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MGM

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Lewis Gilbert
Cast:
Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell, Geoffrey Keen, Bernard Lee, George Baker
Writing Credits:
Ian Fleming (characters), Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum

Tagline:
He's Bond. He's Back. He's 007.

Synopsis:
This time Bond (Roger Moore) has to face evil megalomaniac Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), who wants to create an underwater city. The first step, as any self-respecting megalomaniac knows, is starting a nuclear war on the Earth's surface to drive people underwater, so Stromberg steals nuclear submarines. Of course, Bond is dispatched to find the subs, as is Russian Major Anya Amasova. Spy also features the first appearance of villain Jaws (Richard Kiel).

Box Office:
Budget
$14 million.
Opening Weekend
$1.347 million on 194 screens.
Domestic Gross
$46.800 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 5/16/2000

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Lewis Gilbert, Set Designer Ken Adam, Special Assistant to the Producer Michael Wilson and Screenwriter Christopher Wood
• "Inside The Spy Who Loved Me" Documentary
• “Designing Bond” Documentary
• Still Gallery
• Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Ads
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 14, 2006)

When I grew up, Roger Moore was James Bond. After all, Sean Connery last played the role when I was but a tot of four, so I never actively knew him in the part. From the instant I understood the existence of James Bond, Moore was the man, and Connery was just some dude in some old movies.

However, my childhood is long behind me, and my opinions have changed rather radically in regard to the actors who portrayed Bond. I now clearly recognize Connery as The Man and think Moore was at best a caretaker for the part. Granted, Bond enjoyed a lot of success over his seven-film tenure, but those pictures seem somewhat silly and cutesy compared to Connery's better work.

Or do they? My preconceptions were set well in place prior to the first batch of Bond special edition DVDs that appeared in October 1999, and the two Moore offerings in that set did little to alter my thoughts. For Your Eyes Only is generally regarded as one of the better Moore Bonds, but it honestly did little for me, and the other Moore in that collection - his initial attempt, 1973's Live and Let Die - was an almost-embarrassingly silly and inane piece that may well end up as my least favorite Bond of all-time.

As such, I was a little apprehensive about the second wave of Bond DVDs since it would include three Moore pictures; that was half of the six-film set! Since two of those three were generally seen as some of the goofiest of the series - 1974's The Man With the Golden Gun and 1979's Moonraker - my future looked bleak. However, my viewing of Gun went surprisingly well; although I recognize its many flaws, I still thought it was a lot more fun than Live and Let Die - its immediate predecessor - and I generally enjoyed the picture.

I'll have to wait another day to discover if Moonraker surpasses my expectations, but in the meantime I viewed the third Moore picture in the package: 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. Frankly, I was more nervous about this movie than the other Moores just because it's the one with the best reputation. In fact, it often is cited as the best of Moore's tenure. That raised expectations and led me to fear I'd hate it.

Such was not the case. Somewhat surprisingly, I found Spy to offer a genuinely smart and satisfying Bond adventure. Would I put it up there with the best Bonds? Probably not, but it stands as a candidate to earn the prize as Moore's best outing.

The plot, as so often is the case with Bond films, is fairly convoluted but essentially revolves around Bond's need to stop a nutbag named Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) from killing lots of people due to his desire to start a new civilization under the sea. (That's your solution to everything: to move under the sea. It's not going to happen!)

Anyway, the story gets obtuse at times but remains clear enough, and the film moves along at a nice clip. It boasts some very solid action along the way, bolstered by the addition of a strong new villain, Jaws (Richard Kiel). I expected to dislike Jaws just because he seems such a comic baddie, but he's effective both as a tough guy and as comic relief. In this appearance, at least, the filmmakers refrained from going over the top with the silliness, so Jaws makes for a welcome presence and stays one of the most memorable Bond villains.

Spy features one of the more capable Bond babes in Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), 007's opposite number in the KGB. She seems Bond's equal in regard to skill and resourcefulness, though of course he eventually needs to rescue her. Well, you take progress where you can find it, I guess, and for the mid-Seventies, Amasova represents a large step up from the weak women we found in most of the preceding films, especially after the obnoxiously incompetent Miss Goodnight in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Too bad that the future Mrs. Starr wasn't much of an actor. She seems stiff and wooden throughout the movie, and her Russian accent totters from start to finish. Bach remains one of the loveliest of the Bond women, and the role was strong enough to withstand her weak performance, but her awkwardness stands as one of Spy's weak points, especially in comparison with Moore's exceptionally natural and relaxed work as 007.

Despite that and a few other minor flaws, The Spy Who Loved Me works very well. I'm no fan of the Moore Bonds, but this one offers enough good stunts, cool gadgets - particularly the Lotus Esprit - and light, breezy pizzazz to win over even the most ardent Connery-phile. It even tosses in a clever nod to Lawrence of Arabia - what's not to like?


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Spy Who Loved Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not the best-looking of the Bond DVDs, Spy offers a generally satisfactory picture.

The film usually appeared pretty crisp and accurate. A bit of softness crept into some of the wider shots, but those instances weren’t substantial. The majority of the flick came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only a little light edge enhancement was present.

Source flaws were a bigger distraction. The movie often looked somewhat grainy, and I noticed a moderate amount of specks, marks, and other defects. Though these weren’t heavy, they created more than a few messy spots.

