Let me stop you right there. I know you are wracking your brain for a scene in The Spy Who Loved Me which could be considered remotely Christmassy. I’ll put you out of your misery. There isn’t one. The Spy Who Loved Me is on a yuletide related par with Pulp Fiction and Saw 4. However, for a youngster growing up in the 80s, 30 years before on-demand and with the grand total of 3 television channels to choose from (4 from 1982) you were somewhat at the scheduler’s mercy with regards to viewing pleasure. We had the fancy-dan Betamax yes, but all the tapes were used up with Saint and Greavsie compilations. So, on every single Christmas Day from 1979 until 1990, half the afternoon would be taken up by a Bond film and (I have no statistics to prove this you understand) it was always The Spy Who Loved Me. Therefore, each time I watch it now, while the kids want to binge on Netflix and the googolplex Sky channels, it evokes distant memories of childhood excitement, listening to Shakin’ Stevens and the disappointment of finding a broken goalie in your new Stoke City Subbuteo set.
Ok, ‘enough with the ‘this technology were all fields when I were a lad’ rubbish’, I hear you cry, ‘why The Spy Who Loved Me?’. Well, simply because it is the best Bond film ever made. I refuse to put ‘arguably’ in that last statement because it not up for argument. It just is. Want proof? Fine.
We probably all think the Bond we grew up with is the best. This is a as good a reason to pity anyone under the age of twenty; imagine trying to develop Bond-love to Daniel Craig’s whinging dullard and his array of uninspiring super-baddies. Sean Connery was good, I’ll give you that, as was the mostly underrated Dalton, but Moore personified the aloof black-tie ridiculousness of how I always pictured England’s foremost uber-spy.
Next, the baddy and his plot. To recap, the wonderfully insane Karl Stromberg is stock-piling nuclear submarines from all nations to cause a global nuclear war, thus wiping out humanity. Very biblical. But what exactly was the mission statement for this, because it doesn’t sound like there would be much personal gain to achieve from such a project? Well, here’s the doozy. Stromberg dreamed of a world where humanity would thrive once again, but under water. Now, if that doesn’t make Chistoph Waltz pull the plug on his mobile webcam spying exercise then I don’t know what will. That’s why his lair is underwater and formed in the shape of a huge spider. Did I mention the trap door in the lift, leading to a tube feeding a shark tank? At this point, if you’re considering that having the entire landmass of Earth razed by nuclear weaponry would also affect the oceans in some detrimental way, you’re missing the point. The Spy Who Loved Me was great precisely because it was so utterly batshit crazy. Stromberg’s main henchman? Jaws. A seven-foot mute (until his return in Moonraker that is) with a mouth full of oversized metal teeth who was practically invincible. Fall 200 feet off a building? Bring it on. Collapse a pyramid on his head? He dusts himself down.
Then Barbara Bach. Triple X. Top Russian counter-intelligence. Best Bond girl ever. A powerful woman role-model in 1977. Gal Gadot was 8 years old. Ok, yes, she did end up shagging 007 at the end, but up until that point, she was leading the underground strike for the entire USSR.
Desmond Llewelyn’s brilliant grey treed suited Q, constantly infuriated with Bond’s lack of appreciation for his gadgets; a mobile microfilm reader and a digital watch which delivered secret messages via a ticker tape stream. And of course, the car. A white Lotus Esprit S1 nicknamed Wet Nelly which, at the press of a button, could sprout fins and become a submarine. Craig had an invisible V12 Vanquish, but could it turn into a submarine? No. No it couldn’t.
There was one year I missed my yuletide helping of The Spy I Loved Me though. Christmas 1986 my fading memory tells me. In the days when pub landlords were legally bound to a maximum of 2 hours lunchtime opening on Christmas Day – to stop the nation’s fathers and husbands spending all day in the boozer. On my dad’s return from his annual two hour hot toddy power drinking session at his local watering hole, mum sat us all down to the hastily arranged dining table in the living room for the culmination of her 6 week turkey cooking exercise. Just as Bond pulled the cord to produce a huge Union Jack parachute while out skiing (not particularly indicative of an undercover agent admittedly) dad’s elbow slipped off the table, relocating his face to the same precise geolocation co-ordinates as his mashed potato and gravy. The rest of that year’s Bond experience was overshadowed somewhat by the necessary cowering in the downstairs loo.
So, to summarise; The Spy Who Loved Me is my favourite Christmas movie because firstly, it has nothing to do with Christmas. Secondly it reminds me of ruined turkey dinners due to argumentative drunken parenting. And finally, it reignites the childhood fantasy of living in a subterranean arachnoid lair while the rest of humanity obliterate one other by setting the sky on fire.
Happy Christmas y’all!