The Spy Who Loved Me

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Bond Main Menu Audio and Animation
Documentary - Inside The Spy Who Loved Me (40:40)
Documentary - Ken Adam: Designing Bond (21:41)
Audio Commentary - Lewis Gilbert (Director), Ken Adam (Production Designer), Christopher Wood (Co-writer) and Michael Wilson (Special Assistant to Producer)
Trailers (3)
Television Spots (6)
Radio Spots (12)
The Spy Who Loved Me Gallery
Year Released 1977
Running Time 120:14 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (112:54)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Lewis Gilbert
United Artists
Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Roger Moore
Barbara Bach
Curt Jurgens
Richard Keil
Caroline Munro
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music Marvin Hamlisch

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    And so we get to the tenth instalment in the Bond franchise and what is generally considered to be the high point of the Roger Moore incumbency as Bond, James Bond. This is a noteworthy film for me in as much as it was the first, and only, James Bond film that I have ever seen at the cinema. Now that may indicate that I am not much of a fan of the franchise, and to some extent that is quite true. I am certainly not fanatical about the franchise, but I certainly enjoy the franchise enough to generally indulge in all the films at some point in time. However, I also have to admit that Roger Moore was not my favourite James Bond and I generally found his films to be the low point of the franchise. And so in this rather unusual state of affairs I find myself with the task of reviewing not only a James Bond film, but a Roger Moore James Bond film at that. One of the key hallmarks of the Roger Moore stint as James Bond was something of a return to the suave English gentleman with a licence to kill, and pull all the good-looking birds. Beyond that however, little changed in the films and this pretty much recycles the same story that has been the staple of the franchise since Dr No.

    Someone has been stealing nuclear-missile equipped submarines and the Russians and English are not too happy about it. So unhappy in fact that they assign their top agents to the case as a joint mission. And so Commander James Bond (Roger Moore) finds himself teamed up with Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) in search of one "visionary" in Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). He is a man of vision who happens to live under the sea and suffers from the usual megalomaniacal tendencies of Bond villains in wanting to change the world - this time by blowing it to smithereens with nuclear missiles so that it can be started anew under the sea. The race is on to find the submarines and stop the evil plan, whilst also avoiding the henchmen of Stromberg, headed by the aptly named Jaws (Richard Keil). At the same time of course, Mr Bond gets to play with several beautiful woman and do his bit to foster Anglo-Soviet relations - of whatever kind.

    Nothing at all unusual here in that respect and as I said, basically a rehash of the same story used so successfully in just about every Bond film. Why spoil a good time? What makes this episode such a memorable one is the fact that the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the franchise was to some extent revived here with some wonderfully droll one-liners being tossed around with gay abandon. Thankfully of course, because had this needed to rest on the shoulders of Roger Moore, it would have failed miserably. To my mind, he never really suited the action aspects of Bond and in many ways this film demonstrated it more than most. But a Bond film is all about bigger and better and so Production Designer Ken Adams gave this the biggest and best up to that time - and maybe of all time for Bond. He outdid even himself with the scope of the set inside the huge oil tanker, and the model of the tanker itself is indeed something special - eighty five feet in length under the old measure. Offsetting that however was the fact that another film released the same year lifted the special effects bar by more than a few notches and this film suffers in comparison.

    Whatever the perceived faults of the film, and the rather torrid circumstances in which it was gestated, this is anything but a dead loss and an enjoyable enough romp it is, even today. After all, how can you possibly ignore or hate a film that has a Lotus Esprit submarine? One of the best efforts to recapture the comic side of Bond and in that respect it is best remembered. Bond fans will of course need no prodding to add this one to the collection, but if you need a representative of each incarnation of Bond, this is perhaps the DVD of choice for Roger Moore, and MGM have done another generally good job in committing this to digital posterity.

