The Spy Who Loved Me
January 28, 2011 1 Comment
Title: The Spy Who Loved Me
Year: 1977. In the two and half years since the release of the modestly successful The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) a lot had change in both the world of Bond and beyond presenting a mountain of challenges for the 15 year old franchise. Right off the bat, EON held the rights to Fleming’s novel, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” in name only could not adapt the plot for the big screen. Consequently, the tenth Bond film was the first to be written in complete independence of Fleming’s work. This cut both ways; on one hand producers had complete control of their character for the first time but they were also performing without a net. Additionally, producer Cubby Broccoli was flying solo for the first time (See Reported Budget). With the weight of the multimillion dollar franchise squarely on his shoulders, Broccoli became heavily involved in the scripting process. For inspiration, he turned to the then topical Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), a June 1975 event that saw the American Apollo spacecraft dock with the Soviet Soyuz. During this 52 hour interstellar love-in astronauts representing the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. worked together conducting a series of experiments requiring them to share technology and data. (So much care was taken to not offend that crew members learned the other countries native tongue so no one side would have a perceived advantage.) Needless to say, this thawing in the cold war was unthinkable when Dr. No (1962) hit the screen in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The idea of Bond working side by side with the KGB had limitless possibilities, not the least of which would be the opportunity for Q to get bitchy with the commies, “Now do pay attention Agent Boris.” But politics and story rights weren’t the only factors forcing Bond to switch gears. The film industry was forever changed in the summer of 1975 thanks to a fish movie directed by a 29-year-old wonderboy. Prior to Jaws (1975), films opened in big cities like New York, Chicago, and London where they would run for weeks, months and in some cases years. If the movies meet with success in these cities studios would then slowly wheel them out to secondary and smaller markets until a successful film made it to a theater near you. When Steven Spielberg gave Universal what was essentially a very expensive monster movie (one based on best seller, but still…) the studio was at a loss on how to promote it. Additionally, the timing of the films release, summer, was problematic. Just like television played nothing but re-runs over the warmer months, Hollywood never saw the summer as a way to make money. The standing assumption was people would rather be outside enjoying the weather than sitting in dark movie houses. So, just like studios dump their garbage in January today, the summer was seen as a time to clean house. That was until Universal came up with a marketing plan for Jaws; what if they could literally scare people off the beaches and into the theater? Posters promising “You’ll never go in the water again!” featuring a shark 20 times the size of the swimmer on the surface were hung all over the country. Savvy TV trailers featured terrified hoards stampeding out of the water while John William’s now iconic two note baaaa-dump droned on. When the $8 million dollar picture opened on a then unheard of 409 screens around the country there wasn’t soul who didn’t want to see Jaws the day it came out. They lined up around the block in town after town and by the end of the weekend the film had made $7,061,000. Come Labor Day, Universal’s big fish tale grossed $129,549,000 (in 1975 dollars) more than doubling the $60 million take of the years number two film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Jaws was bigger than a movie, it was a game changer that gave birth to the blockbuster, the summer movie season, and the event picture. For better or for worse (I’m looking at you Mr. Will “July 4th” Smith,) movies would never be the same again. Both audiences and Hollywood’s expectations of what a big movie was changed dramatically and Bond was force to adapt. In the mid-60’s, 007 was the only game in town. Now, genres that were traditionally B-pictures like monster films and science fiction were big budget Hollywood events that made the last three or so Bond films look quaint in comparison. Truth be told, Bond had been slumping and lazily resting on its reputation for some time. It needed a kick in the ass to force the franchise out of complacently. Two summers after Jaws changed everything, The Spy Who Loved Me met all these challenges head-on and roared into theaters on 7/7/77, natch. Watching it today, The Spy Who Loved Me is a leap forward for Bond and popcorn films in general. Where as the last few 007 pictures felt stuck in the 60’s, this film feels ahead of it’s time. It’s not hard at all to draw a straight line from this 1977 picture to 1980’s action films, the Indian Jones movies in particular. It’s a clockwork, bang-bang, high soaring, romance thriller/ action adventure that screams loud and clear that in this, his 10th big screen adventure, Bond has grown up.
Film Length: 2 hours 6 minutes
Bond Actor: Roger Moore. When Sir Moore waxes nostalgic about his seven 007 films, he always sights The Spy Who Loved Me as his favorite. From the opening shots of the film it’s easy to see why. Not only is it immediately evident that the Bond character has grown from a literary creation occasional struggling to find his footing on film to a self assured silver screen hero, Moore himself makes tremendous strides. In his first two trips as the martini swilling superspy (Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun), Moore was playing the notes; in his third go around he hears the music. Indeed, his supporting cast both on and off screen are in top form but Moore carries it all on effortlessly on Bonds broad shoulders. For one thing, the story tighter than some other Bond plots and plays to Moore strengths, perhaps because film makers, free of Fleming’s works, could write specially for their leading man. The script gives Bond more depth with passing references to his Cambridge background, his military rank is brought to the fore and he even gets to command as an officer in Her Majesties Royal Navy. Additionally, there are two very well acted scenes, both with Bond girl Barbara Bach, where Moore provides a window into Bond soul. The first features Bond and the Bach character, Soviet Agent Triple X, meeting at an Egyptian bar. Decked out in A-plus formal wear, the advisories bump into each other while going to see the same man about the same horse and immediately fall into a game of one-upmanship. Bond starts the ball rolling sighting XXX’s real name, rank and drink of choice. “The lady will have a Bacardi on the rocks….” “… and the gentleman with have a vodka martini. Shaken not stirred,” she counters. “Touché.” Triple X starts to list Bond’s file history as he sits passively listening, that is until the unflappable Bond becomes flapped. “Many women, but married only once. Wife killed while….” “Enough.” “Sensitive Mr. Bond?” “About some things” Bond answers with a sharp edge in his voice. And before he can even sip at his drink, he’s done. “I’m afraid I must be going.” This is quite a leap from locking one woman in closet while seducing a second. The reference to Bond marriage is apt as On Her Majesty’s Secrete Service (1969) was the last time Bond was this human and Moore handles this serious scene with just enough finesse to show the jab hurt, but he doesn’t allow the moment to linger. This is after all a Bond picture, not Sophie’s Choice (1982), and Moore’s trademark humor is used brilliantly. As strong as he is, Moore’s limitations as Bond are sadly also present. While he handless the dialog and double takes with easy his physicality, always a liability, truly hobbles his performance. Moore never hid the fact that he didn’t do his own stunts but here, two a half years removed from his last Bond film, his age is starting to show. Moore hated the way he looked when he ran so most shots of Bond moving at any pace are shot using body-doubles but the third act of this film requires some of the shots to be all Roger. They are not pretty. And while he can be devastatingly handsome, like when he walks among the Egyptian ruins effortlessly wearing a tuxedo, the sex scenes are beginning to get a little creepy. The first shot of Moore in the film features him shirtless, in bed with a woman. “Eeeugh, gross. Old man lips, how could anyone make-out with him?” said the wife as we watched together; not the reaction one wants from the ladies when it comes to Bond.
