The Spy Who Loved Me
directed by Lewis Gilbert
(United Artists/MGM, 1977)

The third time is the charm, as they say, and for Roger Moore, his third James Bond film found him at the top of his game.

The Spy Who Loved Me, the 10th in the James Bond series, pits Bond against shipping magnate Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), whose plans to destroy the surface world and rebuild anew undersea rivals the plots of SPECTRE's heyday in the early Bond years. It also introduces a new classic henchman, the seemingly indestructible, steely-toothed assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel).

The storytelling in this one is tight and dramatic, with plenty of suspense and enough humorous touches to keep the Bond flair afloat. It pairs the British superspy with Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), the Soviet KGB's Agent XXX. Initially rivals following the disappearance of a nuclear submarine from each nation's fleet, they end up partners in their efforts to stop Stromberg's plans for a global holocaust. Although not the action hero of Michelle Yeoh's Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997, opposite Pierce Brosnan as Bond), Amasova is a competent agent who keeps Bond on his toes and even bests him at his own game a few times along the way. Add the subplot of, midway through their adventure, her discovery that Bond several weeks earlier had killed her lover on another mission, and you have some nice dramatic tension cutting through the usual banter and foreplay.

There are some particularly nice supporting performances from M (Bernard Lee) and his opposite number in the KGB, General Gogol (Walter Gotell), as well as Q (Desmond Llewelyn), British Minister of Defense Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen) and the U.S. submarine commander (Shane Rimmer). Moore even handles a few moments of serious, sensitive dialogue well -- without resorting to whimsy.

The Egyptian pyramids, Sphinx and assorted ruins provide a gorgeous backdrop for a portion of the film, and there's a well-crafted ski chase down on Austrian mountainside -- which concludes with some amazing stuntwork by Rick Sylvester. There's a big fight on a train ending (as they so often do) with someone being thrown through a window. The underwater pursuit in Bond's new Lotus is a classic Q moment. There's also plenty of explosive evidence of what three really peeved submarine crews can do with a fully stocked armory.

Kudos too to Carly Simon for "Nobody Does It Better," one of the best Bond movie themes.

Although a few pieces of the plot are hijacked from You Only Live Twice (picture spaceships instead of submarines), this ranks as the best Bond of the Moore years, and one of the high points in the entire series.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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