Today, we have unmanned drones. In 1977, there were real manned submarines, equipped with only the most primitive of systems – and everything run (cranked up) by live officers. Instead of handheld computers and ‘texting,’ there were wristwatches which spit out ‘Dymo label’ urgent messages. And even with all this sophisticated military might, Russian, American and British nuclear subs keep disappearing. As the British Secret Service assigns their top man –agent James Bond (a trim, eager-to-fight Roger Moore, in his 3rd 007 outing) — the Russians assign his alluring and high-ranking counterpart, “Agent Triple X,” the beautiful, if somewhat understated Barbra Bach, who, even when advocating “shared bodily warmth,” seems a tad cool and detached.
Together with his beautiful partner, on an unprecedented mission of “Anglo-Russian cooperation,” Bond goes hunting for the missile-laden subs, and jet-skis into the aqua world of millionaire Karl Stromberg (a wonderful Curt Jurgens), “one of the world’s richest capitalists,” who lives in Atlantis, an elegant undersea universe. Unspoiled by global warming, oil spills, or commercial depletion, the ocean viewed from Stromberg’s self-contained deep-water realm looks stunning, almost artificial. In this “beautiful world beneath the sea,” complete with a sophisticated research center, Stromberg commands hundreds and pursues his dastardly dream.
Noting the “handsome but deadly” species outside the super-thick, tremendously tall windows, Bond goads his evil host into revealing his grandiose goal: “global destruction,” so that afterwards, he can create an “underwater city… the only hope for the future of mankind.” The ocean-obsessed tyrant tries to justify his violent endeavors, asking, “Why do we seek to conquer space, when 70% of our world remains unexplored?”
Complementing this aquatic Nirvana, is Carly Simon’s megahit theme song and two spectacular chases: one, a suspense-filled run through a dark, eerie Egyptian desert, amidst the pyramids and historic ancient ruins; the other — helped by superb aerial photography, rousing music and perfectly timed silence — is down a daunting mountainside in the Austrian Alps– back when they still had full seasons of abundant snow. Dodging armed assassins, a smooth skiing Bond here plays second fiddle to the scenery, the serenity juxtaposed by breathtaking action sequences and cliffside stunts.
One welcome return: the metal-mouth Jaws (a gargantuan and creepy Richard Kiel), does Stromberg’s dirty work– forcing Bond to fight using brains instead of brawn. Another regular: Agent Q, whose technological treat for Bond’s sea trek is a missile-equipped Lotus –part racecar, part Nautilus– that converts from car to submarine, which even today is jaw-dropping to watch as it emerges onto a tourist-crowded beach.
When duty calls, and one lover protests, “But James, I need you,” our selfless super-agent charmingly brushes her off with a loyal, “So does England!”
As the song confirms: “Nobody does it better.”
by Caren Ostrow
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|Roger Moore||…||James Bond|
|Barbara Bach||…||Major Anya Amasova / Agent XXX|
|Curt Jürgens||…||Karl Stromberg|
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert