James Bond Retrospective: Review of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

I actually think this may be the very first Bond movie I ever saw, on television.  There are so many things about it that were iconic to me growing up.  The cars, the gadgets, jaws…. everything about it.  I still liked it when I watched it 5 years ago, but if you’ve been reading the other Bond reviews I have been posting, you know that my tastes have changed in that little time.  Which sucks for me.  But, this has to be better than the first 2 Moore entries, right?

James Bond is sent on a mission to find out what happened to a missing submarine.  He meets a sexy Russian agent named XXX, and the 2 form some sort of alliance as they try to find out who is behind this plot.  The villain is Stromberg, a crazy old man who wants to live in the sea, so he plans on starting WWIII so everyone can destroy themselves and he’ll start a new world under the sea.  Cuckoo!!!  Bond and XXX meet Stromberg’s henchman Jaws, an extremely tall man with metal teeth, who seems to be wherever the secret agents end up.  Pretty straight forward plot.

The gun barrel sequence didn’t pop off the screen like it did in so many others, but I think it was due to the rather dull version of the Bond theme playing in the background.  But the pre-title sequence is pretty awesome.  After showing a submarine getting captured, and introducing Agent XXX, we see Bond bedding some broad in Austria.  Then he gets an alert from headquarters (love his watch!) and takes off on the ski slopes.  He’s followed by a few KGB agents and he kills one of them.  It’s a pretty neat sequence, and LOVE just LOVE Marvin Hamlisch’s disco-laced score.  It’s pretty awesome.  Then Bond skis off a cliff and freefalls for like 30 seconds (a record-breaking stunt at the time) and then his parachute boasting the British flag opens up to the Bond theme.  It’s a great way to start the movie, though I remember this sequence having more action in it.  I thought he killed several bad guys, not just one.  Wasn’t quite as epic as I remembered it, but still cool.  The title sequence is one of the best.  It’s just silly shit!  It has silhouettes of Bond jumping with his gun in the air, surrounded by naked chicks.  Carly Simon’s Nobody Does it Better is also a great ballad.  Love the song!

Though the movie is loaded with iconic sequences throughout, I was kind of let down by it as a whole.  You see, I have always considered this one of the best Bond films since I was like 5, and everything I remembered about it wasn’t as cool as I remembered it.  That’s frustrating.  While nothing in this is as bad as the previous 2, it’s still lacking.  The first half of the movie is kind of like a mystery as Bond and XXX go from location to location trying to figure out who is behind all of the submarine disappearances.  There’s some entertaining stuff.  A few fistfights between Bond and Jaws (including another scuffle on a train), and Stromberg killing a traitor by having her fall through a trap door in an elevator, into a pool of sharks.

The second half is better though.  We get to see Bond’s awesome white lotus that has all the cool gadgets you would expect from a Bond film.  Love the sand, oil slick, machine guns and missiles.  And then it turns into a submarine.  I’m going to buy that car someday, and if it doesn’t turn into a submarine when I drive it into the Ocean, I’m going to be pissed!  But the underwater fight with the sub/car isn’t as awesome as I remembered it.  It looks pretty cheap actually.  I do love how Caroline Monroe, while chasing Bond in a helicopter, winks before she tries to kill him.  I love how Moore just nods back, smirking at her.  That’s the Bond I remember.  The finale has Bond and a bunch of sailors blowing up bad guys in those typical chaotic battles in a Bond film.  It’s kind of fun.  I also love how Bond gets the better of Jaws at the end.  Ridiculous, but it made me smile.

Roger Moore is still good as Bond, but after only 2 flims, he already looks a bit tired.  But I guess he looks great for being 50, though.  He’s more laid back this time, but it fits his jokey personality more.  Barbara Bach looks like a Bond girl, though she manages to look both attractive and ugly at the same time, which is weird.  But her acting… uff da!  Not good.  Every line she utters sounds like she’s reading from a cue card.  She’s flat (not her chest) and lifeless.  Curd Jurgens quite possibly may be the most boring villain of the Bond series.  He’s an out of shape old man who can hardly move, so there’s no threat there.  And then he just mumbles about how much he loves the sea.  He’s a very unintimidating, dull villain.  And his final confrontation with Bond was pretty anti-climatic.  Richard Kiel, of course, is great as Jaws.  He’s kind of like Wile E. Coyote.  Even though he fails miserably with every attempt to kill Bond, he still comes back unscathed.  It’s silly, but I think it’s fun.  Q has some good lines this time, but I found M to appear bored and tired.

Director Lewis Gilbert return to the director’s chair (he did YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE).  He certainly knows how to film decent action, but some of the pacing of other scenes are a bit sluggish.  The screenplay could’ve also used a pick me up.  It’s all right, but I think needed to be punched up a bit.  John Barry again didn’t return as the composer.  This time Marvin Hamlisch takes over, and though I loved some of the disco-flavored soundtrack, most of it is uninspired.  I also think it sounded like it wasn’t recorded screen specific.  It sounded like Hamlisch recorded it before the movie was finished and the filmmakers just cut and pasted the music as they pleased.  It’s kind of choppy.

There’s still some things I liked.  I had a half-smile through most of the running time.  I do love the design of Atlantis and thought the escape pod was pretty cool.  But what the hell was going on at the very end?!?  It ends with Bond saying something silly, then the credits role as (what sounds like) a bunch of sailors singing the gayest version of Nobody Does it Better you could ever hear.  What. The. Fuck!  I laughed my ass off!  But seriously, what were the filmmakers going for there?  How did they think people were going to respond to that?  It’s pretty hilarious.

So I guess the major point of this review is that THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is not as good as I remembered it.  All of its chases and action were much better in my memories.  In reality, they’re a bit lackluster.  None of the film is bad (except for Bach).  There is a little bit of nostalgic enjoyment I got out of it, but as it finished up, I had a feeling of disappointment.  ★★½ (out of ★★★★)

– Rated PG but would be PG13 today for lots of violence, sensuality and innuendos, and brief partial nudity (side boob).

– Running time: 2hrs 5min.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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1 reply

  1. He’s certainly not as threatening as Scaramanga, but Stromberg is incredibly evil and fun to watch, and likable. Just when you think the two professors make it out alive, and he is actually going to pay them, he blows them up and takes the money back, And he is one of the only villains up till now to actually take a shot at Bond. He acts more like the original Blofeld, very focused, very passive aggressive, very immobile, yet very threatening. The innuendos are hysterical like pulling him out of Hungary, ” I had lunch, but I haven’t had dessert.” and “When in Egypt….dulve into the treasures!” And Moore in this movie is not less energetic to me. He is just more focused on the job, and less of an alcoholic. He never drinks in this film, and he only goes for a drink once the mission is over. Connery Bond lost mental patience for his work and had to drink a lot more to stay relaxed. Bond could not even resist himself in You Only Live Twice at the mini bar built into the wall, after beating up the henchman. His work gets to his head more than Moore Bond, who in this film did not even stick around for one taste of his martini at the Egyptian bar. Yeah, the terrace roof fight scene is a little choppy, but not that distracting. This film has a great blend of characters, action, romance, and story. Well paced, well scripted, well scored, well directed, and it is hilarious, especially the ending with the gay sailors. And come on, how sick is Jaws killing that shark?! Such a great idea. With the ending, they emphasized Moore’s strong ability to pull through, as well as his charming influence over XXX, a strong leading woman who is not a wimsy typical Bond girl, who he saves her life twice. Overall this has to be one of my favorite Bond movies, when I finish them all, I will know if any of them do it better as the song goes. I am sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much around this time!

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