[Movie Review] The Spy Who Loved Me

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.

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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

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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.

4.5/5

Normally, this is where I’d put the official trailer, but if Alan Partridge’s description of The Spy Who Loved Me can’t get you to watch the film, nothing will.
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*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.

20 comments

  1. Fast tracking to the Timothy Dalton flicks now…I think that was his name. lol
    Loved these Moore Bond ones as this is when I discovered 007.
    Roger doesn’t fuck around now does he? lol

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think I saw more Moore films before I ever did see the Connery ones, as a kid. I remember this one. Jaws was awesome.

    Also, “Get ready for the next review as we go full NHL by tweaking the rules to avoid more scoreless rounds.” Throw in some ridiculously inconsistent refereeing and you’re there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. I hadn’t seen a Connery one until the ’90s on TBS. I remember watching The Untouchables and my Mom explaining to me that the old guy was the first Bond.

      I think refereeing in the NHL is ridiculous for two reasons.
      1) You’re asking humans to do the impossible and have eyes everywhere during a game where players have become faster than ever.
      2) Instead of calling penalties as they happen, refs place a greater importance on giving each team the same amount. They feel they will be seen fair and impartial by the end of the game which is neither fair or impartial.
      I know the other professional sports have similar problems but the NHL is extra bad at it.

      Like

      1. Haha the old guy. Poor Sean.

        Yeah, the refereeing in hckey is so bad, especially on cross-checking, these days. In the 90s it was hooking from behind, then it was slew foots and head hits. OK, well, head hits are still a problem. It seems to go in cycles, they’ll get something straight only to have something else pop up as the new bigger rpoblem.

        It is an incredibly fast game, and people forget (from the comfort of their couches) that those refs are having to skate as fast as the players to keep an eye on the play. I understand that a lot gets missed. A high stick in the Minnesota game last night got completely missed despite there being blood. But when replay shows the ref looking right at an egregious penalty with a clear view, and still not calling it, yeah, I have a problem with that. And I don’t know how the first four full crosschecks to the back are OK but that fifth one is a penalty. The rule book is completely unambiguous about it.

        Oh, and don’t even get me started on the playoffs, when the referees swallow their whistles and it’s basically gotta be a mugging/murder before a penalty gets called. I know the game is changing, players are predominantly smaller and faster versus what we knew as kids, but that also means they’re not built to take a playoff run. We’re in a weird quasi-NHL/European style mashup right now. Still enough big guys to make it incredibly dangerous, but fast and skilled like Euro hockey. Tough to be both.

        If refs actually called games according to the rule book they purport to represent, you’d see play change, speed increase, and injuries go way down. It’s what the league tells the world they want, for player safety and increased revenue, but that vestigial old school boys will be boys mindset persists.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was still hanging in Mars. Enough kept me around. But I think I was slipping a bit. Thing is I still get an urge to visit this (Moores Bond) era. Turn off the light, fill up the popcorn bowl and get lost in the antics. Good piece fella.

    Liked by 1 person

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