Director: Lewis Gilbert. As enjoyable as the first two Moore films were, they always felt like the training wheels were on. They were uneven, clumsy and had a stuttery start/stop quality that held the whole thing back. Even the big set pieces had a “Hey, look at this stunt” kind of strung together quality with no real gel outside of Moore’s charm to connect them to the rest of the goings on. Both films, when you boil it down, lacked heart. Like a poorly done horror movie, they were fun to watch, but nothing stuck around to keep you up that night. All of these things; script, pacing, feel, etc., get hung on the trailer door of the director. Guy Hamilton’s Bond movies were the very definition nuts and bolts; shot it, cut it, print it, on to the next shot. I have no idea if that’s how he worked but outside Goldfinger (1964), his films for the most part feel sterile. (As opposed to Terrence Young’s well crafted lived-in classics.) Hamilton was on board to direct The Spy Who Loved Me and had even started preproduction when EON was slapped with a plagiarism suit forcing the courts to put a work stop order on the movie. Everything shut down for months and once the matter was cleared up, Hamilton had moved on. Broccoli wasn’t going to wait around any longer and gave You Only Live Twice (1967) director Lewis Gilbert a call. Considering the mangled mess that film was, my expectations were far from great for this, his second Bond picture. Turns out a lot can change in 10 years and in this case, all of it for the better. In The Man with the Golden Gun, there was an attempt to strip Bond down to his basics which worked well at first but filmmakers lost their nerve in the end and the movie became bloated and convoluted. For 007 10, in some kind of reverse voodoo/addition by subtraction Gilbert pulls of the physics defying feat of making this Bond tighter and more streamlined by blowing it up and making the biggest, slickest, and most ambitious film yet. It all stars with the script which is logical, straight forward, and an absolute hoot. Gilbert goes onto deftly balance the humor and action and choreograph show stopping set pieces. The film is also beautiful to look at. Every woman is drop dead gorgeous and every location is exotically captured. Bottom line, Gilbert infuses this movie with purpose and gives Bond back his soul, something that’s been missing since George Lazenby sported a kilt and took on Telly Savalas. Welcome back 007.
Reported Budget: $14,000,000 estimated. In addition to having to write a story from scratch and the plagiarism suit, the two and half year gap, the longest up to this point between Bond films, was also due to a major management shake up. When EON co-founder Harry Saltzman walked away from Bond after The Man with the Golden Gun the company line was Saltzman simply wanted to work independently on other projects. In reality Harry was broke and owed money all over town. Saltzman reportedly had a passion for food and made several bad investments in the restaurant biz, using his shares in Bond as collateral. When collection letters began to mount Saltzman promptly filed them in the “pay no mind” drawer and continued to eat like it was 1969. When the rubber finally hit the road Saltzman had put not only the franchise but the livelihood of all involved in jeopardy. Films the size of Bond employ hundreds of behind-the-scenes folks and as a result of Harry’s bad management, scores of set builders, costume makers, technicians, writers, extras, and producers were put in limbo. Tensions were extremely high when Saltzman finally sold his share in Bond to his partner of fifteen years for $15 million. Now, all eyes were on Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. Between proving he could run EON on his own, working on an original script, dealing with the several delays in production, and delivering in a new “blockbuster” environment, the pressure on Broccoli was enormous. Add to everything the fact that Bond was no longer the license to print money it once was and you couldn’t blame Broccoli for hedging his bet. Instead, the Astoria Queens native doubled down on double O seven. Not only was $14 million the most expensive Bond yet, Broccoli refused to compromise on a third act story point that could have derailed the entire enterprise. The plot for The Spy Who Loved Me revolved around an oil tanker that could swallow nuclear submarines whole. A major scene was written to take place in the hull of the ship while it was carrying three subs docked side by side. After an exhaustive search, set designers informed Broccoli that nowhere in the world was there a sound stage big enough to accommodate the request. “So build one” the New Yorker responded and the “007 Sound Stage,” the largest in the world at the time, was erected on the back-lot of Pinewood studios. Always the showman, Broccoli made sure Roger Moore, a bevy of beauties, the entire production staff and members of the press were on hand the day the sound-stage opened for business granting the new Bond film exactly the kind of over-the-top publicity Broccoli loved. Continuing with the “bigger is better” mantra, a shoot schedule was announced that called for cameras rolling in a record number of countries including Egypt, Scotland, Sardinia, the Bahamas and Canada. This out of control spending and grandeur while the franchise was at such a critical crossroad could have sunk Bond once and for all. But this perfect storm of circumstances forced everyone involved to bring their A Game and The Spy Who Loved Me reaches heights Bond hadn’t seen in a decade.
Reported Box-office: $46,800,000 (USA) $185,400,000 (Worldwide) The returns in the U.S. put the film at #5 for the year and the worldwide haul was the biggest yet for a Bond film. (Ed. Note, figures are not adjusted for inflation.) Not only did The Spy Who Loved Me hit a homerun at the box-office, it made Bond relevant again with audiences and earned some of the strongest critical notices for 007 in years. Most importantly for fans, it proved that Bond would carry on sans Saltzman, one of the two creative talents who put James Bond on the cinematic map.
Theme Song: “Nobody Does It Better” performed by Carly Simon. Needless to say, the ex-Miss James Taylor is a huge upgrade in talent from the American Idol reject sounding Lulu. The Marvin Hamlisch penned tune is reminiscent of Simons most famous hit, “Your So Vein,” in that it speaks to the arrogance of men, something 007 has in spades. The song was summertime hit reaching # 2 in the US and # 7 in the U.K. As for the video below, it was shot for a 1987 HBO special called “Live from Martha’s Vineyard” which happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. As an added bonus, it features the ever awkward posings of former SNL band leader G. E. Smith and an overly enthusiastic drummer with fantastic facial hair. Enjoy.
Opening Titles: In a return to the good old days the opening credits for The Spy Who Loved Me are inventive and tie back to the movie with an interesting visual motif consisting of guns, naked women, fur hats, and gymnastics. Even though there were references in past films, The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond to tackle the Cold War head on and in America in the summer of 1977, nothing shouted “evil socialist commie pig” louder than fur hats and uneven bars. At the 1976 Summer Olympic Game in Montreal a 14-year-old Romanian (as part of the U.S.S.R. team) named Nadia Comaneci earned the first ever perfect “10” in the all around women’s gymnastic competition; a feat so incomprehensible that the official scoreboard had only a single digit in front of the decimal so her score was displayed as a “1.00”. Comaneci not only became the most famous athlete in the world save Muhammad Ali but the 7 stone 14-year-old struck a might blow to the American psyche. At the time of better dead than red, any victory by the Soviets took on a wider meaning not remotely comprehensible in today’s political climate. So, in addition to goose stepping naked chicks sporting Ushanka military lids the opening credits of The Spy Who Loved Me features woman performing gymnastics on gun barrels that double as a balance beams and uneven bars. The entire thing ends with the music hitting an ear piercing metallic sting that launches us deep into the halls of the Kremlin. Man, I miss the cold war! One more thing Reagan ruined.
