Monday, September 10, 2012

The Spy Who Loved Me [1977]

The Spy Who Loved Me was a massive hit when it was released in the summer of 1977 (and that's despite heavy competition from a little flick called Star Wars).  Roger Moore considers it to be the best Bond film he made; John Glen considers it the best of ALL the Bond films.  It currently holds an 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In other words, this is a widely-loved and respected film.

It's about to receive some rough treatment from yours truly, though.  Strap yourself in; this one is going to be a bumpy ride.

(1)  Bond ... James Bond

You won't hear me say too many bad things about Roger Moore's performance here.  He's one of the only non-technical elements of the movie that I feel genuinely works well.  He's funny, he's smooth, he's dapper, he's ... well, he's James Bond, is what he is.  He continues here to be a very different James Bond than Sean Connery was, and that was probably the best thing for the series at this particular point in its history.

Some of my favorite Moore moments in the movie:

  • When he's fighting the thug on the roof and the guy has him by the tie, hanging on for dear life, and Bond kills him by slapping his tie out of the guy's hand and causing him to fall off the building.  That's a dick move worthy of Connery's 007.
  • The conversation he has at the nightclub with Anya when she mentions Bond having been married once, and it not ending well.  This is the first time the events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service have been alluded to in any concrete way in the series, and Moore plays it exceptionally well.
  • The fight with Jaws on the train; Moore looks scared to death.  Which, frankly, makes sense: in such close quarters, Bond would probably find it very difficult to gain the upper hand on someone as large as Jaws.  But, true to the character of Moore's Bond, he's got a trick up his sleeve, and prevails in the end.
  • The scene in which Anya figures out that Bond killed her lover.  As in the scene in which Tracy is alluded to, Moore wisely plays this scene completely without humor; it's a serious moment, and he takes it seriously.
  • The scene in which Bond is trying to do away with Jaws once and for all: he smiles to get Jaws to smile, then does the most patently absurd "Look, what's THAT?!?" take ever to get Jaws to look up just in time for the magnet to clamp onto his teeth.  It's a brilliant little Bugs Bunny moment that literally none of the other Bond actors -- except maybe for David Niven -- would have been able to pull off.
  • "Keeping the British end up, sir!"  Classic.

To some extent, watching these movies again is making me sad.  The Bond movies Moore starred in were never -- with one possible exception coming up a couple of movies from now -- as good as Moore was in them; he was always bringing more to the table than the screenwriters and directors seemed to be capable of giving him in return.  If his era had been marked by truly outstanding screenplays and by genuinely gifted directors (as was the case early on in the series), then I think he would have totally been up to the challenge.

Points awarded: 005/007


Main Villain: I may as well level with you: I don't like Stromberg.  He's a lousy villain.  Curt Jurgens does a passable job of playing the role, but only passable; and that's the best thing I have to say about this character.

I may as well level with you a second time: I didn't do as thorough a job of taking notes about The Spy Who Loved Me as I did for the past three or four movies in the series, so I seem to be struggling for things to say to illustrate my points.  Example: I know -- know -- that Stromberg sucks.  However, because my memory also sucks, I don't seem to be able to quite put into words why he sucks.

If I cared about this movie more, I'd go back and watch it again for note-taking purposes.  But I don't, so I won't, and we'll all just have to be zen with that.

Side-note: did you know that Stromberg has webbed hands?  He does.  Here's the proof:

Nothing wrong with that as a villainous character trait in a '70s Bond movie, I guess.  But why is it never mentioned?  Shouldn't it have been foregrounded in some way (or, failing that, removed from the screenplay)?  How odd...

Points awarded (Main Villain):  002/007.  I initially had it a point lower, but decided that while I don't like Stromberg, he doesn't piss me off the way a few other villains do.  So, 002/007 it is.
Henchmen:  I don't need any notes to explain myself on the subject of how bad the henchmen suck.  That can be summed up with one syllable: Jaws.

First, let's get this out of the way: a guy with metal teeth that he can use to bite through all sorts of things is just dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Because it seems to me like if a guy with metal teeth tried to bite through a thick piece of steel, he'd probably just break his jaw, or destroy his gums or both.  Or I dunno, maybe it's totally realistic and I'm just a moron.  If that's the case, then this whole blog is invalid anyways, so I'd may as well press on, secure in my belief that a dude with metal teeth is fucking stupid.

