Spy Who Loved Me, The: Ultimate Edition (1977)

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Released 1-Nov-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary
Credits
Featurette-Ken Adams Production Film
Storyboards-Escape From Atlantis-Storybook Sequence
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-007-Stage Dedication, 007-In Egypt
Featurette-Rodger Moore-My Word Is Bond
Featurette-007, Women, Aliies, Villians, Mission Combat Manuel
Featurette-Q Branch and Exotic Locations
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Inside The Spy Who Loved Me
Featurette-Ken Adams:Designing Bond
Theatrical Trailer-Archive
TV Spots-Broadcasts
Radio Spots-Communications
Gallery-Photo-Experience The World Of 1977, The Year Of Release
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 120:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:44)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lewis Gilbert
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Roger Moore
Barbara Bach
Curd Jürgens
Richard Kiel
Caroline Munro
Walter Gotell
Geoffrey Keen
Bernard Lee
George Baker
Michael Billington
Olga Bisera
Desmond Llewelyn
Edward de Souza
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Marvin Hamlisch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Greek
Hindi
English Text Commentary
Dutch Text Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    For Bond's 10th big screen adventure the producers decided to use the Ian Fleming book title of The Spy Who Loved Me. Due to contract restrictions however, the filmmakers could not use any of the story elements from Fleming’s novel and so the producers had to come up with a unique storyline completely different from the original book. The resulting film is one that Roger Moore claims to be his favourite Bond film, and many fans will agree that The Spy Who Loved Me is the high point of Roger Moore’s time as Bond.

    As the film opens we learn that both the Russians and the British have lost a nuclear submarine each. The British assign their top spy, James Bond (Roger Moore) to the case while the Russians assign their top spy, female agent Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), aka Agent XXX. On his way to headquarters, James Bond must race on skis from some pursuing KGB agents and must kill one to escape. The agent killed turns out to be the lover of agent XXX and she vows to avenge his death.

    When the Russians and British learn they have each lost a nuclear submarine they decide to join forces to solve the case. Bond and Anya must now work together to find out what has happened to the submarines and along the way they must stop criminal mastermind Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). Stromberg wants to establish an underwater empire and plans to destroy life above the surface using the nuclear warheads from the submarines he has stolen. Can Bond and Anya stop Stromberg in time and will Bond survive when Anya learns that he was the one who killed her lover?

    Despite the fact that Anya is meant to be Russia's top secret agent she unfortunately is not a strong female figure. Maybe the film makers were worried about having a strong female lead. Instead Anya is often the damsel in distress reliant on James Bond to save her from danger. More impressive is memorable Bond villain Jaws played by Richard Kiel. Jaws was originally going to be killed off in this movie but such was the audience reaction to this character that the script was changed and Jaws survived to appear in the next film, Moonraker.

    The Spy Who Loved Me incorporated some of the most ambitious set pieces of the time, including the building of the world’s biggest soundstage for one of the impressive interiors. It also made extensive use of miniatures and most of the special effects still stand up very nicely. The film's special effects were unfortunately overshadowed by another film which set new standards for special effects that same year. That film was Star Wars and its popularity inspired the next Bond film, Moonraker. This was despite the fact that the end credits of The Spy Who Loved Me announced the next film as being For Your Eyes Only which meant it was actually promised twice.

    Along with great set pieces and cutting edge special effects, music has always been a key ingredient in any Bond film. In the case of The Spy Who Loved Me I felt it was overdone and somewhat spoilt the film for me. The best part of the music is the theme song Nobody Does it Better sung by Carly Simon. Its melody is used effectively as a recurring motif in the film. The rest of the original score by Marvin Hamlisch is less successful  and was, to be frank, rather clichéd and over done. Rather than support and reinforce the action on screen, it dominates and draws undue attention to itself. Also overdone was the use of music from other well known films. I could live with the use of Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago playing from Anya’s music box, but when they used the theme from Laurence of Arabia while Bond and Anya trek through the desert after their van has broken down I felt the filmmakers had gone too far. Some may consider it an homage but I think it’s just plain tacky.

    Despite that however, The Spy Who Loved Me is still a thoroughly enjoyable adventure romp with some well executed comedy thrown in for good measure. This film can hold its own against the other films from the Bond franchise and for many it is considered one of the best films from Roger Moore’s time as James Bond and I tend to agree.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After reviewing my first Bond film from the ultimate collection, From Russia with Love which I was extremely impressed with, I was very keen to see if that high quality was going to extend to the other films. Sadly, however, in the case of The Spy Who Loved Me it hasn’t. This is not a bad transfer per se, just nowhere near as good as the previous film I reviewed. The biggest issue with this transfer is edge enhancement. The previous special edition release does not suffer quite as badly from edge enhancement but did suffer a bit from MPEG compression artefacting. This was due to the fact that it had to share the single disc with a generous range of extras that have been moved to their own disc in this new release. Colour balance is also improved on this new edition and on the whole I felt this new edition is superior to the previous release, although it was a close call. Had it not been for the excessive edge enhancement of this Ultimate Edition it would have been a slam-dunk for this new version.

    The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 which matches the original theatrical aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image shows reasonable levels of sharpness but this seems to have been achieved through artificial sharpening which shows up with the excessive amount of edge enhancement in the transfer. Shadow detail is about average for a film of this age and the image is thankfully free of low level noise.

    Colours were well saturated and accurate although I did observe a slight tendency to oversaturate the reds at times, which occasionally gave skin tones a slight pinkish tone.

    As mentioned above the main artefact in this transfer is edge enhancement and it is prevalent throughout the entire film. It is noticeable from the very start of the film in the famous gun-barrel start where Bond's body is surrounded by a halo. Other notable instances include an interior scene at 12:05 where all the men’s suits have a halo around them and a night exterior shot at 23:34 where Bond's body is surrounded by a small halo. This edge enhancement is noticeable throughout and I found it very annoying although viewers with smaller displays may not find it quite as intrusive as I did. Apart from that, however, the transfer is completely free of film artefacts and MPEG compression artefacts.

    The English subtitles are white and easy to read and follow very closely the onscreen dialogue.

    This is a dual layered disc with RSDL encoding. The layer change occurs at 67:44 which is a cut between two shots. The positioning is not too bad but I did feel there were spots around the same time that may have been a bit less intrusive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two main English soundtracks provided on this disc, a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a DTS 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 768 Kb/s. In my review of From Russia with Love I found that there was little to no overall difference between the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. In the case of The Spy who Loved Me, however, I felt that the DTS soundtrack provided a deeper soundstage and slightly superior dynamic range. That said, however, I was not terribly impressed with either soundtrack.

    Dialogue was generally easy to understand and audio sync was fairly good for the most part. I did, however, get the impression that some of the dialogue for Agent XXX and a few others was looped in later. For instance in a scene around the 32 minute mark her dialogue just seemed a bit off.

    As mentioned in the main review I felt the original music by Marvin Hamlisch was overdone on the soundtrack and was often clichéd and drew too much attention to itself. Watch the scene set around some ancient Egyptian columns around the 40 minute mark for a good example of this. It must be said however that music is obviously an integral part of Bond films and some may enjoy the prominence this music has in the soundtrack.

    The surrounds are used to add ambience to the scenes as well as carry the music. Sometimes they are bit overdone such as around 5:54 where the music in the surround channels really draws attention to itself. The surrounds are used effectively at times with sound effects such as at 53:52 where the sound of an approaching train pans from the front right to the rear left. These moments, however, are pretty rare and there were many instances where I felt they could have been used much better.

    The subwoofer channel was the most disappointing part of the soundtrack. There were numerous moments in the film where it could have been used to great effect and simply was not, such as during the numerous explosions during the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This new Ultimate edition combines the extras of the previous Special Edition with new material sourced from the archives. While some of these new extras are interesting, the most significant features are still those carried over from the previous release.

Menu

     All menus are 16x9 enhanced and are all very nicely animated with familiar Bond music playing in the background.

Disc One

Commentary – Lewis Gilbert (Director), Ken Adam (Production Designer), Christopher Wood (Co-writer) and Michael G. Wilson (Assistant to the Producer)

    The participants are sitting together and spend most of the commentary admiring each other's work and the work of the other people involved in the film. As the film progresses some of the gaps in the commentary become quite long. This commentary doesn’t really introduce much in the way of interesting information not covered by the other featurettes on Disc 2. To be quite frank I found this commentary extremely dull.

