After a somewhat dismal sophomore appearance as our illustrious secret agent, Roger Moore returned for a third film.
In many ways, The Spy Who Loved Me was a crucial production for the franchise. It marked the departure of Harry Saltzman from the production team, having been forced to sell his half of the franchise for £20 million due to financial struggles unrelated to the Bond franchise.
After some difficulty in finding a director, the script was nearly ready to reach its final draft, but due to legal troubles connected to Kevin McClory’s injunction against Eon Production’s use of the character Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his criminal organization SPECTRE, the script had to undergo more revisions.
On July 7, 1977, The Spy Who Loved Me debuted at (you guessed it) the Odeon Leicester Square in London. The film released to rave reviews and was lauded for its smart treatment of the Bond character, exceptional acting, and clever plot.
The film opens with the disappearance of both a British and a Russian nuclear submarine. Bond is sent to investigate for the British and a Russian agent named Anya Amasova is sent by the Soviets. They encounter each other when following a lead that takes them to Cairo, Egypt. Here our hero is introduced to the iconic henchman, Jaws, who murders multiple possible informants. Not too long after, Bond and Amasova discover that both their governments are working together to discover what’s going on and where their nuclear submarines have gone.
It’s worth noting here that despite the cheesy opening sequence, I’d have to say that I was more than impressed with the stunt work. I mean, look at this!
Roger Moore is really looking comfortable in his role as Bond and has clearly made it his own. While I certainly liked Moore in his previous both Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, neither of those two films were all that good. In The Spy Who Loved Me we finally see Moore strut his stuff as Bond in a film worthy of his talents.
Unfortunately, Barbara Bach was less than impressive as the Bond girl. She was stiff, uninteresting, and dry. Amasova was far more nuanced than Bach was able to convey, and her acting skills left a lot to be desired. I found her to be stiff, and her execution of the script was subpar. She had little to no facial expression, and the way she delivered her lines came across as though she were reading a technical manual.
The villain Karl Stromberg was a welcome change of pace. It was beginning to feel like Roger Moore’s Bond films were going to be left with weak and unimaginative villains. Stromberg was dominant, frightening, and powerful. He evoked memories of villains like Dr. No and Auric Goldfinger while not becoming too derivative. I was pleased with the redirection.
So far, Roger Moore has done well as Bond. I’m not a terribly big fan of his films (with the noteworthy exception of this one), and despite this film’s success, it still pales in comparison to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If this is Roger Moore’s standout film, that’s unfortunate because both Sean Connery and George Lazenby had one outstanding film each (Goldfinger for Connery and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for Lazenby), and The Spy Who Loved Me doesn’t even come close to the quality of those two.
There’s still plenty more of Roger Moore to see, so I’ll reserve judgment on his tenure as Bond for a later date. For now, on to the next film in the series…