I can hear you asking me now: "But Bryant, is that any dumber than Oddjob using a bowler hat to decapitate a statue in Goldfinger?"  The answer to that question is: no. No, it's not a bit dumber.  The difference lies in how the two characters are used by the writers and directors of their respective movies.  Guy Hamilton succeeded in making Oddjob cool; Lewis Gilbert can only make Jaws suck.

I'll say this, though: Richard Kiel gives it his all.  And from a visual standpoint, there are several effective shots of him hulking over somebody, or just appearing out of nowhere.  But the film wants us to believe that he is both huge AND nimble, and sneaky to boot, and I'd be okay with that if it was consistent.  It isn't; there are several times when Jaws ought to be simply dismantling Bond, and he doesn't.  Why?  Because the screenplay needs him not to.

On the other hand, he bites a shark to death.  I think I'll add a point just for that.  And I'll add another simply out of deference to how well-known and well-loved a character Jaws remains.  Never let it be said I am not willing to second-guess myself.
Points awarded (Henchmen):  003/007
Total points awarded (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.):  002.50/007  

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:  Anya Amasova, Agent Triple X of the Soviet secret service.  On paper, she's a good character; maybe even a great one (although the screenplay fails to actually allow her to, you know, DO much of anything to demonstrate why she's Russia's top agent).

Ah, but paper does not a movie make, does it?

No indeed, and here's the thing: whereas Anya might be a good character on paper, as portrayed by Barbara Bach, she is one of the absolute worst Bond Girls in the entire series.  Bach, to be frank, was not a competent actor.  That isn't her fault.  Pick any thousand people off of the street and you'll be lucky to get 0.25 of them who are competent actors; it's not a skill everyone possesses.  She was -- and is -- an undeniably beautiful woman; she married a Beatle, and if she was good-looking enough for Ringo, she's good-looking enough for anyone.

How in the hell did they get away with this?!?

As an actor, though, she was (at least in this movie) utterly incompetent, and it mystifies me as to how she landed such a major role.

The only good moment she has in the entire movie that isn't related to an excellent use of her legs or her bosom is toward the end, when she and Bond are escaping Atlantis and a huge rush of water comes at them.  Bach looks genuinely terrified, and according to the behind-the-scenes material on the DVD, it's because she WAS terrified; so she did a good job of actually being scared of a huge oncoming rush of water that nearly swept her away.

Not acting.

Still not acting.

Well done.

Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  001/007, and that single point only because on paper the character had some promise.  Plenty of people do it better, in this case...

Secondary Bond Girls:  Well, I'll say this: there sure are a lot of them.

How do you define "Bond girl"?  For a long while, my take on it was that a Bond Girl is only someone who Bond has sex with (or seems likely to have sex with immediately after the movie ends), but this seems too narrow a definition.  I think instead that a Bond Girl can be considered to be any woman who the filmmakers want us to notice as an audience and find desirable because Bond himself has noticed them and found them desirable.  So, in other words, random women in bikinis walking around as extras do not count as Bond Girls, unless Bond himself stops and has some sort of flirtation with them.

By the same token, Moneypenny does not count as a Bond Girl in my book, simply because it is obvious that James does not think of her in that way.  Perhaps this is a conscious decision on his part; that would be arguable, I suppose.  And that's not to suggest that Moneypenny isn't a desirable woman; she is.  It's purely a matter of the type of emphasis the filmmakers are putting on the characters, specifically through Bond's eyes.

Now, with that out of the way, it must be said that The Spy Who Loved Me has a boatload of Bond Girls; WAY more than any previous movie in the series, unless I've somehow been getting it wrong up to this point in the series.

Here, you've got (in addition to Barbara Bach): Caroline Munro as Naomi; Olga Bisera as Felicca; Valerie Leon as the hotel receptionist; Sue Vanner as the lass Bond is bedding in the pre-credits sequence; Dawn Rodrigues as the harem girl into whose treasures Bond seems to be about to deeply delve; and, arguably, two or three additional harem girls.

Let's talk about Caroline Munro for a moment.  She is ... well, let's be restrained and simply say that she was, at this point in time, devastatingly hot.  Can she act?  Well, she's not bad; she exudes a sense of danger, sexual and otherwise.  All things considered, she would probably have been a better choice for the role of Anya than Barbara Bach was.  Granted, that's not saying much; but still.

Naomi isn't much of a character, though.  She's basically just there to ride in a motorboat and then to fly a helicopter.  She's capable, I suppose, but she works for such a moron that it doesn't really much matter.

