MI6 trawls the archives to see how critics of the day received Roger Moore's third outing as James Bond in the 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me"...

Time Tunnel: Review Rewind
7th March 2009

New York Times - July 28th, 1977
During the course of "The Spy Who Loved Me," James Bond vanquishes an amphibious building that looks like a giant spider, a 7 foot 2 inch villain with metal fangs, hundreds of hapless extras and one very beautiful broad, but he hardly ever comes to grips with his most insidious adversary, the James Bond formula.

The same conventions that have provided 10 Bond movies with their patent pizazz also serve as a straitjacket, and these days a Bond film is interesting only insofar as it quietly subverts the series' old tricks. Happily, "The Spy Who Loved Me" has its share of self-mockery—not enough for a full-scale send-up, but enough to give shopworn old 007 a shot in the arm.

The motivating sentiment behind the Bond movies has always been envy: the viewer, poor slob, is expected to covet Bond's women, admire his elaborate playthings and marvel at his ability to chase through the desert in evening clothes without getting dusty. Fifteen years ago, at the time of "Dr. No," this sort of thing was a great deal more effective than it is today, because the notion was new and the gadgets could be genuinely dazzling. But by now Bond fans have seen so many fast cars and floozies come and go that they may be almost as jaded as James himself.

Almost, but not quite: Roger Moore is so enjoyably unflappable that you sometimes have to look closely to make sure he's still breathing.


Presented with a fabulous new white Lotus, he drives off impatiently without even examining the car's special accessories (as it turns out, the Lotus can swim). Seduced by a conniving cutie, he looks desperately bored.

Mr. Moore has the anonymous aplomb of a male model—appropriate, because the film is littered with trademark-bearing merchandise — and he seems incapable of bringing much individualized zest to the role. But his exaggerated composure amounts to a kind of backhanded liveliness. Though Mr. Moore doesn't compromise the character, he makes it amusingly clear that hedonism isn't all it's cracked up to be.


The plot this time, which bears no resemblance to that of Ian Fleming's novel, features Curt Jurgens as a shipping magnate determined to destroy the world and Barbara Bach as a Russian agent who grudgingly joins forces with Bond to pole-ax this scheme. Miss Bach is spectacular but a little dim, even by Bond standards; certainly she makes no sense as a master spy who is almost (but not quite) as ingenious as 007 himself.

In all fairness, Miss Bach's is an impossible role: Beauty and brains needn't be incompatible, but maintaining the requisite level of pulchritude of a Bond heroine is such a full-time job that it precludes any other work more strenuous than, say, watching Bond sip his very dry martini (shaken, not stirred).

The film moves along at a serviceable clip, but it seems half an hour too long, thanks to the obligatory shoot-'em-up conclusion, filmed on the largest sound-stage in the world, but nevertheless the dullest sequence here.

Bond's final blowout, however lavishly produced, has long since gotten to be old hat, and besides, it's the attention to smaller details that has helped the series maintain its high gloss.

The theme song, sung by Carly Simon, ranks with Paul McCartney's theme from "Live and Let Die" as one of the most delightful surprises the series has had to offer—even if it is accompanied by footage of a naked woman, in silhouette, doing silly calisthenics on the barrel of an enormous gun.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" has a PG ("Parental Guidance Suggested") rating even though Bond indulges in his favorite means of exercise a little more listlessly than usual. A number of extras are gunned down almost bloodlessly, and arch-villain Curt Jurgens feeds his secretary to a shark.

Variety - July, 1977
As always, story and plastic character are in the service of comic strip parody, an excuse to star the prop department, set designer, stunt arrangers, the optical illusion chaps, and such commercial suppliers as the maker of the sporty Lotus car, a lethal job that also converts to an underwater craft.

When British and Russian nuclear subs start to mysteriously vanish, two agents are assigned by their collaborating governments to jointly crack the case.

Curt Jurgens' arsenal includes the film's gimmick character, a monster human known as 'Jaws', played with robotic finesse by Richard Kiel.

The big action sequences were shot on a specially-built stage with tank at Pinewood Studios outside London.


Time - August 8th, 1977
Jottings found on the screening-room floor after a critics' viewing of the new James Bond film: They'll never top first stunt: skier hurtles off precipice. Long breathtaking plunge. Shucks off skis in midair, free-falls for a while, then opens parachute and floats earthward. Wow.

Does anybody know this flick has nothing to do with 1962 novel of same name, since Ian Fleming nixed sale of anything but title to movies? Does anybody care? All that's left of Bond formula here is 007 character, sexy starlets and gee-whiz gadgets. (Question: What else did it ever consist of?)


Plot seems snipped from previous installments. Bond tangles with female Russian spy: From Russia with Love. They team up against seagoing megalomaniac who captures nuclear subs belonging to both East and West and plans to destroy world: shades of Diamonds Are Forever. Lots of underwater stuff: Thunderball. Also skiing: On Her Majesty 's Secret Service. (Think about: Curt Jurgens, as megalomaniac, pronounces 007's name Bund. This hint he's crypto-Nazi? Farfetched, but can anything be too farfetched in a film like this?)

Amphibian Bondmobile. Series getting awfully ingrown. Sexual innuendo coarser. In London HQ, Bond reported to be on assignment in Austria, meaning he's doing you-know-what in front of fireplace in Alpine hideaway. Thunders M: "Tell him to pull out—immediately!" Only moment of real wit: amphibian Bondmobile drives into sea and becomes two-seater submarine; it veers to elude underwater pursuers, but only after flashing turn signal—for the wrong direction.

New Bond girl, Barbara Bach. Very pretty, especially as seen in cushioned escape bubble. But dewy as a debutante ("Oh! James!"). Hard to believe her as dangerous spy.

Where are the Honor Blackmans and Diana Riggs of yesteryear? Roger Moore, as Bond, a road-company Sean Connery. At least he's improvement on that instant-trivia question, George Lazenby.

Good gadgets: wristwatch radio with tape printout of messages received. Hollow cigarette that blows knockout gas. Flying tea tray that decapitates human target.

Best gadget of all is human one —seven-foot thug with preternatural strength and steel teeth, which he uses to snap victims' spinal cords. Name: Jaws. Orthodontist's nightmare. Running gag is that each time he is dispatched—trapped in building cave-in, flung from speeding train, tossed into shark tank, even torpedoed—Jaws (Richard Kiel) implacably reappears. In his silly, mechanical, likable way, a perfect symbol for Bond films. They're attacked, dismissed, put out of mind, but keep coming back and back and back.

(Nope. Never did top that first Stunt.)

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