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Roger Moore’s third outing in the well-travelled tuxedo (widely documented as his favourite stint as 007) gets back to the origins of Ian Fleming’s creation as a former naval commander investigating international intrigue that begins on the high seas before working side by side with a beautiful Russian agent. Détente indeed...

Spy Who Loved Me: Special Edition, The
When HMS Ranger and Soviet naval vessel Potemkin go missing, both British and Russian governments immediately despatch their best secret agent on offer (007 and TripleX respectively) to investigate. While James Bond (Roger Moore) is interrupted amidst some essential off-piste apres-ski activity which forms the exciting pre-title opening sequence, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) has the somewhat simpler task of unhooking herself from her on-leave lover, himself a Russian agent on his way to Austria to deal with some dirty business, to report to HQ.

Alerted by the potential sale of a submarine tracking system, whisked away from underneath the inquisitive nose of impossibly rich industrialist Karl Stromberg (Kurt Jurgens), Bond heads to Cairo in Egypt to ensure the microfilm never reaches the open market. Meanwhile, back at his undersea lair (named Atlantis, appropriately enough), Stromberg is none too keen for any investigation of the microfilm to find its way to his front door and so orders heinous henchman Chandor and enormous steel-toothed assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel) to eliminate all who come into contact with the merchandise.

Bond and Amasova end up competing head to head for the tracking system plans only for with the deadly attentions of the amusingly indestructible Jaws, leaving many a dead middleman in his wake, to persuade them, and their respective governments, to pool their resources when the microfilm points squarely to Stromberg’s underhand involvement in events...

With any James Bond movie you’re pretty much guaranteed some staples: awesome exotic locations, gorgeous girls to decorate the scenes in between the high-octane action sequences and a fine line in dry wit. In all of these respects, The Spy Who Loved Me does not disappoint. Easily as good as Goldfinger or You Only Live Twice in its own way, this is the Bond outing where Roger Moore really found his feet as Britain’s best loved secret agent. And that’s the thing; every person has their own favourite who’s utilised that celebrated licence to kill and if Roger Moore isn’t quite to your taste, it’s doubtful that you’ll enjoy this movie as much as you should because it’s a tightly scripted, rip roaring adventure. Connery has always been a hard act to follow and it’s no surprise that Moore was striving to give the audience something different. Far from the rugged individual of his illustrious predecessor, Moore plays everything super smooth with a glint in his eye (not to mention the obligatory raised eyebrow) as it’s painfully obvious that the man can’t even muster up a simple fisticuffs fight sequence without the use of a stunt double. With The Man With The Golden Gun director Guy Hamilton’s assertion that “Roger couldn’t even run from looking like he’d had a broom handle shoved up his bottom” ringing in his ears, Moore and director Lewis Gilbert have obviously tailored the movie to play to his strengths, the foremost of these being an immaculate delivery of pithy quips from the urbane agent. Even if you wish less was Moore, he’s better than the lame George Lazenby...

Spy Who Loved Me: Special Edition, The
The supporting cast are admirable with Bach not wasting the opportunity having been given more to do than any Bond girl before her, Jurgens having a whale of a time safe in the knowledge that he’s way above the material is masterfully menacing as the ubervillain and Richard Kiel outstanding as the unflinching unstoppable force that is the giant Jaws. Special mention should go to Scottish Campari swimwear supremo Caroline Munro who is devastatingly distracting as the statuesque Naomi who comes to a sudden end in her helicopter while attempting to oversee the offing of Bond in his Lotus.

Oh yes, that wonderful white wedge-shape Lotus. The use of gadgets goes into overdrive, which may not be to the taste of all, with the ludicrous (this is Bond, after all) but lovely looking Esprit which turns into an aquatic automobile, the watch that prints out messages from London HQ, the ski pole that holds an explosive discharge, the list goes on.

Sadly, the only bum note in the film is struck by the score. With John Barry on extended leave, Marvin Hamlisch steps into the breach for a contemporary (at the time, at least) disco/funk concoction that merges Barry’s previous cues and that Monty Norman standard with some synth beats in the kind of musical movie experiment that Barry himself tried and failed with The Living Daylights. On the plus side, this gives Roger Moore every advantage as there’s more than a little comic tone rendering the Bond theme with a wah-wah guitar. However, on the negative side the score has dated every bit as badly as Sister Sledge and the rest of the disco floor-fillers of that era. That said, there’s a distinct charm and courage for the score to be different and this simply adds to the glorious cheesiness of the whole exercise with that Carly Simon title tune taking some beating.

All of these elements are bound together by efficient direction from the ever adaptable Lewis Gilbert (who previously helmed You Only Live Twice and would go on to be behind the camera of the subsequent Moonraker) which, while acknowledging the need for the supercharged set-piece, never lets the pace drop and fashions some winning repartee between the agents from either side of the Iron Curtain to ensure there’s never a dull moment in between the action.

