Wow, already 10 films in! That didn’t take long. What has taken long is for me to write this review for The Spy Who Loved Me! It’s a tricky one to get the tone right. I really enjoyed the film while recognizing how utterly goofy the series has become. But this was a natural evolution.
When a serious approach was taken with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in spite of it becoming a cult classic decades later, the box office at the time spoke clearly. The previous Bond film to OHMSS with Connery, You Only Live Twice drew in $43.3 million. Its follow up, Diamonds are Forever, also starring Connery, $43.8 mil. Both are quite silly films. OHMSS did half as well with $22.8 mil. Moore’s first Bond film, Live and Let Die, made a respectable $35.4 million, but the next, The Man With the Golden Gun still remains to this day to be the lowest earning Bond film since Dr. No at $21 million.*
So, why not take the fun route? Get some good shots for the trailer. Remind people why they liked the series in the first place and get their bums in theater seats.
The script was not designed to win a Peabody as it was set to be familiar. A cookie cutter, the ’70s version of “copy and paste”, was used to carve out the script.
Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) is a twisted genius with unlimited resources. His Captain Nemo like obsession with the ocean has him convinced that he can reset humanity if he scorches the land with nuclear radiation. It is nice to see how there is a slight variation in his motivation from previous Bond villains who were only looking for monetary gains. His plan is to steal a submarine carrying nuclear warheads from both the British and Soviet Navies. Launching nukes from each sub simultaneously at opposing countries will surly start World War III, leaving Stromberg’s under water city of Atlantis to be the dawn of a new civilization.
I can see how long time fans would think of The Spy Who Loved Me as a parody of the Connery lead Bond films. Connery would deliver a line after a kill to keep the film from becoming somber, or his spirited banter with “Q” would disguise the dry explanations of the gadgets. The comedy was a tool used to liven the mood when needed.
Roger Moore’s Bond makes light of almost every scene.
In one scene, Bond’s KGB counter part, Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) informs him that he killed her lover in a previous mission. Although they are temporarily working together to stop Stromberg, she vows to kill him when they are done. We all know that Bond will win her over with his charm before the end of the picture, but in the very next scene, Moore has this odd smirk like he knows it too.
In another, Bond is dismantling an atomic bomb. A skill he must have picked up after his run in with Goldfinger. The scene is inodiated with goofy cutaways to other actors as Bond is delivers the one liners. It is almost Austin Powers-ish. Almost. For fans of the Connery era, I think this is where the series crossed a line.
Personally, I like it. The Spy Who Loved Me is as the poster advertises. Objectively, it is the BIGGEST Bond up to this point. The massive set that shows the inside of an ocean liner with two full sized subs in it, the stunts like the “hold your breath” ski off a cliff at the start of the film, and the Lotus ESpirit that can change into a submarine on the fly. The Man With The Golden Gun is an episode of Matlock by comparison. You can’t be taking yourself too seriously when you are having this much fun.
It is a roller coaster of a film that glides over its weaker points like the “script” and the lousy main antagonist. Stromberg is so generic even Bond seems to be bored with him. I bet most viewers will struggle to recall him after a day or two. Thankfully, the same cannot be said for “Jaws” played by Richard Kiel. Stromberg’s henchman keeps Roger Ebert’s edict that a Bond film is “only as good as its villain” as truth. His tall stature and ability to bite through just about anything with his metal teeth places him as one of the most memorable Bond villains of all time.
Now, for the continuing competition with my wife Sarah to correctly guess how long it would take Bond to first get laid during each of these films. Since it seems that Bond has been taking his sweet time lately, Sarah picked 23 minutes. I went with 35. Bond got ‘er dun in 5 minutes. FIVE! Another scoreless round! Get ready for the next review as we go full NHL by tweaking the rules to avoid more scoreless rounds.
Sarah – 5
Mars – 1
I fully understand the position that bigger doesn’t always equate to better, but I don’t find The Spy Who Loved Me to be any more “check your brain at the door” than any Connery’s films from Goldfinger to Diamonds Are Forever. The over the top direction is fun and suits Bond just fine.
*All numbers are domestic earnings without inflation. With inflation License to Kill is the least successful of all the Bond films, including Dr. No. The Man With the Golden Gun is in 2nd to last place.