7/7/77. As Bond film release dates go, the one for disco bullet The Spy Who Loved Me is perhaps the most unique for Double-O-Seven. Forty years later Roger Moore’s personal favourite of all his Bond movies is now a classic of Seventies cinema, British studio production and one of those successful, public-adored 007 bullets which guaranteed the survival of the series until this very day.
With the departure of former co-producer Harry Saltzman and a parting of the creative and business waves, EON Productions’ Albert R. Broccoli produced his first standalone Bond opus by going beneath, over and on the waves. After the scaled back adventures of Moore’s previous Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me represents a make or break moment in the Bond film timeline. After another legal delay or two production finally began across the globe in 1976 whilst a brand new soundstage was being prepped by designer Ken Adam at Pinewood Studios. Cubby wanted this film to be big in every way. Bringing back the proven master of Big Bond Lewis Gilbert to direct and peppering the recipe with newcomers like Carly Simon, Marvin Hamlisch, Richard Kiel’s Jaws, writer Christopher Wood and a brand new Lotus Esprit that lent Moore his iconic take on the DB5 worked for the fortunes of EON and Bond.
That The Spy Who Loved Me spans the globe and a myriad of Concorde fuelled locations and still works as a tight adventure with a greater emphasis on the physicality and movement of the onscreen Bond is testament to the big scale gamble Cubby Broccoli wanted to make. The film opened to great box office, critical acclaim and garnered three Academy Award nominations (for Best Song, Best Score and Best Production Design). It did not win any of them as a small B-movie called Star Wars somewhat stole its Oscar glory. But what it lost in golden statues it more than made up with memories of Union Jack parachutes and battered Corgi Lotus cars firing those red missiles across back gardens and childhood carpets throughout the land. It reignited a younger generation’s interest in Bond and – as the poster says – beyond.
After a three year gap since The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Eon and United Artists clearly wanted Bond back with a bang. And the big bang theory was to serve up a glitzy, disco bullet of adventure using more global locations than Elizabeth II actually owned. After the “007 on vacation” carnival vibe of the previous Live and Let Die and Golden Gun – where James runs amok in various ex-colonial haunts of the British empire – The Spy Who Loved Me sees Commander Bond well and truly back to the job in hand. It is more than just a three year gap and re-energised creative personnel that separates Spy from the previous Moore films. It re-points Bond as British naval commander in a sea-faring opus. It re-points Britain as arch-foe of the Russians (which the 007 films actually do a lot less than their reputation suggests). And it repoints Britain as a film-making might in the face of the Brat Pack of 1970s American directors and their motion-capture artifice.
There is a lot going on in The Spy Who Loved Me – microfilms, sacrificial lambs, switched allegiances, iffy nightclub owners, shark tanks, stolen glances and trademark Ken Adam killer elevators – and that is just the backstage dramas of Roger Moore’s hair care team. And unlike that steadfast hairdo, the film certainly moves around – Egypt, Scotland, The Bahamas, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Canada – with each destination featuring 007 as the Brit Abroad with Roger’s flares semaphoring his en-suite reservations before he does.
The Disco Bullets
by Mark O’Connell
After forty years of feeling sad for the rest, The Spy Who Loved Me is not jumping off any mountains just yet. Screened recently across global cinemas as a canny tribute to Sir Roger Moore, Bond ’77 stood the test of time back on the big screen. It proved itself to be once again one of the tightest, effortless and grandiose of the Bond projects.
And what better way to mark Roger’s first disco bullet with a rousing performance of Carly Simon and Marvin Hamlisch’s landmark title tune anthem, Nobody Does It Better. In 1978, soul royalty Aretha Franklin performed the song at that year’s Academy Awards ceremony complete with a Shaft inspired disco stretch overture, gold hula hoops and plenty of bouncing funk….
And one of title designer Maurice Binder’s greatest, most censor-baiting moments…
And let’s leave it to Mr Moore himself to introduce his third spin of the 007 dice…