Opening Action Sequence: Allow me a geek moment to ask, am I the only one who gets really excited upon hearing the Bond theme and seeing those two white dots walk across a black screen? Another thing I love; any movie where the crew of a submarine casually sits down to have a meal. If you’ve seen three frames of film in your life you know that any second coffee mugs will start hopping around, white lights will switch to red, and a loud voice will come over the PA. “Battle Stations! All personnel to battle stations, this is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill!” The next shots will show dudes jump thought doors, sliding down ladders, reading multiple radar screens and printouts, cranking various knobs and pulling several levers until we focus in on the captain who will order “down scope!” After peering into the periscope and spinning it a full 360 degrees the captain will then see something, unseen by the audience and crew, that tells him the whole story. He will then take a slow step back with a gob smacked look on his face and declare “Good God…” Well The Spy Who Loved Me hits every single one of those notes in the first 20 seconds. Now, what’s going to happen next? According to “Submarine Movie Law II” the film must cut to some guy sitting behind a desk. You will immediately know this man is important because (A) he will be wearing a uniform with all kinds of metals pinned to his chest, (B) his desk will be in a room that has all kinds of activity going on like other guys looking at maps and carrying clipboards, and (C) he will have two phones on his desk and when he hears a ring he will answer … the red one! While this is going on at MI6 the very same thing is happening over at the KGB. However, because they are pinko socialist New York Times subscribes the office is empty, austere, imposing, and EVIL! The Russian important guy also has the standard white phone and red phone on his desk, but what the hell is up with the two-toned badge phone? See! You can never trust those shifty Riskies. Turns out both the UK and the USSR have had subs disappear from the middle of the ocean and both sides put their best man on the job. The KGB calls up Agent Triple X who is WHAAAAAA? A woman! Did not see that one coming. M on the other hand tracks down Bond who is on assignment in the Austrian Alps. Cut to James in bed with some Nordic floozy when duty calls. Jimmy B hops out of bed, pulls on his goggles, clicks into his Rossignols, and skis out the door. The only thing that excites me more than Bond gambling is Bond skiing. Hot damn, what an open! This movie is going to rock. Anyway, the chick who Bond was entertaining works for the Russians (of course) and James immediately has four baddies on his tail. An exciting but brief chase sees Bond navigate a crevasse and take out one of the bad guys with a ski poll projectile that appears to start a fire in the man’s chest. Bond is making good time and putting a fair amount of distance between himself and the other three pursuers when it suddenly becomes clear he’s going to run out of road.
And here, dear reader, is where the open moves from merely exciting into the sublime. In one uninterrupted shot we see Bond ski off a cliff and soar into an absolute void. We watch him, not much larger than a speck, drift in complete silence for what feels like 10 seconds when suddenly a parachute with a huge Union Jack painted on it pops out as the Bond theme kicks in. Not only is this the most exciting pre-credit action sequence to date, but it must be pointed out that stuntman Rick Sylvester did the jump for real off Mt. Asgard. The mountain is on a northern Canadian island the size of Germany and features a shear cliff that drops 3,900 ft into the sea. Sylvester and a camera crew held up in a cabin on the island for four days waiting for weather conditions and the wind speeds to be just right. When it was, they had a small window and only one shot to make it work so several cameras were quickly set-up to capture the stunt. In one of those happy accidents that becomes film lore, every camera but one lost the skier as he jumped. As a result we are treated to a majestic uncut single shot of the jump that I would bet good money had 1977 audiences standing in the theater and cheering out loud.
Bond’s Mission: So, if those dirty, naked, goose stepping, fuzzy hat wearing, perfect split and tumble performing commies didn’t hijack the British boat then who did? And oh, by the by, did we mention the British sub has sixteen missiles and nuclear warheads aboard? But you knew that thanks to article three of “Submarine Movie Law.” MI6 obtains intel indicating someone has discovered a way to track subs even when they are submerged. Perhaps that’s a good place to start. Lucky for the freedom loving Brits, a man in Cairo is willing to sell information about this technology and who has it to the highest bidder. The freedom hating Russians get the same tip and both Bond and Triple X are dispatched to Egypt to track this man down and make hivm taaalk.
Villain’s Name: Karl Stromberg, who contrary to popular belief is not a member of Hans Gruber’s band of Nakatomi Plaza robbers. He is, in fact, a shipping magnate who describes himself as “somewhat of a recluse” in the understatement of the year. Like Donald “The Donald” Trump he doesn’t shake hands and like Steve Zissou he lives the life aquatic. He’s one of those rich people that can afford to be eccentric and bend the world to his whim; in Stromberg’s case that means never living a submersible mid-ocean fortress that looks not unlike the stage of David Bowies Glass Spider Tour. He is also into tracking and kidnapping nuclear subs, but to what end?
Villain Actor: Curt Jurgens is described in his IMDb bio as “one of the most successful European film actors of the 20th Century.” Indeed from his motion picture debut in 1935 to his death in 1982 he acted in over 100 movies and directed five. The five times divorced actor become an international star after staring opposite Brigitte Bardot in … And God Created Woman (1956). In a nice little Bond link he appeared in The Longest Day (1962), Sean Connery’s first major film. The German native was often cast as a Nazi in Hollywood WWII war films; an irony considering he spent time in a concentration camp for “political unreliables” thanks to his outspokenness against the Third Reich. On the DVD extras for The Spy Who Loved Me Moore expresses awe for Jurgens and his ability to not only speak but also act in four languages.
Villain’s Plot: Stromberg paid two eggheads to come up with the sub tracking device so he could snatch some nukes, point em at New York and Moscow, and cackle in a large room with a big globe as the centerpiece while an underling counts down to Armageddon. But before you accuse him of being a poor man’s Blofeld, consider his motive is not petty extortion but to “changing the face of history.” His grand idea is to cause a nuclear holocaust on the surface of Earth and create a new civilization under the sea, under the sea, where darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from Karl. Why can he just live down there and let the people topside do their thing? Because we land dwellers are polluting his seaweed paradise and for this he will make us pay! This little plan balances Mr. Stromberg somewhere between a billionaire agoraphobia with a God complex and the president of Greenpeace.
