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.

When does the 007 franchise face forward again?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The past few weeks have reminded James Bond fans of the tremendous history of the film franchise.

Events included the passing of the longest-serving film Bond, Roger Moore; the passing of a fondly remembered 007 actress in Molly Peters from Thunderball; the chance to see Bond on the big screen via a double feature of For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me.

The question is when will 007 face toward the future once again?

More than 18 months since the last Bond film arrived in theaters, nobody really knows when agent 007 will again be on movie screens in a new adventure.

There is, still, no studio to release Bond 25. There is, still, no firm Bond actor for Bond 25. Many assume Daniel Craig will be back but that’s a matter of faith, rather than fact. There is, still, no supporting cast or firmed up crew.

Some fans have faith that Bond 25 can still be made in time for a 2018 release. Maybe they’re correct, but the clock is ticking.

The purpose of this post isn’t to be a downer. Rather, it’s to note how the attention has been to the past.

It is an amazing past. It’s a past to be proud of.

Still, one is reminded of a line uttered by the Roger Moore 007 in Octopussy.

“I collect memories,” says Kristina Wayborn’s Magda.

“Well, let’s get on with making a few,” Sir Roger’s Bond replies.

Indeed.

 

About the Roger Moore 007 double feature

Blofeld menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

The blog went to a showing of the double feature of The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only.

The most obvious reaction was it was great to see both in a movie theater for the first time in years. Even with giant TV sets, there is something about the theater experience that can’t be matched.

A few other things:

–In Spy, there were a few shots that seemed fuzzy, almost like a picture that had been blown up too large. For example, there was a shot of Bond and Anya approaching Atlantis when Bond is posing as a marine biologist. But when the next interior shot took place, the focus was sharp.

To be clear, this was not a major problem but was noticeable now and then. This problem wasn’t in the version of For Your Eyes Only at the same theater.

–Eyes’ sound was outstanding. The movie was originally recorded in Dolby so perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. But there were cases (such as Blofeld/sort-of Blofeld electrocuting a helicopter pilot in his employ) where you could almost feel fillings in your teeth being rattled.

–Both movies began with the newest Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer logo (present since Skyfall) followed by a United Artists logo. The version of Spy seen by the blog had the original United Artists logo from 1977, referencing how UA was owned by Transamerica Corp.

The double feature showings, held today and on May 31, benefited UNICEF. Roger Moore, who died last month, was an ambassador for UNICEF since 1991.

The Spy We Loved: Remembering Roger Moore

Roger Moore’s Bond rarely lost his cool.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

The work of Sir Roger Moore has had a great impact in our lives. For some, he was Simon Templar, The Saint For others, he was the “Persuader” Brett Sinclair. For the ones who are reading this article, he was the longest-serving James Bond.

Moore was the first “English from England” Bond actor. He had the tough challenge to follow the Scottish-born Sean Connery, the first film 007.

Unlike Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby, who felt the pressure to “imitate” Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moore adapted much of his Simon Templar and Brett Sinclair personas in his James Bond. He was different than the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels. But he was very effective, achieving success and popularity for over 12 years.

Roger Moore’s first minute in Live and Let Die established him as a playboy. We see the new Bond sleeping with an Italian beauty, played by Madeleine Smith.

The rest of the 1973 movie wouldn’t be so comfortable for him. While moving along the streets of Harlem or the Louisiana bayous, he had to improvise escapes like maneuvering a plane with an elderly flying student or jumping over a row of hungry alligators.

The Man With The Golden Gun, his second Bond, had the influence of the martial arts craze that Bruce Lee created. The 1970s vibe was present with Lulu’s main title song and John Barry’s soundtrack, underlining Bond’s escape from karate experts, or a 360 degree jump with an AMC Matador accompanied by his annoying ally Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

No matter the odd, Roger Moore’s James Bond always looked clean and tidy, whether he was dressed with his ivory dinner jacket or his pistachio green safari suit. Comical, but well played, were the performances of Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize as the debonair assassin Scaramanga and his servant and accomplice, respectively.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

In spite of the humor that some considered ridiculous, The Man With The Golden Gun showed one of the few gritty moments of Moore: The scene where he interrogates Scaramanga’s lover Andrea (Maud Adams). This movie also features for the first time some ethical statements by James Bond, who differentiates himself of his nemesis by firmly saying “he only kills professionals.”

Moore’s third 007 adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me, was a breakthrough.

The 1977 film — the first Bond with Albert R Broccoli as sole producer — featured a solid script. It was an original story far from Ian Fleming’s novel of the same title that dealt with a shipping magnate plotting to instigate World War III to create “a beautiful world beneath the sea.”

