In my introductory post, I had mentioned a pamphlet that I used to track down the James Bond film library. This pamphlet featured the covers of every pre-GoldenEye title, and based on the covers alone, it was usually hard to tell what to expect from each movie. Questions that ran through my ten-year-old head (minus the name of the director and year of release, of course): What was going on on the cover of The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton, 1974)? Why is John Travolta on the cover of Licence to Kill (John Glen, 1989)? And who is that actor in The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977)?
In fact, when I rented The Spy Who Loved Me and began watching it, I actually thought it starred George Lazenby – who, at the time, I knew only as “that guy from that Bond movie that must be terrible because I think he was only in one of them.” I’m not sure why this reason would make me think a one-time Bond actor would be playing the part a second time, but I was very afraid when I saw this character in the opening moments (despite the obvious fact that Roger Moore had already appeared as Bond in the gunbarrel sequence). As soon as the amazing pre-title sequence ski chase began, though, I knew I was in for a fun Bond film.
Watching The Spy Who Loved Me then and now, my feelings have stayed the same. I think my opinion has a lot to do with how it seems like a remake of You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967). Not only did both films come from the same director and come out in the seventh year of their respective decades, but their plots and tones share a lot in common. Whereas You Only Live Twice dealt with Bond (Sean Connery) racing to stop World War III between the Russians and Americans over the disappearance of spacecrafts, The Spy Who Loved Me deals with Bond racing to stop World War II between the Russians and Americans over the disappearance of seacrafts. However, while the former features SPECTRE as the villains behind the warplot, the latter reveals the plan to be the plot of an independently associated, web-fingered man named Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens). Like the next film Moonraker (Lewis Gilbert, 1979), the villain strives to start his own society away from the Earth’s surface (in Moonraker it’s space; here it’s underwater). It’s a simple but creepy plot that I always found interesting.
Also interesting in The Spy Who Loved Me are the characters. For the first time since Diamonds Are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971), there’s a reference to Bond’s late wife from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969). This reference to a lost partner ties in nicely with one of the film’s subplots, in which Bond’s ally, the Soviet Agent XXX Anya Amasova (played by Miss Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach) blames him for the death of her male companion whom 007 had dispatched in the ski chase. This not only creates tension between Bond and the female lead, but it provides Anya with the most depth of any Bond girl since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I must mention that The Spy Who Loved Me introduces the iconic henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel), who would return in Moonraker and several video games.
Following the lackluster gadget roster in The Man With the Golden Gun and the total lack of Q (Desmond Llewelyn) in Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973), Q provides Bond with one of his best gadgets to date: the still-incredible, car-submarine hybrid Lotus Esprit.
Even with the fun story, rich characters, and fun gadgets, this is far from a perfect film. The Marvin Hamlisch-composed, disco-flavored score hasn’t aged well at all (save for the fun “Bond 77” track). Furthermore, my girlfriend lamented that in every Bond film, there seems to be a stretch of the movie where nothing much happens. In this one, it’s the very long screen-time spent on the Naval crew that Bond partners with during their assault on Stromberg’s vessel The Liparus.
Still, my girlfriend and I found this to be a fun movie overall, and it’s one I’d suggest even as an introductory Bond film.
This blog will return with… Moonraker.