Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me marks Roger Moore’s finest moment as 007. This terrific action-adventure pits Britain’s greatest hero against chief villain Karl Stromberg and evil henchman Jaws.

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The Spy Who Loved Me, directed by franchise veteran Lewis Gilbert, is widely considered Roger Moore’s best outing as 007. Gilbert, who previously directed Sean Connery as Bond in You Only Live Twice, brings us undoubtedly one of the craziest, most far-fetched Bond films but also one of the most fun.

You know it is going to be something special when the opening action sequence features Bond skiing off a mountain ledge in Austria to escape a group of assassins to plummet, you might think, to his death on the rocks below. But of course, this being Bond, the cunning secret agent always has a plan up his sleeve (maybe he figured he’d need to take extra precautions after breakfast that morning) and, as the camera tracks his mighty fall into oblivion, he opens a parachute and we’re allowed to stop holding our breath. But the genius of the scene is yet to come (taking nothing away from stuntman Rick Sylvester’s miraculous work) when the parachute reveals itself to be a Union Jack just as the Bond theme music kicks in. For my money it is the best single moment in any Bond film, and one of the most perfect music cues I’ve ever seen.

Roger Moore, returning to 007’s shoes for the third time, teams up with Russian agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) whose codename, Triple X, is as comical as the rest of the movie. The film motors along at breakneck speed as 007 and Triple X try to track down the culprit behind disappearing nuclear submarines. Chief villain Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens) is fiendishly sadistic as a megalomaniac who wants to restart civilisation by developing an underwater city. He carries out his work with the help of steel-toothed henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel), a shark-infested pool ready for anyone who dares to stop him, and a huge converted tanker that literally opens up and swallows submarines whole. The film is so much fun you wonder how it could get any better. But the filmmakers pull a trump card – my favourite Bond car of all time – the Q Branch Lotus Esprit sports car that converts, believe it or not, into a submarine with rocket launcher and all manner of other gizmos.

The film is aided by Roger Moore’s form as Bond, the one-liners coming thick and fast, the suave English gentleman sophistication layered so splendidly. He has a good match in Barbara Bach’s Triple X who manages to avoid his sexual come-ons before the inevitability of romantic entanglement takes over. The film also has to be applauded for its wonderful set design, depicting the interior of Stromberg’s submarine-swallowing ship. There was no set big enough to house the design team’s concept for the massive tanker so the producers built an entirely new soundstage at Pinewood, which would be aptly titled the 007 Stage.

The Spy Who Loved Me is easily one of the best Bond films ever made. It has the best song, the best single shot of the franchise, the best interior set design, the best Bond car, the towering presence of Jaws, and Roger Moore’s finest performance as 007. On top of that it has a wonderfully inspired sense of humour thanks to director Lewis Gilbert and Moore’s confident delivery.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Written by: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum
Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Bernard Lee
Released: 1977 / Genre: Action-Adventure / Country: UK / IMDB

Buy from Amazon.co.uk: DVD

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Chris Reply

    Roger Moore Bond outings are not to everyone’s taste, I grew up with them and love all seven(Yes, even A View To A Kill), and the campiness and cartoon-ish quality was fine by me.
    This 1977 film sure was ambitious, cars under water and so on, I heard in the new doc Everything or Nothing The Untold story of 007 (2012), that the opening mountain ski jump was a metaphor for how the filmmakers felt at the time; taking a big risk, and not knowing the outcome. Love that song too.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Heaton Reply

    Dan, I’m right with you on this movie. It’s easily my favorite Roger Moore outing, and there are so many things to like. The Lotus is also my favorite Bond car. Barbara Bach is one of the best Bond girls, if not the top one. You also have Jaws, the opening sequence, the remarkable sets from Ken Adams, and so much more. I feel like I’m just repeating what you said in your review, but that’s because it’s right. Nice work!

  3. Avatar
    mark Reply

    Some viewers were angry at the fact that Barbara Bach gratuitiously took her gear off in Force 10 From Navarone. Had I had feminist sensibilities at the time, I would have complained that she was victim of “another dead woman syndrome”. Being 15 at the time, however, I didn’t care – man, was she hot …

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    ruth Reply

    I think this is Moore’s best Bond movie, it’s the most substantial in terms of story, though I also have a soft spot for For Your Eyes Only. The amphibian Lotus Esprit is one of my all time fave Bond cars too, I mean the first time I saw it on water I was like wahoo!!! Oh btw, I first heard of Mozart in this movie in the scene where Stromberg feeds his employee to the shark. Who knew that a Bond flick would give me an intro to classical music, ahah.

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