Colors were more subdued than in most Bond films. Some instances of bright and vivid hues occurred, but for the most part, the film used gunship gray or brown as the primary tone. This rendered the movie with a somewhat bland and flat tone. Still, the colors we saw did look fairly accurate and true, so I didn't have any major complaints about them. The black levels are fine, with deep and dark tones, and shadow detail appeared adequate but unexceptional. The print flaws were the biggest problem, and those meant that I couldn’t give the transfer a grade above a “B-“.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Spy, the track offered a pretty decent little soundfield given the age of the material. Unsurprisingly, the center channel bore much of the audio burden, but the imaging often spread to the front right and left speakers and did so effectively. The transitions could seem a little harsh and the image wasn't incredibly well-blended, but the localization appeared decent and the effect spread out the sound adequately.

The mix used the surrounds sporadically but well. For the most part, they kicked in only during the action scenes but some other appearances occurred as well, such as during the "Pyramids" scene when the rears nicely reinforced the echo effect. For an old movie, the activity level of the various channels seemed more than adequate.

The quality of the audio was a bit iffier, however. Like many Bond flicks, dialogue seemed heavily dubbed, but not always effectively. I found the tone of the speech to vary quite a lot throughout the movie; much of it seemed relatively stiff and cold, but at times it could appear decently warm and natural. Barbara Bach's lines were the worst-sounding overall. I got the impression someone else's voice was dubbed over hers, though I found no evidence this was the case.

The music worked fairly well. Marvin Hamlisch’s score appeared acceptably smooth and lush, and the famous pseudo-title song "Nobody Does It Better" came across nicely. Effects were also generally clear and realistic, though these could be erratic as well. For example, look at the chase scene when Bond drove the Lotus; its engine seemed thin and wan, but the motorcycle behind it appeared full-bodied and taut.

Some distortion negatively affected the explosions and other loud effects, though not to an unacceptable degree, as a bit of harshness from these elements is typical for an older film. I noticed slightly distorted dialogue during the scene in which Bond met his MI6 crew in the Pyramid. A light layer of tape hiss could be heard on occasion. All of this added up to flawed but more than acceptable audio given the vintage of the source material.

Less relative is my praise for the supplemental features on Spy. As usual for the Bond DVDs, there's some good stuff here, starting with an audio commentary. For the "catalog Bonds", the majority of these tracks have been cobbled together from separate interviews, but Spy is an exception; it's actually a true scene-specific number. The entire commentary features director Lewis Gilbert, set designer Ken Adam and special assistant to the producer Michael Wilson; screenwriter Christopher Wood joins them after 33 minutes. They discuss locations and set design, characters and story issues, stunts and effects, cast members and general production subjects.

While it's a nice break to have a traditional scene-specific track, I must admit I prefer the edited packages found on most of the Bonds. This commentary offers a decent look at the movie, but it featured too many "that was good!" moments. I found lots of interesting information, but those other moments of reflection weigh down the piece to a degree, whereas they're rarely heard in the assembled commentaries. Still, I enjoyed the track and think it's worth a listen.

This commentary suffers from a few brief gaps without any statements but also includes one major one that goes on for a few minutes. Happily, MGM have provided a subtitle option that lets you know how long the wait will be until the track restarts. This break occurs at 47 and a half minutes; the track remains silent for about six minutes, as noted on the screen (and updated every minute). This subtitle option is not advertised anywhere in the menus but is automatically activated when you select the commentary from the "Special Features" menu. (It can also be switched manually in the usual ways.)

Another standard feature of the catalog Bonds is a good documentary, and Spy is no exception. Actually, its 40 minute and 30 second program - Inside The Spy Who Loved Me - is one of the best of the series. It follows the usual format, with a fine combination of contemporary interviews with principals like Gilbert, Moore, Adam, art director Peter Lamont, actor Richard Kiel, and editor John Glen plus lots of great archival interviews and other behind the scenes footage. In the latter category we find such great stuff as raw shots of the stunts and Barbara Bach's test scene plus a plethora of other wonderful material, such as details about how Stanley Kubrick (!) became involved in the film. All in all, it's a genuinely entertaining and informative program.

A second video program appears as well. Called Ken Adam: Designing Bond, this 21-minute and 40-second piece provides a nice biography of production designer Adam, who worked on seven Bond films. Adam deserves a lot of credit for the success of Bond, since his elaborate sets helped create the atmosphere for the movies, and this documentary does a nice job of relating his successes to us. We get a basic biography of Adam but the main focus is on his work for the Bond films, of course, and we discover a lot of good information about this area through interviews with Adam and his cohorts plus a variety of behind-the-scenes materials. It's yet another fine documentary that is very enjoyable and interesting.

The usual batch of promotional materials appears on the DVD. We find three trailers. Two of those are very good teasers - the first one, which has a fun introduction from Moore, is the best - and the other is a standard theatrical piece. Six TV spots can be found, all variations on the trailers except for the sixth, which features intermittent narration from a bevy of beauties. Twelve mildly interesting radio ads complete this area.

Most of the Bonds include photo galleries, and Spy is no exception. However, this one's more abbreviated than the others; it only features about 70 stills scattered through nine sections. With the exception of some nice bikini photos (ooh - Caroline Munro!), the shots are pretty bland as well. Although it's not a great gallery, it's short enough to merit a look.

Finally, the DVD includes a fine booklet. As is the case with all the Bond releases, it provides a nice amount of information and photos and makes for a good extra.

The Spy Who Loved Me stands as possibly the best of Roger Moore's Bond films, and although that may seem faint praise, it shouldn't diminish the fact that this is a very good film. The DVD provides acceptable picture and sound plus a pretty good array of supplemental features. Spy makes a good purchase for Bond fans and for those who think they might find it interesting as well; it's a fun movie and a decent DVD package.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7368 Stars Number of Votes: 38
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main