And now, cheesecake:

I love sci-fi

goodness me...

As for the rest, they're all lovely ladies, but I find them all to be quite annoying as characters.  This movie has a vaguely exploitative feel to it that I don't necessarily always find the movies to be guilty of.  Here, though, it seems as if every woman Bond encounters has to be a hot woman who wants to go for a thigh ride as fast as humanly possible.  One of them, seemingly, is a virgin ordered to lose her cherry to this man!  It's all in rather bad taste, frankly.  It's helped a bit by the way Moore plays Bond (i.e., as someone who isn't quite taking things like that seriously), but on the whole, I find it to be rather distasteful.  As a result, points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls): 001/007.

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  001/007
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:  It's impossible to talk about seriously about James Bond action scenes and/or stunts without talking about this movie's opening scene ... and why would you even try?  Here we have what is simply one of THE great stunts in movie history: a man skis off the top of a mountain and -- eventually -- opens a parachute with a Union Jack on it.  That man was Rick Sylvester, who was not even actually a stuntman; he was just a skier who claimed he could do the jump.  And by God, he did it, and it was glorious.

Elsewhere in the movie, the action is solid; not hugely impressive, but definitely solid.  There is a good hand-to-hand fight between Bond and Sandor on a rooftop, and another between Bond and Jaws on a train.  The scene in which Bond's Lotus is attacked first by a motorcycle, then by a car full of goons, and then by a helicopter, is a good, high-intensity, fun sequence.

The battle to take control of the Liparus is also pretty good.  You can see a few shabby bits of acting from extras and/or stunties, but the vast majority of this lengthy sequence is very solid.  There are a couple of explosions that seem uncomfortably close to people:

Points awarded (Action/Stunts): 006/007.  This is mostly on the basis of the big ski jump, but the rest of the action is suitably good enough to make me feel good about going this high.

Editing:  The cutting on this film was handled by John Glen, and it's mostly quite good.  The scene that stands out in my mind is the one in which the owner of the nightclub is killed by Jaws; it's intercut with the performance of the whirling dervishes, which adds an element of exotic tension to the scene.  It's an obvious device, but an effective one.

I could probably -- and should probably -- mention a dozen other scenes that work well from an editing standpoint, but in the interest of moving things along, I'll simply say that the editing allows the movie to move at a steady pace.  It never feels particularly boring, nor does it feel particularly hectic.  It's just consistent and effective, and helps to distract from the massive deficiencies present in the screenplay and some of the performances.

Points awarded (Editing): 006/007.

Costumes/Makeup:  Alright, lookit: I'm no expert when it comes to fashion.  Hell, I'm not even a talented amateur, or even an interested amateur, for that matter.  So when it comes to this subsection, what I say must be taken with a big old grain of salt.

That said, the men's fashions in this movie are considerably less impressive than is typically the case in Bond movies.  Roger Moore looks pretty good in his naval uniforms, and also in the tux he wears in the nightclub scene.  Elsewhere, he looks a bit like he's been the victim of a radical downsizing in wardrobe budget; and don't even get me started on that canary-yellow ski suit he wears.

Stromberg's outfits are somehow both ludicrous AND boring, all at once.  As for Jaws, I appreciate the humorous way in which he is shown to be rather fastidious about his appearance, and I kinda like the suspenders he rocks in the one scene.  However, when Richard Kiel is arguably the best-dressed man in the movie, you've got a problem.

Things are better for the ladies.  Barbara Bach gets to wear several smashing outfits, including a stunning dinner dress and a stunning nightgown and stunning ... whatever that is Stromberg dresses her in once he takes her captive.

Caroline Munro also looks quite good in her various outfits, but in all honesty, she could probably have looked good while wearing Richard Kiel's wardrobe.

Final mention: Jaws' teeth, which I suppose count as makeup and not as a special effect.  They aren't convincing in terms of the plot, but visually, they are very convincing indeed.

Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup): 005/007.  Seems like it ought to be higher, but I'm deducting a point for the poor men's fashions.

Locations:  Doesn't get a heck of a lot better than this.  The Sardinian locations are gorgeous, as are all of the Egyptian locations (the desert, the river, the various ruins ... all are excellent).

The production also got some solid use out of a submarine base in Scotland.  The scene in which Bond and the defense minister are doing a walk-and-talk while a sub sails in behind them is pretty outstanding.

