The opening of The Spy Who Loved Me was arguably the apogee of the Roger Moore 007 films. I remember watching this with a girlfriend in ’77 and saying, “Okay, I get it…this is going to be good.” It encapsulated the fresh idea that Bond films could and should be exercises in self-parody, and perhaps even out-and-out comedies with action sequences that deliberately challenged the laws of elemental physics (a new concept back then).
It’s the movie that said (a) “we’re throwing out any allusions whatsover to the serious-stud Bond playbook and going for a much more playful tone” and (b) “you’ll never see a Bond film as rugged and muscular as From Russia With Love ever again…get used to it. We’re in the mid ’70s now and nobody will buy a straight-with-no-chaser 007, so we’re having fun.”
Nothing said this as much as Richard Kiel‘s dopey Jaws character, who could have been a regular on the Jack Benny Show. Kiel’s giant lug could have fit right into Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy. And he anticipated the cool-monster attitude of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Terminator character in the ’84 original.
The movie, directed by the comedically inclined Lewis Gilbert, delivered all this but the opening — the idiotic ski chase followed by the main title with Carly Simon singing the title song — was a kind of overture or preamble that conveyed the new approach. It said “Okay, fans, here we go…new game!” And it had the most self-aware, self-amused and cocksure vibe since the hard-swagger days of the first three films — Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.
For me it was a long slow downhill trek after this. The Pierce Brosnan 007 films never quite figured a way to re-think the franchise as radically as The Spy Who Loved Me.
The song is cut off at the tail end of the above video. Here’s a version to plays it to the end. I love the chord changes when Simon sings “is keepin’ all my secrets safe tonight.”