In the No Time To Die Countdown, Jake Tropila takes a look back at every Bond film – official and unofficial – in anticipation of the release of the latest entry.

Now, this is more like it. In 1974, The Man with the Golden Gun turned out to be a box office disappointment, at least in the context of Bond films (adjusted for inflation, it’s the second lowest grossing picture in the series). And along with its underperformance, Harry Saltzman, one of the two original producers of all Bond films, had parted ways with Albert R. Broccoli, leaving the future of the franchise entirely in the latter’s hands.

Clearly, some retooling was needed. Fortunately for Broccoli, that retooling paid off handsomely, and the result was The Spy Who Loved Me, a grand, epically-scaled adventure that successfully restored universal faith in the Bond franchise and brought it back to its classical roots. Legend has it that by the end of the opening pre-title sequence, the packed auditorium of the world premiere was already on their feet cheering. I don’t doubt it for a second.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

For many, this is the Roger Moore film. Everything about his persona – the charm, the humor, the eyebrow – coalesces in spectacular fashion here, guiding this tremendously big film to a safe landing. In terms of performance, it’s one of his best, too, serving heaps upon heaps of playfulness without ever overstaying his welcome. He’s simply a pure delight to watch and secures his status as the most lovable Bond ever.

As far as the film is concerned, I’ll admit that it’s not my personal favorite Moore – we will get to that one – but even I cannot deny that it’s undoubtedly his best. I mean, let’s face it: The pre-title sequence, the song, the girl, the car, the henchman, the plot, the locations, the lair, the excitement. The Spy Who Loved Me is a checklist of greatest hits. Climb aboard my Lotus-sub, we’re going back to 1977 to see what this fuss is all about.

Nobody Does It Better

Things kick off in a similar fashion to You Only Live Twice. The connection is logical, as this film is also directed by Lewis Gilbert, making his return to the franchise after a ten-year absence. Here, the focus is not in space, but underwater, where a British nuclear sub seemingly vanishes five hundred meters below the surface. Naturally, 007 is called in to investigate.

Bond, currently stationed in the Austrian mountains, makes his way downhill on skis when he’s suddenly ambushed by a group of Soviet agents. He successfully outmaneuvers them, killing one in the process (this is important), and dives off the side of a cliff. As Bond free falls towards the abyss, he manages to pull his Union Jack parachute at the last possible moment, just as Monty Norman’s theme triumphantly roars to life. James Bond is back, baby.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Okay, bad news first: I’m not wild about Marvin Hamlisch’s score during the pre-title sequence. Hamlisch, who’s pitch-hitting for series regular John Barry, appropriates some popular trends of the era and offers a tacky, disco-oriented theme that does not sit well with me. It’s a minor blight, but must be noted.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, the song. Is Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” the greatest Bond song ever? It just might very well be. As this melodious ballad plays over Maurice Binder’s gorgeously rendered credit sequence of nude gymnast ladies, I can’t help but feel that for a few short minutes, everything is right in the world. Simon performs the song beautifully, and it works perfectly as a loving ode to the character of Bond.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

So, it turns out the doomed agent from the opening was not a faceless goon, but an agent named Sergei, lover of Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach). Anya also happens to be Triple X, a Soviet secret agent and James Bond’s equal. Anya is our best Bond Girl since Tracy: fierce, beautiful, and capable. She’s tough, no-nonsense, and even outsmarts Bond a couple of occasions. Strong marks all around; Anya is not somebody to be messed with. And since she’s paired with Bond for a majority of the film, it’s only a matter of time before she discovers the truth.

As for the missing sub: it was stolen, not by SPECTRE, but by someone who could be considered SPECTRE adjacent (due to the rights issues stemming back to Thunderball, SPECTRE will not be making a proper appearance in the official canon anytime soon). Enter Curd Jurgens as Karl Stromberg, the web-fingered megalomaniac who wants to annihilate life on earth so he can thrive in his underwater Atlantis.

