Even the wimpiest Bonds get the best babes(1977)
With Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Reviewed by JL

     Along with FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is one of the two great James Bond films from the Roger Moore years. But whereas FYEO attains its greatness by returning Bond to his gadget-free roots, TSWLM succeeds by reveling in the campy sense of fun that defined the Moore era, and doing it better than ever. Future Beatle wife Barbara Bach is the toughest and best Bond girl of the 1970s, Curt Jurgens is a quietly dangerous megalomaniac with a mighty spiffy undersea villain's lair, and the steel-toothed giant Jaws (Richard Kiel) is the series' most memorable henchman since GOLDFINGER's Oddjob. Moore would give his grittiest performance as 007 in FYEO; here, he balances his urbane and witty approach to Bond with more toughness than usual for his most well-rounded turn in the role. There might be better Bond films, but THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is as much fun as the series ever got. 4 - JL

We all live in my evil submarine, my evil submarine...     THE SPY WHO LOVED ME plays like an intentional self-parody of the whole Bond series, but a good one. It has almost everything you would ever expect in a Bond movie: ski chases, underwater battles, outlandish gadgets, exotic locales, a beautiful double agent, a memorable henchmen, Bond and a small army battling with evil forces in red jumpsuits along catwalks, and an evil overlord out to destroy the world with nuclear missiles. It also has a tuneful theme song, "Nobody Does It Better", that was a worldwide hit just like the good old days of "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball". I still find Roger Moore to be a little too self-satisfied as Bond, but there are many moments in the film where he surprises me with how good he is at playing his version of the character. 

     Ah, but there are caveats. Marvin Hamlisch's soundtrack is often very good, and just as often it sounds like something out of a cheap 1970s action show. It also disappears for long sections, leaving action sequences to fend for themselves. Sometimes the approach works but other times, the fight scenes could really use some underscoring. Barbara Bach is a classic Bond girl, but I get the feeling that they didn't give her anything too difficult to do because they didn't have faith in her to pull off anything more than looking poutily at Roger Moore. Curt Jurgens too often seems to be sleepwalking his way through the part of Stromberg, the man who wants to destroy the world and repopulate it underwater (yes, a wacky, insane scheme, but what do you expect by now?). Richard Kiel is perfect as the steel-toothed goon Jaws, but the character's cartooniness takes the film in out of the realm of Ian Fleming into the realm of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. Still, THE SPY WHO LOVES ME may be the most entertaining Bond film of the Roger Moore era, even if I prefer the simpler pleasures of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. 

     Ironically, because the "bigger and better" THE SPY WHO LOVED ME was such a huge hit with the public, the powers that be followed up with a similar "bigger and better Bond" film, MOONRAKER, which is almost universally considered to be one of the worst of the series. Again and again, we find the series getting bigger and better, than bloated and overblown, then getting smaller and more character driven, then getting bigger and better... this cycle is what makes following the history of the films so much fun to follow. 3½ - JB

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