Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) | Women



Maybe because the film makes Bond wait so long to get into bed with Amasova, it gives him plenty of other women to spend time with early on, starting with an enemy agent in Switzerland. We don't know anything about her or even Bond's mission there, but she tries to delay him until a group of Soviets can arrive to either kill him or take him in. We're not even sure if Bond knows she's a bad guy, but she's not able to keep him there once he gets the extraction order from M.



The next woman is troubling, because she's a slave to Bond's old buddy from Cambridge. The sheik gives her to Bond for the night, meaning that Bond is going to have sex with a woman against her will. Sadly, that's not exactly out of character for him.



Bond never has a chance to get in bed with Felicca, the woman at Fekkesh's house whose job it is to "entertain" Bond while Fekkesh is off meeting Amasova about the microfilm. Felicca's not on screen long, but she's an intriguing character. What's her relationship to Fekkesh? Is she an employee? His wife or lover? She seems very okay with her job to keep Bond distracted with sex. Is that because Bond's a handsome man or because she does this sort of thing a lot for Fekkesh? You can read it either way.

It's too bad that her death scene is so clumsily shot and edited. It's hard to tell whether Sandor murders her on purpose or if he's trying to kill Bond and she gets in the way. We're used to Bond's being the target in these situations, but the only thing that makes sense to me is that Sandor is trying to kill Felicca.

His orders from Stromberg are to murder everyone who knows about the microfilm. That possibly includes Bond, but it for sure has to include Felicca. And even if he's trying to shoot Bond first, there are only two explanations for Felicca's taking the bullet. Either she purposely jumps in front of it or Bond spins her around, purposely killing her to save himself. There's no reason that she'd be loyal enough to Bond to want to die for him. And as horrible as Bond is to women, I can't imagine his murdering one in cold blood, especially when she's just warned him that someone's about to shoot. That means that Felicca's got to be the first target. Bond probably would have been next if he hadn't drawn his own gun.

At any rate, it's almost certainly Felicca's murder that makes Bond pissed enough to kill Sandor in cold blood up on the roof.



It seems like every actress who plays a "Bond Girl" talks about how her character is going to be different from the stereotype. Frankly, I'm not even sure what the stereotype is, because they're all pretty different when you look closely at them, but Anya Amasova does have something special about her. Unlike Bond's previous co-stars, Amasova is also a superspy. She's his equal, up to a point.

Barbara Bach isn't a great actress, but she plays "amused" well and that's Amasova's defining characteristic. As long as she's supposed to be lightly entertained by Bond's shenanigans, she's great, and that's a lot. It's when other emotions are supposed to come up that she's not so hot. That's a big problem when the story calls for her to discover that Bond murdered her lover. That should be a powerful, dramatic moment where Amasova struggles with anger, regret, and vengeance, but Bach just goes with "mildly pissed."

On the other hand, maybe her reaction is entirely plausible. She refers to her dead boyfriend as "the man I loved," but she hasn't exactly been grieving over him in the three weeks since his death. She's been first flirting and then fooling around with Bond. She's moved on.

I think what's happening when she finds out that Bond killed her boyfriend is that she's as angry at herself as she is at Bond. The kill-or-be-killed speech Bond gives her is heartfelt by him, but not necessary for her. She knows this stuff already and that's why she's not grieving super strongly. But then she feels bad about not grieving and declares that she's going to take it out on Bond. Her heart's not in it though, which is why she drops her vendetta against him like a hot potato at the end. It's an anticlimactic way for the script to resolve that storyline, but it makes sense.

Amasova never turns dumb at any point, but the movie does lose interest in her as a character once Stromberg captures her. The movie cheats by moving from that to her being all tied up in a chair at Stromberg's HQ. There had to have been about twelve different times in between those two scenes where the Amasova from early in the film could have gotten herself out. Instead, Spy sets her aside and has her wait around for Bond to rescue her. There may be a perfectly valid reason that she wasn't able to escape, but I wish the movie cared enough about her to show it to me. She's cool enough to crack the Top Ten, but this lame bit at the end keeps her low on the list.

My Favorite Bond Women

1. Tracy Bond (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
2. Paula Caplan (Thunderball)
3. Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)
4. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
5. Domino Derval (Thunderball)
6. Mary Goodnight (The Man with the Golden Gun)
7. Andrea Anders (The Man with the Golden Gun)
8. Honey Rider (Dr. No)
9. Anya Amasova (The Spy Who Loved Me)
10. Sylvia Trench (Dr. No and From Russia With Love)

3 comments:

Jack said...

Hi, Michael. Your great work continues, and I'm loving this series. On the subject of Felicca and whether Bond would murder her in cold blood, isn't there a scene in Dr. No in which Bond is trying to escape some assassins by running through a Mardi Gras-type of street party, he runs into an open-air dance floor, grabs a nameless woman and begins to dance with her, and when he sees an assassin lining up a shot, he spins her to take his bullet in the back? He then guides her to a chair and says something glib like "Can my friend sit here? She's just dead!" It's been 30 years since I watched Dr. No, and the memory may be sketchy, but I can't forget that line, and if I'm remembering correctly, the first movie established that not only will he deliberately cause the death of even innocent people in the line of duty, but that he's very glib and callus about it.

Not trying to undercut you here, it's just a ten-second scene out of 23 movies, but one I happened to remember as an impressionable 13-year old who was startled that a hero would do something so villainy, and laugh about it seconds later. Great, great work, nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to reading many more installments.

Michael May said...

Hi, Jack! First of all, thanks for the very nice email and the mention on your blog. I've been meaning to respond and I'm embarrassed that I haven't yet.

The scene you're remembering is from Thunderball and it's different because the woman who gets killed is a SPECTRE assassin. Bond does grab a random woman to dance with, but then Fiona cuts in. She tries to keep Bond still until one of her men can shoot him, but Bond sees the gun and spins her around to take the bullet herself. No shame in finding humor in Bond's line. She's one of his nastiest adversaries and totally deserved it. In fact, I picked that as my favorite quip from that movie. :)

Jack said...

Thanks for setting me straight on that. I've been a big Bond fan since I saw Dr. No and From Russia with Love as a double feature in 1961, and this is not a matter I am unhappy to be mistaken about. And don't worry about not commenting. Most of the people I admire are busy folks; that's what makes them interesting! Nice hearing from you here, though

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