Villain’s Lair: Stromberg’s underwater lair, which he calls Atlantis, is quite the sight. When the film first introduces Stromberg he is sitting on one end of a very, very, very long dinner table; the kind you only see in the movies. His lady friend seated waaaaaaay at the other end. Since the man doesn’t like to be touched this is the first time one of these super long supper tables makes a lick of sense. At one point Stromberg pushes a button and the beautiful paintings on the wall drop in unison to reveal the room is in fact under water and now surfacing. Again the structure looks like the stage of the Glass Spider Tour (for those born after Reagan was inaugurated the current U2 360 stage would be a good reference.) This massive black round edged submersible seems to be able to pop in and out of the water without anyone noticing, good news for the eco-terrorist. The interiors are impressive in that unique Bond way where modern technological utility and classic old-world decor occupy the same space seamlessly. He also owns the sub swallowing tanker which is so big than not only can three subs sit side by side by side in the hull but Stromberg travels from bow to stern on a monorail. This monorail is no flimsy affair. Unlike Seattle’s single railed train it actually goes somewhere and if this the shit hits the fan, the single-car train can be shot out of the hull and transform into a 450 horsepower speedboat. The tanker also features the most sophisticated tracking system know to man; a huge yellow glowing globe which can map out the precise trajectory of two nuclear missiles simultaneously. I know right now your thinking “Big deal, my iPhone can do that with a dead battery” but this is 1977 my dear child and the term GPS had yet to be even dreamt up so show a little respect. Man, no wonder they say never trust anyone under thirty.
Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: The man is as brilliant and as rich as that creepy Napster kid played by Justin Timberlake, and almost as evil. He is also paranoid enough to trust no one and secludes himself in his underwater city. In fact, since he, unlike Blofeld, never broadcasts his targets or even his intentions, he would of 10,000% gotten away with his plan except for one little loose end, a woman. Women have long been Bond’s kryptonite, getting him into far more trouble than they could possible be worth and Stromberg too is undone by blond bimbo. It is she, the lady at the other end of the very, very long dinner table, who wanted to make some scratch on the side and sold the submarine tracking info to a mustachioed Egyptian named Aziz Fekkesh. (Is there a cooler name on the planet than Aziz Fekkesh? Don’t even try, the answer is no, there is not.) In turn, Fekkesh and his employer Max Kalba put the word out they will sell the info to the highest bidder which prompts Bond and Triple X to come calling and now we are back to where we walked in. It is the calm and coolness, with just the right bit of cruelty, with which Stromberg deals with this lady that is our villain’s coolest trait.
Badassness of Villain: Agent Triple X describes Stromberg as “One of the principal capitalist exploiters of the West.” As we are still drowning in the wake of Enron, AIG, Lehman Brothers and the bankruptcy of Blockbuster Video we all know just how much havoc Stromberg, one of the richest men in the world, can cause. What makes him truly badass, and a great free market man to boot, is his complete lack of emotional involvement in his decision making. Outside of fish, this dude cares not for a thing. When he discovers his lady friend has sold his info out from under him, he calmly asks her to leave to room, implying he is about to rub out the two eggheads who invented the tracking system. When she gets into the elevator to leave, Stromberg pushes a button and the floor of the elevator drops out, sending the girl sliding down a tube and into a shark tank. Its not the feed his woman to the sharks, standard Bond villain behavior by this point, but the head game of making someone feel safe, like they got away with something, and then Blammo! that makes him truly badass. The two eggheads, having witnessed this, must now themselves get onto the very same elevator to leave. They are understandable uneasy but get off Atlantis without incident and once they are airborne in Stromberg’s helicopter they allow themselves a congratulatory handshake. Once more, Stromberg is toying with people’s minds as he yanks the carpet out from underneath the eggheads by pushing another button and blowing up the chopper. So badass is he that he didn’t even think about his pilot. Principal capitalist exploiter of the West indeed.
Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: We meet Stromberg’s two henchmen early on; a broad, bald, WWE looking fellow named Sandor and the silent metal mouthed Jaws. Jaws is played by Richard Kiel who was first noticed by audiences in the Burt Reynolds vehicle The Longest Yard (1974). (Why is it that Burt Reynolds keeps coming up in these entries lately? He’s the Kevin Bacon of 70’s cinema.) For this role, Kiel was required fill his mouth with large prosthetic teeth that not only rendered him unable to speak but also caused the actor great pain, which explains why Jaws constantly has the look of man who needs to find a restroom in the next thirty seconds. In fact, so great was the pain that Kiel couldn’t keep the teeth in his mouth for more that thirty seconds and would rip them out as soon as someone yelled “cut.” The sacrifice was worth it as Jaws is one of the most memorable and popular Bond baddies and even returns in the next film. I remember really digging him as a kid but I didn’t remember the shear size of the man. There are several fight scenes between Bond and Jaws that almost take on a comic quality as the 7’2” Kline completely dwarfs Moore who at 6’1” is not a small man. At one point Jaws is strangling Bond and his hands are bigger than 007s head. But I don’t feel bad for our hero. This is clearly Jimmy B getting a bit of karmic payback for beating up on a midget at the end of the last film. I also didn’t remember Jaws was a zombie or vampire or something that compels him to kill his victims by moving… in… very… slowly… to… bite… their… necks. Why? His hands are just as capable as his teeth. He used his huge mitts to rip apart a moving van (which is to say a van that is moving, not a truck that brings your stuff from your old house to your new.) Jaws can also use his choppers to chew through a padlock and deflect bullets but my favorite Jaws quality is his indestructibleness; throw him off a moving train, crush him with blocks from a pyramid, or force his car off the road, over a cliff, and into the roof of a farm cottage and Jaws will get up, brush the dirt off his shoulders, adjust his tie, grunt, and go about his business. In addition to Jaws and Sandor, Stromberg employees hundreds of red jumpsuit clad flunkeys which is a good thing because when they get into a massive gun fight with the blue jump suited British Navy they are able to tell who is on their side and who is not. They also have black berets which serve no function but look spiffy. These men guard Stromberg’s tanker as well as Atlantis which was conveniently built on the sea floor right where the underwater battle from Thunderball (1965) took place. Consequently, these guys can simply swim over and pluck the single man submarine sleds left on behind by Emilio Largo’s felled scuba army. Sadly for them, and much to our heroes delight, Stromberg’s people use the equipment with the same amount of success.
