Thursday, 29 October 2015

007 - The Spy Who Loved Me

Director Lewis Gilbert invests The Spy Who Loved Me with the light touch he brought to You Only Live Twice, which is handy because they're both basically the same film. As with James Bond's Japanese adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me revolves around an improbable leviathan swallowing up state-of-the-art Cold War technology, in this case nuclear submarines from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Roger Moore's 007 is joined on his investigation by Agent Triple X, a Soviet spy played by Barbara Bach who would rather be slipping a stiletto between Bond's ribs. The couple start off competing for information in Egypt until Richard Kiel's assassin clamps down on their leads. There's a germ of a great thriller in The Spy Who Loved Me, two antagonistic secret agents fighting like hell to stay one step ahead of Kiel's massive slasher killer. Unfortunately Bond knows he's invincible, Bach is reduced to a wet t-shirt and Kiel disappears for long stretches while the film churns through formula.

Gilbert gets the most out of Spy's increased budget, drafting Ken Adam back into service to create a massive futurist submarine hanger that was so difficult to light that the production designer had to call in a favour from his pal Stanley Kubrick. Second unit director John Glen stages some excellent skiing stunts for the pre-credit action, culminating in an insane jump from Rick Sylvester.

Cameraman Willy Bogner Jr, an Olympic skier himself, keeps Sylvester dead centre of the frame all the way down. We see a tiny little man disappearing completely into a white, shapeless void. It's terrifying. There's absolutely no sense of up or down. The ground and death could arrive at any moment. Then a Union Jack parachute unfurls, Monty Norman's theme blares, and the film cuts to a bored looking Roger Moore.

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