Points awarded (Locations):  007/007

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  006/007
(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  The best Bond-ally characters are the ones who serve as father-figure mentor-types for Bond: Kerim Bey in From Russia With Love, for example, or Marc-Ange Draco in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  There's none of that here; the screenplay doesn't have room for it, since it instead needs to focus on the idea of Bond teaming up with the Soviets.  So, technically, we get to count Anya in this category, which means we get to lower the score accordingly.

Truth be told, though, none of the other supporting allies are very memorable either.  We get the first appearance of Geoffrey Keen as Defense Minister Gray; he'll be around for the next several films, and he decent, but that's the best I'd say for him.

We also have Walter Gotell playing General Gogol (the Russian version of M) for the first time; he, technically, counts as an ally here.  He, like Keen, is decent and not much more.

Neither M nor Moneypenny make much of an impression this go-round, and while we get the wackiest visit to Q's lab yet, it makes SO little sense for Q to be set up that way in the field that it -- for me, at least -- blunts the fun of the scene.  However, Q gets in a solid jab at Bond: when 007 asks Q if he has ever let him down before, Q answers, disgustedly, "Frequently."

All in all, though, this is a weak effort.  Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  001/007

Direction:  Given how much I dislike the movie, you might reasonably expect me to rake director Lewis Gilbert over the coals.  In fact, I think he does a fairly good job here.  Tonally, almost everything seems of a piece, whereas it might very easily have lurched into silliness.  And visually, there are some very nice shot compositions:

Gilbert shoots all of the scenes on the submarines quite well, and I also like the scene in which Bond and Anya are stalking Jaws through the ruins.  It falls apart once they "find" him; but up until that point, it's quite nice.

Gilbert's best work here, though, might be the sequence on board the train in which Bond is trying to get Anya in the sack and she is shooting him down.  She clearly intends to let him dangle for a while, and then mount him, but it never gets to that point, because she opens up a closet and finds Jaws.  This must be quite a surprise the first time you see it, and Gilbert keeps the scene so focused on the will-they-or-won't-they tension that unless you've seen the movie before, you never see Jaws coming at all.

I'd also like to point out that this scene slightly anticipates the Indiana Jones movie: the shots of Bond and Anya with the door between them, contemplating each other, is similar to the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in which Indy and Willie have their own will-they-or-won't-they scene.

And once Jaws is dispatched and Anya begins tending to Bond's wounds, it's hard not to think of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Marion doctors Indy a bit.  The scene between Bond and Anya doesn't go to the same places, humor-wise, but it's easy to imagine Spielberg and/or Lucas seeing it and thinking, "Hmm, I know how to do a better version of that..."

Points awarded (Direction): 004/007

Cinematography:  Shot by Claude Renoir, The Spy Who Loved Me is undeniably one of the best-looking movies in the entire series.  I'll just let a few of the images speak for themselves:

Points awarded (Cinematography): 007/007

Art Direction:  As with the cinematography, it's hard to find much of anything bad to say about the art direction and production design.  Ken Adam was back (after having made Barry Lyndon for Stanley Kubrick), and Adam's designs were so ambitious that they necessitated the building of an entire new stage at Pinewood Studios to accommodate the sets.  Those sets -- for the interior of the Liparus -- are about as grand as sets get; but everything else, from General Gogol's office to the makeshift office for M in the Egyptian ruins to the phenomenal interior of the Atlantis station, is pretty awesome, too.

Points awarded (Art Direction): 007/007

Special Effects:  EVERY shot of the tanker is a miniature; EVERY shot of the underwater car is a miniature.  The pyramids are matte paintings; the flooding corridor seems like an actual flooding corridor.

A few of the miniature shots are a bit obvious, I'll grant you; and there is some lousy rearscreen work in the pre-credits ski scene.  Otherwise, these effects are really quite good.

Points awarded (Special Effects): 006/007

Gadgets:  The big gadget here, I guess, is the Lotus that coverts into a submarine, complete with sea-to-air missiles.  It's dumb as hell, but also kinda awesome.  When I was a kid, I thought this car was maybe the coolest thing I'd ever seen, and you know what?  I still think it's pretty freakin' cool.

Points awarded (Gadgets):  005/007

Opening-Title Sequence:  This is maybe one of Maurice Binder's best title sequences.  It's possibly most notable for being the first of those sequences to include an appearance by the star of the movie.  There's something cool about seeing Roger Moore play Bond in this sequence; it makes the whole thing a bit more concrete in some way.

However, there are also plenty of naked women running about, breasts jouncing all over the place admirably.  Sometimes, they're wearing furry hats, so we know they represent Russians in general (and Anya specifically).

The color design of the sequence is effective, too, based very strongly on the juxtaposition of reds (Russia) with blues (Britain).  The whole thing is rather tasteless, but at least it's got a bit of art to it. Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence): 006/007

Overall points awarded (Q Branch):  005.14/007
(6)  Mission Briefing

I have numerous questions about the events of this screenplay, but life is too short to go through them in detail, so let's restrict ourselves to a few brief key points:

  • What's up with Stromberg's webbed hands?  Why is this not explained in some way?
  • The Liparus has stolen a British sub and a Russian sub, right?  So where is the crew of the Russian sub during the big climactic battle for control of the tanker?  Are they mixed in there and I'm just not noticing?  Either way, they are not included in the story, and that is a majorly wasted opportunity.
  • The timelines of the opening sequence is a complete shambles.  It seems as if Bond and Amasova get their orders more or less simultaneously, and yet the dude Anya is in bed with is then suddenly chasing Bond so that he can get killed by him?!?  It's so botched from a timeline vantage (and, frankly, from a directing standpoint) that it's really not at all clear that the guy Bond kills is the same guy Anya was just in bed with.
  • During the pyramid sequence, why does Fekkish run when he sees Jaws?  Wouldn't it be incredibly more safe to stay with the crowd and try to slip away as everyone is leaving?  Or, better yet, tell the hot Russian spy "Hey, see that giant over there?  He's going to kill me.  Help a bother out...?"
  • Even worse, why THE HELL does Fekkish have a key to that antechamber near the pyramids?  What sense does that make?  Also, he seemingly recognizes Jaws enough to be terrified of him, which means he almost certainly knows what Jaws' ridiculous metal teeth are capable of doing to a chain.  What a moron.
  • Why does Stromberg want to create a nuclear war?  I mean, he seems to want to live underwater or something ... but why?  I don't get it.
  • Does the head of Q Branch honestly have nothing to do in England?  Why does he relocate what looks like his entire department to Egypt?  This seems like a wretched misuse of taxpayers' money to me.
  • If Anya is Russia's best spy, why doesn't she do any cool spy shit?  Theoretically, she ought to be as big a badass as Bond.  But she can't even drive a van properly.  She's not as abominable on this score as Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun; but then again, at least Goodnight is being held up as a nation's finest spy.  Sheesh.
  • Did I mention that Jaws, as a concept, is fucking retarded?
This film also continued the bizarre trend (begun in The Man with the Golden Gun) involving the movie ending with Bond being in one stage or another of putting the hammer to his leading lady, only to be interrupted by M or some other superior officer.  This happens in, I think, at least three of the next four films in the series.

And, finally, they couldn't even manage to get the thing at the end right where they say what the next movie is!

Yes, I know that that is not the screenplay's fault.  So sue me.

Points awarded: 001/007.  The screenplay doesn't work, period.  Some of the dialogue is decent, and that's the best I'll say for it.

Actually, I'll be at least somewhat kinder to co-screenwriter Christopher Wood: he also got the opportunity to write a novelization for the movie, based on his screenplay.  It is considerably better than the movie.  I still wouldn't call it great, by any means, but if you're curious and can find a copy, it's well worth reading in tandem with watching the movie.  Which I didn't do, and that's your explanation as to why I'm not giving any examples of how, specifically, the novelization is better.  A project for some other day!

(07)  The Music

Title Song:  I think I'm safe in saying that most Bond fans consider this to be one of the very best of all the title songs.  It's right up there on my list, too.

Thing is, it probably shouldn't be.  It shouldn't have worked; it's essentially a ballad, a sort of low-key torch song.  It was nothing like any of the previous Bond songs, except that it just had ... attitude.  That's a worthless comment, I know, but it's the best I can do.

Carly Simon kills here, and the lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager are pretty solid, too.  It's a classic.  It was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to "You Light Up My Life," which is proof that when it comes to songs, the AMPAS simply cannot be trusted to make the correct decision.

(Side note: apart from this and "You're So Vain," which is also awesome, I know nothing about Carly Simon, and I wonder if that might not be a mistake on my part.  For example, it had somehow escaped my attention that in her '70s prime, she was hot as BALLS.

with James Taylor

But, as you can clearly see, she was.  As Tow Mater might say, "Dadgum!")