Bond Girl Actress: Barbara “Mrs. Ringo” Bach. The “Queen of the B-Movies” was born in Queens to a New York City cop and became a model in her late teens. She met Augusto Gregorini at fashion show in the city and moved with him to Italy were the two were married despite that fact she could have been his daughter. These things seem to be somewhat more acceptable in Italy. After appearing in Bond she went on to star in such classics as Screamers (1979), Jaguar Lives! (1979), Alligator (1979) and Caveman (1981) where she met Ringo Starr. The moon hit her eye like a big pizza pie and Gregorini was dumped like yesterday’s pasta fazool. On April 27, 1981 Bach joined Linda, Patti and Yoko to become the forth and final member of the Beatles Wives Club. (Heather Mills never happened, do you understand? Never happened.) Truth be told, she is not the best actresses in the world but somehow her cool, detached, Euro-chick, Nico vibe works well opposite Moore’s suave smart-assed Bond. She also benefits from having what is so far the most well rounded Bond girl role of the Moore era. She is, after all, a spy and the KGB answer to Bond so she gets to avoid some of the Bond girl traps. The two make an interesting pair, reminding me of Ilsa and Victor Laszlo navigating the nightclubs of Africa, where selling and buying of information on the black market is the main business. (No, not really, but I try.) In addition to the exchange described in the Bond Actor section, Moore and Bach have another emotionally demanding scene (OK, emotionally demanding for a Bond film) where a casual moment turns on dime after Bach’s character learns Bond killed her lover on the slopes of Austria. “Did you kill him?” she asks cueing Moore to deliver one of the longer monologs in Bond history. “When someone is after you on skis at 40 MPH trying to put a bullet in your head, you don’t always remember a face. In our business Anya people get killed, we both know that. So did he, it was either him or me. The answer to the question is yes, I did kill him.” And with that, the Rocky IV (1985) ideal that hinges on the philosophy of “Hey, if both our cultures enjoy a good old fashion fight, and who doesn’t love violence, then maybe I can change… and you can change … AND WE ALL CAN CHANGE!” was crushed thanks to a personal beef. “When the mission is over, I will kill you.” And with that, matters of the heart trump matters of the state.
Bond Girl’s Name: Agent XXX or Triple X, or Major Anya Amasova to her comrades. I think the name is intended as some kind of cheeky double entendre but for the life of me I’m not sure what the joke is. Anywho, Triple X is indeed an officer in the Russian army and a highly trained KGB agent but that still doesn’t spare her from Bond girl rule four which clearly states “you must, at some point, wear a bikini.” In this case it is a fetching number with straps that go in a cross pattern above her chest forming an X. Maybe that’s where her name comes from? Regardless, Triple X is not much help in a fight but she proves to be a very sharp agent who cracks the clues to discover Stromberg is the man behind the sub hijacking plot. And like any good agent, she is not above using her sexuality to get what she wants.
Bond Girl Sluttiness: To track down the baddie, England must get in bed, literally, with the Soviets. But this is a delicate dance, with may twists and turns. Before these two sexy globetrotting superspies team up, they are competing parties, both after the microfilm containing the sub-trackers information. By the by, something cinematic was lost when computers became capable of talking to one another in such a seamless manner. Sure, the internet is neat but don’t you get nostalgic for the days when secret data files needed to be delivered by hand? We no longer have movies where our hero must smuggle microfilms and the like through Egypt while being chased by a beautiful girl. Thanks to advances in technology we now get a guy staring at a computer screen mumbling to himself “Come on…come on… load God Damn it!” while we watch a graphic of a bar slowly filling up to “100% Downloaded.” That just sucks. Anyway, Triple X and Bond both end up on a boat bound for Cairo. Bond has the microfilm and Triple X wants it. Having studied up on 007 she knows if she bats her eyes he will be putty in her hands. After a little playful smooching Triple X reaches for her cigarettes. When Bond goes to light the smoke for the lady she blows some poison gas into his face making him instantly pass out. This is a nifty trick that made me wish we could meet the Soviet Q. I picture him in a hidden lab somewhere, perhaps at Chernobyl where the Kremlin cooked up the nuclear disaster as a cover story. (True, the Chernobyl meltdown didn’t happen until 1986 but go with me on this.) He would have a monocle, of course, and a Rollie Fingers mustache which he would twirl between his thumb and index finger while cackling madly as he invents schemes to once and for all take down the West. “I have a fool proof plan to poison every American man, woman and child! Ve will call dem “Big Mac’s.” De will look like tasty hamburger but de will contain no meat what-so-ever! Only deadly chemical. And de Americans will buy dem for 99 cents a piece! De love a bargain. And wit no health care to save dem de will all gets fat and die, and den we will go to Disney World! Hahahahaha.” For the most part, Triple X is the female Bond when it comes to sex. We first see her in bed, she uses romantic encounters to get her job done, and a fringe benefit of the job is notching multiple romantic encounters. One more thing about the lady, I don’t know if it was she or a body double but we are treated to a brief shot of the Major taking a shower, the most nudity in a Bond film to date.
Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: “This is what we do in Siberia, but not how we do it.” I have no clue what that even means but it sound dirty.
Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: “What a magnificent craft, such hansom lines.” He was talking about a boat. Wink wink.
Number of Woman 007 Beds: 3 ladies. Doing what he can to warm the cold war, one spy at time, we first see Bond bedding an Arian beauty in the Austrian Alps. It’s a cozy little scene in a mountain top chalet until M puts up the bat signal. “Tell 007 to pull out immediately!” “But James, I need you” the woman pleads as Bond bounds into action “So does England” and, apparently, the women of Egypt. Bond arrives via camel to a tent in the middle of the desert, a tent that is both bigger and more luxurious than my apartment. After catching up with his old Cambridge chum who has installed himself as the local sultan Bond is off the find Fekkesh. That is until he is offered a bed which includes a member of Cambridge buddies harem to keep him warm. “When one is in Egypt, one should delve deeply into its treasures.” It’d be rude not to. The courting of Triple X is a bit more complicated. When Bond first puts the moves on the Russian agent she gasses him with the trick cigarette. Apparently she was just using Bond to get the microfilm. Dirty deceitful commie! Bond would never pull a stunt like that. After the two team up there is little time for hanky –panky until they find themselves in adjoining sleeping cabins on a train traveling from Cairo to the Mediterranean Island of Sardinia. Please consider that one more time, traveling by train, from Cairo, to an island. Regardless, Jimmy B puts on his best moves only to end up sulking alone in his own compartment after Triple X declines to join him for a night cap. But violence = 007 + XXX. Jaws, hiding in the lady’s closet, is about to get all vampire like on the Triple X’s neck when our dashing Englishman comes to the rescue. As thanks for saving her life, Triple X gives herself to Bond which brings me to our hero’s alleged intelligence. How many times is Bond going to end up getting attacked in train sleeping cars before he gets the hint? Isn’t getting to the point where he should put on a helmet and arm himself with brass knuckles whenever traveling by rail? It all works out in the end and Bond makes a powerful enemy of Ringo Starr after sleeping with his wife. (Bond vs. Ringo, now that’s a fight I would love to see!) Bond and Triple X also bump uglies in an escape sub and as has become tradition, are rudely interrupted by well intended but poorly timed would be rescuers.
