The Spy Who Loved Me: The best of Roger Moore’s Bond
James R | On 16, Sep 2021
Glang. Glang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang. The very thought of The Spy Who Loved Me immediately triggers a mental replay of Alan Partridge’s commentary over its opening titles, so it’s testament to the film’s charms that it still manages to stand apart from that in your memory.
The 1997 epic of silly proportions has nothing to do with Fleming’s book (a short story narrated by a woman that’s a curious departure from his usual work), but instead leans into the eyebrow-raising absurdity of Roger Moore’s 007, throwing everything at the screne – from submarine-eating tankers and underwater cars.
Surprisingly, most of it sticks, thanks to director Lewis Gilbert’s ability to craft some genuinely serious moments of peril alongside the over-the-top set pieces (a gargantuan sound stage was erected at Pinewood with huge water tanks to match Ken Adam’s production design). There’s the eerie sequence in the Pyramids, where ancient architecture is overlaid with green lights and loud synths, and the bit where Bond snaps about his dead wife, Tracy. At another point, he casually knocks a guy off a building without hesitation – an unexpectedly cold move that almost tricks you into thinking Roger Moore is a worthy successor to Sean Connery – providing you’ve never seen any of Moore’s other Bond films. And, of course, there’s the jaw-dropping opening sequence that sees Bond ski off a mountain. And did we mention that Lotus Esprit that can go underwater?
Throw in the Oscar-nominated Nobody Does It Better sung with swooning heartache by Carly Simon, the result is easily the best of the Moore era, nailing the balance between the different aspects of Moore’s persona. But it’s not solely due to that rare, brief moment of perfect calibration; it’s also thanks to the introduction of an iconic part of the 007 franchise – Jaws. Richard Kiel’s towering villain adds a much-needed sense of danger to events, comfortably overshadowing the main bad guy (the megalomaniac Karl Stromberg who has aquatic plans for world domination) – and not just because of his colossal height.
The name “Jaws” alone is wonderfully catchy and dangerous. As well as echoing the film’s sharkier moments, it sets our expectations for a henchman who doesn’t mince his words – and that silent streak is as intimidating as his metal-tinged smile, with his teeth able to bite through everything from a cable car to a shark. He also has an invincible quality that’s unnerving, surviving scaffolding toppling on top of him and a car going off the edge of a cliff. And yet Kiel also manages to balance that threat with a bit of slapstick – the result is not just an archetypal performance that sets the standard for all henchpeople in Bondville, but also makes him one of the rare secondary characters to be invited back for a second Bond film.