Our review of James Bond Ultimate Edition (Volume 2), published April 2nd, 2007, is also available.
Any man who drinks Dom Perignon '52 can't be all bad.
From 1977 comes The Spy Who Loved Me. It was the 10th James Bond film in the franchise and the 3rd starring Roger Moore as Agent 007.
This time out Bond is sent to investigate the disappearance of a British nuclear submarine. Seems someone has developed a way to track submarines and that method is about to put on the black market, going to the government that has the most money to spend. The Russian government has also had a submarine stolen and has sent their best agent, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), also known as Agent XXX, to investigate.
Meeting for the first time at the pyramids of Egypt, XXX and 007 come into contact with Jaws (Richard Kiel), the chief henchman of a man known as Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). Operating from his undersea lair, Stromberg believes that the future of the world lies in its oceans and he wants to use the nuclear capability of the submarines to orchestrate a world war that will allow him to rule the seas and his chosen few. Working together, in more ways than one, the two super agents attempt to stop Stromberg from using the warheads and committing mass murder.
The Spy Who Loved Me asks quite a few questions. Can Bond work with his female equal? Can 007 not drive Q crazy and get his high-tech toys back in one piece? And speaking of pieces…can our gentleman spy bed down his usual array of women? The answer to these and many more pressing matters await in The Spy Who Loved Me. Because, after all, nobody does it better.
The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond movie I ever saw on the big screen and as such it carries with it warm memories. It was later that I would read the novels of Ian Fleming and come to realize just how wrong Roger Moore was for the role. Why Fleming thought David Niven and Roger Moore were right for the role must had more to do with personal vanity, seeing himself as James Bond, than with really looking at the needs of the character. Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton had much more in common with the source material than Moore ever did. The only time I felt Moore came close to filling the cold, gritty and somewhat psychotic shoes of Bond was in For Your Eyes Only, so I approached The Spy Who Loved Me with a certain degree of trepidation.
Chalk it up to youthful memories and in direct contradiction of what I just said but watching The Spy Who Loved Me again, but I found it to be pretty good. I suppose there really is something to the notion of first times.
The Spy Who Loved Me raised the bar of expectations as to what Bond movies should have, especially in the way of stunts and exotic locales. From the opening ski jump off a mountain to the underwater action sequence featuring a Q converted Lotus automobile, everything about TSWLM is big, big and bigger.
On the commentary track mention is made about how Roger Moore was in his peak for TSWLM. I suppose I would have to agree. In Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, I found him both too young looking and too tentative in the role. With The Spy Who Loved Me he found his balance as an actor in the role. The Spy Who Loved Me truly became the first Bond film, for better or for worse, where Roger Moore took charge and made the film series his own. The movie is a perfect reflection of Moore's Bond. It never takes itself too seriously, possesses a jolly sense of humor and moves at a quick pace. It was also one of the only Moore "Bond" films where it did not look like Bond was going after girls young enough to be his granddaughter.
To the film's credit it did try something different by making the Bond girl, in this case Mrs. Ringo Starr AKA Barbara Bach, every bit 007's equal. Bach is quite good in the role of the Soviet super-agent and the film has fun playing with her introduction. She even gets a couple of really good quips and of course, looks fabulous.
The thought in action films is that your hero is only as good as his/her opposite number. With that in mind, one of the main problems that I have had with the Brosnan "Bond" films is the lack of a really big time villain bent on total death, destruction and world domination. The Spy Who Loved Me has a great baddie in Curt Jurgens as Stromberg. Coolly evil and indifferent, Stromberg has the single minded determination of a child. He wants his toys, his way. The fact that millions will die so he can be happy is irrelevant. Its a good performance from a gifted, quirky actor.
The Spy Who Loved Me is directed with great style and vigor by Bond veteran Lewis Gilbert (You Only Live Twice, Moonraker). Besides being skilled as a director of the action genre, he is also the one who claims credit for having Moore put more of himself in the role and stop trying to be like Connery.
On the disc side of things, MGM once more pulls out the stops for this "Ultimate Special Edition" of The Spy Who Loved Me. The film is properly framed in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is wonderful to look at. After seeing this movie over the years in its pan & scan incarnation it really is a pleasure to be getting the whole picture. The image presented here is a strong one. Colors are true and lifelike with very good contrast. Blacks and shadows possess a strong level of depth and detail with just the smallest amount of pixelation breakup present. If I have one gripe with the picture it is with the amount of grain in the print. It is not always present but is evident enough to be noticeable.
On the sound front, the movie is given a serviceable 5.1 mix. Front loaded with the rear speakers barely heard from, the mix does have nice fidelity and a very pleasant warmth. Dialogue is always clear, sound effects rumble with proper clarity and Marvin Hamlisch's very '70s score comes through with flying colors. If the audio has any problems, it is with a certain level of hiss throughout the proceedings. The hiss, while not particularly annoying ,is still present.
This being a "Bond" special edition there is certain to be a documentary present and sure enough "Inside The Spy Who Loved Me" is a worthy addition to the rest of the series. The feature is both interesting and informative. Most of the principals are heard from with the most glaring exception being Mrs. Starr and they all seem to have fond memories of the films production. There is also a shorter feature which focuses on the work of Production Designer Ken Adam. The man is a giant in his field and probably a genius as well. My only gripe with the feature is I wanted more out of it. Adam's life is a fascinating story and could easily have taken up the entire disc.
The DVD also offers a scene specific commentary track with Director Gilbert, Designer Adam, Screenwriter Christopher Wood and Bond Producer Michael Wilson. The main feeling that comes across is one of pride and enjoyment for their involvement with the film and its production. The total enjoyment of the track is slightly marred by a certain amount of information that is repeated throughout the discussion and there is also a mysterious six minute gap midway through the film but otherwise it is well worth a listen. Rounding out the disc are 3 trailers for the film, a still gallery, MGM's trusty "collectible" booklet and television and radio ads.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If I have one real problem with the film, indeed it is a problem I have with most of the films from the Moore era, it is that much of The Spy Who Loved Me just seems so dated. From the fashions to Hamlisch's score, a great deal of the film just screams '70s, to such a degree that it borderlines on camp. Maybe its just going back and looking at them in a post-Austin Powers mindset. Still, I don't have that feeling about most of the other films in the series.
MGM has done a marvelous job with their golden goose franchise (if only Paramount were giving the same red carpet treatment with Star Trek), not a perfect job but quite a very good one. Perhaps I'm being overly picky but I think it would have been cool to have seen some deleted scenes or out-takes on this or any of the other films in the box set. Maybe volume 3. Please?
Not a lot of complaints to register here. With Roger Moore as Bond, what you see is usually what you get. That said, if you like your Bond in the hard-nosed Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton style, then The Spy Who Loved Me is not the 007 movie for you.
What the movie does do, is move quickly with a great deal of style and panache. It contains all the action, wit, beautiful women, high quality special effects and exotic locations audiences have come to expect for almost 40 years. Along with For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me is Roger Moore's best work as 007 and as such belongs on any serious action fan's movie shelf.
MGM and all connected with The Spy Who Loved Me are acquitted of all charges and freed from this court. If anyone reading this has a question or comment on this ruling, please feel free to email your thoughts. That is all I have. Good day and this case is dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Producer Michael Wilson, Director Lewis Gilbert,
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