Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

James Bond, Agent 007, has just advised Anya Amasova, Agent Triple X (O.T.X. – The Original Triple X), the spy who loves him, that he was responsible for the snow-slope killing of The Spy Who Loved Her. She has previously vowed revenge upon the unknown killer. Now that she knows him, and even though she has come to love him too, she intends to uphold her end of the deal and says as much – though, of course, they must conclude their mission first. This would suggest a third act of intense drama, two spies circling each other even as they circle the requisite megalomaniac they were required to defeat. Instead the whole thing felt like a lark, springtime in the park, two lovers bickering, exchanging pouty looks, all the while knowing in the backs of their minds they would wind up in one another’s arms without clothes in the helpfully labeled “Escape Chamber”. It felt……right.


I am not necessarily a Bond movie novice but I am a Roger Moore Bond movie novice. I had seen parts of “A View To Kill” (1985) and that was it. I had always contended Sean Connery was my favorite 007, but that was merely because you seem required to have a favorite Bond as a cinemaphile and, frankly, Brosnan and Dalton and Craig never seemed to play in the key I personally wanted to hear. Truth is, no Bond was my favorite just as no one Bond movie stood out that much to me.

Strangely, a few friends and family members have told me over the years they preferred Roger Moore’s version of the iconic character and still for reasons I struggle to express I never bothered to investigate these claims. Maybe it was because the other Bond movies just left me pleasantly entertained, though un-wowed. “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), director Lewis Gilbert’s 10th entry into the series, the 3rd with Moore, did not necessarily “wow” me. It did, however, repeatedly make me laugh out loud, not necessarily because of the absurdity (though there is absurdity) but from sheer delight. I had seen 13 films in the series all the way through but by a wide margin this one I enjoyed the most.

James Bond is a lot like eggs. We all prefer our eggs cooked different ways. I have not read the Fleming novels and, thus, have no idea what he intended the character to be, nor do I care. If someone else does, God bless ‘em. They want a hard boiled egg. I want ‘em poached. (?) The latter day Bonds all seem a bit too committed to the part, and if it seems odd that I would prefer an actor not to be so committed to his part, well, I’ve always viewed 007 as not being entirely committed to his job. He DOES his job, yes, and he does it quite well, but when he’s in the midst of defying so much death I like to imagine he’s flashing back to various dalliances with various ladies over the years or whether he’s going with the prime rib or filet mignon before his game of baccarat that evening. And that is how Moore plays Bond.


All his quips sound contractually obligated by Her Majesty’s Service. When in the marvelous pre-credits sequence he abandons his temptress in the mountainside cabin because “England” needs him, we can tell he’s not really all that excited about the call of duty. When he drives his underwater car up onto a packed beach his face comes across genuinely perturbed when he tosses a wayward fish out the window. He appears to have graduated from the Captain James T. Kirk School of Kung Fu, all his hand-to-hand combat moves being slow and halting and returning again and again to the classic Grab Hold Of The Doorframe Above You And Kick Your Enemy but without acquiring much lift and/or kick. This is not a problem, though, because the fight scenes, aside from the third act climax, are really nothing more than bridges to its endlessly entertaining concepts, gadgets and tete-a-tetes. The concepts, gadgets and the tete-a-tetes are the good times. And that’s James Bond’s ultimate objective – the good times.

And when he’s done tending to all that pesky business about the requisite megalomaniacal madman (Curd Jurgens) and fighting off the repeated attacks of the steel-jawed henchman (Richard Kiel) who just refuses to die and thwarted the blowing up of one thing or another with the usual nuclear missiles and so on and so forth and sequestered himself away in the “Escape Chamber” with Anya (Barbara Bach) and a chilled bottle of Dom he looks very much like a guy happy the long work day is finally over.

2 comments:

Dan said...

The Spy Who Loved Me is my favorite of the Roger Moore films. It's very silly yet never seems to be trying as hard as some of the later Brosnan movies to be clever. Moore makes everything look effortless even when the fate of the world is on the line. He isn't my favorite Bond, but few of the movies in the franchise can top this one in terms of pure fun. Plus, Barbara Bach is one of the best of the "Bond girls".

Nick Prigge said...

"It's very silly yet never seems to be trying as hard as some of the later Brosnan movies to be clever." Well put. Completely agree.

I have to say, though, I was so taken with this movie I Netflixed "Man With A Golden Gun" (review this Friday!!!) to see another Moore bond movie and, uh, well, was not quite as enamored.