- "Observe, Mr. Bond, the instruments of Armageddon."
- ― Karl Stromberg's most famous line.
Karl Stromberg was a fictional Swedish wealthy entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of a shipping company called Stromberg Shipping. Due to his plan to destroy the world, the character was the main antagonist in the 1977 James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me. Portrayed by the late Austrian actor Curt Jurgens, he also appeared in Christopher Wood's accompanying novelization and was given the name Sigmund Stromberg.
The webbed-fingered Karl Stromberg is a successful self-employed businessman as head of his own shipping firm and chain of laboratories called the Stromberg Shipping Line, who is also one of the world's richest companies. His obsession and passion is the ocean, where he lives in his futuristic palace named Atlantis. Located off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, Atlantis has everything to support life above and below water for any length of time. Stromberg also owns a supertanker, Liparus (the second largest super-tanker in the world), that serves as his headquarters away from Atlantis. Aboard the tanker he has a small army of soldiers clad in orange jumpsuits. In Christopher Wood's novelization of the film, Stromberg is Swedish and his first name is Sigmund.
Although Stromberg has a passion and love for the ocean and its various species, he despises the human race, not unlike Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. Stromberg, however, is much more diabolical and has no interest in benefiting the world. He has a congenital condition in which his hands were webbed like those of aquatic birds or mammals. It is his personal mission to start over with a new civilization underwater. After contracting two scientists to create the technology to track nuclear submarines, Stromberg uses this technology to capture a Soviet nuclear submarine and a British submarine. By tracking the subs, Liparus would sneak up on the subs and capture them inside the tanker. His plan calls for the use of firing nuclear weapons from these subs at Moscow and New York City, thus framing each other's government and starting a nuclear war, which would wipe out every last human being on Earth, leaving Stromberg to rebuild civilization beneath the city. The Russian and British government send the agents Anya Amasova and James Bond respectively.
- "Every person who even comes into contact with that microfilm, is to be eliminated"
- ― Stromberg to Jaws
While Bond and Amasova are briefed about their task, Stromberg meets with Dr. Bechmann and Professor Markovitz, the scientists who developed his submarine tracking system. He tells them that he has paid 10 million dollars each into their bank accounts. Before dismissing them, the businessman tells them that he regrets to inform them that someone has been attempting to sell the plans to competing world powers and that only someone close to the project could have done so. He tells his assistant to leave the room while he discusses with the men, but as she enters the elevator, Stromberg pushes a button and the bottom of the elevator opens, dropping the girl into a water tank occupied by a swimming shark. Over a PA system, Stromberg reveals that woman was the one responsible for trying to sell the project as she had access to the information and watches with little to no emotion as the woman ends up being devoured by the shark. The two scientists then leave the room and Stromberg heaves Atlantis out of the ocean. He then calls two henchmen, Sandor and Jaws, and tasks them with the recovery of the tracking system, telling them to eliminate everyone who came into contact with the system.
Stromberg then watches the helicopter with Bechmann and Markovitz leaving Atlantis and, with them having outlived their usefulness, blows the pair up. He then swiftly cancels the transaction and tells another secretary to inform the two mens' families that they have met with an accident and are "buried at sea".
- "I'm somewhat of a recluse. I wish to conduct my life on my own terms, and in surroundings with which I can identify. That is a privilege of wealth."
- ― Stromberg introduces himself to Bond.
Despite Sandor and Jaws' efforts, Bond and Amasova are able to recover a microchip leading them to Stromberg's marine research laboratory on Sardinia, resulting Sandor's death. Their governments decide that the two will be sent to investigate together. Under the cover of a marine biologist and his assistant, Bond and Amasova are granted "an audience" with Stromberg. Sent by Stromberg, his helicopter pilot Naomi picks up the spies and brings them to Atlantis. When they arrive at Atlantis, Stromberg watches them via hidden cameras. While Bond enters the elevator to meet Stromberg, Naomi volunteers to show Amasova around. After exiting the elevator, Bond meets Stromberg in his false identity and the industrialist tests his cover by asking him about the fishes in his aquarium. Bond manages to avert this by correctly deducing a certain species of fish, much to Stromberg's surprise. Bond and him briefly talk about Stromberg's obsession with the ocean before the pirate parts with Bond, claiming to have urgent business.
While Bond and Amasova leave, Stromberg meets with Jaws, who confirms that his two guests were the ones he fought on the train. Stromberg then tells Jaws, Naomi and other henchmen to let them get to shore before killing them. However, Bond and Amasova manage to escape the hit, and Naomi ends up being killed, though Jaws manages to escape alive one more time.
Capturing another vessel
- "Farewell, Mr. Bond. That word has, I must admit, a welcome ring of permanence about it."
- ― Stromberg bids farewell to Bond.
When Stromberg's men capture an American submarine with the help from Liparus, Bond and Amasova are inside amidst the crew. As the submarine is placed inside the Liparus, Karl talks to the captain via intercom, telling him that he and his crew will be exterminated via cyanide gas if they do not open the hatch. Without an alternative, the hatch is opened and the men leave the ship. Stromberg then orders the crew to be imprisoned with the crews of the other submarines. However, while the men are walking off, Stromberg recognizes Bond and Amasova and tells his men to bring the pair to him. When Bond and Amasova stand before him, the villain reveals his true plan to fire nuclear missiles from the stolen submarines at Moscow and New York City, thus framing each other's government and starting a nuclear war, which would wipe out every last human being on Earth and allow him to create a new civilization under the oceans. Stromberg also reveals that he considers the modern world to be corrupt and decadent, and that he plans to destroy it to make room for his new oceanic civilization.