The splendor of locales such as as Cairo and Sardinia gave brilliance to the movie. Its action scenes are among the best of the series. Spy stands out the epic battle between the forces of the villain Stromberg and the captive USS Wayne troops, allied to 007, inside the huge Liparus tanker.

Even when Moore admitted to be doubled in most of the action scenes, he looked both sympathetic and manfull in one his best performances as the secret agent. He himself declared to be pleased with the result, and the tenth film in the series was his favorite.

The biggest Bond extravaganza from the 1970s came at the very end of the decade: 1979’s Moonraker.

Roger Moore and Lois Chiles in a Moonraker publicity still

After the success of Star Wars, it was decided that James Bond was also important enough to conquer outer space to stop a madman. Moonraker remained the most successful box office Bond hit until GoldenEye in 1995.

Director John Glen took the helm of the Bond franchise in 1981, and the films became more down-to-earth. Nevertheless, Moore’s portrayal didn’t leave his sense of humor aside.

For Your Eyes Only felt the influence of the new decade with Bill Conti’s disco-inspired soundtrack, which emphasized some comical actions by the actor, such as the car chase in Madrid where Bond runs away from hit men in a Citroen 2 CV or ski sequences in Cortina D’Ampezzo, where 007 interferes in a bobsled track after knocking down like dominoes a row of skiing trainees. The gag was reprised in GoldenEye with bicycles.

However, For Your Eyes Only isn’t without grit. In one scene, Bond kicks Emile Locque’s car off to a cliff, sending the villain to his death. It is because of this scene Moore considered Locque one of the most important villains he faced, because he was reluctant to shoot it.

For Octopussy, James Bond visited India and Moore gave one of his hilarious performances: Going incognito as a clown to defuse a bomb in a circus tent and yelling like Tarzan while jumping ropes in a jungle are among the funniest moments in the film and the whole series.

While the plot had a serious backdrop such as the tension between the West and the East, Octopussy was a Bond film made for Roger Moore’s adventurer spirit — dozens of girls, car chases, fist fights, and many gags and funny one- liners.

He retired from the role after A View To A Kill, in 1985. The marketing campaign of the film tried to aim to a younger audience, promoting Duran Duran’s main title song throughout trailers and TV spots.

Popular singer Grace Jones joined the cast as the May Day. Christopher Walken portrayed one of the most ruthless Bond nemesis as Max Zorin. Courtesy of these two villains, A View To A Kill could be considered one of the most violent films from the Moore era. This is also reflected by John Barry’s music, which sounded more dramatic this in comparison with the more relaxed sound of Octopussy or The Man With The Golden Gun.

Then again, Roger Moore didn’t let his sense of humor out. Looking dashing at 57 years old, Moore illuminated the screen with his magnetism: he (or his doubles) could stand up on a fight or survive a dangerous stunt, but his best defense mechanisms were still the one-liners.

True to his nature, he spent his last minute onscreen taking a shower with Tanya Roberts character. In a way, he never detached himself from the playboy image. He felt more comfortable holding a glass of champagne than a gun. If he had the option, he would have opted for killing a villain with the smoke of his Davidoff cigars rather than with a bullet or a knife.

Some people may still debate if he was a good or a bad James Bond.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

He was just different – different than Sean Connery, different than George Lazenby, different than the literary Bond. But it was thanks to that difference that he kept the Bond flame alive for over a decade, and welcome many people to join the Bondwagon during the 1970s and the early 1980s.

People from all over the world felt his death as somehow personal, yet we all feel like if he is still around in every frame of Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me or Octopussy – for natural charm, elegance, and a refined sense of humor can transcend the barriers of time, space, and the temporary existence of earthly life.

Here’s to Sir Roger – nobody did it better!

 

2 Roger Moore 007 films return to theaters

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only will return to theaters starting May 31 as a tribute to star Roger Moore, who died this week.

Half of the ticket proceeds will go to UNICEF, according to a statement by Park Circus. Moore had been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 1991.

Park Circus distributes titles in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library. MGM also put out the same statement, which was posted on the official Roger Moore feed on Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt of the statement:

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM), Park Circus and EON Productions are pleased to announce a series of special screenings in memory of Sir Roger Moore, to take place at cinemas across the world including: ODEON Cinemas (UK), AMC Theatres (U.S.) and HOYTS (Australia, New Zealand), beginning 31 May 2017. Additional locations to be announced soon.

The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977, re-energized the film series following the breakup of the producing team of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. It was nominated for three Oscars.

For Your Eyes Only, released in 1981, brought Bond back to Earth following 1979’s Moonraker, an extravagant film that sent 007 into space. Eyes included substantial material from two Ian Fleming short stories.

