The featured song at the outset of the film is performed by Carly Simon entitled “Nobody Does It Better” -a surprisingly apropos song. Interestingly enough, the cinematography for the film was done by Claude Renoir, son of the actor, Pierre Renoir, and the grandson of the famous Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favorite Bond films, or at least my favorite from the Roger Moore era thus far. The mystery and intrigue surrounding a villain who desires to build a submerged, deep-sea civilization is amusing and compelling all at once. Also, the introduction of Bond working together, albeit reluctantly, and falling in love with a rival Soviet spy is a new twist. The Spy Who Loved Me is a welcome departure from Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun.