James Bond
The Spy Who Loved Me

Starring: Roger Moore
16222DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

When two nuclear submarines - one British, one Russian - go missing at sea, James Bond finds himself working alongside a beautiful Soviet agent, Anya Amasova...

It would appear that the best Bond films are often those that were born under the most difficult circumstances (see also this site's review of From Russia with Love). A clause in EON's rights agreement with the estate of Ian Fleming meant that none of the characters or ideas from Fleming's novel The Spy Who Loved Me could be used in a screenplay. The production of the movie was also hampered by the departure of co-producer Harry Saltzman, who had run into serious financial difficulties. Furthermore, filming was delayed by legal wrangling with the producers of a rival Bond picture (which would eventually make it to the screen in 1983 as Never Say Never Again) who, incredibly, claimed that the script for Spy actually used ideas from their script! Fortunately, this enforced delay (the movie premiering three years after the release of The Man with the Golden Gun) allowed the creative team to refine their pre-production, and the result was a Bond movie of great panache and sophistication, and Roger Moore's finest two hours as 007.

The notion of a third party stirring up East/West hostilities has been done before, of course, in From Russia With Love and in director Lewis Gilbert's previous Bond movie You Only Live Twice. However, here it provides the springboard for some excellent repartee between Bond and his Russian counterpart Anya (Barbara Bach). The need to depict a supertanker colossal enough to swallow submarines also prompted some of the best work that production designer Ken Adam and visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings have ever done.

Underscoring visual delights such as the classic opening ski-jump sequence and underwater action involving the submersible Lotus Esprit is a stylish soundtrack by Marvin Hamlisch. Featuring the unforgettable title track Nobody Does it Better, sung by Carly Simon, Hamlisch's score also adds a catchy disco beat to the action scenes, yet somehow manages not to sound horribly dated!

This film also establishes two new regular supporting characters, with Walter Gotell playing Gogol, M's opposite number in the KGB, and Geoffrey Keen portraying the Minister of Defence, Frederick Grey. The actors would reprise these roles in every Bond film up to and including The Living Daylights in 1987.

The "making of" booklet accompanying this DVD features a rather awful reversed shot of Moore, made obvious by the fact that the actor's distinctive mole appears on the wrong side of his face. Still, at least this image is not as bad as some of the appalling airbrushed jobs that appear on subsequent releases, like the one on the front of the Moonraker booklet.

Package design notwithstanding, however, James Bond has rarely been done better.

Richard McGinlay