For Fresh Eyes Only: The Spy Who Loved Me
When I started this column, I really did not expect that I’d feel like this so quickly, losing enthusiasm for this series at an alarming rate. Putting the disc in the drive has become a chore, even with the relatively large two week gap I have between entries. I’ve still failed to grasp exactly what this series is (surely it has to be more than slightly bland popcorn escapism. Remember how cool From Russia With Love was?). The total nosedive in overall quality that has happened as of late has certainly not helped matters. But hey, every now and then, there’s a good one, and The Spy Who Loved Me is a very, very good one. Maybe the future doesn’t look so bad after all. Perhaps James Bond still has a few tricks up his ol’ sleeve. I could get used to this. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.
This one grabbed me right from the jump with a kickass ski chase. Bond had ski poles with guns built into them! And then he jumped off of a giant cliff, free falling for an agonizingly long time before finally pulling his parachute! What a guy. This transitions into what is easily one of the best Bond themes yet, Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’. It’s beautiful. And the score that lays over the entire film is great too. Look, I’m not a music critic. I like what I like and maybe I don’t know how to express that well.
The film’s plot actually had me engaged. I didn’t think I’d be saying that about another “total nuclear annihilation” story, but here I am. Curd Jürgens’s Karl Stromberg wasn’t the most inspired villain, but his wildly impractical plan to bomb the world until we’re all forced to live undersea was fun to watch be undone. And for everything he lacked, Richard Kiel’s intimidating Jaws makes up for in spades. Jaws and his gigantic frame, superhuman strength, and insane metal teeth capable of tearing through nearly anything is imposing to say the least. The scene where he rips apart an entire van with his bare hands is terrifying. And that’s not even all of the good villains, because we’ve also got the mysterious Agent Triple X (Barbara Bach), a Russian spy who’s love was killed by Bond with one of those sick ski pole guns previously mentioned. Bach makes the film, bringing much appreciated high personal stakes to the film. She might even be the best written ‘Bond Girl’ yet.
On a more gimmicky level, The Spy Who Loved Me is a major breath of fresh air. Egypt is a hell of a change of pace from the European countryside and US cities that have become standard. Bond doesn’t skate down the side of a pyramid like he could and should have, but still, they use the area to great effect. We also finally have some fun gadgets again! The film is loaded with them. There’s these sweet ski pole guns that I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned yet, a crazy car that turns into a freaking submarine, even a hookah with a gun in it. That’s without even mentioning Stromberg’s insane mammoth underwater facility shaped like a spider that raises out of the water. These things seem minor, but they really aren’t. I get a kick out of seeing these silly inventions and seeing the next exciting locale they’ll visit. These are crucial.
The Spy Who Loved Me doesn’t reinvent the wheel. There’s already been a ski chase. There’s already been multiple plots about stopping nuclear war from breaking out. There’s already been many extensive undersea segments. And helicopter explosions. And gigantic shootouts between henchmen and freed prisoners in a fortress. But it does it all so well that I was totally engaged throughout. Maybe the formula does work after all. Maybe this old dog doesn’t need to be taught new tricks. Maybe the future never looked that bad in the first place. Perhaps I’ve already been used to this. Maybe ol’ James Bond always had those tricks up his ol’ sleeve, etc. I’m back on board, folks, just in time to go to the moon!
Marcus will return in For Fresh Eyes Only: Moonraker