The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Director: Lewis Gilbert



The Spy Who Loved Me is the tenth Eon James Bond film, the third and by far the 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 in order to prevent it from being made into a film, so studio executives simply 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 either Blofeld or SPECTRE due to ongoing issues with the copyright holder Kevin McClory. The Spy Who Loved Me is the first James Bond film made solely with Albert “Cubby” Broccoli as the producer, after his unfortunate falling out with Harry Saltzman. Previously, Saltzman and Broccoli were the dynamic duo who produced every prior James Bond film through their company Eon Productions, 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 former 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 that the man behind the submarine attacks is a megalomaniacal billionaire named Karl Stromberg (played by Curd Jürgens). Stromberg brings the two scientists who developed the submarine tracking down to his submerged vessel “Atlantis” to thank them, but he demonstrates his power to them by shockingly 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 for some reason. 007 and XXX travel to Sardinia to investigate Stromberg’s secret base. Posing as a married couple, they infiltrate the base and learn that Stromberg has ofthe massive underwater base called “Atlantis.” They are captured, and Amasova learns that Bond killed her lover. She vows to kill Bond after the mission. 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 instead 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. 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 with an enemy, albeit reluctantly, and then 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.

The Good Earth (1936) Review

The Good Earth (1937) Director: Sidney Franklin, Victor Fleming (uncredited), Gustav Machety (uncredited)

The Good Earth


This is the film version of a play based on the Pulitzer Prize winning 1931 novel of the same name by Pearl S. Buck (she later also won the Nobel Prize). As part of my project to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels, click here to read my reflections on The Good Earth.

Paul Muni stars in this film as Wang Lung. Muni was also celebrated in 1937 for his Oscar-winning performance in The Story of Louis Pasteur, as well as the Best Picture-winning film, The Life of Emile Zola. Wang Lung is a poor farmer in Northern China who gets married to a slave named O-Lan (Luise Rainer won Best Actress for her performance) and, thanks to his business acumen, once he begins turning a profit from his wheat sales, he purchases more land. He buys land from a once great, now declining, house in the village (the same house from which Wang had acquired O-Lan). However, soon a drought strikes causes massive turmoil for poor Chinese farmers. Nearly everyone starves so Wang takes his whole family to a prosperous Southern city, before returning to build his farming empire. As time passes, Wang has many children but he grows tired of O-Lan and he falls in love with a concubine named Lotus, whom he purchases and moves onto his land. This whole part of the story is present, albeit somewhat glossed over the in the film to keep up appearances that Wang Lung is an innocent and noble Chinese farmer. However, his children bring him great troubles. One day, he catches his son with Lotus and Wang realizes that his son has never had to work the land, so beats his scholarly son and sends him away.

At the end of the film, just like in the book, O-Lan grows ill and dies shortly after witnessing the wedding of one of her sons. The film has met with some minor controversy in recent years as Paul Muni played Wang Lung is “Yellow Face,” though his intent in playing the character in no way belittles Chinese or Asian people. If anything, his performance is much more of a celebration of poor Chinese farmers, an often overlooked group of people in Chinese national history. The producer, Irving Thalberg, initially sought to hire all Chinese actors for the film but he was forced to conceded that American audiences were not ready to relate to such a film. Thalberg died several months before the release of the film -the credits list this picture as one of his last great achievements. The movie was shot on a 500-acre farm in the San Fernando Valley (Porter Ranch, California).

The Good Earth is a decent film, though not one I will soon recommend. The pacing is sluggish and nothing of particular interest happens. It stays relatively close to the plot of the famous novel, or at least as close as one might expect from Hollywood in the ’30s, but the film is mostly dry and uninteresting. The second half of the movie, in particular, seems to drag on and on, only to arrive nowhere. Paul Muni’s performance is somewhat forgettable, as well.

Avatar (2009) Review

Avatar (2009) Director: James Cameron



James Cameron is the Canadian deep sea explorer and filmmaker of such notable pictures as Terminator, Terminator II, Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar. Currently there is talk of creating a sequel to Avatar. Apparently, considerable time and effort went into the massive production for Avatar. When it was first released, the movie caused quite a sensation. James Cameron began production on the film as early as 1994 -it was intended to be released after Titanic, but the technology was not yet available to capture Cameron’s vision.