Points awarded (Title Song): 007/007.

The Score:  Sadly, I'm not a fan of most of Marvin Hamlisch's score.  Some people are, I know, and I wish I was; but I'm not.  The music during the pre-credits ski chase is decent in a cheesy way, but its tempo is weird; it starts and stops too many times.  And there is WAY too much cowbell; possibly even too much for Christopher Walken (that's a Saturday Night Live joke, by the way, not a View to a Kill joke).

There is also a weird moment in which the score uses Maurice Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia theme, and I don't care for that, but it doesn't bother me as much as the bizarro snippet of a male-chrous-line version of "Nobody Does It Better" that plays briefly as the film ends.  HUH?!?

There are decent moments, though.  The various instrumental versions of "Nobody Does It Better" all work just fine, and Hamlisch's faux-Egyptian music during the nightclub sequence works quite well while Jaws is killing the club owner.  On the whole, though, I'm just not a fan of what Hamlisch does here; it isn't incompetent, by any means, but it does very little to elevate the movie, and that's the first time that's been true since Dr. No.

Points awarded (The Score): 003/007

Total points awarded (The Music):  005/007

Double-0 Rating for The Spy Who Loved Me:  003.66/007

I wish I liked this movie, but gosh, I really don't.  I love Roger Moore, and the song, and the technical aspects are impeccable.  However, the villains are lame, and the Bond Girls are weak, and the story really just doesn't make a lick of sense.  Long story short: I don't particularly like this movie, and I don't entirely understand why so many Bond fans do.

But I've tried to be at least somewhat deferential toward the movie's reputation, and that combined with the uniformly excellent technical aspects (plus a great Moore performance) has resulted in the movie ending up with a better score than I might have expected.

Seems fair to me!

The tally so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
004.76 -- Dr. No
004.39 -- Live and Let Die
003.77 -- The Man With the Golden Gun
003.66 -- The Spy Who Loved Me
003.09 -- You Only Live Twice 

You Only Blog Twice will return in ... For Your Eyes Only Moonraker


  1. When I did my own re-watch of this one a ways back, I, too, was surprised. I had remembered TSWLM as more serious-minded and then Moonraker was this explosion of silliness. But TSWLM was a hell of a lot siller than I remembered, and Moonraker was better than I remembered, or less cartoonish. (Still plenty cartoonish, but I'll wait to comment on that one.)

    Anyway, lots to comment on here.

    1) Good point on Roger Moore doing more than what the producers and screenwriters ever gave him to work with. (And yeah, that tie-snapping/fall-to-his-death scene is just bad-ass. Stone cold Bold.)

    2) Stromberg is indeed ridiculous. What struck me was just how unbelievably adolescent this middle-aged criminal mastermind was. His underwater lair looked designed by Hasbro, and to exit it, he flies through the air on a speedboat? Surrounded by bikini babes? Is he L Ron Hubbard? It just seemed like he was meant to be taken seriously, but at every turn, he seemed like an old man possessed by a 13 year old boy.

    3) I cannot comment on anything beyond how unbelievably hot Barbara Bach and Caroline Munro are. Really, you expect too much of me. (Speaking of old men possessed by 13 year old boys... it's a subject I know firsthand!) Nah, you're right, of course (and good call on the feel of exploitation, here, vs. some of the others; it IS particularly egregious) but I have always been floored by both BB and CM to a degree that embarrasses and frightens me. I think, all told, the Bond girls in Diamonds Are Forever and this one short-circuited my adolescent brain way back when and I've never seen my way back to sanity; that the girls in question are terrible characters makes it worse. I'd never make double-0 grade.

    4) Can't argue here. This was probably my first introduction to the mystery of the pyramids, actually. (A locale that still has a hold on my imagination.) Lucky bastards, getting to film there. I don't think they'd allow something like this these days.

    5) Excellent screen-grabs. That title sequence always mesmerized as a kid. It's... well, it's beyond ridiculous, even by Bond-title-sequences standards, but I wouldn't change a thing.

    6) I have ALWAYS wondered those very same questions at the pyramids. As a kid, I felt there was a real sense of menace to that scene, but even then the illogic of Fekkish's choices rankled me.

    (And yeah, the whole "it is IMPERATIVE we make VISUAL CONTACT with Bond to congratulate him - OH MY WORD, HE'S HAVING SEX!" business is so weird...)

    Anyway, yeah, when you really start thinking about this story and asking questions, it unravels pretty quickly.

