Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Very seldom does one character define a subgenre. But that is precisely what James Bond, 007 has done with spy/espionage fiction. Since making his film debut in 1962, Bond has appeared in over 20 movies. Moreover, the character has only been portrayed by a mere six actors (officially, anyway). Now that the 25th (official) Bond installment, No Time to Die, is finally slated for release on November 25th, I think now is a better time than any to look back at 007’s dossier. I’ll be examining the James Bond franchise to see how these pictures evolved over the decades with each new leading actor. Today’s mission: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)!
As you all are no doubt aware, No Time to Die is now slated for release on November 25th. This last-minute shuffle is one is the many unfortunate results of COVID-19. Due to this pandemic, many of us are practicing social distancing through self-isolation or quarantine. No doubt, protecting ourselves and each other in such a fashion will get us through this tumultuous time.
While isolation could lead some to cabin fever, there might be a couple of bright spots to this situation. Firstly, November has been the traditional release month for 007 entries since the 90s. Thus, as a bit of a traditionalist, when it comes to movies, I’m glad to see that No Time to Die will follow suit. Secondly, if you have to be cooped-up, you may as well enjoy a Bond flick or two. Perhaps the film in review, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)?
This tenth Bond picture is loosely based on the ninth Bond novel, published in 1962. Unlike the filmic adaptation, the novel is told from the first person of a female character, Vivienne Michel, who does not make the transition from page to screen. As a matter of fact, James Bond himself doesn’t even come into play until about a quarter of the way into the novel. Having not read The Spy Who Loved Me, I can still respect Ian Fleming wanting to do something different with the series he’d created. Alas, critics and fans alike did not care for this unique approach, mostly panning it. As a result, the author became disenchanted with his story, going so far as to disallow his publisher to print a paperback edition of the novel in The United Kingdom. Well, at least until the movie tie-in edition.
The Spy Who Loved Me represents the first Bond picture to be produced solely by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli following the dissolution of his partnership with former co-producing partner Harry Saltzman. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Cubby, along with screenwriters Richard Mailbaum (a veteran of the franchise at this point) and novelist-turned-scripter Christopher Wood wanted to stray away from the novel and take a more traditional approach with this entry. Still, Cubby did have one inspired idea when it came to finding a director for this picture. He approached Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One), a self-avowed Bond fan who expressed interest in directing a 007 adventure. Ultimately though, Spielberg turned the opportunity down in favor of making Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977). Thus, You Only Live Twice (1967) director Lewis Gilbert returned to the helm — an incredibly appropriate choice considering the plot of this film.
The Spy Who Loved Me finds James Bond, 007 (Roger Moore) investigating the theft of two submarines — one British and the other Russian — transporting nuclear warheads. (Sounds familiar, right?) To find the hijackers responsible, Bond teams up with a K.G.B. agent, Major Anya Amasov, AKA: Agent XXX (Barbara Bach). However, the mission becomes more complicated when 007 discovers he’s responsible for the death of Agent XXX’s lover.
Unlike the previous two films featuring Moore, The Spy Who Loved Me does not glom onto the popular genres of the day. On the contrary, the movie in review is a much more traditional, straightforward 007 adventure. How could it not be? After all, this flick goes back to Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and essentially nicks its plot. Heck, the most significant change is switching out spacecraft for submarines. It’s because of this approach that The Spy Who Loved Me is Absolutely, Positively a Franchise Implosion!
However, The Spy Who Loved Me is not a complete loss as it is competently made. The production design by franchise 007 veteran Ken Adam (Barry Lyndon) is gorgeous, particularly in the third act of the film. Aside from that visual treat, this entry also offers up an audible pleasure, giving us one of the most memorable theme songs of the series: “Nobody Does It Better,” performed by Carly Simon. Sadly, the only bright spots in the cast are Moore — who is once again giving his all — and the new henchman, Jaws, played by Richard Kiel. Alas, except for these two actors, I find the rest of the ensemble to be largely dreadful and stiff. Overall, I find The Spy Who Loved Me to be an unassured and dull installment in this franchise.
The Spy Who Loved Me is Available on Home Video.
James Bond Will Return For Another Installment of Franchise Expansion or Implosion with Moonraker (1979)!
007’s Newest Mission, No Time to Die, Will Be in Theaters on November 25th!
Read About Bond’s Past Franchise Endeavors-
From Russia with Love:
You Only Live Twice:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
Diamonds Are Forever:
Live and Let Die:
The Man with The Golden Gun: