When Dr. No hit the screen in 1962 no one had seen its like before and throughout the sixties the further adventures of 007 continued to captivate moviegoers the world over. With a new decade came, after Connery's underwhelming return to the series with Diamonds Are Forever, a new Bond - none other than Sir Roger Moore. Following Sean Connery, seen by many as the best Bond, was no easy task (remember George Lazenby?). But whilst Connery gave an excellent performance, creating a dark sadistic character closer in tone to the novels and favoured by many fans, Sir Roger Moore IS James Bond. (Ian Fleming himself, after seeing Roger in The Saint, thought him perfect for the role). Rather than simply copy Sean's portrayal the underrated Moore brought his own style, wit and panache to the role. The films also changed, adapting to Moore's persona becoming more light hearted, with more outlandish sets and groundbreaking stunts. Never is this more apparent than in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Beginning with one of the most well known precredits sequences of the series 007 is assigned to investigate the disappearance of two nuclear submarines in his 10th cinematic adventure. This leads him to one man, Stromberg, a multimillionaire shipping magnate who has insane plans for worldwide armageddon. But Bond is not alone in this mission as he is reluctantly teamed up with Russian agent Major Anya Amasova, AKA Triple X. This was the first time that a Bond girl was seen to be on a more or less equal footing with 007, the antagonistic banter and competitiveness between the pair a great addition to the script as they move from one exotic locale to the next in their quest to save the world.
Written to cater to Sir Roger Moore's strengths the screenplay is unique, the first not to be based on the work of Ian Fleming. Many of the films stray from the narrative of the novels they share a title with, sometimes just taking characters and small plot elements but The Spy Who Loved Me uses only the name of Fleming's book (the novel is in fact one of Flemings best works, told exclusively from the viewpoint of a 'Bond girl' with 007 only making a couple of appearances). When attempting to create a new mission for Bond there are certain criteria that must be adhered to and writers Christopher Wood (who penned not only Moonraker but those cheeky Confessions films) and Bond screenplay veteran Richard Maibaum really hit all the right targets with this adventure. All the usual elements are in place, the exotic locations, gorgeous girls, hi tech gadgets and witty one-liners, but they have given it a fun fresh exciting edge when it could have so easily been boring and formulaic. Credit for this must also go to a team of first class filmmakers bringing the adventure from script to screen.
Director Lewis Gilbert is a veteran of not only the Bond movies - having lent his talent to the excellent You Only Live Twice and the out of this world Moonraker - but also landmark British films such as Alfie and The Ipcress File, a film about a totally different kind of secret agent Harry Palmer, the antithesis of James Bond. He brings his skills and years of experience to this movie, never letting the actors get dwarfed by the locations or the action. Along for the ride with Gilbert is Ken Adam, the production designer who not only worked with him on The Ipcress File but is himself a Bond regular having contributed to many of the films from Dr. No to Moonraker. His designs are nothing short of superb and the success of Bond is in part due to his contribution, he really gave the films a distinct and instantly recognisable look. The Spy Who Loved Me benefits greatly from his designs with the stand out being the interior of Stromberg's submarine swallowing tanker, the biggest set constructed in Europe, appropriately enough on the purpose built 007 stage. In today's movies these would probably only exist inside a computer but its hard to beat that sense of scale, awe and authenticity when you know these locations are real.
This 1977 release was also responsible for creating some of the series' most popular and recognisable moments, the film is practically a greatest hits of 007. The precredits sequence is first class, summing up the tone of the film perfectly and pushing back the boundaries of stunt work, which is so often the case with Bond productions. One of the other most memorable elements is of course Bond's new car, the Lotus Esprit. A great action sequence sees 007 and Triple X being chased by bike, car and chopper before diving beneath the waves, whereupon the pursuit continues! Henchmen have been an intrinsic part of the Bond mythology and yet again The Spy Who Loved Me comes up trumps providing one of the most memorable additions in the imposing shape of Jaws. At over 7ft tall and with steel teeth in place Richard Kiel is unforgettable as Stromberg's hired muscle. This character was so successful that rather than kill him off he was given a reprieve, resurfacing in the next adventure Moonraker. The multilingual Curt Jurgens is impressive as Stromberg, with his nonchalant style as the larger than life evil mastermind who has dastardly plans for global destruction. As already mentioned the combination of Bond and Triple X, as played by Barbara Bach, is a further high point in this Bond's best adventure yet. Its pretty obvious where their relationship will end up (this is James Bond after all!), but the banter and constant one-upmanship between the pair is great fun. A particular highlight being in their Egyptian set confrontation with Jaws, in which Triple X uses Bonds shaken not stirred catchphrase much to the suave British agents visible annoyance. Moore is on fine form here, showing his wit and faultless tongue-in-cheek style. Bravo Roger!
What more is there to say then? Well a review of any Bond movie is not complete without a mention of the soundtrack, another key ingredient to the films. Although John Barry is absent Marvin Hamlisch does a good job not only in co-writing the classic opening song, the perfectly titled "Nobody Does It Better", but in the movie's score; bringing the legendary Bond theme into the 70s whilst doing what all the best Bond scores do, revisiting and reinterpreting the opening song throughout the film.
The Spy Who Loved Me is basically premium Bond. Never before or since has the winning formula of gadgets, villains, witty one-liners and action been so expertly put together. It is everything a Bond movie should be. Everyone involved in the making of this film should be commended for creating an unequalled addition to the 007 legacy. Sir Roger Moore has never been better or looked more at ease in the role he was born for and is ably supported by Barbara Bach as his female opposite. Curt Jurgens provides a memorable adversary and the unmistakable presence of Richard Kiel also deserves special mention. Put simply, The Spy Who Loved Me is the ultimate Bond movie.