Review: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)


Director: Lewis Gilbert

Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens

Release Date: July 7th 1977 (UK)

Anyone who has asked will know my joint favourite Bond films would be Casino Royale 2006 or Goldeneye. Well, if there was ever a film to challenge this view it would be this piece of gold. After a parade of dreary movies one after the other, this brought life back into the series, reinvigorating it and firmly stating that after falterting for a time and standing upon death’s precipice, Bond was back and shouted that loud and with impunity.

After one of the greatest stunt openings in film history which firmly re-established Bond as British, we are treated to some of the most elaborate model work ever seen with the Supertanker Liparus and the submarines. Models were used to achieve these shots because it was too expensive to insure actual tankers and doing so carried a high risk of well, being killed, as they would make home to the fumes of their old oil cargo. It is just a sheer tribute to Derek Meddings and his work that the model special effects here not only remain fresh nearly 40 years hence, but have inspired generation after generation since to take up this sadly near death aspect of film making.

Following the rule of thumb wherein an actor’s third turn as James Bond is usually their best (Goldfinger, The World is Not Enough and Skyfall all follow this), Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me is meticulous in his attention to detail in delivering his best performance. From mastering ruthless brutality when batting his own tie away from a desperate Sandor gripping it for dear life as he attempted to cheat gravity to his suave delivery of one liners (such as cooly say Max Kalba was cut off when he discovers his corpse in a phone booth) to even conveying Bond feeling he is in actual peril at the hands of a very armed Anya Amasova in the escape capsule of Atlantis at the film’s climax, he is simply sublime throughout.

The future Mrs. Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, despite being dubbed throughout the entire piece also brings a spell binding performance and helps to create a quite worthy succesor to Thunderball‘s Fiona Volpe in a Bond girl who is in every way, Bond’s equal.

The supporting MI6 regulars have seemed to ditch making the audience feel they hate each other motif of The Man With The Golden Gun and have instead opted to play their parts as if they were actually real people. What a concept huh? This is warmly welcomed and perhaps is nowhere better evidenced than when M and Gogol reveal each other’s real Christian names (Alexis and Miles) and helps round out the fictional universe of the film to the point where what was once a great weakness in the last few installments is now arguably this film’s biggest strength.

How much of this positivity has to do with the fact the series now only had one producer, so a single unifying voice is debatable. But what is not is how well received this was critically and commercially. The foreign and domestic grosses for the tenth Bond made by EON Productions were huge and could easily dwarf the films which came before, right back to Thunderball 12 years before at the height of Bondmania in Britain. In fact I would argue that if it were not for one other certain Box Office hit in 1977, the record which Skyfall broke for biggest adjusted Bond Box Office could well have been TSWLM‘s own!

Highly recommended and the very definition of easy watching.

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