As far as villains go, Stromberg isn’t bad, but he is a step down from Scaramanga, at least in terms of energy & charisma. He does get bonus points for having a cool lair: Atlantis, the submerge-able, spider-like station, is proper cool (and is a testament to production designer Ken Adam’s spectacular miniature work). Overall, Stromberg is just Blofeld-lite: menacing, but not quite exciting

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

But you know who is exciting? Jaws. Silent, lethal, and standing at a towering 7’2”, Jaws is a gold standard henchman. Certainly the most iconic, rivaled only by Oddjob. Richard Kiel is fantastic in the part, sporting his deadly metal mouthpiece with aplomb (not to mention he’s one of the sharpest dressed henchmen this side of Tee Hee). As part of Stromberg’s operation, Jaws is ordered to eliminate any loose ends of the submarine theft. This results in a lot of severed carotid arteries.

There’s Some Kind Of Magic Inside You

With the world at stake, a few new faces are introduced, and they will have recurring parts for the next five films beyond this one, eventually dipping into the Dalton era. First, there is Geoffrey Keen as British Minister of Defence Frederick Gray, often seen alongside M as being appalled by Bond’s behavior. Then, there is Walter Gotell as General Gogol, head of the KGB and Anya’s supervisor, essentially the “Soviet M”, who shows up to offer useful assistance or playful antagonism whenever necessary (Gotell is wonderful in the part).

Lastly, there is Robert Brown as Vice-Admiral Hargreaves, a Flag Officer for the Royal Navy. Brown will eventually replace Bernard Lee as M, and I’d like to theorize that Brown’s M is the same man as Hargreaves, having simply been promoted in the ranks of British Intelligence.

The Spy Who Loved Me features some of the best globetrotting in the series, with an early highlight arriving in Egypt. Bond encountering Jaws in the pyramids is one of the film’s best set-pieces, bolstered by eerie lighting cues and glorious music. It’s honestly something out of a horror movie. The following sequence, with Bond and Anya stalking Jaws through the Egyptian ruins, is also wonderful, if only for how it contrasts the two agents forced to work together. Bond jibing at Anya as she struggles to start the van while Jaws relentlessly trashes it from the outside is never not funny.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The action eventually shifts to Sardinia, where Q provides Bond with the defining vehicle of the Moore era: the Lotus Esprit. Equipped with an oil slick, rockets, and can convert it to a fully-functional submarine, the Lotus may not be anywhere near as classy as the Aston Maritn DB5, but it’ll do in a pinch if you need a car to go whiz-bang against of attacking vehicles.

Bond and Anya’s investigation leads them to discover that Stromberg is behind the theft of the submarine onboard his supertanker, the Liparus, prompting Stromberg to dispatch his assistant Naomi (a stunning Caroline Munro) to assassinate Bond via helicopter. The Lotus and all of its aforementioned gadgetry are swiftly deployed in retaliation, destroying Naomi’s helicopter from underwater and making a clean getaway. Even Anya gets in on the fun, fiddling with switches for maximum damage (“I stole the blueprints to this car two years ago!”).

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Following the car chase, Anya finally confronts Bond over her lover’s death, promising to kill him once their mission is over (the eventual resolution to this plotline is fairly weak: she can’t help but forgive James for being the lovable chap he is. Bond’s gonna Bond). The next phase brings them aboard an American vessel, but that is promptly captured by Stromberg as well, who plans to use stolen subs from the UK, US, and USSR to fire upon each other, causing nuclear Armageddon on earth where the only solace remaining will be in Stromberg’s underwater utopia. Fortunately, Bond frees all captured naval officers to stop Stromberg.

At long last, we get the return of the proper army vs. army climax. If The Man with the Golden Gun’s finale was relatively anemic, The Spy Who Loved Me goes out guns blazing, pitting waves of Stromberg’s men against submariners in the ever extravagant Liparus set (which was apparently lit by Stanley Kubrick, as an intriguing behind-the-scenes tidbit). Bond destroys the Liparus, Atlantis, kills Stromberg, and saves the day with Anya. It’s a total blast of a conclusion.

Hell, Jaws even takes a bite out of a shark. Lucio Fulci, eat your heart out.


The Spy Who Loved Me re-establishes the greatness of the Bond franchise. It’s the biggest and most boldly produced feature as of yet, offering bountiful thrills and fun in equal measure. Roger Moore capably finds his groove here, offering a nicely balanced performance that cements his status as the most playful Bond of the bunch. The Spy Who Loved Me is an excellent outing that gets many things right and affirms that truly, nobody does it better.

Coming up next: Bond goes to space! Wait, what? The No Time To Die Countdown will return with Moonraker.

What do you think? Is this the best Roger Moore Bond Film? Let us know in the comments below!

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