Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me
After the dismal performance of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, it took just under three years to get the next Bond installment into theaters. This was mainly due to the fact that Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman, having declared bankruptcy, was forced to sell his stake in the Bond franchise. Luckily, remaining producer Albert R. Broccoli was still able to get THE SPY WHO LOVED ME off the ground, but not before dealing with a myriad of other problems.
For one thing- due to the nature of the initial contract with Ian Fleming, the producers did not have the rights to the novel THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, but only the title. For the first time in the franchise, a wholly original script would have to be written.
Originally, the plot called for the return of S.P.E.C.T.R.E & super villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. However, due to a complicated legal matter involving producer Kevin McClory (more on that in the NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN entry), Broccoli lost the right to include S.P.E.C.T.R.E and/ or Blofeld in any future installments. In many ways, this may have been a blessing in disguise, as the Bond staff had to get creative. The resulting film is easily the best Bond of the seventies.
PLOT: Bond teams up with a beautiful Russian agent to investigate the disappearance of two nuclear submarines, one being British, the other Russian. Turns out- the submarines are now in the hands of a mad multi-billionaire, Karl Stromberg, who seeks to establish a new world order through the annihilation of mankind, establishing a new world under the sea.
REVIEW: With THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, the Bond series finally got back on track. Granted, the film is a very outlandish affair, bordering closely on sci-fi- usually a sign of trouble in a Bond film, but I must say, the producers really pulled it off here.
Luckily for those involved, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME came out at EXACTLY the right time. Less than two months earlier- STAR WARS exploded at the box office, revolutionizing the blockbuster. Audiences were embracing escapist fare like never before, and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, fit the bill perfectly.
What really makes THE SPY WHO LOVED ME so special, is the top talent recruited for the film. This was really a “make or break” film, and if it had failed, the series probably would not have continued. Tom Mankiewicz, and director Guy Hamilton both left the franchise after THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (oddly, Hamilton left to work on SUPERMAN, but was soon replaced by Richard Donner, who promptly hired his pal Mankiewicz). Lewis Gilbert, who had previously helmed YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, was brought on board to direct. While I’m not a huge fan of that film, it’s worth noting that it shares many similarities with THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, but for some reason the formula works much better in this film. This might be due to Roger Moore, who seems right at home in the lighthearted atmosphere of this installment, whereas Connery seemed like he was slumming it.
The film also boasts a ton of top notch action scenes, which are among some of the most memorable in the series. To start things off, we get a great ski chase in the teaser, culminating in an amazing ski jump off a cliff leading to a freefall that goes on for an INSANE amount of time before a union jack parachute finally opens. We also get a wicked car chase involving Bond’s new ride- the Lotus Espirit, which doubles as a mini-submarine. All this builds up to what I think is the best action sequence in the series (after the fight in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE), involving a major firefight between the villain Stromberg’s guards, and the crews of the captured subs (led by Bond of course). It’s a totally amazing sequence that gives me a chill every time I see it.
I should also mention that the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at (can’t wait to see this one in high def). It was shot by Claude Renoir, who tragically began to go blind during the production. Ken Adam had designed a massive supertanker set, which is where most of the finale takes place. Due to Renoir’s failing eyesight, Adam had to call on none other than Stanley Kubrick to help him light the set. Kubrick obliged, ensuring that Adam’s magnificent set was displayed properly.
Roger Moore totally finds his groove here. For the first time, Moore really brings a lighthearted- “it’s all in good fun” approach to the series that would not have worked for anyone else. He brings an almost Cary Grant-ish charm to the role that was missing in his first two Bond’s, and really sets him apart from Connery. Moore himself has gone on record many times saying that this was by far his best Bond, and I agree.
Barbara Bach (a.k.a Mrs. Ringo Starr) is on board as Major Anya Amasova, a.k.a Agent XXX. Bach is a bit stiff in the role, and some of her line readings are baaaad- but, she has such an interesting look, and the character is so cool, that it’s easy to overlook the shortcomings in her performance.
BOND MUSIC: Sadly, John Barry was not able to score this outing. Instead we get a score by renowned composer Marvin Hamilisch. Despite the fact that it’s a tad dated, it’s actually a pretty good score. Hamilisch is a very talented composer, and his reworking of the Bond theme (Bond’77) is a classic. We also get one of the best theme songs of the series- Nobody Does It Better, by Carly Simon. It’s insane how catchy this song is, I’m actually humming it to myself as I write this.
BODY COUNT: Bond claims fifty one souls in this outing, mostly during the aforementioned climactic firefight.
NUMBER OF WOMEN BOND SLEEPS WITH: Two that we know about for sure, and probably one more in Egypt. There’s also a great scene where Bond walks into a trap. A beautiful woman is tasked with keeping him busy. As soon as he kisses her, she has a change of heart- screams “NOOOOO!!!!”, and throws herself in front of an assassin’s bullet, sacrificing herself for Bond. That must have been one hell of a kiss!
BEST ONE- LINER: [After detaining Jaws with a giant magnet] “How does that grab you?”
BEST DOUBLE ENTENDRE: [Bond is making love to a beautiful woman when he receives a wire through his watch requesting his presence at Universal Exports] “I have to go, something’s come up.” (Get it- come up!!! Tee hee hee!!!)
BEST GADGET: Bond gets to drive his second coolest car (after the Aston Martin of course) in this film, a white Lotus Espirit, which can drive underwater, shoot missiles, machine guns, etc.
RECEPTION: Obviously, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME was a huge hit, grossing $185 million worldwide, with $46 Million in the U.S- pretty amazing considering it came out a mere six weeks after STAR WARS.
GRADE: 9.5/10- great film, although it paved the way for MOONRAKER…