4 of 5 stars
The Spy Who Loved Me is Roger Moore’s third turn as 007 and also his best. It’s the only film in the series that can boast it utilized the talents of Stanley Kubrick (as an uncredited lighting consultant—which still counts for something).
After British and Russian nuclear submarines go missing, MI6 and the KGB race against each other to determine who is selling their top secrets. The trail leads to Cairo, where MI6’s Agent 007, James Bond, must outwit the KGB’s Agent XXX, Anya Amasova. MI6 and the KGB decide to team up to root out their common adversary, pairing up 007 and XXX. Together they discover industrialist Karl Stromberg has been hijacking the nuclear subs in order to blow up the planet and create a new civilization under the sea (queue the tune from The Little Mermaid.) The only hitch is Bond had killed Anya’s lover during the pre-title sequence (you never thought something from the pre-title sequence would matter to the plot, did you?). Anya vows to kill Bond once their mission is complete.
Moore’s performance in this movie is the closest he’s ever gotten in hardness to Sean Connery or Daniel Craig. In an early scene, Bond fights one of Stromberg’s henchman, Sandor (Milton Gaylord Reid), atop a building in Cairo. Bond has Sandor leaning over the side of a building, hanging on only by Bond’s tie. Bond asks Sandor for a bit of information. Once Sandor spits it out, Bond casually brushes Sandor’s hand off his tie, causing him to fall to his death. Perhaps this was revenge for Sandor having beaten the hell out of Bond 15 years earlier back when he worked for Dr. No.
This movie also features the best henchman in any of Moore’s films—Jaws (Richard Kiel). The character was apparently created to cash in on Steven Spielberg’s classic monster movie from two years earlier. The fact many people know who the Jaws character is without having seen The Spy Who Loved Me, but even people who saw it can’t really recall the main villain—Stromberg—testifies to the strength of this character.
However, there’s still a persistent feeling we’ve seen this all before. If A View to a Kill was Roger Moore’s Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me is his You Only Live Twice. In YOLT, Blofeld captures American and Russian space shuttles to increase hostilities between the two superpowers, prompting them to retaliate against each other. Here Stromberg does the same thing with British and Russian nuclear subs.
The final sequence of Spy is basically a frame-by-frame remake of YOLT. We get the scene of Bond freeing the captive crews of the submarines, a loud shootout as the crews unite against the villain’s army, the villain hiding out in a control room fortified by metal shutters. Someone on the crew tried to tell audiences this was a remake of YOLT. Shane Rimmer, who plays Commander Carter in Spy, had a bit part as a radar operator in YOLT. In Carter’s cabin, we see a picture of a space shuttle launch that looks a lot like the one in YOLT.
How did the producers get away with blatantly rehashing the same material? For starters, YOLT and Spy were released 10 years apart. Casual audiences wouldn’t have noticed the similarity as they likely would’ve forgotten the previous film over the years, if they had even seen it. Even fans couldn’t be blamed for not noticing. Keep in mind both movies were released before the invention of home video. In those days, if you wanted to rewatch a movie once it was out of theaters, you would have to find a library with a print of the film and have it screened for you, or wait for a random theatrical screening or TV broadcast. Even if a fan noticed the similarity, he or she (who am I kidding?—he) would still continue paying to see each new Bond film in theaters. So the producers really had nothing to lose on the off-chance 1977 audiences realized the newest Bond was recycled from a previous film.
The Spy Who Loved Me was the bright-spot of the Roger Moore era. The end credits promise Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only, but that turned out to be a dirty lie. They would instead cash in on Star Wars mania for the next film, Moonraker.