007 Bond Binge: The Spy Who Loved Me Gives Roger Moore His Propers
Submarines, Cold Wars, and the introduction of one of the Bond franchise's most iconic recurring villains: Jaws. The Spy Who Loved Me is arguably Roger Moore's best outing as 007, giving him the right mix of action and romance to fit his particular persona. Add in Barbara Bach as Russian agent Anya Amasova, Richard Kiel as the unkillable metal-mouthed behemoth Jaws. A quintessential plot for world destruction that sends Bond across the globe, and you get an incredibly satisfying film that checks off all the boxes for what you want in a Bond film without every feeling too tropey or formulaic.
Indeed, this would be the last of those types of films for quite a while as Roger Moore's slow decline begins from here, and every outing after this film feels the need to simply check the boxes of what people think James Bond movies are.
The plot centers around the quintessential Bond plot: a madman has hijacked some nuclear weapons and threatens to blow the world up unless his demands are met. This causes 007 to have to team up with Soviet Agent XXX, Anya Amasova. The key to this film is the will-they/won't-they sexual tension between the two and the constant one-upsmanship between the two. And while she's not quite the Countess Tracey from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Amasova shows she is every bit Bond's equal: the first "Bond girl" in many films to do so.
For instance, when Bond drives his iconic Lotus Esprit (only appearing in this film) into the water, Amasova replies that she had stolen the plans for the underwater car years ago. Speaking of Tracy, this is one of the few other Bond films to ever reference his tragic marriage– a sore spot that Anya pokes only once, but it's enough to elicit the most painful wince from Bond. It also remains one of the better bits of acting Moore did in the series.
On the downside, the ultimate weakness of its film is its villain. Karl Stromborg (Curt Jürgens)is so forgettable because holding the world hostage with nukes and wanting to set up a new society under the ocean had a real been-there, done-that feel to it after the previous 9 Bond films.
Indeed, the film prompted a lawsuit from Thunderball co-writer Kevin McClory sued the production and forced it to stop because the plot contained elements so similar to Thunderball. He claimed he had exclusive rights to Ernst Stavro Blofeld's characters and the "concept of nuclear blackmail." While judges laughed the latter claim out of court, they did award McClory the rights to the Blofeld character and make as many future Thunderball remakes as he liked, but he could no longer claim he had any rights to the future James Bond productions. (This later led to the rogue James Bond film Never Say Never Again starring a re-emerging Sean Connery).
So the journey but not the destination are ultimately fun here. Filled with impressive gadgets and stunts, it, for better or worse, became a template for future films. Enjoy it for what it's worth alongside the rest of the Bond oeuvre.
The 007 Bond Binge will return with Moonraker.
For previous articles in this series, check out the articles below:
- Dr. No
- From Russia With Love
- You Only Live Twice
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service
- Diamonds Are Forever
- Live and Let Die
- The Man with the Golden Gun