Film Reviews:

The Spy Who Loved Me

(Lewis Gilbert, UK, 1977)

There's plenty of gadets, gimmicks and gags in this, the tenth Bond outing, but veteran director Lewis Gilbert keeps them largely in check and they never threaten to overpower the storyline. Tension and drama are to the fore and after the dismal Man With The Golden Gun this (the third film with Roger Moore) is something of a revelation. Nuclear submarines are disappearing from the high seas and Britain and the Soviet Union join forces in tracking down the force responsible. This puts female Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) alongside Bond in his mission. The trails leads to a marine biologist called Karl Stromberg, who is, of course, mad. He plans to use the missiles from the submarines on Moscow and New York (what's wrong with London?) as just a taster of his planned redevelopment of the surface world. He can then create his own perfect world beneath the seas. Nutter.

It's amusing to see the two agents trying to out do each other and Bach is certainly one of the better 'Bond women'. While she might represent the thinking man's crumpet, Caroline Munroe is fortunately at hand, looking terrifically tarty, to supply the expected bikini-clad glamour. For some reason, Fleming let the filmmakers use his title but not the plot from The Spy Who Loved Me. Therefore, expressing a remarkable lack of imagination, screenwriters Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum decided to go back ten years and plunder the basic storyline from an earlier film in the series and recycle it.

The plot for TSWLM is an unsubtle reworking of the fifth entry, the 1967 You Only Live Twice. Here the oceans are substituted for the space of the earlier film, and instead of the space ships 'swallowing' other spacecraft, here it is huge tankers whose bows open to do exactly the same. This leads to the famous tanker interior finale and the biggest Bond sets to date. Whilst this is an apparently realistic set, production designer regular Ken Adams does get to go overboard (no pun intended) when designing villain Stromberg's floating laboratory. A black spherical construction with spider-like legs that rises up out of the ocean to dramatic effect. From an opening with one of the most memorable pre-credits sequences for a Bond film (the cliff-top ski jump culminating in the Union Jack paracheute) this goes on to be the first really strong entry for Roger Moore.

Rob Dyer

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