Ahem. Where was I?
We start on a Russian-crewed submarine. Something happens, although it is not entirely clear what that something is, although it is ominous. Later, officials are notified that the ship has vanished.
Word is given to Moscow. It seems that James Bond’s Eastern Counterpart, Agent Triple X is to be put on the case. We seemingly cut to Triple X in bed with a pretty lady, but it is a fakeout. Triple X is the lady not the fella! Has egalitarianism come to this franchise at last? It seems unlikely.
Bond is at a Ski Lodge with a pretty lady, when he gets a message via a printout from his goddamn digital watch: Orders to return to base. Britain has also lost a sub. Apparently this is a remake of “You Only Live Twice.”
Bond leaves his pretty lady, but is immediately set upon by ski assassins, dispatched by the young lady whose company he had been enjoying. He uses a gun in his ski pole to put some distance between the assassins, enough to ski off of a mountain and parachute to safety, all while wearing a bright yellow snowsuit. The parachute is a Union Jack. The specifics are stupid, but the stunt is impressive.
This movie continues to show Triple X to be the mirror image of Bond. She gets the Russian equivalent of a briefing scene with M, whereupon she is dispatched to investigate the missing Russian sub. She is also informed of the death of her lover, a fellow agent. It isn’t explicit, but it is clear enough that her lover was the skier that Bond iced.
Bond meets not with M but with some navy fellas at some Navy place. Q is there. They discuss what they know about the sinking subs. Someone in Cairo claims that they know the secret of how the subs are being sunk.
The guy who can sink subs is revealed to be some generic white guy in the by-now generic bond villain vein. His name is Stromberg and he refuses to shake hands. He’s got a funky underwater base that looks like the Hall of Doom and a pair of henchmen. A large fella, and an even larger fella named Jaws, who has metal teeth and is mute.
His introductory scene has a decent switcheroo where it looks like he is dismissing his moll so that he can murder the scientists who made his submarine-sinker, but instead, he murders the moll, via trap door in an elevator, dropping her into a shark tank. It’s a decent throwback to when Blofeld would keep SPECTRE agents guessing about who he held accountable. Stromberg killed her because he thinks she leaked information about his plans. But then he murders the scientists too! He blows up their helicopter! Just in case he was wrong, and they were the leakers.
Bond goes to Egypt. He rides on a camel while wearing desert robes for no apparent reason other than to allow the soundtrack to play a snatch of the theme to Lawrence of Arabia while he does. He meets up with an old friend, a Brit ex-pat local. He points Bond in the right direction, before offering to let Bond stay the night. Bond is about to decline, when his buddy summons a young woman for Bond to have sex with. Bond agrees to stay. I really should stop being surprised and dismayed by the way this series fully treats women as objects
Bond goes to meet his new contact, Fekkesh, the guy who claims they know the secret of the sinking subs. He is absent, but Stromberg’s large henchman, named Sandor, is there, ready to ambush Bond. They fight, until Bond has Sandor at his mercy, dangling off of a roof. Sandor tells Bond where to find Fekkesh. Bond then drops Sandor off of the roof. The cruelty of the murder would have seemed perfectly natural had Connery done it, but coming from Moore, it feels strange and off. These are no longer those kind of movies.
Bond, Triple X, Fekkesh, and Jaws all convene at the Pyramids of Giza, where a strange late night tourist show is underway. The tourist presentation can be heard playing over an extended, dull game of cat and mouse between the various players. It’s a very strange choice.
Jaws shows himself capable of biting a chain in half with his metal teeth. He then bites Fekkesh to death. But Bond finds the body of Fekkesh, and grabs a datebook off of him and beats up some fellas that I think work with Jaws? Triple X just takes it all in.
Later, the two spies meet again at the club that Bond had found in the datebook. Each spy shows off how much they know about each other, including their signature drinks. It is as if “shaken, not stirred” had become a catchphrase so that years later it could be referenced in this film. The respective showing off is playful, until Triple X mentions Tracy, Bond’s dead wife, which he does not appreciate, shutting down the conversation.
It turns out that the owner of the club has the microfilm. The spies start a bidding war over it, but before either can come to terms, Jaws lures the owner away to a private telephone. Jaws quickly bites him to death and takes the microfilm.
After playing catch up, Bond and Double X both sneak onto Jaws’ escape van, but as they banter in the back, Jaws is listening to everything they say. He takes them back to the pyramids, where begins a new game of cat and mouse.
Bond and Jaws scuffle. Bond is no match at all for the 7-foot two brute one-on-one. While the boys wrassle, Triple X gets the drop on Jaws with a gun and takes the microfilm from him at gunpoint. Jaws kicks the gun out of her hand in a very telegraphed action, and she and Bond both retreat to the van they came in. Jaws jumps onto the van, and starts ripping it apart with his bare hands, but the spies escape.
As rivals, one expects sexy, clever banter between our two leads (and unusually, Triple X almost does feel like a co-lead) but instead we get petty squabbling. The van dies and they must walk through the desert back to civilization. The theme to “Lawrence of Arabia” swells on the soundtrack. As a rule, it is a bad idea to reference a great movie in your shitty movie. It does you no favors.
On a boat back to Cairo, Bond secretly examines the microfilm. When it seems like Bond and Triple X are going to fuck on a boat an hour too early, she uses a cigarette filled with knockout gas to sucker Bond and abscond with the microfilm.