Transfer Quality


    One of the consistent strands through these issues of all the Bond films in Special Edition format is the generally high standards of the video transfers. Whilst perhaps none could really be called reference quality - says he awaiting the avalanche of complaints - they have certainly scrubbed up a lot better than is perhaps expected in films of their age. At least that was until this effort. Perhaps I was expecting too much from a transfer that is, after all, twenty-three years old, but I really felt that this could have been a little better.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, as it was presented theatrically, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Despite the presence of a fair chunk of special effects work in the form of miniatures and blue screen work, this is actually a quite decently sharp and detailed transfer. This is partly the result of the huge sets used I would suspect, especially that for the interior of the oil tanker. There are the odd lapses of course in the image which does result in some slightly diffuse portions, but they do not detract from the show at all. The transfer is not an especially memorable effort as far as shadow detail is concerned but it is never less than good, just not finding the absolute detail of more recent films. It is unfortunately not an especially clear transfer and there are some minor issues at times with very mild grain, and certain sequences seem to have a distinctly dirty look to them. This is usually evident on any sequence showing a significant amount of cloudy sky. Low level noise did not seem to be an issue here.

    From a colour point of view, there is not much to complain about. Whilst this has a slightly muted look at times, this is perhaps expected due to the large scale sets used for interiors - they must have been a sod to light properly. The external location stuff usually has a nice bright, vibrant feel to the image that is quite believable. The only time that oversaturation was even hinted at was during the red light sequences in the submarines. Other than that, there were no oversaturation problems and no colour bleed problems.

    There was nothing in the way of MPEG artefacts in the transfer as far as I could see. Unfortunately, the transfer is blessed with a consistent problem with aliasing throughout. Most of the time it is quite minor and not at all distracting, but on just the odd occasion it forces itself into the consciousness a little more than I would like. The main problem though is that the interior shots in the oil tanker show some obvious moiré type artefacting. These sequences must have been a real pain to master as the set is predominantly silvery steel with sharp-edged gantry walkways across the set. This must be tantamount to a mastering nightmare. There were a few film artefacts floating around in the transfer but nothing really distracting.

    This an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming very late in the film at 112:54. It is just a little slow in the navigation and makes it just a little too obvious for my taste.


Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The 5.1 soundtrack is at the higher bit rate of 448 Kb/s. I listened to the English soundtrack since there is no other choice, as well as listening to most of the audio commentary since I have to.

    There are no real problems with the dialogue here, which is clear and easy to understand. There does not appear to be any great issue with audio sync in the transfer either.

    The music score comes from Marvin Hamlisch, and a quite decent effort it is too. However, it does pale in comparison with my personal choice for the best Bond theme song of all time - Nobody Does It Better sung by Carly Simon.

    I would have to say that the 5.1 soundtrack is marginally problematic. It really does not come over as a great sounding effort and some of the bass channel usage is a little wonky. At 41:40, the bass seems to come in slightly after the relevant on-screen action for instance and at other times it simply does not seem to carry the sort of deep roar that I would expect from the on-screen action. Probably one way to describe it is slightly emasculated, but that really does not convey much of an image to go with. There also does not seem to be much use made of the surround channels - the rear channels hardly seem to get any action at all, whilst the front channels, if they are used, just don't seem to produce an enveloping sound at all. Indeed, at times this really sounds quite monophonic, which is not really what I would expect from a 5.1 remastering.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    As is common with these Bond DVDs, MGM really has made a sterling effort to go behind the Bond legend. This effort is no exception at all, at least artistically.


    Rather unusually themed in many respects, they nonetheless look very good and are all 16x9 enhanced. There is some decent if not especially mind blowing audio and animation enhancement. The main issue I have is with the sub-menus which keep on returning after the playing of the extra to the first item on the menu. Thus after watching television spot 4, rather than going back to the menu at television spot 5, it goes back with television spot 1 highlighted. Just a mild annoyance and no big deal I know, but quite why this little extra effort could not be made I don't understand.

Documentary - Inside The Spy Who Loved Me (40:40)

    Presented in a full frame format (with the film excerpts at their proper aspect ratio), not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this is a most interesting effort indeed. Whilst it perhaps spent just a little too much time on the problems of Harry Saltzman during the gestation of the film, there is little here that I did not find most illuminating. Well worth the forty minutes to watch it in my view.