His two submarines then set off. After witnessing their departure, Stromberg orders his men to imprison Bond with the rest of the crew while he takes Amasova for himself and enters a speedboat wit her to return to Atlantis. However, Bond manages to free himself on the way and frees the American, British, and Soviet crews from their cells. After arming themselves, Bond and the crews takes over the Liparus, killing most of Stromberg's henchmen. However, the captain and the remaining crewmembers are sealing the operations room with a strong armor proven to be impenetrable but Bond pops out a detonator from a nuclear missile and implants it to a plastic explosive near the armor, destroying it and allowing 007 and his cohorts to break in and shoot down the captain and the remaining crew. Bond is later able to trick the stolen British and Soviet submarines to fire their nuclear warheads at each other with the same tracking system, obliterating both submarines and Stromberg's crews onboard and leaving the captain and others henchmen's deaths in vain. Using the American submarine, Bond and the remaining crew members escape as Liparus sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Final confrontation with Bond and death at Atlantis
- "Yours too, Mr. Bond, yours too... and faster than you think."
- ― Stromberg's response to Bond's "Your time's up, Stromberg."
When the captain of the submarine gets orders from Washington to destroy Atlantis, Bond manages to convince him to wait one hour to allow Bond to enter Atlantis and save Amasova. After Bond arrives, Stromberg addresses Bond over the PA system and tells the English that he will send the elevator down for him. Planning to drop his enemy into the shark tank, Stromberg is surprised to see that Bond evaded his trap by keeping his feet off the floor. Arriving safely at Stromberg's living quarters, Bond sits down at the table, opposed to Stromberg. The terrorist then tries to shoot Bond with a hidden torpedo gun attached under the table, but Bond evades the missile and returns fire.
Bond coolly aims his gun underneath the table, then exercises his licence to kill by shooting Stromberg two times in the crotch, once in the chest, and finally on the head, killing him. The protagonist then proceeds to rescue Amasova and they evade in an escape pod before Atlantis is torpedoed and sunken to the bottom of sea, giving the deceased Stromberg a burial at sea.
To be added.
Stromberg's fascination with the sea was itself symbolic of this man - a smooth and unreliable vitality, whose black, smooth surface tried to hide emotional life underneath. Stromberg, a voluntary hermit was frustrated by the exploration of humanity in space as long as 70% of our planet was still unexplored to the bottom of the seas. Here, it should also be noted that Stromberg related to the creatures of the sea more than just a love of nature. In genetic mutations Stromberg had apparently developed fin hands. Since he was convinced that mankind would sooner or later destroy itself, he felt called to speed up the process slightly by a nuclear war incited to commit. He was so set on his goals and beliefs that he was willing "to accept the judgement of posterity" for his attempted mass murder. His plan was to stand up like the sovereign of a submarine kingdom after the nuclear holocaust itself. Stromberg remarked James Bond that he barely felt the need for contact with the outside world, as the microcosm of Atlantis provided everything for him that he needed to live: beauty, ugliness and death. Stromberg had little respect for human life and therefore no pity for those who had served him moments before. In spite of his advanced age, he could not resist the charms of a beautiful woman. This became clear when he captured Anya Amasova. He saved their lives so that he could share his life in the future underwater kingdom with her as his mistress.
Henchmen & Associates
Behind the scenes
The character of Stromberg was created specifically for the film by writer Christopher Wood. The entire plot of the film actually bears little to no resemblance to that of the original Ian Flemming novel. This was at Fleming's request upon selling the film rights to his novel. He specifically dictated only the title could be used by EON Productions. Stromberg has the distinction, therefore, of being the very first major James Bond villain to be created specifically for the movies.
In early drafts of the screenplay, the villain of The Spy Who Loved Me was going to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of SPECTRE and Bond's mortal enemy from previous films, but legal wrangling over the rights to the character required the creation of a new villain. A passing reference in the film to the death of Bond's wife (killed in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in a drive-by shooting conducted by Blofeld himself) could be a remnant of this earlier script. Subsequent drafts of the script involved a group of international terrorists overthrowing either Blofeld or the new leadership of Spectre and assuming control of the organization, thus doing away with the legal hassle of using the copyrighted names. This approach was ultimately decided upon being "too political" by EON and a simpler route was taken. The overall plot of a worldwide holocaust was retained however and the Stromberg character was devised as something of a Blofeld stand-in. As result, both Stromberg and Blofeld share many key traits, most notably Stromberg's scheme being highly reminiscent of Blofeld's in You Only Live Twice.
- Karl Stromberg is notable for being the first Bond villain whose grand scheme does not involve making a lot of money (which he already has).
- His scheme is actually a recycled plot from You Only Live Twice, which was similar in that by stealing space capsules it would start a war between the Soviets and the Americans. The idea of commandeering two nuclear missiles and attempting to fire them at two major cities likewise recalls the plot of Thunderball. The scheme in which the villain wishes to destroy mankind to create a new race or new civilization was also used in Moonraker, the next film after The Spy Who Loved Me (as opposed to For Your Eyes Only, as was originally billed during the credits of The Spy Who Loved Me). In Moonraker, the villain Hugo Drax has an obsession with creating a new human civilization in outer space, although Drax plans to eventually return to Earth, unlike Stromberg. The film Moonraker was also written by Christopher Wood. Both Drax and Stromberg have hired Jaws as a henchman.