Bond, Bach and One Big Bite
Whilst Sean Connery will always be the best James Bond for me, if all Roger Moore's Bond movies had been like "The Spy Who Loved Me" then he could easily have challenged him. Here we have a storyline which whilst reminiscent to "You Only Live Twice" as we watch submarines instead of spacecraft go missing is for the most realistic. It still has a touch of fantasy about it especially with the Lotus Esprit which converts into an under water car but the cheesiness of it all has been toned right down. Plus we have Bond working with his Russian equivalent, a deadly female agent who is not so easy to charm into bed. But most importantly is that with the cheesiness toned down Roger Moore delivers his best performance as Bond, a true agent and action man who still turns on the smoothness but not in a camp way.
When a British nuclear submarine goes missing the Government call in Bond (Roger Moore - The Man with the Golden Gun) to investigate. At the same time a Russian nuclear submarine also mysteriously disappears and they call in their top spy, female Agent XXX (Barbara Bach - Force 10 from Navarone) to uncover what is going on. Forced to work together Bond and Agent XXX discover that Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens) is the mastermind behind the missing submarines but to get to him they must first get past his henchman, Jaws (Richard Kiel - Silver Streak) who has a mouth full of metal whose bite is most definitely worse than his bark.
So as already mentioned "The Spy Who Loved Me" is slightly reminiscent to "You Only Live Twice" in the fact we have British and Russian submarines going missing and Bond called upon to find out what has happened. As such we do have a movie which works to the James Bond formula, he goes after bad guy, gets close, gets caught by a henchman a couple of times and of course saves the day. And to be honest the whole storyline surrounding the evil plans of Karl Stromberg is such a routine idea that you sort of end up ignoring the actual story.
Now if that was all there was to "The Spy Who Loved Me" it would be a little disappointing but the one thing which really makes a different is having Bond paired up with not only his Russian equivalent but an equivalent who is a sexy woman. It adds something extra and I am not on about the subplot about Agent XXX wanting to kill Bond for the murder of her lover, but because she is his equal makes for some intelligent scenes. When they are travelling by train and James turns on the charms expecting her to follow him to his cabin she returns to hers expecting him to follow her. It almost borders on the clever and it certainly makes it more entertaining especially for the first part when they are trying to out do each other.
But another big reason why "The Spy Who Loved Me" works better than many of the Roger Moore Bond movies is that it tones everything down. There is more realism to the whole thing yet just enough fantasy with the gadgets to make exciting. The cheesiness is almost gone yet there are still those one liners which bring a smile to your face without then making you groan. And because Agent XXX doesn't just fall for Bond's charms the whole cheesy womanising aspect is also restrained.
As for Roger Moore well with everything toned down and with this being his third outing as Bond he delivers what for me is his best performance in the role. He is understandably more comfortable with the character but with the cheesy one liners toned down he doesn't over play the humour and it makes him far more believable. It also helps that Barbara Bach as Agent XXX may be beautiful but she is not your usual Bond woman and her resistance to his charms almost seems to make Moore work harder.
But of course whilst Bach and Moore are the centre of attention and do a good job we also get introduced to Richard Kiel as Jaws and what a great henchman, a giant of a man who kills people with his metal bite. Sadly Curd Jürgens as evil genius Karl Stromberg is a disappointment because quite frankly he is neither very evil or that much of a genius, just a man with webbed hands and even that quirk is underplayed and frankly pointless.
What this all boils down to is that out of Roger Moore's Bond movies "The Spy Who Loved Me" is probably my favourite because it is not only the most realistic but everything I disliked about Moore's Bond movies, basically the cheesiness is toned right down. But it is also because we see Moore paired up with his female equivalent which helps to make it more interesting, almost making Moore work harder to be Barbara Bach's equal.