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The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 - PG)

When a nuclear submarine, along with its crew, goes missing, British Secret Service spy James Bond, agent 007, is called to investigate.  Teaming up with Russian beauty, Major Anya Amasova, together the two agents work to discover the mystery behind missing nuclear subs and their alleged connection to scientist Karl Stromberg's "Atlantis."

The cast includes: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens, and Richard Kiel.

Written by: Ian Fleming and Christopher Wood.

Directed by: Lewis Gilbert.

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Genre: Action, Adventure

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The film opens out on the open sea where a Russian nuclear submarine (surprise the Russians are involved!) has suddenly experienced a total power failure.  Minutes later news hits Russian and Britain Intelligence that the submarine has gone missing, along with its crew!  A few days later the same phenomenon occurs: this time it’s the Britain’s Royal Navy’s Polaris nuclear submarine (which coincidentally has 16 nuclear warheads onboard) and crew that goes missing! 

While the British and Russians deliberate in their respective countries over the precarious fate of their submarines the two countries’ Intelligence Operations learn of an alleged conspiracy: someone has mastered a way to track submerged nuclear subs and is preparing to sell the technology to the highest bidder.  While both the Russians and the British get panicky, a quick but chaotic interlude in Austria results in the death of a renowned Russian spy at the hands of Bond. 

News of his death reaches Russian headquarters where his lover, agent XXX, aka Major Anya Amasova (Bach) learns of the bad news.  Hurt, but prepared to act professionally, Major Amasova sets out to intercept the covetous microfilm while British officials send Bond out to do the same.  The two agents wind up competitive would-be-bidders in Egypt amidst ancient ruins and at nightclubs hosted by Max Kalba (Vernon Dobtcheff): the man with the microfilm relating to the nuclear submarine tracking technology. 

While the two agents banter their way through competing interests to be the first to purchase the microfilm from Kalba, their chances to bid on the microfilm are cut short by a quick phone call and a visit from the nefarious metal mouthed villain Jaws (Richard Kiel).  As the big lug prepares to make his getaway Bond espies his vehicle and heads into the back with Major Amasova hot on his heels. After Jaws discovers his unwanted company he takes them on a quick detour through the sands and nowheres of Egypt in hopes of shaking off his competition.  Though he can’t kill Bond and Amasova, neither can they kill him- though they can, and do acquire the microfilm. 

Though Bond is initially in possession of the covetous material (which he happens to look at early off) a slick Russian beauty quickly finds herself the lucky owner of the valuable information.  To everyone’s surprise however, Bond heads back to his British headquarters to find Amasova there with her fellow Russian KBG officials who are conspiring to team up with the British Intelligence Agency in hopes of recovering their nuclear submarines (What! The Russians aren’t the bad guys!).  However, the two agent’s death defying antics to secure the microfilm prove in vain when the information on the film reveals itself as useless- all the “useful” information has already been removed.  After some deliberation it is decided that the Russian siren and British playboy will be teaming up to crack the case, which leads them to German shipping magnate Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) and his underwater paradise, Atlantis, just off the coast of Italy’s Sardinia. 

While Amasova and Bond head to Atlantis, Stromberg offs the two brilliant scientists responsible for developing the nuclear submarine tracking device (who were initially offered $10 mil a piece to develop the technology).  Some impressive scenes involving a shark attack and an exploding helicopter quickly reveal Stromberg to be as deadly and ruthless as he is insane. 

After Bond and Amasova’s quick visit in the guise of a marine biologist and his wife, Stromberg finds Bond out and sends Jaws after both the British and Russian agent.    While Amasova and Bond do their best to evade the deadly Jaws they wind up aboard a U.S. nuclear sub which is likewise intercepted by none other than Stromberg’s ship.  Also adding to the problems is Amasova’s recent discovery (of course only after her predictable romantic interlude with Bond) that Bond was responsible for the death of her long time love. 

After Amasova is taken captive by Stromberg and his goons and shipped back to Atlantis, Bond does his best to rescue and rally the US, Russian, and British officers stowed aboard Stromberg’s ship.  A massive revolt against Stromberg’s men results in all out pyrotechnic “Battleship” mayhem while Bond races against the clock to disarm two nuclear warheads that have been launched en route to Russia and England respectively.  Can Bond reroute/disarm the missiles and avoid nuclear destruction, rescue Amasova (while avoiding her death threats), and take down Stromberg and his superhuman goon Jaws all in a days work!

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, is witty, cheesy, fresh, and cliché all rolled into one classic Bond film.  It’s filled with oxymorons, over-the-top special effects, and cheesy one-liners that hallmark a typical Bond film and that have no less impact in this film than in the others.  Still, this film relies on more subverted humor: humor to be found in the dialogue and the chemistry between the actors such as that between Moore and Llewelyn (Q) and Moore and Bach (Amasova).  Likewise Bach is sexy, sultry, and a breath of fresh female-independence-air.  Rather than sulking into the background as yet another typical dumb-blond/Bond ditz, Bach lends a strength and fortitude to her character much like the leads in another Moore/Bond flick, Octopussy.

Overall the acting was as solid as you can expect for a Bond film.  The man with the metal mouth, Richard Kiel, is your typical hardheaded Bond goon and Curt Jergens is brilliant as the notorious Karl Stromberg.

Cinematography and art and set direction are all sound.  There is a definite attempt to return to lavishness, which considering the year the film was produced, is an earnest and admirable attempt.  The construction of Giza pyramids and Egyptian ruins, paired with the high-tech mobile Atlantis, are over the top and impressive considering their context.  As one critic notes, “This is a return to the values of many of the Bond films that were missing the last time around. The extravagant sets are back, the villain has plenty of henchman for Bond and the cavalry to fight and the gadgets are in full swing.”

Now for the music- its too over the top.  Granted, most Bond films notoriously revolve around cheesy love tunes and the melodramatic.  Still, Carly Simon’s NOBODY KNOWS, is too slow in tempo, and uber cheesy: the effect is disarming and uncomfortable whenever its interjected into the sound streaming within the film.  Though it works for a theme song, it should have been omitted throughout the film and reserved for opening and closing credits.  Ironically the tune was nominated and awarded by multiple critical film associations for awards.  In all honesty however, a better alternative could have been attained.  Then again, Bond is all about cheesy, over-the-top, and the reinforcement of traditional sex and gender roles: considered in that perspective, NOBODY KNOWS upholds such expectations.

 THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, was nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Art/Set Direction (Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, and Hugh Scaife), Best Original Score (Marvin Malisch), and Best Original Song [Marvin Hamlisch (music) and Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics)].  Additionally the film garnered another 2 wins: ASCAP Award for Most Performed Feature Standard and Garmany’s Golden Screen Award (1978), as well as 8 nominations including 2 Golden Globes and a Grammy nomination for Best Album, from multiple critical film associations.

Main Characters:

Roger Moore plays British Secret Service spy, agent 007.

Barbara Bach plays Major Anya Amasova, Bond’s beautiful Russian couterpart.

Curd Jurgens plays Karl Stromberg (as Curt Jurgens), the marine scientist and German nemesis.

Richard Kiel plays Jaws, the metal-mouthed mutant man.

Desmond Llewelyn plays Q, the man behind the Bond gadgetry.

Vernon Dobtcheff plays Max Kalba, the man with the information.