The Spy Who Loved Me - Bond 50 Box Set Blu-ray Review
So it would appear that The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the scant few Bond titles in this set that hasn’t been ‘restored’ by Lowry (just to be clear, it was originally tweaked by Lowry back when they did all of the Bond titles a few years ago, but MGM have sourced a new – and better – print which has been used for this Blu-ray. Although in many cases Lowry have done a stand-up job at remastering the titles (Moonraker), their efforts have not always been impressive (The Man with the Golden Gun) and so some fans will actually probably be relieved that this print remains untainted. After all, as a result, it remains one of the best looking Moore entries, and one of the best looking films in the set.
Presented in High Defintion 1080p, the AVC-encode is framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, a welcome return to the broader formats after the last two 1.85:1 Moore instalments. Although there is almost no way that this release could be awarded a perfect 10 in terms of video presentation – there are far too many flaws inherent to the original filming process (the optical composites will simply never look any better than this; the dirt and excessive grain is a pure side-effect of the composite process, literally getting stuck between the two images, and the post-production zooms similarly suffer) – it does still stand as clear demo-quality material, easily the best this movie has ever looked and a strong contender for one of the best-looking titles in the set.
Detail is impressive throughout and, aside from the aforementioned issues inherent to the original print, you will find this image almost completely devoid of damage and – perhaps more importantly – almost completely untainted by digital manipulation: no edge enhancement, blocking, banding; and no noticeable DNR. I’m sure DNR has been applied, but with such a light touch that the end result retains the movie’s original grain structure, affording it both some superior fine object detail and also that wonderful filmic look that often escapes once a picture is over-scrubbed using these cleaning tools. Far from the waxy-looking Predator faces we could have had, the skin textures are spot on here, with every line and pore reminding us that Moore was indeed older than he seemed back when you couldn’t spot these kinds of subtle touches. The sets and settings boast excellent detail too, and the image retains clarity from the close-ups through the mid-range shots all the way to the wider, more panoramic vistas.
The colour scheme is broad and well-represented throughout; establishing healthy and realistic skin tones, beautiful clear blue skies and wonderful water tones for the aquatic moments – from the cobalt-blue tides on the coast to the deeper blue sea. The palette is bolstered by some very specific colour design, juxtaposing warm rich browns, pristine whites and bright and vivid yellows and reds just during the pre-credits sequence – it was a movie made back in the day where this kind of colour stylisation was still a pride of work. Black levels are strong and allow for decent darker sequences, particularly in the Pyramids sequence.
I can’t see there being many complaints about this wonderful presentation to one of the best Bond movies ever – perhaps it was a good thing that Lowry don’t appear to have been involved in this particular effort – and it’s likely that we will simply never see The Spy Who Loved Me look any better than this. Impressive indeed.
Although not a six-channel film by design, this new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has worked wonders with the stereo elements to bring us a very good expanded six-speaker offering that enhances rather than distorts the original material. Dialogue is still largely restricted to the frontal spectrum – as you would only expect – but comes across clearly and coherently throughout. Effects are remarkably well-observed, from the fantastic scream of the Lotus Esprit to the chugging clunks of the battered utility van; from the whipping whirr of the attacking helicopter to the authentic replication of the ski-on-ice sounds; from the purring underwater sequences to the wave-crashing grand-standing scale model sequences, with either Atlantis rearing up out of the ocean or various giant vessels tearing through the water. Gunshots are fairly commonplace, ringing out in Egypt, echoing violently in the steel-drum tanker assault and thundering with finality in the closing confrontation. Sure, the machine-gun strafing during the helicopter vs. Lotus sequence has that slightly tinny sound made from the generic gunfire sound that dates back to that era (think Airwolf), but there are still some nice reverberations and the added LFE elements give the mix some welcome depth. The score is integrated so well into the proceedings that you could almost describe it as contributing to the effects, and, whilst it’s obviously pure 70s disco – in my opinion – it sounds fantastic and perfectly matches up to the material, scene for scene, shot for shot. Perhaps not quite a demo-quality rendition, this is still one of the standout tracks amidst the pre-90s Bond flicks, presenting the film better than it has ever sounded before.
This new Bond 50 Box Set comes complete with all of the old Ultimate Edition DVD extras ported over (as well as some new material on a further disc in the set). Far from bad news, the old UE releases pretty-much offered up definitive background material for each title, and The Spy Who Loved Me was certainly one of the chapters that was particularly well treated.
Sporting two compelling Commentaries – one by the Crew, and one by Bond star Sir. Roger Moore himself – we also had a number of informative background Featurettes and Documentaries, as well as a hefty amount of promotional material. Fans of the film will no doubt know all about these offerings; newcomers couldn’t want for more.
