The James Bond Rewatch: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)

After two shaky movies, is the third time a charm for Roger Moore’s James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me?

While The Man with the Golden Gun felt small in many ways (cast, villains, scope), The Spy Who Loved Me returns to a grand scale with ambition to match. It also apes many elements of the best Bond movie to date – From Russia With Love. Is it a hollow retread or a thrilling update?

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert, with Roger Moore as James Bond (for the 3rd time)

The Theme Song: “Nobody Does It Better” performed by Carly Simon

The first theme song to not share the title of the movie, “Nobody Does It Better” is nonetheless a smashing success. Like “Live and Let Die” before it, it would go on to have a long life outside of the Bond films and stand on its own as a pop hit. With lyrics that aren’t too cloying (or overly sexualized) and featuring impeccably catchy production, “Nobody Does It Better” raises the bar for Bond themes and takes the crown for best one yet.

The Plot

With British and Soviet submarines mysteriously disappearing, MI6 calls in Bond from the field to investigate. He’s busy “expanding the vocabulary” of a young woman in Austria, but is soon ambushed by Soviet agents in a mountain top ski chase. He jumps off a cliff, using a Union Jack parachute in a stunt that’s equally spectacular and dangerous (and filmed in Canada!)

“Many lady friends but married only once, wife killed-” – Anya’s assessment of Bond

The main plot finds Bond teamed with Soviet Agent Triple X (note to screenwriter – try harder) aka Anya Amasova (played by Barbara Bach) to solve the mystery of the sub’s whereabouts. The chase leads them from Egypt to Sardinia to a massive supertanker and underwater base. Stromberg is the megomaniacal villain this time around, replacing frequent Spectre foil Blofeld who couldn’t be used due to rights issues. The plan this time – with no ransom or elaborate motive, the marine-loving Stromberg simply wants to kickstart a nuclear war and begin a new life under the sea! (“Homer, that’s your solution to everything.“)

James The Fighter

Curt Jurgens is Stromberg, a rather underwhelming villain and obvious Blofeld stand-in who ends up with very little screentime. He’s basically a rich old man who loves the ocean more than people, and he has webbed hands for some reason too. The villain department is fleshed out by his henchmen, a bald guy who Bond promptly kills and the great Jaws. As played by Richard Kiel, Jaws is a towering, silent killer who uses his crazy strength and metal mandibles to hound Bond and Anya.

Jaws bites things. It's what he does.

Jaws bites things. It’s what he does.

Jaws is a great addition to Bond’s Rogues Gallery and would prove to be an enduring henchman. When he peels a car like a can of tuna you know he means business. There’s multiple fight scenes between him and Bond, with the best showing Bond really at a disadvantage, which ups the stakes considerably.

The Spy Who Loved Me also features a stellar car chase that turns into a helicopter, forcing Bond to drive his car off a pier at which point it turns into a frickin’ submarine. The finale harkens back to You Only Live Twice‘s large scale battle, and pits Stromberg’s forces against Bond and the liberated submarine crew. It’s a big, sustained set-piece and just keeps building as the situation gets more dire for 007 (he even runs out of bullets at one point, a rarity in these films). It’s well staged and all the better for showing that sometimes Bond can’t do it alone (although Anya is unfortunately sidelined as a hostage).

James The Lover

Barbara Bach is gorgeous and capable in the role of Anya/Agent XXX. There’s some palpable chemistry between her and Roger Moore’s 007 and she gets the chance to pull one over on Bond on a few occasions, going as far as seducing him then knocking him out. Tables turned!

Much of the movie depends on their banter and interplay, which is well written but often kind of stilted. It’s also revealed that Bond killed Anya’s former lover, a Soviet agent (“In our business people get killed, it was either him or me”). This adds a new wrinkle to their relationship as Anya threatens to kill Bond on multiple occasions (and Bond kind of, sort of has to answer for his wanton violence and destruction, but not really).

“When necessary, shared bodily warmth for survival.” – Anya’s Siberian training

Besides Anya, Bond is in bed with a woman in the cold open and also spends the night with some Egyptian women when meeting a contact there (his cheesy line: “When in Egypt, one should delve deeply into its treasures”). Moore’s Bond is an incorrigible cad and his antics here are no exception. He even gives other women elevator eyes in front of Anya, which seems like bad form but somehow Moore sells it without coming off like a total scumbag. Must be the accent.

Iconic Moments

  • MI6 has a base in a pyramid this time! I’m sure these crazy locations will get tiring after a while, but not yet
  • Speaking of bases, Stromberg has both an impressive underwater lair (Atlantis) and a giant supertanker capable of swallowing enemy submarines whole (the Liparus)
  • Even now I’d argue that the opening ski stunt is still impressive. It must’ve been doubly spectacular when it first debuted
  • Jaws is a villain for the ages, something the producers must’ve known as he’s dropped into a shark tank at the end of the film but bites his way out (!), living to fight another day
  • The soundtrack is very of its time, with heavy synths and wah-wah guitars, but is fun once you get on its wavelength
  • If you were wondering if Bond and Anya finish the film with the now-typical boat-based coitus then wonder no more, the answer is a resounding YES

The Verdict

The Spy Who Loved Me is top-to-bottom Bond goodness. Moore finally grows into the role and the movie surrounding him is equally on point. Exotic locations, a storyline that hums along, great action and a convincing leading lady all help to make this Moore’s best entry yet and one that can actually stand up to some of Connery’s better efforts. Plus it has Jaws, funky 70’s music and Moore rides what is essentially a Scooty Puff Jr. when he goes after Stromberg.

Updated Rankings

  1. From Russia With Love
  2. Goldfinger
  3. Dr. No
  4. The Spy Who Loved Me
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. Live and Let Die
  7. Thunderball
  8. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  9. The Man with The Golden Gun
  10. Diamonds Are Forever

James Bond will return in Moonraker


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