    7) I agree 100% on 70s-era Carly Simon and the title song, but I must part ways on "Bond '77," which has been one of my favorite tunes since I first heard it. I didn't have the soundtrack as a kid, so I just pressed my tape recorder to the TV speaker and recorded it. For years, the version of this song I listened to in my walkman had the added bonus of tape hiss and my-mom-moving-around-in-the-background that my technique couldn't hide.

    1. Yeah, I know, a LOT of people really love "Bond 77." And I don't dislike it, exactly. It just doesn't work on me. (Whereas when we get to Bill Conti's disco-ish score for "For Your Eyes Only," you'll see it's a very different story.)

      On the subject of remaining a 13-year-old boy: it seems unavoidable, really. I mean, look, for most men -- excepting the ones who prefer other men -- I think it is unlikely that we will EVER be able to look at a Caroline Munro and not have some sort of mental jaw drop. As we get older, it does, admittedly, become creepier and more embarrassing, but hey, face it: it's part of our biology, and doggone it, we just can't help it!

      Not sure what Stromberg's excuse is...

  2. p.s. I somehow managed to not comment on Valerie Leon. Track down Blood from the Mummy's Tomb. It's one of those 'Oh My God, How Does Anyone Concentrate When This Chick Exists...' moments (or collection of moments) that make me feel like such an epic failure as an adult.

    1. You know, I think I was distracted by the ugly blouse Valerie Leon wears in "The Spy Who Loved Me"; I didn't really think much of her.

      However, I have put Google Images to work for me, and I see now the error of ways. She was apparently so hot that I think can't straight all of a sudden.

  3. Just like most of these films, I can enjoy this when it's been a very long time since last viewing & I don't expect a lot. The action scenes & stunts are still cool. There's fun interplay between characters, especially in Bond & Anya's rivalry. I think I like this one a little more than you, but you make a lot of good points that I can't argue about. I do notice more things that are lacking now that I'm seeing it as an adult.

    Moore's balletic kicks here are quite graceful, but in the real world only an elderly person would have trouble handling them.

    So Bond is told to go to Egypt to meet Hosein, so that he can meet Fekkesh, so that he can meet Kalba. Kalba is the owner of the Mujaba club, & that's where Bond finds him. Why not go straight to Kalba? Well, then we would've lost 3 scenes of Bond fighting baddies & meeting beauties.

    I didn't mind when I was younger but now I'm a bit distracted by Barbara Bach's acting. Stromberg tells Mistu Bund about his plan to destroy civilization, saying they will destroy themselves anyway. Anya protests, "That does not justify murder." Her delivery has the same drone-like cadence as the one in a romantic scene where she advises "…shared bodily warmth," & almost every line she says. Were they consciously trying to evoke the woodenness of Russian nesting dolls? In the 3 hour Making Of documentary, she's a bit more animated & well spoken. See at the bottom for the link.

    Yes, why not Caroline Munro as Anya Amasova? She acts better. Or did her smoky eyes, come hither looks, & bikini cloud my judgement?

    Q's lab in the Egyptian tomb. Sure, why not set up explosions & arsenal testing there? Egypt has discovered tons of archaeologic artifacts already, no need to be careful inside those tombs.

    And here's that long documentary broken down in sections. It's pretty detailed, may be of interest for hardcore afficionados.

    The Making of the Spy Who Loved Me ('77 same year)
    8 part documentary that totals 3 hrs long, made for the BBC, The Open University
    1 Producing
    2 Designing (at .24) Ken Adam
    3 Also Starring (at .46) Barbara Bach
    4 Shooting Scene 341 (at 1.06) coordinating many extras, 1.20 Jaws working with stunt coordinator Bob Simmons on the train fight
    5 Shooting Scene 341 (at 1.29) fight in supertanker
    6 Shooting Scene 330 (at 1.53) Stromberg confronts Mistu Bund & Anya
    7 Editing & Composing (at 2.17) John Glen, Marvin Hamlisch
    8 Selling (at 2.41) Marketing

    1. I had no idea that documentary existed! I will be downloading it immediately.

      This is another one of those Bond movies that was a favorite when I was a kid, but has obstacles I simply cannot get past as an adult. And Barbara Bach is the largest of them. There is simply no excuse for a performance that bad in a major motion picture. You can't believe for even one second that she is actually an effective agent.

      "Were they consciously trying to evoke the woodenness of Russian nesting dolls?" -- Ha! If so, mission accomplished.

