The Weekly Bond Countdown: #8 – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

That stunt…OMG, that stunt.

There are not many opportunities where you literally hold your breath when watching a Bond film.  Yet the pre-credit sequence is literally that moment and I helplessly fall victim to it every single time I see it.  The reason is pure and simple – your mind wonders whether Bond is going to survive until the very last moment when he pulls open his parachute.

To contrast it with the making of the film, that stunt actually became a perfect metaphor for producer Cubby Broccoli.  The Spy Who Loved Me represented his first solo outing as Bond producer as Harry Saltzman relinquished his producing rights due to bankruptcy.  Many critics at the time considered the previous Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun as a flop and The Spy Who Loved Me was in the last chance saloon.  Bond jumping off that cliff into the abyss, not knowing whether he was going to survive is exactly how Cubby felt.  Cubby was determined to make The Spy Who Loved Me the biggest Bond film to date, but there are no guarantees with every movie.  Some films are made with high spirits and energy and certainly not lacking any effort yet still end up unsuccessful at the box office for whatever reason.

When the film premiered in 1977, the cast and crew watched with abated breath.

Then something remarkable happened.  When Bond pulled out his parachute, covered in the colours of the Union Jack flag – the audience clapped, cheered and roared.  It also happened to be the Queen’s silver Jubilee where the nation was jingoistic.  With Bond surviving the jump and the symbolism of the Union Jack flag on his parachute simply did one thing – it cemented Bond into the nation’s hearts.  He was no longer simply a cultural icon.  He was now a national treasure.  And it’s because of this stunt, is why I regard it as the best James Bond stunt ever.

And after catching your breath, your ears are then filled with one of the best Bond themes which sums up Bond to a tee.  There can be many imitators, spoofs or wannabes, but when it comes to James Bond – Nobody Does it Better.

This is without a doubt Roger Moore’s best Bond film.  The film offers a perfect blend and balance to showcase his humour, great action and drama.  And the great thing about it, Moore finally looked at ease with the part.  He knew that he could never emulate Connery, but he knew exactly where he stood with the iconic character and made it his own.  It’s a script that was tailored for him and it shows.  Frankly this is the most fun you will ever have watching a Bond film.  We also for the first time witness Bond in his full Commander role, a title he earned whilst serving for the British Royal Navy.  It’s a rare insight to Bond’s past, something that the audience can easily overlook.

It is hard to top the iconic car such as the Aston Martin, but the introduction of the Lotus Espirit is one of the best moments on screen.  A car not only beautiful and speedy, but can dive underwater like a submarine.  Surely that is every petrolhead’s dream?  Sadly movie magic and reality can’t co-exist as many have attempted to make an underwater car like the Lotus Espirit and have failed, although Top Gear’s Richard Hammond came close enough (Top Gear Special – 50 Years of Bond Cars, 2013).  The Lotus Espirit on The Spy Who Loved Me consisted of various different model versions, each showcasing their different abilities that were seamlessly blended into one sequence.  I feel cheated now…

Another highlight involves the character of Jaws, played by Richard Kiel.  Now whether he was named after the famous other shark film can be viewed as a simple coincidence but I love the irony of when Jaws came up against a real shark, Jaws fought Jaws and Jaws won!  Jaws is a menacing character and his presence gives this film a lift.  Not since Oddjob in Goldfinger has Bond had to deal with an imposing henchman.  It’s a shame that the makers introduced a character like Jaws who has an abundance of character, only to reduce him to a simpleton in Moonraker, where he falls in love…and talks.  It completely unhinges all the good work from The Spy Who Loved Me.

Barbara Bach as Agent XXX is another welcomed change to the Bond girl dynamic.  Because she is also a Government Agent for the Russians, she has to work with Bond rather than against him.  But I love her partnership with Bond because she doesn’t make it easy for him, often leading him into a false sense of security then tricking him before coming to her senses.  Rather than the cliché attempts of Bond girls in the past where they are the damsels in distress or just plain stupid (e.g. Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun), with Agent XXX we at least see some equality between her and Bond rather than an object to serve out a purpose.

Introducing Stromberg as the main protagonist continues the strong list of villainous characters in the Bond franchise.  Like a spiritual ancestor of Blofeld, Stromberg also possesses the strong instinct to act on his plans.  He is always in control and would happily sacrifice anyone just to make a point about betrayal.  There is something poetic about Stromberg as a villain, right down from his demeanour to his secret lair Atlantis, rising from beneath the waves.  In contrast to Blofeld, a villain whose personal tastes are solely based on world domination and nothing else, Stromberg surrounds himself with beautiful things – good food, fine drinks, classical music…and oh yeah and some tech gadgetry and some sharks that can send someone to their watery graves.  He loves the Ocean, there’s no doubt about it and would do anything to protect it.  He may not be the strongest physically to match Bond but it’s his subtle, flamboyant nature and his authoritative voice that keeps him compelling.

The Spy Who Loved Me represents a new found energy for the franchise that was struggling for definition in the new decade.  With amazing stunts and iconic moments, it’s hard not to love this film.

Whilst reading this review back, I suddenly understand how Alan Partridge felt when he watched it!  Nobody says it better.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #7

Author: Kelechi Ehenulo

Creator and writer of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Loves sci-fi and LEGO - couldn't ask for a better combo!

3 thoughts

  1. Right on! This is definitely the best Roger Moore film. The downside is that they essentially remade this film with Moonraker and did it much worse. Jaws is back, and the villain has essentially the same plan in space. Thankfully, it all works here, and Barbara Bach is one of the best leading ladies.

    Like

  2. Lewis Gilbert is an excellent director.i liked all his three bond movies.they are fast,exciting filled with breathtaking action scenes.each movie has its share of memorable scenes.i liked stromberg very much in this.classic line”To me this is the world.it has beauty,ugliness and death.”opening skydiving stunt is hilarious.

    Like

Don't Be Shy - Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s