Roger Moore, 7-time film 007, dies at 89

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore, who played James Bond in 007 films in 12 years, has died at 89. His family announced his death via his Twitter account.

Moore died following “a short but brave battle with cancer,” according to the statement.

The actor was the third film Bond, following Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

During his tenure, from 1973 to 1985, the Bond films took a more lighthearted tone. But his films established, once and for all, the series could survive — and more — without Connery, the original film 007.

Moore’s first Bond film, 1973’s Live And Let Die, was an international hit. Its worldwide box office totaled $161.8 million, the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball’s $141.2 million. The U.S. box office was more modest, $35.4 million. That didn’t match the U.S. take for Connery’s Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever ($43.8 million).

Regardless, both Eon Productions and its feuding producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman along with studio United Artists were satisfied. Moore would continue.

The Man With the Golden Gun, released in late 1974, was a letdown with audiences, with the global box office falling 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die. The series, though, faced a larger crisis. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership was about to fall apart because of Saltzman’s financial problems.

UA bought out Saltzman, leaving Broccoli in charge. But the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me, would tell the tale whether 007 still had a future in the cinema.

The answer was yes. Spy had magnificent sets designed by Ken Adam, an Oscar-nominated score by Marvin Hamlisch and photography by the well-regarded Claude Renoir. Director Lewis Gilbert determined to play up the actor’s strengths. With Moore as the headliner,  James Bond once again was an undisputed hit.

The actor remained 007 for four more films. Eventually, Moore negotiated his Bond movies one production at a time. Broccoli would test screen potential replacements, including American James Brolin in 1982.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

But Broccoli kept returning to Moore, long after the actor turned 50.

Moore returned for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. It was a much more grounded Bond outing following 1979’s Moonraker, which saw 007 go into outer space. The pre-credits sequence was filmed as if it the movie was intended to introduce a new Bond, with 007’s face not initially revealed.

Eyes was the first film in years to extensively use Ian Fleming story lines, utilizing two short stories from the author’s 1960 For You Eyes Only collection. While things beccame more serious, Moore showed himself up to the task.

Two years later, Moore was back again for Octopussy. Sean Connery was starring in a rival Bond film, Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball. Broccoli eventually went with Moore.

The 1983 movie was more uneven than Eyes. But Moore gave off a “I know exactly what I’m doing” vibe. The “Battle of the Bonds” generated big publicity but the actor appeared as if he were unfazed by it all.

Many fans felt Moore, now nearing 60, stayed for one 007 adventure too many with 1985’s A View to a Kill. Fans who never warmed to Moore — and there are some who’ve spent decades decrying the actor — felt vindicated. For those who enjoyed Moore’s performances, it felt like the end of an era.

For more than three decades, Moore continued to be the Bond franchise’s best ambassador. He expressed support for his Bond successors, Daniel Craig in particular. 

Moore lived to a ripe old age. So long, he outlived and said good-bye to a number of colleagues. Among them: director Guy Hamilton (who helmed his first two 007 films), Ken Adam and fellow actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee.

The actor, of course, did much more than Bond. He had become a star playing The Saint on television in the 1960s. He followed that up with another television project, The Persuaders, with Tony Curtis as his co-star. And he was a goodwill ambassador for years for UNICEF.

From a 007 perspective, he helped establish the longevity of the Bond franchise. As late as 1972, people could ask in all seriousness whether Bond could survive Connery’s departure. After Moore’s 12 years as Bond, that wasn’t a question anymore.

Here is the Twitter post from the Moore family:

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Robert Day, Avengers and QM director, dies

Caesar’s Wife, a fourth-season episode of The FBI, directed by Robert Day. Spymaster Russell Johnson (left) is about to beat up Harrison Ford.

Robert Day, whose long career included directing episodes of The Avengers and Quinn Marin television shows, died on March 17 at the age of 94, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The British-born Day helmed six episodes of The Avengers, including From Venus With Love and Mission…Highly Improbable.

Relocating to the United States, Day was frequently employed by QM Productions, including nine episodes of The FBI, two episodes of The Invaders, Barnaby Jones and The Streets of San Francisco. He also directed a TV movies for QM, 1970’s House on Greenapple Road, which launched the Dan August TV series.

Day’s work on The FBI, included a notable fourth-season episode, Caesar’s Wife, in which a Soviet spymaster played by Russell Johnson beats up a character played by the then-unknown Harrison Ford.

Day was married to actress Dorothy Provine from 1969 until she died in 2010. Her spy-related credits included a two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

Day was also the brother of Ernest Day (1927-2006). The younger Day was a second unit director of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie, as well as directing two episodes of The New Avengers.