Commentary – Roger Moore (Actor)

    Roger Moore is relaxed, conversational and witty in this interesting commentary. He recalls as best as possible working on the film and tells a number of interesting little anecdotes about shooting the film. If you listen to only one commentary on this DVD then this is the one to choose.

Disc Two

    The extras are grouped under five main categories. Declassified M16 Vault contains new material sourced from the archives. 007 Mission Control contains links to a large number of scenes from the film categorised into a number of subcategories. Mission Dossier consists of featurettes previously available on the original Special Editions. Department of Propaganda contains a collection of trailers, TV spots, radio ads and finally we have Image Database which contains a collection of still image galleries.

Declassified MI6 Vault

Ken Adam’s Production Films 4x3 (5:41)

     Strangely this featurette begins with the full assortment of copyright and legal warnings that last almost as long as the featurette itself. (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration). It consists of footage shot by production designer Ken Adam. He discusses the footage and how he used the locations in the film. Interesting behind the scenes stuff.

Escape From Atlantis Storyboard Sequence 4x3 (2:14)

    This shows a storyboard sequence for the scene where they escape from the sinking Atlantis. It is subtitled with dialogue from an early version of the script. It is surprisingly close to the actual scene.

007 Stage Dedication 4x3 (1:07)

    This is a vintage featurette about the opening of the huge soundstage built for the film.

Roger Moore: My Word Is My Bond 16x9 (4:31)

     Oddly this featurette is 16x9 enhanced but the actual interview is entirely 4x3. (There are black bars on both sides). I set my player to 4x3 letterbox and found that the resulting image had black bars all round. I can’t image this was done on purpose and suspect this is an authoring error on the disc. This featurette shows Roger Moore answering questions from journalists. It doesn’t however show the questions being asked. Moore’s responses are typical press junket stuff.

007 in Egypt 16x9 (6:12)

    Again this featurette is 16x9 enhanced but the actual footage is entirely 4x3. Like the previous featurette, if you have your player set to 4x3 you’ll receive an image with black bars all around the image. This is 16mm behind the scenes footage shot in Egypt. It includes a narration by Michael Wilson who introduces himself as producer of the Bond films (but was actually credited as Special Assistant to Producer in this film). He discusses some of the footage as well as some of the challenges of shooting in Egypt.

007 Mission Control:

     This section allows you to directly access a number of short scenes from the movie sorted into the categories of 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch and Exotic Locations. I guess if you have certain favourite parts of the film you might find this useful but I personally found it of little appeal.

Mission Dossier:

Inside The Spy Who Loved Me 4x3 (40:40)

    This is quite an  interesting featurette. It delves into all the pre-production problems and takes us right through to the end of production. This is a really intriguing little featurette that illustrates the fact that often the behind the scene dramas are just as interesting as what gets shot in front of the camera.

Ken Adam: Designing Bond 4x3 (21:42)

     Ken Adam was the production designer for seven of the Bond films starting with Dr. No and ending with Moonraker. In this fascinating little featurette Ken Adam discusses his work and some of the influences on the designs. This really is a must watch for all Bond fans. There is no question that Ken Adam made a huge contribution to the look and feel of the Bond series.

Ministry of Propaganda:

Theatrical Archive

     This is a collection of theatrical trailers. These are all very similar to each other and probably give away a bit too much.

TV Broadcasts

    This is a collection of short TV spots, which are all quite similar to each other.

Radio Communication

     These are audio only commercials made for radio. Some of these are quite creative and are worth a listen.

Image Database

    This is a collection of still galleries categorized by The Filmmakers, Portraits, Pre-Credit Ski Action, Sardinia, Bahamas, Egypt, Pinewood, The 007 Stage and Around the World with 007.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I was unable to confirm specific details of the R1 ultimate edition but I would expect it to be same with the exception of the normal PAL/NTSC formatting differences.

Summary

    The Spy Who Loved Me is considered one of the best Bond films from Roger Moore's time as Agent 007 and I tend to agree.

    Overall the new transfer is an improvement over the previous special edition but is let down by an excess of edge enhancement.

    Audio is provided by both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks but I was not terribly impressed with either.

    The extras package is extensive although the most significant of them are those carried over from the previous Special Edition.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS575-S Progressive Scan, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

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