MI6 has apparently set up shop inside of the great pyramids. M, Q, and Moneypenny are all there, as is M’s Russian opposite number and Triple X. This operation has become a joint venture between Russia and Britain. Before the briefing we get a Q Section gadget scene, Egypt-style, with attack hookahs and ejector pillows.
The microfilm doesn’t have the full plans to the sub-sinker but Bond and X find a clue that points them to Sardinia. They head there as partners, taking a train together. Bond is confused when he cannot seduce X.
Before Bond can solve this puzzle, Jaws reveals himself to be on the train. He tries to bite X when she is alone, but Bond hears the altercation and jumps in.
The fight plays like a lame cartoon parody of the train fight in “From Russia With Love.” Bond electrocutes Jaws through his teeth and tosses him out of the train through a window. Jaws pulls himself up and walks away. Back on the train, after this particular near-death experience, X is finally ready to sleep with Bond.
Later, after they arrive in Sardinia, Q delivers to Bond a car that just oozes poorly-dated modernity. The question of how Q got there first, when they were all coming from the same location and Bond and X left straight away by train, is not explored.
Bond and X arrange a meeting with Stromberg. They pose as a marine biologist and his wife, respectively. Bond checks out the man’s aquarium, which includes a human corpse. Stromberg tests Bond’s fish knowledge. Bond seems to pass. Stromberg really likes fish. At this point, lots of Bond’s adversaries have had sharks, piranha and other killer marine life. But Stromberg has a deeper affinity. He wants to life in an underwater city.
Jaws, although dumped from the train, has already caught up, and in Stromberg’s lair. He confirms the true identities of the two spies to Stromberg, who instructs his men to kill them as soon as they leave.
And so, Bond and X are attacked by a motorcyclist who tries to kill them with a rocket propelled sidecar. It is evaded, and the motorcyclist goes off of a cliff.
Jaws chases them in a car. He also ends up going off a cliff, however he, unlike most goons who drive off of a cliff in a 70’s action film walks away uninjured.
A female agent of Stromberg chases them with a machine gun equipped helicopter. Bond’s new fancy car goes off of a pier. Turns out the car can turn into a submarine, complete with a sea-air missile which blows the helicopter out of the sky.
At this point, scuba divers with underwater rocket launchers attack the sub/car. Bond prevails with his own missiles and mines and smokescreens. It’s an audacious sequence, but the filmmaking isn’t up to the promise of the larger-than-life material.
Later, Bond and Triple X are making chitchat when Bond accidentally reveals that he murdered her boyfriend. Occupational hazard and all that. She vows to kill Bond after this mission is complete.
They travel to a British sub where the commander trips over the fact that Triple X is a woman. She gives him a “we’re all soldiers” line, which would maybe be a bit more empowering if the film didn’t then spend time ogling at the lady in the shower, complete with light nippleage.
Soon, their sub suffers a power failure that forces them to surface. Waiting for them is Stromberg’s special giant tanker designed to open and scoop up de-powered submarines. Having captured a new one, it now houses three. If it wasn’t clear before, this film is basically just underwater “You Only Live Twice.”
We thought that the cool Hall of Doom base was the villain’s lair, but this tanker, staffed with hundreds of henchmen in red jumpsuits, complete with monorail, is the real Ken Adam deal. The logo on their uniform is that of a fish.
Stromberg has Bond and X brought to him. With his new collection of submarines, he now has a nuclear arsenal, and he intends to blow up the civilized world. No ransom, just Armageddon. He wants to destroy the surface and live in an underwater utopia of his creation.
He’ll leave Bond to die but intends to take X to his new Atlantis, presumably because of sexism. He departs with her via speedboat. As soon as they are gone, Bond frees himself and helps the combined captured submarine crews mount an insurrection. It’s a huge battle throughout the base. Again, just like “You Only Live Twice.”
Back at his sea lab, underneath the water, Stromberg has dressed Triple X in sex clothes and has her tressed up. It’s been a while since I mentioned it: These movies are gross.
Meanwhile, Bond and company try to seize control of the tanker and start defusing nukes. There’s actually a really cute trick at this point. Bond sneaks through the base and as he does, the classic James Bond theme is playing. He kills power to their electronics, and the exact moment that he does so the theme cuts out. It’s a weird gag, but it has more style than these movies usually do.
The remaining crew escape in the American sub. The American’s orders are to blow up the sea lab, but X is onboard, so Bond asks for an hour to mount a rescue. He then goes charging in on a jet ski.
Bond enters the lab, avoids the death traps, and makes his way to Stromberg, shooting him dead. He searches for X, only to run into Jaws one last time. They fight yet again. Bond shoots him in the teeth. The bullet ricochets off of them. Bond finally defeats Jaws by grabbing him by the mouth with an electromagnet and dropping him into a shark tank.
Even after that, Jaws bites the shark to death, in a bit of meta-commentary.
The hour runs out and the Americans torpedo the base.
Bond frees X and they make it to a posh escape pod, complete with chilling champaign. X pulls a gun on Bond. The mission is over. Ultimately, she decides she’s rather screw James Bond than kill him. Sigh.
Jaws swims away.
This movie had potential. Jaws aside, they jettisoned a lot of the awkward campiness and played things largely straight. The idea of Bond’s female Russian equal is a great one, sadly wasted by a lack of spark between the leads and by a third act that required the girl to be rescued. Still by managing to be mediocre and to not be outright terrible, this ends up being one of the better bonds.