Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) | Bond

Actors and Allies

The script for The Spy Who Loves Me gives Roger Moore a lot more to do than the previous films did and he's totally up for it. I mentioned yesterday that there are a couple of great moments for him. One is when Anya Amasova (Agent XXX) brings up the death of Tracy Bond and he suddenly turns hurt and serious, dropping the banter and ending that line of conversation.

The second is towards the end of the movie when she realizes that he may be the one who killed her boyfriend. She questions him about it and he gravely reminds her about the hazards of their job. He could have been flippant about it, but as he talks about the kill-or-be-killed nature of espionage, he makes me feel it. I replay that exciting teaser sequence in my mind and I realize that it wouldn't be all that fun for Bond. Roger Moore always plays it like it is fun, but this brief conversation reveals that that his self-confidence in those moments is at least partly an act.

Back to the fun though, Moore is never funnier than he is in The Spy Who Loved Me. It's not even the quips; it's the way he acts around Amasova. People give Barbara Bach's performance a hard time and it's true that she's not a great actress, but I do think she's serviceable as Amasova and her amused reactions to Moore do help build some chemistry between them. I don't know if that's what I'm noticing or if it's the fact that she and Bond begin as adversarial colleagues so he's not actively hitting on her in every scene. Instead, he's able to just relax and joke and it's a pleasure to see.

Moore really does have great comic timing. One of my favorite moments is one that I screen-captured at the top of yesterday's post when they're in the back of Jaws' van and Amasova falls asleep on Bond's shoulder. He puts his arm around her, but the van jolts and she wakes up, looking at him like, "What the hell do you think you're doing?" His faked innocence as he pulls back his arm his hilarious. Another fantastic moment is when she tries to take the van and abandon him, but he shows her that he has the keys. It's all about his expression.

Moore's facial expressions are what makes a lot of his quips so funny too. Connery got a lot of humor out of grimacing at his own jokes. Moore delivers them perfectly deadpan, but sometimes with a look at the end to see if anyone got it. Both ways work great.

On to Bond's allies, M is a lot more relaxed about Bond this time. Instead of being constantly annoyed by him, M refers to Bond as his "best man" and (like I said yesterday) even enjoys Bond's know-it-all behavior when it looks like Bond's showing up the Soviets.

M is on a first name basis with General Gogol who's introduced in this movie. I don't think this is the first time M's been called Miles in the series, but I'm not remembering the circumstances where it happened before. Maybe it is the first time? Fleming revealed M's full name - Vice Admiral Sir Miles Messervy KCMG - in the novel The Man with the Golden Gun. (Similarly, Amasova calls Q, "Major Boothroyd," cementing him as the same character who gave Bond his Walther PPK in Dr. No.)

Gogol is a great character and it's easy to see why they kept bringing him back. He's the head of the Soviet secret service, so he's not strictly an ally, but he's also not a villain. It would have been so easy to make him a cliché; a repeat of Rosa Klebb, for instance. But he's humanized right away. After the credits, the movie opens on him in a dramatic, somber pose in his office. He's preparing himself to brief Amasova, but he also has bad news about her boyfriend and he's sympathetic towards her. This is cool, bold stuff for an action movie made in the middle of the Cold War.

I don't know what this is about, but there's no flirting with Moneypenny this time. She and Bond are all business. I don't think I like that. I don't want her to be hopelessly smitten with him, but I do enjoy their friendly relationship and I miss it in Spy.

Best Quip

"Bring tears to your eyes?" To Amasova as they're touring Q-Branch's Cairo facility, looking at Q's weird stuff. Makes me laugh out loud every single time. I'm laughing now just remembering it.

Worst Quip

"Egyptian builders..." After some ruins come crashing down on top of Jaws. I'm not even sure what this means. Is he implying that Egyptians don't know how to build? Because they're kind of known for exactly the opposite of that.


Broccoli got over whatever gadgetphobia he had in The Man with the Golden Gun and lets Bond get fully outfitted in Spy. In the teaser, he receives instructions to leave Switzerland via label-maker watch, then uses a ski pole rocket to kill Amasova's boyfriend.

After he and Amasova recover the microfilm from Jaws, Bond reads it with a contraption made by assembling a cigarette case and lighter in a particular way. And of course there's the WetBike prototype that he uses to rescue Amasova at the end, but I don't tend to count real-life tech as gadgets.

The jewel of the movie is the Lotus Esprit outfitted with oil spray, rockets, mines, and - most importantly - turns into a submarine. Because of the underwater factor and the car's sleek lines, I like it even more than the Aston Martin DB5. I know that's heresy in some Bond circles, but there you go.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
5. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)
6. Ski pole rocket (The Spy Who Loved Me)
7. Magnetic buzzsaw watch (Live and Let Die)
8. Attaché case (From Russia with Love)
9. Propeller SCUBA tank with built-in spearguns (Thunderball)
10. Rebreather (Thunderball)

Bond's Best Outfit

Love a man in uniform.

Bond's Worst Outfit

Nothing too horrid, but I'm not a fan of brown in general (unless you're Indiana Jones) and that's too many stripes for my taste.

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