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.
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 nucleur 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 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.
-"Every person who comes in to even 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 human civilization over in space. The film Moonraker was also written by Christopher Wood. Both featured Jaws as a henchman.
Stromberg's scheme is prevented after Bond is taken aboard the Liparus as a prisoner from a recently captured American submarine. With Bond's help, the crews of the other submarines escape and take over the tanker. With the tanker in their control, Bond is able to order the stolen submarines to fire their nuclear warheads at each other. Prior to this, however, Stromberg abducts Bond's partner, Anya Amasova, and escapes to his city-ship, Atlantis.
Bond pursues Stromberg, and after two failed attempts by Stromberg to kill him, Bond exercises his licence to kill by fatally shooting Stromberg twice in the groin, once in the chest and once in the face/head. Atlantis is later scuttled by the U.S.S. Wayne, giving Stromberg a burial at sea.
Henchmen & Associates
Behind the scenes
The character Stromberg was created specifically for the film by writer Christopher Wood. The novel The Spy Who Loved Me, written by Ian Fleming wasn't told from Bond's perspective, but rather a Bond girl that is in love with him. The entire plot of the film has actually nothing to do at all with the plot of the novel. This was at Fleming's request; when he sold the rights to his novel to EON Productions he requested only the title be used. 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. Indeed Stromberg and Blofeld have many similarities, both in terms of characterization, and in the fact that they have small armies of thugs at their disposal. Stromberg's plan to end civilization is also similar to Blofeld's plan to start a Third World War 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."
- "Farewell, Mr. Bond. That word has, I must admit, a welcome ring of permanence about it."
- "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."