The Spy Who Loved Me Movie Review: One of the Franchise’s Best

In the prologue to The Spy Who Loved Me, author Ian Fleming claimed it was a manuscript by a Canadian woman named Vivienne Michel, a memoir of her life, which finds her crossing paths with James Bond in the latter third of the book. Because of the book’s poor reception with critics and the public, Fleming was not happy with the novel. As a result, he sold the film rights to just the title.

Two nuclear subs have disappeared so the British and Russians put their best people on it, James Bond (Roger Moore) and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach). After learning a submarine-tracking system is for sale, Bond heads to Egypt. There he crosses paths with Amasova, who has the same goal. Before either can secure them, they must deal with Jaws (Richard Kiel), the massive, murderous, mute, metal-mouthed henchman of shipping magnate Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens), who is responsible for the missing subs.

MI6 and the KGB agree to pool their resources, so Bond and Amasova go from rivals to allies, which becomes complicated when she learns Bond recently killed her lover. Before she can get revenge, the two must stop Stromberg, who intends to destroy the world so he can create a new one under the oceans. To accomplish this, he plans to have the subs he stole launch nuclear weapons at New York and Moscow, which he presumes will lead to nuclear war.

The Spy Who Loved Me is not just one of the best Roger Moore films, but one of the best Bond films in the franchise. Bond finds worthy rivals in Amasova and Jaws. Amasova is his equal for the most part.  She tricks Bond when he lets his guard down, but unfortunately the filmmakers only let that go on for so long.  During the plot’s resolution, Amasova finds herself tied up while wearing a sexy dress as Bond saves the day. Jaws is an unstoppable force, continually coming after the agents once they meet. He is much bigger and stronger than Bond, forcing the agent to have to outsmart him. Jaws never speaks, adding to his menace, and only opens his mouth to bite down on victims with metal teeth that are strong enough to break chains.

The film is packed with action and explosions. The stunt team deserves high praise for the great bit of skiing and an amazing jump during the opening, which helps distract from the ridiculous-looking rear projection used for Moore’s close-ups and the disco-fied version of the Bond theme. A wonderful addition to Q’s gadgets is the Lotus car that transforms into a submarine. Though fictional, it’s totally believable. When Bond leads his fellow prisoners in revolt against Stromberg’s men, the sequence seems to go on and on. It could have been cut down a bit, especially considering director Lewis Gilbert did a similar thing in You Only Live Twice.

Speaking of themes, Carly Simon is marvelous on Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager’s “Nobody Does It Better,” arguably the best theme song of the franchise. And this was the first time I remembered seeing Bond appear in the opening credits silhouette montage and it worked very well. Film music buffs may notice a snippet from Lawrence of Arabia‘s score that Hamlisch used during the desert scenes.

Nobody does James Bond better than the cast and crew of The Spy Who Loved Me.

Operation: BOND will return with Moonraker.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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