Spy Who Loved Me: Special Edition, The
Anamorphically enhanced at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the image is bright but a bit on the soft side. The underwater sequences are vibrant with the cool blue of the water and bubbles from the aqualung equipment handled very well but there is noticeable grain, scratches and even some print damage in certain key sections of the film. Perhaps most keenly felt in the opening ski chase due to the intense white of the snowy background, it shouldn’t be enough to spoil your enjoyment of the movie but it’s something of a shame nonetheless.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a lively affair although the sub won’t get too much of a workout until the battle sequences in the supertanker. There is plenty of effective channel separation, particularly during the helicopter/Lotus chase sequence, but dialogue is always clear through the centre speaker which is something of a godsend considering Moore’s very soft vocal delivery in amongst the explosions. Marvin Hamlisch’s score is also rendered effectively with plenty of support for those synth beats through the rear speakers. While it may be a little lacking compared to today’s films 25 years its junior, this is definitely a pleasing soundtrack.

First up in the extras selection is an audio commentary featuring contributions from director Lewis Gilbert, co-writer Christopher Wood, production designer Ken Adam and producer Michael G. Wilson. In keeping with the film upon which they’re commenting, there’s nothing too deeply analytical here as it’s more a chance for some veteran Bond stalwarts to get together and bounce anecdotes off each other. In fact, there’s a good sense of just what a mammoth collaborative undertaking each Bond film is as Lewis Gilbert, despite still possessing all his faculties entering a sixth decade of directing movies, is absolutely unaware of certain important events to which his co-commentators refer!

Spy Who Loved Me: Special Edition, The
While there are some inexplicably long pauses (you might think someone in the studio has accidentally unplugged the microphone) there is a wealth of information that’s thrown up by the interaction of the all-too willing participants and it’s a lively old listen. Of particular interest is the deconstruction of several of Roger Moore’s Bond quips and the reference to ending key scenes on a joke of funny moment which has become such a staple of this franchise and has been copied by all and sundry (most notably XXX in recent times.

Next is a forty minute ‘making of’ documentary which bucks the trend of many DVD additional content fillers by actually being rather a meaty and thorough affair. All the main participants contribute, including a somewhat bemused looking Moore, and thankfully it’s not simply a love-in where all parties spout forth regarding how wonderful it was to work with such talented colleagues etc. Instead you’ll find some of the rather awkward and unfortunate details, for EoN productions at least, behind Harry Saltzman’s departure as producer, how Cubby Broccoli kept the franchise afloat almost single handedly when it threatened to fold and how several protracted legal wrangles (including one with Ian Fleming) forced the devising of the series’ first ever entirely original screenplay. In addition, there’s an insight into just how dangerous that pre-title ski jump sequence actually was, problems associated with shooting the film in Egypt and so on. Oh, if only other DVD producers took note from the presentation of material on offer here!

Following on from this is a second documentary, spanning 20 minutes, which serves as a potted history of the vital contribution to the franchise made by production designer Ken Adam, a veteran of seven Bond movies who started with Dr. No. While many of the references to The Spy Who Loved Me overlap with material in the longer programme, it’s a fascinating look at how one man has sculpted the visual design of such a successful procession of action-adventure pictures like Bond. Indeed, the legacy of Adams’ work can be found not only in the dedicated 007 stage at Pinewood (incidentally built specifically to hold the enormous supertanker set on display in this movie) but also in the design cues of the ice palace set in Die Another Day. A comprehensive filmography for Ken Adams is also included.

There’s plenty of promotional nostalgia and trivia supplied on the disc too. Three trailers are included, two of which are curious teasers followed by a full theatrical trailer. Six TV spots are included, some of which feature Moore addressing the camera as the super secret agent, all accompanied by the attendant gravelly voice over. Which then leads on to the 12 radio spots (each lasting 30 seconds and introducing a different character or focusing on a significant point in the plot) which are unintentionally hilarious and a fantastic snapshot of 1970’s advertising. What is perhaps worrying is that the sophistication of such promo spots has not progressed far beyond the examples on display here...

Spy Who Loved Me: Special Edition, The
A collection of promotional and behind the scenes stills galleries top off the extras package, the contents of which are accessed by some very well designed and implemented animated menus which carry loops of the perky disco/funk score.

Okay, so I can’t deny that I like this movie a lot. The debate surrounding the man most suited to fill the shoes of one James Bond esq. will rage on as long as the movies continue to be made but even if you really can’t stand Roger Moore there’s so much here to enjoy. Presented on an above average disc with extras that emphasise quality over quantity (although they are refreshingly thorough), this DVD release oozes quality, right down to its menu design and packaging. And what would a movie megalomanic make of it? Probably “Good buy, Mr Bond!”