      There is a lot to like about the movie, though. Great stunts, great cinematography, Roger Moore in top form.

      Happy New Year!

    2. Glad you like the documentary. Happy New Year!

    3. Thanks for the link - still working as of August 2017.

      I remember seeing one of these on the BBC at the time - the editing section. Fascinating to watch as a kid how much work went into film-making.

    4. I forgot to come back and comment on it after I watched that. What a documentary! Arguably TOO long, but only in the objective sense; I personally wish there was one of those for every Bond movie. Wonderful stuff.

  4. Great review and commentary on Spy Who Loved Me. Of all the Bond movies, this one has the greatest gap between what I think of it versus what the general consensus is on it. Most fans place it as the top Roger Moore movie and top five of the series overall. I don't get it.

    Starting with Jaws, you don't need a PhD in bio-engineering to know that no matter how strong someone's teeth are, the force of your bite is going to be limited by the strength of your jaw. And a human jaw simply can't cut through a steel cable. Sure there's lot of unbelievable stuff going on in the Bond world, and we all have to choose where we draw the line on it, but for me Jaws is just way too over the top.

    But my biggest complaint about the film isn't Jaws, it's Barbara Bach's performance as Anya. She looks as though she has never acted before in her life. It's probably the stiffest performance I've ever seen from the leading actress in a major motion picture (speaking of stiff, there's no denying her cleavage is some of the best ever put on the silver screen). Are we really to believe this 5-foot 3-inch, 120 pound woman with the personality of a wooden crate is the absolute best secret agent the Soviets have? It's preposterous.

    I agree that the pre-title sequence is very good (but not the best in the series, I rank it number 4). The title song is good (not great), and the car/submarine is awesome.

    My favorite part of the movie is Caroline Munroe as Naomi. I love it when she winks at Bond as she's pursuing him in the helicopter. Too bad she couldn't have survived, taken out Anya, and converted to the side of good (helped along with some bedroom action with Bond).

    1. I agree with pretty much everything you say here. This was the second Roger Moore 007 film in a row where BY FAR the most interesting actress was relegated to second-banana status at best. Caroline Munro here barely has more than a cameo, so she's not even a second banana, really.

      So yes, I totally agree; Barbara Bach is so awful here that it's stunning. A great chest -- and hers is exceptional even among exceptional chests -- is no excuse for a performance this dreadful. It kills the movie for me.

  5. If there was a Mount Rushmore for chests, hers would be on it, but they should given her only a brief cameo role. Maybe a quick shower scene or something where years later guys would go frame-by-frame to get a good look at her.

    Actually, the more I think about it, the whole premise of Bond teaming up with another agent isn't one that appeals to me. Bond should be mostly on his own as he pursues the villain, or if he is with someone else, they should never be Bond's equal. Just my opinion.

    1. I think that theoretically, it's okay for Bond to match up with other agents; and it's even theoretically okay for them to be on the same plane as he is, competence-wise. But it's never really worked. (Well, maybe not NEVER. A couple of the Felixes are successful enough, I suppose.)

      Reason for that: they are always, by definition, second bananas. They are subordinate characters introduced within a James Bond story. Always. The only way to do it differently would be to make separate movies with separate characters and then introduce Bond into THEIR world.

      Or do a crossover. Like, if Paramount and EON decided to make a Bond/Mission:Impossible crossover, that could theoretically work. It'd never actually happen, but one could theoretically imagine it working.

  6. Jaws could have been a hell of a villain. As a kid reading the novelisation where it said that he would bite through the victim's neck and spine (if my old memory serves me correct) certainly raised an eyebrow. The film insinuates this, but really holds back far too much.
    Barbara Bach, a joke of a bond girl
    Nice to see you screen shot her "karate chop" pose where she pulled back from delivering bond a death blow!! Ha ha ha Dreadful martial arts. A friend had a die cast metal model of the lotus where you could hide the wheels a convert it to submarine mode. Lucky bastard.....

    1. That novelization is really quite good, if my own old memory serves. Very Flemingesque; same goes for the "Moonraker" novelization.

      I never had any Bond toys as a kid. Not a single one! I wonder if they just weren't marketed widely in my area or something.

    2. The model was made by Dinky, good quality stuff. UK toy, not sure if ever available anywhere else

    3. Good point -- maybe the 007 toys from my childhood were mostly not a thing in America. Surely I'd have had a few if they were.