James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – “The Spy Who Loved Me”

“The Spy Who Loved Me”

1977

Bond: Roger Moore

Classic, Cheese, or Crap?: CLASSIC

“The Spy Who Loved Me” was Roger Moore’s third film as James Bond. After the decent “Live and Let Die”, and the abysmal “The Man With the Golden Gun”, the Moore era knocked one out of the park.

It kicks off with the most famed intro sequence in series history. The introduction of Agent Triple X, the ski chase/shootout, then the jump off of a seemingly bottomless cliff… until the Union Jack parachute unfurls and “Nobody Does It Better” begins to play.

It’s the greatest Bond theme song ever, and perfectly suited for the movie. Its gentle piano riff intro is a sweet segue into the title card sequence from the action packed intro. Composed by Marvin Hamlisch, with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, and performed by the incomparable Carly Simon, the song was a hit on both the US and UK charts and was nominated for an Academy Award (it lost to “You Light Up My Life” – seriously). It clocks in at #67 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Songs.

Moore is at his best as Bond here. Suave and funny, but not yet overly comical, he owns the role here. In the physical scenes he’s holding his own (as opposed to later films where stunt doubles were over-used), and when the time comes to deliver a quip, he’s at the peak of his glib powers.

He’s given a great Bond girl to work alongside, the gorgeous Barbara Bach. Attractive and intelligent, Agent Triple X is Bond’s Soviet alter ego. She’s also given a deeper “backstory” than most, with her ex-lover having been killed by Bond in the line of duty – a fact which complicates their relationship. It’s far more than the average Bond Girl brings to the table. Thus, to me, Barbara Bach should definitely be near the top of any serious “Best Bond Girl” list.

But perhaps the biggest selling point of “The Spy Who Loved Me” is the introduction of one of the series most iconic villains – the metal-toothed, unstoppable henchman, Jaws. Played by 7′ 1″ actor Richard Kiel, Jaws survives an unbelievable string of events in this film. An initial rough cut test screening actually had Jaws dying, but he proved so popular that the final film was changed. He proved so popular upon release that he was brought back for a second consecutive film (“Moonraker”). He undeniably left his mark on the franchise. It’s hard to think of Bond Villains and NOT think of the gleaming, metallic, menacing smile of Jaws.

The movie itself is the perfect balance of world threatening plot, great action sequences, and great gadgets. The villain himself, Stromberg, is actually one of the “droll” Bond Villain varieties. He’s upstaged by his own henchman, in my opinion. But he does sport an underwater lair. Which is a great excuse for Bond to bust out the ultimate Bond gadget of all – the white Lotus Espirit with fully functional submarine mode. Yes, in an unforgettable sequence, Bond drives his car underwater, evading capture and performing reconnaissance on Stromberg’s Legion of Doom-esque Lair.

“The Spy Who Loved Me” is certainly the high point of the Moore era. It’s inarguably one of the most classic entries in the entire franchise. It’s one of those moments where everything was firing on all cylinders – the song, the girl, the gadgets, the villains…

“The Spy Who Loved Me”?

Nobody Does It Better.

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47 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese, or Crap? – “The Spy Who Loved Me”

  1. I’m forced to admit that it is in the Classic category, as well. At least for the Roger Moore era. I’ll also agree this was his best effort during his stint as Bond and the all the key pieces (supporting cast, set action pieces, script, music, etc.) were in place and put to grand use. Moore never clicked with me as others did as the iconic movie spy in the series, but he did have his moments. This being where the majority of them exist.

    Another splendid post in the series, Fogs. Well done.

    • Thanks buddy :D I’m happy people enjoy them.

      But wow, man. You’re a bigger Moore hater than I am I guess, huh? You were pretty begrudging there! :D

      Overall, Moore’s one of my least favorite Bonds, and most of the the ones of his I DO like tend to be Cheese.

      But on this one? This is straight up gold.

  2. Nice review, Fogs! This is actually one of my fave Roger Moore Bond flicks, my brothers & I watched this a lot when I was growing up. It’s a bit cheesy in parts, yes, but it’s got a lot of fun, enjoyable stuff to counter that. I do love Jaws, I mean he’s such an iconic character and that scene by the Sphinx is pretty suspenseful. Barbara Bach is very sultry with her down to there neckline, wow, but I do like the backstory of her character. “Nobody Does It Better” is also one of my fave Bond songs, and y’know what, this is my first intro to Mozart, believe it or not. I mentioned that in my Mozart post that I LOVE the music that’s playing as Stromberg’s lair came up above water. I had to search for and that’s how I come to love Mozart’s music, ahah.

    • Thanks Ruth, I’m glad you agree! Yeah… Jaws is pretty much top of the heap when it comes to the Bond rogues gallery, if you will. I think he’s an iconic villain for all movies, not just the Bond series.

      I love “Nobody Does It Better” – I cant say enough about it.

      This movie introduced you to Mozart? Who knew! The Spy Who Loved me… classin’ the world up!! :D

      Thanks for chimin’ in Ruth!!

  3. I read somewhere that Stromberg was originally supposed to be Blofeld, but due to some kind of legal wranglings, they had to change him.

    Great Bond movie, and one of my all time favorites. Glad you found it to be a classic.

  4. Afraid I cant come along for the ride with you on this one, buddy. This movie is cheese, more cheese with an additional helping of cheese on the side. And the theme song doesn’t even crack the top 3 for me (Live and let die, Goldfinger, and A View to a Kill (Yeah, Duran Duran. Sue me.)

    It’s got a friggin’ SUBMERSIBLE LOTUS FER CRYING OUT LOUD! How do you get any cheesier than that?

    Nobody does it chedder
    Makes me feel brie for the rest
    Nobody does it half as gouda as you
    Baby bel, you’re the WENSLEYDALE!

