Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

"Just keeping the British end up, Sir..."

Ah, 1977. The year of my birth. No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones. The two sevens clash. And any number of punk allusions you'd care to make. It's also the absolute nadir of men's fashions: every single bloke in this film looks absolutely awful. It's difficult to understand why men bothered to wear suits at all in 1977 because they all, without exception, look shit. You can see how punk was so very necessary, for fashion as much as music.

Still, The Spy Who Loved Me is another triumph. I'm a little puzzled as to why The Man with the Golden Gun was so no pulse with both critics and public- I rather liked it- but I'll not argue with the consensus here. The taut plot, the awesome action sequences, the wittiest script yet, all of this makes for one of the finest Bond films yet, even if Roger Moore is perhaps, in only his third film, beginning to look just a little too old for the part.

Neither Moore nor Barbara Bach )Mrs. Ringi Starr!) will ever win any Oscars, but they somehow work perfectly together. Curd Jurgens, taking a break from playing 75% of all Nazi officers in the history of cinema, is the finest Bond villain yet. He has it all; the underwater lair, the hare-brained scheme to bike the world so humanity can start a new life under the sea(!); and the sharks beneath a trapdoor to eat treacherous underlings. 

Meanwhile Caroline Munro is there to look sexy, and Richard Kiel is a splendid if mute presence as Jaws, suspiciously soon after a film after the same name, also featuring a shark. Hmm. There's also a staggering number of British characters on display- George Baker, Edward de Souza, Vernon Dobtcheff, Nadim Sawalha and Cyril Chaps. The American submarine commander is played, inevitably, by Shane Rimmer. It could never have been otherwise.

The film is full of brilliant, stylish action sequences from the opening ski chase (love the parachute) to Bond's best car yet. By this point we know all the tropes and the film can have real fun with them.
The double entendres ("Well, tell him to pull out immediately") are superb. There's even a moment of wit for the incidental music: the familiar refrain from Lawrence of Arabia is heard as Bond and Anya traverse the desert.

The locations- Cairo, the pyramids and Karnak- are the best possible. Carly Simon's theme tune is the best yet and surely unsurpassable. Can this be the best Bond yet?

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