The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 United Kingdom)

james-bond_166583_topLewis Gilbert’s film provides direct allusion to David Lean’s epic movies, bringing back a Blofeld-type character as well. His name is Karl Stromberg, a shipping tycoon who despises every aspect of terrestrial civilization. Spy added vast new spectacle to the Bond epic, along with strong interplay and some interesting new characters. This was a major step up in the series’ production values at that time. The grand vision paid off, handsomely.

Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) enjoys hearing classical music while plotting to decimate the human population. He hijacks atomic submarines belonging to the British and Soviet navies, and plans to use their nuclear missiles to destroy both New York and Moscow. Stromberg’s aquarium, of sharks and other deadly fish, is his pride and passion.

“For me this is all the world” he declares: ” There is beauty. There is ugliness. And there is death.” Stromberg’s three killers are Jaws, Sandor and Naomi. Jaws (Richard Kiel) steals the show as the most menacing and fearsome henchman Bond has ever faced since the mute Korean assassin Oddjob in ‘Goldfinger.’

Equipped with stainless steel teeth, Jaws is a giant of a killer on the loose who can’t be stopped or killed. He is also one of the few bad guys to return in another film. Sandor (Milton Reid) is the bald, muscle-bound assassin who tries to kill Bond at Aziz Fekkesh’s apartment in Cairo. This encounter made for an interesting little bout.

Naomi ( Caroline Munro) is Stromberg’s moderately attractive helicopter pilot. In one scene she bends over, thus inviting Mr Bond to utter the lewd “what a handsome craft, such lovely lines…” in a very respectably awkward tone. It is here that Roger Moore proves he just can’t sound offensively sexist even when trying. He was too much of an English gentleman for that.

bond 1Bond and his smouldering Russian ally, Anya (Barbara Bach) are sent to Egypt to identify the traitor who is putting the microfilm of a submarine tracking system onto the open market. Each agent thinks the other is behind the hijacking. They play a game of spy versus spy in the land of the Pharaohs, until it is revealed that a third party has been playing them off against each other in typical Spectre style.

For the first time in a Roger Moore Bond film things are played right. We don’t think we are watching an action comedy, but an action adventure movie. What little bursts of humour are subtle, not overt nor taking away from the dramatic thrust of the tension. The great Ken Adam got to build the 007 Stage at Pinewood, becoming the biggest sound stage in the world.

With such space to work from, Adam excels himself to produce the interior of the Liparus Supertanker, the home for a brilliant battle in the final quarter. Vehicles feature prominently; the amphibious Lotus Esprit moved quickly into Bond folklore. Rocket firing bikes and mini-subs, helicopter, speedboat, escape pod, wet-bike and on it goes. Then there’s Stromberg’s Atlantis home, a wonderfully War of the Worlds type design for the exterior, an underwater aquarium for the interior.

Glorious locations are key also; Egypt, Sardinia, Scotland and the Bahamas are colourful treats courtesy of Claude Renoir’s photography. Underwater scenes also grab the attention with some conviction. Spy raked in just over $185 million at the world box office, $87 million more than The Man with the Golden Gun. Not bad considering it was up against a record – breaking Star Wars. The jaunty, British pub / knees  up closing music annoys me though.

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