Director: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Roger Moore, Curt Jurgens, Barabara Bach, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Walter Gotell, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Title Song: “Nobody Does It Better”, performed by Carly Simon
Based on characters created by Ian Fleming
The Spy Who Loved Me is the first James Bond film I saw at the movies. In the town where I grew up we didn’t have a cinema, it was an old fashioned drive-in, and I organised with my friends to go with their families on different nights. This was my Star Wars. This is the film I went and watched again and again.
The Spy Who Loved Me is undoubtedly Roger Moore’s best appearance as James Bond. He seems less wooden than his first two appearances, and while some of his latter appearances were quite good, towards the end he was clearly too old for the role. The movie itself is fast, action packed and ferociously funny. If it has a weakness, it is that it was too successful. Many of the ideas and stunts used in the film have been recycled so many times (even by the Bond series), that a newcomer to this 30+ year old film may find themselves with a case of deja-vu. But remember, The Spy Who Loved Me did it all first with a great deal of flair and polish.
The story concerns James Bond’s efforts to thwart a madman with webbed fingers, Carl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) from starting World War III. Stromberg hijacks two nuclear submarines, one American, the other belonging to the U.S.S.R., and replaces the crews with his own men who have orders to fire nuclear missiles at opposing cities in America and Russia. He hopes the reprisals from the Superpowers will destroy civilisation, leaving him to rule the world from his city beneath the sea. World Domination! Yeah, sure it’s corny, but it is good fun. Apart from planning to start World War III, Stromberg also feeds a female assistant to the sharks.
The girls in The Spy Who Loved Me are stunning. Barbara Bach plays Major Amassova – Agent XXX. She was so impressive, that she was snapped up by Ringo Starr. I guess that’s what being a Beatle can help you do – the one thing that all guys would like to do – and that is marry a Bond girl. Lucky guy. Another eye catcher in the film is Caroline Munro as Naomi. She doesn’t get to say much, but with a wink, she says a thousand words.
Richard Kiel plays Jaws, the menacing physical heavy of the piece, who is seven feet tall, has steel teeth and is virtually indestructible. Jaws was so popular, his character returned in the next James Bond movie, Moonraker. Kiel, in his book Richard Kiel – Making It Big In The Movies – Reynolds & Hearn Ltd 2002, had this to say:
“He (Cubby Broccoli) also told me that they had already considered David Prowse, and, seeing that this didn’t register with me, he explained that David Prowse was the guy in the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars film, then being produced in England. My excitement at the possibility of being in a Bond movie began to dim slightly; it didn’t take much of an actor to be in a head-to-toe suit, especially when James Earl Jones was saying all the words.”
“I had no idea of whether I would live or die, or how the audience would take to the ‘Jaws’ character.”
The film features quite a few little gadgets, but the one that steals the show is the Lotus Espirit. Bond is involved in another car chase and simply drives his vehicle off the end of a pier and it turns into a submarine. The car was such a sensation that it toured the world. I remember nagging my parents to take me to the Melbourne Car Show so I could see the car. My parents gave in and we went to the car show – which was only a four hour drive from where I lived. After seeing the car on the BIG screen it seemed so small. But I was a happy boy.
John Barry wasn’t available to do the score to The Spy Who Loved Me, so the duty fell to Marvin Hamlisch, who’s Bee Gees inspired score is quite good in a seventies disco-funk kind of way. The incidental music in the Mojave Club and at the Pyramids is quite effective too, with a contemporary sound fused with more traditional middle eastern sounds. The theme song, Nobody Does It Better, sung by Carly Simon is one of the more successful songs in the series and was a massive hit.
As you would have noticed, The Spy Who Loved Me occupies a special place in my heart. You can say what you like about Moore versus Connery, or the decline of the Bond films in the seventies. You can even take me to task over the cheesy musical references to Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence Of Arabia – to me it doesn’t matter, The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favourite films of all time.