MoM’s Our Word Is Our Bond series continues with Ellie Dabell, just 13 years old and already a Bond fan, examining The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach and Curt Jurgens.
When my mum and stepdad, who are the editors of MoM, mentioned they would be running a Bond series on their website, they asked me if I wanted to cover any of the films. I’ve not seen all of them yet but luckily for me I have plenty of years ahead to catch up (I’m only thirteen). As Roger Moore is one of my favourite actors, I asked if I could write about one of his Bond films. Any excuse for me to watch another Roger Moore film, after all! I hadn’t yet seen The Spy Who Loved Me so when they suggested this one I happily agreed. It’s not my all-time favourite of the 007 films I’ve watched so far – I would rate Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only and Skyfall all higher than this one. But it’s still an enjoyable film – 6th place (so far) isn’t too bad!
The Spy Who Loved Me was released on the 3rd August 1977. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert (who had already directed You Only Live Twice and, later, made Moonraker), and produced by Albert R. Broccoli. This was the first time Broccoli produced a Bond film without Harry Saltzman; their relationship had become shaky and they parted company after The Man With The Golden Gun. The film stars Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens and Richard Kiel.
The story is quite interesting and intriguing. This is because 007 has to work with a Russian agent, Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), to work out how two naval submarines – one British, one Russian – carrying nuclear warheads could just disappear. Whilst doing so, Bond and Anya end up aboard an American nuclear submarine which is ‘captured’ by a large supertanker which basically swallows up boats and submarines. Inside, they find the missing naval subs. The ship is owned by a rich villain named Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), who is planning to use the subs and their arsenal of nuclear missiles to start WWIII, after which he and a handful of survivors will start the world afresh from an underwater paradise.
I think Sean Connery, who began the series in the role, was a great Bond – he was very believable as a secret agent and made a great Bond The actors who came after him had a very hard act to follow. However, despite this, he’s still not my favourite actor to play the role: Roger Moore is! From what I’ve seen of the Connery Bond films he set the bar high, although to be honest the only Connery Bonds I’ve watched so far are Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever. Having seen quite a few more of the Roger Moore Bonds, I believe Moore lived up to the expectations of fans who felt no-one could do as good a job in the role as Connery. Moore gives the character a cheeky edge, with loads of one-liners which make me laugh. He seems to have more women falling at his feet than any of the other Bonds I’ve seen on film, probably because he’s more attractive than the others (well, apart from Daniel Craig that is!) so I can see why. I feel The Spy Who Loved Me provides a great example of Moore in the role. He is witty and womanising and adventurous, and it’s all fun to watch. Before Roger Moore acted in this Bond entry he had previously starred in Live And Let Die (1973) and The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). All three are all really good and intriguing films. Out of them, my favourite has to be The Man With The Golden Gun because it stars another one of my all time favourite actors Christopher Lee, as well as introducing Nick Nack, who I find to be a very entertaining baddie’s henchman.
An interesting character in The Spy Who Loved Me is the giant assassin Jaws, played by Richard Kiel. So far I have only seen two films in which Kiel appears, both of them being Bonds (this and Moonraker)… but I think he makes a great villain. He’s quite a cool and interesting character. I think this is because he never speaks and seems pretty unstoppable, plus he has metal teeth which can bite through anything (as shown in this film when he bites through some chains to get at a man hiding in a chained-up cell in an Egyptian tomb). He’s a powerful, unstoppable killer, and a great adversary for 007.
Caroline Munro has a small part in the film, although many of her fans believe she should have been given a bigger role. She was also a Hammer actress and is adored by lots of the Hammer horror fans. Caroline’s short scenes are seen as iconic in the film; she even features on the front cover of a Spy Girls Special Edition of the magazine Cinema Retro (I’ve not read the magazine, but my mum and step-dad write for it sometimes and I have seen images of the Spy Girl edition on the internet). She even gave up the role of Ursa in Superman (which went to Sarah Douglas instead) to play a part in this Bond movie, even though this was a smaller role. I’ve only seen her in one other film – The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, where she plays the leading lady – and I have to say I agree with Caroline’s fans that she could have played a larger role. She maybe even could have been cast as the main Bond girl Anya, as Barbara Bach isn’t the best Bond girl I’ve seen. In fact, for me, she is in the bottom half of the ones I’ve seen. Actresses such as Jane Seymour, Caroline Bouquet and even the bad-girls Bambi and Thumper from Diamonds Are Forever are better actresses!!! Bach isn’t terrible in the film: she starts out well in the early parts of the film, almost comfortable as the arrogant KGB agent ready to prove M and Bond wrong whenever she can.
But as the film progresses, she becomes more of a love interest than a rival agent, and her performance starts to go downhill and it’s harder to believe in her. She didn’t hold my attention as much as other actors and actresses in the film (nor as much as other Bond girls from the other films I’ve seen).
Whilst researching this film, I found out that George Lazenby gave the director the idea for the parachute scene which happens at the start. Lazenby suggested a ski-jump off the edge of a cliff for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but they decided not to use it at the time. A few films later, they chose it for the brilliant pre-credits sequence here. I also learned that Ian Fleming’s book The Spy Who Loved Me is completely different from the film. James Bond is barely in the book at all; it has a completely different main character called Vivienne Michel, who runs a motel and is threatened by two American hoodlums till Bond turns up and saves her life. In the actual film there is no one called Vivienne, there are no motels, no American hoodlums and the whole story goes off in a different direction. As well as that, the novel was blocked from being published in the United Kingdom as a paperback until after Fleming’s death – perhaps because it was not well-regarded by the critics when it was first released.
Although I watch the older Bond films, my peers and schoolmates seem to prefer to watch the more modern Bond (and other action) films andlike the newer theme songs to the older ones. I noticed this when Spectre (2015) came out – in my opinion Sam Smith does not have the right voice or style to sing a Bond song, whereas myfriends think he does a great job. This is all because they don’t watch any of the older Bond films where they would hear a real Bond song. The theme song for The Spy Who Loved Me, Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon, is a great example of a proper Bond theme song.
Overall I think that The Spy Who Loved Me is a good film, and is a solid example of Roger Moore playing Bond. The main reason I think this is because it has a strong storyline, plus one of the best Bond villains of all time in Jaws. In my opinion, the best scene is where Bond and Anya are fighting Jaws in a old Egyptian building site. Bond is about to be hit by Jaws, but he edges over towards a beam… Jaws takes a swing at Bond, but instead hits the beam, and the buildings all collapse on Jaws. Bond says “Egyptian builders” and walks off.
I love the way Roger Moore handles himself in scenes like this. Overall, I give this film a solid seven.
MoM Rating: 7/10