Karl Stromberg

Karl Stromberg
Karl Stromberg

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Karl Stromberg

“Observe, Mr. Bond, the instruments of Armageddon.„

~ Karl Stromberg’s speech to James Bond, right before he’s about to unleash the nuclear missiles.

“(Over PA system) It was you who betrayed me. You had access to all the information. Now, you will pay the penalty.„

~ Stromberg, to his assistant, before the shark kills her.

Karl Stromberg is the main antagonist of the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. He was portrayed by the late Curd Jürgens.

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The webbed-fingered Karl Stromberg is a successful self-employed businessman as head of his own shipping firm and chain of laboratories. Stromberg’s obsession and passion is the ocean where he lives in his futuristic 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 red-suited soldiers. In Christopher Wood’s novelisation of the film, Stromberg is Swedish and his first name is Sigmund.


Although Stromberg has a passion for the ocean and its various species, he Karl Stromberg-3despises 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 are webbed like those of aquatic birds or mammals. It is his personal mission to start over with a new civilization underwater via complete anarchy against the “surface world”. 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, Stromberg’s specially adapted tanker, Liparus, sneaks up on the subs, forces them to the surface through methods using some kind of high frequencies to disrupt the sub’s electrical system and captures them inside the tanker. His plan calls for the firing of nuclear missiles 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. Among Stromberg’s many minions were an assistant who betrayed him by trying to sell the plans for the submarine tracking system, and a professor and a doctor who were to help him operate the tracking system after it was complete. He killed his assistant by feeding her to a shark, and killed the professor and the doctor, having outlived their usefulness, by blowing up their helicopter (In a comic relief after cancelling the payment to the professor and doctor he has his secretary inform the two mens’ families that they have met with an accident and are “buried at sea”.)


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 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 restarting human civilization in outer space, although Drax’s plans were 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.

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Stromberg’s scheme is foiled after Bond is taken aboard the Liparus as a prisoner from a recently captured American submarine. With Bond’s help, the crews from the submarines unite, escape and overtake the tanker. With the tanker under their control, Bond is able to order the stolen British and Soviet submarines, which were crewed by Stromberg’s men, to fire their nuclear warheads at each other, obliterating them both and their hijackers. Prior to this, however, Stromberg had abducted Bond’s partner, the Russian agent Anya Amasova, and escaped to Atlantis via the monorail system in the Liparus where the cars can transform into speedboats. Bond and the surviving submariners escape in the American submarine.

Bond pursues Stromberg, and after two failed attempts by Stromberg to kill him (the shark tank lift and the use of an explosive harpoon which ran the length of a dinner table), Bond exercises his license to kill by shooting Stromberg four times in the crotch and chest. Atlantis is later torpedoed, sunk and blown up, giving Stromberg a burial at sea.

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