The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Shane Rimmer

Written by: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum  and (based on the novel) Ian Fleming

Running Time: 125 mins

Original UK Cert: A

Original UK Release: 20th July 1977

1977 was a big year in the UK. Queen Elizabeth was celebrating her silver jubilee, so street parties and a massive sense of patriotism filled the country. I remember seeing The Spy Who Loved Me at my local one screen cinema and the moment that James Bond, jumping off a snowy mountain, opens his Union Jack parachute, the packed audience virtually gave it a standing ovation. It set the tone for the rest of the film, one of Bond’s most crowd pleasing adventures, crammed with hand-clapping sequences.

Nuclear submarines are disappearing while on routine patrols. Both the Russians and the United Kingdom have no idea how this is happening. A microfilm, showing plans of a tracking device for these vehicles, has come onto the black market. Both countries send their best agents to get the item: Major Anya Amasova and James Bond. Forced to work together, they discover a connection with Karl Stromberg, a webbed-handed marine obsessive.

After the modest affairs for Roger Moore’s first two outings, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, the latter failing to light up the box office, producer Albert Broccoli decided to go all out with the budget, creating the largest sound stage in the world, in which to house the impressive finale, where hundreds of stunt men and extras, run around the submarine bay, holding three large nuclear subs.

To get to that explosive ending, this had to have set pieces that got bigger and better as the film progress. So after the pre-credit parachute jump, the film takes us on a journey around the world, from Egypt to Italy to Scotland. throwing in fight sequences, car chases and even that now legendary Lotus Esprit, which turns into a mini sub.

Then there is the now corny, somewhat sexist script, filled with dire one-liners, quips and comments that, if reproduced now, would be called offensive. Yet the strength of Moore’s Bond is his delivery of these lines. He wouldn’t seem amiss in a Carry On film. There are moments when you can hear Sid James’s famous laugh after each line.

Moore, by this point, had definitely put his own stamp on the role of Bond. Gone was the rough and tumble of Connery, in comes the schoolboy humour and an overactive eyebrow. Barbara Bach, playing Anya, certainly has the looks but for a top KGB agent, you are never quite sure how many assignments she’s been on, as she constantly finds herself in peril, for Bond to save her. Curt Jurgen as villain Stromberg doesn’t really have the same level of personality that previous Bond villains have shown. Mainly sitting at a large table, he commands his world on a control panel. Even the eventual comeuppance that he suffers is somewhat an anti-climatic.

The character that does make a mark is Richard Kiel’s metal-teethed henchman, Jaws. Those who have seen Silver Streak the year before, would have seen Kiel playing exactly the same character with the same mouth filled with metal. Yet here, with his indestructible qualities, he became an instant hit with audiences, so much so, that the Bond producers brought him back for a second outing in the next film, Moonraker, a first for any Bond henchmen.

The Spy Who Loved Me is big on spectacle. The last time we saw a Bond film on this scale was You Only Live Twice, with the famous volcano scene. This one sets the tone for the other Roger Moore outings and even though watching it now, you are surprised at some of the comments and sexual innuendos being thrown around the place. Yet it’s tons of fun, has some impressive set pieces and, of course, one of the better Bond themes in Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better. As we celebrated the Queen’s reign, we celebrated Bond’s changing face.

4/5

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