Friday, June 24, 2016
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Review
The Spy Who Loved Me is the quintessential James Bond adventure. Not Bond film, mind you, but Bond adventure. Here, we don't see a member of the British secret service investigating a problem, but a dashing hero to whom beautiful women flock, battling against indestructible metal men, hired by a mad businessman trying to destroy the world. It's the romp that all romps are measured against. Brilliant and cheerful from top to bottom. And nobody does it better!
When strategically important British and Soviet submarines go missing, their respective secret services dispatch their ultimate agents - Agent 007 and Agent XXX(I love that name) to obtain a stolen microfilm plan for a submarine tracking system that, if discovered, could render the British western defence system inert.
The culprit is discovered to be Karl Stromberg, a billionaire with a fetish for the sea, who wants to create a new civilisation under the ocean, after blowing up the world with nuclear weapons. It's up to 007 and XXX to adopt detente whilst also struggling with Bond previously having killed XXX's fiancee three weeks ago. Oops?
After two decent, but uncertain films, Roger Moore finally nails down his interpretation of James Bond as an utterly shameless "naughty boy", mature enough to take his job seriously, but childish enough to get whatever he wants out of it in whatever way he pleases.
Barbara Bach gives Agent XXX a teasing, but firm sort of personality. She takes obvious delight in setting Bond up to trip, but at the same time clearly enjoys his company, which really makes their relationship click. It helps that she's one of the hottest Bond girls ever.
Curd Jurgens is the weak part of the cast, portraying megalomaniac Kurt Stromberg in a creepy, lowkey fashion. However, the lack of any quirky persona just makes Stromberg kind of forgettable. You don't really care about him that much and he's defeated without much fanfare.
Richard Kiel's Jaws is legendary, and remains the only henchman in the series who reprised his role(in the following film, Moonraker). His grotesque features lend him to both "goofy giant" comedy and vampiric horror, which he succeeds at admirably. His high point is, obviously, biting an actual shark to death.
This film also introduces two recurring characters in the series: Frederick Grey(the Minister of Defence) and General Gogol(head of the KGB). Whilst Gogol makes for an amusing anti-villain, I never really understood the point of Grey. I suppose he gives M and Bond somebody else to talk to outside of Moneypenny and Q, but other than that, he never really added anything(although I really liked the actor playing him).
It seems that 1977 was a really, really good year to be a moviegoer. Not only could you be dazzled by the brilliant work of Lucasfilm in Star Wars, you could enjoy the magnificient work done by Pinewood Studios here. This really is the height of Ken Adam's work as set designer, constructing the biggest sound stage on the world(with some unrecognised help from Stanley Kubrick, one might add!) and adding his wonderfully imaginative touch everywhere, from Stromberg's Atlantis to Gogol's office(deliberately meant to evoke the cold and dark of Moscow as opposed to the warmth and softness of M's office in London)
This film also has one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Marvin Hamlisch's score has that one thing I love about good scores: it's intensely memorable. And not only that, it's the sort of music that makes you flail around to the action sequences and draws you waaaay further in than you would be otherwise. No offense to John Barry's iconic music, but nobody does it better. Sequences like the underwater approach to Atlantis and the ski chase are brought to life by those techno beats.
Whilst the film is a little too stylistic and too broadly comic for my tastes(I guess I prefer a rougher diamond), there's no denying that it's one of the best James Bond movies ever.