IT TOOK more than one demographic to insure that Our Hero would be out there dispatching plutocrats, maniacs and foreigners into the 21st century—such is the lesson of The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond #10, which opened 7/7/77. Seen at the Retro Dome, it will be a trip down memory lane with helicopters firing guns at you.
Who is to say who played the definitive Bond? We just saw a pretty credible Batman made out of Lego brick. After five decades, James Bond is a pretty well-defined blank. Roger Moore had the longest stint at it, even if, as Simon Winder put it, by the time of A View to a Kill, Moore looked like “a burst open yoghurt at the back of the fridge.” Here, in The Spy Who Loved Me, his favorite outing as Bond, Moore had poise, mild manners, a trustworthy and alert chin. He looked very spruce and not completely unserious in black and navy blue, as opposed to the powder-blue tuxes, pastel ski suits and clown outfits he sometimes wore while defending the Crown. This is the film where Commander Bond is in uniform for most of the picture. He dresses up nice.
There’s something fishy about Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), a shipping magnate who lives in what looks like an amphibian version of the Theme Building at LAX. A Roman emperor type with watery blue eyes, he swans around in polyester kaftans guiding his empire of supertankers. Stromberg has just purchased a method to trace the atomic submarines of the U.K. and the U.S.S.R. After taking the usual supervillain precaution of killing his contractors, Stromberg swipes a few pigboats. The disappearances are investigated by the Soviet agent Anya Amasova, Agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) who teams with 007 as a joint-powers operation—”rival companies,” is how Bond puts it. They track the data merchants to Cairo. In a subplot sadly kidded aside, Anya wants a spot of revenge. During the course of an otherwise uneventful day, Bond shot her hairy-shouldered boyfriend.
Bond films always have a geographical balance, the desert giving way to the ocean here, and snow at the beginning. The pre-title has stuntman Rick Sylvester’s insane ski-jump off of Mount Asgard in Nunavut, Canada. The crew also got close to the Egyptian antiquities during a night son et lumiere show at the pyramids. Cinematographer Claude Renoir’s vibrant colors bring out the grotesqueness in a two-shot of a pair of monstrous heads: the Sphinx, and the massive skull of Richard Kiel.
Two inches taller than Andre the Giant, Kiel plays a steel-toothed assassin who goes around biting people, a messy and conspicuous method for an assassin. Mute “Jaws” was so beloved by the masses that they brought him back for Moonraker, the most godawful James Bond film ever made. No similar love, sadly, for Jaws’ unfortunate partner Sandor, played by Milton Reid, who did a lot of henching and who was a runner up for the role of Oddjob in Goldfinger. Dealing with Sandor on a Cairo rooftop, Moore’s 007 shows the ruthless side that sometimes evaded him.
Too frequently the Moore Bonds were a fondue-pot; there are so many moments where you think, “This is how I spent my youth?” when Moore is paused, groping for the right single-entendre.
But there’s no cheese in the production design, and Spy was made in an era when you were allowed to look at the craftsmanship. Ken Adams’ stainless-steel cavern this time was the center of a vast set that cost $3 million. The supertanker Liparus is a 63-foot “miniature.” And Stromberg’s apartments are adorned with Botticelli’s Venus, a curtain for the viewing screen of his man-eating shark tank. If Stromberg is kind of a cold fish, he rises to the usual mad-scientist-ing: “Observe, Mr. Bond. The instruments of Armageddon!” The joke of the 007 films concealed nuclear panic; the biggest Bonds dealt with that terror, with soothing daydreams of apocalypse averted. The fantasy must have worked. We’re all playing together in the snow in Russia right now.
The Spy Who Loved Me
Shows Feb. 21 & 22