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A Look Back: The Spy Who Loved Me with Robert Baum

v1Following a near three-year absence from the screen, James Bond returns to cinematic service for the Queen. The Spy Who Loved Me firmly establishes Roger Moore as the suave operative and pits him against a malevolent marine magnate (Curt Jurgens) with designs on destroying the world. This entry marks a first in the series as producer Albert R. Broccoli has parted ways with partner Harry Saltzman. Which accounts for the approach to Bond who, in Moore’s first two efforts seemed more like Michael Caine in Get Carter (1971)–which Saltzman produced. Caine’s Jack Carter was influenced by Sean Connery’s 007. Here Moore gets to show his knack for humor while on his new mission.

Two submarines–one British, one Russian–somehow disappear. MI6 recalls Bond from Austria to search for their country’s vessel. Shortly thereafter, the KGB contacts one of their own (Barbara Bach) to get their boat back to the USSR. They both wind up meeting, unexpectedly, in Cairo. As both the UK and the USSR are each a craft short, an Anglo/ Soviet partnership is formed by 007 and Major Anya Amasova (Bach) and their respective superiors: M (Bernard Lee) and General Gogol (Walter Gotell, who previously appeared in the second Bond film–albeit in a different role–From Russia with Love). They head to Italy by train to investigate the operations of Karl Stromberg (Jurgens) but the mission is nearly derailed due to the unwelcome visit by an assassin in Stromberg’s employ: a steel-toothed giant named Jaws (Richard Kiel, last seen making travel tough for Gene Wilder in Silver Streak).

Later the pair are received by Stromberg aboard his impressive aquatic citadel and later utilize the latest marvel created by Q (Desmond Llewelyn): a Lotus capable of traveling the roads and underwater. The car also sports an array of options which Bond employs to escape pursuit by Jaws, Stromberg’s pilot (alluring Brit genre actress Caroline Munro), along with a few unnamed henchmen. Then comes a bit of news which threatens to put a chill on the relationship between Bond and Amasova both personally and professionally.

Lewis Gilbert, director of Connery’s next-to-last Bond appearance You Only Live Twice (1967), returns with a recycling of that film. The screenplay exchanges the hijacked rockets for shanghaied submarines and a secret base inside a volcano for an underwater one. Jurgens makes for an uncharismatic nemesis for Moore. He almost seems to be like an adversary which David Hedison and Richard Basehart might have encountered on the old series “Voyage to the bottom of the Sea.”

Marvin Hamlisch, substituting for usual 007 composer John Barry, crafts a score which lacks the excitement of prior Bond film scores. “The James Bond Theme” sounds rather dull and unimpressive when heard in the pre-credit sequence. Such an amazing feat performed by Rick Sylvester certainly deserves better. It’s really a shame that Barry didn’t compose a work to complement the efforts of John Glen’s second unit work. The score and Jurgens are about the only flaws in an otherwise solid adventure that should hopefully get the series back on its feet. Hopefully the next installment–the end credits note the upcoming one will be For Your Eyes Only–will be here sooner than the nearly three year gap between Guy Hamilton’s lackluster The Man with the Golden Gun and Gilbert’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Roger Moore’s humor helps him put his own stamp on Bond’s passport to adventure. After starting up with Hamilton putting him through his paces on his first two cinematic missions for British Intelligence (Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun), Moore and Gilbert click and the third time is the charm for the actor’s presence to completely differentiate his 007 from Connery’s hard-edged approach.