Nobody does it better: 40 years of The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Four decades after its theatrical release (on that apt 7/7/1977 date) , The Spy Who Loved Me remains one of the most beloved James Bond films — not only for the Roger Moore era but the entire Eon Productions series.

Moore himself declared a couple of times this was his favorite Bond film. His preference for this film was understandable.

The film’s production had a rough start. In 1975, shortly after the release of The Man With The Golden Gun, Harry Saltzman sold his share of the Bond rights to United Artists after facing serious debts and personal problems, leaving Albert R. Broccoli as sole producer.

Eon Productions was not allowed by contract to use anything from Ian Fleming’s 1962 novel except for the title. It is known that the James Bond creator wasn’t happy with his most peculiar book, written in first person from the viewpoint of Vivienne Michel, a young girl attacked by goons in a motel in the United States and rescued by James Bond.

Various writers were hired to devise a story. Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum would receive the screenplay credit. Guy Hamilton departed the project, originally set for a 1976 release. Finally, Lewis Gilbert, who directed You Only Live Twice a decade before, was hired.

Attempts to bring back Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE were cancelled after Thunderball producer Kevin McClory threatened with legal action. Nevertheless, scribes Wood and Maibaum penned a suitable Bond extravaganza that pleased audiences.

In the process from the script to screen, a huge set was built at Pinewood Studios to double for the tanker owned by the villain. Claude Renoir’s camera captured the exotic beauty of turistic spots like Sardinia and Cairo. In Egypt, the crew was constantly monitored by the government. The catering service was a disappointment, leaving Cubby Broccoli to step up and personally cook spaghetti for the whole crew.

The Spy Who Loved Me stands out as an improvement for the Moore 007 movies. After two entertaining but rather “cheap” Bond films, this third Moore/Bond adventure looks expensive.

The action scenes are tidy and organized proving to be a perfect syncronization between the soundtrack, the cinematography, the stunt team and Lewis Gilbert’s experience in delivering an extraordinary adventure in the scale of You Only Live Twice.

Also notable was the work of the model unit to turn Bond’s white Lotus Espirit into a mini submarine, which he uses to explore the villain’s lair beneath the Sardinian seas (actually shot in The Bahamas, as were most of 007’s underwater sequences).

However, honors for The Spy Who Loved Me should go for a very brave man who performed an unforgettable stunt.

1975 trade advertisement for The Spy Who Loved Me before Harry Saltzman sold out his interest in Bond

Rick Sylvester got on his skis and slided trough the snowy summit of Canada’s Mount Asgard. He jumped off a cliff and opened a Union Jack parachute. This moment that won cheers and applause over cinemas across the United Kingdom almost killed Sylvester when one of the abandoned ski poles nearly punctured the parachute.

Roger Moore kept his grace in his third Bond film. He dashingly wears a Royal Navy uniform and has the USS Wayne submarine troops in charge before a big scale gunfight takes place against the villain’s forces. He lets an assasin fall to his death after extracting him information. And, bravely, he tells her KGB companion Anya Amasova that he was responsible for the death of her boyfriend. “In our business, Anya, people get killed.”

Barbara Bach lacked acting talent as the leading lady. This weak aspect was compensated by Curt Jurgens magnificient performance of Bond’s nemesis Karl Stromberg who tries to ignite World War III as the initial step for the inception of a world beneath the sea.

However, the most memorable character in the film’s rogue gallery was Richard Kiel’s Jaws, the giant with steel teeth who would return to join the side of good in the next film, Moonraker. The popularity of Jaws was so big that Richard Kiel shared his likeness for three Bond videogames: GoldenEye 007 (1997), Everything or Nothing (2003) and 007 Legends (2012).

Marvin Hamlisch delivered a score in tone with the times, influenced by the Bee Gees music and the late 1970s disco tunes but also with the dramatic tunes some moments require, such as the tanker battle near the end.

Particularly good are his remixes of the classic James Bond Theme that heralded the many action sequences of the film. For the main title song, Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager took inspiration from Mozart and created the immortal ode to Bond: “Nobody Does it Better,” a title that could very well also fit the effort to deliver a Bond film with capital B.

U.N.C.L.E. ‘teaser’ shown in Australia

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill

A Twitter user in Australia, @aaronkaj, posted that he’s seen a trailer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

The original post went out on Oct. 14. @aaronkaj was then peppered with questions seeking details. “It was more of a teaser,” @aaronkaj responded. “Showing Henry & Arnie trying to work together as a team.”

