The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – Film Review
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Cast: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens
by @Roger Crow
If there was a potential motto for Roger Moore’s third outing as 007, it was “Go big or go home”.
As good as the first two Moore Bond offerings were, those epic battles involving dozens of troops were notably absent. All that would change with The Spy Who Loved Me.
Very loosely based on the Ian Fleming novel, this is a remake of sorts of You Only Live Twice, with arch villain Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) snaffling ships, subs and no doubt all manner of fish for his nefarious plans.
But we open with the mother of all Bond stunts. Having bedded another blonde lovely (Sue Vanner), James sets off from his luxurious cabin on skis in his bright yellow suit. As enemies close in for the kill, 007’s lethal ski pole ends one assassin’s career. With Marvin Hamlisch’s killer track ‘Bond 77’, the Bee Gees-inspired tune is pure disco. While the ski stunts are great, that phenomenal jump off the edge of a cliff is cinema gold. No score. No slide whistles. Just silence, until Bond’s Union Jack ’chute opens and the crowd goes wild. And as if that weren’t great enough, Carly Simon’s vocals kick in with THAT title track.
What follows is an overlong but epic mix of comedy, action, suspense and globe-hopping. Barbara Bach looks phenomenal as Major Anya, the Russian agent investigating the death of a loved one. Yes, that guy killed by a bullet-firing ski pole in the pre-credits scene. (Sadly for me, Barbara is more wooden than a Trojan horse, but it hardly matters).
With steel-toothed giant killer Jaws (Richard Kiel) adding plenty of menace, there are scenes of sheer terror as Bond picks up a breadcrumb trail of clues in Egypt. (Listen out for series veteran Charles Gray on the pyramids narration).
“Still looks great”
Caroline Munro is wonderful as a lethal, sexy helicopter pilot, and much missed Canadian Shane Rimmer does a lot of the heavy lifting as allied forces leader Commander Carter.
One person who doesn’t do much is Curt Jurgens’ Stromberg. A case of maximum threat, minimum effort, as he bumps off anyone he doesn’t agree with.
One of the stars of the show is Ken Adam’s phenomenal submarine set, built at the specially constructed 007 stage. Little wonder so much action is set there in the third act as explosions, gunfire and stuntmen fill the frames.
There might not be much to the story, but blimey it still looks great after all these years. And while newcomers will wonder why so much attention is paid to Bond’s waterbike, back in 1977 it was one of the greatest things viewers had ever seen.
Edited by (future 007 director) John Glen and lensed by Claude Renoir (one of his final films as cinematographer due to ailing eyesight), this is splendid stuff. And then there’s that Lotus chase. Though the Aston Martin DB5 remains the greatest Bond car, the submersible Lotus is a close second, and still looks wonderful today.
The Spy Who Loved Me set the bar so high for blockbusters, it’s little wonder many had such a hard time matching it. It’s far from perfect, but compared to some of the early eighties Bonds, it’s an absolute masterpiece.
Kudos to the cast and crew. When it came to must-see spy capers, nobody did it better.