Following the relatively disappointing public reception to The Man With the Golden Gun, Cubby Broccoli became a man obsessed with a mission: to prove James Bond was still a viable property. Freed from an often tense relationship with Harry Saltzman, he could now concentrate on giving 007 a much-needed shot in the arm, by making his first solo production the most spectacular to date.
Broccoli could not have chosen a more challenging effort than attempting to film The Spy Who Loved Me. Ian Fleming had been displeased with the source novel, and specified in his contract for the film rights that only the title could be used. Spy would thus represent the first Bond film not to have a foundation in a Fleming story. Early drafts resurrected the venerable Blofeld and his SPECTRE legions, but Thunderball producer Kevin McClory - in the midst of preparing a soon-to-be-aborted rival 007 epic titled Warhead, ironically co-scripted by Sean Connery - threatened legal action, contending he had exclusive use of the SPECTRE concept.
A protracted court battle was avoided by enlisting veteran 007 scripter Richard Maibaum, whose revision of the screenplay replaced SPECTRE with a ruthless terrorist organisation planning to wreak world-wide havoc. Broccoli insisted on a rewrite, claiming to story was too political for a 007 film. Writer Christopher Wood was brought on board to collaborate with Maibaum and expand upon Broccoli’s personal concept for the film: Bond’s involvement with a beautiful Soviet agent who was every bit 007’s equal.
The story centred on Stromberg, an evil shipping magnate who utilises the world’s largest tanker to literally "swallow" Soviet and U.S. nuclear submarines with the intention of precipitating World War III. His goal: rid the world of its vices and create a new society under the sea. In the spirit of detente, James Bond teams with the beautiful Soviet KGB agent Anya Amasova on a world-wide race to prevent a nuclear holocaust.
Moore confidently assumes his own characterisation of 007: accentuating his talent for playing romantic light comedy, while displaying Bond’s more ruthless persona in dramatic highlights enacted with measured seriousness, With Spy, Roger Moore’s James Bond had definitely arrived. Moore was aided considerably by his co-stars. As Anya, Barbara Bach displays a natural beauty that is nothing less than stunning.
Spy also introduces a memorable villain in the form of Richard Kiel as Jaws, a giant, mute psychopath whose steel teeth are not only strong enough to devour human jugular veins, but wood and metal ones as well! Veteran German actor Curt Jurgens brings an air of sophistication to the character of Stromberg. He is typical megalomaniac - you can’t help being charmed by him, even as he dumps his secretary into yet another conveniently located shark tank. The office team of Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn are as amusing and charming as ever. Caroline Munro is a show-stopper as Stromberg’s "personal assistant" Naomi, who literally goes to pieces over Bond when 007 destroys her helicopter with a missile from his Lotus Esprit.
Praise for the film, and particularly Moore’s performance, was unstinting.
Lewis Gilbert stated: "It’s the most ambitious Bond film ever made... we
pulled out all the stops. We are proving that not only is Bond alive and
kicking in the 1970s, but is ready to continue successfully into the 1980s."
Little could Gilbert know that, thanks to Spy’s achievement in renewing
interest in 007, the franchise would be alive and well in the 1990. Cubby
Broccoli’s gamble had paid off handsomely.