Number of People 007 Kills: 19 confirmed kills plus a whole bunch. Americans, for whatever reason, often think of sex and violence in film (and other arts) as somehow making that film “more adult” or “mature.” Well, based on that idea, Bond grew up big time in the 10th movie by stacking up the largest body count to this point. We kick things off with the ski pole shooting of Triple X’s squeeze, complete with the mysterious fire igniting in his jacket at the point he was shot. The second Bond kill inspired me to come up with the “magic hickey theory” or MHT. Bond enters Fekkesh’s office looking for Fekkesh (I will never tire of typing that name) and comes across Fekkesh’s secretary. “He is not in right now Mr. Bond. Can I get you anything while you wait, and I do mean, anything…” Jimmy B leans in and starts to kiss the lady on the neck when she suddenly panics and warns Bond he is about to be shot. Bond repays the ladies generosity by spinning her body so she takes the three bullets intended for him. This struck me as all sorts of wrong. Didn’t she know it was a set up to shot Bond? Isn’t that why she offered herself to him in the first place, to otherwise occupy his attention so he could be taken out? So why did she warn him? The only possible reason is love. Thanks to that kiss 007 landed on her neck she instantly feel under his spell. Hence the MHT, no woman can resist Bond once pecked on the neck. The theory is once again proven when Bond turns Triple X. After the mission ends the Russian makes good on her threat to avenge her boyfriends death. She pulls a gun and Bond moves in for the clavicle kiss. Once smooched, she quickly forgets the whole shooting things and moves right into the whole smushing thing. The MHT strikes again. Back to killing, the dude who shot at Bond when he used the lady as a human shield was the not-Jaws-Stromberg-flunky Sandor. The baddie and Bond engage in some rooftop fist-a-cuffs that ends with Sandor dangling off the edge of the building, only Bond’s grip on his tie keeping him from falling. Bond lets his grip slip once he learns the location of Fekkesh and Sandor is no more. Number 4 is a chicken feather coated motorcyclist who Bond run off the road and over a cliff, “All those feathers and he still can’t fly.” Numbers 5,6,7 are passengers in a car that goes over the same cliff and through the roof of a home. Jaws, the fourth passenger of the car, walks away with his tie slightly askew. A lovely helicopter pilot who works for Stromberg is blown up courtesy of Bond’s sea to air missile launched from his submarine car. The sub-car also torpedoes a Thunderball dude and kills another SCUBA diver in the first ever underwater hit and run. During the climatic battle Bond takes out two of Stromberg’s red shirts with one harpoon, two more a done in by Bonds machine gun fire and a grenade takes out a jeep containing three dudes. One other dude is somehow set on fire. Meanwhile, Bond navigates the chaotic machine gun fire without a fear, thanks to a technique that was expertly demonstrated in the fantastic film OSS 177 – Lost in Rio (2009). Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath or OSS 177, the French 007, perfected this technique which requires the agent to raise his hand slight above his head, as if shielding his eyes from the sun. The agent then runs while slightly hunched over with his head slightly cocked to the side while wearing a concerned, but not panicked, expression. Try it the next time a bunch of dudes are shooting at you and if the cinema is to be believed, you will not get shot. Kill number 19 is Stromberg himself. Near the films climax, Carl hosts a grand dinner for Bond following the time honored tradition of Bond baddies. Stromberg is seated at one end of the very, very, very long table and Bond at the other. After some back and forth Stromberg has had enough of 007 and reached for his concealed gun. The gun hangs under the table, just above Stromberg’s lap. It’s barrel is pointing into a very, very, very long tub which extends under the entire length of the very, very, very long table and ends at Bonds lap. Stromberg pulls the trigger and Bond bails out of the way a split second before his crotch is turned to mush. Bond then takes his gun, places the barrel in the tube, and squeezes off his own round which strikes the less nibble Stromberg seated at the other end of the very, very, very long tube. Bond puts two more bullets in the felled bad guy just to make sure Stromberg knows 007 is very, very, very unhappy. This is the best lead villain death in some time and I found it rather satisfying. In addition to the above, Bond also took out an untold number of other bad guys. He blows up the taker which still had a bunch of dudes on it and he retargets the nukes headed for New York and Moscow to take out two subs. These are nukes so there is no doubt that’s two boat loads of people are dead. But I also wonder what other ships were nearby and therefore vaporized? Oh well, lets not dwell on it to long, Bond certainty didn’t.
Most Outrageous Death/s: When Jaws finds himself in the shark tank he panics not a bit. He simply swims over to one of the deadly animals and takes a chomp out of its dorsal fin, killing the sea creature in a classic case of man bites shark.
Miss. Moneypenny: It may have been three years of downtime between the Bond films but that doesn’t mean Lois Maxwell, or Miss Moneypenny for that matter, was cooling her heels at some exotic getaway waiting for Cubby Broccoli to call. No, she was hard at work and in 1975 a film was released in Asia called Bons baisers de Hong Kong or From Hong Kong with Love. Bernard Lee also shows up in the IMDB credits as M for this until recently unknown to me film. Needless to say I will be watching this at some point and a post will shortly follow. But my immediate question is how did Lee and Maxwell pull this off without getting sued to shit by Broccoli who is famous for guarding the Bond brand like Tom Cruise guards his sexuality? Back to The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond enters a pyramid that is serving as MI6’s base of operation in Egypt and tosses his jacket onto the rack. Ahh, take the Connery! It’s never fully explained how Bond knew to go to this location. I can overlook that detail and assume he got a message on his lame digital watch. However, what I find much harder to swallow is when Moneypenny opens the door to the inner office and Bond is confronted with a dirty red sitting where M ought to be. The man doesn’t even blink? Some spy. Wouldn’t he draw his gun and shoot quicker than Han Solo firing at Darth Vader on Cloud City? Moneypenny, always looking out for Bond’s best interest even has the foresight to book Bond and Triple X in separate hotel rooms. This is clearly done for budgeting purposes. I mean, what happens once the mission is over and the cold war goes back to biz as usual? Can she invoice The Kremlin for half a hotel bill? No, better to have separate checks and keep everything above board. Always thinking that Moneypenny.
M: M has some fantastic banter with his “opposite number” General Gogol. Gogol was played by Walter Gotell who, for those keeping score, also played SPECTRE henchman Morzeny in From Russia with Love (1963). These two are so chummy you would think they have a standing weekly golf date. I guess being the head of a powerful nation’s secret service is a small club so these dudes find companionship when they can. What is truly fantastic is in the beginning of the film where we get to see both of these men briefing their #1 agent. Both sit behind impressive desks in two offices that couldn’t be more different. M’s is cluttered from bow to stern with bookshelves, paintings, and piles of crap on his desk. Many of the appointment are dark wood and he sits in a cozy corner makes him look like a grandfather about to tell the kids a bedtime story. Gogol on the other hand works in room that has all the warmth of a mausoleum. His desk is in the dead middle of a huge room that consists of nothing but gray stone columns and a single wooden chair. You see how those Russians operate? Aren’t you happy you’re on England’s side?
