When a British and Russian nuclear sub go missing, secret agent James Bond teams up with his USSR counterpart Major Anya Amasova to find them. The investigation leads them to billionaire shipping magnate Karl Stromberg, who has a crackpot scheme to destroy life on the Earth’s surface and create an undersea kingdom.
Roger Moore’s third outing as Bond is undoubtedly his best. After the more streamlined secret agenting of The Man With A Golden Gun, Cubby Broccoli (here producing 007 for the first time without co-producer Harry Saltzman) decided to return to the outlandish approach of a Goldfinger or a You Only Live Twice. The result is a terrifically entertaining adventure that played all the Bond staples up to the hilt without straying too far into the territory of camp and cliché.
If you wanted to rate The Spy Who Loved Me on an imaginary 007 scorecard, it would score well on almost every Bondian discipline; the plot, basically a rerun of You Only Live Twice (also directed by Gilbert) with the bad guy stealing nuclear subs instead of spacecraft, covers a lot of exotic locations very quickly and keeps the surprises and climaxes coming; Ken Adam’s sets, from Stromberg’s underwater lair to the astonishing submarine pen (the first set built on the specially built 007 soundstage at Pinewood), are pure brilliance; Jaws, the 7ft assassin with metal teeth, is that rare thing in a Bond henchman — someone who is a real match for Bond; Barbara Bach is a Bond girl with guts (at least for the first two thirds) outwitting 007. And the action stuff is uniformly gripping, from the iconic opening ski chase that sees Bond ski off a mountainside only to be saved by a Union Jack parachute to a terrific Bond-Jaws fistfight among Egyptian ruins to a car chase that results in Bond’s Lotus Esprit transforming into a submarine to a grandstanding finale in the submarine pen that sees kidnapped sailors join forces with 007 to battle it out with Stromberg’s men. It even has a terrific song, Nobody Does It Better, that unusually centres on Bond rather than the villain. If there are minus points, Curt Jurgens’ Stromberg is a colourless Rent-a-Bond villain and some of the effects (considering it was made in the same year as Star Wars) are just laughable. But Spy is perhaps the one Bond flick that Roger Moore’s lighter approach feels right. His cocked eyebrow, his pitch-perfect delivery of terrible one liners (“Do you know any other tunes?” as Anya grinds the gears while driving) sits right at home with Gilbert’s jaunty tone. It may not be Fleming but it is terrific fun.
This has a keen sense of patriotic self-mockery , for example: a smirking Bond, caught in bed by his superiors, insists that he is indeed “keeping the British end up.”