That was a reference to actors Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who have the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, portrayed by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the original 1964-68 television series.

The rest of the exchange (which contains minor spoilers): can be viewed BY CLICKING HERE.

Another spoiler, based on the description from @aaronkaj, it sounds a bit like a scene in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, where Bond (Roger Moore) works with a Russian agent (Barbara Bach). Specifically, it sounds like an exchange during the underwater car sequence of the 10th 007 movie.

In any case, the original Oct. 14 posting (re-Tweeted by Laney Boggs on Twitter, who has followed developments concerning the movie closely) looks like this:

Three Tom Mankiewicz 007 anecdotes

"Mankiewicz? I have some more ideas."

“Mankiewicz? I have some more ideas.”

Empire magazine’s website has A 2010 INTERVIEW with screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz about his work on James Bond films.

A couple of anecdotes may be of interest.

Connery’s contribution to the script of Diamonds Are Forever: There may been various tellings of a script meeting Mankiewicz had with star Sean Connery. This interview had additional details.

When Lana Wood appears at the crap table and says, “Hi, I’m Plenty.” Bond says, “Why, of course you are.” She says, “Plenty O’Toole.” (Connery) asked me if he could respond, “‘Named after your father perhaps?’” I said, “It’s a great line.” But the very fact that he asked me – I was (only) 27 years old – shows you the kind of way he goes about his work. He’s totally professional. Any other actor would just have tried it right in the take. I was amazed. It’s a good line, and it’s his line.

The writer’s deleted reference to From Russia With Love in The Spy Who Loved Me: Mankiewicz did an uncredited rewrite on The Spy Who Loved Me. The finished film referenced, briefly, Tracy from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It occurred in a scene where Bond and Soviet agent Triple-X verbally joust to show off how each knows the other’s dossier.

Mankiewicz wanted to insert a From Russia With Love reference in the same scene.

The Best Bond quip maybe that I ever wrote – and I wrote hundreds of them – was cut out of The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s when Roger (Moore) meets Barbara Bach at the bar. He knows that she’s a Soviet Major or something and she knows he’s 007. Anyway, he says, “I must say, you’re prettier than your pictures, Major,” and she responds, “The only picture I’ve seen of you, Mr. Bond, was taken in bed with one of our agents – a Miss Tatiana Romanova.”…Roger then said, “Was she smiling?” And Barbara Bach answers, “As I recall, her mouth was not immediately visible.” Roger retorts, “Then I was smiling.”

You can read the entire Bond-related portion of the interview by CLICKING HERE. From the same interview, you can read what Mankiewicz said about the Christopher Reeve Superman movies BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE: In the Superman portion of the interview, Mankiewicz provides some 1972 quotes from Connery. According to the screenwriter, he had been asked by 007 producer Albert R. Broccoli to see if Connery could be enticed to play Bond in Live And Let Die.

He said, “Listen, Boy-o, one of the things I always hear is that I owe it to the public to play Bond. I’ve done six fucking movies. When do I stop owing it to the public? It’s not a question of being kind or unkind. What, after the twelfth or fifteenth? After they stop making money anymore and people say, “What, that’s all he plays? How much do you owe after six films?” I understood completely. If he didn’t get out then, he would just be James Bond. His other films wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Barbara Broccoli plugs Skyfall’s Oscar chances

Barbara Broccoli


Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, says Daniel Craig’s and Judi Dench’s performances as M in Skyfall have Oscar potential

THE TELEGRAPH CITING RADIO TIMES quotes Broccoli thusly:

“I am surprised there haven’t been acting nominations, if not for Bond then for the support.” Broccoli said she “wouldn’t be surprised if Judi was nominated for this one”.
A nomination for Daniel Craig as Bond should not be out of the question either, according to Broccoli, who described him as “that extraordinary combination of movie star and great actor”.

Broccoli also had this quote:

(Broccoli) admitted that Bond’s treatment of women in the middle years of the franchise were “distasteful”.
Ursula Andress in Dr No and Honor Blackman in Goldfinger were capable characters, Broccoli said. “Unfortunately, later in the series they got to be window dressing. [Bond] developed some rather distasteful pastimes but those have now receded into the past.
“Now it’s about the cocktail, the cars and the beautiful countries he gets to go to, [and] resourceful, strong women who give as much as they get.”