Q: The gadget guru has a massive presents in The Spy Who Loved Me to which I say, right on! We first see him in analyst mode where he deduces how the subs are being tracked in a matter of seconds. “Heat signature, they can follow her wake.” We next meet him in the pyramid where he has constructed his entire lab. Witnessing Q testing stuff is one of the treats of Bond films and here we see a tea tray capable of decapitation, a hookah that can put a bullet in your brain and an ottoman which will turn your twig and berries into bangers and mash. So, with all this super secret testing going on, how in the hell is the #1 Russian spy and the head of the KGB allowed to waltz though without a care in the world? It’s inconceivable I tells yah! Q also sends Bond a Jet Ski hydrofoil which, like the Little Nellie package from You Only Live Twice, serves the sole purpose of getting Bond on a ridiculous looking and wholly impractical form of motorized transport.
List of Gadgets: This maybe the most gadget heavy film yet and we get two rather good ones before the opening credits even role. OK one good one, the Brother P-touch watch that interrupts Bonds bonking seems kind of pointless. I mean, can’t M just IM him? The ski pole rifle on the other hand is quite inspired and would come in very handy when dealing with long lift lines. Bond has a cool portable shadowbox that enables him to view microfilm which comes in quite handy. The Reds even get in on the act with that trick cigarette Triple X uses to gas Bond. And then, there’s the car…
Bond Cars: White Lotus Esprit. In addition to Jaws, the thing I remember from my childhood is the car. While not as classic or as cool at the Goldfinger Aston Martin, this puppy is rock-star. Q delivers it personally and considering Bond just arrived via horse and buggy, he’s quite happy to receive the new set of wheels. “Now pay attention 007. I want you to take great care of this equipment. There are one or two special accessories …” “Q have I ever let you down?” “Frequently.” Those special accessories included the now familiar trick of shooting stuff out from under the license plate, this time mud and cement. It’s not until Bond jumps the car off the side of a pier and hits the water that we learn what this puppy can do. In a sequence that would make Transformers trilogy director Michel Bay drool we see the cars tires get sucked under the chassis, the wheel wells cover up and fins grow out of the body. While in submarine mode this nifty vehicle can launch torpedoes, surface to air missiles, black ink and mines. In the wonderful pre-CGI days these effects had to be done for real and Bond producers used a total of six of the 75 hand built Lotus made in 1977 to pull of all the required shots and angles. One of the cars was even modified to become an actual functioning submarine. The Lotus is also the star of one of the funnier moments in the Bond canon. After blowing up half the reef Bond drives the car out of the ocean, on to a beach, and hands a sunbather a fish. One of the beachgoers does the classic take a drink, look up to see something unbelievable (in the case, the car emerging from the sea,) and then looks back at the bottle with that “what the hell is in this drink?” look. It’s an oldie but a goodie and gets me every time. The other vehicle Bond finds himself in is a decidedly unsexy van which Jaws proceeds to rip apart…by hand… while Triple X is driving it. Yep, Bond films can get silly.
Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: We never see if the Lotus makes it back to Q intact but it did spring a leak or two. Then there is the small matter of the American and Russian subs Bond nukes but since he did so to save New York and Moscow, I think all will be forgiven.
Other Property Destroyed: Like the death count, this is a long list indeed. In no particular order 007 manages to knock a motorcycle off the road, explode a mattress delivery truck, reduce yet another train sleeping car to rubble, send a four door auto over a cliff and through the roof of a modest cabin, blow up a helicopter, grenade a jeep, sink an oil tanker, trash and abandon the van that jaws ripped apart and topple some scaffolding at an Egyptian dig sight which most likely had survived for thousands of years prior. Bonds reaction? “Egyptian builders.”
Felix Leiter: No Felix. I guess the CIA just couldn’t bring themselves to work hand in hand with those lefty Soviets. Perhaps they feared the Tea Party backlash. Either way Felix sat this one out, opting instead to hang at the local Mickey D’s and gobble down Big Macs.
Best One Liners/Quips: Bond and Triple X escape the sinking Atlantis in a sub that pierces the surface of the water in a way that is not at all phallic or is meant to be. After sorting the matter of Triple X wanting to kill Bond (MHT), the two get down to getting down. Conveniently this is an escape sub made for two that comes equipped with chilled champagne, a circular Wilt Chamberlain bed and frilly curtains that close over a porthole with the push of a button, good for keeping prying eye form looking in. However, Bond didn’t attended to the last detail because, after all, they’re in the middle of the ocean. But as we discussed above, the Navy will always rescue 007 mid-coitus. Still, Bond and Triple X are stunned when they look up to see M, General Gogol, Q and half the Navy gawking. “Double O 7! What do you think your doing?” “Keeping the British end up sir,” and with that, the frilly curtains on the window close and a Bob Fosse musical breaks out. As the camera pulls away and the credits roll we hear an all boys choir, I imagine all dressed as navy men, break into a show tune rendition of “Nobody Does it Better.” It’s one of the most jarring endings to film I can remember. But yah, the quote is really funny.
Bond Timepiece: The Moore films have been slacking on this front and it’s rather disappointing when all we get is a cheapo digital Seiko with a Bloomberg ticker-tape dispenser built in.
Other Notable Bond Accessories: Nothing really notable other than to say that both Bond and Triple X strike fantastic images while wandering the Egyptian desert in formal eveningwear; she in a gorgeous cocktail dress, he in his tux.
Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 3, but Bond often had to abandon his glass when duty called. He is first offered a vodka martini by his harem hosting Cambridge buddy but he declines. Triple X later buys him the same and he sucks it down with some zeal, even getting up for another. Sadly, he never makes it back to the bar. We assume 007 and XXX share some champagne in the hotel as an empty bottle can be seen in a bucket of ice while she gets all “you killed my boyfriend.” (I hate when chick do that.) Bond pours some more bubbly on the train but that 7’2” man in the closet ruins everything. Finally, Bond raids Stromberg’s liquor cabinet on the escape sub prompting 007 to admit his respect for the then recently departed baddie. “Anyone who drinks Dom Perignon ‘52 can’t be all bad.” Maybe you should have thought of that before you shot him three times, hey James?
Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Bond doesn’t sit at the felt in this adventure but that doesn’t mean his poker skills don’t come into play. Consider the following tense scene that takes place on board a U.S. Navel vessel. Its right after Bond saves the world from the nukes and he walks into the captain’s quarters. Capitan “James, I’m under orders from the Pentagon, destroy Atlantis ASAP.” Bond “What does that mean?” “Battle stations in five minutes.” “Torpedoes?” “Yes.” “Anya (That’s Triple X to you and I) is over there.” “I know James. I’m sorry.” “I have to get her off!” “How?” “The equipment Q sent me, I need an hour.” “That comes from the top!” says the captain, referring to his orders to destroy the underwater base ASAP. Bond pleads “40 minutes!” “Your going to get me court marshaled … one hour” WTF? He asked for an hour and was told no freaking way in the world dude. Then he asks for 40 minutes and get the hour? Is that some kind of Jedi mind trick? I would hate to play cards with this guy, he could talk you off your pocket rockets while showing his seven-duce off-suit.
