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Monday, January 20, 2014

007 Feature #3 - The Spy Who Loved Me featuring Moore...Roger Moore

Welcome to the special Monday Matinee series, the third in a six-part series.  And, yes, today we're going to be having a look at another James Bond movie!

God, I love that theme!  So mysterious and yet so recognizable!

So, over the last couple of weeks, we've done a spotlight on one of the six actors who have played the role of James Bond over the franchise's fifty-two year history.  On January 6, we did a feature on Sean Connery, who was the very first Bond, who appeared in the very first Bond movie, 1962's "Dr. No".  And on January 13, we took a look at Bond #2, George Lazenby, whose one and only turn as Bond was in the 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

Well, as the 1960s came to a close, and the 1970s began, Sean Connery decided to play Bond once more in 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever" before leaving the Bond franchise for at least a dozen more years.  Once Connery was out as Bond, Eon Productions needed a brand new Bond to continue the tradition, beginning with 1973's "Live and Let Die".  Of course, Eon decided to throw caution to the wind and asked Connery to reprise the role for his seventh Bond film overall, but Connery was not up to another James Bond film and turned it down.

Interestingly enough, Clint Eastwood was considered to take over the role and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman approached him with the offer.  We all know that Eastwood turned down the part, as he flat out told the producers that James Bond should remain British (despite the fact that George Lazenby - Bond #2 - was Australian).  But United Artists did consider changing James Bond's nationality to American, and reportedly Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman were brought up as replacement actors for the departing Connery.

Yeah, an American James Bond?  No.  Just no.

For the record, Broccoli agreed that the next James Bond should hail from the UK, and among some of the front runners for the role were Julian Glover, John Gavin, Jeremy Brett, Simon Oates, John Ronane, William Gaunt, and Michael Billington.  Billington, in particular was a strong contender for the part.

But ultimately, the third James Bond was British born actor Roger Moore, whose previous acting experience included the role of Simon Templar on the British television program "The Saint" - a role that he held for seven years.  Now, because Roger Moore was 45 years old when he began playing James Bond (fifteen years older than both Connery and Lazenby when they debuted as Bond), it was predicted that he would only do a couple of films, so they kept Michael Billington on standby.  But as it turns out, Billington wasn't called back, as Moore stayed on for seven Bond films - tying the record with Sean Connery for most Bond films.

And the lucky seven films were in order...


And today's featured film happens to be the very first James Bond film that I ever remember watching.  And, it happens to be a film that happens to have a weird obsession with the number seven.

You know, seven seemed to be a good number for Roger Moore.  He made seven films as 007, and the film that ended up being the very first Bond film that I remember watching as a child originally debuted in theatres on the seventh day of the seventh month of '77!

And to top it all off, I do believe I was seven when I first watched this movie!  Of course, I wasn't technically supposed to watch the movie, as my parents sort of restricted my television viewing back then.  But it was on cable TV, and I was hooked from the opening credits!

Yes, we're looking at the 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me" - the film that was released on July 7, 1977 (which I had to wait until 1988 to watch, as I completely missed 1977).  Good theme song by Carly Simon, by the way.

This was the tenth Eon produced James Bond film made overall.  And to be honest with you, I think that this was one of the better movies that featured Roger Moore as James Bond.  My opinion of Roger Moore is such that he is kind of in the middle of the pack when it comes to ranking all of the Bond actors.  And, I find that the newer the film, the less I liked it.  I mean, the films that Roger Moore did during the 1970s were among some of the better Bond movies ever made, but in the 1980s, the films didn't do much for me.  1981's "For Your Eyes Only" was a decent enough movie, but somewhat predictable.  1983's "Octopussy" had a rather unfortunate name, and it wasn't exactly a plot that I could follow along with.  And many people consider 1985's "A View To A Kill" to easily be the worst of the whole Bond franchise.  I actually kind of liked that one (and besides, Duran Duran did a fantastic job with the theme for that song), but that film certainly didn't age well.  Even Roger Moore hated it.

But, "The Spy Who Loved Me"...that was classic Bond, and a wonderful film.  But it was also a film that was filled with a lot of setbacks.  For one, it was the first Bond film made since Harry Saltzman was forced to sell his share of the franchise for twenty million pounds following his own personal struggles during the 1970s.  For another, the film was having trouble finding a suitable director.  Steven Spielberg was considered, but he was too busy working on "Jaws" at the time to commit.  Guy Hamilton was also considered, but left the project to go work on the 1978 film "Superman" (only for himself to be replaced by Richard Donner).  Finally, Eon Productions settled on Lewis Gilbert, who had already directed "You Only Live Twice".  And, script problems caused the name of the main villain of the film to be changed, as Kevin McClory was the owner to the rights of the "Thunderball" film and refused to let the character of Blofeld or the SPECTRE organization to be mentioned or referred to in the film.

This said, once all the problems were ironed out, filming went very well, with location shoots in Egypt, Italy, and The Bahamas.

So, what's "The Spy Who Loved Me" all about?  Well, I think I'm just going to bullet point the main plot facts, as I really don't like giving out plot details.  Here's all you need to know.

