In 1977, the degree to which Curd Jürgens’ screen imago and personal image were fused was again shown in the James Bond film THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (dir. Lewis Gilbert). In this work, not much loved by 007 aficionados, he plays the part of the obligatory villain and the role works as if the script had been tailor-written for him. How the antagonist is structured is equally important in James Bond films as the gadgets and the choice of girls, and Jürgens had to line up against such great villains as Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) or Blofeld (Charles Gray). In the times of international stock market fever when, in the newer Bonds, it is increasingly a question of money, huge sums of money indeed, the earlier Bond villains were different: like all the mythical criminal figures of film history, they had a vision – which was world domination.
Curd Jürgens plays Stromberg, a shipping magnate and marine biologist, who has commandeered a British and a Soviet atomic submarine. In his first scene he is shown at the end of a long table, eating, dressed head to toe in black, his sparse hair a little longer than it should be, with bags under his eyes and a face that is motionless – the epitome of what was then called a bon vivant. All that was lacking was the cross which Jürgens generally wore around his neck on his polo-neck pullover, in his private life, for you to imagine that this Stromberg was in Jürgens’ property in St. Paul-de-Vence. Stromberg is an old “hippy” – the aura Jürgens used to drape round himself in interviews at this time. The contrast with Roger Moore, the ultra-smooth and technocratic Bond of this film, could not have been greater.
This Stromberg is intent on using the missiles from the atomic submarines to attack New York and Moscow so that both superpowers will destroy themselves in a Third World War. “I’m not interested in money”, he tells Her Majesty’s captured agent and his detained Russian colleague (Barbara Bach). Rather, he believes in a “new age”, he wants to change the “face of the world” and create a “wonderful world in the oceans’ womb”. A few years previously, the musical Hair had seen the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. The spry elderly gentleman stands in front of the globe of the world he wishes to control. This negative utopia might have been a thorn in the eye of every “green” activist at the time and later, not only in the United States of America: Stromberg is setting himself up as the head of a global terrorist citizen’s action group. Yet this is the role which closes a circle for Curd Jürgens, it completes his sequence of driven characters that so often embodied his better performances. And it marked his arrival among a younger generation.