Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977, was one of the most successful of the Roger Moore James Bond films.

A British nuclear ballistic missile submarine vanishes without trace. The natural inclination would be to blame the Russians, except that one of their nuclear submarines has disappeared as well. The Russian intelligence services have assigned their top agent Major Anya Amasova, Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) to the job, while the British have (inevitably) assigned James Bond.

One thing that is known is that someone has developed the technology to track nuclear submarines, and the technology is on sale to the highest bidder. Bond journeys to Egypt to find the mysterious someone who is making the sale, and to his considerable surprise finds himself ordered to work with a partner - the top Russian spy. As you might expect Bond is pretty soon trying to persuade her into bed but there’s a complication - events in Austria a short time earlier have given the Soviet agent a grudge against him and she informs him that as soon as their mission is completed she intends to kill him.

There is of course a diabolical criminal mastermind behind the mystery of the vanished submarines, and his fiendish plan isn’t quite what Bond expected it to be. It’s not the usual international blackmail plot - Karl Stromberg dreams of a new future for humanity under the sea, but first he must destroy existing civilisation.

There are plenty of impressive action sequences, there are cool gadgets, there are spectacular sets. And yet somehow it falls rather flat. The problem is the relationship between Bond and the beautiful Russian spy. It has lots of potential, but it just fizzles aimlessly. Given that she wants to kill Bond but that she also seems to want to sleep with him there should be some sparkling dialogue exchanges, but the dialogue is singularly lacking in zing.

Her homicidal intentions towards Bond should provide some real zest but the script totally fails to develop this angle. I have no idea if Barbara Bach can actually act but certainly in this film she is given nothing to work with and her performance is uninspired.

I’ve always found that the most satisfactory Bond movies are the ones where the Bond Girl (whoever she may be) gets to do more than just look decorative. Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, all make the female lead central to the plot and manage to be slightly more than just action films.

Curd Jürgens is a favourite actor of mine but he is also, although to a lesser extent, let down by the script. Again there is a lack of the kind of witty dialogue exchanges that would have added some interest. Which is a pity since witty dialogue is exactly the sort of thing at which Roger Moore excels.

On the plus side Caroline Munro is fun, as always.

Détente was in the air during the 70s so the plot was timely. The aquatic headquarters of Stromberg is pretty cool although perhaps a bit too reminiscent of Dr No’s headquarters.

For my money this one, although entertaining enough, doesn’t make into the top rank of Bond films.


Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

"Behold Mr. Bond...the instruments of Armageddon!" - one of my all time favourite Bond movies. Roger's finest moment in the tuexdo, brilliant theme song, best pre-title sequence of the lot...and Jaws having an industrial magnet attached to his teeth! Ir doesnt get better than this.

Matt Farkas said...

I've got to agree with Shaun on every count here - not only is this Roger Moore's best Bond film and his one classic in the series, but it's also the last classic the franchise would produce until CASINO ROYALE, nearly thirty years later.

dfordoom said...

I'm afraid Casino Royale (the 2006 version) is the one Bond movie I've actively disliked. I especially disliked Daniel Craig's wooden performance.

dfordoom said...

Shaun, I agree there's a great deal to like in this movie. I just thought it lacked the right chemistry between Roger Moore and his leading lady.

I'm intending to give more of the Roger Moore Bond movies a try. The only other one I've seen is Live and Let Die.

venoms5 said...

Roger Moore has always been Bond to me since he's the one I grew up with. This is one of my favorites of the series. MOONRAKER, pretty much a comedic remake of SPY, is another fave and was put into production ahead of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY after STAR WARS mania took control of the world.

I also like Dalton's portrayal since he played the character as he was in the novels. There's still a lot of Bond movies I've yet to see.

I agree with you, D, about Barbara Bach. Still, I didn't pay much attention to her acting. Milton Reid (SPARTACUS & THE 10 GLADIATORS, PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT) is in this, too, menacing Bond. Check her out in CAVEMAN even though she isn't speaking any known language, but she looks good in a fur bikini!

dfordoom said...

V, the fur bikini is a classic look. All women look good in it!