    • Tank Sr. put it best (above). He was like “Classic with a side of cheese…” that’s how I see it. Not like it can be taken entirely seriously, bro, but it’s so good I can’t just call it straight up “cheesy”…

      I’m locked in on my stance on the song though. Were this a debate team debate, my rebutal would consist entirely of the phrase “Crazy talk”. Repeated as many times as necessary.

      Mad, mad, mad props though for supporting your vote with made up lyrics. That’s the type of phenomenal contribution to this site that I try to encourage -you know- wholeheartedly. :D

    • The cheese contingent rollin’ through the house!

      Tank Sr. opened the door and now it’s madness. I’ve already admitted there’s a cheese factor, I wonder how this thread winds up going now!

  5. “It’s the greatest Bond theme song ever”

    Um, no, lol, it is pretty good though.

    I will agree, the movie is classic, but I do feel it’s overrated. It’s often described as one of the best in the series, right up there with From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, and I don’t feel it’s even on there level.

  6. Weird, I called Carly Simons out last night for having the greatest theme song too, you just can’t beat it. As much as I dislike the Moore era, this is undeniably a classic. Not sure if this link will work (can’t get YouTube in the office) but Alan Partridge describing the intro is absolutely priceless –

    Also, disagree a little on Golden Gun… Christopher Lee makes that film for me, definitely one of my favourite villains – but yea, the story isn’t the best.

    Been loving reading the Bond Reviews lately, great feature :)

  7. Hmm, I’m not sure. I think it’s a classic for Roger Moore, but there are elements of cheese that I can’t forgive it for. The submersible Lotus being one of them. Though the ski chase/shoot out was amazing. And still stands up right now. The scene where Bonds jumps off with the union jack parachute is an iconic film scene. I think for that reason alone, maybe this film should be called a classic.

  8. I got your back on “Nobody Does It Better”. Been too long since I’ve seen the movie to call it C/C/C. I do remember Barbara Bach’s legs and thinking they should get an Academy Award.

  9. I’m anti-Moore as far as Bond goes, but I can’t really deny that this is a pretty good Bond film. Choose another damn Moore Bond picture next time so I can go on about how much I hate it.

      • I could go back. But that feels like cheating. I missed my opportunity with the previous entries. Then again, I really don’t like Roger Moore and I love complaining about things.

      • There’ll be plenty of opportunities lined up here this year to get your bashing in.

        Haven’t mapped it all out yet, but I’m going to make this place Bond City somehow pre-Skyfall. :D

  10. Another excellent summation and I agree completely. This movie had me saving money for a white Lotus almost immediately, and I think I was all of nine. Jaws freaked me right out. The opening title sequence is stylistically nearly perfect, not just the scene into the parachute jump, which had people screaming in triumph in the theater, but the full credit sequence as well. Solid, solid movie.

    • It’s a lot of fun, and easily Moore’s best. You’re right, that opening sequence is pretty much the best in the entire series. Love it.

      The only thing I think is lacking in this one Ernest? The main villain. JAWS was great. Stromberg? Meh.

      • Well, Spielberg/Jaws Stromberg/Jaws… it was Lewis Gilbert’s nod to the blockbuster hit of ’75, which he erroneously believed Spielberg returned in 1978 (with Jaws 2), which in turn Gilbert enthusiastically returned (with Moonraker) after which Spielberg had to say “Really, Lewis? Really?” and release ET like a bawse.

        Gilbert reportedly cried so hard he had to make Educating Rita just to get out the stain.

  11. Apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze.
    Sure some of this is over the top, but it is hard for me to let people bitch about the submarine Lotus, while being perfectly accepting of a parachute in your backpack for skiing. Both have some velveeta on them, and both taste delicious.

    Classic: Theme song (but only the fourth or fifth best of the series.
    XXX, a great counterpart and romantic interest/antagonist
    Pre-title sequence
    Jaws

    Cheese: The Lotus
    Stomberg’s Underwater fortress

    Crap: Stromberg, the web fingered evil billionaire.
    No Felix Leiter
    I also got a little bored with the sign off double entendre

    Here is my post from my AMAD project two years ago:
    http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2010/06/spy-who-loved-me-1977-movie-day-day-29.html

    • OH. Whoaaa…. fourth or FIFTH? LOL You’re crazy! NOBODY does it better Richard. Nobody! :D

      I agree, Stromberg sucks. He’s one of the weak points for SURE. Thankfully, he’s saved by the strength of his henchman, Jaws. Who does, indeed, rule. :D

      I never even thought about the fact that Felix Leiter isnt in this one. But he’s not in all of them, I suppose, so…

      Definitely cheesy, but awesome. I really like this one. Easily my favorite Moore Bond. No doubt.

      • 1. Goldfinger
        2. Live and Let Die
        3. From Russia With Love
        4. Nobody Does it Better (Maybe)
        5. A View to a Kill (Maybe)
        6. Thunderball (Maybe)

        The last three here are constantly shifting in position. For instance, in my head right now is Tom Jones hitting that last chorus on Thunderball, man does that kick butt.

      • Ohhhhhh cmon, RICHARD!

        “From Russia With Love” above Carly? Noooooooooooo…….

        LOL No way!! That piano intro, the smoky vocals, her high notes? Oh my lord. She crushes!!! :D

    • Did you see the Listing of all the songs on Dark Horizons. Pretty good and it gives your Carly Her due. The Adele song is going to drop everyone except Shirley Bassey a spot.

      • I’m not going to listen to the new song early… I enjoy hearing the new song as I see the movie for the first time.

        On my phone now, but pretty sure I checked out that list… You had posted it earlier, I did go and check it out then, yeah. :D

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