Karl Stromberg is a fictional businessman, the webbed-fingered head of Stromberg Shipping and the main antagonist of the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Portrayed by the late Austrian actor Curt Jurgens, the character 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. It must be noted that in Christopher Wood's novelisation of the film, Stromberg's first name is Sigmund, and is Swedish. Stromberg's obsession and passion is the ocean where he lives in his palace, named Atlantis, that could submerge itself underwater so as not to be seen or detected. Located off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, Atlantis has everything to support life above and below water for any length of time. In fact, Atlantis is more like a city, able to support dozens if not hundreds of people at a time.
Stromberg also owns a huge tanker, named Liparus, that serves as his headquarters away from Atlantis. Aboard the tanker he has a small army of soldiers clad in orange jumpsuits.
Although Stromberg has a passion and love for the ocean and its various species, he absolutely despises the human race, not unlike Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. Stromberg, however, is much more diabolical and has no interest in benefitting 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 takes this technology and uses it to capture a Soviet nuclear submarine and a United Kingdom submarine. By tracking the subs, Stromberg's specially adapted tanker, the 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
This scheme is actually a recycled plot from a previous film, 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 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. In Moonraker, the villain Hugo Drax had an obsession with starting a new human civilization in space. The film Moonraker was also written by Christopher Wood. Both featured Jaws as a henchman.
While Bond and Amasova are briefed about their task, Stromberg meets with Dr. Bechmann and Professor Markovitz, the men who developed his submarine tracking system. He tells them that he has payed 10 million dollars each into their bank accounts. Before dismissing them, he 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, his underwater palace, 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 the two scientists leaving Atlantis and, with them having outlived their usefulness, blows them up. He then swiftly cancels the transaction and tells a secretary to inform the two mens' families that they have met with an accident and are "buried at sea".
Eventually, Bond and Amasova find a microchip leading them to Stromberg's marine research laboratory on
Sardinia. Their governments decide that Amasova and Bond 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 Bond and Amasova and she 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 (as Robert Sterling) meets Stromberg, who tests Bond's 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 Stromberg briefly talk about Stromberg's obsession with the ocean before Stromberg 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 both Jaws and Naomi 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.
Capturing another vessel
When Stromberg's men capture an American submarine with the help from a cargo ship called the Liparus, Bond and Amasova are inside amidst the crew. As the submarine is placed inside the Liparus, Stromberg 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 two to him. When Bond and Amasova stand before him, Stromberg 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 Stromberg to create a new civilization under the oceans. He 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 the remainder of Stromberg's men. After gaining entrance to the control room, Bond is 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. Using the American submarine, Bond and the remaining crew members escape as Liparus sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Death at AtlantisWhen 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 Bond that he will send the elevator down for him. Planning to drop Bond 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. Stromberg 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. Bond 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.
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 provide you everything for him what 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 true. 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.
- Stromberg is notable for being the first Bond villain whose grand scheme does not involve making a lot of money (which he already has). Blofeld's plans usually involved extortion, Goldfinger wanted to increase the value of his gold by destroying the gold in Fort Knox, Dr. Kananga wanted to get rich from drug dealing, and Scaramanga wanted to sell the stolen solex to the highest criminal bidder (as well as being paid one million dollars for each target he assassinates). Stromberg's plan was instead to create his own empire under the sea, and other villains such as Drax soon followed.
- "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.
- "Farewell, Mr. Bond. That word has, I must admit, a welcome ring of permanence about it."
- ― Stromberg bids farewell to Bond.
- "Observe, Mr. Bond, The instruments of Armageddon."
- ― Referring to the nuclear warheads.
- "Yours too, Mr. Bond, yours too... and faster than you think."
- ― Stromberg's response to Bond's "Your time's up, Stromberg."