- Ballistic-missile submarines belonging to both Britain and the Soviet Union go missing.
- Bond is sent out to investigate the disappearances, and this happens.
- Bond learns of the plans for creating a highly advanced submarine tracking system, and travels to Egypt to get his hands on the plans before the enemy can.
- While in Egypt, Bond meets his rival for the plans - KGB Agent Triple X - otherwise known as Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach)
- At some point, Bond and Triple X team up and call a truce in order to keep shipping tycoon Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens) from getting access to the plans.
- Naturally, Bond and Triple X start to develop feelings for each other after Bond saves her life from assassins.
- Apparently James Bond STILL has the coolest fleet of cars that any man could ever hope to own!
- The relationship between Bond and Triple X gets complicated after Triple X realizes that Bond was responsible for the death of someone very close to her.
- And, finally, James Bond and Triple X discover that Stromberg is the mastermind behind the missing submarines, and he plans to cause a global war by using the nuclear missiles from the submarines to destroy both Moscow and New York City in hopes of serving as the catalyst behind the Cold War.

So, an interesting story, nonetheless.  But how did it fare at the box office?  Extremely well!  On a budget of $14 million, the film made over $185 million!

Now you understand why the Bond franchise has lasted as long as it has!

So, that's my look back on "The Spy Who Loved Me".  And, I think that of all the Bond films that were made, this one will forever hold a very special place in my heart.  It was the very first Bond film that I remember watching, and it was really the movie that got me interested in all things Bond.  It easily ranks in my Top 5 list of favourite Bond films of all time, and is absolutely my favourite film featuring Roger Moore as James Bond.

And now, some behind the scenes facts regarding this movie.

01 - It comes as no shock to some of you, but Barbara Bach, the Bond girl for this film installment, has been married to Beatle Ringo Starr since April 1981.

02 - Bach was actually cast in the film just four days before principal photography began on the production.

03 - Curd Jurgens name is misspelled in the opening credits of the film, where he is referred to as "Curt Jurgens".

04 - Richard Kiel, who played "Jaws" in the movie reprised his role in the 1979 film "Moonraker".

05 - Caroline Munro, who played Stromberg's personal pilot Naomi, was cast after producers saw her in an ad campaign.

06 - The car used in the film was a Lotus Esprit, and was sold in auction to Elon Musk in October 2013 at the cost of just over six hundred thousand pounds.  Interestingly enough, Musk plans to refurbish the car so that it will actually be able to be driven on land and in sea!

07 - Watch the closing credits at the end.  The credits proclaim that you'll see Bond next time in "For Your Eyes Only"...but "Moonraker" was actually released in between the two films.  But at least Roger Moore was available to play Bond by the time "For Your Eyes Only" was being filmed.

08 - This was the very first Bond film to be recorded in Dolby Stereo.

09 - Stromberg's hands are actually webbed.  Look closely and you might be able to make it out.

10 - It is said that this film was the last one that Elvis Presley would ever see, viewing it just six days before his August 16, 1977 death.

11 - One of Albert R. Broccoli's favourite James Bond films.

12 - The metal teeth that Richard Kiel wore in the film as Jaws were extremely painful and uncomfortable - he could only wear them for thirty seconds at a time before having to take them out again.

13 - One million dollars alone were spent on the interior shots of Stromberg's supertanker.  At the time, it was easily the largest soundstage ever built.

14 - This film marked the very first appearance of General Gogol in the James Bond film franchise.

15 - In this film, we finally learn that "M" stands for Miles.

16 - The white Lotus Esprit soon became the hottest car on the market shortly after this movie was released.  The demand was so high for that particular car that customers were put on a waiting list that lasted well into 1981!

17 - Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts and was on the charts for a total of 25 weeks, making it one of the most commercially successful Bond themes ever released.

18 - The ski stunt at the beginning of the film was actually shot on Baffin Island, Canada.

19 - Although the film was successful, Ian Fleming was less than happy with the book that inspired this film.  He was so disgusted with the book that he refused to let the book be published in paperback.  It was only after Fleming's death that the book soon became available in paperback format.

20 - Rick Sylvester performed the parachute jump at the beginning of the movie, and according to Roger Moore, the stunt could have gone badly.  A disengaged ski had struck the Union Jack parachute as it was falling, and everyone was worried that the ski could have caused the parachute not to open.  Fortunately, everything turned out all right, but it certainly was a scary experience.

21 - The film crew weren't thrilled with Egyptian cuisine, so Broccoli had arranged for a refrigerated truck filled with English food to keep them happy.  But when the refrigeration failed and the food went bad, Broccoli went into town to buy supplies, and he cooked and prepared an entire feast for the crew served by him and Moore!  Who knew that Broccoli was such a great chef?

22 - Ironically enough, Michael Billington - who was once considered for the role of 007 - makes an appearance in this film as Sergei Barsov - Anya's lover.

23 - One of the models in the opening credits of the film was named Penelope Smallbone.  That name would be given to one of the characters in 1983's "Octopussy".

24 - Caroline Munro turned down the role of Ursa in "Superman" to play Naomi in this film.

25 - Roger Moore ended up contracting shingles while filming this movie.  Ouch!

Coming up next week in the Monday Matinee, we take a look at Bond #4 - and sorry to say, my least-favourite of the Bonds.  But not for the reasons that you might think...

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