Documentary - Ken Adams: Designing Bond (21:41)

    Having been Production Designer for (I think) seven Bond films, I would have though a little more than twenty one minutes would have been appropriate. As it is, this is quite an interesting look, albeit a most brief one, at his work on the Bond films and especially The Spy Who Loved Me. The presentation format is consistent with the longer documentary, and whilst less essential it is still a worthy inclusion and recognition of one of the most essential people in the Bond franchise.

Audio Commentary - Lewis Gilbert (Director), Ken Adams (Production Designer), Christopher Wood (Co-writer) and Michael Wilson (Special Assistant to Producer)

    Yes I know that I don't ordinarily enjoy these things at all, but this one is quite an interesting effort. Whilst the four gentlemen thankfully don't feel the need to talk constantly, it is interesting to hear them talk about a film that they perhaps have not watched in a while. At times quite amusing, at others quite informative, this is a decent inclusion in the package. I would suspect that those more fanatical about these things or about Bond would find this quite an enthralling effort.

Trailers (3)

    Quite unimaginatively these are called Trailer 1 (2:10), Trailer 2 (2:01) and Release (3:12). The first two are presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1, whilst the third is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. All come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, are not 16x9 enhanced and are blessed with plenty of film artefacts. The first two are also showing their age somewhat in the rather less than stellar colours on display. The third effort is quite shimmery in look and seems to suffer a little from blockiness in the background. Whilst the technical quality is not great, and the duplication of material is unavoidable, they are welcome enough inclusions in the package.

Television Spots (6)

    Also very unimaginatively designated as 1 (0:58), 2 (0:58), 3 (0:30), 4 (0:30), 5 (0:29) and 6 (0:29), these are all presented Full Frame obviously and are not 16x9 enhanced. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 but sounds more like Dolby Digital 1.0. Of very dubious quality, they are generally quite diffuse, have a distinctly dirty look to them and are quite lacking in good colour tone. In other words, exactly what we would expect in unrestored television commercials from twenty three years ago. Again they basically rehash the same stuff, with only the last showing any sort of distinction (since it is done by a bevy of beauties).

Radio Spots (21)

    Some imagination was used here, so we have: My Name Is Bond, James Bond (0:32), In The Shadow Of The Great (0:32), From Beneath The Waters (0:32), A Sleek Lotus (0:32), His Name Is Stromberg (0:32), They Call Him James (0:32), Her Name Is Anya Amasova (0:32), High Above The Austrian Alps (0:32), Her Name Is Carly Simon (0:32), A Seven Foot Killer (1:02), His Name Is Bond, James Bond (1:02) and It's The Best, It's Bond and Beyond (1:02). These all really recycle the same material pretty much and really are only for absolute completists. The entry menu is displayed during the playback of these audio only efforts.

The Spy Who Loved Me Gallery

    Still shots taken during the production with an opening page describing what follows for each little collection: The Filmmakers (5 shots plus title page), Portraits (11 shots plus two title pages), Pre Credits Ski Action (10 plus 1), Sardinia (10 plus 1), Bahamas (7 plus 1), Egypt (4 plus 1), Pinewood (4 plus 1), The 007 Stage (8 plus 1) and Around The World With 007 (13 plus 1). Some are quite small in size and none are annotated. A dubious inclusion really.


    The almost patented MGM booklet makes its usual appearance, adding a little to the package but not too much.

R4 vs R1

    There would appear to be no significant difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 Special Edition releases. This was earlier released in a THX-certified form in Region 1 but that DVD is long out of print. It would therefore seem that there is little to choose between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases other than the PAL formatting.


    Representing the high point of the Roger Moore incarnation of James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me is a typical over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek film that has served this franchise well indeed. Another essential purchase for fans and a worthwhile look-see for non-fans seeking a representation of Bond films in their collection.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
25th November 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL