After seeing Casino Royale it’s hard to look at a Bond film the same way, and when Roger Moore inhabited the guy who likes martinis, fast cars and dangerous situations, it may have been a little cheesy. Granted, Moore did appear in a couple of notable Bond misses, but in the tenth release of the James Bond franchise, The Spy Who Loved Me stands as one of his best, if not the best Moore film.
From a screenplay by Richard Maibaum (his 7th Bond film) and Christopher Wood (his first) and directed by Lewis Gilbert (his 2nd Bond film), this new situation finds James at first in Austria, being chased by assassins, with everyone on skis. The end of the chase, whether you like it or not, is one of the better (maybe the best) in Bond film history. Once he gets settled, he is sent to find out why nuclear submarines are going missing. Complicating things is that James has to work with a Russian agent, a striking female named Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach, Caveman). Together, they find out the cause of the disappearances, a reclusive businessman named Stromberg (Curt Jurgens, The Longest Day, The Enemy Below) and his henchman, the ginormous guy with metal teeth, lovingly nicknamed Jaws (Richard Kiel, The Longest Yard).
Now, as opposed to later Bond films like Octopussy or A View to a Kill, The Spy Who Loved Me does manage to capture the right amount of humor that Moore showed for the role. In fact, his humor helped to sustain the Bond character for awhile, but it’s in this one that it’s not over the top so it makes his action scenes very effective. And despite some admittedly goofy webbed hands, Jurgens performance as Stromberg makes for a fairly convincing Bond villain.
Another 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation for you to admire. Compared to the older version, this one looks pretty good, all things considered. Holy crap, is this film 30 years old? Well, it still looks respectable.
The DTS track sounds good, very similar to the old films where explosions pan around in rear speakers, and the score (and Simon’s song) sound as good as they’re going to, which is to say, they’ll be in my head for the next several months.
As is the case with other Bond films with Moore, Moore contributes a commentary to the film. He is very relaxed during the process, gently reminding everybody he doesn’t remember a lot of specifics about the film, it’s more of a conversational piece than a relevant informational commentary. But it’s not too bad, as he tells the occasional story about a cast member that he spots on the film, and he says without hesitation that this film was his favorite to make and is his favorite to look at. It does border a bit on the name-dropping tip from time to time, but he does talk in frank terms about some of the things that occurred during this time, from losing a valuable role in A Bridge Too Far to a bout with shingles during the production. It’s a decent track. The other track, which was retained from the old release, featured Gilbert, current Bond creative head Michael Wilson, production designer Ken Adam and co-writer Christopher Wood. The group is thankfully recorded together, which provides for a lot of jovial moments and friendly recollections about the film that sound more like in-jokes than anything else. So it may lack on the information side, but it’s a nice complement.
Disc Two kicks things off with the “Declassified: MI6 Vault” section, starting with a look at Adam’s production design for the film. It’s basically six minutes of location footage from the various international locales, and features narration by Adam and even has some member of the cast and crew in them too.
The other “new” features in this section are pretty light, there’s a storyboard sequence on the Atlantis destruction, with some unused story and dialogue points. Next is a minute-long look at the dedication of the sound stage in England, followed by four minutes of various interview footage with Moore. Wrapping up the section is a look at the Egyptian leg of the production with narration by Wilson, and even shows how some of the scenes were shot. Of what little new footage is here, this is the best, which isn’t saying much.
Moving onto the “007 Mission Control” of the disc, the interactive guide that’s on all the other Bond discs is here too. The “Mission Dossier” has the two largest features on the set, both of which were holdovers from the last editions. The first piece is the 40 minute “Inside The Spy Who Loved Me“. There’s some interesting information from the piece, as producer Harry Saltzman’s money troubles are discussed in detail, including losing his part of the Bond money cow. Guy Hamilton, who directed several previous Bond films was first aboard for this one before Gilbert took over, and previous drafts of the film were done by Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) and John Landis (The Blues Brothers) before a new one was done. There’s a load of interviews with the surviving cast members, and archived footage of those who are no longer around too. Some of the preparations for the elaborate stunts are talked about and shown, along with a lot of on-set footage too. It’s a good examination of the film.
Following that, “Ken Adam: Designing Bond” is a biographical look at the production designer of the same name, but most of the piece focuses on his numerous contributions to the Bond franchise. It’s also an excellent look at a key member of the process. Next up is the “Ministry of Propaganda” section, which includes three trailers, three TV spots and a dozen radio spots, and the “Image Database” section features a buttload of pictures.
All in all, The Spy Who Loved Me is a much better film than I remember seeing, and is worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. Sure, it’s right next to A View to a Kill in Volume 2 of the Ultimate Collections set, but as a standalone film, there’s enough here to do the trick if you’re a FOB, that’s fan of Bond.