No Movie Does it Better
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) 9 out of 10: How does one even score James Bond films? (Call John Barry… cue rimshot). Do you score them against each other or consider them against movies as a whole? Do you take into consideration the various filming and special effects restrictions on the earlier works? Do you take into account the aversion to sex and nudity in some later works? Is Peter Sellers considered a real Bond character? Is George Lazenby? Is Timothy Dalton?
What is the worst Bond film? It’s Thunderball. Which I might add was remade in into a Never Say Never Again, which honestly is also vying for a spot in the bottom five. That script is poison. The best Bond film, however, is a much tougher nut to crack.
The Spy Who Loved Me is undoubtedly in the top five. Or at least my top five. Which admittedly holds less weight after I declared Thunderball worse than Octopussy, the one with Denise Richards, and the one with the invisible car.
The Good: The Spy Who Loved Me is chock full of iconic bits. After a fairly long, and somewhat relaxed by Bond standards, opening sequence, Bond skis off a cliff in a stunt so spectacular it is still remembered forty years later.
Also remembered forty years later is the white Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine (The Spy Who Loved Me also had the first Jet Ski. Literally. Bond is riding the prototype.)
There is a surprisingly good battle on a vast soundstage near the conclusion of the film. The whole movie has a fantastic sense of scale to it.
Speaking of large, 7′ 2″ Richard Kiel as Jaws steals the show. Utterly indestructible and a with a never quit attitude, he is easily the most likable Bond henchman.
If you are making a list of Bond Girls, Barbara Bach is going to be near the top. Even better, her character is one of the well-written Bond girls. Also, Barabara doesn’t like to wear clothing all that much, even by Bond girl standards.
Nobody Does It Better is one of the best theme songs and for my money the discofied Bond theme by Marvin Hamlisch (Bond ’77) really rocks. Both are regulars on my Spotify list.
Plus, there is more. Our proto BioShock villain feeding his secretary to the shark (Okay it’s no Zombi 2 but still impressive), Great scenery, particularly in Egypt. Excellent overall direction and a decent plot with some actual conflict and nuance.
The Bad: There are some “dude really” moments in this film that make it show its age. The miniature effects overall are excellent (and there are a lot of them), but then there will be a scene where a submarine is leaving a burning tanker and someone put a gummy bear on a dock and hoped it looked like a dead body.
The bad guy plans to nuke the earth and to live under the sea (hold on, I have a song stuck in my head.)
Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
Dammit, that song is going to be stuck in my head all day. (You know that is kind of a suggestive tune for a children’s cartoon, now I think about it.) Anyway, our bad guy Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens) has this plan to destroy all life on earth and live in his underwater lair. Just like Hugo Drax in the follow-up Moonraker with his space station.
Except Drax had all these Logan’s Run style supermodel couples and Stromberg is down two female henchmen out of well two. (One (Marilyn Galsworthy) he fed to a shark, the other (the delicious Caroline Munro) Bond killed with a missile from his underwater car. Seriously, the movie has scenes like these to spare.) Point is, Rapture needs women.
Remember when films used to use slide whistles or other sound effects during particularly dumb or slapsticky comedic moments? Yeah, this film does that too.
Last of the bad, has Roger Moore ever not been too old to play James Bond? Forget doing stunts and beating up henchman, I would worry if Roger has the balance and strength to clean the rain gutters.
The Ugly: I have a high tolerance for poor special effects from the old days. Yes, I complained about that one miniature shot above, but that was due to sloppiness (It looked like a third graders’ diorama) rather than miniatures in general. And overall, The Spy Who Loved Me has excellent miniature work. I have a high tolerance for less than perfect CGI, miniatures, guys in Godzilla outfits, squibs, car crashes, puppets, matte paintings, prosthetic makeup, stop motion, and obvious stuntmen. What I cannot stand are bad green screen effects. The Spy Who Loved Me has some doozies, particularly in that opening sequence you are showing your friends to tell them how cool this film is. I hate bad green screen.
Now The Spy Who Loved Me is hardly alone in great films with terrible green screen effects. There are plenty of times you just got to ask why are they filming in a “moving” car if they know it is going to look that bad. There is even a film that is not just plagued with bad green screen, but they also speed up the green-screened film to give an additional sense of speed. That film’s name… Thunderball.
In Conclusion: More memorable scenes than most Bond films with a great Bond Girl, soundtrack and henchman. One of my favorite Bond films.