Bond Actor: Roger Moore (Age: 50)
Bond Country of Origin: England
Women Slept With: 3 (?)
Villain’s Evil Scheme: To initiate a nuclear war using stolen British, American, and Russian submarines, then create a sea-based civilization from the ashes!
The Spy Who Loved Me combines some of the best parts of the Bond franchise with some of the most regrettable. This is a movie that has the most elaborate and iconic sets you’re likely to see in any movie series, one of the most stunning Bond girls, and one of the more reasonable (well, half reasonable) on its face bits of super-villainy. Some of the elements in this movie, like say the trap door into the shark pit, set the standard for the super-spy genre for the next 3 decades. But then you’ve got the 7 foot man-monster with metal teeth, and the antagonist with webbed fin-hands who wants to build a paradise under the sea, and the use of the Q lab visit as a series of slapstick gags.
One thing you can tell almost right off the bat is that this is a film that wants to be a bit of everything that had made the earlier Bond films enjoyable. There is the smug little quips, the spy knowledge of absurdly relevant facts, the references to martinis (and a surprising nod to Bond’s OHMSS marriage), even the traditional sports car that turns into a submarine! The settings and action sequences go the same route checking every box box from ski scene to scuba scene to desert scene to train scene to ridiculous super-villain lair scene. What’s truly impressive is that it never feels particularly forced doing so. A lot of that may be credited to the director and production designer, who threw together some of the most insanely elaborate and impressive sets you’re likely to see outside of a studio exec’s nightmares. Next time you watch the movie, look past the obvious mega-sets like the submarine bay of Stromberg’s aquatic sea base, and look at even the most mundane locations. The KGB general for instance, apparently enjoys operating from a vast empty stone room, populated by a single oak desk with a lonely window, for no other reason than to set a tone.
The film isn’t without its clunky awkwardness, of course. What in the world is the point of Jaw’s bald, sweaty sidekick, if Jaws himself is superhumanly strong, and apparently equipped with a magical magnet that draws all bullets directly to the tiny portion of his body that is metal plated? Why even bother with a subplot about a) the KBG and MI6 and b) Bond working with a spy who hates him (!), if you only pay brief lip service to it without using it for anything effective? And who the hell decided that an aged billionaire shipping magnate fish man with designs for a world under da sea would make for a compelling counterpoint to Bond and Russian-Lady-Bond? And why set up all of Agent XXX’s talents and qualifications if her main use is simply as a willowy damsel in distress, who can’t hold a grudge over the death of her fiance for more than a day without falling hopelessly in love with his killer?
I have to give tSwLM some credit. As much as I dislike the Moore films for the silliness, and for Moore’s uncharming version of British charm, and for all of the films strange little quirks and lack of a really compelling villain, it’s still somehow a really likeable movie. Bach for all of the script’s failings for her, does an excellent job as someone at least approaching Bond’s caliber, and is never obnoxious in doing it. The closing climactic battle in the sub-pen between the idiotic henchmen and the combined might of the US and British sub crews is a bit over the top, but immensely fun to watch. And in working to pay homage to all of the Bond films that came before it, tSwLM somehow manages to pull it off without being too obvious or ham-fisted about it. Outside of a Bond film, half of the elements of this movie would be relegated to B or C films and never spoken of again, but this movie makes most of them work, and did it with some of the most iconic Bond imagery. It’s certainly the best you can expect out of Roger Moore.
Bond Rating: Spect out of Spectre