Submarines were all the rage during the Cold War. You don’t hear so much about them these days, I hope they’re doing alright. The franchise that so glamourously put the world of espionage on film naturally brought plenty of submarines to the screen. James Bond has seen more submarines than you’ve eaten Subways, so here in chronological order are the subs of 007. (Contains spoilers)
James Bond’s aquatic adventure earned itself an Oscar for special effects, thanks to its impressive underwater action sequences. As well as the famous jetpack and of course the Aston Martin DB5, Thunderball includes the “Bombsub” – a bright yellow mini-submarine which carries atomic bombs. Terrifying I know – bright yellow! What was evil eye-patch wearing villain Emilio Largo thinking? He must have problems with his vision or something.
You Only Live Twice
The Roald Dahl penned Japanese journey ends with Sean Connery kissing the appropriately named Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama) on a life raft. Bond never was a man for prioritising. Then a submarine emerges from beneath them and carries them to safety, as Nancy Sinatra’s iconic theme song starts with those classic strings. I think the model of submarine in this case is the Freudian 101.
When George Lazenby quit the franchise after just one outing as 007, the studio lured Sean Connery back with a record breaking salary for what was probably the weakest of his Bond films. In the climactic moments of Diamonds Are Forever, Blofeld (Charles Gray) tries to escape in his “Bathosub.” How do they come up with these names? But as the mini-submarine is being lowered into the sea, Bond throws the operator out of the crane and takes the controls. By swinging the Bathosub into Blofeld’s base he somehow manages to blow it up and save the world. As I said, probably the weakest of his Bond films.
From one of the worst to one of the best. The Spy Who Loved Me is the ultimate submarine Bond film. The plot revolves around the mysterious disappearance of military submarines, the villain lives in an underwater lair, and most importantly of all there’s Wet Nellie – not a soggy version of the guy who did that “Hot In Herre” song, but James Bond’s white Lotus Esprit which converts into a sleek underwater craft. After a superb chase sequence, Roger Moore evades a helicopter by driving straight into the sea. “Can you swim?” he asks Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), before the screen turns aquamarine, the music turns serene and the car turns submarine. “Alone at last,” says Bond. Best of all, when Wet Nellie resurfaces the windscreen wipers are on. As I said, one of the best.
This is another submarine-heavy instalment in the franchise, in which Roger Moore must retrieve a device that controls a fleet of weaponised subs. It’s an underrated entry, boasting a great car chase in a Citroën 2CV, an exciting fight on an ice rink and a surprisingly pro-disarmament message. Oh, and there’s a submarine called Neptune.
More than just a good theme song by Duran Duran, this is Bond at its most eccentric. Christopher Walken, Grace Jones and the Golden Gate Bridge all play their part in making this one of the most ridiculous films in the franchise. It opens, like all of them, with a chase. But this time, Bond escapes in an iceberg. Or rather, a submarine cleverly disguised as an iceberg. Inside, he tells the blonde pilot to “be a good girl” and put it on autopilot, 30 years before anyone had even heard of Robin Thicke.
“It’s just a manta ray”, says the villainous Krest (Anthony Zerbe) aboard his submarine, looking at a shadowy black shape on a monitor. But wait! That’s no manta ray! It has legs! In fact it’s Timothy Dalton, skilfully disguised as a manta ray. Why? Who cares!
The climactic moments of The World Is Not Enough take place on board a submarine, as James Bond and Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) fight their way through a meandering plot that has something to do with oil. They manage to escape the submarine before it blows up, and celebrate in true Bond style. “I thought Christmas only comes once a year,” quips Pierce Brosnan as the franchise hits a new low. Until the next movie, Die Another Day.
That seems like an appropriate place to end this blog, with the image of a franchise that sunk to the depths of the ocean before eventually resurfacing with Daniel Craig at the helm. I’ve been careful to only include actual submarines and no boats – that’s a blog for another time. So the alligator vessel from Octopussy doesn’t count, because it doesn’t go underwater… oh go on then.