Commentary by Sir Roger Moore – His personal favourite Bond outing, the well-spoken dapper gentleman takes us through the movie several decades after it was made, fondly recalling some interesting titbits, revealing insight into the stunts, the crew and the cameos. Great friends with many of the cast and crew, it’s truly evident just how much he loved this movie – from the song to the music; from the sets to the locations. Listening to the commentary it feels like it was all just one big family working together, a warm and rich accompaniment that is well worth checking out.
Commentary Featuring Director Lewis Gilbert, Production Designer Ken Adam, Co-Writer Christopher Wood and Producer Michael G. Wilson – A much more technically prolific compilation track we get to hear from many of the key crew-members involved in the production, offering up insight into the set designs, scale, direction and script. Again, a worthy listen.
Declassified: MI6 Vault
007 in Egypt is a 6-minute collection of 16mm Behind the Scenes footage shot on location, the first of several Featurettes narrated by producer Michael G. Wilson. It’s fun watching Moore, Bach, Kiel, the director and the crew shooting the scenes and having fun on set, and it offers some insight into how the shots were filmed.
Roger Moore: My Word is My Bond is a further 5-minute compilation of on-set interviews with Moore, answering questions about his work on the project, his background in TV, and his experiences on set. A jovial, very affable chap, this is a nice little vintage offering from the actor.
On Location with Ken Adam is a 6 minute look at the production design hosted by Ken Adam himself, who talks about his location scouting, shows us some of his scouting footage, and discusses his work on the film whilst giving us some insight into his eye for unusual architecture. We get to see some back-stage fun between filming – Moore playing backgammon with Cubby Broccoli whilst Barbara Bach sunbathes in the background; testing out the Lotus to see how fast they can get it to safely go – and it’s another nice behind the scenes glimpse.
007 Stage Dedication – Original 1977 Featurette is just a 70 second vintage promo preview for the unveiling of this brand new, grand sound stage at Pinewood Studios.
Escape from Atlantis: Storyboard Sequence is an interesting look at a slightly different ending to the film, with a longer battle between Bond and Jaws and then a confrontation between Bond and Anya where she shoots at him, but does not kill him – addressing the vow of vengeance that she’d made earlier in the story. Although it’s not always that easy to understand what is going on – even with added subtitles from an earlier shooting script – this is still a nice look at what could have been a decent added moment.
Inside The Spy Who Loved Me is a 40-minute retrospective Documentary on the making of The Spy Who Loved Me, with many of the contributors noting that it is one of the best – if not the best – Bond films of all time. It charts the tough production history, the loss of Harry Saltzman, the fact that Ian Fleming had a contract that stipulated that no portion of his book could be used beyond the title, the directors and writers who quit the project due to delays, the injunction suit with Kevin McClory, the stunts and shooting, the cast and crew, the expansive set and the glorious end result – a comprehensive piece that is well worth checking out.
Ken Adam: Designing Bond is a 22-minute accompanying documentary focussing on Ken Adam’s imaginative, stylised sets, looking back at his history over the Bond films and the magic he worked for The Spy Who Loved Me.
Exotic Locations rounds out this section with a look at the locations chosen for this movie.
Ministry of Propaganda
Theatrical Archive provides for a trio of original Theatrical Trailers.
TV Broadcasts has a further selection of TV Spots.
Radio Communication rounds out the section with Radio Spots.
The disc is rounded out with a stills gallery from the film.
“Love of life is born of the awareness of death... of the dread of it.”
From the jaw-dropping opening ski-jump to the closing confrontation in the villain’s underwater lair; from the double-crossing arms of a Soviet femme fatale to the deadly clutches of a steel-toothed assassin, commanded by an aquatically-obsessed megalomaniac; from the Lotus chase, both above-ground and then – spectacularly – underwater, to the massive assault inside a submarine-swallowing tanker – The Spy Who Loved Me combined a well-constructed plot featuring globally-catastrophic machinations with cleverly-developed story and character design, making this Bond not only bigger than ever before, but better too. For many this is the best Moore outing by far, but, for some, it is simply the best Bond film.
As part of the Bond 50 set, The Spy Who Loved Me, rather unusually, does not sport one of those Lowry restorations prevalent across the majority of the titles in this release. For many this will come as a welcome release, as the movie looks better than ever before, and as impressive as the best that restorations that Lowry has offered. With remixed audio that also sounds top notch, this is a marked improvement over the previous DVD – a welcome relief for those who may have picked up the entire Bond 50 set just to have this previously-unavailable Bond classic – and fans will also be pleased that all of the old Ultimate Edition DVD extras have been ported over here.
Bond has been served well by a phenomenal box-set, timed to coincide with the arrival of Skyfall and the 50th Anniversary of the franchise. The Spy Who Loved Me forms part of the set along with the other twenty-two films in the series, the majority of which look and sound terrific, and contain a wealth of extra material as well as a separate and new disc full of extra features further examining our favourite super-spy. It comes with the highest recommendation.
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