The Pocahontas-themed plot takes place in a dystopian future. Humans are colonizing other planets to harvest their resources. A group of humans travels to a planet called Pandora that contains high levels of “unobtanium” (yes, that truly is the name for the valuable mineral Cameron chose). However, on Pandora a tribal group called the Na’vi cause trouble for the humans -the Na’vi sacred lands are located directly above the mineral-rich area. The humans decide to assume “avatars” so they can infiltrate the Na’vi tribe and harvest the unobtanium. Predictably, the one man (in avatar) who successfully infiltrates their tribe falls in love with a woman, and then has a change of heart about conquering the Na’vi sacred lands. The story can be surmised from there -the good humans and the Na’vi go to war with the evil, profit-driven humans, and in the end goodness and love conquer evil and so on.

Not to be excluded from a blockbuster science fiction film, Sigourney Weaver stars in Avatar, along with others, like Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana.

As far as I can tell, the only redeeming part of this film is the extraordinary special effects. However, I am someone who is generally less impressed with CGI effects, and more inclined toward old-fashioned films that do not rely so heavily on computer graphics. The plot of Avatar is painfully sentimental, cringey, moralistic, overtly political and so on. It is a film that has not aged particularly well, despite the remarkable graphics for its time.

The Matrix

The Matrix (1999) Directors: The Wachowskis

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”



I am a sucker for a good mind-bending science fiction film, and The Matrix delivers a spectacular, thought-provoking, modern superhero adventure. It takes place in a futuristic dystopia. Keanu Reeves plays an underground computer programmer named Thomas Anderson known by his online hacker moniker “Neo.” as a result of his illicit hacking activities, he is pursued by a cohort of bureaucrats led by “Agent Smith” (played by Hugo Weaving) while an underground, enlightened, rebellious group of hackers led by Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) tries to help Neo escape capture. After some persuasion, Morpheus shows Neo that the real world is a dark, Orwellian fraud run by machines where most humans are indoctrinated to live within “the Matrix” -a virtual, illegitimate reality. After taking the “red pill” from Morpheus, Neo awakens in the real world (cue allusions to Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy). He becomes a crew member aboard Morpheus’s underground ship called the Nebuchadnezzar (an allusion to the infamous Babylonian king as found in the Bible). Morpheus and his followers believe Neo is “the one” who can wield great power over the matrix and bring an end to the war between humans and machines. They teach Neo how to bend the reality of the matrix by virtually re-entering the simulated world of the machines. However, re-entering the matrix has its costs. The rebels are constantly being hunted by Agents. Eventually, they are betrayed by Cypher, a member of the crew, and Morpheus is captured and tortured until Neo and Trinity re-enter the matrix to save him, and at the end Neo is suddenly capable of demonstrating great “supernatural” powers. He battles and defeats one of the agents -leading Morpheus and his crew to continue their belief that Neo is the one.

As far as criticism goes the plot of The Matrix is a somewhat tired and recycled narrative involving a superhero, who is not totally aware of his own heroism, as he grows more confident throughout the movie until he is nearly beaten to death by his nemesis, and then, somehow, he musters the inner strength to overcome all obstacles. It is predictable but nevertheless it is a fun and intellectual film. It was an extraordinary cultural phenomenon when released at the birth of the internet age. Computer hackers, donning trench coats, listening to metal, and watching old kung-fu movies became a cultural stereotype. The Matrix highlights a terrific series of special effects, anime, science fiction, and Hollywood’s reimagining of kung-fu movies. The Matrix is a beautifully shot film -the fight scenes are amazing and the story continues to grip me, even if it has become a cliche that hundreds of Philosophy 101 students each year draft papers comparing Descartes and Plato to The Matrix. Interestingly enough there were numerous injuries among the actors during training for the choreographed kung-fu scenes, including a serious spinal fracture incurred by Keanu Reeves that limited his mobility for months.

The Wachowskis were formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers (Andrew or “Andy” and Laurence or “Larry”). In the early 2000s, Laurence completed a gender transition and became known as Lana, and in 2016 Andy did the same and began being known as Lilly. The Matrix is actually their second directorial film after a movie called Bound in 1996. The Wachowskis are also known for V For Vendetta in 2005. The Matrix spawned a string of sequels including an animated film called The Animatrix in 2003 along with The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions also in 2003. There is also a fourth installment planned to be released in 2021 called The Matrix Resurrections.