James Bond — The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977) 🇺🇸

The Spy Who Loved Me | www.vintoz.com

November 26, 2021

It’s summer 0077 and the most famous spy in Her Majesty’s secret service is back: 007! After three years of well-deserved rest, our champion who vanquished The Man with the Golden Gun has returned to the ring, more determined than ever to rid us of a new enemy, the fearsome Stromberg!

A fiendish megalomaniac to rival the late Scaramanga, he is a sinister presence on the poster, staring at us beneath the sepulchral mask with its protruding nose and a halo of silver rays. Watch out for his piercing gaze – before you know it you’ll be hypnotised! But after the first glimpse he miraculously disappears: in his place is a flotilla of submarines inside the belly of a supertanker, the Liparus. This is the lair of the dastardly Stromberg, played menacingly by Curd Jürgens, previously seen as the good-natured down-and-out hero of Ferry to Hong Kong. He has just escaped on his Atlantis (on the poster’s bottom right-hand corner). He’s concocting an evil plan for an underwater utopia following on from the mass destruction of the world. He has got his hands on two nuclear submarines, one Russian and one British, he intends to use to wipe the cities of New York and Moscow off the face off the earth. His detractors are “whisked away” on a lift that drops them into a shark tank to the lovely strains of Air on the G String by J.S. Bach.

Even more frightening than this particular pet (displayed in all its horror two years earlier by Spielberg in Jaws), another “shark” sinks his (steel) teeth into everything! Richard Kiel gives a suitably hair-raising performance of the 7-foot-2-inch colossus in unforgettably cruel scenes. He uses his astonishing jaws to break a padlock chain, pull the side off a van and bite his enemies to death, all with an effortlessness that makes him almost sympathetic. Even James Bond (Roger Moore) has trouble overcoming this big brute of a man. After trying to electrocute him using a bedside lamp onboard a train, he manages to lift him up by his teeth with a magnet before dropping him onto the waiting jaws of Stromberg’s real shark. In a dramatic twist, at the end of the film we see him swimming in the sea, smiling triumphantly. As my favourite “baddy”, I’m happy to say that he pops up again in a later film, Moonraker.

In the face of such formidable enemies, Bond wisely decides not to act alone. And chooses the beautiful Barbara Bach to help him retrieve the famous microfilm. Swapping her military shapka for plunging necklines, Major Anya Amasova loses no time in teaching our British spy “the rules for survival learnt in Siberia involving shared body warmth”. The lesson speeds up the improvement in “relations” between the two powers. In return, James Bond shows her his gadgets. As skilled at the controls of a jet ski as at the wheel of a rally car, he impresses his partner with his white amphibious Lotus, equipped to get rid of even the fiercest of pursuers on land and at sea. It eventually lands gently on a beach with various swimmers looking on in amazement. He is not as proud of having killed (in self-defence) Anya’s Russian “lover” with a ski pole gun during a crazy downhill chase in the Swiss mountains. She promises Bond that, once their mission is over, she’ll get her revenge. What do you reckon?

It’s true that you don’t change a winning formula. “It’s the Biggest. It’s the Best. It’s Bond”. With its extravagant use of superlatives hammered home by copious use of alliteration – “B” for Bond – and strident uppercase letters, the tagline clearly tells us that the hero is not very likely to die. The sentence that follows, “And Beyond”, adds a little more soul to it. What if Bond were more than just secret agent 007, laden with clichés? Beautifully filmed with an interplay of light and shadow in the alleyways of Cairo, he takes on an air of mystery. Transported back in time to the era of the pyramids at the foot of the enigmatic Sphinx of Giza, he acquires more depth. Stuck in the middle of the desert when his car breaks down, he reminds us of Lawrence of Arabia (a resemblance accentuated by an extract from that film’s musical score!).

The poster’s psychedelic colours, with its riot of apple green, turquoise, orange-hued red and fuchsia pink, remind me of those tangy sweets that fizz on your tongue. And, just like them, the James Bond films can quickly become addictive, so you need to be careful!

Check out the French version of this article.