SPY WHO LOVED ME, THE (SE)
Reviewed July 10th, 2000 by Brian White
MGM has released the second set of James Bond Special Edition DVDs. The third and final box follows in the autumn. Among the gems in box 2 is arguably the best Roger Moore contribution to the series: The Spy who Loved Me. Following on the heels of the disappointing Man With the Golden Gun, Spy Who Loved Me is a new beginning for the series in many ways: mostly, this is due to Moore finally being at home in the character. However the 10th adventure also signaled the departure of Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman. Added to all of this, the budget appears to be much higher than previous Bond outings. It's as though Albert R. Broccoli had something to prove here, and he succeeded.
The film has one of the better Bond pre-credit sequences (despite the cheeeeeezy disco background music). Bond skis, Bond shoots, Bond parachutes. The premise of the film is some great cold-war paranoia: some nuclear subs have gone missing from the Soviets and the Americans. Bond is brought in to investigate, as is his Soviet counterpart, Agent XXX (Barbara Bach). At the root of all the trouble is the underwater megalomaniac, Stromberg. Stromberg lives in his underwater layer, where he orchestrates his evil plans against surface dwellers.
The film features some great action: Metal-mouthed giant Jaws makes his first and best appearance in this film; and then there's the Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine. Despite some ultra-seventies fahion and filmmaking, Spy Who Loved Me stacks up as one of the best Bond films.
The video on this disc looks very good. The 2.35:1, anamorphic transfer (which was included on a standard edition last year), looks great. There are some surface blemishes, as would be expected from a 20-year-old film, but this is certainly the best that this film has looked in a long time.
The 5.1 mix isn't very dynamic, but the front soundstage is quite acceptable. There is an attempt at some surround effects, but it is nothing to write home about. While the mere fact that a 5.1 mix was created should count for something, after Yellow Submarine's 5.1 mix, there just isn't an excuse for this poor effort.
As with all the other Bond DVDs, this Special Edition is packed with great features. There is a newly produced documentary that shows Roger Moore reminiscing about how Spy is his favorite of his Bond films. Also, much attention is paid to Saltzman's departure. The best kind of commentary track is on this disc: unlike the stitched-together interviews on previous discs, for Spy Who Loved Me they sat down director Lewis Gilbert, a co-producer and the scenic designer to watch the film together and give commentary. A group commentary is always more informative, as the participants seem to extract information from each other. The disc also includes a documentary on “Designing Bond” and promotional materials. Added to all this, there are some really cool computer graphics of the shark on the menus.
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