Plot Quality: The plot to this one isn’t half bad. In fact, I liked it a lot when You Only Live Twice did it, and for the most part, this rip off is handled well. The story opens with British nuclear submarine HMS Ranger vanishing. A Soviet submarine suffers the same fate. The only clue to what happened is that someone in Egypt is offering for sale a system that will let anyone track nuclear submarines. As proof that the system works, the British are given a map showing the track taken by Ranger before she vanished.
The Russians and British suspect Karl Stromberg of being involved in this somehow. So Bond and Amasova visit Stromberg for no apparent reason except to pass time and alert Stromberg that their governments suspect him. They get to see Hollywood’s favorite red lionfish. Then they leave and they are attacked. To evade attack, Bond drives his Lotus into the ocean where it turns into a submersible. Director Lewis Gilbert then brings eternal shame to himself and his family by letting Bond drive up onto the beach as animals do double-takes and drunks look at their bottles. He even has Bond drop a fish out of the car. Up yours Lewis, up yours.
Stromberg launches two submarines, both under new ownership. The Ruskie sub will nuke New York City and the American sub will nuke Moscow. He thinks the Soviets and the Americans will then nuke each other, destroying the world, and Stromberg will live happily in his undersea kingdom all by himself
Bond Quality: By this point in his films, Moore had started to come across as a lounge lizard more than anything else. His fashion sense may have been fine for 1977, but by 1981 it was as dated as disco. His character’s flirting felt like smug sexism by 1981 as well. More importantly, his version of “tough” would be seen as effete by the 1980s, which saw the public gravitate toward “common man” and working class heroes like Rocky Balboa, John Rambo, and John McClane from Die Hard. In fact, The Spy Who Loved Me’s Moore has more in common with some 17th Century fop than a modern action hero. Moore didn’t help this either because he wasn’t at all physical as Bond.
The Bond Girl: The Bond girl was Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova/Agent Triple X. She was a KGB agent assigned to the same case. She and Bond competed throughout the film and eventually teamed up. However, Bond had killed her lover in the opening scene of the film, so she swore to kill Bond when the mission ended. Bach is attractive in a 1970s “Twiggy” sort of way, which means her figure is as flat as her acting. She speaks in a monotone and uses a fake Russian accent. Throughout the film she is best when trying to one-up Bond, but proves pretty useless as spies go. Ultimately, she’s not nearly the worst Bond girl, but she’s nowhere near the best either.
His scheme isn’t much better. He wants to cause the Americans and the Soviets to nuke the world to wipe out humanity while he hides under the ocean in his secret base. Then he will build a new civilization. Uh, yeah. Here’s the catch. First, he has no plan to build a new civilization. Secondly, he has no resources collected to build a new civilization, and I suspect Home Depo will be closed after the apocalypse. Third, why would anyone listen to the turd who hid under the ocean? This is a stupid plan and never feels real. But at least the submarine eating effects are cool.
//scratches head again
Ok, look, here’s the thing. The story is ripped off and stupid. The scheme is nonsense. The acting isn’t much better than a porno. Director Lewis Gilbert should be shot for crimes against cinema, and writer Christopher Wood (who would triple-down by repeating this film as Moonraker) should have his fingers broken. BUT this was the highlight of 1970s Bond, and it’s surprisingly watchable. There’s just something about the film that was entertaining; it’s like an adult cartoon. The critics loved it too.
Perhaps what makes this film work is that it’s guilty pleasure Bond? This thing is so bad that it crosses that magical line where it become entertaining in its badness. This is Bond-nado v. MegaJaws. And that causes us to rank this film much, much higher than it would otherwise deserve. That’s why this oh-so-shiny turd is No. 0013 out of 0023.