List of Locations: We visit the Sahara desert, snow topped mountains and underwater wonderland all in the first twenty minutes. The Spy Who Loved Me makes better use of location and gives a sense of “we are really there” better than any Bond since On Her Majesties Secrete Service. Appropriate since we start off in the Alps with a skiing scene, all of which was shot in Austria except for the final ski jump off the cliff which was shot on Mt. Asgard in Canada. One of the simpler but visually most memorable scene features Bond and a British intelligence man walking on the shore or a river with a bustling Navel base in the background. Somehow, EON got access to a real British Navel base on a Scottish river for these brief scenes. The Egyptian locations, from the colorful desert tents to the Giza Plateau, home to the pyramids and the Sphinx, to the roof of an Egyptian art museum, to three different Luxor temples are all stunning. The car chase with the exploding trucks and helicopters was shot in Sardinia and the underwater stuff was done in the same Nassau location as all the Thunderball water sequences. In addition, every hotel room and lobby, every office, and every other set is perfectly shot and intergraded into the film creating an organic feel for where all this stuff is happening.
Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Before Sean White was even a red headed twinkle in his papa’s eye Sir Roger Moore … OK, Moore’s stunt double, was the king of the powder. Bond flips, skis backwards, shoots, jumps off a cliff and deploys a parachute for his grand finally and has not a X-Games medal to show for it. From the snowy peaks to the arid desert where Bond displays his skills speaking fluent Egyptian and camel jockeying. I know camel jockey has been adopted by racists and is now used in a derogatory sense but in this film Bond, sporting a handsome headpiece, proves adept at riding a camel. Not easy to do and I think it’s time that we, the folks who admire this skill of jockeying a camel, take the term back. While Bond is posing as a marine biologist Stromberg becomes suspicious and points out a fish for 007 to identify. Jimmy B not only lists the creature’s attributes as “beautiful but deadly” but calls the spices its proper Latin name. While being escorted around Atlantis Bond comes across a model of the sub swallowing ship and can instantly see that something about the bow is not quite right. Bond is many things, but when it comes to improvising disguises he could us some help. When the U.S. sub is captured by Stromberg the entire crew assembles topside. Bond doesn’t want Triple X to be singled out so he comes up with a plan to disguises her as one of the crew. Ignoring her Russian uniform, which is decorated with a ton of medals, her longer that regulation length hair, and her shapely body Bond decides that by throwing a hat on her head she should fit right with the assembled doughboys. Needless to say, she is apprehended. But this is all bush league stuff that anyone could pick up in the first six months at spy school. Playing with nuclear weapons, now that’s the skill you want on your résumé. Sure, Bond needs the manual, which of course is sitting next to the targeting system, to reprogram the trajectory of the nukes but when it comes to disarming a nuclear warhead, no instructions needed. Bond finds the missile and disassembles it while a dozen chatty U.S sailors crowd him. In order to render the weapon harmless, Bond must remove the detonator. This is a delicate operation in which the detonator must be pulled out of the device while not hitting the casing or boom. While Bond is steadying his hand and his nerve these American dill-holes keep flapping their gums and heckling him “Are you sure you know what you’re doing James?” First off, that’s Commander Bond to you and second, shut the hell up! Despite these yapping nincompoops Bond manages to disarm the bomb without incident.
Thoughts on Film: Despite all the obstacles that stood in the way of The Spy Who Loved Me’s success, the film is a triumphant return to form that very well may have saved the franchise. It was a do or die moment and not since 007’s mid-60’s heyday has a Bond picture delivered on it promise. Gone are the shaggy edges and blotted excess and what is left is a big, polished, slick, glossy blockbuster. In my book, polished and glossy are typically bad terms when it comes to describing movies because they represent the opposite of the 1970’s style grit I love. (Think 1970’s Scorsese, Ford Coppola, Lumet, Carpenter, De Palma, Ashby, etc.) However, the slick, professional approach works wonderfully for James Bond and instead of detracting it serves to elevate the character and the story. Like a well made pop tune, there is a geniuses in it’s accessibly and once it gets in your head, you can’t stop whistling. The further I go into the world of Bond, the more it strikes me how singular On Her Majesty Secret Service is in the series. That film was the most personal for Bond and by far the darkest (and one of my favorites despite some short comings.) It’s fascinating and it works wonderfully as a stand alone but I’m not so sure the tone and even storyline for that matter would have been sustainable. We don’t want Bond to be a brooding Jason Borne; we want him to be skiing off cliffs with a Union Jack parachute. EON was wise to move away from the feel of OHMSS but they also lost their way trying to rediscover what made Bond click. The first two Moore films, and the last two Connery films, had great moments, but the pacing was always off, and they were feather light; all surface with no substance. But their biggest sin, none of them were close to being as much fun as early Bond movies or The Spy Who Loved Me. Well crafted is the best way to describe this film, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s impeccable paced with a pitch-perfect tone that carries the film which rarely sinks into cheese (Jaws ripping up the van is a bit much.) This film is Bond growing up as a screen presence and proving he could have weight without going “dark” (No drug smuggling like Live and Let Die or Bond smacking women around like The Man with the Golden Gun. Also, not a complete reboot like Casino Royal (2006) where Bond does go dark.) So why in 1977, after a decade of struggles, does Bond rediscover his stride? I think its several factors, not the least of which is being free of the yolk that was the Fleming novels. Hamilton vacating the directors chair provides a huge jolt of energy. And probably most important is Broccoli knowing everything was on the line, and delivering in spades. Even the third act, which has been a huge problem as of late, works extremely well and wraps up the movie in a satisfying way. Also very important, the locations sing in a way they haven’t in some time. We feel like we are in the desert with Bond, and never once did I doubt we were on the oceans floor, unlike say, the volcano in You Only Live Twice which always looked like a film set. I feel I may have graded the first two Moore films on a curve, allowing my warm fuzzy nostalgia of growing up with him as my Bond to cover up some short comings, but not so with this movie. This is Moore’s Goldfinger, a gadget heavy, well balanced, pitch perfect blend of humor and outrageous action that remains grounded right up to the very end when a Monty Python sounding show tune kicks in. The Spy Who Loved Me is a line drawn in the Egyptian sand and represents the high water mark for 70’s Bond films. Interestingly, the final card to flash on the screen during the closing credits says “James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only.” Knowing what movie comes next, I wonder what happened? Perhaps The Spy Who Loved Me set the bar too high, and EON felt that only way to top it was to travel to the stars.