The article doesn’t provide specifics concerning which Bond women characters were distateful.

Barbara Bach’s Soviet Agent Triple-X in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal.” Lois Chiles’s Holly Goodhead character, despite the risque name (presumably inspired by Blackman’s Pussy Galore character), was supposed to be along the same lines in 1979’s Moonraker, a woman who doubled as CIA agent and astronaut.

Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson took over as producers of the Bond series starting with 1995’s GoldenEye. Their tenure included another “Bond’s equal” with Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. On the other hand, it also included Denise Richards portraying Dr. Christmas Jones, who some fans saw as an unlikely scientist, in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station. As noted in a reader comment below, she was holding a clipboard. But she’s neither helpless nor ditzy.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

Marvin Hamlisch, an appreciation

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A preliminary version of the poster for The Spy Who Loved Me


Composer Marvin Hamilsch has died at age 68 (click here for the Associated Press’s Hamlisch obituary via the Huffington Post). He is being remembered for a long career of film scores. He also has a special place in 007 movies despite only working on one.

Hamlisch scored two Oscar nominations for his work on 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me: for best score and for the title song, “Nobody Does It Better,” the latter with Carol Bayer Sager.

Hamlisch’s music is often noted for introducing a 1970s sound to the movie, including his “Bond 77” track in the pre-titles sequence. But Hamlisch also worked in an homage to John Barry. There’s a scene where Roger Moore’s James Bond and Agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are searching for Jaws at some Egyptian ruins. Hamlisch’s score for the scene, while using the ’70s sound of the movie, was based on Barry’s music for the pre-titles sequence of From Russia With Love.

“Nobody Does It Better,” meantime, would become one of the most popular songs of the Bond series. Even people who didn’t care for Bond appreciated the song. “Nobody Does It Better” took on a life of its own; if you glance at the “soundtrack” section of the composer’s BIO ON IMDB.COM, you’ll see it pops up a fair amount. Hamlisch may have just been “passing through” the 007 franchise, but he was still a big contributor to the Bond film legacy.

UPDATE I: Here are some other obituaries for the composer: from BLOOMBERG NEWS, from THE NEW YORK TIMES and from the LOS ANGELES TIMES.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 35th anniversary: license renewed

July is the 35th anniversary of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. It may not be the best James Bond movie but it’s certainly one of the most important for the series: 007 got his license to kill renewed.

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A preliminary version of Spy’s poster: Barbara Bach is “introduced” while Michael G. Wilson gets a credit he wouldn’t receive on the final version of the poster.


Spy faced many barriers to reaching the screen: the breakup between founding 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; widespread doubt (outside of Bond fandom) whether Agent 007 had a cinematic future; and legal fights as Kevin McClory sought to get back into the 007 movie game more than a decade after 1965’s Thunderball.

All of those topics have been covered in more detail than we can provide here. Suffice to say, there was a lot riding on the 10th James Bond film.

Eon Productions was now headed solely by Cubby Broccoli, aided and abetted by stepson Michael G. Wilson (who got a “special assistant to producer” credit in small type in the main titles). United Artists had bought out Saltzman’s stake in the franchise. The studio (now, in effect, Broccoli’s partner) supported the remaining Bond producer by doubling down, greatly increasing Spy’s budget compared with 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun (about twice Golden Gun’s $7 million outlay).

For star Roger Moore, it was his third 007 film. It firmly established him in the role and he has said it’s his favorite Bond movie. The plot has a number of similarities with 1967’s You Only Live Twice, also directed by Lewis Gilbert. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

The script was developed after a number of writers participated without receiving a credit (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant). The final credit went to 007 stalwart Richard Maibaum and Christopher Wood (the latter, who got top billing in the screenplay credit, was brought in by Gilbert). There even were odd changes in the early version of the film’s poster compared with the final version.

For all the twists and turns, Spy was a big hit in the summer of 1977. It generated $185.4 million in worldwide ticket sales, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.) The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for its sets (designed by Ken Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), score (Marvin Hamlisch) and title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). The movie, though, went 0-for-3 on Oscar night.

Do all 007 film fans love Spy? No. Check out some of the comments by HMSS EDITORS, many of whom never warmed up the Roger Moore movies. Still, Spy’s success ensured there would be future 007 screen adventures, securing Broccoli’s control of the franchise.